Saturday, April 30, 2011

on another kind of rider

For the most part, this blog goes unread and unnoticed by anyone but me: my wife occasionally reads it to see what I'm not telling her, and my sister has made reference to some posts. But after my post about Bikemanforu, I got a comment from a woman who calls herself Reluctant Cyclist (I think of her as RC). Intrigued, I went to take a look at her blog.

It appears she lives in Connecticut and commutes by ferry to eastern Long Island, New York. Some time ago, she found a purple bike ignored at the back of a hardware store, bought it, but then didn't like it much, until it was time to think about using a bicycle to commute. I don't recognize the brand, but the parts were apparently good enough to make the bike worth the repair, and it's now fitted out with some new accessories, making it, apparently, ferry- and commuter-worthy.

Yours truly is a roadie. I go for the speed, I have a number of those lycra outfits that make me look like a pseudo-superhero, I have no problem with throwing the bike into the back of the car and burnin' some gasoline to go someplace nifty to ride (Hills? Good scenery?, Flats with good road surfaces and little traffic, so I can get some good speed up? Send me directions; I'll be there). I spend money on my bike and gear; as we were saying on a ride today, it's my sportscar. There's a difference between the way I ride and the ethos of the commuter rider, who's usually concerned with environmental (and sometimes cash) concerns. I am a bit in awe of commuter riders: they frequently go out in weather I avoid, they carry stuff on the bike, they arrive at work and often have to make themselves presentable for the workday (after exposure to road grime, and the evil that helmets do to coiffures... my typical guy hair suffers; I can imagine what RC must go through). They are actually using bikes for transportation, of all things!

Part of the reason I'm not a commuter is that I have to carry enough stuff to fill a wheelie briefcase: while it's true that some days my commute is only about six miles, almost every second day, I'm going to a different office - and at the foreign office, there is no place for me to keep files or supplies; I have to pack everything in and out. Further, there's no good place to clean up at either office. So, I guess, in addition to the awe, there's a bit of, if not jealousy, at least a feeling of, "I wish I could do that".

Did I mention she's got a blog? The Karma of Commuteration is partly about some of the products that Bikemanforu sells, but mostly about RC's experiences as a new commuter. I liked it enough that I became a follower. I hope to hear more about her experiences... and maybe to join her ranks as a commuter some day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

time for a new hat

It's either almost silly to post this after that previous post about how much fun Linux is... or else it's an example of the whole point.

My Ubuntu installation from last fall had gotten a bit dodgy: some of the programs were slow, there was a certain amount of cruft that I'd allowed to develop by doing upgrades instead of clean installs for the last couple-three versions, and so on. About ten days before the new version was to come out yesterday, my software-updater-and-installer jammed. I posted a bug, and got little response (I'm sure all the guru staff were workin' their little tushies off gettin' the new version together), so I decided to go with a new install of the Ubuntu 11.4 version, code-names "Natty Narwhal.

It was a failure on my system:
  • The new Unity interface simply didn't work for me: it was slow and unresponsive, and the "upper left of the window icons" where you're supposed to be able to click to get the menu items only worked in the two programs I did NOT get from the Ubuntu repositories: Google Chrome and Opera.
  • I use Gnucash to keep track of my finances, and the windows would not refresh correctly. Sometimes the numbers would not appear at all.
  • Video, whether Flash, DVD, or other format, was choppy and unreliable. Sound and video were poorly synchronized.
  • The OS was slow to load...
  • ... and when it DID load, my monitor would not respond during the boot process (I got the monitor's message that it was not getting signal from the computer), although when the splash screen started, that appeared so I could log in.

Disappointing, although I got it to work well enough to do my daily finances, and back up my documents. I decided this would not do, and after a quick web search, I decided to try the Fedora Project OS today.

My first Linux experience was with Red Hat, probably seven or eight years ago, before they split off Red hat Enterprise from the Fedora Project free-software OS. I liked it then, but when I decided to go with a HP laptop (the dreaded Pavilion, with all the heat problems - my wife and I each had one, and they both died at about the same time; I'm still angry that HP knew about the problem and did nothing; see the post on my other blog). So, in a sense, I was going back where I started.

I'm writing this at 7:00 pm. I had gotten the ,iso file early this morning and burned it, so I started installing the system at about 3:00 pm (today was an early day at work). Here it is, about four hours later, and, after taking time out to grill and cook dinner and wash dishes, I'm doing useful(?) work on the computer; Flash, Java, .MP3's, and Video all run (there's an "official/unofficial" page to teach you how), my Winprinter is going (no small feat in itself; much of the software to run this kind of printer is bundled with Windows; they should not even come out of the box under Linux), my favorite software is all installed, and I didn't even lose too many of my emails between one install and the other.

