Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Year, Four Months and Two Days

That's the last time I had to drive to the office for my usual work shift. I don't suppose it's a bad run of things. I just wish the circumstances this morning (me forgetting to set my alarm) were a bit more noble. One morning on I-35 per year is more than enough to remind me why I don't like driving on a daily basis.

Bonus: I did find a parking spot not too far from the office that "only" costs $5 per day.

Insult to injury: I saw a bike commuter I've never seen before wheel into my office building as I walked in from the parking lot.

Random Tunage:
David May - Superstar
Tangerine Dream - Machine Language

Monday, October 26, 2009


I figure I can finally post this since "Octobber" is almost over and I finally have next month's bus pass in hand. It has been pestering me all month.

Sorry for the "quality", I'm sending this from my phone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fender Poncho

It's been raining for the better part of a day, now. The roads are
soaked, and the rain was still coming down pretty good this morning.
Normally, I don't worry about getting wet, but temperatures in the 50s
are enough to make me consider using the poncho. I haven't worn it in
several months, so I was half expecting it to be a bit musty.
Fortunately, I remembered to properly dry it out before packing it
away, so it was just like new. I've used it less than 10 times since I
bought it. It's a step up from the $2 emergency ponchos. I think it
set me back about $6. The sides snap shut and it doesn't really have
sleeves, but it has a hood and the material is thick enough to not
tear at the first sign of snagging on things. It's about the cheapest
looking thing I've ever seen. I threw on a short-sleeve biz-casual
shirt and some shorts under the poncho, then rolled out the door.
There's no avoiding wet legs with just a poncho, and this sleeveless
one won't do much for anything beyond my elbows.

Of course, the poncho won't help at all without fenders to keep the
wheels from throwing grime and water straight up from below you, so I
was doubly glad to have those, too. I probably looked like more of a
dork than usual this morning, but at least I was dry. I was able to
wipe my legs down with a towel (Ford Prefect would be proud!), throw
on some work pants and head straight up to the office. Poncho good.
Maybe not as good as a full-on (and expensive) Gore-Tex rain suit, but
it's the next best thing for shorter rides in the rain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

That new bus smell.

Bus #225. The latest and greatest arrow in Johnson County Transit's quiver. Less than 5,000 miles and has that wonderful new-bus smell (which is actually glue fumes, VOCs and the remnants of solvent evaporating from the paint)

Now, when can we get some real all-day transit service, weekend coverage and new routes? Bus #225 is going to sit dormant all day while people work. No one really needs to travel between 8a and 4p anyway, right?

Yeah, I'll take some mocha with my whipped cream

We had a taste of what early fall is all about for the first part of this week. Lows in the 50s, highs in the 70s, all broken up by an early morning thunderstorm.

We have the windows open, and the crack of distant thunder stirred me a bit, but not enough to open my eyes. Just enough to realize that our two cats had managed to crowd me to the very edge of the bed and out from under the covers. The fan was blowing humid, chilly air onto me so I writhed around a bit to get back under the blankets, nudging the cats a bit, never really opening my eyes. A bright flash illuminated the room, leaving a blue-on-red capillary afterimage. Seconds later, a roll of thunder filled the room and prompted me to glance at the clock. It was just a bit after 5:00 AM. One of the cats decided to watch the storm pass by moving to the window. Goofy cat. I dozed for a while longer. There really is nothing quite like a cool breeze and a thunderstorm.

The storm was brief, and had mostly passed by the time I left. There was one good lightning bolt - cloud-to-cloud - that reared its head right after I left. The wet roadway was no match for my fenders, and I remained dry.

Lorin and I had agreed to grab coffee before work, and when I got mine, it came with a little more flair than usual. I'm pretty sure there was more whipped cream and chocolate shavings than there was actual mocha.

Also, Keith, one of the cyclists for the Downtown KC Improvement District came over and talked to Lorin and I for a bit. The city doesn't allow them to ride on wet roads (for insurance purposes) so he was on foot today. His Gary Fisher FastCity got stolen a few months ago, so he's been rockin' the Dr. Dew. He's thinking of trying to organize a ride out to St. Louis (or somewhere else that's a pretty good distance) then catching Amtrak back to KC. That sounds like fun to me!

