Thursday, March 31, 2011

temporary probably permanent saddle

More on the saddle front (now there's an unfortunate turn of phrase!): I found the Freedom Rely saddle ridiculously cheap. I's supposed to be padded, flexible, and flat, and as wide as my current saddle. It came the other day, and, while it's flat, the padding is quite hard, and it's not near as flexible as my current saddle, but I paid so little for it that it wasn't worth returning.

I was looking at one bike forum after another (I insist that the plural of the online "forum" is "fora", after the Latin, but I thought I'd save the occasional reader the unpleasant surprise of a classical plural formation), reading the saddle threads, and I remember seeing that you've got to try a saddle for a bit to see how your posterior takes to it. Saddles that are initially comfortable tend to be too soft on long rides, and saddles that appear hard at first (including most of the offerings from Brooks) sometimes are the most comfortable. So I pulled out that Freedom Rely, and put it on the road bike. It took some playing to find the sweet spot: the best adjustments for height, setback, and leveling, but I think I have it. I popped out ten miles, and it's pretty good. It's not as good as the BG2, but the BG2 has had years of wearing in... and even the BG2 may have been less than ideal when I first put it on; it was just so much better than the cheapo Selle Royal Viper that came with my first bike that I'm sure I rode it for days, sighing with relief (that Selle was a torture device!).

In other news, I found a way to get a good measurement of my sit bones, without going for an expensive Butt-o-meter testing; the measuring protocol utilizes a curb and a sheet of corrugated cardboard (but because I did it with my pants off, I didn't use the curb). So I tried it... and I got a measurement of less than 10cm (100mm), which seemed far too narrow, given my choice of wider saddles. So I did it twice more. All of the measurements were different, but all were within 7mm, and all were less than 100mm. So why did I think I needed a wide saddle?

The saddle that caused some of the controversy is the Nashbar F1. It gets great reviews (as you'll see if you go to the page)... but it's a very narrow saddle (at 133 mm), and (what you can't see from the picture) where I wind up sitting on it has high structures with hard padding (I don't fit on the flat wide part; I wound up sitting forward of that). It's just not the saddle for me.

Comparing the Freedom Rely to the Nashbar F1 has made me re-think the other saddles I'm looking at. I might really like the Brooks team pro, or even a Brooks Swift (I'm tempted to go with Wall Bike because of the 6-month unconditional guarantee), but I'm also taken with the Velo Orange Model 1 & Model 6 (the Model 6 is narrower, which worries me a bit, but it's held together at the bottom by a riveted doodad; the Model 1 has some artificial fabric glued under there, and I'm afraid it might de-laminate in a few hundred years).

Some of it, or course, is just about the sheer anachronistic in-your-facery of having a retro leather saddle on my road bike (although I've got other stuff like that, too: despite the excellent wheels and drive train, I insist on a steel fork, not carbon; and I like my wired computer rather than the newer wireless). Some of it is about having a beautiful saddle: I did get silver-colored stem and seatpost mostly for the bling, and, while the Velocity Bottle Trap would have solved my problem of insufficient clearance for two water bottles, they are fugly - I went with the Arundel Steel Cage.

And some of it's about ambivalence about buying a bike GPS. I'm almost always lost on group rides (I'm forever saying, "It's always safe to presume that Jim doesn't know where he is"), and a GPS might solve that... but, on the other hand, it's not unpleasant to be dependent on someone else taking charge, even if I'm a stronger rider (and I am, on many of the rides I do). And I know that if I got a GPS, I'd spend a bunch of time indoors seeing what it would do, and sync-ing it up with my computer, and seeing what I could make it do under Ubuntu Linux, and so on... and not pedaling my bike. And wasn't pedaling the point, in the beginning? (I got onto the GPS thing when I heard that the routes for the Anchor House ride will be available for GPS. But I've decided buying a GPs just for the Anchor House ride is a bad decision, and now I'm talking myself out of buying one for all of my other riding, too. And since you're read this far, don't you want to pledge some financial support for me?)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

another rider to remember

I don't think I ever met Joe McBride, but he was a member of the Princeton Freewheelers, and he died in a bicycling accident. He rode with the Hill Slugs, with whom I've been riding recently; I started riding with them after I heard about a memorial ride for him last fall.

