Sunday, November 30, 2008

Urban Times KC: The Pedestrian Experience

I don't often flip through Urban Times, but I saw it while I was out today and the cover grabbed my attention. The feature article: The Pedestrian Experience [PDF Download] This issue's already a few months old, but the article is worth a read. Although I suspect its message applies directly to most urban areas, it's directly relevant to Kansas City.

It goes without saying that most of the benefits that apply to walking for transportation apply to utility cycling as well. A great many of the things said in this article line up quite nicely with reasons that I often eschew my car or SUV for my bike: Scenery, people, and culture that still exists beyond the superficial glitz of whatever KC's latest shiny object is (currently, the Power & Light District)

Granted, my wife and I still have two motorized vehicles, but I find myself driving less and less -- You don't have to be a radical, a hippie or a rebel to ditch your car.

Image credit: Urban Times, Front Cover, September 2008.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's ALIVE (Kinda)

I've been slowly and surely amassing parts to get The Goat back on the road. Back in September I had decided that I'd kind of like an internally-geared hub. I'd been thinking about it for a while longer than that. I have a few hookups and could score the Nexus 3 pretty cheap. Then, there's the spokes, the rim, the labor to assemble the wheel (I'm not ready to do that myself yet) and other stuff.

My Diamondback Sorrento did pretty well the past two winters, but it's taken a lot of abuse. it's still on its original derailleurs, crank, shifters and chainrings. Also, the cables and housings were new when I bought it right before Thanksgiving '06 but now they're more than 2 years old. Also, the good wheels I bought for it had been moved to Hybridzilla, so they're gone.

A few weeks back, I started looking into what it would take to build it up again. The derailleurs barely budged, and wouldn't spring back. The cables were in need of help. Obviously, new wheels (one I figured would be built on a Nexus 3-speed), a new chain, and probably a new single-chainring crank. The v-Brakes were also sticky. Basically, she'd seen a lot better days.

I found some old tattered (and seriously wobbly) wheels in my parts closet. I found a bunch of brand new cable and housing as well. I took the brakes apart, cleaned them, and greased the pivot points. They worked nicely again. I painstakingly trued the old wheels, replacing two spokes that were broken. I found a never-used SunRace 8-speed cassette bolted to an old hub. JR gave me the hookup on an old rear rack, too. It took some creativity to get it home earlier this week, as shown above.

It became quite obvious that buried in plastic tubs I keep in my "junk closet", I really had most of what I needed to kludge together a working winter beater. I just needed one more shifter cable and a chain. And maybe a pair of derailleurs.

After reading this post on Blue Collar MTB, I emailed Guitar Ted (who wrote it) and asked for advice on the derailleurs. He told me to soak them in solvent, clean them up, and work them by hand to see if they'd quit sticking and spring back like normal. If that worked, then he said to use something like TriFlow all over the moving bits to make sure things slide nicely. Sure enough, it worked like a champ. In fact, my front derailleur has never liked shifting to the small chainring, even when I bought the bike 2 years ago. Now? It's smooth like butter. It shifts better than the day I got it.

I was too busy with family to make a "give thanks" post yesterday, but it's obvious that I have many friends here who I'm thankful for. It's easy to be thankful for those who donated some of the essentials I needed when a bunch of my gear got stolen. I'm also equally thankful for those who offer advice and kind, encouraging words. Thank you, all.

Oh, and I suppose I should let you see the current incarnation of The Goat. I need to get some metal bracing to finish attaching the rack to the seat stays, but this should be all I need to keep me rolling through winter.

Half Day

Ostensibly, I've got a "Half Day" today. It's more like 3/4 of a day because I get in kind of early.

The ride to the bus was fascinating as ever. Although it's maybe 2 miles to the bus stop from my place, it's 2 miles through what I usually call "My Village" - The stuff that's a reasonable walking/cycling distance from home. My village has a lot of cool places -- pretty much everything I really need and most of what I like that I don't need. Not to mention all the places that I will probably never go.

It so happens that a lot of those cool places are also offering "Black Friday" deals. That means that Quivira, one of the main roads through town, turns into a circus of selfishly inexorable motorists. They push, shove, honk, nudge, and bully one another as they attempt to shoe-horn their beasts into over-crowded parking lots. A traffic jam at 6:00 in the morning, where the stop lights aren't the bottleneck and the minor road crossings cause big problems. It was as if thousands of people were willing -- no, eager -- to participate in one Consumer Thunderdome after the next, while playing Demolition Derby between stops.

