Thursday, January 30, 2014

tour de franklin registration

I'll be leading a Princeton Freewheeler Team on the Tour De Franklin, April 27. I've registered, and I've sent the request to set up a Freewheeler Team page.

My personal Tour page is here. I'll provide info on this blog, and on the Freewheeler Facebook page, as it comes up (but look here first).

barney for grownups

The Excellent Wife (TEW) is watching the movie Julie & Julia as she exercises these mornings. The movie is about a blogger who decides to do all of Julia Childs's recipes. We got to talking about Julia Childs, and TEW said, "Julia Childs is Barney for grownups."

You couldn't beat that if you tried with both hands for a week.

(Link goes to the Wikipedia page, because the Barney page has one of those annoying, loud videos that starts automatically. Don't do that.)

wrong bar

I'm pretty sure that guy in the left background is in an old-style Princeton Freewheelers jersey.

I recognize the cartoon as one of Dan Piraro's; I got it from today's Oddman.

Monday, January 27, 2014

weight loss challenge - update 2

  • Me: start 182, last 180, this week 181; goal under 175
  • Dave C: start 210.1, last 206.9, this week 210.3; goal 195
  • John D: start 145, last 147, this week 144; goal 140 
  • Lou O: last 170, this week 169; goal 160
  • Henry M: start 163, this week 161 (based on an average of reported weights in his comment on my previous post), goal 158
Not reporting numbers:
  • Ira S: same
  • The Excellent Wife (TEW): up.
All of us whose weights are up have excuses explanations: Henry blamed a dozen bagels; Dave said he can't eat salads in this cold; TEW says she's SURE that holding on to weight in the cold is a survival response that's been reinforced by evolution, and I'm agreeing with her, because, hey, she's my wife.

I'm not going to put any helpful tips in this week, because it's pretty clear what I've been doing ain't working! I'll check in later in the week to see how youse-all are doing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

maybe we need to be a protected class

Although I don't think I press my lack of belief on anyone, I make no secret of the fact that I'm an atheist. So this tickled me.

Evidently, there's a shoe company based in Germany named Atheist. According to this article on, packages shipped to the US wrapped with tape that says "Atheist" are problematic:

"When some of our customers asked us not to use ATHEIST-branded packing tape on their shipments, we started to wonder if the delays were caused by the US Postal Service taking offence at our overt godlessness. So," the company writes, "we launched an experiment."

The link in the quote goes to an infographic that explains the company's study. It's not scientific, of course (and the graphic is way too big to reproduce here), but I found the results telling nonetheless. From the io9 article:

Said experiment, which is recounted in detail in an infographic on the company's website, saw 178 packages shipped to 89 people in 49 U.S. States. All packages left Berlin on the same day, and each person was sent two packages. The first was sealed with ATHEIST tape, the second with neutral tape. The result? Boxes sealed with ATHEIST tape were ten-times more likely to go missing, and took an average of three days longer to arrive than neutral-wrapped packages.

"Having run a series of control tests in Germany and Europe, which demonstrate no such bias," the company writes, "the problem appears to be in the USA and is likely explained by the differential handling of packages by the employees of the US Postal Service."

Great. It's not bad enough that soccer moms and gun-totin' football enthusiasts in SUV's want to run me over and leave me to die because I ride a bicycle. Now they want to steal my property because I'm an atheist.

Can I afford to move to Sweden? (Would they let me in?)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

plumbing philosophy

Via Laura OLPH, from the superlative P. Z. Myers's Pharyngula blog, comes this bit of under-the-sink thoughtfulness:

It's not exactly what I was thinking when I replaced the faucet the other day, but neither is it completely foreign. I can't really say I'm afraid of dying, although I don't like pain; everything ends, after all. I'm just surprised at the plumber: a wrench in the hand tends to focus me on the present problem, not metaphysics.

(And it looks like the original is from Chainsawsuit, a comic I don't think I've seen before. It will give me something to check out on this enforcedly-idle, snowy, cold weekend.*)

(*Hrmph. I haven't so looked forward to going to work since I quit drinking.)

paralyzed rider uses handbike

After I posted the video Road Party II, friend Dave C emailed that one of the riders in that video, Martyn Ashton, had broken his back attempting a stunt. Dave emailed me a link to this article.

