Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Safe, It's Warm, and the Food Comes to You

The food flies in non-stop, and the predators can't get in. Why leave?

The only difficulty I can see is that he might get so fat that he can't get out. Assuming another gecko found her way in there, they could start their own little fat colony of light and happiness in there. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Light the Lights, Know the Waters

The lights are on at Copper Falls in Scottsdale

Part 3 of 3
Part 1 We are Strangers When We Fall
Part 2 So Soon a Patina Dulls the Light

The lights component of this new public art in Scottsdale were recently activated. In the early evening, they are bright enough to catch the passing eye on Scottsdale Road nearby, and, for the fortunate one stopped at the light in just the right position, broadcast tranquility of falling, splashing water toward the rushing crowd and roaring wheels.

We light lights. This idiom passes without a second glance. But do we water waters? In this instance we do, by diverting them, channeling them, regulating them downwards through carefully sized and positioned rectangles so that they drop just so in front of the lights onto copper bowls, and from there to rejoin the flowing canal below. 

First add copper, then falling water, then point-shards of light

I'm telling you: a cold, clear winter night bike ride when all is quiet will be ideal for viewing and listening here

A group of pals fresh from happy hour carouse past me without a second glance at me or Copper Falls. Their slurred, tough, jostling words momentarily cover up the sound of falling water; their swerving steps distract my gaze from the shimmering white point-shards. Soon as they are gone, though, I can hear the falling water again, and watch it as the nearest bowl vibrates beneath the drops ever so slightly. 

The copper bowls, the sounds, the falling droplets in the light, waters I want to know you. The oceanic feeling far from any ocean that validates itself. I entertain the notion that if I sit her long enough, and if it's quiet enough, and if I calm my thoughts sufficiently, and center my attention effectively enough, I might actually come to know these waters. Hello, waters. The grace of the falling water, its even, relentless, peaceful consistency, I would melt these with my riding, I would make an amalgam from the stuff of point-shard lit droplets cascading on copper with the round circular pedaling of my steel bicycle. Tonight I make myself of that, and disappear.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bumper Monster! Rawr!!

Me want bumper! Me eat bumper!

During normal, non-Halloween times of the year, a car stopping short right in front of me on a busy road for no apparent reason causing me to be one abrupt quick turn away from eating bumper would be cause for little more than a wave and a grumble.

Not today though. Today Bumper Monster emerged! 

Bumper! Me want bumper! Me eat bumper! Cut me off, stop short in front of me, nom nom nom nom nom nom! Rawr!

All cars cutting me off, all vehicles parked in the bike lane, row upon row of neat ranks of beautiful bumpers parked at the mall, all so delicious! Red bumpers, blue bumpers, black bumpers like chocolate, plastic, steel, chrome and rubber, I can taste them grinding between my teeth, yummy yummy fresh bumpers just like mama Bumper Monster used to bake!

Expensive diamond plate masculinity-enhancing pickup truck bumpers are sooooo delicious, Bumper Monster drools to think about sinking his teeth into one and tearing it off with bolts and plastic flying, nom nom nom. So yummy. The foam inside them is so sweet and delicious, Bumper Monster dreams of opening them up and savoring their creamy filling!

Imported sports car bumpers make such a satisfying sound when I tear them off and eat them! 

SUV bumpers I crunch them!

Oh so many bumpers in this city of cars and trucks to eat! NOM NOM NOM!!! BUMPER MONSTER LOVES HALLOWEEN!! BUMPER!! PLEASE CUT ME OFF I EAT YOU!!

Oh yes, the rubber-coated foam-filled yummy bumper NOM NOM NOM

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cartel Coffeeneuring #3: Of Coffee, and Essence

Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale

Sometimes my want for coffee exceeds the daily norm, which is pretty demanding in itself, and graduates to a need or craving of some no-nonsense, beyond hype, skillfully prepared, complex yet straightforward brew that fills a need driven by stress, fatigue, mood, hunger, and/or some equally imposing and otherwise intractable set which requires something strong and of essence to overcome. "Essence" used here is not something I'm going to try to define specifically, because when you find it, you know it. Something like the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article is not far off. I've found that Cartel Coffee Lab is where I go when that happens. They take care of me.

