Thursday, November 29, 2012

coconut device to make your bike sound like a horse

Laura OLPH sent me the link to this:

As if that weren't wickedly dumb enough, there's this hugely-overproduced video, complete with Monty Python reference:

I'll admit I like it; it's silly, it's dumb, but it looks like fun. And it's a total poke-in-the-eye to riders who take themselves seriously - I doubt you'll see a lot of Strava members with these on their bikes.

(Sorry about the unimaginative post title... but what would you have titled it?)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

windy, recovery, exploratory, new-goal ride.

I was going to ride today if I was bleeding from the ears: I had 44 miles to get in to make 4500 for the year. And, while I wasn't bleeding, I was in no great shape; after yesterday's ride in the wind, I was tired on the bike today, and I'm more tired now!

I started at Cliff H's office, and took a different road to Cranbury to start (George Davison to Cranbury Neck instead of Plainsboro Road) in hopes of warming up some and avoiding some wind (and to see how much longer than the about-four-miles that Plainsboro Road would be; the new route was about 4.75), and got to Cranbury early. I rode around Cranbury to stay warm, and was at 10 miles by the time of the regular ride start.

Six of us went on this route: Larry, Ed C, Ron S, Mark H, The Other Mark, and me. Leader Winter Larry had taken it into his head to do a ride on Ely Harmony and then into Diamond, and it was worth it; Ely Harmony was a fun road with "rollers", rolling hills (where going down one hill gets part of the impetus you need to get up the next), and Diamond had some small hills and a good surface. I was tired (did I mention that?) and was just keeping up; even riders who have problems with hills were waiting for me today (and I usually kite up those hills!). On the way back after the break in Clarksburg, Larry picked a slightly longer route to avoid wind, and I'm grateful.

But there I was in Cranbury, and the car was in Plainsboro, four miles away over the short route, into the increased wind. I hoped that Cranbury Neck would be less windy than Plainsboro Road... but I think it was worse.

On George Davison Road is an entrance to the Lenape Park walk/bike trail that runs behind Cliff H's office. When I turned onto that, I got out of the wind, and I decided to take it to the far end to see where it starts. I found the park at the other end. Laura and I had sought it several weeks ago, and I know why we missed it: while the path is blacktopped over most of its route, the last three-tenths at the far end are not (although it was hard enough to ride on today). And on the way back to the car, what little wind there was, was at my back.

So just under 56 miles today. Which makes 4512 for the year.

Oh, and guys? The ICE that the illegal aliens worry about is Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I didn't know it either (and if you weren't there, don't bother asking; it's not worth explaining.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

thanksgiving & other rides

We were off for Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Friday, and even with going to visit the Excellent In-Laws (well, she is The Excellent Wife [TEW]; would you expect anything else?), I managed to get rides in both days. On Thanksgiving, it was early and cold, I did the 20-miles-up Coppermine-down-Old-Georgetown-and-back loop, averaging 18.1 in some pretty cold weather; the next day, on a much warmer afternoon ride over the same route, I averaged almost 18.75.

Yesterday brought a flurry of emails from some of my quondam ride partners, none of whom were impressed with the offerings in the Princeton Freewheelers ride list for today, but I couldn't match schedules to meet with any of 'em. So I went to the Cranbury ride start (after adding my usual 7-8 miles from Cliff's office & after a couple of bagels at Bagel Street), hoping to tag along with the B ride... but Ira, the usual leader, is on the injured list, and nobody showed up in his place. Instead, eight of us went along with Peter F who agreed to lead a 40-or-so mile ride, with no stops ("Too cold!") and to keep the pace down so everyone could keep up. (This is the infamous Ed Post B+ ride, on which I've had the experience of being dropped, an experience common to many of my fellow club members.) Al L, Bob W and his wife Phyllis, Dave H, Jud H, and a younger gentleman whose name I forgot to get went along.

We started out together, but by about 10-15 miles in, we had split into two groups: Bob, Phyllis, Al, and me in the back, and the others about 1/4 mile ahead.  Phyllis and I had quite a conversation where she told me she followed this blog (you have no IDEA how flattered I was!), and we discussed family histories, addiction recovery, and other topics, generally solving all the world's problems... but at one of the turns before the halfway point, Bob, Phyllis, and Al took a different turn, and the rest of us five went on to do this route.

The good news is I could keep up; I even did my share of pulling. But oh, boy, howdy was it windy; you can tell by the comparatively low average (for a B+ ride) that we were fighting wind much of the way back. I remember feeling the bike being buffeted, and struggling to keep balance, and I decided not to add any extra miles on the way back to Cliff's office; the wind was straight in my face, and I didn't get above 13.5 for that whole part of the trip, I don't think.

