Thursday, January 31, 2013

easy as pie

Speaking of taxes (see the previous post), the last of the W2's came today, so I opened up Taxact, and, two hours and $17.95 later, I had filed both the state and federal income taxes, and I've already gotten the message that the federal return has been accepted (E-fuile is included in the cost).

I used to do the taxes in both Taxact and Taxcut (now H. R. Block), because they were both free to enter the data, and I could compare to see which was going to get me a bigger refund, but after three years of seeing that Taxcut always came out ahead for me, I've opted for Taxcut for the past several years. Besides, I do this on what Laura OLPH calls the "Ultra-Geeky Linux Computer", and both Taxcut and Turbo Tax used to make veiled threats about needing Windows or Mac to do the taxes online, and Taxact never did. It's all bosh, in any case: the browser doesn't care what operating system you use, and all the documents come across as .pdf's anyway.

So here we are, waiting for the refunds to show up, directly-deposited in the appropriate account. The Excellent Wife (TEW) thinks that it's a glorious thing that I do the taxes for her, but all I'm really doin' is data entry - the online program asks me the questions, tells me where to put in the numbers, sets up the stuff to print, and files the return. All I needed was a computer, a credit card, and the tax documents that have been piling up on my desk anyway.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

tea party

They may complain that they are "Taxed Enough Already", but it's also true that this is what the modern Tea Party is about:

From today's Oddman. What would I do without...

Monday, January 28, 2013

new handlebar

After all this lug porn, I keep thinking I want a new handlebar... but not this one:

From today's Oddman.

In other news, I am so tired of being sick.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

more lug porn

It's too cold to go out, and I still have the dregs of the flu anyway (I gotta get the shot earlier next year, or maybe I got the strain against which it wasn't effective), so no rides this week.

Instead, here's a link to Cycle Exif, where you can get your look at nifty bikes of all types. Whether carbon latest-and-greatest, mountain bikes, weirdnesses and one-offs, lug porn (yay!). or whatever, the daily post at Cycle Exif is one of my frequent weekday visits. Here are three from the top page today, just to give you a taste:

(Sigh.) I'm goin' back to stupid TV and tea-with-lemon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

more wooden bikes

Regular readers (I may have up to four of you by now!) may remember those Basque wooden bike frames that I thought were such a dumb idea. Well, there's a company in Portland, Oregon, that is making them, as well.

I still think they're a dumb idea.

Portland is famously the "bike-friendly" city, and I suspect that leads to a number of bicycle-related industries, some brilliant, some useful... and some, not so much.  My complaints about wooden frames are weight and lack of stiffness. Below are some snippets from the company website about these concerns:

Stiffness: A Renovo frame can easily exceed the stiffness of a carbon frame by 15%, but that’s not our goal. Instead we customize the stiffness of each frame to suit the owner; a 260 pound rider gets a much stiffer frame than a 100 pound rider...

Weight: Our frames are hollow; road frames are 4-5.5 lbs, about the same as a high-end steel frame. Since we make the frames in our own shop, we could easily make them as light as carbon, but then we too would have broken and cracked frames. Think of the slight extra weight of our thick-wall hardwood frames as durability.

Piffle. I don't need extra weight for durability; modern metal and carbon frames are better in every way than wood.

These are beautiful frames, though...

...and I suspect that's what Renovo Hardwood is really selling. Prices (frame alone) range from $1950-$3250. I think these are bikes for the folks that collect beautiful frames... and then don't ride them much. On the page for the triathlon bike, there's a testimonial from a rider who used one in 2010. I'll admit I don't follow competitive cycling... but those of you who do: have you ever seen a serious rider on a wooden-framed bike?

Hrmph. (As I so frequently say.)

(I saw the original picture on today's Oddman, and I had to do the research and look it up.)

Addendum 1/23/13: I had linked to the photos in this post direct from the manufacturer site, and when I looked today, the pics were gone. The same pics were on the site, but the links were broken. Fair enough; if I'm not gonna say nice things about 'em, I shouldn't also steal their bandwidth. So now I've copied the pics to my album.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

five guys review songified

It appears I have not posted about the excellence of Five Guys. But when I saw this on the Gregory Brothers' primary Youtube feed, Schmoyoho (they also have a secondary feed), I knew I had to post it.

