Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Recap: Wind

This was the month of March according to Weather Underground's log of wind speed and gusts. This pretty much sums up the whole month. I really don't have anything else to say that this graph won't convey to you.

Karen and I took the A bus out of town. We fought 30+ MPH headwinds for the last leg of the trip (about 3 miles for me).

In Kansas, spring is either very cold or very windy. Sometimes both. Never neither.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

It happens so infrequently, maybe eight times per year.

It happens when I push too hard. But I push too hard a few times per week. Usually, pushing too hard just makes me huff and puff. Sometimes, if I push too hard for a long time, I get dizzy, too. This is different.

It happened again last night.

After some of the usual huffing and puffing, my chest tightens. Something isn't right.

Seconds later, I feel a tickle in my throat. It's followed by audible wheezing.

Within minutes, I'm coughing, and there's a lot of phlegm building up.

From there, my lungs feel like they're rubbed raw or on fire. If you've ever had a coughing fit that's lasted several days, you know what this kind of bronchitis feels like. You can't breathe all the way in, nor can you breathe all the way out. You have to take short, metered breaths or the consequences of more coughing await. More coughing leads to more irritation.

Within an hour or so, the wheezing goes away, so does the bronchitis feeling. It leaves behind a cough that lasts a day or two.

I've heard that Exercise-Induced Asthma affects a good portion of the world's top athletes, so it stands to reason that it also affects lots of people like me, who are still out of shape but are doing something to get some exercise.

Now, I just need to figure out what in the world is triggering it. There's no specific season where it happens more than others. It doesn't seem to be related only to air temperature or humidity, but I can "force" it to happen if I don't keep my mouth covered in sub-freezing weather and do some high-effort stuff that forces me to breathe through my mouth.

I suppose I should probably go see a sports-medicine doctor or someone who can help me pinpoint the cause so I know how to stop it before it starts. I'll be honest. This would be a lot less frustrating if it happened every time I pushed really hard. I don't like being taken by surprise like this.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth Hour, Transient Snow

Saturday, my wife and I "kind of" participated in Earth Hour. When I say "kind of", I mean that we turned off almost everything in the place, even the clothes dryer that was running. We didn't unplug anything and the server farm stayed up. All the computer monitors and our laptops were already shut down, though.

My wife and I decided to read Bible passages aloud by candle-light for an hour. To that measure, we had a lot of candles going. This shows most of them, which provided enough light in our living room to read by. I'm not sure how much carbon we really saved. Those servers probably slurped up a good chunk, and I know all these candles weren't helping too much. Thank goodness I'm not a totally crazed eco-zealot. That's not to say I don't believe in respect and stewardship for what we've all been given to share with one another -- past, present and future.

Saturday also brought with it quite a few inches of freezing rain and snow. This was a bizarre, transient storm that dumped on us all day. Sunday and into today, warm, strong south winds and clear skies cooked almost all of the precipitation away. It was very strange to go out yesterday afternoon to see the pavement steaming with dry patches, wet spots, water rushing to the storm drains, and huge piles of plowed snow all at the same time, just 12 hours after the storm came to an end. The pavement was dry except for a few spots this morning. All that was left of the plowed roadside mess was a thin trail of slushy road grime. All but the biggest parking-lot piles will probably be gone by the time I leave work.

I did have to fight a head/crosswind with gusts up to 25 MPH on the way to the bus this morning. I personally find the combination of head and crosswinds to be the most loathsome of all kinds of wind. When you've got the opportunity to take the lane like I do on Quivira in the morning, it's not too big of a problem. If you find yourself having to share a lane (including the use of a bike lane), this kind of wind will either try to curb you or throw you in front of a vehicle. That's not my idea of a good time, and it's a good reason to keep your bike out in the middle of the road, where hopefully you'll make the point that motorists should change lanes to go around. If they don't, at least you've got a whole bunch of room to your right.

Random Tunage:
Crystal Method - Blowout
Prodigy - Firestarter

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Small Miracles

Say what you will about Christian Faith, about hope, about prayer.

Some believe it's the power of the mind at work, a way to trick ourselves into a positive outlook.

