Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bicycle Commuting is Sneaking One In

Hey, got a minute? I have a confession to make, about this sneaking around I been doin'...

Confession time. I trust this will remain just between us, OK? Because this is rather, um, indiscreet of me to reveal something like this, but I feel that the time has come for a little more openness in our relationship, a little more candor. Some honesty about this whole bicycle commuting thing. Yes, I will now reveal it! The Real Reason I commute by bicycle!

Sure, there's the heath factor, the added fitness, the daily exercise and the ability to eat pretty much whatever I want (within reason) and not really gain weight. 

And yes, there's the cost factor, all the money I'm saving on not paying car insurance, car payments, maintenance, parking, registration (which can be significant in AZ), or gas. Actually with oil over a hundred dollars a barrel, I think I will savor this for just a moment, by adding up my total expected expenditures on items related to commuting by car to work, for the last two years, and for the foreseeable future: NOTHING. ZERO DOLLARS*. 

In fact, let me just slip this in, although it is definitely not the central theme of this particular post: oil and gas companies and producers who feel they have working Joes and Janes trapped in a corner because they have to drive their cars to work and therefore have to pay you whatever you want to charge for oil in order to drive your profits through the stratosphere while crushing our economy: KISS MY TONED UP BIKE COMMUTING ASS.

Nor is the main reason I commute by bicycle simply the bliss, joy, and mental calm that I feel from it, although that comes close to being enough in itself. Addicted to cycling? Yes, I am. But that's not why I commute.

To explain the main reason, I have to go back before bike commuting. Back then, I still loved riding my bike, mainly mountain biking the awesome trails around central Arizona, but as life went on, my time to ride grew less and less. At first, I was riding almost every day, until my work hours grew longer and longer, and pretty soon I was down to two or sometimes three, rides a week. Still, some of those were epic sunset mountain bike rides that I will never forget, but I wanted more time in saddle even as I was getting less and less

Work picked up even more, my main riding buddy moved on, and riding dropped off to once or twice a week. Then the whole baby making family mode kicked in, and I dropped down to zero rides per week for four years or so, while other priorities took hold. I welcomed these new responsibilities, took them on with open eyes and heart, and knew what they expected and required, but I missed my bike time in many ways.

I put on weight, I was not in a good mood much of the time, and I knew that it was because I wasn't riding at all. So, slowly, stealthily, I started sneaking rides in, for fitness both physical and mental, almost always at odd times. During the summer, at nine o'clock at night, for example, a hot run through the broiling Phoenix night with lights blazing, just to get out and spin my heart out. A half commute here and there. The odd, rare ride to the store. Once I started sneaking those rides in, though, my mood picked up, my weight started tapering off, and I knew that I had to keep riding, find ways, even if it meant sneaking one in. Between family, work, rest, whatever, it became clear to me that sneaking one in was good for everyone concerned.

You see where this is going. I honestly didn't think of it this way before I started riding my bike to work, but soon after I got started, I realized this: probably no one is going to begrudge you the time to ride your bike to work, and if they do, perhaps you might consider offering them the same happy greeting I offered to the oil and gas producers, above. Bike commuting is sneaking one in, every day, twice a day. It has the virtues of combining something I have to do (work for a living) with something I love to do (riding a bicycle) with benefits from both that accrue to both, and to my life in general. Bicycle commuting is sneaking one in, legit. Twice a day. The only regret I have is that it took me so long to figure that out, and to make a habit of it.

*I know that I'm still paying for sky-high oil prices indirectly through more or less everything else I eat, buy, and do, but for some reason this commuting to work feels like the most immediate and significant one to me. In case the oil companies and producers think this means I am letting them off relatively easy, I note that the first magazine I ever subscribed to was "Organic Gardening," which I read cover to cover before going to bed at age 12, so fear the prospect of my locally-grown, bicycle transported, sustainably produced home food prepared and canned in a solar and wind powered off-grid gray water pumpin tiny house, ye titans of global petro-greed! My tomatoes will change the world! I ride softly, and carry a big zucchini.

Monday, February 27, 2012

7th Ave Tunnel Update: Burst of Maximal Effort

Almost done...