From the article:

After weeks in hospital followed by intensive physiotherapy, he has managed to begin handcycling with an adapted bicycle at Newport Velodrome. He told the BBC of his recollection of the accident."I landed and I felt the shock go through my body and I think immediately I knew it was very bad," he said...

But not content to sit on the sidelines of his sport, he said: "I made a bit of a pest of myself, emailed and phoned as many people in disability sports as I could in Disability Sport Wales and they've been really supportive.” Having tried wheelchair-based tennis and basketball, it was a revelation to take to the velodrome. "It was awesome but really hard", he said. "I'm not used to having power in my arms, but it was brilliant."
I wish him every success.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

doorway syndrome is, like, a thing

Those of us who will not see the small side of 50 again are probably only too aware of a phenomenon of memory lapses; we go into another room to do something, and as soon as we go through the door, we can't remember why we came in here. As soon as we go back to the first room, we remember again. Sometimes, this sets up a loop that can repeat several times. (I was about to say "dozens of times", but I think my real maximum is about eight. Which is enough, come to think of it.)

Well, according to this article in Salon (originally an article in Scientific American), it's not just poor attention or early-onset Alzheimer's; it's a real thing.

Gabriel Radvansky, Sabine Krawietz and Andrea Tamplin seated participants in front of a computer screen running a video game in which they could move around using the arrow keys.  In the game, they would walk up to a table with a colored geometric solid sitting on it. Their task was to pick up the object and take it to another table, where they would put the object down and pick up a new one. Whichever object they were currently carrying was invisible to them, as if it were in a virtual backpack.

Sometimes, to get to the next object the participant simply walked across the room. Other times, they had to walk the same distance, but through a door into a new room. From time to time, the researchers gave them a pop quiz, asking which object was currently in their backpack.  The quiz was timed so that when they walked through a doorway, they were tested right afterwards.  As the title said, walking through doorways caused forgetting: Their responses were both slower and less accurate when they'd walked through a doorway into a new room than when they'd walked the same distance within the same room.

Further along in the article, it is contended that the act of walking through the door changes the way we evaluate the importance of what we're trying to remember. It wasn't just the size of the monitor, or even the new room that changed memory (read the article to see how they controlled for that stuff).

Why did I start this post?

good? it's better

From today's Diesel Sweeties. Long-time link on the right, yadda yadda yadda. (Too small? Click on the link at the beginning of this paragraph.)

Laura - do you think Jack would agree, or not?

centenarian to break his own record

Y'know what's better than setting the indoor track record for the over-100 age class?

How about after you do it, you set the age record for 100km for the over-100 age class?

And y'know what's better than that?

How about, at age 102, you decide to try to break your own record?

His attempt will take place at the new velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, just outside Paris, the day after its official inauguration.

Good way to open a velodrome!

Somebody get a blood test on that guy; I want to know what he's using.

Link forwarded by the excellent Dave C.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

on improving your day

Bob W posted this on the Freewheeler Facebook page, and god told me to steal it.

Note how the guy is already grinning in the right-side picture?

got-it-in-before-the-weather-got-worse ride

Too cold to ride Saturday. Tom H and a few Freewheelers went out on a towpath ride Sunday, but The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I had a hot date for restaurant week at the City Tavern (and the only website that comes up for 'em is the mobile site, which I refuse to link to); earlier, we did a tour of low-country art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Steen! Vermeer! van Ruisdael!).

So when I saw Ed C's email about a ride for Monday (hey, I had off for King Day), I was in... As was Cheryl, and pretty much nobody else. Joe M wasn't taking Team Social Security out, and there was a rumbling that one or two of their number would join us for the 10am start... but there were no takers when the hour rolled around.