This install was a pleasure. With the Ubuntu disks, it took me an average of three tries to get one that was correct: this Fedora disk was correct on the first try. It booted right up on my system. There are many similarities between Ubuntu and Fedora, and many of the differences are minor (such as the way the user obtains permissions to adjust system properties: if you can sudo, you can learn su... and apt-get and yum are so similar, that the hardest part is learning the minuscule differences between them),

For my purposes, I think Ubuntu is trying to do too much. I'm running 2 GB of RAM and a dual-core Athlon processor; with my NVidia GeForce video, there should be plenty of power here (and with Fedora, there is: no boot-screen problems, smooth video playback...). And I'm not an OS groupie: I don't spend a lot of time looking at my screen backdrop - I'm most interested in what the computer will do. I just want an OS that will do the stuff I want. (Well, that's not really true; I also want an OS I can play with, tweak, and get in and out of trouble with - but I don't really give a hoot abut the eye candy).

(As I was writing this post, I went back to see my reactions to my install a year ago - and I had had problems with that, as well.)

Fedora. It's fittin' me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

why we use linux

I know it's too small to read.  The text says:
We tell people we use Linux because it's secure. Or because it's free, because it's customizable,
because it's free (the other meaning), because it has excellent community support...

But all of that is just marketing bullshit. We tell that to non-Linuxers because
they wouldn't understand the real reason. And when we say those false reasons enough,
we might even begin to believe them ourselves.

But deep underneath, the real reason remains.

We use Linux because it's fun.

It's fun to tinker with your system.  It's fun to change all the settings,
break the system, then have to go into recovery mode to repair it. It's fun to have over a hundred distros
to choose from. It's fun to use the command line.

Let me say that again. It's fun to use the command line.

No wonder non-Linuxers wouldn't understand.

The point with Linux fans is we use Linux for its own sake. Sure, we like to get work done.
Sure, we like to be secure from viruses.  Sure, we like to save money.
But those are only the side effects. What we really like is playing with the system,
poking around, and discovering fascinating facts about the software that lies underneath it.

I wish I knew the source of this excellence.

Monday, April 25, 2011

maybe a different saddle

The last two times I've ridden up Coppermine and then down Old Georgetown Road, I've had butt pain by the time I was riding back up Canal Road.  The first time, I thought it was that I had angled my saddle too far to the left (my right thigh is heavier than my left), so I adjusted the angle, and the pain dissipated, but when it happened again, I figured it wasn't the saddle angle... and the pain was relieved after I sat straight on the saddle for a while.  This suggests that either on the uphill of Coppermine Road (more likely) or the downhill of Old Georgetown (less likely) I'm not sitting straight in the saddle.

(The reason I suspect the uphill rather than the downhill, is that I tend to slide forward on the saddle on the uphill - forward onto the narrow part of the saddle, with less butt support.  On a steep downhill, I tend to slide back, onto the wider part. Given the slower pace uphill, I might be on the uphill two to three times as long as I am wailing down the downhill.)

So I'm looking at saddles again.  This time I'm taking a look at the Selle An-Atomica:

It's a leather saddle, and it's the only saddle of which I'm aware that makes a point of reacting to the motions of bicyclists in general, and particular idiosyncrasies of individual riders in particular:
(One of the things I like about this saddle is the flexibility - if anything, it's even more flexible than my old BG-2.)

Now, in my researches, I saw some reviews that the company was not quick to respond to feedback, especially after the death last year of one of the principals.  I called, and got someone at Selle An-Atomica; she said that they were now a (small) family company, and were trying to clean up some of the trouble from the past - but they were still selling saddles.

Selle An-Atomica saddles come in regular and "Clydesdale"; the Clydesdales were once sold for riders over 180 lbs., but my info today indicates that the Clydesdale model is to be the standard, and the others will either be phased out, or will be sold as specialty items to riders under 150 lbs.; in either case, even though I'm trending below 175 lbs. now, if I were to get one, I'd go for the Clydesdale model.  The "Watershed" leather is supposedly waterproof, and requires little care.  There are, however, a gajillion adjustments to get the saddle fit perfect (although the testimonials page is full of letters saying some variation on, "I just popped the saddle on and it's perfect; I plan to buy three more"), and I'd love another reason to be able to tweak my bike!