In a comment on my previous update on the 7th Ave bike/ped tunnel project, I guestimated a completion date of Feb 29. I think I was close, so very close. It looks like the constructors are in the home stretch now, with not much visible left to do.

A glimpse of the nice texture work on the walls

The long tunnel run-out on the west side
I'm not sure why the run-out on the west side of the tunnel is so long. The canal curves here, so the length ends up looking like it is related, either in a positive or negative way, to the problem of blasting down the incline and not being able to see if anyone else is coming the other way in the tunnel. Won't know which way it plays until I actually ride it though.

Sunday was just a glorious day to be out riding on a bicycle, as you can see in the photos, and many other cyclists were out enjoying the 81F clear, sunny day.

Canal carp, too

In some places the canal water level is lower, probably with a clean-up coming, so the weed-munching white amur carp were more visible swimming in the shallow water. Man, some of those are big fish. Wiley, too, for when I stopped at the canal bank to grab a photo of the ones pausing near the surface, they saw me standing there, and swam away. I saw much more dramatic views of them, but this is about the best photo I could grab, which barely captures it. Also, I lacked an appropriate polarizing filter. Next time I may improvise with the sunglasses. They were swimming in groups, with some individuals larger than this one, but they were too fast for me this day.

Riding back along the canal, there's a mile long stretch where I like to exert a maximal effort sometimes, to feel the burn, to push the limits, near the end of the ride. I usually ride very slowly just before the start of the mile, but today a woman of unearthly beauty, fitness, and speed was running just at the start, so I didn't slow down, and instead just poured on the coal. Men are silly sometimes, aren't we? My legs were already burning halfway in, and I knew that I had started off too intense, and thoughts of easing up and not finishing out the mile came into my head. I dislike those thoughts immensely, however. They are losing thoughts, defeatist thoughts, quitter thoughts of the little no voice.

I redoubled my efforts. I thought of the runner of unearthly beauty, fitness, and speed, visualized her running beside the water in the bright sunshine. To be able to exert a burst of maximal effort, and carry it all the way through to the end of the mile is a kind of affirmation of being alive for me. By the time I crossed the line, and you know there's a line, I was breathing heavy and feeling not much left in my muscles, but also feeling a sense of not having given up, affirming that we can do things and finish things when we push ourselves a little harder than we might feel like doing in one moment, finding in the next that we can, we do, we have, we must. Sometimes it's the small things that make the big difference, whether a tunnel built for pedestrians and cyclists beneath a busy street along a pleasant canal path, or a burst of maximal effort inspired to overcome that negative little no voice by the sight of beauty in affirmation of being alive. Perhaps it is Spring, in the air, which sets us afire, and on occasion causes us to ride fast, to feel alive.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Laminated Bamboo Multi-Function Eco-friendly Bicycle Computer

Handlebar mount for Versalog 1460 Multi-function bicycle computer

I finally got around to road testing my bicycle computer, a Post Versalog model 1460 made in November, 1956. It is of laminated bamboo construction, with a celluloid slider, and engraved markings. More complete information about this versatile and powerful calculating machine is available on this site.

Rack-mounted, attractive leather case, goes well with Brooks saddles and Carradice bags

A brief sampling of its many and varied capabilities include:

  • Distance
  • Speed
  • Bicycle gear inches, gain ratio (see Sheldon Brown here)
  • Frame mitres, angles, and tube lengths
  • Trig, engineering, physics, chemistry, bridge design, trajectory, orbital mechanics
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly! (renewable bamboo construction, no batteries)

Close-up of rack mount / belt loop attachment system
Edge view of the laminated bamboo bicycle computer, along with the second best manual ever written (HP-15C = #1)

Preparing to calculate some gain ratios

This post brought to you by the One Speed: GO! Institute for Retrogrouchery Studies (OSGIRS) where our motto is "HEY! You kids locked up in your rooms texting and tweeting! Come stand on my lawn! I have sports equipment including but not limited to bicycles, baseballs, footballs, frisbees, lawn darts (the old heavy dangerous pointy type!), volleyballs, and even badminton, and I invite you to go to a place called "outdoors" and enjoy what used to be called "physical activity." Please note that some math may be taught in the process. Those allergic to fresh air, sunshine, physical activity, and the actual physical presence of other humans should take necessary precautions.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bell Placement Mystery

How do you work this?
OK, so there's no working derailleurs on a bike with 21 gear combinations (and a kickstand plate with no kickstand), and no rear brake, I still have to know: what is this bell doing back here? I guess if you are able to shift gears by hand by moving the chain manually, hitting this dinger without losing a finger in the spokes is no problem.


