Thursday, April 30, 2009

Heck of a day for fender failure

It's rained more this week than I can imagine. The roads are finally getting flushed of the build-up sand, salt, and sludge, but in its wake remains a healthy layer of water, and the rain just keeps falling.

Of course, today had to be the day that my front fender bit the dust:

I've had to patch up my rear fenders a few times. The front one was, until now, holding up. This is the nail in the coffin for SKS fenders. I'm not sure why the front one failed. I could have damaged it during Monday's crash and it may have finally split all the way through this morning, so I'm not laying the blame squarely on SKS. When I get the funds, I'll replace these with Planet Bike Cascadia fenders. I've heard nothing but good things about them from other commuters, and I look forward to the longer mudflaps on the Cascadia.

From a few days ago. Park Tool makes my favorite bicycle tools, and they know what matters. Built-in bottle opener as found on the Park MTB-3.

A friend of mine pointed out that I'm using a bottle opener on a twist-off cap in the above photo. I honestly don't even bother looking at beer bottle caps anymore. Some of the ones I buy twist off. Others do not. They all open with a bottle opener, though. Whilst grilling supper and cleaning The Twelve off on the one nice afternoon Mother Nature graced us with this week, a nice, cold Boulevard Wheat was the perfect complement.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tricks of the Trade: Rainy Commuting

Yesterday was my first truly rainy commute of 2009. I've ridden in some damp conditions and in sprinkles, but yesterday took all that to a new level with a day-long deluge that had waned into sprinkles by the time I got off work, leaving the roads with water rushing to the storm drains.

I've had a few people asking for advice on rainy commuting.

1st: Stay Safe
Visibility is reduced for both you and motorists. Make sure your lights work and use them even during the day. Reflective clothing is a bonus. Look ahead and ride slower if you need to. Stay diligent looking for road hazards. Water can obscure broken glass and road-debris, pot-holes, storm drains and other things you would normally avoid.

Painted or non-porous surfaces get very slippery when it's been raining. Use extreme caution when riding over expansion joints, manhole covers, road stripes (especially the wide "stop" lines), metal plates on the road and railroad tracks. This one gets me on occasion, as I'll explain in a bit.

2nd: Keep your gear dry
Most commuters haul stuff to and from work: work clothes, gadgets, papers, lunch and whatnot. That stuff doesn't do much good if it's wet. I use panniers with rain covers, but even those don't keep things 100% dry. You can buy waterproof panniers and messenger bags. I just wrap my sensitive stuff in plastic or use large zip-lock bags and re-use them until they're no longer waterproof. You have many options.

I also keep a complete spare change of clothes and a towel at the office for emergencies or in case I forget something at home. On seriously rainy days, I could just ride my bike and bring nothing along with me, then change into my dry clothes.

3rd: Comfort
Fenders keep rain from splashing up on your back and into your face and legs. Long after it rains, wet roads can make your commute miserable. Fenders fix that, and when it's raining, you'll get hit mostly by clean rain from the sky instead of experiencing the constant barrage of road grime -- that is until some car passes you and splashes it all over the place or you get stuck riding behind a cyclist without decent fenders.

You can buy specialty rainsuits, but less-expensive waterproof pants often get torn up quickly on a bicycle due to snagging in the chain and wear from the saddle. High-end gore-tex pants are expensive. I usually opt to let my legs get wet unless it's below 50 degrees outside.

Keeping a cheap $3 rain poncho around can help a lot when it's pouring like it was in Kansas City yesterday morning. It covers enough of your legs to keep your shorts from getting totally soaked. Combined with fenders, a cheap poncho is a good thing to have around. They're small and fit easily in panniers or backpacks.

I got my own taste of slippery metal yesterday:

I wasn't looking far enough ahead when I rode into that region. It's an expansion joint with two metal rails and a rubber pad between them. I have no clue why it's there. Once I'd crossed the perpendicular joint just past the paint stripe, it was too late to brake. The joint comes back across the road, which forced me to hit it almost parallel. My tire slipped, then fell into the groove. Fortunately, a little bit of road rash to the knee is the only bad thing that happened.

Of course, I've already written some stuff on how to handle road rash. After cleaning the wound, I covered it with Tegaderm and got on with my life. Tegaderm stands up to showering and covers scrapes with a breathable membrane that lets the healing process happen quickly and without scabbing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fixer Redux

Not any photos from the repair-fest this weekend, but I managed to stay plenty busy over the weekend, and met some nice folks, too!