It's expensive (and that price doesn't include $30 for Express mail, or near $100 for Fedex/UPS/DHL). There are vendors who sell it cheaper than the website, but the company makes it clear on their site that they don't intend to be a cheap-saddle company (from the Product info page: "We do not want dealers selling our brand who believe that discount sales is the best method"). So it's a commitment if I'm going to go with it.

When I called, they asked me to look at an experimental new website (which looked good), with an experimental new slogan (which was too edgy for me). I've gotten an email back thanking me for my feedback and asking me to call when I want to order one, but 1) I'm not sure I want to order yet, and 2) if I can get it $50 cheaper elsewhere (or more, including shipping), I might want to do that!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

why i donate to charity

This is why I donate to charity:

It's why I'm riding for Anchor House, why I donate to the Ride for McBride (even though they aren't a 501(C)(3) yet), why I'll probably do the Tour de Franklin, why I'll do Cory's Ride...and why we donate to our Quaker Meeting... and why we have a donation plan that includes donations each month, to organizations like the local Fire* & First Aid Squads, the HRC, and the USO.

From Red State Progressive.

*The North Brunswick Fire Co. #3 has GOT to get rid of that sound thing that plays every time you load the page. How irritating that is! and how Geocities 1996!

Friday, April 22, 2011

more than you probably wanted to know about a colonoscopy

It's about a quarter to midnight on the day of the colonoscopy; people who know me IRL will know it's way past my bedtime, and I have been asleep (and hope to get back), but I've just woken up and I wanted to get a few reflections on the procedure down.

I had a call for 8:00 am; we got there about 7:40 and did the check-in stuff. I was taken to a pre-op booth, not unlike an emergency-room booth: 3/4 of a room with a curtain providing privacy for the rest. Undress so that the nurse can take my clothes and stuff to the lockers (the only thing I was left of my own was my glasses, for the signing of releases), sign a few releases with the nurse, get an IV drip of saline-plus-electrolytes started (for the easy administration of anaesthetic later), and wait. She tells me that I won't be released until I pas gas, and we joke a bit about how it's an important part of the process that I fart. Then I wait. More. It was something-to-ten before the surgical nurse came around, then an anaesthetist, both with releases, and it was a few minutes after ten before the anaesthesiologist came, with another release, and got me into the colonoscopy room with the GI doc, who had me sign another release.

Then things happened quickly: get on the gurney, lie on your side (no, the other left side); get some electrodes put on (gee, that on the monitor must be the video from the colonoscopy device; I can see the distorted image of the room, and it's moving like it's remote-controlled); watch the anaesthesiologist inject something into my IV feed; am I supposed to count or something? One, two three... no isn't it backwards from 100? 100, 99, 98, 97... I get to 80 or so before I figure out that that's probably not what's going to happen, and I'm a little worried that I'll still be conscious when the probing starts.

And the next thing I know, I'm waking up in recovery with my wife on the chair next to my gurney (she is wonderful; most of why I haven't been a total basket case about this procedure is due to her). I was told I passed gas adequately while I was still asleep, but I had abdominal pain for the next few hours, until I got home and was able to release the gas several more times. Before that happened, however, we got to IHOP for a late breakfast/early lunch (I was done and out and to the restaurant before 11:30, not having eaten anything solid for a day-and-a-half), then home. Regina, my excellent wife, went in to work for a few hours... and I got woozier and weaker as the day went on, although I didn't have a nap. Some solid food helped (but not much), and I had a bit more diarrhea (lingering effect of the pre-op routine, I'm sure; see previous post). I had some dinner at the usual time, but I haven't really felt better until now, with a couple more hours sleep, and I'll probably go back to sleep soon. I don't know if I'm up to a bike ride tomorrow; we'll see in the morning (I note there are more typo's than usual in my raw draft of this post).

Thankfully, I have not had drug cravings, which was a major concern of mine about the anaesthetic. I'd heard stories that benzodiazepines were used in this procedure, and one of my pet fears is that I will relapse on them (does everybody know I'm a person in recovery from substance use? Perhaps I'll post on that some day... but the short answer is: last use February of 1982). I think that part of the reason for no cravings or obsessions is the "fast asleep" nature of my anaesthesia... but discussion with my excellent wife suggests that it's also because I have a healthy respect for the damage the drugs will do if I ever go back.