There was also no Ed C, who had taken a wrong turn on 601 to get to the Montgomery High School he'd set for the start; I got a picture of him pulling into the lot. Cheryl had a commitment, so we agreed on 40 miles, and did this route. (That's not my usual GPS site; I had a problem with ol' Mr. Garmin, as I occasionally do.)

It reminded me of the other ride I did from that start, the Sourland Spectacular, and we saw the remains of a few of their arrows along the route (although we were spared the fish head). Crossing the ridge, I was taken with a log with a dusting of snow (despite the promise of almost 50°, there were some patches of ice across the roads), you'll see a picture below.

Outside Rojo's, an engaging you fellow took our picture (and after seeing it, I promised myself you'll see less of me in these posts!). He's got a business making folderol for iPhones, and I wish him every success.

Rojo's got an old Lynskey mountain bike with a 1" head tube; he'd like a suspended fork, but can't find one. Any ideas?

Coming out of Lambertville, we took Franklin... and now I've got a new favorite way out of Lambertville. Good hill that gets us quickly up over the town; I hope my picture from the top came out.

Then home. I was put off that the GPD didn't save the whole route (which may be why I put off writing this post until today). I had today off, too (it's complicated...) and I've just finished putting in a new bathroom tap set and doing a laundry, while TEW is out in the snow. Looks like cold weather ahead; this may be the last ride until Easter!

Pics? Of course pics!

Below, Ed comin' in late.

Hey, no harm, no foul.

Below: I like this of the tree:

Above, Ed & Cheryl. Ed lent me one of those vests for visibility, but I really didn't like it: it impedes access to the rear pockets of the jersey, and the loose shoulder was flapping so it interfered with my visibility in my helmet mirror.

Above, outside Rojo's. Below, Moe, Larry, and Cheryl:

(Guys, I've got the closer shot, but I ain't postin' it here; it's even worse!) The pic above was taken by this fellow who saw us outside Rojo's:

Below: The view back towards Lambertville from the top of Franklin, by the cemetery (I'm not persuaded that some of those headstones weren't riders who didn't make it up the hill!)

Monday, January 20, 2014

weight loss challenge - update 1

Here's where we are on the weight loss challenge:

  • Me: was 182, now 180 (barely); goal under 175
  • Dave C: was 210.1, now 206.9 (whoa!); 195
  • John D: was 145, went to 147; goal 140
  • The Excellent Wife (TEW) is on track.
Henry Murphy says he's developing a dependence on lentils that may require intervention. I've not heard from Lou or Ira.

One of the things that worked for me when I lost all that weight was the book Younger Next Year. It's an easy read, by a doctor and a guy who's done much of the stuff in it (mostly about losing weight and exercising, but also about not being a jerk or a creep as we age). It's from there that I got my three rules:
  1. Don't eat crap;
  2. Exercise hard six days a week;
  3. Keep track of your progress.
 One of the things I didn't get from there, but which is working, is being around people who support a healthy lifestyle. I have the Freewheelers to thank for that, in part, but mostly I have TEW. I never would have lost the weight to start with were it not for her.

Friday, January 17, 2014

another view of the "ills" of technology

I don't expect people will actually read it, and even if they do, I don't expect people are willing to have their preconceptions upset, but I gotta link to this article in the NT Times Magazine that says that technology is not driving us apart after all.

Two of my favorite findings: that people in more-wired neighborhoods knew their neighbors better than those in poorly-wired ones, and that the "ubiquitous" problem of people in crowds isolating on cell phones is bogus - findings showed only 3-10% of people on phones, and those people are alone anyway. From the article: "People on the phone were not ignoring lunch partners or interrupting strolls with their lovers; rather, phone use seemed to be a way to pass the time while waiting to meet up with someone, or unwinding during a solo lunch break."

The truth, as always, is more nuanced than either an all-good or all-bad interpretation will allow. But cell phones and the internet will not be the end of human society. We just change things, that's all. For some people, that's bad enough.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


In the 70's (maybe the late 60's), Garrard Turntables ran an ad after a competitor had started using some of their technology; the ad had the headline, "We're Bloody Flattered". Today I'm the one who's flattered.