Wayne is a truck driver who I met online. Almost daily, he drives more than I ride my bike in some of my best months. Now that his kids are getting to riding age, he wanted some neglected Rockhoppers checked out. I'm not sure of the vintage (mid or early 90s?), but he brought them over to my place for a tune-up. Neither bike had an immediate need for parts. Some adjustments and tri-flow, and Wayne was on his way with a pair of bikes that are solid, safe, and ready for a summer of enjoyment.

Today, I got Drew's 2006 Giant FCR in order. Drew's a fellow commuter that is stepping up from a department store bike, and the FCR's a good choice for some. In fact, it's almost identical to Eric's FCR. Drew's bike was a craigslist find with about 2,000 miles on it (according to the bike computer). Supposedly, it's been in for regular tune-ups, but the chain and cassette looked like what I'd expect 2,000 miles to look like: Not destroyed, but well due for replacement. The front wheel needed some truing as well, but nothing I couldn't do on the spot. My guess is the tires and brakes have another season in them, and we installed new handlebar grips since he didn't like the OEM's.

I did have a hiccup with my MacBook Friday Night. The hard drive finally gave up the ghost. Not entirely unexpected, though, considering the abuse I put it through. I didn't really lose any data, though. Remember to backup your data, folks! It isn't hard and while it does take some time and effort, it's worth it when it matters! I'm currently using a smallish borrowed hard drive for my MacBook until payday when I can hopefully shell out for an upgrade. As it stands, I can't restore everything to this hard drive and (unsurprisingly) photographs and music are the two heaviest hitters. That means I'll have to use my OpenBSD workstation for posting photos for the time being so photos will be a little infrequent for the upcoming week.

I also got some writing done, and rocked out on the bass guitar with the praise team at church. I'm getting a little more confident playing for an audience. All in all, a very productive weekend.

Stay safe out there, everyone! The entire midwest is going through some funky weather patterns for the next day or so. Try to keep 'er shiny side up.

Weathery Weekend

Friday afternoon met Karen and I with high winds. We both ended up on the Antioch Express bus back home. Along 85th street, I noticed my tires were picking up a lot of pollen. It's kind of hard to see in this photo, but it must be all the budding trees nearby.

Redbud trees from Friday's homeward ride. I'm pretty sure with the weekend's storms, the buds are gone by now.

A quick post-tornado storm ride to the store. Wet roads. Dry bike ride. I love my fenders!

This weather system looks pretty tenacious. It could stick around until sometime tomorrow. Right now, it seems to be stalled and building again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Photo Dump

For Steven, who is only here for the photos. They're not that great, man.

Dorking with HDR after finally "cleaning my room" - My wife and I got The Lab-O-Ratory in order once again. Because of this, I have actually started using my desktop systems instead of just lounging around with my laptop. That's good, too, because OpenBSD 4.5 comes out in just a few more days, and I'm itching to get my paws on it.

... and Boots is getting his paws on a mouse. We are still having trouble getting Boots and Dora integrated again. It's been something like 3 weeks now. Boots doesn't feel safe on the floor for fear of being attacked (which he likely would be) so he opts for higher ground, such as found on my desk.

I didn't take this. I found it on ThinkGeek. GUMMY BACON. Seriously, what more could you ask for?

It was kinda roasty in the office when I showed up for work yesterday.

After work, I caught up with KhartaPurkh Khalsa and Eric Rogers, counting pedestrians and cyclists in Westport. I stopped to take their survey, too.

Firefighters Fountain in Penn Valley Park

Bicycle Parking at CCCKC

Some flowstone in the old limestone mines

A close-up of the speleothem.

And some abstract (okay, just plain blurry and crappy) photography on the much-later-than-usual homeward commute. It was yet another awesome, warm night for a bike ride!

Random Tunage:
Directional Force - Parameter
Polaris - Advertising

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I have a plan...

The Lenexa Midnight Bike Ride: it's one of my favorite events of the year. Some people look forward to Spring Classic. Others to the first bike commute of the year, or perhaps the start of the Brevet Series. Not me. I wait with bated breath for the one tiny glimmer in the midst of the banal phase of the cycling calendar that is the month of July: The Midnight Bike Ride

The reason? It's a fun ride that I can drag my friends along to. But mostly, it's the stretch of subterranean street known as the Meritex compound. After slogging up two decent grades on Prairie Star Parkway, you earn the right to descend into the chilly, humid caves. It's somewhat surreal and loads of fun; worth the price of entry on its own.

