Off the Bike

Take it easy

For the last week I have been taking it a little easier than normal. I have not ridden my bike at all. I have skipped a lot of days of the August Burpee challenge. This is because I had a sore throat and generally that leads to getting sick. With a pandemic going on I am not interested in getting sick and having to visit a hospital.

So I listened to my pal Al and have taken it easy. At least with physical activity. We are still pushing ahead with the home building project. We have been reading various books on construction, finding a designer, talking with our excavator, reaching out to builders, and getting the construction wrapped up on our cabin.

The good news is that I am feeling much better and we are planning to go for a bike ride tomorrow. My throat feels pretty much back to 100% but I don’t want to rush anything. Somtimes you just gotta take it easy.

House Build

Here we go!

The Grassland house project is underway! We had a great Zoom call with a designer/structural engineer this morning for over an hour. Based on the call we are going to move forward with him and his team to get architectural drawings of the house fully designed over the next few weeks. At the end of the process we will have what we need to begin engaging various contractors to get the home built. On top of that we will also have 3D renderings and a walk-through of the entire home.

For 2 months now we have been spinning our wheels looking for house plans that fit what we want. We have also taken a stab at making our own drawings. Over the course of that time we have not made much progress, and in fact were becoming disillusioned with the entire ordeal.

The biggest decision was that we are going to be our own General Contractor or GC. This means we are going to have to be much more involved and that we need to step up our construction knowledge a bit. While we don’t need to know how to setup a concrete form we are going to need to know when one needs to be setup.

The good news is that we are going to be living on the job site. This means we will be talking with the various contractors everyday. We will be checking on progress daily and asking questions and checking budgets. Its going to be a lot of work but its also going to be our home so it will be worth it.

Currently we have invested in 4 books to help bring us up to speed:

Between those books and the designer we feel really good about how things are heading now. We are already talking with our excavator, who built the road and septic system, about digging out a basement. Next steps will be finding a builder to get the basement, walls, and roof up. From there we will get electricians and plumbers. Then drywall and finishing. It almost sounds easy but the truth is that this is the largest most expensive project of our lives. Its gonna be awesome!

Off the Bike

How to buy stuff

The internet is great, you can find information about anything. The internet is terrible, you can find information about anything. On one hand having access to all this information is great it can also be overwhelming and filling with bad information. What is someone to do when looking for accurate and helpful information about what to buy?

Personally I enjoy using the Wirecutter to figure out what I should buy. This year alone I have used them to find my lawnmower, string trimmer (that’s a weed eater for those of you from the Mitten state), and other various tech or home items. They are a different type of review site than most because they start the review with what they would buy.

Most review sites will make you read through an article only to find that they recommend a lot of various products. This may be because they are advertiser driven and they don’t want to alienate a product that is paying their rent. Other sites want to promote everything to get as much affiliate revenue as they can.

While the Wirecutter does have affiliate links they decided early on that they would tell you what they would buy. They usually have a few other options like a cheaper one or more expensive one in case you have certain needs. The model has been very successful for them leading to the New York Times purchase of them in 2016.

The site is also well done and easy to navigate on desktop and mobile. If you are looking to purchase something I recommend starting there. They don’t always have a review for what I need, and sometimes they don’t select the best item. However most of the time I am able to at least learn more about a certain product to help inform my decision process.

Hey it’s definitely better than going by Amazon’s choice or reviews.

Daily Ride

Home building in 2020

For a couple of months now Kate and I have been planning on building a house. We started off thinking we would design something from scratch with the assistance of a builder. This process has created some frustrating moments mainly because neither of us are builders, or designers. It turns out that there are a lot of considerations when building a home.

Recently we went back to the drawing board and by drawing board I mean we started looking at house plans. This has been really helpful in identifying what we like and don’t like. From that we have settled on a ski chalet type design with 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a full unfinished basement, and an attached garage.