I'm tired now. I'll plan to go on Winter Larry's ride tomorrow... but ain't gonna be much speedy showin' off on the Yellow Maserati on that ride, I don't think!  Still - if I can get 44 miles in, I'll have 4500 for the year, and that's not bad before the end of November.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

best prayer ever

This defies description:

I know I'm not the target demographic, but I gotta ask: did that guy preach the next day? Did he do a funeral in the next two weeks?

Maybe I'm just jealous that he doesn't have any of the questions and soul-searching that were such a trial for me. Or maybe it was the product-placements in the prayer.

(I found it originally as a songifed version from the Gregory brothers.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

dumb ways to die

I found this on Oursignal a couple of days ago, and shared it with The Excellent Wife (TEW). We've been boppin' around the house singing, "Dumb... Ways to Die..." ever since, so I thought I'd share it with youse-all:

Monday, November 19, 2012

the oxford comma

Don't ever tell me the omission of the Oxford Comma is right, or unimportant, or even acceptable. From Macromeme.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

conover/boundary road ride

Winter Larry usually takes us past his grandmother's house for the ride before Thanksgiving, but this year he was taken by a road out in Marlboro about which (I think) he was talking with fellow rider Mark H.  So instead of going to Bordentown and past the cranberry plant, we did this route out to Marlboro, to do Conover and Boundary Roads.

(The route, of course, includes the sixteen-or-so miles I add by parking at Cliff H's office, then riding a particularly circuitous route [although a flat one] to the start in Cranbury, making an eight-mile tour out of the four-mile door-to-door distance. The real start of the ride is near that knot in the Cranbury area, where the new Knapp's Cyclery outpost is.)

Eight of us started: Winter Larry and me, of course, and John and Jane on fixies (maybe the first fixie ride of the winter season; there seemed to be an excess of pre-ride preparation), a friend of theirs whose name either was or wasn't Witek (it's Polish: say VEE-tek), Mark H, club treasurer Peter F, and the Other Mark.

Although it was a cold day, we seem to have warmed quickly (there were, however, a number of warm hats and balaclavas in evidence; John pointed out that it might be a matter of interest having his image on a convenience store security camera in his face-covering gear). We rode straight out to Marlboro. Conover Road includes the Marlboro hills, maybe the most challenging hills on the flat side of Route 1. Witek and I got into a bit of a chase on these hills - that was fun, although once again I had to choke that competitive streak that leads me to do silly and dangerous riding. Boundary Road has a nifty long downhill the way we went, and that was lots of fun.

On the hills, I noticed a mechanical creak with each pedal revolution; Witek said he thought it might be cable (although it seems to have passed of its own accord). We also discussed my Polish relations, and it turns out he's Polish, too. Later, we discussed the sad state of Polish food in this country (which was a relief to me; I thought that such a vigorous people must eat better than the fare I'd seen -- my mother-in-law's cooking is excellent, but she's been exposed to too many influences, American and otherwise, for me to think that her cooking is authentic Polish). He also pointed out the kielbasa is a word, like our word "sausage", that includes many types of things, and he spoke with pity and disdain about American excuses for Polish kielbasa.

After the break, Mark H went home (he complained of a hard ride the previous day), and we went back with just enough variety to maintain interest (it's a challenge for these longer distances to get out and back in a reasonable time). Near the end, The Other Mark had a tire go out, and Larry and I waited for him. When we got to the ride start, the others had left; I'm presuming this means they were OK.

I had thoughts of getting 100km (62 miles) in today, but when I got to the car at 59 miles, I decided that was enough. It was cold, and I was tired. And so back home.

No ride yesterday due to family commitments, and with the holiday this weekend, I have no idea what time for riding will be available; I'm glad I got this one in.

songified epic first-ride speech

You may want to go check out the little kid's epic first-ride speech before you do the video below.

There's a bit of a backstory here: I was checking out NPR feeds to have something to listen to while I was doing a knitting project (about 40% because of a tinge of arthritis in my hands in the cold weather, and about 60% to see if I could remember the stitches), and I came across the "Ask Me Another" quiz-show feed. It looks like it ran for a short time and was not renewed (which is too bad, because I think it's hugely fun, and I love the hostess).

On one of the shows, the special guests were the Gregory Brothers, a troupe of three brothers (and wife of one - and why can't I think of a less graceless way of saying that?) who use Autotune to "songify" internet videos - they've done some viral things, the presidential debates, and news stories. Check 'em out on their site.

