Saturday, July 31, 2010

Goodbye, John

I didn't know John Callahan's name, but I sure knew his work, primarily from Funny Times. He was a paraplegic cartoonist, and, perhaps because he was a paraplegic, felt free to lampoon pretty much everybody (including paraplegics). His work was hugely funny, and upset all the right people.

In articles about him, I see that it appears that many of the people who complained about his insensitivity were not, themselves, members of the groups who were the targets of his barbs. I have a suspicion that this is frequently true of those who rush to the rescue of the offended.

Callahan apparently held a pen in one hand, then held that with the other, and used his shoulders to move the pen around. In addition to being a paraplegic at age 21, he stopped drinking about age 26. (I gotta learn to stop whining.)

So long, Johnny. I wish I had known you better. I will seek to do so through your work, now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hot date!

There were two art shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this year that we wanted to see, and the cost of the two shows was more than the cost of annual memberships, so we bought memberships to the Museum this year. We saw the Picasso show a few months ago, and today we went in for the Late Renoir show.

And y'know what? We're really not fans of late Renoir.

In his later years, he went for rosier colors, rounder figures, and softer edges. Now, they may be great paintings, but I really felt like, “It's been done. This has been done before.” And it may be that it's been done because Renoir was the one who did it; nonetheless: cup of tea, it's just not my.

(I'm reminded of a remark by one of my prof's when I was in college, and Easy Rider came up at the college film festival. And it felt like every 60's cliché was in there... and the prof said that Easy Rider was the movie that led to them all being clichés. If it was true, it still didn't change the fact that the movie felt like it was full of clichés at the time I saw it.)

There was a nifty self-portrait from, I think, 1899, which was uncharacteristic of the other work; it had the hard edges of the older man's face, and the intense look that my drawing teacher called, “the self-portrait stare” (you do see it in a lot of self-portraits). It's the look that a person gets when he or she is trying to get the details and arrange the space on the paper while drawing. That was cool... but it was also the only one.

It does make one feel just that bit of a snob to not like a show that is so well produced and publicized, though. And every time I see that membership card in my wallet, I feel like such a regular arts patron, already!

After the show, we walked (just under a mile) to the Reading Terminal Market, where we ALWAYS eat when we're in Philly. The market is full of great food; we've never eaten at the same place twice, and we're never been disappointed. If you're in Philadelphia, do the Reading; 12th & Arch Streets.

Then we went towards South Street to drop in at Hats in the Belfry (I liked the Belfry Safari Henry, but the one they had in my ridiculously large size had a mangled ribbon) and the Kosciuszko National Memorial, because my wife is a Revolutionary War buff. "Buff" doesn't really describe it; try "screaming yellow nutball".

Traffic was evil in Philadelphia today. I think it was the retribution of the universe for my taking a day off during the same week that my coworker took her vacation. Miserere mei, already.

We had a great time. My wife is a great date.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

more waiting...


I ordered a frame pump from Adrenaline Bikes, who emailed me that if was to be delivered today. It hasn't been delivered. I've asked for the UPS or USPS tracking number (which they said they'd send, but never did).

Five years ago, if a package was a day late, it was no big deal. Less than ten years ago, there was no way for a non-corporate customer to track a package at all.

So why am I so bent outta shape that the pump isn't here yet?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


More on the bike: since I got my new wheels, I've had more than my share of tube punctures - and all of the punctures have been on the wheel side, not the tire side (where you would expect them if road debris were causing the flats). Reviews (like the ones linked) complain of the difficulty of mounting tires (to which I can attest; I broke two tire levers, and am now the owner of several industrial-quality tire installation levers, including a steel set) and the poor quality of the rim strips (that protect the tube from the spoke ends, and sharp edges of the machined wheel).

Today I went out for a ride, and within four miles, I had four punctures in three tubes. I broke down and got replacement rim tapes and installed them. I've put in twenty miles of riding around my condo complex (boooo-RING!), and have not had a flat. The rim tapes appear to have worked. Just in case, though, I bought four more tubes and another patch kit.

Sheesh. Between this and the frame, I'm hoping that I'm just going through The Season Of Fixing Everything On The Bike... and I hope it's a season that's over soon.


On the blog I left behind, I wrote about sending back the Habanero bike frame. They received it from UPS yesterday; I got the delivery confirmation online. Now, I wait for them to do something with it and ship it, or its replacement, back to me.

I know that it's a tiny thing compared to the problems most people have, but I'm obsessing over it. I want the frame back, and at the same time, I don't. I will never have that "beautiful, perfect thing" feeling I had when I first got it. Even though the frame will probably be a new one, it won't have the integrated seat clamp; although that is a technology that doesn't work, it will still be analogous to an amputation for me. The quibble about the bottle cage brackets being too close has become a major impediment. The pure metal grey, which initially reminded me of the stainless-steel finish of a DeLorean, now seems drab. Do I want a PedalForce carbon? Well, no - my fears of the carbon giving way (on my first fork) were what led me to look for another fork, which led to all of this (the headset on my aluminum frame couldn't be rebuilt, and it's loose). But the Masi Speciale Premio steel frame not only has a nifty paint job, but lugs, and a matching fork. Hmm...

Oh, well. I expect what will really happen is that I'll get the Habanero back, and grow to love it, and five years from now I'll be a ruthless defender of Habaneros in particular, and titanium in general. Already I find I'm looking forward to the minimal prep that a titanium frame requires on set-up.

I just wish I had it back, already. I hope they send one or the other to me quickly.

