Logging off another user, remotely

So, for some reason someone left root logged in to the physical console on one of my Linux servers (Debian 4.0 on x86, if you must know), probably to see if the system was up after a power event. Well, of course it was up. I don't like root being logged into the physical console for obvious reasons, so in case I need it in the future, the appropriate incantation is:

# skill -KILL -t tty1

You're welcome.


Snowy Sunday project: Heat molding my 32 Forecasts

Nothing to it.

A $40 heat gun, some cardboard tube, a thermocouple, an hour and a half, and three beers. I was going to take my boots to the nearest Zumiez today, and simply take the path of least resistance. I'm sure the heater that 32 gives it's distributors does a fantastic job of heating their liners. Unfortunately, I called them and their sales representative chirpily informed me that while they sold 32s they 'don't do heat molding', and none of their locations do heat molding, sorry. Which didn't seem plausible, but after saying 'Really?' and 'Are you sure?' in an incredulous voice a couple of times, I gave up. Hell, I have a heat source and a basic knowledge of thermodynamics. Who doesn't?

The key was ducting the hot air into the toe of the boot. I used a handy 1.5 inch cardboard tube that had a previous life as the center of a roll of wrapping paper. If you just blow heat into the top of the boot, you won't get good airflow through the liner, and the heat just stratifies in the top of the boot. You need to get the air down into the toe, and then it will heat the rest of the liner as it flows out of the boot. I heat soaked the liner at about 220F for 15 minutes. I cut a notch in the tube about 6 inches from the end so it would bend a little more gracefully.

Not the most elegant solution, but cardboard is a very poor conductor, and I wasn't worried about the tube singing the liner. Ultimately it worked very well.

I simply can't believe the level of fit I have now. I'll have to actually ride it, but it feels incredible. I could barely get my feet into the boots prior to treating them.


Preview: Bridgestone Blizzak WS-60

Snow tires aren't exactly cheap. This set of 15 inchers ran just under $800 with shipping, wheels, and tire pressure sensors. Actually, only about $350 of that money went towards tires. So, they're somewhere in the realm beyond all-seasons and budget performance tires, and well below a serious performance tire.

The real question is: how much would you pay for traction? In my case, since I plan on making 50 or more trips into the Cascades this winter, I thought the expense was justified. You're not going to feel too proud of your thriftiness as you slide towards the guardrail on a snow-covered mountain pass.

I'll come back here and actually compare them to the Bridgestone Turanzas they replaced - hopefully after this weekend.


Panorama: Playa Funchi, Bonaire

This was taken about a year and a half ago. I was just going through old pictures and noticed that I'd taken a panorama at this particular beach (playa). This beach is at the northernmost tip of the island of Bonaire, and is a part of the huge nature preserve there.

I've never seen such large parrotfish, anywhere.


Text Message Spam: the Other White Meat

If you're a human, and you own a cellular handset, you've probably encountered text message spam. Text messaging is enabled on all plans by default, and virtually every provider runs an email to SMS gateway. So, in my case, with T-mobile, my phone can receive email at [my phone number]@tmomail.net. Spammers have to be salivating over this: compared to a standard dictionary attack on an email server (sending mail to every possible permutation of common names at a domain) this is much simpler. Call it a phone-book attack. A spammer can simply sequence through a given set of numbers in a known area code, or, to throw off reactive filters, a random set of numbers in an area code.

Unlike email, though, SMS messages generally cost the user of the handset, whether it's a fixed per-message charge, or a part of a monthly text message package. This, combined with the audible alert that comes with a handset text message, make this a particularly infuriating problem.

If you have T-Mobile, though, you're in luck. Just register your phone on their website to create a profile, if you haven't already. Once you're logged in, choose 'Send a text message' from the 'My Services' menu pull-down. On the right, you should see a link for 'Change my phone e-mail address'. Click that, then enter something unique and memorable as your new email address. Any further emails sent to the SMS gateway will have to use this address to reach your phone.

We'll see if this solves the problem for me, but it looks promising.


The End of the Great American Love Affair?

You know which love affair I'm talking about, of course. No? The love affair with the automobile, the car, the horseless carriage, the... SUV. Ah-hem.