Utilitaire 12.4: A School Concert (and the bike parking was good)

Bike to a school concert, and a few others did, too

Checked another control off my Utilitaire-12 card tonight: a concert, including riding in the dark. My observation from this utilitaire: the parking and dropping off at school is hectic, but a bicycle gets a direct route to prime parking. 

I did the parking lot tango on the way to the bike rack

The kids sounded great, the acoustics in the gym were actually not bad. Those wooden bleachers are not ideal, but that's part of the experience, right?

Parked outside the corral, not a big fan of those derailleur-bending racks

As far as the overall Utilitaire-12 is going, I think I'm still in the running, with some fun stuff like the library, dinner, movie, and museum coming up. Still trying to convince the family to do a dinner ride together. I think I can convince them, with sufficient dessert and food inducements. I'll let you know.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Riding the Line


I was just goofing around with my camera on my commute home, perhaps trying to get a different angle with my handlebars and the setting sun or something, when this guy on a road bike blew past me like I was standing still: whooooosh. Anyway this photo reminded me about the question of riding the line, which I seem to notice more of lately. Forgetting that he happened to be passing me at this instant and needed to go out there so he's not a very good example, it seems like I've noticed more cyclists riding in areas with bike lanes who choose to ride on or very near the line, right about where I happened to take this photograph. One rider (who also blew past me) this morning was riding right down the middle of it. Is it some training technique? Some kind of obsessive-compulsive game (I'm in!)? A statement: "no bike lane can hold me!" For safety, or technique? Imaginary pace line practice is a good guess. Again, I don't mean just while passing one bicycle commuter traveling at an average speed, I mean the whole way. White line fever. This weekend, the weather looks fine. Think I'll go for a ride, or two. Perhaps on the line. Perhaps not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Emotional Pragmatism for Cyclists and Other Humans

Like sitting ducks? Or like water off their backs?

Emotional Pragmatism1 (EP): to manage the emotional dimensions of any event in order to obtain the best possible outcome for yourself as well as others involved. The value of any emotional response is utterly dependent on the results it produces. For most people, this implies that an emotional response which yields increased well-being, health, overall happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, and so on2, is more valuable, while emotional responses which undermine those, are not. To manage the emotional dimensions means to take control of them, to assess and monitor them, to manipulate them, to understand and master them, to your own advantage. This is emotional pragmatism. It is fiendishly difficult, and immensely rewarding.

EP Abilities
EP ability (A), emotional self-control. We have the ability to control our own emotional responses to a great extent, and to improve this control through focus, and practice. It is possible to consciously direct our emotional responses to emphasize the ones we find more effective and valuable through the experiences of our daily lives, and to limit or control the ones we find too costly. It's cool.

EP ability (B) , emotional recognition. We have the ability to recognize, identify, and categorize emotional responses in others, through empathy, through understanding, through studying human nature and history. Part of being human is having an instinctive sense of the emotional state, the ebb and flow, the storm and calm, of  the other. It's chemical.

EP ability (C), emotional manipulation. We have the ability to manipulate the emotions of others (and ourselves, by treating self as other) by pushing the easy buttons of the most powerful and most primitive emotions that most people have the most trouble controlling. This can be done directly with trigger words, body language, and non-verbal communication, and indirectly by tweaking the EP ability B, emotional recognition, to your own advantage, recognizing that several emotional responses are cascading chain-reactions that once triggered are extremely hard to moderate and typically run until they exhaust their fuel supply. Emotional manipulation is rarely seen as good, and is often used for evil purposes. Here, I am only advocating using it for good, for employing EP ability C in order to steer emotional chaos, primarily in conflict situations, toward a positive outcome. It's covert.