The next step we are taking is educating ourselves about home building. We ordered a number of books to read and have started watching various Youtube videos. One series of videos that I have found especially helpful is the Spec House series from Essential Craftsman.

Scott Wadsworth is the Essential Craftsman and is a builder/jack of many trades in Oregon, USA. In the Spec House series they have put together a lot of material about building a home that they plan on selling, hence a speculative house. It isn’t until the 27th video that they start talking about plans.

In that video they work with a draftsman to help them refine their initial design. Scott mentions how you can work with any draftsman as the principles are universal. That got me thinking that we should reach out to a number of drafting/designers to find one that we like best. So I have been reaching out to a number of them.

My attitude on building a home has shifted to how I work with designers on a website. I don’t have to work with a web designer who is physically close to me. In fact I haven’t met a designer in person in over 2 years. I think the reason this took so long to dawn on us is that we are novices when it comes to construction.

However we are not novices when it comes to project management. Kate especially, she used to run the ERP system for an aerospace manufacturer. What is also helping is that we are learning more about the various roles involved:

  • Designer/Drafting
  • Structural Engineer
  • Surveyor
  • Excavator
  • Builder
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Drywaller
  • Stucco-er
  • Painter
  • Finishing Carpenter

Some roles can be played by the same person/contractor, but all are required to get the final product we want. First things first is we need to get a plan finalized then we start filling in the other positions. Learning the vocabulary and processes will also be important when building begins. While we aren’t looking to micro manage things we are going to keep things moving forward.

Off the Bike

If not WordPress then what?

I have been using WordPress since 2003 when it first became WordPress. I don’t say this to brag in anyway. My usage of WordPress as a blogging tool has been terrible but I am working on being better. One of the main reasons I use WordPress is because I can get it to work, and it keeps working.

I am bringing this topic up because Dave Winer was bashing on WP yesterday. Dave is a developer and has been involved with making some impressive stuff like RSS. He doesn’t like WP because it doesn’t match with his style of blogging.

Dave posts to his blog in a stream of conscious manner and he does it well. I read his site almost everyday because he has good content that I find useful.

However from reading about how his blog is setup I am pretty sure it would take me a long time to get the same thing working. I would learn a lot of new things about technology that might be helpful, but I would not be blogging until I got it figured out and working.

People ask me all the time to help them get a website setup. The first thing I ask them is what they want to put on the website. They want to talk about the tech but the content is way more important. You can have the most technically up to date site but if the content sucks no one will care.

With WordPress I can setup a site in minutes and show anyone how to start posting within 10 more minutes. It isn’t perfect but it works and allows people to publish their own thoughts online for anyone to read. That is the focus I think we should all have in online publishing.

If there is another tool that is easier to setup and teach someone to use then I am all for it. Till then I am gonna keep on keepin on with WP.

Off the Bike


I mentioned yesterday feeling a little under the weather. I woke up a few days ago with a sore throat and knew something was not right. Naturally I went to the CDC website for Covid-19 to do a self check, and it told me to stay home and get rest. So there is some comfort that I probably do not have the ‘rona, but its still in the back of my head.

So I am chillin with Kate, the dogs, and Netflix. I mentioned the show Dark yesterday and am gonna binge watch it. I already got the plants watered and walked the dogs, to their dog run.

Sometimes you just gotta hit pause and get better.

Off the Bike

Fiction : 100/100

Every so often I remind myself why fiction is so important for living. I think part of the reason I forget is because I have become numb to the sheer amount of fiction available. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Audible I could easily fill my day living in stories.

In the last few months I have not been as into fiction. The pandemic certainly has a part to play. Right now truth is much stranger than any fiction anyone could imagine. First I went for biographies, then history, and lately its been philosophical journalism. Oh and news, lots of news. Too much news.

My sister has been talking about the Netflix show Dark for a few weeks if not months. I had tried it a little while ago but it was the English dubbed version and I cannot handle dubbed shows. The lips not matching makes it look like they mis-synched the audio to the video and I cannot stop seeing that. Anyway I started watching the show yesterday evening and its really friggin good.