Oddman ran another bike post today, and what did I see in it but one of my pictures:

I first ran it in this post at the end of last year.

He's also got the video of the jet bike that I ran about a week earlier than that post, I'm not sure he got the idea from me, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised.

I re-post so much of his stuff, though, that a bit of turnabout is only fair play. (And I really AM flattered, though a little nonplussed.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

guns don't kill people; cell phones kill people

Guns don't kill people; cell phones do. I don't think I can do any better than to simply report the headlines of these two news stories:

Man Dies After Falling Into Chicago River Trying To Get Back Cell Phone

Ex-Cop Arrested for Fatal Shooting Over Texting at the Movies

You couldn't improve on those if you tried with both hands for a week.

carbon fiber toilet seat

And, of course, the only place I've seen it posted where there wasn't a reference to making you "go faster" was today's Oddman.

Want one? As I write it's on backorder.

Monday, January 13, 2014

weight loss challenge update

So far, I have the following people involved in the weight loss challenge:


  • Me: currently 182, goal under 175
  • Dave Carpenter: currently 210, goal 195
  • Henry Murphy: currently 163, goal 158
  • John Danek
  • Lou Orlando
  • Ira Saltiel
  • The Excellent Wife (TEW).

Henry made reference to "subject to daily fluctuations". To control for such fluctuations, for years I've been entering my daily weight into the online spreadsheet at The Hacker's Diet. You can set up a free account, and learn about how to do it, here.

The advantage of that spreadsheet is that, in addition to recording your daily weight, it gives you the trend for the last 10 days, so that the reading after a century on a hot day (when you're dehydrated and unusually light) or after a visit to a pickle factory (when you're full of salt and retaining water, and unusually heavy) doesn't throw off the whole calculation. What I look at is not the daily weight, but the trend, and the number I show above for current is the trend number, even though my daily weight has been down the past two days.

(I don't recommend you do the actual Hacker's Diet; it's full of processed food and salt, and it sucks.)

I'll plan to check in on the Facebook page once a week or so and see how you're doing. Feel free to post tips, good ideas (or bad ones), and experiences. We're in this together; let's do it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

i needed this ride

I had a dilemma for today: Winter Larry emailed around for riders for his regular Sunday ride (Winter Larry! Sent an email! Imagine!), but Cheryl M had also earlier sent an email about an invitational ride, and two of my particular friends, Ron S & Ed C, were planning to go on that one. I'm a loser at keeping friends, and part of the reason I ride is for society, so I chose Cheryl's (besides, I'm a sucker for an invitation).

It wasn't a particularly fast ride, and we didn't go anywhere special, or travel any roads that I haven't been on before. Nonetheless, I really needed this one. I've had a bit of low-grade depression goin' on, with general doldrums and boredom. Recently, I've been reading China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, by which I've been awed: the detail and depth of the fantasy world in this book defies my attempts at description. And I just ran into Sara Bareilles video for her song, Brave:

... and I got to feeling like I'll never do ANYTHING as well as Mieville can write, or she can write and perform. So I really needed to get out on some hills today, and push some pedals uphill and into the wind. It worked; there is a substantial reduction in the cobwebs between my ears, and my mood is markedly improved. (The Excellent Wife (TEW) is relieved at that, I assure you.)

At the last minute, more or less, Ed had to cancel, and since I hadn't responded to Cheryl, she thought it would be just she and Ron, so the three of us did this ride. Windy and hilly it was. We didn't do Poor Farm, but we did Goat Hill, along with heading up io Mt Airy, and going up Quarry out of Lambertville (yeah, they're not Federal Twist or Fiddler's Elbow, but they'll do for today). I had not counted on the wind, which seemed steadily in our faces all the way to the break in Lambertville. I could hear that there was conversation between Ron and Cheryl, but I couldn't hear much of the content due to the wind (and some age-related hearing loss that I'm denying really exists).

Cheryl doesn't like Rojo's in Lamberville; it's too expensive and to chi-chi for her, so we stopped at the Lambertville Trading, where the welcome was warm, the coffee hot, and the toilet empty (Yay!). They had recently had a 30th anniversary; there's a terrible picture below of a sign made of coffee cups.