Discussion Scenario 1: Ask a police officer. When an officer arrives on a scene with two people, one of whom is raving, screaming, pushing, swearing, and threatening the other, while the other is standing calmly, being respectful and compliant to the officer, answering questions openly, providing information, and merely asking for information and assistance in return, who do you think is going to come out on top? Use a level tone and simple, declarative sentences. Chronology, cause and effect, what would a reasonable person do. Report your emotions but do not let them run away with you. If you were in fear for your life then say so. Any person in a similar situation would be. Speak quietly and evenly. Don't worry about stoking your ego or righting the horrible wrong that has been done to you, your only concern is to employ precise and smart EP in order to win. If you win, all those other things you want will also fall into place, while if you lose, well, you lose, and your ego will not get stoked, the horrible wrong done to you will not be righted, and possibly worse.

The Default Human Emotional State (DHES): I take it as given that a certain percentage of my fellow road users at any given time are some combination of ill, lonely, ego-maniacal, hungover, stressed out, drunk or otherwise altered, ignorant, praying and preparing for the rapture / end-of-days, batshit crazy, and/or dead tired, and are running on a hair-trigger just looking for a target for their rage, which I refer to as The Default Human Emotional State (DHES).3 I note in passing that cyclists are humans, so cyclists also by definition are riding around wrapped up in the DHES, also looking for easy targets for their rage, and pissed off motorists typically jump to the top of that list. The core of EP for cyclists is to overcome their own DHES in order to manipulate and dominate the emotional chaos swirling around them, to their own advantage. To win, through mastering and using the EP ABCs.

Drive-by raging: the aim of a drive-by raging is to push your buttons, to pull you off your game, and onto the rage stage, to engage you at a primitive level, to enrage you, to intimidate you, to activate you as a raging, hating, violent beast. Since rage is a rush, this is typically an easy invitation to join in the party. But, don't allow the drive-by rager to pull you off your game and into theirs. If you do, they win, and you lose. Often, the best response to road rage is to disengage, emotionally, and physically. Evade and escape. If you ignore it and ride away, you win. If you disengage and something further occurs, the police report will show: the bicyclist made every effort to disengage and ride away, while the motorist pursued and attacked. My first and primary response was to evade, escape, defuse. Slow down, turn away, stop, ride on. Don't allow your buttons to be pushed by a maniac. Don't take the bait. You are a duck, anger is water rolling off your EP back. If something further occurs, physical contact or worse, EP is your best tool. Exercise emotional self-control, recognition, and manipulation, while the other rages, and you win. Join the rager, and you might as well flip a coin: either might win, either might lose, but most likely, both will lose. From a game theory perspective, I like the EP strategy. Blue wins.

Rule #1 of EP for cyclists involved in a road rage encounter, the Blue Wins Rule: if no physical contact or harm occurred4, you control your emotions, you fall on your sword, you dive on top of that emotional hand grenade, and you ride away. Escape, evade, disengage, slow down, take a right turn, move on, ride happy. Life is too short to attack windmills with your rage sword. Let it go. You will never even make a dent in the DHES by raging back at it. That is a losing strategy.

The nuclear reactor analogy: One built from the latest design, an ESBWR, in a non-earthquake area, far from the sea. I do not want to be the nuclear fuel. I don't want to be the neutron moderator, or the coolant. I don't want to be the containment vessel, the turbine, the generator, the wires, switches, or the transformers. I certainly don't want to be the gigawatts of power. I don't even want to be the technicians in the control room pushing the buttons. In the nuclear reactor of the emotional chaos of our world, I want to be the person upstairs who manages the technicians in the control room, who push the buttons, that control the rods, the pumps, the switches, monitor the lights, and watch the computers. The manager upstairs is the EP-master in the world of emotional chaos.

