Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sleepy Dog Grips

Along the road on the quest for comfy grips. Many position options for a sleepy dog to explore.

Back when I had a dog, it amused me to watch him seek out the softest spot to lay down, and then proceed to circle around and around to push the padding into just the right position for maximum comfort. This circling, nesting, fluffing the pillow, padding down the grass, denning or whatever behavior it really was came across as starting with something that was probably soft and comfortable from the beginning, then seeking perfection through persistent rearrangement. He would always leave behind a perfect dog-shaped indention when he left.

That's kind of how it is with my grips. My hands are medium-large, and smallish normal grips just seem too small. The current grips don't feel comfortable to me while commuting, so I keep looking for ways to improve them. Rather than go to the trouble of removing my brakes and shifters and taking off the old ones, though, I decided to slice open an old pair that I had and wrap them around the old ones. Enclose and secure them with three loops of stainless safety wire, and BAM! my hands are ready to start circling like a sleepy dog.

I've used stainless safety wire on grips before, though not exactly like this. Rather, I just used them to secure some Oury grips that were a bit too large to fit snugly. That worked well, and I was surprised by how compatible safety wire is with rubber grips. I thought that maybe it would just cut right through as I tightened it, which is certainly possible, but I just made sure to stop before the wire started cutting into the rubber, and it worked out. One of these days I may have to buy an official/legitimate safety wire pliers instead of the junior model I currently use.

I don't know if slicing open grips and wrapping them around others is actually a good idea, so I'm not recommending it for others to try. In this case it initially appears to have worked, but I suppose there are several things wrong with the concept or implementation. We'll see. But in the meantime, I find my hands acting like sleepy dogs now, not staying in one place, but settling briefly in one position, enjoying the squishy comfort, then moving slightly to see if a different position would be more comfortable. Of course, since I sliced the old grips open, these are sort of flat and open along the bottom, which is strange, but not necessarily bad as far as I can tell. And the triple safety wire wraps keeps them from being flappy.

My dog snored, too. I'm not sure these grips are that comfortable, but we'll see. At least they fit my hand better.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where's Your Head Set?

Adjustment is key

Where's your head set? Is it adjusted to be smooth and silky? Or cranked down so tight you can't turn? Does it have dents that cause you to steer some directions more readily than others? Is it well-lubed, or rusty? Silent, or noisy? Clean or gritty? 

From the outside

In outward appearance, is it shiny, or dull? Does it proclaim bold branding, subtle lettering, blank chrome, or dull corrosion?

Measure me this

How does it measure up? 1", 1 1/8", more, stack height, thread standard, crown measurements? Do you know these off the top, or do you require a Gary Gauge and caliper to check? 

Where's your head set? Is it time for a new one? Do you have the tools, or would you consult an expert? And, would you use "official tools," and if so which ones, or are we talking screwdriver, hammer, washers, and a length of all thread?  Keep the key washer, or discard? Cage, or no?

What if your best plans for your project get derailed by a cracked head tube, or a head tube out of spec? Too small, too large?

When you are just riding along, do you think about your headset, in your head, or does your head set not include your headset on a typical ride?

I'll tell you this much: when the press is precise, and the parts fit right, it's a moment of beauty.

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Day This City Clicked in Me

In Phoenix, we ride

The warmth of a blanket and a good book are nice, but it's the kiss of the sun and the embrace of the wide open blue sky that make my heart sing. I'm riding, the cobwebs clear out, I feel a lightness behind my eyes and a smooth confident flow in my chest. It's a brilliant warm February afternoon, and time to head to some mountain trails.

Yes, up, over, around there, trail 100, North Mountain, Shaw Butte, all around, go

Someone asked me a question about a particular, slightly out of the way bike route this week. I knew it, knew it well, and while telling her about that part of the city, felt something click, something resonate in me, a confirmation of neighborhood proprioception
" this sense of deeply knowing the place where you live and bike (or run, or walk, or lay in the grass watching the clouds go by). It's a connectedness to your surroundings, the places and sensations, the people, climate, geography, wildlife, architecture, changing of the seasons, the whole picture. It's the feeling of knowing which plants or trees will have berries or fruit you can grab on the way home, what time of the year, to stuff your face with. I think you have to feel the fog on your face, and have some of the local gravel ground into your knees, to really know the place." 