Edit: At 3:30, I've gotten an email that they're sending back a frame with the seatpost binder fittings ground off. The tracking number isn't in the UPS system yet... but I'm grateful, anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Library Volunteer

I'll write some other time about the West Trenton Boys & Girls Club Bike Exchange, which is the other place I'm volunteering. Right now, I want to talk about volunteering at the North Brunswick Public Library.

Libraries are way cool. First of all, they are places where knowledge and resources are shared freely, situations which are increasingly rare in this I-got-mine-Jack-eff-you, devil-take-the-hindmost time. Our library system, as I understand it, is a legacy of Benjamin Franklin, who started something of the sort in Philadelphia, and Andrew Carnegie, a robber-baron who started over 2,000 libraries (and who said, “The man who dies thus rich, dies disgraced.” Can you imagine anyone saying that in this century?). The libraries are open to anyone who does not upset or annoy other patrons. They are a monument to the informed populace on which democracy depends.

Librarians are also way cool. It's not true that librarians know everything (although many of them know an awful lot, and put a few of them together, and they know a frightening amount). It is true that they know where to find much of what they don't know, that they want to know. In my admittedly limited experience, it's also true that they are unrepentantly geeky, interested in a variety of intriguing things (some of which would bore you to tears, and others make you ask yourself why you didn't think of that), and stronger in personality than reputation would suggest. Some of them may be a bit odd... but of what profession is that not true?

I also take my hat off to librarians (and I do wear hats, when the season allows) because they were among the first and most vocal to defy the intrusive Patriot Act by not sharing information about web or book searches by their patrons. Courage is not only in the face of bullets; it is also in standing up for what is right when the mob is howling for the wrong.

How can you not want to be part of this?

In any case, in addition to donating annually to the library, several months ago, I tried to volunteer there. At the time, it turned out that all of their volunteers apparently were either high-school students seeking to improve their college applications, or probationers working off their community service requirements. The library staff didn't know what to make of a fifty-something who just wanted to volunteer some time, was willing to do the scuttiest of the scut work, but who couldn't come in during the day because he was employed.

I did get to volunteer at the book sale (right up my alley! Get there early! Set up tables! Heavy lifting!). A month or two later, when I sent my annual check, I offered volunteer services again, and got a call to visit the library to discuss such a thing.

At the end of the discussion with the chief of the library, I became the first volunteer for the North Brunswick Public Library Adopt-A-Shelf program. I'm looking after the business books, from 650 to 659.999... I make sure they're in order, look out to see that there are no books in the section that don't belong (either because the belong in another section, or in another library), keep the shelves cleaned up, take the bookmarks and other leavings out of books when I find them. I get knowing, grateful smiles from the regular staff when I sign in, I have an almost-just-like-the-real-thing nametag, and I get to walk in the back and ask questions of the staff when I have to. I've given it about two hours in the past two weeks, and I'm having a great time.

You've gotta go do this!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

$39 Laptop?

India has come up with a 1500 rupee ($39) touchscreen laptop - a computing prototype it aims to make available to students from elementary schools to universities.

It runs Linux, and...
is equipped with an internet browser, video-conferencing capability and a media player, among other facilities.

What a great idea. I would definitely get one if they were for sale here.

On riding a bike forever.

Go read it (opens in new tab):

How to ride a bike forever.

Get the best bike you can afford, and grow old with it
Things we keep a long time grow in value to us, and enrich our lives every time we use them. The first objects you'd grab if your house caught fire are probably the old ones, because they can't be replaced. Grow old with the best bike you can afford.

With only sight modifications, it could be about any piece of property in your life. And with a bit of imagination, it might even be about your relationships.


Today, my wife and I are going out for a big feed to celebrate the 16th anniversary of our first date. We're going to the Manor in West Orange for the excellent buffet. We're gonna eat like pigs. I expect it will be shameful.

But the real point of this post is to ruminate over this: how on earth did I ever get to spend 16 years with the same person? And how are we, not only on speaking terms, but actually enjoying one another's company?

Prior to this, most of my relationships lasted about three to four months, followed by months of recovery and personal inventory, and thoughts of, "I'll never do that again," (which I invariably did). My first marriage didn't last quite all the way through the recessional march (well, that's an exaggeration - but not by much). And now I'm with my wife for 16 years, and we're planning where (and how) we're going to retire.

I am amazed. Grateful, but amazed.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


In the mid-60's, when I was a tween and early teen, my family took a week each summer at a resort in the Adirondack mountains of New York state. It had the advantage that we could afford it on my father's teacher's salary (not much, in those days). It was run by a man I remember as kind but distant.

I've received his obit from my sister, and I'm taken with the many experiences in his life (baseball, military service, land speculation, two marriages of 20+ years each, children and grandchildren...), and the way that the people in his community knew about all these things, and knew him so well. It is partly my nature as a semi-recluse, I think, and partly my many moves (and my inability to keep contact with people I don't see on a regular basis), but I doubt I'll have an obit near as complete and detailed as his - nobody knows me as well as the writer (or the people who informed the writer) knew him.

It's an argument for more engagement with life now, isn't it?

Starting Over

This blog is the successor to my first, Computers and Other Annoyances. I had originally planned that one to be about things technical, but I see that I'm going in other directions, and need a place where I'm a bit freer to explore and digress.

The title of this blog comes from a quote of Buckminster Fuller's:
I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of Universe.

So I'll be writing about whatever comes to mind. There will be some about bicycles, some about volunteering, some (probably) about politics, some about family and friends. Probably some about technology. And probably some that I steal from elsewhere.