Dark is a Netflix series that initially came out in 2017 and is a German production. Hence the dubbed version. The good news is you can change it to subtitles, or if you know German just watch the show I guess. The show deals with families and time travel and its awesome.

So far the show reminds me a little of The Americans and Stranger Things. It has the American’s feel for me due to the different culture setting(USSR/Gemany), and all the lies! It feels like Stranger Things cause a lot of the story involves teenage children and its sci-fi/scary. The combo is really great and while I just compared it to 2 other shows it is totally original and stands on its own.

All 3 shows blend a little bit into real history, mainly the Cold War in the 80’s. While the first 2 shows are set in 1980’s USA, the historical focus in Dark deals the aftermath of Chernobyl. So far I am only 6 episodes in but there have been a number of references to Chernobyl, and in the fictional town of Winden the Nuclear Power Plant plays a major role.

Overall the show is a bit darker than Stranger Things with suicide making an early appearance. The tone is also much more adult and serious than ST.

One of the reasons I have also been watching the show is because I have been a little under the weather. Some combination of exercise, yard work, and planning a house have put me on my butt the last couple of days. So I have been Netflix and chill. Also the world is a crazy place right now and watching some crazy fiction has helped distract me.

100 days done!

Well that completes the 100 days of blogging challenge for me. It has been a lot of fun and I am going to try to keep the daily blogging going. The helpful part that I remind myself is that this is a hobby activity and is more for me than anyone else. Thanks for playing along and I am looking forward to some more challenges!

Off the Bike

What for? : 99/100

Holy moly! 99 blog posts consecutively let alone within a year. The question many have asked me is why write on a blog at all, let alone 100 days in a row. Over the last week or so I have been thinking about this more and more.

On one hand I have a romantic notion that the Internet and World Wide Web have this amazing potential for bringing people together. For many that seems strange that technology which allows us to sit behind a keyboard and screen could somehow bring us together. The reality is that for the vast majority of people, including myself, most of our activity online is not bringing us closer together. Most of the time we are viewing the Web. Blogging changes that and allows us to broadcast onto the web.

The current pandemic gives us the opportunity to safely communicate with each other while avoiding transmitting the virus. The problem is that we have to take a leap and put our imperfect selves out there. My colleague Jon wrote a great post today about this. With a blog the biggest cost for publishing is our time and our pride. Take an hour out of your day and get over your ego and pride and share something about yourself.

A blog is as independent as it gets. You have full control over the software used, and you can choose whom you want to host it. You can write whatever you want, post photos and images, design the layout, and share it via email, text, or even social media. No one is selling your data. It is yours to do with as you please.

In 2003 I bought my first domain and setup a WordPress blog with all of these notions. The problem is that I could not get over my pride and ego. I couldn’t find a reason to just write and publish something. Jon does a great job of breaking down why this time he was able to write consistently. He mentions that having a group to commit to helped make him stick with it and I agree. The other point was about perfection and how making this more relaxed made it easier to keep going. I agree with that big time as well.

For me this challenge has been about sticking with something but also fulfilling the idea about how blogs can bring people closer. I started working at Kinsta in February of this year. The pandemic had not been declared yet, and we were all supposed to have met up in Budapest for the annual company meetup. Then the pandemic hit and traveling anywhere let alone internationally became a bad idea. The prospect of meeting my teammates in person and bonding went out the window. How could we overcome this barrier and learn more about each other?

So a 100 day blogging challenge was born and here we are 99 days later. Even if someone didn’t post everyday of the challenge I still learned something about them outside of work, and that was the purpose. By using a blog I didn’t have to go into Slack to see what they were up to.

This post is a total rambler which probably represents most of what I have written here. The good news is that I am fine with it. I hope someone has learned something new about me besides being self centered enough to write 99 consecutive blog posts about myself. I have learned that I can write consistently. There have been days when it has been a chore to come up with something to write about. Generally those are the posts about my workout for the day.