These are my initial notes on EP for cyclists. It seems like every day, or nearly so, that I see, and read about, cyclists making simple, basic, non-EP mistakes. Rage, rage, rage, all ye DHES-dwellers, get your mean-ass kicks and drag us all down, down, down. Thanks, but no. Much of my blog has been about EP, although I haven't always thought about it this way. I am convinced that to rage or to rage back is to lose, and that EP offers effective approaches for navigating the emotional chaos swirling around us such that we find our way to better, safer, happier riding. That's where I'm going, or trying to go on my ride. More to come, I'm sure.

You have to be one cool-headed duck to waddle across that line

1I have read "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman, and found it useful and intriguing. I should go back and read it some more, probably, but this is not intended to be about that, or based on it. I don't think you can really test EI/EQ, while on the other hand, all I want to claim about EP is that it can be used to manage emotional chaos in conflict, and can be improved with experience over time. This is meant to be news you can use on the road. 

2"and so on" includes, possibly, non-incarceration, reasonable insurance rates, non-visits to the ER, improved community, and a more civil atmosphere, to name a few more.

3The DHES may be the best argument in favor of separate facilities for cyclists and why they work so well in some locales, since they provide physical separation, buttressed by legal separation, between the DHES and physically more vulnerable targets which are the most attractive outlets for the DHES, but I don't have the privilege of cycling in those facilities currently. So I use EP.

4Of course, if physical contact or harm did occur, you make sure you are safe, try to get the license plate, dial 911, and if there's still danger, get the hell out of there. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Free Yard Sale: Living to Ride Another Day

Yesterday only, 100% off everything mostly

I checked, they had no free bikes for sale. Time to go listen to some Iron Butterfly. Because if you're going to hold a FREE YARD SALE, you ought to have some flowers in your hair, and some peaceful thoughts running round your head. That's what I'm going for, anyway, peaceful thoughts, after the woman yacking on her cell phone ran the yield sign at the entrance to the traffic circle and almost plowed into me. I saw her coming in from the right, and calculated that even if she didn't see me, which is always a possibility, I was far enough through the circle and going fast enough that I would make it. However, I didn't count on her HITTING THE GAS as she looked to her right (not her left at me coming from the only direction anyone would be coming from) and pushed the pedal down. I continued on in front of her, and waved back at her over hoping that would catch her attention before she ran me down. She smashed the brake pedal and avoided hitting me. Grinding brakes, tires chirp-squeal biting down on the pavement, two tons of steel lurching to a stop just behind me, all of a split second to wonder if human reaction time was sufficient to keep me off the fat nasty sharp end of the f=ma equation. It got to me for a minute as I tried to leave it behind me, and beginning to wonder if the car behind her ran into her when she smashed the brake pedal down. Next time, even if I am first to the line, I think I will trust my instincts more, and not calculate if I can make it but just let her go, in case of unexpected behavior like looking to the right and HITTING THE GAS. I can wait. I got free yard sales to get to. And and too much sweet long old music to listen to in my headphones to risk it all on inattentive drivers yacking on cell phones. Lesson learned.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuzigoot from Tavasci

Tuzigoot Pueblo ruins, from Tavasci Marsh

Around a thousand years ago, the Sinagua people started building a settlement on top of a promontory which was surrounded with marshes which were teeming with wildlife, and kept well watered by the Verde River. Eventually it became a 110 room, multi-story structure, and these are the ruins. Evidence of human presence in this valley goes back 10,000 years, all having left their mark in various ways, some faint to invisible, some in the form of walls still standing in the desert sun. The hill is surrounded today by a restored marsh, which has previously been a grazing pasture (having been drained) and after that, a taillings pond from the nearby copper mining and smelting operations. Marks. Went with the family on a walkabout on some of the trails in this area, to see what marks we could find.

The Tavasci Marsh, currently. Ducks, beavers, various pawed creatures leaving pawprints in the mud, too.

Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, the beavers been busy

Tuzigoot (middle left) from the Verde River

Some more recent marks of human presence

I also shot a roll of 35mm out there JFTHOI, we'll see how/if that turns out. Holding that older camera, seeing through its viewfinder and its 50mm lens, manually focusing, selecting the aperture, considering the composition, exposure, and focus options, well, it brought back memories, woke up some old brain cells. Particularly the sound of the mirror flopping around when I pressed the shutter. Even the feel of it. I may have to run a roll through the IS-2 just to feel it doing that at 2 frames a second. I seldom went through film that fast except at a few sporting events for obvious economic reasons.