There will be a memorial spin for him in May, and there are plans for an annual memorial ride to happen September 10, 2011. I want to donate some seed cash. If they get their 501(c)(3) together, I'll be able to donate more, but I'll probably send something soon anyway.

I suspect sending seed money for this memorial ride will be better use of it than getting a GPS that I don't need.

inexpensive handlebar shim, reflections on national health, and a good ride

My new Velo Orange Stem is just that little bit loose around my Easton EA50 handlebars; they're both rated for 26.2mm, but I notice that the bars have rotated down over the course of my rides in the past couple of days (I adjusted them yesterday, but the adjustment didn't hold today). While the fact that the temps didn't get above the low 30's during the course of the ride may have had something to do with the fit (oh, Sheesh!, was it cold!), nonetheless, it was undoubtedly time to put in a shim to tighten up the connection so the bars don't move.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert Pirsig has a discussion about making a shim out of a beer can, and why this is anathema to one of his fellow riders. It's not anathema to me, except that I'm a person in recovery from alcohol dependence, and beer is simply not an option, even for the making of shims. However, we've had a can of Coca-Cola in the garage for several years (we just don't do soda; I don't even know why it was there in the first place), and, after asking my wife if she had a plan for it (and receiving an answer in the negative), I drank it down (there's not much in it but water and sugar; what is there to go bad?) and cut up the can for the shim. The cutout window in the face of the stem now has an aluminum curtain, and, more important, the handlebars don't seem to want to move.

NPR has been advertising about an upcoming story about soda consumption (don't let the liters in the link fool you; that's about 57 gallons per person in imperial [US] measure), so I have just that little bit of guilt about how my inexpensive bike part depends on the poor health of our nation, and I hope that future generations of riders and garage mechanics will be able to utilize this source of inexpensive material for parts. Just in case, though, I saved the rest of the can cover; I wouldn't be surprised if my slipping seat post would benefit from some of that soft, cheap aluminum some day (although my Problem Solvers Double Klamp seems to be holding).

Good ride, though. The guy who was supposed to lead advertises that he doesn't go out if it's under 32F; it was just there on my car thermometer when I was waiting for the ride... but he never appeared. Only one other person showed, a local doctor. We knocked out 32 miles - between the cold, the wind, and not having much legs after 40-or-so-miles yesterday, that was enough. Great ride; he showed me some of his favorite pretty-with-not-much-traffic roads, and we stopped at an airport for radio-controlled planes (did I know such a thing even existed in Central NJ?), and one of the lakes in the Assunpink Reservation, where dozens of trucks, many with boat trailers, were parked. You may think it's crazy to go biking on a day so cold, but at least we're moving. Those guys in the open fishing boats just sit there and shiver - now that's crazy.

The fellow with whom I rode thinks the history will show that Bush II was a great president, so readers of this blog will know that I don't care for his politics (nor would he for mine), but he has good ideas about engaging people for behavioral changes, like exercise. And bigger groups would never have stopped where he did (or used some of the roads he did - some were dirt and mud; who knew that my narrow-tire road bike could navigate like that? I went through it because I didn't know I couldn't). I hope I see him again - as long as we don't talk politics. Maybe he's got soda cans.

Addendum: By the way, 392 miles since January 1, and 718 on this drive train. I'll need a new chain before the Anchor House ride.

Friday, March 25, 2011

copyright only goes one way

My father (who's an author) and I have a disagreement over copyright; as I understand his view, he thinks that intellectual property should be sacrosanct forever, or at least for the entire life of the original author (he points to Edna Ferber, original author of Show Boat, who apparently did not get royalties, although I can't find a citation of the copyright story now). However, with more and more intellectual property being created and owned by corporations, there is no original author who can die... so the property never comes into the public domain.

The graphic below, from The Optimist, speaks my mind, more or less:

It's because of this that I'm undecided about intellectual piracy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

webcomic: surviving the world

Surviving the World stretches the definition of a webcomic, in that the only real "character" is Dante Shepherd, the creator. Each day, he posts a lesson on a blackboard (well, it's really green, but it appears to be in a real classroom), and takes a picture with himself in-frame. On Fridays, he entertains questions from the "class" of his readers.