My plan is to keep writing here daily and to keep having fun. At the very least it helps me reflect on my day. My answer for why is that we can and should use this tool to better connect with each other. My hope is to inspire anyone to setup a blog and start writing.

Here are the sites that participated in this challenge:

Daily Ride

4×6 Intervals : 98/100

Today was back on the bike with 4 sets of 6 minute intervals. During the intervals the goal is to have my heart rate in the Zone 4: SubThreshold range. This zone is 94% to 99% of Lactic Threshold Heart Rate. So you are pushing hard but not all out, that is for Zone 5.

Before getting into the intervals it is important to have a good warm up. This helps ensure a good effort and reduces the chances of injury. For my warm up I prefer to ride on the highway and I can stay smooth and consistent. I try to finish my warm up back at home so I can do the intervals on my trails.

As I wrote before being able to ride my workouts on my trails is like a dream. First of all I am riding on single track which is one of my most favorite things. Second it is a closed trail so I don’t have to worry about anyone else being on the trail, well except for my wife. Third I am at home so if I need to take a restroom break or something I can. Finally when I am done riding I am already at home and can quickly start cleaning up and getting ready for work.

Last time I did intervals on my trails I was coming up a bit short of the 6 minutes. So today I added the Kiss of Cactus and Drop Trow to my Fenceline loop and created a 1 mile loop. This takes me about 5 min 30 seconds to complete at a Zone 4 pace which is close enough to 6 minutes.

After an interval I recover for 3 minutes at Zone 1. I just drop into a low gear and pedal softly around the trails until it is time to go again. After I finished the intervals I had some time to cool down so I rode up the highway for a bit.

For my 1 hour 15 minute ride I covered 14 miles and 827 feet of climbing. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining. Doesn’t get much better than that. After the ride I did 4 sets of 5 burpee reps for my part in the August burpee challenge. Those are still really hard.

Daily Ride Off the Bike

Second Nature : 97/100

For the last few weeks I have been gaining more interest in gardening. We planted 2 apple trees, then got a rose bush and a stargazer lillie. So far all of them are still alive. We also have some bushes that we planted last year that I have helped back to life with watering, mulch, and some fertilizer.

I have picked up some tips online and a lot of information from the gardeners at the local nurseries. My desire to learn more about gardening lead me to 2 books by Michael Pollan: Botany of Desire and Second Nature. BoD is a fun book about 4 plants and how people have cultivated them and how they have cultivated us. SN is still a Pollan book with lofty ideas, but there is a lot of practical advice as well.

Lately I have been listening to SN while I have been watering and weeding the land. The chapter on Weeds was particularly interesting and insightful.

There are 2 opposing schools of though when it comes to Weeds in a garden: 1) Kill em all with chemicals, and 2) Let nature be. Personally I have always disliked the idea that we need to spray toxic chemicals in order to have a nice yard or garden. On the other hand there are Weeds that can invade and take over a garden if not kept in check.

Pesticide and Herbicide usage is going up worldwide. In the meantime we are just starting to fully understand how terrible these chemicals are for the land, water, and people. Homeowners use these chemicals just to show they are better than their neighbors. I definitely don’t want to be a part of that.

On the other end is the thought that weeds are good and part of nature. Except that when we go into nature we don’t see weeds. Weeds are found in one place: where humans have altered the landscape. From gardens to roads to parking lots weeds will be found. To say that weeds are part of nature is disingenuous and naive.

Weeds thrive in part because they have adapted to the clean environment that we create. While the plants we want to grow are selected for their looks and taste, weeds have self selected by growing quickly and tenaciously. Weeds exist in part because of us. So it is our duty to manage them.

The rest of the book has been great and I am looking forward to listening to more of it tomorrow; when I am weeding.

Workout detail

Did 3 sets of 10 burpess after some easy yoga this morning. My elbow is feeling better but I want to take it easy and let everything heal up. I went for a super easy 30 minute ride around the land after work. That was very nice.