This is my city, and I don't need a map or a GPS

These hills, these streets, this gravel, these desert plants that brush my skin as I ride past, I know them, they know me, and we swell with clarity and being in the presence of each other. I pause to rub a handful of their leaves between my palms, the creosote, the mesquite, the sage, each different, each spearing deep into my memory with molecules of being: here I was on a summer day ten years ago, here we were twelve years ago in a monsoon storm with thunder and the darkest clouds I've ever seen, here we were I don't remember when with two beautiful tourists who needed some water and I gave them all I had because I knew where to get more, and they looked like they would have to be wheeled out in a fire department wheel cart if I didn't help them out. 

I breathe in deep the perfume of the crushed leaves between my palms, and closing my eyes see myself in this place ten years from now on a blazing hot summer day, and I smile and touch my finger tips to the mesquite bush, brushing against it to leave a bit of myself behind for the coyotes to think about tonight when they run through here yipping their fool heads off. Send ahead ten years in time some knowing of myself now, then, a scrap of heart* and being to greet and welcome myself to here-and-then when I pass this way again.

Down the road, around the corner, this art is my city too, water jet cut steel art
I bailed off the mountain trail near the visitor center, and everyone I saw appeared perfect to me, like old friends out for a hike on the greatest day in history to this point. Up and over the mountain with the traffic on 7th Street, then down the hill on the other side, good thing I put the skinny slicks on the mountain bike, we went fast fast down the other side. Coming to the canal, I looked for my old friend "HI-BROW" at lift station #53. The fences are down and the lights to illuminate it in darkness are up. One summer night a few months from now, to escape the full heat of the day, I will ride along this canal at 8 or 9 at night, and stop here to see the thing lit up in its nighttime configuration, and it too shall join my oneness with this place. I am it, and it is me.

As I pulled in to the driveway, breathless and tired, but never happier I thought, my daughter met me, reminded me of our new tradition of family bike rides, and asked where we are going next. "Where would you like to go?" I asked her, knowing we could ride anywhere in this city, full of knowing and being in it. "I want to see some horses, do you know where some are?" she asked me. Of course I do, several in fact, we can go and see them all if you like. We will, I think, I really do.

Later, though, after a long, hot shower and dinner, there still could be time for the blanket and book. I know where they are, and I have a place I know for that, too.

*sending ahead a scrap of heart to myself, that I owe to Frederick Buechner 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do Or Do Not: Breaking with Tradition

A moment for a choice, to do or do not

For years*, I've attended the annual VNSA used book sale so steadfastly that it has become a tradition. The three previous years resulted in three posts here: 2012, 2011, 2010. But this time, I really didn't feel like going. No S24O to camp overnight in line to be one of the first inside, not happening.

Partly, it's because I'm behind in reading the books I already have. I usually don't have such a backlog, but work has been consuming more of me, leaving less for avid reading, or for that matter, blogging**. So I should probably make progress reading the books I have before I go and buy more. 

And behind or not, I am about one VNSA used book sale away from getting my own episode of Hoarders: Bookman: Lost in the Stacks. OK, maybe not quite that serious, not yet, but I do have more books stacked up in non-shelf places than I strictly should. It would be better for all involved if I were to remove a carload, or rather a Burley Travoy trailer load, of books from the house this year, rather than adding another.

So instead...stack of family bikes at the Falls

So instead, the family and I went for a fun bike ride along the canal on an afternoon where it his 80°F, with a stop at Arizona Falls. Suggestion of younger daughter. We also stopped for ice cream, did some shopping, and generally just rode around. We do this sometimes, but not often enough. As the kids grow older, this is the sort of tradition I want to start: regular family bike rides, possibly to create a stack of memories of many such rides hoarded up.