Hrm. I didn't think I'd go on so about the colonoscopy, but there above you see it. No wonder we old guys can get to be total bores about surgery. (And yes, I really did intend to spell "anaesthetist" and "anaesthesiologist" that way; I got one of the last classical educations available in the Northeastern United States, and every now and then I have to show it off.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

clear liquid diet

Tomorrow, I'm scheduled for a colonoscopy. So yesterday, I pigged out on junk food, because today I'm on a clear-liquid diet (water, some fruit juices, lemonade, tea [no coffee], broth; for "solid food" I get Jello). With that, I have a preparation of 64 oz. of Gatorade and two laxatives that I have to go through before bedtime. I've been to the toilet more frequently than I ever have without simultaneously suffering food poisoning, and the end, in the quaint nineteenth-century phrase, is not yet.

I'm reminded of some of my hippie macrobiotic friends who swear by the internal detox and these cleaning-out regimens. They say they feel so clean and pure afterwards. Balderdash. I think these people just have an unhealthy fascination with effluvia and toilets; I just feel sore and empty (not really hungry, although I'd like to chew on something), and I have a headache coming on. As soon as this is over, I'm gonna go eat some unhealthy junk to restore the balance.

I gotta go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

420 day tomorrow

Whether or not it's actually true (after all, the top sources are Wikipedia, the Urban Dictionary, and the Huffington Post [I like their politics, but even I will admit their scholarship is suspect]), the story is that the use of the term "420" for things cannabis-related has to do with a group of stoners at San Rafael High School at the same time that I was first getting high (I stopped in 1982, but I have reason to believe that there are people who still smoke cannabis). I happened to think of this when I was setting up my schedule for the rest of this week.

I now work as an addiction counselor, and I swear, I'm drug-testing EVERYBODY tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

anchor house training ride

Today was the first official training ride for the Anchor House Ride for Runaways, the "Tour de Manure". Below is the text of an email I sent out to people about my experience today:

Hey, all -

Time for another of my occasional emails about my training for the Anchor House Ride for Runaways, the 500-mile charity ride I'll be doing in July for Anchor House, the home for children in Trenton.

Today was the first official training ride, the “Tour de Manure”, so-named because it brings riders past a number of farms which employ this form of fertilizer, and I can attest that the farm at mile 27.6 had put out a supply just long enough ago that the maximum fragrance was wafting on the zephyrs. Today's ride was 32.5 miles, on a remarkably windy day, through some hilly territory. My maximum speed was 32.6mph, but my average was only 15.1; people who know about riding will know that this range suggests some tough uphills, on into-the-winds, or uphill-and-into-the-winds.

The ride almost didn't happen: it was originally scheduled for yesterday, Saturday, April 16, and locals will know that starting in the afternoon and going into the evening we had rain, and then rain, and then (for a change) a thunderstorm. We got an email moving the date to today, Sunday, and today turned out much nicer, but cold and windy. The rain had its effects, though; the starting point for the ride is in Pennington, on the other side of the Raritan River and the Delaware & Raritan Canal. There's a very nice drive down Canal Road through Griggstown, where there's a one-car-width bridge over the canal. Well, it's a bridge over the canal in most circumstances; when I got there today, the bridge, and much of the historic section of Griggstown, was under about three feet of water, so I had to turn the car around and find a new route... and the route I chose was ALSO flooded!

So after some backtracking, I managed to get across the canal at Rocky Hill (and on the way back, the water appeared to be about six feet or so higher than normal) and went to the starting point for the ride today. Before I got there, though, I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for some fuel. I got two doughnuts for this ride; I know from checking my speed and weight, and the calorie tables on the Dunkin Donuts website, that my MPD (miles per doughnut, of course) is a little more than one doughnut per hour, so two for this ride seemed about right. When I left the house, I wasn't sure I was going to need all the layers I had on... but when I got to the wind-blasted hilltop parking lot, I put on another; it was COLD up there! After a short speech by the ride committee about safety, especially on the wet roads, we left.

First of all, it's a beautiful ride. We get to ride around that section of Mercer and Hunterdon Counties, and see estates, horse farms, sheep farms, dairy farms... it's hard to believe that all this exists less than 40 miles from the intersection of Broad & Market Streets in Newark. It was a hilly and windy ride, too (I think I mentioned that). This is not a race; the reasons for this ride include helping people who have not started training yet to get started (while the ride is expected for us newbies, the veterans are encouraged to come along, as well), to allow the ride team to see if there are any of us who may need special assistance before the ride, and to allow people to begin to set their own paces. Riders do not all ride together, although any riders do ride in groups, and this ride helps people to meet others who ride in their speed range. I found a few whom I might be able to ride with.