His white labcoat is set off by a Red Sox cap (my college career was not such that I can tell if this is unusual, but it's a great look nonetheless), and he seems to make a point of trying to act out his response to the lesson.

He just hit 1000 comics. Check it out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

money DOES buy happiness...

When I do my morning workout; I listen to podcasts, one of which is the NPR Planet Money podcast. I'm usually several posts behind, which is why I just got to this one today.

On the Planet Money Tuesday Podcast for two weeks ago, a financial expert shows the evidence that money, at least to a certain point (that most people in the world haven't hit yet) does buy happiness... but it turns out that happiness isn't the only thing in which most people are interested, or even the thing they consider most important.

Check it out.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

cleaning up some stuff

Just some cleanup for the two people who know me and read this stuff:
  1. Tooth is fixed. This dentist, and his office in general, is very cool; I'll probably manage to go there frequently enough to save most of the teeth I've got left. I broke a tooth, and he fixed it with a composite filling that holds the tooth together, instead of the silver filling that apparently risks breaking the tooth up more.
  2. I've been up the Coppermine again; this time with an average time of about 18.5, including flirtin' with 35mph on the downhill. WOO-HOO! If I'm awake, I'm hoping to get out and do another Coppermine climb later this morning (it's about 2:20 am as I write this).
  3. I can do that because I've got an extra set of bike wheels in the attic. On the 50-mile ride about which I wrote in the last post, I broke a spoke; the wheel's in the shop. The replacement wheel is noticeably heavier, but way better than nothing. I haven't got a quote on the repair (which is tougher than it sounds; the spokes are bladed and dyed, so replacements are special-order); if I don't get a call by lunchtime Monday 3/21; I'll call the shop and start whining.
  4. Remember that pre-ride mnemonic, for which I hadn't got an item for the "I" in "WASABI"? I found it: Put on the ID bracelet. I've got a Road ID (at wife's request; she has one, too), and it's better on my wrist than on the handlebar where I store it.
  5. My legs are so tired. Why can't I sleep?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

saddle transvestite

In an earlier post (3/16/11), I bemoaned the fact that my beloved BG2 sport saddle is no longer being made by Specialized. But on a visit to a not-really-local shop yesterday, I saw that my BG2 had changed clothes, and was being marketed as a women's saddle.


Saddle fit is really personal. I was out today with a mileage junkie who rides a Brooks B-17 on his handlebars-lower-than-the-saddle road bike, which is supposed to be anathema ("most appropriate for cyclists who set their handlebars about the same height as their saddle")... but this guy does the NJ Longest Day ride every June (over 200 miles in a day), and starts preparing early in the year (we did 50+ miles today); by the time the weather warms, he's crankin' out a couple-three centuries (100-mile rides) a month. And he's doin' this on a saddle that's supposed to be no good for that kind of riding. His partner rides a hugely padded saddle that's supposed to be cutting off circulation to his nethers... but I didn't hear any complaints, and the age and condition of the saddle suggested it was well-loved, if you'll pardon the expression.

Many of the riders who ride hard, light saddles (affectionately referred to by some of us riders as "ass hatchets") are serious, hard-charging riders. And some are, I think, impressed with the latest-and-greatest gear. I'm not. I bought my titanium frame because it was light and should last forever (it's not the latest-and-greatest, which right now is carbon fiber; it's not even a particularly favored brand among titanium frames). I don't use a carbon fork because I don't trust carbon fiber: when it breaks, it does so without warning, and frequently at scary and dangerous times. I'm not in need of the fashionable saddle; I need a saddle that will allow me to ride the bike a few miles in my streetclothes, and, when I am suited up, allow me to ride for six or seven hours (which is my leisurely time for a century).

When I was at the not-really-local shop yesterday, I sat on a Specialized Romin saddle. It was NOT nice when I was just perched on it, although it was OK when I was pedaling and the weight was off my posterior. OK, but much of the time when I ride, I'm coasting. Or I'm not pedaling hard, because I'm chatting with a rider beside me, or waiting for people to catch up. My Specialized BG2 allows me to do that.