Well, imagine my surprise and delight when I found they had applied their treatment to my favorite little kid bike video:

You will get the hang of it. I know it.  Indeed

Friday, November 16, 2012


One of my pet fears:

I don't use a roof carrier... but I usually lean the bike against the back of the car while I'm changing back into my driving shoes. Someday, I'm sure, I'm going to forget to put the bike in the hatch, and back right over it.

From Oddman

Sunday, November 11, 2012

riding bikes and reading

Laura OLPH sent me this link:

Yeah, that's cool, and it would definitely get my bike into the house... but I note that the shelf is two-sided. That way, one side could have books, and the other could have, say, a pedal wrench, a set of allen wrenches in a rack, a truing stand, a collection of lube's and cleaners, my spare tubes, spare chains and cog...

I can hear the arguments starting already.

Original here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

pickup ride: short, slow, sweet.

A flurry of emails went back and forth this week about the selection of rides in the Freewheeler's schedule: nothing seemed to interest the folks I usually ride with, and Ira, who leads the Saturday B-rated Cranbury ride, will be out for several weeks with an injury (although later developments suggest that Bob S will be his replacement, and that's a good thing). One suggested a longer ride out of Piscataway, another didn't want to travel that far or be gone that long; a few went to Fort Mott in South Jersey to ride with the Philly club (now THAT's a distance to go for a ride start!).

Cheryl invited a few of us to go on a ride from near her house to Lambertville via a less-traveled route. I knew her ride would be of a reasonable length (even though I am an admitted mileage junkie) and a comfortable pace, so I went with her. We did this route.

Cheryl and I met, then went out to pick up Theresa; her husband Mike rode with us for a while, but he's recuperating from an injury, and decided to go his own way so he wouldn't slow us down (although I think he wound up making better time than we, albeit probably on flatter roads). We went up Poor Farm, a road that seems to have variable pitch; some days it's MUCH harder than others. As we turned left onto the poorly-surfaced Harbourton-Woodsville road, the sky darkened (despite an earlier clear weather prediction) and we got the merest smattering of rain, just enough to remind us how bad the weather MIGHT have been. (The weather was hard to plan for: while I was warm enough at the start, I was overdressed by the time we got back; Theresa, on the other hand [who hates riding hot] was underdressed to start and added a layer after the break). We met Mike (he had ridden farther than we by that point) and changed the route slightly, and went down Rocktown-Lambertville & Quarry Street into Lambertville, to Lambertville Trading for coffee. (Quarry Street is a nifty downhill. How come I've never gone downhill on that road before?)

Then back up Quarry and Rocktown-Lambertville with Mike joining us for a while. We passed the Dinosaur/Snoopy rocks (where are they, again?) and back into Pennington, then onto Federal City, which I've only ever driven on (and not in this area); it was NEAT. There's a great open farm field which was beautiful (although I'll be it usually has a wicked wind; there was next-to-none today, though). Then back to the start.

Not a long ride, nor a fast one. But a pleasant day with people I like (and I'll be glad if/when Mike feels like he can keep up with us again).

And don't you think it's about time I got back to bicycle posts again?

oddly hopeful

The Scandinavia and the World comic is one that has a few hits and many misses (probably because I'm too USA-centric to get the jokes), but this one makes me oddly hopeful:

Original here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

erasing debt

Since financial companies have proven too venial, too corrupt, or too inefficient (or all three) to deal with the consumer debt crisis, I'm not surprised that non-traditional solutions are being sought. I was moved almost to tears by this one.

Rolling Jubilee is a response to debt. What they are doing is buying up bad debt... and then erasing it. They claim that by spending $500, they erased $14,000 worth of debt.

My stars.

From their website:

We buy debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, we abolish it. We cannot buy specific individuals' debt - instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal.
Even they admit that a 28000% return on investment is unlikely, but the first site linked above claims a 2000% (20:1) return - e.g., that $100 will erase $2,000 of debt.

They're starting with The People's Bailout, a variety show with quite a lineup of talent (and yes, some of them are The Usual Suspects, but some are not traditional lefties) on November 15 (and you might be able to stream it; you might not need TV).

I'm planning to follow this. More developments as they arise.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around

On October 29, Monday, a b-tch named Sandy struck the mid-Atlantic states. If you live here, you don't need much explanation. If you've been through similar disasters, I'm sure you have stories that are worse than ours.