Even if I had the day off and stores were literally giving stuff away, I can't picture myself in mindless consumer zombie mode like this. I don't know how (or why) these people do it. But to each their own.

It was a pleasant ride for me, But I saw a lot of undue animosity between motorists. Thanks for not running me over, honking at me, or bullying me around on the road too much this morning.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Anyone down for a chilly Century?

Not sure how chilly or mild it will be, but c'Dude is doing his 11th ride toward the R-12 on December 6th. As always, he's open to other participants and I'm going to try to make it. It's a RUSA-sanctioned Permanent, so to participate, you have to be a RUSA member and you should let him know ASAP if you plan on making it.

This route is a 200k Permanent with an actual distance of 125 miles or so. If you can do a Century, you can probably do this. Who said riding season is over!?

If you're not a RUSA Member, you can register and ride the route with a pending membership. That's how I ended up riding my first one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I just about came home early!

I had to hike over to Human Resources to pick up my December bus pass this afternoon. I didn't want to come back into the office! It was about 60°F. I brought the camera along.

I love the details on this building. They just don't build them like this anymore.

Looking down 11th street from Central

Federal Holding Corporation Building. Another magnificent piece of historic architecture.

I ended up trudging back to the office and finishing off the work day, though. Have a happy Thanksgiving, all!

More from yesterday

I didn't get anything this morning. I woke up early, couldn't get back to sleep, and I'm kind of in a fog today. Took the bus to work.

Last night, I sat down with the bracketed photos I took of the moon over the mall, and threw together an HDR of it. I'm not sure I like it any more than I like yesterday's long exposure with the streetlight blurs I threw in at the last 2 seconds of the exposure)

I hung out with Eric over lunch. On my way back, I saw this guy:

I keep forgetting his name, which bothers me. It's something simple, like Jeff or something. Occasionally I'll pass him (or he'll pass me) on Southwest Boulevard. Despite the trailer, he can really haul some ass. If I recall correctly, he's one of the people who helps put on Bike 4 The Brain.

The glare on my homeward commute has been getting worse and worse. For a good chunk of my usual route on Southwest Blvd, the sun is right in front of the road and it's low enough that I know it's got to be blinding drivers. I've been a little more on edge this week. I may have to start leaving work later (after the sun sets) or optionally, start riding the bus home. It breaks my heart, too. These evenings have been perfect: mild with only a light breeze. I was scorching along last night, and averaged 200 trillion Angstroms per hour on my way home. There's a way to make yourself sound fast.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I always love when the darkened part of the moon is readily visible. This morning's Crescent Moon was breath-taking, and my photos couldn't dare do it any justice. Just long exposures, no HDR today. The second photo was intentionally blurred for fun. I took quite a few photos, but these two were my favorites.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Halcyon + On + On
Nine Inch Nails - Dead Souls

Monday, November 24, 2008

Having a case of the Mondays

Forgot to set my alarm. Woke up late.

Groggily checked bus schedule (I have it stored on my phone). Saw that the second bus would be at The Maul in 22 minutes. It takes me 10 minutes to ride there.

Got my clothes and lunch together, opting for only one pannier this morning. Threw everything on the bike and rushed out the door.

Arrived at The Maul, not quite in record time, before the time I thought I needed to be there.

The time I was expecting the bus to arrive comes and goes. I check the schedule again, and see that I was looking at the wrong location. So I stand in 31°F weather for 15 minutes longer than I need to, looking and feeling like an idiot. I could have made some breakfast for my wife and I in that 15 minutes!

Got to the office, only to find out that my access card was in the other pannier, at home.

Hey, at least I still made it to work at a reasonable time.

Here's something to kick off your (hopefully) short work week:

Friday, November 21, 2008

A taste of winter

16°F this morning. This is NOT your average mid-November morning. In fact, Ed's Forecast of an 18°F low led me to scramble to my Cold Weather Gear log. "What in the blue blazes was I wearing last time it was below 20?!" I couldn't recall. I've been pretty comfortable lately, having found a good clothing combination for the high-30s and 40s we'd been experiencing.