The guy who did the original is not to be dismissed lightly, either. Here's his original video:

See his Youtube Channel.

old school, new bike

I was too ill to go on Laura OLPH's scheduled ride yesterday. Afterwards, she copied me an email from a rider I don't know, who has a beautiful bike. In his Flicker photostream, he refers to it as a midlife crisis reaction, and it's certainly a much less stupid and dangerous one than the motorcycle I bought all those years ago!

Like with motorcycles, with bicycle enthusiasts, there's a divide between those who pursue the latest technology, and those who seek what they perceive as beauty. The owner/assembler of this bike is definitely in the latter camp (I lean more to beauty than bike technology, but I'm not as deep into it as he). I'm linking a few of his pics, so you can see what a great job he's done.

It starts with a Mercian frame:

Mercian is a custom frame builder in England; they've been at it for over 60 years. The rider has built it up with excellent components:

I love the cotton bar tape. I also love that he's picked up, not the main color of the bike, but the pinstripe color, for the tape and cable housing. (And I like the unpainted handlebar; I may get one myself for my silver-and-black titanium bike.)

This might be the current configuration. I recognize cranks from Velo-Orange; Honjo fenders; bags, rack, and probably bell from Rivendell Bikes. Big tires; this bike can do roads that my maximum 25mm tires cannot. And, of course, a Brooks saddle (I'd bet the B-17, but I could be wrong).

Last week, I did that ride with the fast guys. This bike is for a kind of riding that those guys don't do, and probably have no interest in. But the bike, and the riding style, suit me down to the ground. Well done, sir.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

to the fatty running on the track

This thing actually brought tears to my eyes today (of course, I'm sick and sleep-deprived...)

From today's Oddman.


Not goin' nowhere soon. Started coming down ill Thursday afternoon; I went to work yesterday, but left early. I've been awake all night; I've got chills and a 101° fever; I'm hungry, and thirsty, but every time I drink something, the chills come back (it's bad; I can't stop trembling until about an hour after I take the naproxen).

The Excellent Wife (TEW)'s father, almost a nonagenarian, has been in the hospital, and is doing well for his age... but he's still in the hospital. That helps to give me a bit of perspective... but this still sucks.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

wicked scary downhill ride

Fridn Dave H sent a link to this video of a downhill ride that's got me terrified. Thanks, Dave. Now I'll never get back to sleep.

looks like a good idea - new multitool

Friend Dave C has supported the Kickstarter campaign for this. It's a wickedly simple idea; tool bits are placed at the ends of sticks, each of which has a hole. Carry the two with the tolls you use most frequently (there will apparently be four tools, with eight bits), and you can assemble them into a "T" shape to get the leverage to apply the torque you need. Video below:

I think it's a good idea, and I'll probably get on board the Kickstarter, too (there are a variety of low-cost options).

(It's nice to be able to show a new bike technology that I don't think is stupid, or too expensive, or both.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

words fail me

If you support this, you deserve what you get.

I heard it on GeekSpeak; they apparently got it from this Slashdot article. The Z-Torque crank promises:
This patented and tested crank technology provides riders many advantages, inluding

  • Smoother pedaling
  • More power to climb hills
  • Less perceived effort to pedal
  • Faster acceleration
  • Less affected by headwinds
  • Ability to turn higher gearing
Z-Torque has been scientifically tested and proven to provide more available power than a typical pedal assembly. Get more out of your bike. Get Z-Torque.
(The spelling error is on their site as I write this.)

The argument is that, as you make the crank longer, the leverage improves and the effort needed to turn the crank drops. This company says you get all those benefits as a result of the extra-long crank. Now, if you look at that crank, you'll agree it's long... but it's bent. And even a liberal-arts can't-barely-translate-his-own-Latin-diploma idiot like me knows that, if you bend the crank, the effective length of the crank is only the distance between the fulcrum - the center, in this case - and the place where you push. All that bendiness is just extra material (read: extra weight), frippery, and snake oil.

The manufacturer has sought crowd funding, to which I'm not going to link. If you think this ridiculousness is a good idea, go find it yourself.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

showin' off & payin' for it ride

I don't expect to get a ride in tomorrow, and the best option today appeared to be the Cranbury B ride, which is usually pleasant (due to the company), but short and flat. I did the usual thing where I drive to Bagel Street for some breakfast, park in the office condo next door and ride to the ride start in Cranbury. I'm chronically early, and when I got to Cranbury about 9:20 (for a 10:00 ride start), I met Ed P and Henry, who were the only two to show up for the B+ ride, which was to have left at 9:00; they were fooling around with some new (carbon) wheels on Henry's bike, and invited me to go along with them when they did their ride. I demurred; I had been dropped on that ride a few years ago (I'm sure I posted about it, but I can't find the post now) [edit: found it], and rode around Cranbury a bit... but then we met again on the road; they asked if I wanted to come with, and I agreed.

