Sunday, January 31, 2010


No offers yet, but some very exciting leads. Yes, I map places for my bike commute before I even go to an interview.

(question mark? by Leo Reynolds CC by-nc-sa)

You'll know more when I know more. For the time being, enjoy some snapshots.

Charlie, our new praise team drummer (okay, not really, but I love this shot, what a neat kid!)

Errands. Sending a stupid fax is expensive! I forgot I could've used the one at the club house for free. Does someone feel like explaining why I have to use my computer to print something out onto part of a dead tree, run it through this thing that turns it back into a digital document so it can go somewhere else where it's printed onto another part of a dead tree, so that someone can type the stuff back into a computer? This crap should have been on the way out in 1983 and abolished by 1997.



Foggy downtown

Brown Recluse. Unfortunately, I see more of these than any other spider in my apartment. Yes, I know they're poisonous to an extent, though rarely fatal. This isn't the largest specimen I've captured, but it's close, and it's pretty big for a recluse.

Random Tunage:
Electro Sun Vs Bizzare Contact - I've Got The Power (Remix)
Psychostick - BEER!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recombent motorized velomobile?

It's a 125cc Honda Innova that's been tweaked and now gets 199 MPG on average, with a record of 214. Notice he solves the problem using physics -- starting with a fairly efficient platform, then modifying aerodynamics and gearing -- rather than starting with an inefficient platform and attempting to solve the problem by adding a bunch of heavy, toxic batteries and in some cases attempting to charge those batteries from a coal-powered electric grid.

Granted, a human riding a bicycle (better yet: a recumbent velomobile) is still, as far as I know, the most efficient way to turn energy into distance traveled, but this kind of stuff will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I had to take a bus downtown to drop some stuff off. While there, I had one last coffee with JR, Lorin, and Bob, or at least the last one for quite a while. I've got a whole batch of interviews lined up this week, but no serious leads on work downtown.

On my way back home this morning, I saw the Velomobile locked up at the bus depot in Shawnee. Sorry, all I have is my OLD phone's camera with me, and I had to take the picture through a grimy and perf-wrapped window.

A much better photo of the Velomobile in question was taken by me on a Monday ride in '08.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When you would want studded tires

Tell me this doesn't look like fun. And yes, they are using studs. Via Cyclelicious.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waving goodbye to the Swobo Baxter

My review period is up, so I'm packing Bax up and sending him back to his native (and warmer) California. Be sure to check out my review on

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day six

Day six of job hunting. Yes. Day six. With a single text message, I activated my "network" on Friday while the HR lady was talking to me, before I even left my office. That started more than a dozen discussions with people all over the US. Some of those discussions led to people asking for my resume; the job hunt didn't slow down over the weekend, either. That means I've been at it for six days. I've filled out several "career" applications for local businesses, but haven't had any interviews yet. I remain optimistic. In my free time, I'm trying to bone up on knowledge that may help me land a gig.

I've also talked to a few recruiters and applied for a couple of part time gigs. Some technical, some not. All of which I'd probably love, none of which would provide the health insurance my wife needs. Also, none of them would they pay our rent unless I happened to get offers for every single part-time job I applied for and somehow managed to align the schedules so that I could work 80-hour weeks. Hey, I had a few 90 hour weeks at ONE job before. Ugh.

The jobs are out there in droves, but so are the un(der)-employed. I'm likely to be tossing my name into a hat with 150 others with every application I fill out.

Monday, January 11, 2010

First batch of recycled Ripple Glass...

I don't hate the whole Green Movement thing. There are many truly sustainable things coming out of it. It just so happens that cars getting no better gas mileage than my '95 Escort, while lugging around 400 pounds of difficult-to-recycle toxic waste isn't one of them.

Remember when I posted about the Ripple Glass site next to my (now former) employer's place? Well, it turns out that today a glass plant in Kansas City, belonging to Owens Corning -- makers of the famous pink home insulation -- has started producing the first batch of fiberglass made from Ripple Glass' recycled bottles. Not only does this keep those bottles out of our landfills and off of our roadways (where they cause flat tires and many other problems) but it takes far less energy to break up and melt old bottles than it takes to make fiberglass from raw materials. That's actually going green! This is a big win for everyone in Kansas City, and neither Ripple Glass nor Owens Corning could have done it without your help, and probably your alcohol habit. So, cheers to you! Bottoms up...

Friday, January 08, 2010

What comes next?