Well, the BG2 is a women's saddle now, eh? So I took a look at some women's saddles, and I saw that they offer what I like in the BG2: some padding, a flexible frame, a flat and comparatively wide shape. I saw several, but I'm taken with the Terry Butterfly Cromoly, and the Falcon X (apparently built in partnership with Selle Italia). Both of them are about the same width and shape as my BG2, both advertise flat and flexible, with some padding. I'd feel better if I could see them first, but some webshopping indicates that both are available at reasonable prices anyway. So I may be riding a women's saddle one of these days.

But I promise to limit my purchases from the Terry website. Although this looked fetching; couldn't you see me in the blue one?

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness

Isaiah 40:3

But for me, it's bicycle mirrors.

Despite the hype, there's evidence both for and against bicycle helmet use. I can find no good research about the use of bicycle mirrors (riders either seem to have a mild prejudice against them, or are rabid, no-room-for-discussion supporters of mirrors for bikes).

I believe in bicycle mirrors. By the time your helmet comes into play, it's too late: something drastic has already happened. My contention is that bicycle helmets really protect everybody else: riding clubs, schools, municipalities; they either can say that the helmet saved you, or they can tut-tut if you get into an accident and you weren't be-helmeted. But the mirror, once you've gotten used to it, and you know its limitations (and it both requires getting used to, and has limitations), saves you from getting into the accident in the first place. If helmets protect everybody else, mirrors protect you. I can say with certainty that my bike mirror has saved my life at least twice.

I have a hanging-from-my-eyeglass-frame mirror that I use when I get all suited up for a ride. I've learned to use it, and I know its limitations (its not useful if someone is riding to my right rear, for example). I do enough riding of my road bike in my street clothes, thought, that I've also installed a handlebar-end mirror; this one is convex, so "objects in mirror are closer that they appear", and it's not as useful as the other - but it's way better than nothing.

If I had my way (and it's probably a good thing I don't), little kids would be required to wear bike helmets... but kids over 8 would be required also to have mirrors (they could be incorporated into the helmets themselves), to teach them how to use a bike mirror. Within a generation, I bet riders would just expect to use mirrors, like we do in cars - and I bet accidents would drop by great bunches, because I'll bet regular use of a mirror teaches riders to be aware of ALL their surroundings: ahead, behind, and on all sides, as well. That, at least, has been my experience.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

little conspiracies

A female friend and work associate (young enough to be my daughter) is getting married, and we've been writing back and forth. I've often said that every marriage is a little conspiracy, and today I expanded on that a bit - and sometimes I don't know what I think until I see what I say:

(As for marriages, it's my contention that every marriage is a little conspiracy. It's nobody's business outside the house what happens inside the house - and a reasonable number of secrets that you share with each other and keep from the rest of the world are like glue that keep you together. If you have TOO MANY secrets, or CERTAIN KINDS of secrets, we usually wind up reading about you in the more sensational web pages, so you may want to keep an eye on things... but a certain amount of joyful dysfunction is not only a pleasure in a marriage, but a required condition. At least, that's been my experience.)
Is it egotistical to quote yourself like that?

In other news, I broke a tooth last night, and can't get an appointment at the dentist until tomorrow. Woe is me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I don't know s--t about bicycle saddles

The Specialized BG2 saddle I bought for my road bike is no longer available. I’m looking for its replacement (I’m always looking for the next everything; it’s not that I’m going to actually DO anything about replacing it, but I like to know what’s out there), and I’ve realized I don’t know anything about bike saddles.

Hear me out on this: When I bought this saddle to replace the saddle that came stock on my first road bike, I was about 200 lbs, and I was looking for a saddle with a channel because of the irritation that the stock saddle was causing in my perineum (and let me tell you, I didn’t ever want to know I even HAD a perineum until the pain got too great to ignore it). Out of dumb luck, I bought the BG2, and it felt fine. It felt fine when I was up at 220 lbs. Last summer, when I was at 170 lbs., it felt fine, and it felt fine last week when I rode at 175 lbs.

I tried an inexpensive saddle from Nashbar, and it just didn’t feel right: too hard, and the channel wasn’t right. I’ve heard that the gel saddles are initially seductive, but not really comfortable after hours of riding (makes sense), so I thought that the problem was the inflexibility of the Nashbar F1 (the plastic frame of the BG2 flexes in my hands with moderate effort).