Random Tunage:
Digital Witchcraft - Pocket Universe
The Spoons - Nova Heart (Redanka Dub Mix)

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Even though temperatures were in the 40s yesterday, I kept the jacket off, left the gloves on, and made sure my ears were covered. My hands, ears, and toes always seem to be the most sensitive to cold. For some reason, though, I really don't care how cold my arms get. They acted like radiators for my back, which was burning up the whole ride home, since I was using my backpack yesterday instead of the panniers. All of this is from yesterday.

Blurry but fun on the Turkey Creek Trail. Lots of joggers out, too.

Near my apartment complex:

A different kind of fall, no I didn't eat it. This was on Main Street southbound from River Market. I hit River Market Cyclery around lunch time to get the mounting tab for my Take-A-Look mirror.

This is corrugated plastic that's actually been zip-tied into place. Also, a lot of the deadly storm drains have spraypaint markings leading up to them. Most of this stuff looks very, very unofficial, so I'm guessing it's vigilante activism. This storm drain is not much different than the one I ruined my rear wheel on just 3 days after getting The Twelve. No, I didn't fall, but these drainage grates are a serious hazard.

Random Tunage:
Chemical Brothers - It Doesn't Matter
Paul Van Dyk ft. David Byrne - Fall With Me

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blog woes: Japanese Spam Of Love

For some reason, one of my posts attracts a TON of spam in Japanese -- at least one attempted post per day. I ran a few of them through Google Translate just for giggles. Every single one that I bothered to translate mentions love. Bizarre.

Thank goodness for comment moderation.

New Gear.

My helmet went missing a few Fridays ago. I think I might have left it on the bus in an over-worked haze following several weeks without a proper day off due to massive amounts of weekend work that had to get done at the office. It never turned up. My old Bell Solar had several scuffs and bash marks on it from low-speed mountain biking impacts. Nothing that would be likely to keep it from doing its job, but it was probably due to be replaced anyway.

I've been using my wife's Bell Sweep R (a sweet helmet in its own right) for the time being, but decided it was time to get another one. I liked my old Bell Solar so much that I picked up another one just like it aside for color. Since my Take-A-Look mirror also went missing, I bought a replacement for that as well, but the LBS was fresh out of helmet mounting tabs. I will have to make one up myself, or find another shop in town that has them in stock.

Obviously, I replaced my saddle as well. I have to give props to my buddies at Bike America in Olathe. I didn't need a fancy, new-tech saddle (of which they had plenty), so I got a heck of a bargain on an OEM take-off Bontrager Race. When customers upgrade their bike before leaving the shop, but don't want to take the OEM part with them, the techs toss the part into the OEM Take-Off pile. If you know to ask the techs, they'll let you rummage the pile. I'm betting a lot of shops have a similar system, as there's no need to throw away new parts.

I scored the saddle, helmet and mirror for under $50 total. How cool is that?

Similarly, if you're into dumpster-diving, you can often find USED take-off parts from upgrades in the rubbish bin out back. Bike shops don't resell this stuff in the store, even if there's some life left in it. I'm betting the wrenches probably set aside the really good and like-new parts for themselves, but I'm not sure. Just something to keep in mind between Christmas and spring, when people are getting ready for the new season.

Soon, The Twelve will need new brakes, chain, and cassette but it's almost time to switch over to my mountain bike for winter, and The Goat needs some things as well. The coming two weeks will tell how I prioritize that stuff.

Random Tunage:
Goo Goo Dolls - Can't Let It Go
Peter Bailey - Electrified

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sausage [Links]

Stuff I've found interesting lately.

jwz and his buddy netik had a run-in with a car in SF. Dude. You don't mess with jwz.

CommuteByBike teases us with a new Fisher that I'm drooling over. Winter commuter, anyone?!

KC has the nation's scariest haunted house. I think I'm going haunted housing this weekend.

Pedal Powered OLPC. Sweet!

Jalopnik covers some of the bizarre snow vehicles found in Antarctica. I can't believe there's not a Pugsley in there. Oh, and did you see Chris' Big Dumb Pug?!

Fritz at Cyclelicio.us shows us another commuter challenge, wherein a couple of cyclists (one wearing a helmet cam) beat a chartered helicopter across town. I can't help but wonder why none of these challenges ever put people on motorcycles. Oh, wait. They'd win. Oh well. It' good publicity for bicycles.