This year, The Lenexa Midnight Bike Ride isn't going to go through the caves. It won't even start at Old Town Lenexa. It won't even take place on public roadways. The organizers are holding it at Shawnee Mission Park, where families can do laps around a 4-mile loop to their heart's content (or until they finally shut things down). This, to me, is a Pretty Big Deal for several reasons:

  1. No cave action
  2. A 4 mile loop is going to feel like a criterium
  3. A loop with kids is going to feel like an elementary school bike rodeo
  4. The hills around Shawnee Mission Park will force people some to walk the bike
Basically, this could be a good time for some people, but not for me.

I may still donate to the Optimist club and get the T-shirt, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be attending. Instead, I think I'm going to arrange my own ride, in conjunction with the Dark Side Ride group. It will likely be held the same night as the Lenexa Midnight Bike Ride (meet around 11:45PM July 11th, kick off at midnight), but it will probably be a shorter route than most of the other Dark Side Rides (because it'll start at midnight, not 9:00PM). I'm going to talk to some folks tomorrow and see if I can't get access to some caves to ride through.

I kind of have a route already planned, but I need to make sure I can use the caves that are along the way. If so, the start location would be just off the highway in Merriam, the ride itself would be less than 20 miles, and the out-and-back route would land us tastily close to a 24-Hour Denny's that we can hijack afterwards.

Interested? Leave a comment or e-mail me ( noah at kc-bike dot net )

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's spreading... slowly!

Friday was the first day that my bike wasn't alone in the bike rack at work. On my way out of town, I noticed another bike rack in a parking garage near my office, similarly packed. This morning, as I cleared the Quivira Viaduct apex, I noticed the distinct mesmerizing pulse of a Planet Bike Superflash off in the distance. I picked up the pace.

It ended up being John C on his Trek 820. He works for Army Corps of Engineers downtown and frequently takes the bus but I haven't seen his bike around for a while. He accompanied us on several of our commuter convoys last year, including most of the convoys for Bike Week 2008. I haven't seen another bike on the second L bus in months.

I forgot to mention another oddity I missed mentioning about the Dark Side Ride. Fenders. More than half of the bikes being ridden had fenders. Now, with the looming threat of rain, it doesn't surprise me too much. Still, fenders are a good indicator that a bike is being used and enjoyed for more than just the occasional fair-weather weekend group ride. I saw an almost equal number of racks as well. That usually means the bikes are being used for errands as well as transportation.

All of this combined makes me happy. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dark Side Ride IV

Friday, after riding home with Karen, I noticed some blossoms on the trees in my apartment complex.

Friday night was the fourth installment of The Dark Side Ride. Our night rides (which have gone under various names) usually happen about monthly during "Bicycling Season" and start at about 9:00 PM. Riders are subject to RUSA rules for lighting, safety and reflective gear just so that everyone is seen and safe. Usually, they're about 25-40 miles in length, so riders should be ready to ride that far and have lights that last several hours. As you can see, there's probably a good 5,000 lumens in this crowd. For the most part we stay together, so if you don't have an insanely bright light, you'll probably still be able to see pretty well.

The turn-around point in Belton.

It was nice to see lots of faces. I think we had 14 people total? I finally got to meet Darius, plus some other folks I haven't seen in a while... some as long as almost two years! cDude, as usual, put on a heck of a ride. I don't remember everyone's name, but I know Wildcat Al, Randy, Badger, Clem, Nan, Chris and Dave were among us. Grr! I need to remember some names. :(

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I think spring is actually back

But I'm kind of sick of my page layout and color scheme, so I'll probably be mixing it up a bit over the next few days before I ditch the "Winter Edition" look.

I took it pretty easy on the homeward, just savored it. Ever since Southwest Boulevard got re-surfaced from Rosedale to the WY/JO County Line, I've found it to be a lot more relaxing to ride on. Prior to this, it was like navigating a moonscape -- juggling your attention between the pavement and the traffic to make sure you don't swerve in front of a car whilst avoiding a pot-hole.