There’s evidently an international manufacturing standard for bicycle saddles (although I can’t find a direct link) that says the saddle has to function for a 100-kilo rider, which translates to about 220 lbs. on this side of the Atlantic. Now, I’ve been up around that weight. In fact, I’ve been everywhere between about 77 kilos and 100 kilos in the past two years… and my Specialized BG2 has been comfortable for all that time, at all those weights. So the issue is not just the amount of flex.

I’ve been looking at the Brooks B17 Narrow, the B17 Narrow Imperial, and the Team Pro Classic. I’ve also looked at saddles by Selle Italia and others. And I just realized that I don’t know anything about saddles; my experience at all these weights has told me that. I guess the saddle is something you’ve really got to go in and try out… or risk buying something you later find isn’t right.

Sigh. I hate going to stores; I’d much rather buy online. But I suspect that saddles are like shoes or eyeglasses: the price savings and convenience of the online shopping is more than offset by the risk of the wrong fit.

another right winger of questionable veracity

James O'Keefe is a right-wing videographer.

He's probably best known for the sting that took down the Acorn organization, where his tactics were questionable.

He was arrested for a Senate phone scam.

After his video of an NPR fundraising executive was released, it was found to be questionable.

Teabagger-darling Glenn Beck, of all people, is distancing himself from O'Keefe.

I have two questions:
  1. Why do we still believe anything Mr. O'Keefe says? Why don't we attack his lies with all the vigor of the truth, rather than lying down and whimpering in front of him?
  2. And where are the attack dogs on the left? Why isn't blood running down the legs of the intolerant and the greedy?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

on friends & heroes

I'm not good at keeping friends.

It's partly because I have this "out of sight, out of mind" thing about people; I tend to forget about people whom I don't see regularly. It's partly because I tend to smother people in whom I'm interested with attention. It's partly because if I think someone thinks ill of me, I let it upset me, frequently out of all proportion to my actual relationship to the person in question.

Because I'm not good at keeping friends, I've set myself a task of doing two things per week to maintain friendships. It can be stuff like writing a letter or an email, going to Quaker Meeting (see links to the right), or visiting someone.

I think I've learned something recently about keeping friends, though.

I've got a habit of being helpful. I have computer knowledge, tool skills, some specialized knowledge in my career field; I volunteer; I've donated blood about 160 times (and if a blood donation is a pint, that means 20 gallons!). One of the things I'm NOT good at is asking for help or accepting it. (I think this is a guy thing; I think many of my male compatriots are similarly inept, if you will.)

People who help others, but never need help themselves, are heroes, maybe. But they're not friends.

Now, as part of the Anchor House Ride I'm doing this summer, I'm asking people for donations. I'll admit, I wimped out on it, a lot. I sent out an email to about 60 recipients. The one actual "ask" I did was an announcement at the end of Quaker Meeting last week (yes, I'm an atheist who goes to Quaker Meeting; we're not all that rare).

I've had over $400 in donations so far. I've heard from some people I hear from only rarely, and I've even re-established one or two dormant relationships. Asking for these donations has done a lot to maintain some of these old friendships.

I don't know if these people will be willing to donate again if I go again next year. I only know that this has been healthy for the social part of my life.

Several months ago, I signed up for a daily email from The Art of Worldly Wisdom a book of 300 aphorisms on living by the 17th-century Jesuit, Baltasar Gracian (you can get .epub & .pdf versions of his book here). I don't remember seeing in it (yet) about allowing other people to help you. But that's just become one of my aphorisms for worldly living - because it certainly is making a difference for me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

on the importance of comedy

Bear with me on the provenance of this: I subscribe to a daily newsletter called A Word A Day, which provides an email every Monday through Friday with an interesting word. Many are obscure; some are polysyllabic (and many aren't); most weeks the wards are related, and it's the relationship that is highlighted and celebrated. I enjoy it, and the price is right.

Anu Garg, the guy who makes it up, includes a quote of the day. He's one of the small number of people in the universe who's more left-wing than I, so even on days when I'm not that impressed by the word, I look for the quote.