Dave is apparently back in the saddle after his circumstances became quite favorable for bike commuting. He picked a hell of a time to get back on board, but hey... Welcome back!

Drew Carey is donating up to $1M to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. $1 for every follower he gets via Twitter through the end of the year. This initially started as a $25,000 bid on Drew Olanoff's @Drew twitter handle and has quickly exploded. Cancer is everywhere, and I believe that LAF is a worthy cause on its own, not just because its founder is a world-renowned cyclist.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rest in peace, poor saddle...

It was the OEM saddle for many of Trek's road bikes in 2006. Honestly, I really liked it and will probably end up with another Bontrager saddle on pay day. I lost count of the exact mileage on The Twelve, but if I had to guess: about 10,000 miles.

The Transition

Usually, come mid-September through perhaps the end of October, there's this funky transition period with nippy 40° mornings and blissful 65-70° afternoons. This necessitates lugging extra clothes around. I don't like to ride in long pants if it's much warmer than 60° and I simply can't ride in shorts below 50°.

There was about a week of that stuff. We went straight to cold, really.

Also, until the time change happens at the end of this month, even the mornings I wake up and leave late are still completely dark. Blinkies fore and aft are required gear right now, and the dark mornings make for horrible attempts at snapshottery. Anything I could post here would surely be called out as banal and blurred, not surreal and abstract.

Even though the cold usually chases the cyclists away, I've been seeing plenty of them in bike racks around town. This is in stark contrast to years past, when cool mornings mean empty bike racks all over town. This also includes a previously unseen, but far-from-new mountain bike that started showing up at my office building. It looks like something that's been hanging upside down in a basement or garage for quite a while. Old, but not in bad shape. Plenty of miles, but doesn't show signs of regular (ab)use. I see plenty of cyclists on the road, too. Full business-dress suit types downtown (some of them actually riding their bikes, not pushing them) and winter-clad fellows closer to home and downtown alike.

Then there's the inexorable rain at 30- and 40-something degrees that, combined with autumn's typically strong winds, can chill me to the bone in nothing flat if I'm not careful about my choice in clothing.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll take a 20-degree blizzard over a 40-degree rainstorm any day.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Baz Snapshottery

Eric S. Raymond defines baz as a metasyntactic variable, or placeholder names. That is to say, it's right up there with "foo", "foobar" (not FUBAR) and other nonsensical words used by geeks to represent that which is otherwise difficult to categorize. These are some recent snapshots I've taken around town but have not shared here.


The spoke shadows bend and warp due to the way my phone's camera works. Instead of gathering data from all of the pixels at once, cheaper digital imagers grab one pixel or one line at a time. This happens pretty quickly, but when there's something in motion, you can see the psychedelic effect.

It's more pronounced in this one, where I tried photographing the Crown Center fountain park from a moving bus just as we passed a No Parking sign.

Waiting for a train to pass.

This is a pedestrian tunnel that goes under Santa Fe Drive near eighty-something-ish street in Overland Park. I had no real need to use it, but I wanted to go through anyway. It's near a school, so I guess it may have been intended to be used as a safe way to cross the street. It reeked of urine.

Seen at the entry to my grandmother's assisted living community. Break out the stereotypes now. She broke her wrist in a slip-and-fall a few weeks ago, and I was there to visit her. She seems to be doing a bit better now.

7-Eleven has gone completely off the deep-end with Domo-kun stuff. Here, a pile of more than 1,000 8-ounce coffee cups sit, all decorated like the beloved Japanese stop-motion character.

Last weekend, a few friends and I went to the Crossroads for First Friday. It's kind of a fusion of art, dining, bicycles (likely something to do with Critical Mass happening the same night), music and urban culture. From my point of view as a nerdy, fat, un-cultured, white, suburban thirty-year-old male, it appears to be a rather prosaic monthly hipster festival, replete with personal art galleries, fashion shows, street displays and sidewalk bands. In my own ignorance, I might go as far as to call it a very pretentious block party. The crowd emitted a distinct vibe that the whole First Friday thing is far more culturally emblematic than I can comprehend, though. I'm willing to concede.