America has been obsessed with cars since their introduction at the beginning of the 20th century. There has always been a good market for domestic manufacturers, even when the rest of the world came to ignore their eventually bloated and shoddy offerings. Much like the brewing industry, car manufacturers in America suffered from mass consolidation. Storied brands were purchased by larger companies and turned into a trim level. The energy price shocks of the 1970s robbed the American car of it's final distinguishing feature - horsepower - and left it with nothing. During the 70s and 80s American consumers were forced to suffer in underpowered, poorly made, characterless boxes. Ruthless management styles at the top of the by now huge corporations brought us vehicles designed by committee to fall apart just shortly after they had been paid off.

The 90s, however, brought us the Ford Taurus and an increasing parade of cars that took cues from European design and manufacturing techniques from Japan (and sometimes whole engines and cars from Japan) and gave America reason to hope again. Of course, this hope manifested itself as the SUV phenomenon. American consumers have proven repeatedly that, given the chance to buy something bigger for only a little more, they will always opt to super-size. Car manufacturers, led by Ford, rode this phenomenon to it's logical extreme, and well past that, with monstrosities such as the Excursion and H2 tipping the scales at a mere 4 tons. Sedans and hatchbacks went the way of the passenger pigeon and triceratops. All this weight required massive amounts of power, and efficiency gains won by things like overhead camshafts, quad-valve combustion chambers, and electronic fuel injection were quickly put to work motivating these huge hunks of metal and plastic. As manufacturers in Japan looked toward the inevitable future, the US behemoths outdid each other with monuments to unsustainability, not even paying lip service to the idea that manufacturers are indeed capable of driving the market.

This is what we want to save? This is what my hard-won tax dollars will be used to keep afloat? I know there are many arguments to be made for keeping these companies alive, and I actually do think it's a good idea in the short term, at least - but something within me is deeply angry.

I feel that these companies have taken enough from the American people. They took the automobile and crushed the life out of it. Yes, they are poised to bring it back, and there are signs that the morbidity is broken. We may get muscle cars with Japanese efficiency and European handling. If this does indeed happen, it will be a breakthrough - but it's not going to erase three decades of terrible cars.

I'd like to see the executives of these companies punished somehow. Perhaps they should all be forced to drive a 1985 Reliant (three glorious speeds) for the rest of their lives. I'd also like to see a new American car - not just an exotic, an actual car. I'm certain it's possible. Other countries have small marques, why can't we?

It's time to reassess the terms of this relationship. American car companies: I'm not happy.


Panorama: Hurricane Ridge March 2008

Since we're so awfully, painfully close to the start of the snowboarding season here in the Pacific Northwest, I was inspired to go back to this set of images from last season and stitch some of them together. They aren't the best source images, as the little lens on the Powershot doesn't do so well in flat light, but it's still a great view.

Enjoy, and think cold thoughts.


Preview: ThirtyTwo Forecast

Well, one part of my softboot carving setup is here. The ThirtyTwo Forecast is supposed to be one of the stiffest soft boots ever made. Unfortunately, ThirtyTwo discontinued it in 2008. It's still possible to find old stock on the internet, but it's slowly disappearing.

From the looks of the current ThirtyTwo line, the Circuit Boa appears to be picking up the torch. A Dual zone Boa system plus a very stiff boot has to be the ultimate in support - but good luck finding these boots for less than three hundred dollars. My 2007 Forecasts set me back $136, which strikes me as quite reasonable for a boot that lists for $229.

These are very serious boots. They are every bit as stiff as I expected, and then some. Recco reflectors on the tongues are a nice touch that's apparently missing from the 2008 version of the boot. The heat moldable liner is held in place with an internal lacing system that holds it against the back of the boot, instead of being integrated with the liner.

Once I actually ride these, I can post a proper review. In the meantime, I can start thinking about the other parts of my softboot carving setup. Don't you just love to daydream about gear? No? I guess it's just me.


Is your big new flat-screen TV killing the planet?

It's Monday morning, so it's only fair that I post something disturbing and/or depressing. This piece from ClimateCheck's Pablo Päster definitely hits both those notes nicely:

What you are referring to is the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in manufacturing LCD televisions. Back in 1992, NF3 was seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to the ozone-damaging perfluorocarbons that the semiconductor industry used in the plasma etching of silicon wafers. While this change undoubtedly had an impact on the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, the international agreement to plug the ozone hole, it is now being blamed for contributing to climate change. NF3 may not damage the ozone layer, but it has been shown to be 17,200 times worse for the climate than the main climate change culprit, carbon dioxide.