Part of the tradition will be jumping at the suggestion if someone in the family makes it, to drop whatever we're doing, to make a little time for a ride. Go for an easy spin together, get a little sunshine, stop and check out the wildflowers which have just started to bloom, get a bit of exercise. Younger daughter picked one of the first African daisies of the year, and did a little "he loves me, he loves me not" with it. A small thing, yet a perfect thing.

Coulda gone to the book sale as in years past. Instead, though, I went for a bike ride with my family on a sunny afternoon, then went home and continued to take stock of the books I already have, to choose the next ones to go into the donate box. You know, less books would mean more room for bicycles and bicycle parts. Speaking of hoarders.

Sticker on the daughter's bike
*it would be accurate to say "decades"
**how much has been consumed, and how much remains, is tough to gauge sometimes

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Go for a ride

Gather them up, go for a ride, the world will momentarily be a better place. Happy Valentines day, bike people.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Human Conceit: In Search of the Perfect Juggler

Dramatis personæ for this evening's play: a cyclist, some cars, a road, at dusk.
A traveling medieval theater show is what I think of when I want to define the word "conceit," in this sense: drama has a central, somewhat fantastic concept that you have to accept, often via suspension of disbelief, for the drama to work. It's the core IF-THEN of the enterprise: IF (somewhat fantastic concept) THEN (the consequences follow). If you don't buy the conceit, then of course, the consequences which ensue will not engage you, not make sense, seem inconsequential. The play simply won't work for you. 
Once you buy into the conceit, you become invested in the consequences, and have a chance for a little bit of catharsis, perhaps. What-if? Well, then, quite possibly this interesting and dramatic and unexpected series of events will follow, leading to a climactic conclusion.

A man riding his donkey through the desert determines that they are lost, and the donkey begins talking to him about the ten years they've spent together, with a rather dark outlook for their prospects for survival or finding their way home. That's a conceit.

Guy swerved into my bike lane governed by the HLF, not his conceit, I guarantee

The conceits that work the best are often those which are borderline impossible, yet quite plausibly linked with the facts of the characters, the context of the play, this historical setting of the production and the incidentals. Understanding and unraveling the facts helps to illuminate the conceit, and in the best of circumstances, the conceit illuminates the facts. 

In terms of us humans, the high-level facts (the HLF) are that we are the product of 400 million years of the evolution of life with the A#1 target of living long enough to reproduce and pass on our genes. Subservient to A#1 but not exactly the same thing, we are wired to do whatever it takes to feed and fight to increase the chances that we see tomorrow.*

The human conceit, of course, is that life has a purpose, or a meaning, or that it all makes sense, or that it will all work out, something along those lines, each of us clinging to and buying into different versions at different points.** 

Next time someone tells me they understand someone's motivation, I'm thinking HLF? Or human conceit?
My purpose here is not to unravel, prove or disprove a particular version of the human conceit, as fun as that might be. You stick with yours, I'll stick with mine, love will find a way. Rather, I just wish to point out that there is such a thing, and that we don't usually think of things in that light. The human conceit is a conditional such that

IF (human conceit) THEN (life is consequential, we're bought in, we're invested, it flows, life's play works for us)

I actually am raising it not to question my conceit, or yours, or anyone's, but for two reasons, the first philosophical or logical, and the second, operational in nature.

So first, whatever conceit one adheres to, how would it be possible to reconcile it with the HLF listed above? That is, if we operated according the the HLF, in effect making the HLF our conceit, what would we do differently, how would life change, what would we become? But for almost any modern human, it seems to me that taking on the HLF as the human conceit would appear to be unthinkable. Suggesting that the HLF are a viable version of the human conceit would be considered impolite, narrowminded, reductionist, etc. And most would deny that it was appropriate or valid to do so, anyway.*** 

Second, and however, knowing some people well enough to be familiar with their own personal version of the human conceit, I observe them operate, watch what they do and how they do it, and I'm here to tell you, operationally, many humans day in, day out, appear to be governed much more by the HLF than by their personal version of the human conceit, no matter what they say or believe. I find that somewhat disheartening, although maybe I should not. It is what it is, love will prevail.