Latte, hot, with handlebar bag

I don't drink this every day. But, it fills a need on those days when I need professional service. I make a mean cup of coffee at home, but there is no way I could produce something like this latte. This is coffee with essence. The closest I've come to this was back when I worked with a guy who was teaching himself how to roast coffee. Over the weeks and months, he got better and better at it, some of his improvement attributable to my feedback I guess, until finally the bag of freshly roasted coffee he would hand me in the morning came with that essence. It's ethereal, transient, temporary, something like a spirit or lacy chemical dance of volatiles and fragile scent molecules that only live for maybe 12 or 24 hours after roasting. I would sometimes take those fresh bags home and brew some as fast as I could, to try to catch some of it before it disappeared. 

Those bags of whole roasted beans that we buy that have use-by dates six months out, or longer? That's utterly untrue. Don't believe it. If you could park an espresso machine operated by a skilled barista at the outlet of a roaster run by a expert, you might just catch a full dose of it. The coffee at Cartel may not be that fresh, but the roaster(s) and baristas there know exactly what I'm talking about here. They want you to experience that in a cup that they serve.

I discovered this about them when I mentioned to a barista there on a hot summer day that an iced coffee on such a day seemed warranted, but that icing coffee squashes it. He told me to try some of their cold-brewed coffee, and that's when I knew that they understand the essence of coffee.

Cartel bike parking

I've been wanting to ride more fixed gear again, but the flatland commuter project bike is undergoing something of an identity crisis at the moment. I removed its rear rack recently, and think that it's probably time to ditch the original handlebars and stem for a taller and Nitto-er combo. I'm not too happy with the saddle, either, which might be a matter of breaking it in more or getting used to it, neither of which is likely to happen with the current handlebars and stem. 

Cartel Coffee Lab Scottsdale ambiance shot

But in my stable I have options. One of my options became less optional after I realized that I had replaced the 1/8" chain on the other sometimes-fixed gear bike with a 3/32" chain, which is OK on the freewheel side because the White Bros. freewheel works with it, but the Dura Ace cog I had on the fixed side was 1/8". Delaying resolution of the Flatland Commuter project bike identity crisis by flipping to the fixed side on the other bike therefor required either a new chain or a new cog.

Identity crisis resolution postponement: new cog!

I'll say it at the risk of being subjected to scorn or ridicule: beyond the fading hype, and apart from any anti-hipster backlash (which I decidedly do not resemble, anyway), fixed gear cycling does sometimes feel to me like something close to the essence of cycling. Legs clipped in to pedals connected to cranks connected to chain ring connected to chain connected to cog connected to hub connected to spokes connected to rim connected to tire connected to road, and you feel that in a somehow more continuous manner when you let up slightly and the road drives your leg muscles back. Flipping that hub and riding fixed to Cartel Coffee Lab seemed appropriate. That latte, and this cog, properly employed, and utilized under the right circumstances, do go together, in ways that are not always easy to describe clearly. 

Perhaps sitting there more often, with one of those excellent lattes before me, will clarify that essential connection for me. Is it possible to love coffee? Or to love riding a fixed-gear bicycle? Of course. But try explaining either of those. Try spelling out the essence of those feelings. It might be done, I think. In the right setting.

Distance ridden: 10 miles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dusty Dusk: I light the lights, I hold my breath

One guy with one leaf blower sure can make some massive billowy clouds of dust

I saw his dust clouds long before I saw the man. Far ahead, billowing up to the tops of the trees, I thought: I will hold my breath when I ride through there. What happens is, even at a normal steady pace and breathing easy, upon reaching the cloud and actually holding the breath, the importance of a steady flow of oxygen-containing atmosphere to the lungs during aerobic activity becomes rapidly apparent.

At a steady commuting pace, it's not easy for me to hold my breath for more than ten or fifteen seconds, and afterwards, I feel the deficit. But it's better than breathing in lungfuls of that stuff, I'm pretty sure. Some of the blower guys pause when they see cyclists approaching, which is nice/kind of them.