But from about 7:15 that night, until sometime after noon on Saturday, November 3, The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I were without power. TEW had heard the storm was coming, and, although I poo-pooed the hype as the usual drivel the weather people spew to improve their ratings, both she and I filled our gas tanks prior to Sandy's arrival. Apart from that, though, we did little to prepare. We have lost power in several storms, but never for more than a few hours.

Almost everything in our house depends on the electric utility. The heat, the lights, the refrigerator... even the gas stove: while the gas can be ignited by a match, the stove uses an electric starter to light the burners (and, because of this, I was reluctant to run the oven; I do not know if it uses house current to re-start the burner after it has gone down for temperature regulation). We were taking abbreviated showers for days until I realized that the water heater uses a pilot light rather than house current.

We get all our information, and most of our entertainment, from the internet. The sole broadcast radio we own does have a wind-up generator - but because when we bought it, we did not check to see if it was operational, we did not learn that it does not play through its speaker until it was too late to return it. It does play through a headphone, but only one of us can listen to it at a time. And the local station went to an all-Sandy local-news format for the time that regular staff and regular programming was unavailable, but they went back to their right-wing all-talk format at the first opportunity (there is little difference between right-wing talk and plain ignorance; I opted for plain ignorance without radio irritation). Stations serving a larger area did not provide much immediately useful information. The one or two newspapers that TEW obtained (she's an unapologetic news junkie) were perused in great detail, I assure you. She complained frequently about "the view from the foxhole", that we could not get a larger picture of the problem than our immediate surroundings.

A local McDonalds had wifi access, but it was so overused, and so slow, that we did not return (TEW did manage to raid the soda-machine icemaker a number of times). The local IHOP opened up on (I think) Tuesday night; they have wifi, but the management has been so rude on the several occasions we have been there that we opted not to return (a waitress, however, was polite and thoughtful despite what must have been incredibly trying circumstances). We finally discovered the Franklin Library branch that had wifi; there was some problem about people losing connection, but the staff was always most helpful in the crisis.

Roads, of course, were closed due to downed trees and wires (as the still are at this writing in some areas). While PSE&G had crews brought in from out of state (I have seen trucks from Illinois and South Carolina), I'm not impressed with the ability of either PSE&G or the local police forces to keep traffic moving; one heavily-traveled block on State Route 27 was not opened until late this morning, almost a week after the storm hit. This is not a rural road.

TEW did an excellent job of managing the larder, even though ice was simply not to be found in local stores; we lost comparatively little food due to the lack of power to the refrigerator (although we did have some memorable meals). We were able to get to a few stores (more as days went by) for our needs.

Some things we learned:
  • Although we are not candle people, we have received gifts of candles for years, which we squirreled away in a closet. We have learned that most of them are useless, but candles in glass jars, especially pint- to quart-sized, are most useful as light sources (I also like tapers, but TEW is a bit nervous about them). Multiple-wick candles are useful as a heat source, as well.
  • Know where your flashlight is. It might be useful to carry it with you, even when you are going out into the world/
  • The stupidest thing can be a lifesaver. We found a clip-on-your-hat-bill LED light, which I found useful for reading, eating, and numerous other situations; it's now in a place I can find quickly when the power goes again.
  • I love my archaic, anachronistic, outmoded land-line phone. While PSE&G has varied from questionable to utterly unreliable, my land-line gave me a dial tone every time I picked it up. Cell service was either not to be had, or spotty, the first day after the storm, although it did improve quickly. (On a related note, my in-laws have been impatient with a nephew who was in tears over the loss of power and phone. His world is different; he has ALWAYS depended on cell phones and internet for news and connection, and can't imagine a life without them. I do not judge his panic.)
  • With the power out, other, smaller difficulties get magnified. My watch battery died during the power outage, and that affront to my routine was almost worse than the unavailable electricity. One of the springs that raises the garage door broke, as has happened on at least four other occasions - but because the home stores were unavailable (either because of road closings or the power outage), I had to rig a temporary solution, and the effort was emotionally exhausting; I myself was nearly in tears over it.
  • We used interesting tricks to maintain flexibility. Most notably, TEW decided that this was "Life During Wartime" (the name of a Talking Heads song, whence the title of this post). Most of the times when we had to make an accommodation or put up with an inconvenience, we could say, "That's life during wartime", and make do or get on with it. (She was extremely happy to be able to blow dry her hair when she visited her parents, who had electricity, on the Friday evening, though.)
We have power back. We are making plans to replenish our candle supply, and we have begun a list of power-outage plans and supplies. We are still speaking to each other.

For riding? It was a 100-mile weekend... but the news above is more important.