There are 27 work days left this year, and I've got a little more than 450 miles to go to reach my goal. I've been plugging numbers into this equation I came up with to track how many full commutes I'll need to do:
(($RoundTripsLeft * (- $BusStopMiles)) + $MilesToGoal) / ( $FullTripMiles - $BusStopMiles)

In my case:
53 round trips are left this year
2.5 miles to the bus stop
14.5 miles all the way to work
456 miles to goal

I'll spare you the math. I have to ride the full trip 27 more times this year. The way this function works, I can also deduce that for every 12 miles of recreation or errand miles I ride, I "earn" one bus commute worth of breathing room.

While I did feel like a bit of a bad-ass this morning as I cut through the crisp air and rode past rimy fixtures and parked cars on Merriam Drive, I'll save my swagger (or is it hubris?) for the day I finally hit 5,000 miles for 2008... assuming that day comes. I've got my eyes on the prize.

Oh, and I really, really should have used the "Bag Corners" trick (that I learned from reading Warren's blog) this morning. I doubled up on socks and it wasn't quite enough.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chilly ride, crane on Turkey Creek

It was closing in on freezing on my way home. This is probably the coldest full ride I've had this season. It felt good. The clothes I used on my way to the bus were perfect for the ride home.

This is the bridge between Turkey Creek Trail and Merriam Marketplace.

I saw this crane searching for fish a little while later. Moments after I took this, it caught one.

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble is coming along nicely. It'll be nice to finally have a real bookstore close to home. I don't think that it'll be open for Black Friday, though.

I rode all the way home last night, then got caught up in a geeky project writing about open-source HDR processing. I used the same techniques for the image above.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


My puny 40-liter panniers are jealous.

Hat Tip to Jeff for the succinct title. I was going to name this something else. This is better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Glow-In-The-Dark Beer

As you can imagine, I didn't quite feel up to a sub-freezing full commute with my mouth all torn up.

I took the bus. Still got some riding in, obviously. I had to teach a bike-on-the-bus-virgin how to load his bike onto the rack on the front of the bus. It's nice to see there are still some people willing to start multi-modal commuting with winter approaching.

Now I'm enjoying a Red Hook Long Hammer IPA. So smooth. Hoppy and delicious. A few more days and I'll be able to eat real food again. No, this wasn't (entirely) my supper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Before the novocaine wears off...

No work today. Got the Wisdom teeth pulled. I'll spare you from the photograph of my extracted teeth.

I am a severe trypanophobe, and my wife (who's been with me for about 12 years) has never seen me faint or go into a seizure until today. Good times. Now I'm gonna try to sleep this off while my face is still numb.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nothing like it...

I checked mail today and found a bunch of eerily identical envelopes from the hospital. I'm talking a BUNCH of them. Bills totaling $27,397.85 to be exact. Then my wife pointed out that we only had to pay $450.00 of it. Insurance rocks. Not that I have $450 in my sock drawer (or probably even in my 401(k), haha) but it's heck of a lot better than the cost of a brand new Mini-Van or something. So w00t for insurance.

I didn't really ride today. Yesterday, I had to get home FAST long before bus service starts, and used my Guaranteed Ride Home to snag a taxi. That meant leaving The Twelve locked up in the (relatively) secure parking garage overnight. By relatively secure, I mean after business hours, all the doors are shut, it's patrolled, and high-res cameras record the entrances and exits. No cameras anywhere near my bike, though.

Anyhow, I didn't bring riding clothes to work, so I just dragged the bike home on the D bus. I probably did about two miles of walking and bike riding combined today.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Faux Toes Du Jour

Taken on my way to pick up my lunch

Oh yeah. More fun at the hospital.

It's going to be kind of like...


That's right. World of Warcraft: Wrath of The Lich King comes out at midnight. With my wife being an avid gamer, I'll be right there with her when the doors open. Thankfully, it won't be 4 degrees Fahrenheit like it was last time I did this. Hopefully, I don't come down with a gnarly case of the "bug" after a late night, either.

I don't play computer games. I usually fill my free time doing security research (both physical and information security), networking online with like-minded folks (cyclists, geeks, and security researchers) and writing technical articles about all sorts of things from automobile repair to computer programming. Still, it's fun to go to these midnight doorbuster things. You get to meet a diverse group of people that all have one thing in common. That's even more interesting when you have something in common with many of them yourself, but not the thing in common that brought them all together at midnight: a potentially unhealthy addiction to World of Warcraft. Any one person standing in line has to be in possession of at least one character in the game that's at or approaching Level 70 in order to actually have anything to gain from the expansion pack.