I only managed to get one picture on the ride home:

This is David. He was stranded on Southwest Boulevard with a flat. His "slime" tires didn't help anything. They just made fixing the flat even messier. He had some rudimentary tire patches and a hand pump but no way to affix the patches. I gave him the last of my Park Tool glueless patches (I had 4, but used one on his tire) and sent him on his way.

Most of the tools and supplies I carry in my seat wedge pack get used on other peoples' bikes, but that's okay with me. Watch, I just jinxed myself into a double-flat I'm not prepared to fix by giving my patches away. That's okay, talking about flats is a sure-fire way to get a flat, too. Perhaps these will cancel each other out.

I think I have some more park patches in the wedge on my mountain bike... If not, I suppose I could break out the old vulcanized rubber cement patches.

Random Tunage:
Bam Bam - Where Is Your Child
Paul van Dyk - Vega (Starecase Remix)

Back and Out

I haven't had a full out-and-back commute using only my bike in quite a while. Part of it is economics. I'm paying (albeit very little) for the bus pass and I can get away with eating smaller meals when I take the bus. It's a way to save a few bucks per month.

Just like yesterday afternoon was beautiful, so was this morning. Temps in the 50s, breeze out of the southeast, and a little tiny threat of rain, but I just got sprinkled on a bit.

I guess I had a "back and out" round-trip commute instead of an "out and back" one.

It's hard to see, but there's a rainbow here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I had some errands to run after work that required me to go home via Westport. On my way south on Main, I saw the beginnings of Kansas City's Tax-Day #Teaparty. I don't completely grasp what the deal is with this "Tea Party" business.

I do know that despite what they say about being a non-partisan grassroots movement, it is unsurprisingly heavy on conservative participants. It's strange to see conservatives protest with this kind of turn-out. Usually, you only get this kind of sign-holding crowd with people decrying the war, fighting for gay rights and civil liberties. Sure, a few conservative extremists might picket abortion clinics, but I'm talking about hundreds of protesters, perhaps even a thousand. I've never seen anything like this from a conservative group.

Anyhow, here's the photos from near the Liberty Memorial.

The current Flag of the United States of America is a complex one with no official meaning to its symbols other than one star for each state in the union. While it tugs at the heart-strings of America, its meaning is open to interpretation.

Unless you're a history buff, you've probably never seen or heard of the Gadsden Flag until recently, when it started regaining popularity. There's not much left to interpret. It's a freaking rattlesnake ready to strike, with the words "DONT TREAD ON ME" [sic] written on it. It was one of the earliest flags from our history. It was blunt and to the point. It still is.

It's hard to tell from these photos (some of which were taken at the limit of my point-and-shoot camera's digital zoom) but there are also droves of protesters on the memorial structure in the background.

Time to reel this back into bicycling, though.

I have never ridden home from Westport before. That was interesting. I ended up taking Westport Road out to Mission Road, taking that more or less all the way to Tomahawk, then back through old-town Overland Park as if I were coming back from the usual Monday night ride.

I had one interesting moment on Shawnee Mission Parkway (which I had to use as a detour for a short section of Mission road) where I found a kid on a 49cc Honda scooter attempting to race me. While I'm certain his top speed would have bested my own, I had the jump on him when it came to accelerating. I haven't hit 37 MPH on my bike (without the help of a serious downhill) in months. It felt good to sprint for a bit.

All in all, the day's errands added a mere two miles to my homeward. I also learned about a few stretches of bike-friendly road... and a few dicey sections that I am not quite sure I want to ride on in evening rush-hour again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So, you're thinking about bicycle commuting?

Although it was near freezing this morning when I left, it was also the first time in months that I've seen a sliver of the sun above the horizon as I left home. That means that "bicycle season" is upon us, and I won't seem so crazy anymore.

With the looming economic woes, many folks are looking at ways to cut back the budget, either to make ends meet or to increase the size of their nest-egg. Now is a great time to break out that bike and take it for a spin to work. It's the fun, healthy, and cheap way to travel relatively short distances!