The lights are on, the quest to see and to be seen continues

The lights have become a requirement for the ride home as the daylight hours grow shorter. The Phillips Saferide LED light is still my favorite for commuting, for many of the reasons I mentioned in that initial overview I wrote. It's nearly time for a follow-up user experience write-up. Only thing I don't like is the blue battery power remaining indicator on the top, which is just too bright, and will likely become covered with some black tape with small holes in it soon. Its engineered beam shape and brightness remain its outstanding characteristics. Battery life is very good running on the normal (not the bright) setting, and the switch seems to have broken in a little, since it turns on and off reliably and easily, but not accidentally. 

And drivers notice it: on tonight's commute, two drivers entering from the right paused rather than cutting out in front of me because they saw me, while one oncoming SUV driver turning left stopped short of cutting me off because he also saw the light in plenty of time. I really appreciate that, after experiencing the contrasting SMIDSY nighttime cutoffs coming in from the right, and turning left in front of me.

That's it, week. Weekend, I'm yours, send me on bike trips wherever you wish.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

So Soon a Patina Dulls the Light

New public art by Robert Adams at SE corner of Scottsdale and Camelback Roads, now with falling water

part 2 of "We are Strangers When We Fall"

The sound made by water falling on these suspended copper hemispheres surprised me with its muted, subtle, susurration. No bell tones, no metallic ringing whatsoever, only the combined flow of streams falling through rectangles cut in the plate above them, controlling the direction and volume for best effect with the hemispheres.

A patina begins to dull the light

There will be lights shining behind panels here at night soon, if not tonight. I caught them under clouds, though, near dusk, catching the sound of falling water as I crossed Scottsdale Road, then crossed back to have a closer look, and listen.

It's possible, though I don't know if this was actually the plan, that water falling through just one of the rectangular holes onto just one of the copper hemispheres might make a pinging or ringing sound, but that the phases and timbre and tone of all the combinations happening here, on all these different sizes, run together like rain into a tuned chorus of ssshhhhhhhh.

Also there right behind them in the photos and in the soundscape is the traffic. They sing together, the engines and wheels on pavement against the falling of this water, and though I much prefer one to the other, in this place both are there, and together it's not unpleasant. As light is also part of this art when the panels are lit, the clouds at the moment of my visit might appropriately be contrasted with the blazing sunshine of my first visit in the link at the top of this post, as well as with the morning sky on my commute:

Morning commute sky

There's a bench just there in front of the water to sit for a moment or two, and look, and listen. The sound of water falling is both duller and richer than I imagined it would be. Less distinct, broader, more natural while carefully tuned. In a place where the sun can be so bright, the light playing off the copper patina is also carefully dulled and controlled, while on a moonless, cold, cloudless December night I imagine those panels will glow on the rippling black water of the canal in some shadow form of a mirror that looks like something it's not, momentarily brightened against the sound of water with no traffic nearby.

And in the back of my mind while I sit on the bench with my bicycle leaning against it, I will be thinking that new things like this just-installed public art remind me of the passage of time and aging as much as the old ones do. In the first post, I wrote about differences and strangers, backgrounds and cultural quirks, but these drops now are whispering to me about time and its measurement, a drop exiting the carefully engineered rectangles falling a distance in time t of 1/2gt2, existing in its motion and sound a physical manifestation of the passage of t

We are strangers in this light because time makes us so, as when the falling drop strikes the patina of the copper and smears across it in the dulled light, and it, and we, no longer look the same. Drop by drop, day by day, the patina intensifies, also in a manner carefully designed by metallurgists for an intended effect. But while hydrology, acoustics, metal work, and metallurgy produced this effect here (against the din of the traffic behind it), this observer sitting on the bench is the random variable moving with his own equation with respect to t, and other variables that are my own. While I measure these changes and feel the flow of the years, remarking appropriately that so soon a patina dulls the light, I also smile at the passage, at the symphonic susurration enveloping me, noting that the light sometimes strikes the patina just so, to make it golden.