I'm not a particularly fast rider (on the flats, I can manage 17-17.5mph at this point in the season), but I like hills. My bike is geared for hills and distance, rather than speed, and I can go up hills well, so today was fun for me. Even though my time (over two hours) wasn't great, I'm doing well in my training – I ought to be; today put me over 600 miles since the first of the year (and yes, I've been riding on some COLD days – check out some of my blog posts for notes on them; the blog link is in my signature to this email).

Now it's back to regular riding, with the Princeton Freewheelers (the club I ride with regularly) and the folks who are going on the Anchor House ride with whom I hope to train. Next month are two long rides (over 60 miles) which are supposed to be similar to a day on the ride itself. I've looked at the route, and it includes Federal Twist Road, a hill infamous among central Jersey riders. I haven't been up it yet, but I'm looking forward to it, with the sort of grim anticipation that one might look forward to a horror movie. I'll let youse know how that goes.

Those of you who have made a donation should have received your thank-you letters from Anchor House by now (I got mine, and I know mine was late going out). If you haven't, let me know and I'll make sure you get something (although online donors have the ability to print an acknowledgment immediately). If you've donated, thanks again from me and the kids at Anchor House. If you haven't, and you'd like to, below is a link to my own donation page:

... or you can contact me directly about a donation.

Thanks to all of you for your support.

Friday, April 15, 2011

bikemanforu: brings tears to my eyes

I was looking at bike toys on Ebay, and saw that some of the listings had a video. Video? Gotta check that out. The video I saw was from Bikemanforu:
This guys sounds like my old Long Island neighborhood; he brings a tear to my eye. I love his stupid humor and his great look. I also love the way he described the Cateye Enduro 8:

.. and even a special video just on how to set the thing!
While there are better prices, this guy's prices are good, and this kind of entertainment and enterprise should be encouraged; I'm definitely buying from him.
(His camera is run by Mr. Pump, and I thought this video was endearing:)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

sugar & hfcs: poison?

The New York Times site has a preview of an article to run in this Sunday's magazine about whether sugar and HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup, apparently initially marketed in the last decades of the last century as a healthier alternative to the then-demonized sugar) are not just empty calories, but toxic in themselves:

Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”
Check it out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

we've been together...

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of my marriage, and I don't know how I did it; my first one didn't last anything like this long.

My wife says it's because I finally picked the right woman.  I'm not disagreeing with her because, for all I know, she's right.

As I so frequently tell her, she's the best thing in my life, and my life is healthier, wealthier, and happier because she is in it.

beautiful bikes

I like to ride, but I like to look at good-looking ones, too, and the folks at CycleExif have some sweet rides:

I love the red vintage Pista, below:

If I had garage room, cash, and the permission of my wife, I'd have a bike like that for local chores (I have a hybrid, but I don't love it...)

This gravity bike is a little scary - the pedals don't do anything; the bike does nothing except accelerate down hills:

Go check out CycleExif.

Monday, April 11, 2011

found in the library

I'm still doing my library volunteer gig: once a week, I go in and clean up the business section (in the Dewey Decimal system, it's the 680's): put the books back in order (I'm fussy: e.g., books by the same author go in order by title, books in annual series have older versions first), throw out trash left on & around the shelves, return misfiled books to the stacks where they belong. I've taken it on myself to go through the books, shelf by shelf, and make sure:
  1. That they belong to this library;
  2. That they have actually circulated in the past five years; and
  3. That there are no papers or bookmarks left inside, and that turned-down pages get turned back up again.

Most of the stuff I find in the books is junk (torn papers, short notes, business cards), but today I was going through the interviewing books, and in one of them I found a quite extensive set of notes someone had written about an interview. I suspect the writer did not go through the US public school system (the handwriting appears similar to the handwriting of a Trinidadian I knew many years ago), and it may not have been a male writer. There are fourteen bulleted items, one with sub-bullets. They start with the standard stuff:
  • dress appropriately like the interviewer will be dress but a bit better
  • firm handshake, big eye contact
  • pay attention to body language
  • pay attention to voice

After a few items, though, we get down to the strategy:
  • ask opening questions
    what you can offer to the employer
    how the organization is fairing against its competition
    what is the executive management style
    what obstacles the organization anticipates in meeting their goals
    do not ask about benefits at this point
  • Why should they hire you rather than someone else?
    • relibable
    • care for providing the best resolution in the best timely effort
    • quick at completing projetc
    • concern about down time

(Spelling and grammar have been preserved from the original note. I was impressed that the writer used the correct form of "its", but then there were some spelling errors, and the capitalization is rare and unpredictable.)