Did pretty well this time, too. Here's the route and the results. I did some pulling, and was able to keep up until just about the end; Ed and Henry were encouraging, but I'm sure they were trying to make me feel better (and probably glad for the company), although Ed suggested several times that I drop some of the weight of the stuff I carry (I do carry a lot) and come out with his ride sometimes.  Maybe not, though; I was "hitting the wall" by the time were were about six miles out from the return to Cranbury, and that wasn't much fun.

That said, at the end of the ride, in Cranbury, while I was getting my breath back, in rolled about a a half-dozen of the Major Taylor club. They were taking the long way back to Plainsboro, near where I parked, so I decided to ride along with them. They were led by  young man on a fixed gear, who just ran away with 'em (and the MTCCNJ are a fast group anyway).

So I'm home now, writing this post, and looking forward to a long, hot shower, a nap, and probably a dose of NSAID before all is said and done. Yeah, I could keep up with those guys today. But I'll be glad to get back to my friendlier, slower rides.

Maybe next week.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

hazy shade of winter old guys' ride

Erich evidently got an email from Mary F (who considers it unworthy to put on her bike shoes if she can't do a 100-mile day), asking if there was to be a "Ride to the Ride" today, because his response, sent to several (including  me), was that there would be (there was some inside-joke snarkiness as well, but it's not worth posting here). So I got to Etra Lake Park at 8:40 or so, to be ready to go for 9:10, to get to Byron Johnson Park in Allentown for the 10:00 start of Dennis W's regular Wednesday ride (what I refer to as the "Old Guy's Ride"). Erich and Mary accompanied me down to Allentown, where we found Al L (in the past, a regular on the "Ride to the Ride", but complaining of the temperature today; we gave him some teasing about that). We had a total of thirteen as we left the park, and I was trying not to be triskaidekaphobic... but then Dennis forgot his mirror, and I was afraid this was an omen of things to come.

Luckily (HAH!), Mike came along as we were waiting for Dennis and joined the group. His raising the number to fourteen is probably why we had such a good ride today.


WE went on a few roads I don't remember doing before, and we went the other way on at least one I did remember. The route at this link includes the "Ride to the Ride" and the ride back, over most of the same route, and the route we did today, with a stop in Columbus. Al was right; it WAS a bit cold, and the grey skies didn't allow the sun to warm us. Despite the 50° forecast, it was late in the ride before I felt warm.

On the way down, Dennis had to stop a couple of times to adjust his saddle; he had adjusted the pitch (the angle between the nose and tail of the saddle) at home, and had not torqued up the adjustment bolt adequately to avoid having the saddle move when he was riding. He tried one adjustment, which was not right; a later one was good enough to get home, but I suspect he'll be wrenchin' on the seatpost today, before he gets on the bike again.

I wonder if we teased Al L too much about missing the "Ride to the Ride", because he decided to come back to Etra with us at the end (although he commonly does extra miles after the group rides; he had over 11,000 miles on the bike in 2012). this meant, of course, that he had to ride BACK to Allentown to get his car. As for me, I just loaded the bike in the car at Etra and came home, where I'm now laundering the sheets, and finishing the coding on this post.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

winter larry winter ride

The email from Ed C, at 6:53 am, said:

I'm thinking that the roads will be dry at 9 AM, since it is 34 F before sunrise. There are however a few bits of snow at our place. Any comments on the Winter Larry ride in Cranbury? 

Huh? I'd been up for an hour, but hadn't looked out the window yet; when I want to check the weather, I go to the computer (the NOAA report for my town is the home page on the Ultra-Geeky Linux Computer). Sure enough, it had snowed overnight - not much, but enough to make the road surfaces a concern.

I called Larry at about 7:04 am (Larry doesn't do computers on the weekend, and if you're gonna keep to that rule, and lead rides that leave from Cranbury at 9:00 am, you're gonna have to put up with some early calls). After a moment's deliberations, we decided to go. I emailed Ed (and Laura OLPH, whom Ed had copied on his original email) that the ride was a "go".