We set up a projector with Tetris on an SNES and let people play it while talking about Cowtown Computer Congress. It was an interesting time and I met many people who are much cooler than I am.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The People of Best Buy

Some of you might be familiar with People Of Walmart. If you're really into making a mockery at other peoples' expense, I suppose it's good for a chuckle. I don't get like that very often.

I did, however, see this Lexus on my way home when I swung by Best Buy to pick up a new headset for my wife. I rang my bike's bell, but no one was around to notice.

Oh, yeah. September weather is finally here. It's about time.

Random Tunage:
Golan Globus - Blazer (2005 Radio Edit)
Alanis Morissette - Thank U

Monday, October 05, 2009

Off-Topic: Sci-Fi

Note: this has nothing to do with bicycling, commuting, transportation or anything like it. I really don't have anywhere else to air it. It's not that I haven't been riding -- I have, daily. My trips haven't been noteworthy for anything other than the changing weather that forces me back into that wonderful routine of dressing heavy in the morning and light in the afternoon, and the insanely beautiful, large full moon as seen last night on my ride home from the grocery store at dusk. I just couldn't get any clear photos of it. Regardless, it's all stuff I've covered many times before. With that out of the way, here I go.

I'm not a fan of Sci-Fi. Not TV shows nor movies, and certainly not novels. I have a certain distaste for fiction novels in general. Having fiction incessantly forced down my gullet in school sealed the deal. "How utterly pointless," I'd ponder to myself: "this stuff has nothing real to offer. It's imaginary. It's trite and impractical." You'd find me poring over manuals to DOS or BASIC, poking through the Haynes repair guide that we got with our 1981 Accord, or with my nose stuck in one of several invention compendiums such as the original "The Way Things Work." Even in college, I opted to go for Technical Writing instead of the co-requisite of Intro. To Fiction. I was fine with that. I enjoy technical writing: the ability to create concise instructions in simple English.

Sure, I liked the Star Wars Trilogy - the originals. Phantom Menace and friends did little for me. I grew up watching old-school Star Trek:TOS and Buck Rogers re-runs with my dad. I remember watching the debut of Star Trek:TNG, too, But I never got sucked into any of it. I never played Light Saber with my flashlights, never imagined myself beamed to the surface of a mysterious planet or anything like that. My nerd friends would obsess over their comic books, anime flicks, and video games. All of them were tantamount to fiction to me.

C.J. Cherryh's Tripoint captivated me during a hot weekend camping trip in 1995. I devoured it in under 2 days -- likely fueled by the fact that it was a distraction from the heat. The summer after 7th grade was spent somewhat obsessed with Choose Your Own Adventure pulp. I have no excuse for that, other than the poor judgment that comes with being a stupid teenager. Otherwise, works of fiction have inspired me very little.

Every once in a while, I try again. I own the entire Chronicles of Narnia and several Tolkein books. I could never get through the first few chapters of any of them -- I can honestly say I don't understand how people get tied up in them or modern attempts at thematic parallels minus any shred of Christianity: things like the Golden Compass and Harry Potter. I tried a few books that my mother recommended, by Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game, chiefly). No dice. Some time ago, I gave Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon a go since it's supposedly his masterpiece. I love his writing style, but I couldn't stand the erratic story line or the book's arduous thousand-long page count. I was done by the time I hit chapter nine.

Last weekend, I gave Neal Stephenson another whirl. I was at Border's picking up some periodicals and saw Snow Crash sitting there on the shelf. It's a nerd cult classic. All of my geeky friends read it nearly two decades ago. I'd never touched it before. Curious, I picked it up and read the first page.

Let me say this: No tech reference, magazine, biography or industry whitepaper has ever compelled me the way that the first page of Snow Crash did. It called me to fork over the cash to make it my own. Had it gone any other way, I'd probably have set it back on the shelf then made a note to reserve it at the library. I'm 23 chapters deep, and I just broke out the lame "headwind" excuse this evening to take the bus so I can read more.

At any rate, if you haven't read Snow Crash yet, and you're a technophyle, I'd say you owe it to yourself to at least skim it a little. It still skips around, but not nearly as brutally as Cryptonomicon. It's also about half as thick, more interesting (to me) and dare I say almost prophetic about some things. Did Stephenson predict this stuff, or did he inspire it?!

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