Ron's derailleur was one that was recalled by SRAM; he's got the new one now (along with a couple hundred dollars worth of other new parts), and he seems happy with it. It was good to see that flat-black bike of his out again.

About 43 miles; good enough for a first ride in two weeks where I've been out of shape (I've been eating all the wrong stuff, and that's why I'm doing the Seeming Verb Weight Loss Challenge). Cheryl offered to put in some extra miles, but time, cold, and tiredness persuaded Ron and me that we'd had enough, so we came back.

There's still time to get in on the weight-loss challenge. I've got about half-a dozen takers, including TEW; I'll post the names of those who've agreed soon. If you're interested, email me or post a comment.

Pics below, of course:

Above, the 30th-anniversary sign in coffee cups. Below, proving we really were at Lambertville Trading; that's Ron below the sign.

they're not my clients...

"...I always knew not to fuck with heroin. I always knew it was the drug for me. It just makes you feel good. And when you're feeling bad, having a magic button is kind of a great thing. Unfortunately the magic button is also a stupid button because it comes with a lot of consequences. I am happier in some ways than I've ever been in my life. But I've lost so many things..."

They're not my clients; they're in the South Bronx. But they sure look & sound like my clients.

Go check out 8 Powerful Photos of New Yorkers Most People Never See.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

weight loss challenge

Friend Dave C has uncovered the preliminary notice about this year's Tour de Franklin, and has railroaded me into leading another Princeton Freewheeler team. We've both been overindulging (I, for one, can't blame it on the holidays; I've been doing it for months), and we want to get back down to reasonable weights.

Dave suggested a weight-loss challenge, and I've agreed. If you want to get in, send me an email or post in the comments. Here's how it's going to work:
  1. The challenge will run between now and May 4. That's a week after the Tour de Franklin, and you'll see why that date in a bullet item below.
  2. Participants will set their own goals. This will not be a "Biggest Loser" contest.
  3. Participants are on their honor to report results accurately.
  4. Participants may use any non-surgical, non-pharmacological weight loss techniques. No liposuction, no cocaine, no methamphetamine. Supplements, probiotics, vitamins, and the like are allowed, as are caffeine (in coffee or tea) and theobromines (in chocolate; lets not get too strict). In case of dispute, I will make the decision about whether a substance is allowed or not; expect that the DEA schedule of drugs, the PDR, and various lists of performance-enhancing drugs will be consulted.
  5. Determination whether the goal has been achieved will be in this manner: participants will weigh in daily each day between April 27 and May 4, 2014. If the average of those weights is at or below the goal you set for yourself, you will have achieved the goal. This is to offset the problem of having an outlier day on the day of the weigh-out; the likelihood of so many outlier days in a row is minuscule. No limits for high or low weights during that time are being set.
I'm setting my goal to be trending back below 175 by the end of the challenge. If you want to get in, let me know. If you want your name listed, I'll do that; if you want your name and goal listed, I'll do that. I can report on progress, if you like (and if you keep in touch with me).

Anybody in?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

the expanding universe

Nope. It's science.

Nobody else would probably notice, but I've been gaining weight this winter; I'm the heaviest I've been since I got the weight off starting in 2009. It's time to get disciplined again.

I got the comic from today's Oddman, but it was originally a Cyanide & Happiness comic from a couple months ago (and finding THAT link took a bit of detective work, I can tell you!). Cyanide & Happiness is too rough, or alt, or something for me to follow regularly, but every now and then he hits a home run.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"plan" for elevated bike paths in london

Laura OLPH sent me the link to an article about a proposal for elevated cycling routes in London, to alleviate motor traffic.

The project, which has the backing of Network Rail and Transport for London, would see over 220km of car-free routes installed above London's suburban rail network, suspended on pylons above the tracks and accessed at over 200 entrance points. At up to 15 metres wide, each of the ten routes would accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and improve journey times by up to 29 minutes, according to the designers...
“The dream is that you could wake up in Paris and cycle to the Gare du Nord,” says Sam Martin of Exterior Architecture. “Then get the train to Stratford, and cycle straight into central London in minutes, without worrying about trucks and buses.”