Some say "Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness." (video link from The Matrix Reloaded)

Well, I've seen what it can do before, and in small ways, I saw what it can do this week with four small miracles including good news on my job and good news in finding our 13-year-old cat, Boots.

It turns out that Boots spent at least the last two days hiding in this hole, according the neighbors. This is a small, shingled awning over some garage doors on the apartment building adjacent to ours. He was gone a total of 9 days. When we found him, he was too scared to come out for us. We had to wait until after dark to rescue him. Our apartment staff was very friendly, as was the resident of the apartment with a balcony next to this hole. Hopefully, the apartment maintenance folks patch this hole soon. I can only imagine all kinds of creatures could find their way into this chasm.

He was stinky and dirty like one would expect after more than a week of gallivanting the neighborhood and cowering in an enclosed, musty dead space over garages. Rain had already set in last night, so he was wet as well. I took the opportunity to give him a bath. Normally, he won't have anything to do with bathing, but since he was already soaked, he didn't seem to mind too much.

Now our other cat just needs to get used to having him around again. She's still not quite sure what to make of all of this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


A doodle inspired roughly by a Mac SE/30 and MacOS Classic error messages with the infamous bomb icon. I worked on this a little bit at a time.

JR's Bike Dungeon. He was getting ready to fix up the wheel for me. This is only a small amount of the bikes he has in storage. I think he needed to get these out of there just to open his tool box :)

My... mobile office? I had to swing by the bank and get money out of my PayPal account for JR. Couldn't remember my ATM pin for that card. I must've looked pretty strange standing there in business casual clothes using my bike as a computer desk to reset my pin while standing right in front of the bank.

Dora misses Boots, but we might have another friend for her soon. Someone's desperate to find a home for an adolescent kitty and we might just see how she gets along with Dora. If Boots comes back, my wife can practice being a crazy cat lady.

Ironic Tunage:
Orbital - P.E.T.R.O.L.
Geggy Tah - Whoever You Are

Seriously, I heard both of those at work today...


Our first real storm system of the season rolled through last night. It didn't do a whole lot in my neck of the woods, except cause some pretty good straight-line gusts. Further north and off to the southwest (Lincoln/Omaha Nebraska and near Wichita, Kansas), there were some tornadoes. Fast clouds looked ominous as the sun set. The below animation (once it's loaded) plays at about 3x the speed that it was photographed, but the low clouds were still moving at a really good clip.

A reader-turned friend of mine, Sally (a.k.a. Sallymander) scored an older Specialized Crossroads Cruz that was being thrown out. I'll use her picture of the bike since I haven't taken one yet:

I offered to fix it up for her, and it needs quite a bit of work. The previous owner was apparently riding it when the rear tire blew out. The inner tube caught the rear brake pad, which then pulled the inner-tube and stretched it as it wrapped around the gear cluster, grinding the rim against the pavement and to a halt. From what we can tell (a destroyed handlebar grip, pavement-ground rim and badly scuffed pedal), the resulting wipeout must have been quite spectacular. The frame, front wheel and all the drivetrain components are still in great shape. Although barely worn down, the brakes might be hardened and brittle, though. I need to check.

Given the sprocket, chain, and brake wear I'm seeing, it looks like this bike maybe had 100-200 miles put on it and otherwise spent most of its time hanging upside-down in a garage. It reminds me a lot of Hybridzilla: a lightly used bike with a ton of potential. Scoping around, it appears to be from the 1995 model year.

I ordered the new tires for it last night (Forte Gotham city tires) and swung by JR's shop to see what we can do about replacing the damaged rear wheel. It's a bit of an odd beast: 6-speed freewheel, 700c. Once upon a time, this was a popular setup. I believe Karen's yellow bike is configured the same way. These days, you don't see many 700c wheels threaded for a freewheel cluster. While a modern freehub wheel would fit in the dropouts nicely, you can't find 6-speed cassettes and the spacing is wrong for the indexed grip-shifters on this bike. JR has a bunch of good, used wheels, so we'll find a solid one to fit the bill for this repair. I brought the old wheel with me to work this morning so JR can wrench on it, since I don't have (or need) freewheel tools. We'll keep the OEM freewheel cluster since it's still in good shape.