Today's was from Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame, about the importance of comedy to a culture:

At least one way of measuring the freedom of any society is the amount of comedy that is permitted, and clearly a healthy society permits more satirical comment than a repressive, so that if comedy is to function in some way as a safety release then it must obviously deal with these taboo areas. This is part of the responsibility we accord our licensed jesters, that nothing be excused the searching light of comedy. If anything can survive the probe of humour it is clearly of value, and conversely all groups who claim immunity from laughter are claiming special privileges which should not be granted. -Eric Idle, comedian, actor, and author

Makes sense to me. It also helps clarify that unease and discomfort I get when somebody says something is too sacred to make jokes about.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

shameless merchandising

The folks over at World's Best Bike Stickers are having a promotion where if you give 'em a link, they'll send you ten stickers. This is too good to miss. And, frankly, their stuff is good enough to promote even if the ten-stickers-free promotion turns out to be bogus.

I found 'em when I was looking for ways to fix the decals on my titanium frame. I used to carry the bike on a car rack when I would go to group rides, and I had a couple of disagreements with a bungee cord; the hook took it out on one of the downtube decals. When I found their site, the first sticker that caught my eye was this one:

I want two for my road bike.

Then I looked at the rest of the bike stickers. Much of their art has a pleasantly hippie-esque look:

... and there's a lot of political, anti-car stuff:

and if I ever get completely sick of the Habanero stuff, this lovely Art-Nouveau silhouette might be my next stick-on head badge:

World's Best Bike Stickers. Go check 'em out.

climbing the coppermine

I'm off every other Wednesday, and when I can, I like to ride with this group of mostly-retired guys that ride together every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. An email from their ride leader said it was too cold for them to be out today, so in the afternoon, I decided to go out on my own.

From my garage door to Coppermine Road in Griggstown, NJ, is about 7-8 miles, a nice bike ride, because a good deal of it is on Canal Road along the old D&R canal. When you turn onto Coppermine, you then get to climb almost 400 feet in about 8/10 of a mile (Coppermine Road has the nickname, "The Wall" among some local cyclists; a few months ago I found an elevation diagram online, but I can't find it today). You can then come down Old Georges Road to Canal Road again, and if you turn around when you get to County 518, it's a 21-mile loop round-trip to the garage with a memorable climb in the middle.

Now, I built my bike to be a long-distance and climbing machine, and I'm training for the Anchor House Ride. I rode with the Hill Slugs this past weekend, and I was cranking up the hills... so I decided it was time to test my bike and my legs, and climb the Coppermine today.

The good news is that I made it up with energy to spare; with a rest (like a few miles of a flat ride without too much headwind), I could have done it again (despite the cold; it was a windy low-40's today). The bad news is that my average speed for the ride was only 17.31, and that includes a top speed of 33.6 on the downhill. In mitigation, I'm claiming the cold, the earliness in the season, and the almost constant headwind all the way back. (Whine, whine, whine...)

Nonetheless, I've now got over 150 miles of the 1000 recommended for training, and I'm in pretty good riding shape for the season already. I should be ready to do some good riding in May, and 500 miles for Anchor House in July should be no problem. (Now it's time to reel in some more donations!)

no longer left vs right?

I've seen a few web articles recently saying that the divide in this country is no longer over left vs. right or conservative vs. liberal, but rather corporate vs. individual.

I need to think some more about this (it sounds oversimplified to me), but I suspect there is some truth to it. I've had more experience of being screwed by corporations than by government, and we're moving to a political sphere in which corporations - legal fictions - have more rights than individuals, as the Citizens United decision suggests (and have you looked into the possibility of individual bankruptcy recently?).

I also remember hearing that some of the staunchest opponents of taxing the rich and corporations are the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Although this seems counterintuitive, to me it makes sense. I work with welfare clients, and most people on welfare don't stay on welfare; instead, they get jobs. And it's not impossible for a person starting at a minimum-wage job to see his or her salary double in two years.

Now, as I've argued before, humans are pattern-finders. And if one's salary has doubled in two years, it's conceivable that it could double again. And again. In fact, given enough time and luck, it's conceivable that the minimum-wage-job holder could be one of those rich people who's getting taxed to death, at some time in the future... after all, didn't he just go from no job to a doubled salary in two years?

I don't have experimental data to support this, and I'm hypothesizing wildly*, but I suspect this is part of the reason we see support for corporations among the people who are getting the worst deal from them.

*And don't get me started on the difference between a theory and a hypothesis. Oh, please.