I don't know, and I am irrevocably jazzed about it! As of today, I am available for employment. Resume available to serious inquirers. I dig security and UNIX. Obviously, I am looking for something in bicycling distance (15 mi) from Lenexa, KS but it is not a requirement. Know someone that needs an awesome Info-Sec guy or a sysadmin? Send them my way!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Most difficult commute

-- or --
The Swobo Baxter only "kind of enjoys" this stuff.

Yesterday, I took the bus that drops me off at The Maul. Kind of a misake: Quivira was trashed. There was one and a half usable lanes, and cars were still treating it like two whole ones, even with me on the road. That meant I was getting buzzed. A LOT. And even taking what remained of the outside lane, people were still cutting too close for my comfort if it was dry out, much less with snow still adorning the roadway. I wasn't going to risk that again. The sidewalks were unusable, as well. Quivira's a no-go.

So I was betting on 87th street to at least have sidewalks that'd been smoothed over and trampled down by people. The sidewalks on 87th are generally ridable after a good snow-storm. The street itself was NOT going to be ridden on with the fresh snow we got today. Vehicular Psychlists and you Followers of Forrester: just shut up right freaking now, unless you tried riding 87th Street over I-35 today. Usually, I agree with you guys on the VC thing. Not today.

Having set my mind on 85th/87th, I decided to take the Antioch bus to get closer to home today. It was running a bit behind schedule, so I took some pics.

The reflective sidewalls still get me every time. I love that feature.

The bus ended up getting me to my usual stop at 85th about an hour behind schedule. That's okay. I have lights. 85th was fine. Snowpacked, but okay. So was Goddard. Then, I got to 87th. Packed with cars honking at one another, my decision to stay off the road itself was quickly reinforced. That's when the Baxter decided to not move. And who could blame it. The snow was knee deep in places, hip-deep in others, and right there at the BP Gas Station, it was almost enough to bury half the wheel.

So, I hiked. It was 2 miles of walking through all kinds of snow, plow boulders, and crap. All while hauling my backpack and pushing a bike through the stuff. When I got to the 87th street and I-35 overpass, I took a quick break. Just to catch my breath. Okay, maybe it was just a photo-op. But I laid there for a minute or two anyways, allowing my heart rate to settle down a bit.

When I got to the bank parking lot at 87th and Quivira, I was finally home free, on plowed residential thoroughfares and parking lots.

All told, my commute home took three hours, but a good chunk of that 3 hours was spent waiting for and riding on the bus. The last 3 miles (one on the bike, two on foot) took a little under an hour.

This was by far the most tedious commute to date, but I was mostly dressed for the occasion, and I got a good workout from the whole ordeal.

It is interesting that in 2 miles spent hiking through the snow along 87th street, there was not one single passerby who paid me any attention at all. No honks. No "are you alright?" No anything. Not that I needed or wanted any help (I could've summoned help easily had I felt life or limb to be in danger) but I really thought that mankind was just a bit more decent than that.

The Swobo Baxter likes this stuff

Family Bicycles Groupon: $29 Tune-Up

It's a play on words. A group coupon. Get it?

Family Bicycles is a great little commuter/utility-bicycling friendly shop in the heart of Waldo, and they're offering a tune-up for $29.

My friend Andy just tipped me off to this. Looks like there's about 16 hours left to get in on it. I don't know how Groupon works*, but $29 for an off-season tune-up (parts extra) is a heck of a deal, and Family Bicycles is one of my favorite shops in town. I just wish I lived closer!  Supposedly the deal was only offered if 10 people or more signed on for it, but there's already 23 people, so you should be good to go.

If you're not mechanically inclined, this could be the break you need. Even if you don't plan on riding in the snow this winter, you can rest assured that your bike will be clean and running smooth by the time spring gets here.

* I'd honestly never heard of Groupon before, but it seems like a legitimate deal. Call Family Bikes at 816-268-1757 if you have any questions.

Monday, January 04, 2010

It's official:

Well, more than one thing is official.

The first thing is that the Vittoria Randonneur tires on the Swobo Baxter test mule are awesome. I played in the snow a few days after I took delivery of it, but today was the first true test of a commute on bad roads that had been preliminarily cleared a bit.

Saturday, I took the Baxter out to play in an abandoned parking lot, where snow was a good foot deep on average, and 18" in some spots. I thought it'd be cool to get some snowy action photos, but the Baxter would not move. I'll see if I can find some pics in the mess that show how bad it was. The tire would just spin.

I've had The Goat out in 8" deep snow before, and it worked alright, but I'm betting the really knobby tires and 1.95" width had something to do with it. Still, I don't know how well it would've fared in stuff twice as deep. If the tires sink to the ground (likely when it's powdery snow), the wheel is more than half buried, and one's feet will barely clear the snow AT THE TOP of the pedal stroke. That's when you probably would be better off on those 4-inch Surly Endomorphs.