Towards the end was a little prepared speech that I think is a gem:
"The position you have available is what I am prepared to do. I am willing to work harder than the next person b/c I have a desire to keep learning and to do an outstanding job. With my education complete, I can now turn my full attention to this job."

It's the kind of thing you might see in Found Magazine, which presents stuff - mostly ephemera - that people find: notes, letters, doodles & drawings, photographs. It warmed my heart to see someone preparing that hard. I hope he or she got the job.

4/11 gedanken entropy

Just some random thoughts...

I keep hearing that the TeaBaggers want to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. While this is troubling, I'm reminded of the flip side of the problem of politics. Because politics is (usually) a game of compromise, you never get much of what you want. But because it's a game of compromise, you seldom lose all of what you need, also.

Weight's up a bit; over the past week or so, I'm trending at above 175, almost 176. I've decided no new toys, especially bike toys, until I'm back below 175 (I've started a weight-loss regimen to achieve this). Maintenance items like chains and cleats don't count. (Hand-me-down wo0l jersey is showing its age, with many holes and ravelling seams, but it's a neat graphic with Fuji and Suntour logos, so I'm reluctant to give it up - and any replacement will be somewhere between $75-150!)

Total mileage on this drive train now: 884; total miles since January 1: 558 (so I have over half of the expected miles for Anchor House training already). The leader of Saturday's ride said that I'd probably spend most of the spring and summer training with the Anchor House folks and wouldn't see much of the Freewheelers until after the ride. That's disappointing, if it's true. On the one side, I'd like to meet some of the Anchor House folks; on the other side, I don't want to cut off the Freewheelers - I haven't ridden with the old guys, or even seen Don Sprague yet!

Regina's home; time to go be a good husband. We've been married fourteen years tomorrow. How the heck did that happen?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

pic test

Just a test of my new Photobucket account. This text could use more pictures.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ride 4/9

A late addition to the Princeton Freewheelers April list was emailed out last week, and it seemed like the best offering; when there was a question of heavy weather I emailed the leader, and she said she'd go, but might push the time back. It turned out the weather cooperated; it also turned out that there were only three of us on the ride, The leader thought this might have been because a popular leader also had a ride scheduled for today; she doesn't usually like to conflict with this other, popular leader... but there was more than one goof on this schedule, so who knows?

When the ride is this small, there's discussion about how long and how challenging of a ride to do. I'm blessed with some strength and little experience of the roads, so I'm able to stay out of these discussions, other than to say encouraging stuff like, "Whatever you want to do is fine with me." While I don't like to be so indecisive, there's a certain amount of relief in not having to make these decisions.

About 40 miles today; hard to tell, because I finally got fed up with the aging, inaccurate, no-longer-available Sigma BC1600 computer I had on the bike and installed the Nashbar Tempo 8 I had bought to fill out a "buy enough items and get 20% off" deal (and I found out it takes me about a half-hour to install a computer when I don't know what I'm doing). Every computer requires a slightly different calibration, and I think I under-factored this one, but there was no good data to compare with (one rider doesn't use a computer, and the leader lost her set point somewhere along the route). This evening, I tried actually running a tape measure around the wheel to get the measurement (harder than it sounds with a metal tape; try it) and my factor (2141) was higher than the one in the book (2133), so my measured mileage of 40.2 may actually have been 40.4.

Good ride, though. Lots of roads I've never been on, a few roads I had, a trip by the last covered bridge in NJ. The leader lady is a trainer, and as we were loadin' up the cars at the end, she cautioned me to do my stretching. When I said I didn't know what to do, she gave me about ten minutes of lessons. I'm grateful; that would have cost me money at a gym. She's pleasant to ride with, and careful to warn of upcoming challenges; I'd happily ride with her again.

Two more things on the computer:
  1. This new one only keeps two mileages: one daily, and the total odometer reading. The BC1600 kept two daily mileages, and I find I like that: one for the day's trip, and one to keep track of, say, the amount of miles since a particular date or service interval. The replacement for the BC1600, the BC1609, will do that... but it got iffy reviews. Cateye makes a few computers that will do two daily mileages, and one, the Enduro 8, got some good reviews, and is cheap. I may get one of those (although my weight's been creeping up, and I've made a promise not to buy any more bike toys until I have my weight under control).
  2. The folks on the ride were chatting about knowing the roads and leading rides, and the subject of the GPS came up (probably because I mentioned it myself, although I don't remember now). It was the sense of the elders of the meeting that the GPS would not replace actual knowledge of the roads, because if a planned route were unavailable, for example due to construction or closure (or being a dirt road), the leader would have to know an alternative route, and the GPS might not provide that. So it seems that my recent decision to forgo the GPS was a good one.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

this too...