Funding remains the big question hanging over SkyCycle, with the designers currently looking for backing to fund a feasibility study. “We certainly don't want to take money away from making cycling safe on the roads,” says Martin. “That should remain the priority. But our ambition is to redirect some of the money spent by central government on rail and road expenditure. Those billions can be used much more efficiently.”

I think it's a great idea. I'd love to see it. But I doubt it will happen there... and even if it does, I'm sure it will never happen here in Baja Canada.

frame material

Winter Larry sent me this email:

Hi Jim, Thought of something to discuss on your frame material...I like all but carbon as it seems fragile!

We had a bit of back-and-forth about that. My response to him included this:

Frame material is like a religion; people have opinions that are not always based in facts, and can't be shaken by facts.
Larry has aluminum & titanium frames, and frequently points out at ride starts if there are a number of titanium frames among the riders (in a later email, he said about aluminum frames, "I am one of the few who likes the old ones that most regarded as harsh..." * ). He also mentioned that he thought club members had had particular difficulty with stress cracks in one particular brand. 

When I made up the Yellow Maserati, my Ti-framed bike, I had a few criteria for the parts:
  1. I wanted to bring the price in where I would not excite the ire of The Excellent Wife (TEW);
  2. Except for "wear" parts, I wanted to build it once, and not be continually upgrading. I thought of wear parts as tires, chains, cassettes, and chainrings, but I've since learned that rear derailleurs, wheel rims, and saddles might be thought of that way. As for bar tape, that's not even a wear part; I change the bar tape only slightly less often than I change my clothes.
  3. I wanted it to ride well.
  4. I wanted to build it myself.
At the time I built the bike, a few years ago, carbon fiber had a reputation for "catastrophic failure". I replaced a carbon fork on my old bike (the one before the Yellow Maserati) after a drop when the epoxy matrix around the carbon seemed to be delaminating (although I admit I didn't know what I was looking for, and I might have done so too quickly). I found an inexpensive titanium frame, and put on a steel fork (it didn't hurt that the steel fork was far less expensive than a similar carbon one). I love my bike; it suits me well, it's fitted to me, and, for a guy who's pushin' 60, I get it goin' pretty quickly. If the fork died, I'd probably put on another steel one, because I don't see any additional benefits I'd get from a carbon fork that would be worth the cost.

I did research today about lifespan of carbon fiber bike materials, and the most heated discussions online appear to be anywhere from four to ten years old. Manufacturers offer lifetime warranties on frames and forks, which suggests that they're not concerned with lifespan. I did some research on stress cracks, and, especially in earlier incarnations of carbon fiber, it appears that cracks were common in clearcoat, which may or may not have extended to the epoxy matrix of the carbon fiber beneath, but these articles were also several years old.

I don't know if carbon fiber has a lifespan. My issues with carbon are these: first, I like the retro look of old steel. Carbon bikes appear to embrace novelty for its own sake. But that's solely a personal preference.

Secondly, carbon is expensive, although (as occurs with most technologies) price is coming down. (As I so frequently say, in matters bicyclistic, if there's a cheap way to do it, I probably know it.)

Third, while the structural integrity of a carbon frame may not be a problem, the integrity of the add-ons is suspect, in more cases than carbon enthusiasts might like to admit. I have seen broken, useless cable stops on carbon frames, and the rivnuts that hold the bottle cages work loose much more often on carbon than on metal frames. These problems may not affect the ride, but they do affect the usage of the bike. Without cable stops, indexed-cabled shifting systems won't work (although perhaps this is a plot to get us all to adopt electronic shifting). And I'd rather carry my water on my bike than on my back.

*I'll tell you what, Larry. If you want to reduce the harshness of that aluminum frame, ride wider tires. Even the tightest frame can almost always fit 25mm tires (instead of the 23mm, or even 19mm tires that many of us use), and they will do far more to soften the ride than any change in frame material.