I wondered what it was like for the Sinagua, and those who came before them, to travel around this valley, back then. Horses weren't around until the Spanish brought them back, so I suppose they must have walked, or run, everywhere, or taken boats on the river. There's one thing I have in common with those who came before, one thing that I know the feeling of that many others around me who only go by car don't understand: to stand up on top of those walls surveying the valley all around, and knowing that I can cross it under my own power, explore it or just cross it on foot, by rowing, or in my case, biking. It's a tenuous link, certainly, but strong enough that I have a feeling I know what they might think about someone leaving cars to rust in streambed that runs down to the Verde River. Or a copper tailings pond

I want my kids to know about these things. So we go, walk around, take photos, and study the beaver gnaws. My younger daughter wants to be a CSI, so she could estimate the size of the beaver's teeth from this gnaw marks, and perhaps identify the individual, if we were to find him. Mr. Beaver, please gnaw this, we need to take some measurements.

This hike was powered by my mom's corn chowder, with bacon: the world's most powerful hiking fuel. If the Sinagua had had my mom's recipe, they probably would have built 200 rooms. 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Utilitaire 12.2: Breakfast/lunch/coffeeneuring (and camera supplies)

Signage at the Black Cat Coffee House

To fulfill my Utilitaire 12.2 item, I rode a few miles over to Black Cat Coffee House to try it out, and to pick up some camera supplies nearby. My first time at a new coffee house, I usually try a basic cup of coffee, to see how they do. For example, when I tried that at the relatively new Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale, I was rewarded with what seemed like an overly labor-intensive, yet delicious, cup which was created with hot water delivered at a precise temperature for a measured period of time from a skinny spouted pot through a Hario V60 ceramic cone. I almost felt like the barista should sign it when she was done. Anyway, nothing that fancy at Black Cat when you order a cup, just a fresh, hot, and tasty brew. I also observed a cyclist park out front in "just a minute" mode, go in, fill up his water bottle, and leave. Not sure if the water is triple filtered or not, Steve, but it was free.

Just a minute, S-works, he'll be right back with some cold water

Having sampled the coffee and carefully documented all the information required for my utilitaire control card, I went on to buy some film and batteries for a camera. Plan A was to resurrect my Olympus XA2 and put a roll of film through it to see if it still worked.

Plan A. Previously used to take hundreds of photographs.

Plan A fell apart after I loaded the film up and found that the XA2 doesn't sprocket correctly any more. All the film I put through it must have worn it out a little bit. It's been from Paris to Chiapas, taking great photos all along the way, so I won't hold a little sprocket wear against it. Time for Plan B.

Plan B, I've taken even more photos with this. Auto aperture priority, plus manual mode.

Plan B, my Olympus OM-10, was the nicest camera I could afford when I bought it, which wasn't very much, but it still seems to work, although I sort of recall that some of the last rolls of bulk-loaded Tri-X I put through it had some frame registration issues, like they overlapped because the clutch or ratchet on the advance lever was a little iffy. We'll see, I'm going to go ahead and shoot a roll to see how it turns out. 

Plan C, Sanei Sangyo Samoca 35 III (Japan, 1955), no meter, no electronics, no battery, all manual

Plan C is of course older than Plan B, and will probably still be working long after I cease to be. It has any shutter speed you want as long as it's 1/100th of second or slower. It was the first 35mm camera I used, I got it from my dad, it's totally manual, and I never used an exposure meter. Since developing film seemed pretty expensive to me back then, I was very motivated to become a good exposure estimator. I probably can't do that anymore, at least not without practice, and if Plan B falls apart, we just might find out. Plan D is an Olympus IS-2, but I know that works, and it's all automatic including the autowinder, so other than the really nice zoom lens, it would seem a lot like taking pictures with a digital camera, except having to pay for every photo including the blurry / dark mistakes.