Great. While I was unaware of this particular pollutant, in general it's only realistic to assume that electronics manufacturing is still a very nasty and environmentally damaging process. That shiny new cellphone or portable music player that is giving off that lovely smell of new electronics was brewed in a toxic soup of solvents, chemical washes, and etching solutions. The people involved in it's manufacture have taken on an elevated risk of disease related to increased exposure to these compounds. The area of their making has probably been polluted - 'Silicon Valley' is one of the most polluted places in America.

What struck me more than anything else in the piece was the data on an increase of average size in televisions. To anyone who's read 'Fahrenheit 451', this kind of behavior will seem awfully familiar. "Honey, why can't we have a fourth television wall? Our neighbors have had one for ages."

Given the opportunity for more inches at the same cost, humans will opt for the bigger set every time. We now have upgraded signals and pipes to deliver the pixels for all that viewing area, and anyone who thinks that HDTVs current maximum (at 3840×2160, it's a lot of data) is the end of resolution upgrades to the TV signal deserves to be poked gently in the eye with a pointed stick. Don't be silly. There's no logical end to this particular path.

Still, I'm not going to beat myself up while watching movies in HD on my 37 Toshiba. It's just too nice an experience for that.


Broken by Design: Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000 Keyboard/Mouse

Technically, this should be a product review. And, yes, the Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000 Keyboard/Mouse is definitely a product, although exactly what purpose it's intended for I don't know. It's definitely not usable in most of the contexts in which you'd want to use a wireless keyboard and mouse. However, let me talk about the actual product for a moment.

As a desktop keyboard and mouse (well, I guess that's in the name of the product) the Microsoft branded input devices might be acceptable. The keyboard is handsome and has a nice feel to it. It also has excellent range - unlike the other half of the equation: the mouse. Again, simply as an input device, the mouse is excellent. It looks good, and the accuracy is decent. But get more than about 2 feet from the receiver, and the cursor motion starts to get erratic. Two feet! The manual claims 1.8 meters, or 6 feet, but that's wildly optimistic, in fact, downright false. The keyboard manages this easily, but the mouse? Not a chance. I'm not even sure it would work well in a desktop situation. You basically have to have the receiver on top of your desk... next to the mouse.

I did attempt to hack the receiver to get more range, with limited success. There are three screws under some adhesive-backed rubber pads that hold the receiver together, and it comes apart easily. The antenna is simply a trace on the circuit board. It runs underneath the white sticker in the image above. I connected a long, very thin wire to the antenna trace, and experienced a substantial improvement in range. Almost enough (but not enough) to allow me to use the mouse from, say, the couch when in front of the entertainment center.

Even with this hackery, the product still fails to meet it's stated range. I put the receiver back together, and this particular product is going back to where it came from. Sorry, Microsoft. Wireless means you shouldn't need wires.


Financial full disclosure

I've been struck with some kind of creative malaise lately. I think it's the weather. Plus, I haven't been taking enough things apart... except a wireless USB receiver, which I should say something about.


Regardless of personal politics, the conviction of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens on seven counts of lying on his financial disclosures is worth a read, if only for the dramatic blow-by-blow recount of courtroom events at the end of the piece. It reads like John Grisham... writing for the Associated Press.

This is interesting mostly because of the mechanism by which this powerful man is being brought down. He committed the crime of lying about his income. Sure, accepting the gifts in the first place was immoral, but was it illegal? Probably, actually, but I'm not sure anything will be pursued if he resigns.


Top marginal tax rates, and why you should care about them

I think I was on How the World Works when I came across this article. Since, like most people in America, I don't make a staggering amount of money, I've paid little more than passing attention to the tax brackets at the very top of the scale. Sure, I knew the Bush administration had given a handout to these people, but I didn't realize how large the handout really was - and what the top of the pile really pay.

Turns out it's only a few percentage points more than I. Yeah, that's right. Someone taking home $10,000,000 a year without any deductions pays perhaps 8% more than I do, and I make less than $100,000. Quite a bit less. So, Joe the Plumber, eat your stupid 'conservative' heart out. I don't want to hear your whining. When you're making all that money, which you never will, you'll still be keeping most of it. Because, you know, that's best for everyone.