The Facts

  • The average person will be about 4 times faster on a bicycle than they would be on foot for a given amount of effort. People who walk at 2-3 MPH can comfortably cruise along at about 10 MPH.
  • Almost anyone can ride a mile or two on a bicycle. It just takes some getting used to.
  • About 40% of urban travel in the US is within 2 miles. Again, most people can ride that far.
  • There are many proven benefits to getting 30 minutes of cardio workout per day.
  • You can get 30 minutes of cardio out of 4-6 miles of bicycle riding.
  • With a proper diet, you won't likely need to eat more food than usual for these distances.
It's all about comfort, but almost any bicycle will work fine for commuting a few miles each direction. Upright cruiser bicycles with fenders and chain guards are a popular choice for the urban bicycle commuter. Mountain bikes are cheap and plentiful, but don't do too well for longer distances. Road bikes, touring bikes and cyclocross bikes are popular for those who are used to weekend group rides, those who prefer a faster pace, or those who have longer commutes. A reputable bike shop should be able to help you decide on the right kind of bike.

If you've already got a bicycle that's gathering dust, why not have a bicycling friend or a bike shop look at it? If you're in the Kansas City area, I'd be happy to tune your bike up for you, and show you how to do routine maintenance checks. Just send me an email via the form on the right side of my website.

Accessories are a personal preference thing. Feel free to eschew any of these if you don't think they're for you. Take helmets for example. After crashing WITH a helmet (and imagining how bad it could be without one), I usually opt to wear mine. Then again, I ride daily, sometimes as much as 29 miles round trip. I usually don't wear one when I ride to get groceries. That's a 2.5 mile round trip ridden mostly through parking lots and residential roads. The decisions are yours.

In general, you will want some kind of lighting on your commuter bike. This will help grab the attention of the motorists, both oncoming and overtaking. The Planet Bike Superflash is a relatively inexpensive (and very bright) option for a tail light. It's what I use daily.

Headlights are a different thing entirely. They can basically be divided into two groups: "to see with" and "to be seen". The former group of lights are typically more expensive (yikes!) You really only need "to see with" lights if you intentionally ride in the early morning or late evening when ambient and/or overhead street lighting isn't enough to safely ride by. You can still find some relatively inexpensive lights to fit the bill here. Look for LED lights offering more than 140 Lumens (200+ is better) or Halogens offering more than 10 Watts (15 and up is better).

"To be seen" lights are usually flashing LED headlights. Many can be purchased for $25-$30. They are good to use in fog, rain, or toward sunrise and sunset. For this, I use an older 2.4 Watt halogen predecessor to the CatEye EL220.

If I'm recommending things to people who are just getting started, I recommend a "to be seen" headlight and tail light set. I wouldn't commute without them. Best of all, these less expensive lights are easy to find at almost any sporting goods store, or even the "bicycle shaped toy" aisle at big retail shops.

Being seen, if you can't tell, is a bonus. Reflective vests, proper reflectors on your bicycle (front, rear, pedal reflectors and spoke reflectors) and other reflective items (Shoes with reflective material, reflective tape on your bicycle, etc) help you to be seen. Bicycling isn't about looking cool, so don't pretend. Be seen. This is more important for those who commute near dusk and dawn.

This ties in with the next section, Logistics. Most commuters will have to carry stuff to and from work. Backpacks, panniers, cargo racks, trunk bags, messenger bags and handlebar bags are all viable solutions. You will have to choose what fits your needs and wants. It helps if your bicycle is compatible with the method you choose. Not all bikes are designed for cargo racks, for example; and wearing a backpack can be tricky whilst riding a recumbent.

Creature Comforts
Fenders can keep puddles from ruining your day and when it's raining lightly, they keep road grime from giving you the Butt Stripe Of Doom. Water bottles or hydration backpacks help on longer commutes or in hot climates. A seat wedge with flat-tire repair stuff is nice to have, but only if you're comfortable fixing your flat tires. Sometimes, it's just easier to carry a mobile phone so you can have a friend rescue you from those situations.

At work, you may need specialized clothing that may or may not be conducive to cycling. You may also need to take lunch, a briefcase, or other bulky items along. Take these into account when figuring out how you are going to make sure you get to work with everything you need intact.

When the weather is nice, you can get away with riding a bicycle in business casual or even more formal clothes, if you only have a mile or two worth of riding. Use an ankle strap or roll the pant leg up to keep it from getting stained or caught by the chain. Alternatively, use a bicycle with a chain guard. A T-shirt beneath the work clothes you'd normally wear will keep you from pitting-out that office shirt so easily.