Work's all fine. I just got the Ward Cleaver speech. "Okay, Beav. What did we learn from this?"

Boots is still missing, though. If he's still okay, I hope he had somewhere warm and dry to stay during the storms last night.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A bad week.

I've been mum for the past few days, so here's a run-down of real life:

Our older cat, Boots, escaped Wednesday night. It's closing in on 4 days and we haven't found him yet. We're both kind of worried, but I think we've done all we can do to ensure his safe return. This includes a geeky "live trap" by keeping some of his favorite food by the front door, along with a motion detector to alert us when something or someone is at the door. We've also checked with various shelters, postered the neighborhood, and tried online registries.

I couldn't sleep at all Wednesday night. I had to take Thursday off because I was sick and tired.

Friday, I caught some heat at work for a technical glitch that was partially caused by me. It's not likely a career-ender, but it's also my first real mistake in almost 3 years of working for this company. I figure out my fate on Monday, after I hand in a post-mortem report to management.

Nothing ruins a weekend quite like waiting to be punished on Monday... unless that something is being worried sick about your cat and your job at the exact same time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stranger than strange.

I was waiting for Chris to get his bike from River Market Cyclery when I saw this Cannondale Scalpel. It only has one side on its fork. That, my friends, is even stranger than strange.

Billy, the shop owner, says it rides just like a normal cross country mountain bike. He did an almost-century ride on a 29er with a similar fork (and hybrid tires)

And now for some other random pics from the past few days of awesome-weather commuting, in no particular order. It doesn't feel like mid-March to me. I've been eating it up!

Riding with Karen.

Following Chris

Stopped behind/under some crazy truck. GRAAAAAAWWWRRR!


Off-roading my road bike.

Monday, March 16, 2009





Aero Spokes.

I'm still not quite used to the look. I am ecstatic about the durability of the wheel itself, though.

I found out that this wheelset is somewhat popular for cyclocross (and even comes on at least one decent 'cross bike from the factory) so I suppose I should finally quit cringing with every single seam in the pavement.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Faux Toes. March 12, 2009

Someone needs to tow this thing. Parked right next to the BUS STAND NO PARKING sign, and parked facing against traffic. He must be VERY important. Didn't you know important people drive 1999 Firebirds?

Bus reflectivity.

I love helicopters.

It's a shame this one was transporting a baby that'd fallen down a flight of stairs. No, it wasn't anyone I know, but as far as I can tell, it survived after they got it stabilized.

I'd really love to ride in a helicopter and a hot air balloon some day. Both seem like fun. I do hope I never have to ride LifeStar, though.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Winter: 3 Spring: 1

Photo: Moonlit Demolition Scene from this morning at the bus stop.

Spring gave it a real go of things, but Winter continues to persevere and knock it down. We got a surprise snow-storm a few weekends ago. Yesterday, a relatively warm morning fell to its knees over the workday, greeting me with temperatures back in the 30s and a wind strong enough to work its way through my balaclava and give me a really nasty ear-ache. Not to mention the fact that it was constantly pushing me sideways toward traffic.

This morning? 15 degrees or so. Some forecasters are saying it could get even colder tomorrow morning.

/me shakes fist at winter.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Things I love

I love fenders, rain covers for my panniers, and a camera that doesn't mind a little bit of rain:

I love dumpster diving and I love music. I found this Washburn D-100M (just the guitar) in the trash at my apartment complex over the weekend. I had to at least give it a closer look. Here it sits with my Washburn XB-100 Bass guitar (in its case) and my practice amp. Actually those are both on long-term loan from my dad since I'm the occasional bassist for our praise team. The body is in great condition but the strings it had on it were ragged out badly. The high E string was broken. The bridge appeared to be broken, too.

I love my dad. He is one of my best friends, a patient teacher, a loving father that's stern when he needs to be, and he's also a musical guru. His favorite instruments? Guitars, by far. I knew he could do minor repairs, but I learned a lot from him today while watching him fix it up. He knows seemingly all the intricate minutiae of these instruments, as he told me some of the myriad tricks he knew that could get this guitar working 100%.