And so we went. Only the four of us today (like, who else is crazy obsessive persistent enough to go out in this?). We did this route, to the Dunkin' Donuts (is it in Hornerstown?). Cold on the way out; Ed had some foot warmers in his shoes (and I'm trying to persuade myself I don't need them). I had a flat in Hightstown, on Main Street, and, with the help of Larry and Ed, changed it more quickly than I could have myself. I used a CO2 cartridge to inflate the tire, and Larry was surprised at how quickly and completely the tire was filled - we had a subsequent discussion on the ride about tire pressures, pinch flats, contact patches, and so on.

There was some snow on the roads; apparently more on the way back, later int he day, than on the way out. Some had been driven over, but had not turned to black ice; still, we went gingerly over those patches, which is probably part of the reason for the slow average (another is that one of our number was feelin' a bit slow today, which can happen to anybody).

At the rest stop, we got into a conversation about Laura's husband, Professor Jack. Larry suggested he might like a canoeing venture, and I laughed out loud; Laura texted Jack about the exchange. It's not that Jack couldn't paddle a canoe, it's that the idea of Jack agreeing to do such a thing, or enjoying it, is so incongruous. It makes me think of Oscar Wilde on a wilderness adventure (although, if such a thing had ever happened, I'd give a lot to hear the videos!).

The route on the linked page includes the four-miles-or-so from my usual post-bagels parking spot in Plainsboro to the Cranford ride start and back. I discovered a route that saves a bit of the traffic on Plainsboro Road without adding mileage (I cut through some of the condos), which had the added advantage of getting me out of the substantial (sometimes ferocious) headwinds I can depend on when I return to Plainsboro after a ride.

Riding a bike through the wet-and-mud-and-salt-melt on a day like today is a messy prospect, and I'm sure that gunk is not good for the bike; I took advantage of the warm temperature this afternoon to give the Yellow Maserati a good cleaning, and I've added a fresh tube and CO2 cartridge to the bag. Now to prepare for the work week. Wednesday is one of those I have off, and the weather report looks passable - do you suppose the Old Guys will go out that day? Life is just better when I've been riding a lot!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

first group ride of 2013

I didn't see Laura OLPH's post announcing the ride today until after I'd seen the weather forecast, which sounded cold... so I didn't know that she had already addressed my concern by pushing back the start time for an hour. Not that it made that much difference; it was perhaps a degree above freezing when we left, and we had to look out for ice on the road through the whole ride.  I added a layer (five, instead of my usual four), and was glad to have it most of the day... except for a few minutes when we left the rest stop and I was sweaty under my clothes, but you can be sure that passed quickly!

I had a bit of a hard time getting out of the house this morning. I was certainly up early enough; the earlier post today went up at 6:22 a.m., which means I had time to get up, make coffee, check the email and do the daily finances (I check my retirement accounts, credit cards, and bank accounts the morning after every workday... yes, I am that obsessive), and do some aimless web dabbling before I did that post, but I still barely got to Laura's on time to go. Once there, I met Chris C and Ed C, and the four of us rode to Pennington to pick up Peter, Linda, and Dave H for today's ride.

We did this route. I think Laura was making up some of it as she went, as it seemed a bit improvised (I had originally written "disorganized", but that's the wrong word), but I'm no one to complain (when it comes to routes, there are few more disorganized than I!). It included two of my favorite things: a ride on Alexauken Creek Road (beautiful, and not too hilly; it's like fifteen minutes of a vacation in the middle of my weekend), and a stop at Rojo's Coffee in Lambertville (good coffee, hipsters, people on laptops and other mobile devices - even in our bike gear, we get mostly ignored there). We stayed too long, and I was a bit stiff for the subsequent ride up the Quarry St/Rocktown-Lambertville Road hill, but if I can't complain, I'm probably not happy anyway.

Then back home. An intermittent shifting problem with the Yellow Maserati has apparently healed itself (or my fiddling with the cable tension and limit screws has finally worked). Perhaps tomorrow out with Winter Larry... or perhaps hang out with The Excellent Wife (TEW); her dad's ill, and she may want her hand held.

gizmag top 10 cycling innovations...

In my web stumblings this morning, I came on this article from Gizmag about their top ten cycling innovations of 2012. They include some I've posted about, and some I'd not seen (friend Dave C. sends the post over when there's something he thinks might get my attention, and when he thinks of it - thanks, Dave).