Monday, March 7, 2011

sound bites & bumper stickers

As I was driving to Meeting yesterday, I noticed some bumper stickers, license plate frame tags, and suchlike. A few related thoughts;

  • If a sentiment is short enough to put on your bumper, it's probably not complex enough to contain your whole life.
  • Do you think that anybody ever changed a closely held point of view based on a bumper sticker? I don't. I think that one of the purposes of bumper stickers is to tell other people what team you support. "It's not a choice, it's a baby", "Go Giants", and that Darwin fish thingy (and the many permutations thereof) are all saying the same thing: "These are the people I want to be associated with."
  • Another purpose of bumper stickers is to show off how humorous and edgy (or straight edge and middle-of-the-road) one is. Or that one has knowledge of esoterica. (It's not strictly a bumper sticker, but I love the door mats that make reference to, because I know what the reference is. In fact, I remember that I always thought the cartoons in French magazines were funnier, when I got them in high-school French class, but that was probably just snobbery that I got the jokes. But that's not really about bumper stickers or sound-bite philosophy, is it?)

Quaker meeting parking lots are full of bumper stickers (earnest ones, I'm afraid; not usually witty or snarky ones -- although there are often esoteric ones; the Quakes attract a certain set of intellectual snobs, of which I am one). Twelve-step folks also tended to do a lot of bumper stickers in the 80's & early 90's (& may still, but I no longer have the depth of experience I did then). I suspect that quantity of bumper stickers (or message t-shirts, or suchlike stuff) is directly proportional to some kinds of social needs. I have problems with attachment, and no bumper stickers, and the only place I wear message t-shirts is to bed, in lieu of pajamas.

(This was going to be a Jennings quote, but it got too long.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

when a driver complains

I was Stumbling around the internet at 2:something this morning (well, staying in bed wasn't an option), and came across this bit of wonderfulness:

... which appears to be a reaction to, and expansion of, this:

Last year, I was involved in a road-rage incident against a fellow rider, who was hurt when the driver of a Ford SUV slammed on his brakes less than three feet in front of the cyclist. I saw the ineffectual reaction of the local police. Yesterday, I was out on a group ride, and saw riders refuse to get to the right when a car was behind.

There is fault, and intolerance on both sides. However, riders can't just condemn drivers, nor vice versa. I loved the cartoonist's advocacy for kindness and nonsense.

And now I even like the phrase, "kindness and nonsense."

Friday, March 4, 2011

everybody else already knew...

I was listening to a This American Life podcast on kids & politics while I was exercising this morning, and I realized that, if you're in the minority, democracy is as tyrannical as any other form of government.

And then I realized that everybody else but me probably already knows this.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

pre-flight checklist mnemonic

I've been re-reading Joseph Hallinan's Why We Make Mistakes, and one of the things he points out is that pilots have been effective in reducing errors by using such things as pre-flight checklists. I've had a couple of embarrassments on the bike that might have responded well to a pre-flight checklist... but I'm also not geeky enough to actually use a clipboard before I jump on the saddle.

I am, however, geeky enough to develop a mnemonic to remind me to do some checks before I pedal away. As I thought about "incidents" from the past year, and how I could remember to forestall them, I came up with W, A, A again, B, S... and I thought, "OK, my mnemonic will be WASABI":
W: Water. Take the bottles out of the car and put 'em on the bike. (When I transport the bike in the car, the bike is on its side flat, and the bottles would leak out into the car, so I don't put 'em into the cages until I'm at the start point. Sometimes, they don't get into the cages at all...)
A: Axle. Check the quick releases; is either one loose?
S: Speedo. Reset the computer.
A: Air. Make sure the tire pressure is OK. Got tubes, pump, CO2, patch kit?
B: Brake. When I transport the bike, I take the front wheel off, and I have to release the front brake. It would be a good idea if I reset it before pedaling away - and especially before that looooong downhill!
I: I haven't got anything for the "I" yet, but I suspect something will turn up. And I couldn't "backronym-up" anything else.

Sheesh. There is no bottom to my geekiness. I suspect in about three weeks I will be running around the bike with a clipboard.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

another problem with science

Another from Calamities of Nature:

What does it say about me that so much of my world view is described in webcomics?