But I enjoy a good play. I need some solid catharsis on a more-than-occassional basis. Like I said, I don't think these observations lead one way or another in terms of evaluating a particular version of the human conceit, or of the various multitude of consequences which may flow from them. What I do think is, it may call into question the IF-THEN construct itself, that when you recognize that the view is wrong, it is certainly valid to question the eyes which are doing the viewing, and also the scenery you see through the window, but what about the window itself? Is it perfectly clear? Could it be what's skewing the view? 

Cogito ergo sum. Philosophers who focus on the ergo have always made the most sense to me. In thinking about the human conceit on my commute ride home, and as I neared home, I thought, really? This is how we buy in, this is how we make sense, this is how we know the play works for us? While meanwhile the philosophical/logical and operational issues I raised above? HLF or conceit, that's it? Am I getting derailed by my semantic heritage, is it time to look for an internally geared IF-THEN, or go fixed syntax?

Fortunately, many traveling medieval shows included a Fool, who was a great juggler. Give me a perfect juggler who never drops anything, any time****, so I don't have to ruminate too long on the implausibility of the conceit, the quality and duration of the performance, or the logical implications of the HLF. Why are five objects held still in the hand so radically different from the same five objects thrown into the air with perfect precision, rhythm, and timing, with music playing? It's the art of the thing, right? Two wheels in motion greater than the sum of its parts, to be continued. 

*Or if instead of "facts" you prefer "current scientific view" I am good with that.

**There are certainly darker and less cheery human conceits, for example life is pointless, life is an illusion, we're all puppets controlled by pre-determined strings, and so on, but at this point I'm pretty convinced that most of the time these conceits are for show or effect, since getting up out of bed in the morning and carrying on is a concrete exhibition of a consequence which clearly does not follow from these conceits. Caveat emptor.

***Although, perhaps, science will one day achieve a level of consilience in which it becomes clear that all that we do and feel and are actually flow quite naturally from the HLF. If that is imaginable, then perhaps living as-if it were already clear would do no harm.

****On stilts, in my dream anyway.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Craquelure Handlebar Tape

Follow-up post on the shellac and twine experience

Went out for a quick test ride to try out the fit and adjustment of the new saddle. I plan a more in-depth and detailed post about the saddle after I have it dialed in, and have ridden it for a few months. All details then, for now, let's just call it "the new leather saddle."

While out in the bright sunshine, I noticed my shellacked handlebar tape from back in December was starting to show a fine craquelure, similar to old paintings. Also, the sisal twine that I used doesn't look any better after some usage, although it actually feels fine. Next wrap will use hemp, not sisal, for a smoother overall result.

Close-up of the craques. Looks interesting, a little rough, but feels great. I'm sold on shellac. Cloth tape next time?

I like the feel of this shellacked cork tape a lot. The look of the craquelure changes depending on the light. Bright sunlight like this shows the craques the most, while clouds and night cover up the variations. At night the shine on the black tape is hard to describe, but just makes me want to touch it, run my fingers over it.

Leather in the sun. Told my wife I put in on the yellow bike because the color matched.

First impression of the saddle was positive. I rode home, made some adjustments, will continue road testing for a few weeks and then go into much more detail.

And I like it! Does this mean I have to color match the bar tape and tires?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

WIndows of Time

Just thinkin (bicycle commute mode)

  • 1 second window of time: small enough to miss a certain view of sunrise's shifting light
  • 1 minute window of time: small enough to miss running into a friend you haven't seen in a long tme who happened to be in the same area as you, doing the same things
  • 1 hour window of time: small enough to miss the chance to walk a stretch of beach because the tide came in
  • 1 day window of time: small enough to miss out being there for someone who needed you. Also, an S24O.
  • 1 week window of time: small enough to miss out the peak brightness of a once-in-a-lifetime comet
  • 1 month window of time: small enough to miss out breaking a negative old habit, or starting a good new one
  • 1 year window of time: small enough to miss out on mastering a new skill and putting it to use
  • 10 years window of time: small enough to miss out on a person changing into someone new and completely unexpected
  • 100 years window of time: small enough to miss everything