So it's also official: This is the most snow I've ever seen come down without a melt cycle here in Kansas City, and I've lived here for 22 years and change now. The winter of '91-92 is the closest thing in memory, but I think this winter trumps even that one from nearly two decades past.

Lastly, it's official: It's freakin' COLD. 6*F this morning, but it dropped to -1 yesterday morning. I've ridden a short distance at -4F once, and the whole commute at 0F last winter. They're predicting -6 ambient later this week, and at least one local forecaster thinks that it could get into the double-digits below zero.

Therefore, this winter with its cold and snow reminds me of the good old days: growing up in rural Nebraska where 20-inch blizzards were not unheard-of and there were two snow plows for every 1,000 residents.

The morning commute
As I'd stated, the 28mm Vittoria Randonneur tires held up great this morning. On them, I encountered glare ice beneath packed snow, powder, slush, chemical-melted grime and all things in between. The ice required me to be seated in order to progress forward (it was also on an uphill) but the Randos held tough, much to my surprise. This winter does have me pondering the use of commercially available studded tires for my Mountain bike, but that will have to wait for a bit. Two fellow year-rounders I know of have made the jump to studs. I'm betting after FIVE crashes this winter, another friend of mine might be ready to do the same. Me? I'm doing alright with what I have, but this winter is one where I can see a real benefit to studded tires, unlike years past where it was mostly slush, and a really good melt-off happened every 2-3 days.

The brunt of the snow happened almost two weeks ago, Christmas eve into Christmas day. We were to pick up my grandmother in Overland Park, then drive to Stilwell on Christmas morning for breakfast and Christmas festivities. The roads were horrible. 119th Street had barely been cleared, my grandmother's parking lot was untouched, with an average snow depth of 18-24" everywhere, thanks to the wind and the layout of the buildings. It was one of the first times I've ever had a genuine need for full-on 4x4 mode in our Explorer. My brother-in-law's RWD-only Explorer had all kinds of problems. I ended up delivering Christmas presents to them through the un-plowed streets of Olathe, KS.

Here are some of the simple things I did for Christmas this year.

In 1993 or so, I kind of home-schooled for a year. I say kind-of, because I had most of the facts and skills expected of kids older than me, so the reality is, I took a year off from school due to some medical things. I didn't do much traditional course work. I studied under my grandfather, who taught my vocational skills in hopes, I think, that I'd take over his business for him when I came of age. Unfortunately, he passed away before I could do that. That year, however, one of the things we worked on together was this ArcherKit thermometer thing that he'd packratted away in 1977, two whole years before I was even born. Some 16 years later, we worked on it, and got it almost fully functional, but then it got put away before we got to adjusting it and putting the finishing touches on. I found it recently, and finished this project that Grandpa and I had started 13 years ago, and gave it to my mother. Not only is it a RadioShack classic from a completely different era of do-it-yourselfers, but it's of immense sentimental value. I had no qualms leaving the $17.95 price tag sticker intact.

When I was learning to play bass guitar (okay, I'm probably still learning), Dad gave me his practice amplifier. He doesn't really have a practice amp anymore, and I thought I'd build one for him. This one is small enough to fit in a gig bag, and can run off a 9V battery or a power cord that I included. I soldered the circuit inside together myself, modifying some plans I saw online. It's all built into an old satellite speaker for a home theater system. It's not terribly loud, but it's a great little practice amp with a nice tone to it. I also added a headphone jack, which is nice for when you want to clearly hear what you're playing on an electric guitar without disturbing anyone else. Most of the parts for this were salvaged from piles of stuff I had laying around at home. Many of the components were removed from old, broken gadgets and soldered into place.

The device I tried to build for my sister didn't go too well, so I ended up buying a kit that you solder together yourself at the last minute. I decided that instead of soldering it together quickly (I could have pulled it off in about 3 minutes), that I'd give it to my sister in its original packaging, and teach her how to solder. She did great, and now she knows how to solder things.

I also got some cool stuff for Christmas as well, but none of it compares to the real meaning of Christmas, not to mention the gift of seeing my family smile.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Wintery Links

Well it's Friday, and vacation's almost over.

Doug compares monstrous 3.7" Surly Endomorph snow tires to more traditional 35mm studded ice tires.

cDude fabricates a cargo rack mounting solution for his winter beater.

Evan covers "underbiking" -- An unfamiliar term for something I love: Off-roading my road bike.

jwz gets his bicycle stolen. again. If I lived in SF, I'd consider buying a sixpack of huffies for errands and commuting.

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