We have a nice hike planned for Sunday. There should be some excellent scenery available for the Plan B camera. If I remember how to work it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Art Festival In My Bike Lane

Thunderbird Artists Wine and Art Festival In My Bike Lane

The first sign was the little markers they placed on the sidewalk early in the week. They looked like places for stands, or tents, and I figured an arts festival was on the way. This one has an ice machine, and a lovely white picket fence.

Festival tents, with Soleri Bridge in the background

Of course, the piece of art that caught my eye as I rode slowly past the tents was a carved rock monolith fountain looking thing that must weigh about 500 pounds. Getting that home on my commuter bicycle would make an interesting blog post, certainly. Probably more interesting than one about tents IMBL. 

Like carrying home a 500 pound carved rock monolith fountain, I had higher hopes for the blog this week, but the sauce is weak currently. I am slow-cooking some stronger sauce on the back burner. Hope to serve it up soon. Perhaps a nice long bike ride will inspire the blog chef to hotter, more savory sauce. To turn the heat back up. To choose some interesting ingredients. As long as the ride doesn't require toting a 500 pound block of rock.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Floor Mat of Doom!

What's that in the road up ahead?
It appears to be a floor mat, but why would someone leave a floor mat...
Oh no, it's the FLOOR MAT OF DOOM! I tell you, DOOM!

If the lack of posts is not enough evidence, the floor mat of doom post should show that I'm having a busy week that's leaving me tired, drained even. But bike riding is my refuge, so I've kept at it, putting in the miles, and using that time as a brief but vital recharge time. I'm wondering, why would you leave your floor mat in the middle of the street? Did an unruly passenger toss it out the window and you simply didn't notice? And for that matter, why in the world would you want skulls, embellished skulls at that, decorating the floor of your SUV? (go, do an image search right now for "skull floor mat", and gain insight into our world). Look, I'm keeping your muddy feet off my carpet with THE SKULL OF DOOM! (?)

Ah, that's better
A decorated swirly sky and a quiet street to put things right. Still feel pretty wiped out, and lots more to do ahead. But at least I've put the FMD behind me...or have I???


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Utilitaire 12.5: A grocery store, in darkness

Grocery transport machine

I mentioned my new lights, and posted a photo of them, just about the time that the days have grown long enough that I don't need them on my commute, at least not every day. So when I noticed that one of the rules of the Utilitaire 12 is that two of the rides have to occur after dark, and you have to describe lighting method used, I knew I was in.

Tonight's U12.5 grocery ride, after dark, took advantage of the Radbot 1000 for taillight duties, and the Expilion 350 for light up front. A good combo, easy to put on, easy to remove, small enough to pocket, bright enough to show up against bright street lights and swerving SUVs, and the 350 is USB rechargeable. These lights make me miss the long dark mid-winter nights when I needed them more, since it's apparent that with these lights, drivers see me a an illuminated moving object (IMO), which appears to trigger something in their driving brain that causes them to hesitate to pull out right in front of me, or turn left straight at me, for the most part. The provide a certain level of photonic confidence, and I like it. That's my observation for u12.5. (reinforcing the concept that cyclists deserve illumination parity with motor vehicles, and cyclists need not feel timid about employing any light which is at least in the same lumens ballpark as a car or truck headlight or taillight. If you think bike lights should be pale and dim next to car lights, I'm interested to hear your reasoning. If cyclists' eyes can hack a given brightness level, though, drivers' can too, I assume. At least one smart and admired bicycle sage thinks that 30 lumens is probably enough for a bike light, and that a 170 lumen bike light is at risk of bothering drivers. Have you checked out the lumens put out by current automobile headlights, though? I know that lumens numbers are not directly comparable, don't scale linearly, and so on, but the pair of 65 watt 1800 lumen headlights shining in my eyes are, I am confident, brighter than the 170 lumen light which might annoy drivers).

An illuminated moving object (IMO)

The green tea supply has been replenished, the dark chocolate stash refilled, the Valentine's Day tokens wrapped up, all thanks to my dark U12.5 run. Oh, and just to stay official, here's the photo from the Friday work u12.1a (since odds are there will have to be a u12.1b to get 12 utilitaires in under the deadline), and the observation: man, those are big horns. I did not look around back of the truck. I couldn't bear it.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Utilitaire 12: Any store that is not a grocery store

Canal Utilitaire path, and a lovely day to ride to any store that is not a grocery store

I rode to my second destination on my Utilitaire 12, "Any store that is not a grocery store." In this case, to the drug store to pick up various supplies, and a Valentine's Day present.