Losing my wisdom

One thousand five hundred.

That's how many milligrams of Ibuprofen it takes per day to kill off the pain my wisdom teeth are putting me through. I don't take pain meds. I'm the kind who will try to ride it out if I can. I can't. Monday, these puppies are coming out! Due to a fortunate genetic defect (you know, among my many unfortunate ones) I was born without buds for several of my teeth, both lower third molars (wisdom teeth) being among them. Only my upper right Wiz is giving me trouble right now, but the other one needs to be yanked out as well.

It's been a bus-heavy week. I woke up way late yesterday and took a later bus than usual. Pernicious, bone-chilling drizzle persuaded me to catch a bus for the trip home yesterday as well. I had trouble sleeping last night (tooth) and drug my bike to the bus with my tail between my legs this morning. I had forgotten about some crazy motivational seminar downtown. The bus was packed like a sardine can because a few extra people thought it would be smart to take the bus to get to said seminar. Indeed, they were smart. The rush for precious parking spots downtown made for some pretty interesting traffic jams. The bus aisles were easily as packed as the streets.

I can only imagine what the streets will be like this evening when the seminar's over. I did think it was cool that quite a few suburban folks had the forethought to give transit a try, though. Most of them had never been on "The JO" before. Some of them mentioned that other routes might work for their daily commute. Gas prices might be falling here in KC, but I think the high cost of transportation as a whole was enough to cause a lasting paradigm shift for many suburbanites.

Random Tunage:
Wippenberg - Promisedland
VNV Nation - Carry You

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rainy, Cold, Prepared

I was glad I had a jacket in my backpack. Temps dropped and rain set in shortly after departure. No problem, though.

Random Tunage:
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Nine Inch Nails - The Only Time

Breaking the silence

I've been quiet. Heck, it feels like I haven't updated in a week! It's only been five days, I guess.

On a personal level, it's been a crazy few days. That's all I'll say about that.

Now, weather forecasts are starting to call for precipitation and sub-freezing temperatures. I still have a Diamondback Sorrento frameset with very little in the way of components to transform it back into The Goat, the bike that goes anywhere I need it to go while crushing obstacles in its path. At this point, a wheelset, inner tubes, cassette and chain, and a LOT OF cleaning and lubrication of the moving bits (shifters, cables, brake levers, pivots and the like) will be the cheapest way to get it on the road. I still have tires to put on it that did well in the snow and ice last season.

I was pleasantly surprised to find temps above freezing this morning and it looks like most of this week we'll have dodged the ice-and-snow bullet. The Twelve is safe and usable for now. I refuse to take it out in the snow and ice, though. Not only would its skinny, treadless tires be a bad match for ice, but I'm not nearly willing to sacrifice it to the Salt God yet. The Goat makes a good winter beater, and I still have hopes of setting it up with an internally-geared hub before the worst of the weather sets in.

I "only" logged 83 miles last week, but the reality is that more than half of those miles took place on Monday. I rode the full trip to and fro, then went to the Monday night ride. That means the rest of the week was pretty pathetic. I'm still hell-bent on meeting my third and final goal for the year. With plenty more than 500 miles left to ride, I should probably try to take advantage of the above-freezing days we have left. Unfortunately, I didn't do that this morning.

With the colder weather, I've been doing a lot less recreational riding and a lot more geeking out in my laboratory. Yes, I have a laboratory. Things like writing networking tutorials, playing with the latest version of OpenBSD (just released last week) and stuff like that.

Oh, and it looks like I get to be a Juror next month. Ugh. It's close enough to ride there (a little further than riding to church).

Oh, and everyone, please swing by MNBicycleCommuter and wish Doug a speedy recovery.

Random Tunage:
Sasha - Mongoose
Moshic & Landa - Faza

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some of my favorite days of the year

(KC Skyline from Summit)

I really like the autumn days right after the DST cut-over. I arrive downtown just in time to see the sun come up, and the weather here in KC is usually still somewhat mild in early November. This morning, temps were in the high 50s with a strong wind out of the south. I pretty much coasted into downtown, except for the death slog up Summit.

(West Bottoms from Case Park)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This is one for the books.

It doesn't matter which side of the political fence you hail from or which candidate emerges. This is history in the making either way, and I'm glad I could take part in it.