Over the past week or so I've been agonizing over buying a bike GPS. Today, the feeling has passed.

Part of what I did was look at refurbished netbooks on sites like Newegg and Tiger Direct. For less money that I would spend on the GPS, I could get a computer, with Windows 7.

Part of what I did was go to another bike shop and look at saddles. It wasn't what I expected. There are big soft saddles, big hard saddles, and small hard saddles. The saddle with just the right amount of padding and flex, the right size, with the right profile, is not going to just fall into my lap (not that it would do much good there).

If the saddle isn't going to be perfect, then the GPS isn't either. And it's a lot of money to spend, and a new technology to learn (and maybe not a lot of opportunity to learn it).

OK. The accuracy of the Sigma BC 1600 I have is suspect. I keep it because I know how it works, and because it will keep three mileages. But I think it's time to swap it out for the Nashbar computer I got to fill out a big order for 20% off; that computer might be more accurate (the Sigma is old enough that there are separate factor entries for British mileage aand kilometers).

So long, GPS. You weren't that good of an idea.

(Addendum: I gave a donation to the USO, too. Giving away money to keep from spending it on stuff I don't need might be a good strategy.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

you know you're addicted...

From the folks at PBK: You know you're addicted to cycling...

When the casual weekend ride is no longer enough and you become increasingly irritable without the bike between your legs, you know something has to be done. This might be among the first signs of your imminent addiction to cycling, but it isn’t the last. Far from it!

"When you know the difference between Presta and Schrader you’re probably well on your way... There’s also the clothing and before long you’ll have more Lycra than a ballet troupe and so many bike jerseys you’ll start taking over your partner’s wardrobe space."

Check it out.

fox news lies

From Media Matters:

Speaking in 2009 onboard a pricey Mediterranean cruise sponsored by a right-wing college, Fox Washington managing editor Bill Sammon described his attempts the previous year to link Obama to "socialism" as "mischievous speculation." Sammon, who is also a Fox News vice president, acknowledged that "privately" he had believed that the socialism allegation was "rather far-fetched."

"Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to quote, 'spread the wealth around,' " said Sammon. "At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."

Get the original here.

  1. Are you really surprised?
  2. Why do we ever believe anything that comes out of Fox News?
  3. And doesn't it make sense that Juan Williams wound up on Fox News?

losing the battle

Look, I'm really trying not to buy the Garmin Edge 605, which really has all of the GPS capability I need (I don't give a d-mn about the heart monitor or the barometric altimeter in the 705; I just want turn-by-turn directions and mapping, so I can learn where the h-ll I am). But, as I've been looking, a number of things have come up:
  1. MapMyRide.Com will allow me to upload routes, and download new ones;
  2. I've found a few sites that show how to do GPS stuff in Linux (especially this one);
  3. HeartRateMonitorsUSA.Com has the Edge 605, with City Maps SD card, for only $299.

I prepaid a few bills and donated some cash to the Ride for McBride, so I don't have the cash for it right now (and I don't pay by credit card unless I can pay the bill online that same day), so I've bought myself some time to think this through. But I'm weakening; the GPS is sounding like a good idea (or maybe I just want to buy myself another toy, which is probably more the case).

Maybe I'll just buy a Velo Orange or Brooks leather saddle, instead. Or maybe I'll do both he saddle and the GPS.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

bookmark sync duel

I use Firefox for my primary browser (although I use Gnome Epiphany when I just want something to load quickly, I use Opera because it's got the most sensible RSS system, and I use Internet Explorer for work because our company still uses an ActiveX control for much of the database printing). I use more than one computer, and when I first heard about XMarks, a bookmark sync service, I thought it was a great idea. Last year, however, XMarks was looking at hard times and threatened to close up shop, so I migrated to Firefox Sync.

Firefox Sync not only backed up my bookmarks, but also my settings and my passwords, between all of my computers. This was actually pretty cool, as I keep my passwords in a Personal Information Manager, but it lives on my USB drive, which I don't always have with me (note: the free version of EPIM works in Linux under Wine, the paid version doesn't. You have been warned).