If you've got a little further to ride, you might encounter puddles or rain, or you'd just rather not risk putting wear and tear on your work clothes, you can opt to do a number of things:
  • Keep work clothes and shoes in your office
  • Carry some of all of your work clothes with you on the bike every day
  • Occasionally haul a few days of clean clothes to the office (by bike or by car)
Those are just a few examples. Depending on what else you need to carry with you, you can determine the appropriate cargo solution as mentioned above.

When the weather isn't too great or I don't feel too well, I ride my bike to the bus stop. Many metropolitan areas facilitate bicycles on their trains and buses. The full 29-mile round trip is definitelty longer than most people would consider a reasonable bike ride. When I include the bus, I ride about 5-6 miles per day. This combination of bicycling with transit provides a great deal of flexibility. I no longer need to worry about taking the bus to the same place my car is parked. I have a bicycle with me downtown to get around with, and parking is free wherever I go.

More questions?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Monday, April 13, 2009

R.I.P.s, Resurrections and Miscellany

Two Bicycle website R.I.P.s came across my radar this weekend:
Rick Smith announced that Yehuda Moon -- my favorite (only?) bicycle web-comic -- is closing shop for a while. R.I.P.

A vague post on Blue Collar MTB leads me to believe that all the Crooked Cog sites' days are numbered. That includes Commute By Bike. R.I.P.

I suppose that means that as the nice weather picks up, you'll be seeing more of my Tricks of the Trade and Product Reviews right here for the time being unless someone else (ahem) wants to snag me up.

Good Friday -- Oddly enough an R.I.P. in and of itself -- was last week. Like any other banking holiday, my company was closed. I had some business to attend to at a local retirement home 2 miles away from my place, but not an R.I.P.

Unrelated side-note: My great-grandfather died in 1991 at this retirement home at the age of 107! An avid mycologist by hobby, he wrote at least one book on mushrooms. He was also the oldest person to ever carry the Olympic torch, at age 99 in the 1984 Olympics. This event and his name were even mentioned by Ronald Reagan at the 1984 RNC. I miss him, but I'm glad he lasted long enough for me to remember him. R.I.P.

My wife and I went to the pet store on Friday as well. Not surprisingly, ducklings and bunnies were selling like hot-cakes. I'm not entirely sure what one would do with a full-grown duck as a pet. I suppose you'd just let it fly off. It would be pretty hard to keep one indoors.

I rode to Easter morning service, which was held at The Commons. It's an 11 mile trip in each direction. I only barely missed the rain on my way home. I carried about a 16 MPH average both directions, including stopped time. It feels good to finally see some of my speed coming back a little at a time.

Later, my wife and I drove down to my parents' place for a late Easter lunch.

This morning: Cold and wet. Half-way to the bus stop, I watched as my phone fell out of my jacket, bouncing and skidding along the wet pavement for a few dozen yards. The past few four-day work-weeks have me spoiled and I feel a serious case of the Mondays coming on.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

On your left.

Cue the dramatic Jaws music...

This lady must have thought I said "move left" because she moved left. Fortunately, I wasn't going too fast.

On your left.

On your l...WHAT IN THE HELL?!

The driver of this thing was actually cleaning up trash and otherwise maintaining the trail. I do catch the occasional Mo-Ped on these trails though.

Tea Time.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I think it might be here! It got up to about 70 degrees today. Watch, I probably just jinx'd it.

Security: You're doing it wrong! Actually, there are some locks in the door as well, so these chintzy padlocks aren't too helpful anyway. They've been like this for days, though.

87th St. Bridge

Our praise team had a BBQ at The Commons (the closest thing we have to a fellowship hall, it's a refurbished house). We played a game I'd never before seen. My friends tell me it's "Hillbilly Golf". The guy throwing is our new associate pastor, Steve. He was a year ahead of me in high school. We were in choir and a few other extracirricular groups together.

I suck at Hillbilly Golf.

This is Peanut, my pastor's family dog. Peanut is not amused that we're indoors munching on Steve's smoked BBQ brisket while he's outside.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

You don't see this every day...

Yes, Smoke.

My wife called me while she was out this evening and told me to look outside. Sure enough, the atmosphere was filled with the hazy look and murky scent of smoke. I tried to get good photos of it, but I couldn't get them to turn out.

According to the news, the smoke was from a controlled burn several hundred miles away.