Gizmag's top ten includes the Tiso electronic shift system, which I posted about. Other than that, they seem to go for the gee-whiz (and expensive) rather than the useful. I wasn't impressed with this change-the-tire-pressure-as-you-go system:

...or the floor pump in a seatpost:

IN fact, there's not a one of the things they show in which I have the slightest interest (maybe I'm getting too retro-grouchy). But the thing that really sets me off is this Bi-cymple:

I've already waxed grumptastic about that, but just looking at that picture brings it all back. Those pedals are behind the saddle. I'm in pretty good shape, but I can't imagine riding in that position. My midsection starts to hurt just looking at that thing. (By the way, in case you didn't see the article or my other post, both the handlebars and the seatpost turn. Good for tricks, I guess, but not much else.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

i shall be telling this with a sigh

This picture is an almost perfect depiction of one of the differences between my sister's husband and me:

He treats my sister well, and he and I get along well when I see him... but we're just on different wavelengths on this thing. (I'm the guy on the bottom, in case there was any question.)

I found it in my stupid web wanderings, but the original is apparently from Pleated Jeans.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


After I made a slight correction to one of Laura OLPH's posts in a comment, she sent me an email referring to me as a "gearhead". I've been laughing to myself about that for days. "Gearhead!" Me? My liberal-arts diploma - the one in Latin, that I can barely translate - might fall off the wall in shock.

Image from World's Best Bike Stickers.

half-price gas

That title was just to get your attention; I'm really talking about CO2 cartridges.

I use 16g threaded cartridges, and the last time I got 'em in the shop, they were $10 for three, plus tax, or about $3.50 each. I'm always shopping for the cheap, and early in the fall, I found that BikeTiresDirect had a bulk discount...but when I went back to find it just before Christmas, it was gone (as I write this, they're offering five for $12.99 plus shipping, but that may be gone by the time you see this).

Well, heavens, there has to be a better deal than that. The Excellent Wife (TEW) doesn't have the strength to use the frame pump, so she's used a couple, and I carry 'em as ride sweep for folks who have tire problems, so I go through a LOT of em. What to do?

I did a search for 16g threaded CO2 cartridges, and I found that they have other uses: carbonating home soda machines, for one, and driving paintball guns. It turns out of you don't insist on getting 'em from a bike supplier, you can get 'em cheap in bulk.

I went to these guys and bought a shipment of 30. The raw price is low, but they have to be ground-shipped, and that brought the price up... but they were still less than $1.75 each. I just tried one, and it filled the tire up to over 90 psi, and that's good enough to get home on.

30 cartridges is a lot; you may not want that many. But if you found a friend and split 'em, it might be worth the freight.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder

I happened across this in my web wanderings, and it was too good not to post. From the article:

In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains--that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.
How can you not love that? (Emphasis mine.)

It was originally published in 1992 in the Journal of Medical Ethics, and PubMed hosts a .pdf of the original article.

szczęśliwego nowego roku

That title is how my Polish in-laws would wish you a Happy New Year.

I don't drink anymore (click the link if you have the slightest bit of interest in why; opens in new tab, of course). Back in the first few years after I stopped, the other people I hung around with who had also stopped referred to New Year's Eve as "amateur night", when all the amateurs went around and tried to prove they knew how to party. Well, because I don't drink, New Year's Eve is not much of a celebration for me; I was invited to, and went to, a delightful celebration last night (many thanks, host and hostess), but we got there early and left before 10:30, and that was just about right for me. I think The Excellent Wife (TEW) would say the same (in fact, if I remember correctly, it was she who first raised the idea that it was time to go).

So, despite the fact that I slept in this morning (which means I stayed in bed until something-to-six, instead of the something-to-five or something-to-four that is my custom), I got up feeling about as I usually do first thing in the morning, which means I was energetic, peppy, and all that stuff that makes me an early-morning PITA. And, as it was 39°, I decided that nothing would be better than an early-morning ride up the Coppermine and back. So, as TEW rolled her eyes and laughed at my protestations that I didn't think it was too crazy to go for a bike ride in January, I left and did this ride.

Not real fast, partly because I didn't eat anything (back to the regular diet TODAY!), and partly because when I was in the lowest gear, I had some friction on the front dérailleur, so I did a road-repair and had to test it, and partly because... well, I'm just not in the mood to push all the time, OK? A couple of extra miles, because I could. No other riders out this morning (perhaps I was too early) and not much car traffic. I had fun... and I feel so much better about life and the world after a ride. I should do this often. (Oh, wait - I DO do this often.)

The Yellow Maserati needs a bit more maintenance (now THERE's a crisis!), so I'll be turnin' some wrenches later in the garage... and there's probably a trip to Five Guys in the offing (my regular diet has a certain amount of leeway). Life is good.