This is the third collision I've seen in as many days at this same location. The SPUI might move a lot more cars than other interchange designs, but unless you can move at a sustained pace of 35 MPH or so (that excludes most cyclists), these are pretty hairy.

I took this while I was waiting for the bus this afternoon (I didn't feel like braving 30 MPH headwind again). Fitting, I suppose, that I'm writing this post from the Emergency Room. Yes, another visit to the ER. Wife's not doing too well today.

Kansas City

My wife woke me up at 5:41 (I'm usually up at or before 5:00 AM) and I'd obviously missed meeting up with Gray. I called him en-route and he seemed to know where he was going. Maybe tomorrow or later this week.

I scrambled to get my stuff together, threw on my work clothes and barely made it to the bus stop in time. I brought riding clothes for the homeward commute, though. I'm going to have to zip home quickly tonight if I want a chance to vote.

More Kansas City photos from yesterday:

Junk piled up in the ground floor of the New England building

The nearly-demolished grain elevator

Monday, November 03, 2008

Wind and Sun

I brought some lunch back to the office, and took these on my way. This is the UtiliCorp building. It's one of my favorite pieces of architecture downtown. I've got more where this came from.

This is 710 Central. Decidedly more modern.

The wind and the sun were both directly at my face today for the homeward ride. I opted for the path when I got to it. The trees offer shelter from both sun and wind. The leaves make it hard to tell where the path was at times. Also: Letting your dog traipse around from hither to yon dragging a leash behind it does NOT mean you're in compliance with the leash laws.

I hit the Monday night ride and met a guy who's relatively new to bike commuting that wants to try a new route. I'll probably meet up with him in the morning and show him my usual route, which is wildly different than the way he's been taking. This was a 15-second exposure of the flyby of the entire group this evening.

Quick this morning

I woke up at 5, but it felt like 6, and it looked like 6. I really wish that we'd just get rid of Daylight Saving Time already, but this morning, I was taking full advantage of it.

The cloudless sky was a gradient of amethyst, azure, slate and sapphire to onyx: simply incredible, and simply impossible to capture on the camera without some HDR trickery that I simply didn't have time for this morning.

I was quick this morning. Quicker than I've been in more than a month. Not a personal best, but a spunky start to the morning, with an 18.5 MPH average. I didn't ride much last week (about 35 miles) and I took it pretty easy yesterday. Between having fresh legs and a 10 MPH hind-quarter wind this morning, I was feeling good.

The demo crew has been slowly whittling away at the grain elevator on Southwest Boulevard behind Strasser Hardware. All the silos have been destroyed, leaving behind only a skeleton of the tower on the north side. Quite a few interior shots from this elevator (post-blight, pre-demolition, of course) are in one of aeionic's photosets on Flickr.

The Shopping Card was parked out in front of City Center Square again this morning, and I had the honor of watching its pilot snort two lines of blow some fifteen feet away from me, just prior to a five-minute-long episode of voiding his sinuses into what had to be three dozen Starbucks napkins. I'm still not entirely sure what to think about that. It breaks my heart. Pray for him.

Random Tunage:
Binary Finary - 1999
Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (Jason Nevins Mixshow)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Beautiful November Day!

52°F on my way out the door to church this morning. Just right toward the bottom of my "shorts weather" range, but high 60's on the return trip.

There was an expo of some sort at the Lenexa VFW.

"Hedge Apples" have many names (such as "Osage Orange") and they're practically an icon of autumn here in the great plains.

Bonus, I found a nice assortment of SAE Combination Box/Open-end wrenches scattered all over Pflumm Rd. I stopped to pick them up. The plastic pouch they came in was a few hundred feet up the road. They must have fallen off someone's truck. Most of my SAE wrenches got swiped during my auto shop class back in 1998. That's generally fine because most of the stuff I work on now requires only metric wrenches. Still, these will be a welcome addition to my tool box.

Privacy Policy

This site is driven by software that uses third-party cookies from Google (Blogger, AdSense, Feedburner and their associates.) Cookies are small pieces of non-executable data stored by your web browser, often for the purpose of storing preferences or data from previous visits to a site. No individual user is directly tracked by this or any other means, but I do use the aggregate data for statistics purposes.

By leaving a link or e-mail address in my comments (including your blogger profile or website URL), you acknowledge that the published comment and associated links will be available to the public and that they will likely be clicked on.