A bike which is not my bike locked up at a rack which is not a bike rack (C. Itoh, it says)

The first item I checked off the control card was the ride to work. Under "date" I wanted to write "every day", but instead chose a specific, and pleasant, one instead.

Items on the rear rack which are not grocery items (unless your grocery contains a drug store)

I am already strategizing and scheduling my next Utilitaire rides. It's a fun competition, but in truth, is also a good excuse to get out and ride more in this glorious spring weather. For example, the new blog header features African daisies in full sunshine bloom, spotted on this utilitaire. Any reason, any day, get up, go ride.

African daisies, my utilitaire riding partners for the day

Sunday, February 12, 2012

VNSA Used Book Sale 2012: A Velobibliomaniac's Confessions, and Further Schemes

Thousands of people waiting to purchase paper-based bookware

It's very possible, likely even, that a massive used book sale which could be bicycled to/from, with proper logistical execution, and which also sells bicycle-related books along with a few hundred thousand on other subjects, is not (or is, depending on your perspective ) the best place for a velobibliomaniac such as myself. 

Next year, I'm thinking of doing an S24O to the VNSA book sale, since every year so far that I have contemplated riding my bike to it, I have balked at the thought of a) riding there in the middle of the night and b) transporting 30 or 40 books home on my bicycle. The S24O would solve (a) since I could ride there whenever I wanted to and just camp out with the other bibliomaniacs who already spend the night in order to get a good spot in line, and I feel that once (a) was out of the way, and buttressed by the care and support of the other bibliomaniacs camping on the cold, hard asphalt of the State Fairgrounds colossal parking lot, I could conquer (b).

Inside view of bibliophiles in their element

So I used up some of my 20 miles average of driving my car per month and took the motor vehicle. Another plus of the S24O bike-based transport plan: I wouldn't have to pay the $7 to park a motor vehicle in the colossal parking lot. Purchasing a cargo bike would, likely, erase that advantage, so I'll have to figure out how to do it with bags, racks, and backpack. Perhaps a trailer, a Burley Travoy for example...hey, that would be useful to haul books around inside the sale, too...hmmmm. But would also probably cost in excess of $7. Well, based on my calculated book savings today of $400+, compared to buying them new, I think I could justify at least the trailer for next year.

The bike-related purchases

The non-bike purchases. Any sale that results in TWO Daniel Dennett books I haven't read is a success.

My Beloved suggested that I forgo the sale and download "books" to the Nook instead. Just before she handed me her wish list on a piece of paper. It's logical that paper books are on the way out, but that's not logic that I am prepared to accept wholeheartedly. 

The signs seemed to have a positive effect (with odd, verse-like spacing)

Books! Books! Books! Veterans Coliseum in the background

I picked up some collectible cookbooks for my mom, too. I figured I could bribe her into supporting the need for Operation Book Trailer S24O VNSA 2013 (OBTS24OVNSA13).Which sounds kinda crazy, but then that's the kinda crazy I am.

Mom, the S24O bicycle camping trailer book sale scheme is a good idea, right?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hashknife Pony Express Ride 2012 Arrives in Scottsdale

The lead riders arrive

Continuing a tradition started in 1958, the Hashknife riders cover the 200 miles from Holbrook, Arizona, to Scottsdale. Acting as honorary mail messengers, they carry first class mail and deliver it to the Postal Service at the end of the ride, which is the plaza surrounding the statue which honors this tradition, called "Passing the Legacy." Some of my photos of this statue have appeared on this blog before, but I've never been at the statue to catch the riders when the arrive. Today I was there. The day was almost hot, and I wondered how the horses handled their long ride, but they looked, well, you can see, they looked pretty magnificent.

Passing the Legacy statue in the background

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane

Postal service vehicle to accept the mail from the riders

Different cowboy hats were worn by different folks