Of course, every one of these window misses are also chances to catch these things happening, too. A sense of urgency, coupled with passion, is certainly warranted.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Eppur si galleggia

Water back w/floaties

"And yet it moves" (Italian: Eppur si muove) is a phrase said to have been uttered before the Inquisition by the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) in 1633 after being forced to recant his belief that the earth moves around the sun. In this context, the implication of the phrase is: despite this recantation, the Church's proclamations to the contrary, or any other conviction or doctrine of men, the Earth does, in fact, move [around the sun, and not vice versa]. from wikipedia

The previous post describes what these are and who made them

Eppur si galleggia: and yet it floats. I'm not actually sure if the Soleri bridge can be easily used to demonstrate without a doubt that the earth revolves around the sun. It seems like it should, and also that the most obvious explanation for the solstice phenomenon at this location with this angle of pylons at exactly 1/2 year intervals is a planetary body tilting at 23.5 degrees and orbiting the sun in exactly one year, but there may be other interesting complex combinations of celestial bodies which would produce the same effect. A Tychonic system, for example.

You could come out here every night, document the stars using the pylons as reference points, and show in a straightforward way that the motion of the stars which returned to the same position after a year is best explained by a revolving earth. If you were really good, you'd be on track to explaining the orbits of the other planets, too.

But I guess what I'm looking for here is something so beautiful, compelling, and amazing, that when you see it, you just have to go, sonofagun, it goes around, doesn't it. An elegant, parsimonious proof.

Like measuring the speed of light with chocolate in a microwave oven.

I think about the things I have with me that might help. My smart phone has a GPS. Can a GPS be used to prove that the earth revolves around the sun? Maybe, but not in any obvious way I can think of, at least not without more coffee in me. It also has the Internet, but we all know the Internet lies. 

What else do I have with me. The camera I'm taking these photos with. It has a 20x optical zoom. With it, I could probably just make out the phases of Venus. Maybe the moons of Jupiter. Twenty power is what Galileo used, so if he could do it, maybe I could too.   

I stand there with my bicycle looking at colored triangles floating in the canal, and naturally I think of Galileo. Maybe it's just me. In spite of any other conviction or doctrine of men.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Stop Making Sense

Let me explain
Sometimes conventional sense, the type of analysis and reasoning required by many of our jobs, can start to seem a bit boring, or wearing, or non-nurturing. Then down in the canal it turns out they are installing a temporary thing which consists of brightly colored steel triangles anchored with cables to cinder blocks, by artist Casey Cooper. As the water returns to the canal, the brightly colored steel triangles will float.

I attempted to explain this in words to my beloved, but as you might imagine words were not exactly sufficient to transmit this concept in a conventional, sensible way. The things look to me most like person-sized colored triangles made out of party balloon material sitting on cinder blocks, which is not exactly a phrase that the average post-workaday brain is prepared to wrap itself around without some extra mental calisthenics.  

Yet when you see it, your brain still shadow-firing with the patterns of conventional sense that have occupied it all day, your brain does a little flip-flop, and what was there is replaced at least for a time with a sense of wonder and not-explaining.

A sense which, I'm expecting, will be enhanced once the water returns and these things float. I loved Fausto Fernandez's Flowing Overlapping Gesture when it floated after the big storm. You remember, the tools and gears and stuff cut from foam which floated in and arched up and out of the water.

Maybe I'm not sure exactly why I love art that floats. Maybe my post-workaday brain is not sure why it does happy flip-flops when it perceives it. Maybe I should stop thinking about it so much and just stand next to the canal and allow my mind to float along with the brightly colored triangles. Although if an amur catfish shows up and starts singing, I may be inspired to run away on a long bicycle ride and join a stilt dancing troupe.  

By the way, orbifolds may be used to model musical triads. wrap your mind around that why dontcha: " for triads (three tones), this yields an orbifold that can be described as a triangular prism with the top and bottom triangular faces identified with a 120° twist (a ⅓ twist) – equivalently, as a solid torus in 3 dimensions with a cross-section an equilateral triangle and such a twist."