He didn't really need any fancy tricks, though. He re-seated the bridge (it wasn't broken, just messed up by the previous owner), threw a whole new set of strings on it, tuned it up and it was ready to go. The action is good and the sound is very lively when dad plays it. It's actually a pretty nice guitar. It sounds like crap when I try. My wife and I just need to learn how to play it, and dad gave us both a quick guitar lesson. I can do basic stuff on the bass. This thing is a completely different beast, no matter how similar and easy Dad says it is.

I swear, if you hand him an instrument he's never played before, he'd probably be able to learn it in a few days. He has lots of musical instruments. If he's not shooting at something, he's probably writing music or playing it...

Friday, March 06, 2009


It looks like Demolition's about to begin at the abandoned Firestone Building by Oak Park 'Maul'.

I took the later bus this morning. I was up pretty late working on some pet projects, the results of which I'll share with you at the end of this post. This allowed me to watch the sun come up. That makes me happy.

This is The Blackintosh. It's a Mac SE/30 From 1989 or thereabouts. Yes that means it's about 20 years old. I took the photo about 10 years ago before I went to DefCon 7 in Las Vegas. I used an Apple QuickTake 100, which was cutting-edge at the time. I did 'photoshop' this (I used GIMP, actually) to remove some unsightly clutter from the left.

Why am I posting a photo of a 20 year old computer on my bike blog? Well, because I had to carry a ton of parts for it (more like 12 pounds) on my way to work today, and I'm heading to the CCCKC Cave after work to hopefully get this beast back up and running for a presentation on using old computers.

I've got a LOT of really old computers. I happen to have two fully-functioning Mac SE/30s like this. I painted this one for reasons unknown. While both of them boot, I've found that MacOS 7 isn't really conducive to getting anything done. When you throw something like Linux (in my case, NetBSD) on it, though, you end up with a cute, tiny machine that can do basic text-only things such as email, light-duty web surfing, word processing and other fun stuff.

A lot of midnight oil was burned into the wee hours of this morning in an attempt to get things working properly for the little Blackintosh. Here's hoping the presentation goes smoothly this evening...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Main Street

I had a pleasant ride in this morning, my first ride all the way (in one direction, at any rate) in quite some time. Dew mixed with road salt and melting snow and left the road wet this morning, but with temperatures nearing 60*F, I couldn't help but ride.

Several companies you've heard of are headquartered right here in the greater KC area. Among them are Sprint/Nextel, Garmin, and of course AMC Theaters.

AMC has been doing a lot downtown. I've shown you the Midland Theater before. Now, they're almost done renovating the Mainstreet Theater as well.

That's all I've got for ya this morning. Time to catch up on whatever I missed at work yesterday.

Random Tunage:
Active Sight - Take The Day As It Comes
Iio - Rapture

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Sick Day

Temps got into the mid 60s today, but I was stuck indoors with a gnarly sinus infection. The Crud has been going around on the bus and in the office. I tried to hang out on the back porch to enjoy it. Dora was having a lot more fun than I was.

After dosing up on meds, I was feeling better after the sun went down. I had to pick up some groceries and drop some movies off.

Abstract homeward photo.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Heartbreaking. This is the alley behind my office. This is someone's 'home'

I crashed the mainframe again! (okay, not really, but I abended an application)

This guy was just grossing me out. He was saggin' so bad that he was practically grinding bare ass on the bus seats. Juggalos are strange. On a side note, most people grow out of this phase by the time they're 18. This specimen (I'd guess age 23) is quite possibly the oldest Juggalo in the history of all of mankind. Yes, I am a hater. Bite me.

Ah, freedom is a bicycle.

I had yesterday off to take care of some legal issues and other errands. I didn't ride the bike all the way downtown this morning because it hadn't touched pavement since I put it together. I needed a shakedown run. That, and it was well below freezing and skinny tires don't go well with black ice. I knew how the roads were on the way to the Maul, but not all the way downtown.

Things are a little crazy between my family and geek obligations. I'm not sure when I'll start at the full commute again. I was dreaming that the 2.5 mile ride to the bus this morning would be swift and effortless, but the higher gearing and headwind gave me the reality check: I am indeed as out-of-shape as I feel. I'll get it back, though.

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