Ice, snow, smoke... Maybe tomorrow will be NORMAL?!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Evil Geniuses

I'm paraphrasing here, but one of the guys on a local geek/tech mailing list said Kansas City will continue to have snow every weekend until our demands are met...

At first, I chortled merrily. I'm a bit of a mad scientist myself (although I'm not terribly evil and I'm certainly not a genius)

And then, I groaned. I really don't much care for this weather. It's been intermittently sleeting, raining, snowing and flurrying very lightly all day and it looks like I'm in for some abysmal elements in the morning. I'm probably going to need to take The Goat out of hiding for this one. Try to stay shiny side up out there tomorrow, fellow midwesterners.

Random Tunage:
Ferry Corsten - Shelter Me
Britney Spears - Everytime

Not that I really give two farts what anyone thinks of my (lack of?) musical taste, but check it out before you flame me for the Britney track. This ethereal gem was hiding in her 2003 album In The Zone. This was an otherwise barely-tolerable album toward the beginning of an era where the line between pop and hip-hop was fading fast. Its only chart-impacting single was "Toxic" - in more than one way. All that aside, "Everytime" managed to pull off a vibe that's distinctly out of its element, and I like it. You might, too.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Breaker of things

No, I didn't break a bike. Sally's bike is all geared up now, with fresh handlebar grips and brake pads. Almost all the way adjusted.

This evening, I helped some friends break into a phone card vending machine at CCCKC. My friend Jon bought it from a local surplus shop. One of the guys at the surplus place accidentally locked it without having the key.

After a trying to occasionally pick the lock and failing... (This is my friend Trent using a special tubular-lock picking tool)

We just went ahead and drilled it out this evening. A few years back, I found some drill bits in the dumpster that were designed for drilling hardened steel locks. They came in handy tonight.

I'm having a bad hair day.

Inside? No money or free phone calls to Mexico. But now we can actually set this thing up to do something useful. Jon (the middle guy above), who owns it, is thinking of turning it into a machine that can burn copies of free software, like Ubuntu Linux, for example. It may or may not charge money for the service. I look forward to seeing what happens with this little project.

Fixer of things

Last week, I took delivery of Sally's Specialized Crossroads Cruz. I knew it needed some things. I immediately mail-ordered some tires. Those came in yesterday.

This box was huge but light. The spring clip on my rack held it in place nicely. I just had to ride across the apartment complex with it, as the package was left at the clubhouse.

As I started tearing into the bike for the first time, I caught a few things that weren't readily apparent when I took it in. For instance, the bottom bracket cup was way out of adjustment. It was binding. Fortunately, no permanent damage was done. I cleaned it all up while I had it apart and packed the bearings with my favorite grease, made for boat trailer axles. It's thicker than most bottom bracket grease, but the cranks spin smoothly. This waterproof grease is what I used on Hybridzilla's bottom bracket, and it saved me tons of hassle on wet days. Unlike Hybridzilla (Marketed by Diamondback), this bike has some dust seals on the BB cups, so water getting in won't be as much of a concern. Better safe than sorry, though.

Sally wanted narrowish, higher-pressure tires, but not slick road tires. I opted for the Forte Gotham city tires. At 700x35, they're a good touring and city tire with a nice, efficient tread pattern. They're rated for 75 PSI, so they're plenty firm but the width helps absorb some of the harshness from the road.

For giggles, I threw a battery in the computer that was on the bike. It works just fine, so I calibrated it for the tire size.

Right before I got The Twelve fixed up with a new rear wheel, my backpack broke. One of the straps just ripped clean off from the bottom. The stitches came out. This bag's construction is too thick and beefy for most stitching needles to go through, so I shelved the bag. The thing is almost two and a half years old; I probably should have thrown it out, but I didn't.

Last night, I had an idea. There's a hard plastic backing inside the backpack, and both the strap and outer layers are nylon. I heated up an old soldering iron of mine and rammed it through the layers of plastic and vinyl, creating a perfect (and sealed-from-fraying) hole for which to pass some zip ties through. It's so ghetto, but it worked so well. I have a backpack again!

I used that backpack this morning and threw my lights on the Crossroads for my commute to the bus. I wasn't expecting rain, so I got wet (damn I miss my fenders!) but it rode like a dream. It totally needs new brakes, though.

Some xkcd humor on the Starbucks blackboard this morning.

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