Monday, March 15, 2010

Working from Downtown: Bagels and Bikes

It's nearing spring, a time when my fancy lightly turns to thoughts of bagels, bicycles, and Ubuntu.

It being a relatively comfortable 30 degrees F outside this morning, I decided to pack my new little $350 "netbook" computer on the bike and bip downtown for a bagel schmear and a cup of joe.

The ride downtown was very nice, blue skies and crisp air. The school day starts at Highland School at Kenwood Elementary at that time, so I had to dodge a lot of erratic cars on my way to the footbridge. Kids and moms and cars and bulky SUVs everywhere. Not a fit place for a cyclist: I'll find another route to the bridge for that time of the morning.

Cops looking to write tickets for talking on cell phones while driving would find the pickin's easy there.*

I leaned my bike against the front of Thump Coffee on Minnesota, and by craftily securing the rear wheel to the bike frame with an old toeclip strap, I immobilized it. Hardly high security, but there's nothing you can do to keep a thief from stealing a bike if he really wants it. My measures are aimed at the casual crook, the one with low motivation, a weak skill set, and no tools. Give a guy a battery-powered angle grinder and some bolt cutters and all bets are off.

Thump is a bustling place in the morning and there was no place to sit, so I wandered down the alley to Lone Pine Coffee which was pretty full, too, but there was a small table free where I could set up shop. Most everyone else there seemed to have the same idea.

The computer is a dinky little thing which came with Windows 7 installed. Windows 7 is said to be a fine operating system, unlike Vista which is by many accounts a turd. But these little netbooks are underpowered, the computer world's "D" students, and I do not want to run a bloated OS like Windows so I've been setting it up with the Ubuntu operating system.

I had some initial glitches with Ubuntu, like constantly dropping wireless connections and some lockups when using LogMeIn to access my office computer's desktop, but I tinkered away and now the system runs flawlessly. It not only loads and runs considerably more quickly than Windows 7, it has a lot more geek-cred.

With laptop connected to my office computer's desktop I found that I could work easily from downtown. Which mean that the Ubuntu-ized rig will work from anywhere in the world with Internet access.

I took calls outside, though, because on the spectrum of things that get under my skin in enclosed public space -- squalling children being a "10" -- folk that sit right next to you and talk on their cell phones is a solid 9 in terms of irritating.

After working for a couple of hours I packed up my gear, donned jacket, helmet and gloves, and went outside to ride back home...and found my bike missing. Crap.

I looked up and down the alley. Nothing.

I felt myself flushing; I had that hollow feeling in my gut.

I dialed Mrs Elliott's cell phone to ask her if she could give me a ride home, but hung up after two rings because I remembered that I had left the bike in front of Thump.

Which is where it still was.

Mrs Elliott called me back as I was loading my stuff into the basket.

"You called?"

"Sorry," I said. "I accidentally pocket-dialed you."

I figure that the less she knows about what a nitwit I am, the better.

But I think she knows anyway.

* Seems that the larger the SUV, the more likely the driver, if female, will have a cell phone pressed to her ear.


  1. Short-term memory loss is pretty common among us sexagenarians, Jack.

    I often walk into a room to get something and forget what I came for when I get there.

  2. I'm sorry -- we're talking about what now?


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