Recently, though, Firefox Sync stopped working on the netbook. After a number of tweaks and attempted fixes, I did a quick search - and lo and behold, XMarks has risen from the ashes, and has been bought by a password sync company, LastPass. So a quick uninstall/install, and Xmarks is working away, and another quick checkout, and LastPass is (apparently) happily managing my passwords (LastPass adds a button to the toolbar, and all of the pages for which you have saved passwords are available - you can even choose which you want if you have multiple logins for the same site, which I have for some vendors).

If you go back to those last couple of links in the first paragraph of this post: as I write this, Firefox Sync has two stars (I'm not the only person who's had connection problems) and XMarks has four. These friends, as the Quakers say, speak my mind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

today's ride & gps

Another ride today with the Princeton Freewheelers: a 32-miles at between 15-16 mph. Slower than I wish we had gone, but fast enough. Good group: eight riders (easy to keep track of, but enough people so there's variety in the conversation - and, at this pace, there's breath enough to have conversation).

Several of the fellow riders have a GPS. I've been thinking about one (see the post from 3/31/11), since I'm always lost, and since I wouldn't have to depend on a cue sheet (and could download rides, or save rides to re-do later; I might even be able to lead rides, since I would know, at least theoretically, where I'm going*). But the least expensive one that has the turn-by-turn directions for which I'd be looking appears to be the Garmin Edge 605. The prices seem to start about $270, and it looks like I'd need an additional map at $50-70. So it looks like a $350-400 item, and I can't justify the cost. I'm hoping that prices come down (although manufacturers of geek gear, in their efforts to keep prices up, usually add features rather than allowing prices to drop). Maybe I'll look at it again some day.

*I feel a certain obligation to lead rides, because I'm strong, and because I look out for the riders in the groups that I'm NOT leading... but it's probably also because I want the prestige of being a ride leader, and the free jersey you get when you lead ten rides. Speaking of riding jerseys, this Ubuntu jersey has caught my eye, but the price is ridiculous. £ 59.49 is about $95. If I'm not going to go for a GPS, I'm CERTAINLY not spending that on a jersey!

liberty & equality

I was listening to something-or-other on NPR today, and, instead of characterizing the judges on the Supreme Court as liberal or conservative, a commentator characterized them as either more interested in liberty or more interested in equality.

I need to think about this. It's a distinction I haven't heard before, and it makes some sense... but it doesn't leave any room for the Religious Right, who aren't interested (as far as I can tell) in either.

It does offer another way of looking at the question, different from the "smart, but evil" vs. "good, but stupid" way I've been thinking for the past few years.

And it strikes me that, while I'm much more interested in equality than liberty, I'm also interested in liberty. It further strikes me that if we give up either, we soon won't have the other.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

midnight computer worries

My main computer has never run Windows; I built it from parts to run Ubuntu, and it's been happily doing that since spring of 2008. Linux computers rarely get any kind of attack (I don't use any virus protection), but I stumbled on two articles on rootkits in Linux this morning (it's heading for 4:00 am, and I've been up since about 2:30). I don't do my best thinking at this time of day (that doesn't happen for another two hours or so), so I got panicky and downloaded what appear to be the most common rootkit utilities for Ubuntu: chkrootkit and rkhunter.

They didn't show up in the program menu anywhere I could find, which means they run from the ooh-scary command-line terminal (my first computer didn't have Windows - back in the DOS 3.3 days - and even my second computer only had Windows 2.something, that was basically a menu for command-line commands, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with the command line - but you've gotta know what the commands are to use 'em; graphical interfaces, with all their problems, are better for the person who doesn't know what the program will do). Both programs want to be run as root, and rkhunter wants a parameter set. For the basics, use these commands:

sudo rkhunter -c

sudo chkrootkit

That'll get 'em going... and now I've got a place where I can go look these up when I need 'em!

(A year and a half ago, on another blog, I wrote about the use of the command line. I'm sticking with the thoughts expressed in that earlier post.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

tl:dr HAH!

I've just discovered an internet meme: TL:DR. It stands for "Too long; didn't read".

Man, that's me all over the place. I am an unstoppable source of verbiage that is TL, so that everybody else can pass by and DR.

My friend Mark A is another offender; his emails look like letters, and his letters need chapter headings. I love them, except when it's time for me to respond; I always feel like I'm cheating him out of some text when I don't send some thousand-word email, or when I don't have to pay book rate on a letter.

"TL;DR" (shouldn't it be a semicolon?). Hrmph. If it's something I'm interested in, you can't make it long ENOUGH!