The gist of the article is that the best way to cap outrageous salaries is to increase the top marginal tax rate, and it's a compelling argument. Certainly, increasing the top marginal rate won't stop executives from getting compensated handsomely. There's many ways to reduce your tax liability, especially when you're so far past the subsistence level. However, I do think it'll stop the really egregious sums that are being taken home by these supposed supermen. As of now there is no incentive to reduce pay. None.

Since there's no chart at the above link, I tried to find one. In so doing I found an article from the WSJ, where they also note that actual revenues (at least, as a percentage of GDP) stay constant regardless of the top marginal tax rate. For the purposes of the article, at least, this is 'Hauser's Law'. Here's the graph:

Mr. Ranson opines:
What makes Hauser's Law work? For supply-siders there is no mystery. As Mr. Hauser said: "Raising taxes encourages taxpayers to shift, hide and underreport income. . . . Higher taxes reduce the incentives to work, produce, invest and save, thereby dampening overall economic activity and job creation."

Putting it a different way, capital migrates away from regimes in which it is treated harshly, and toward regimes in which it is free to be invested profitably and safely. In this regard, the capital controlled by our richest citizens is especially tax-intolerant.

Oh, really? Maybe the income controlled by our richest citizens is tax-intolerant because they can afford to hire armies of accountants? Perhaps you might consider the effects of crushing tax rates on the working poor, as well as the ultra wealthy. Aren't they also subject to the effects of incentive?

Only in the la-la land of mindless conservatism can this kind of logic stand. To these people, the work of the few people that take home millions is somehow more valuable than the work of those who take home tens of thousands. If these people stepped outside their ivory towers for a second, they'd realize that those empires are built on the backs of these workers, without whom these outrageous salaries would be impossible. Does an extra million or two really provide that much more incentive? How much harder can these people really work?

Really, all Hauser's law tells us is that it's only possible to get so much blood from a stone. Shifting the tax burden around doesn't affect how large a piece of the pie you get. But how big (how high?) is the pie? If shifting the tax burden affected the economy as a whole, it would only be apparent over time. I guess I'm the reverse of the supply-siders (or, let's call them what they are, the trickle-down theorists). I think that putting money in the hands of the consumer - who, after all, has driven our economy to such rarefied heights - is a far safer bet than giving increasingly large payouts to those who will gamble it away in risky investments.


Read it and weep

Straight from the Guardian:

Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

I'm not surprised. Sickened, but not surprised. Nothing people do surprises me any more. Especially when it comes to money.


Fix it Fix it Fix it Fix it!

So at 5 this morning my lovely wife wakes me up.
"The microwave is broken!"
"Does it have power?"
"Of course there's power."
"No, I mean does the microwave have power?"
"Of course there's power."

Not the most auspicious start to the morning. So, I drag my ass out of bed, and discover that the microwave itself does not have power. In fact, random outlets throughout the kitchen and living area don't have power. It turns out that the GFI outlet by the sink is tripped, and won't reset. It's broken, or jammed (wait, that would be broken) or there's a short in the circuit, which I highly doubt. For some bizarre reason, this outlet is set up to interrupt various outlets across the room as well. I'm sure there's a reason for that. Right?

Rather than move the microwave, which has accumulated a heavy frosting of random items, I just run a short extension cord... to the next outlet over. Then I go back to bed.

This house is supposed to be worth $300k and change, and the wiring was apparently done by a twelve year old. I take that back. I could have done better at twelve.

I don't understand why the wiring is so poor. This house was built in the late 50's. Apparently grounded receptacles weren't mandated in the US at that time, and a lot of the house still has the original two-prongs, which as anyone knows make plugging anything in other than a lamp or a soldering iron impossible. Still, just because something's not mandated doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyway. Grounded receptacles have been around since the 1930s. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. This country still uses wire nuts. Wire nuts!

It's stupid. So, despite the fact that I've sworn, repeatedly, never to improve a rental property again, it's time to bite the bullet and fix some things. First on my list: grounded outlets everywhere. It's time to move this place into the 21st century.


Tweaked: Pritchard Beach panorama


Giles Clement turned me on to this technique. I'll have to go back to some of my older panoramas and play with them.


Panorama: Pritchard Island Beach #2

This time I remembered to lock the white balance, and definitely took more time getting the exposure right. It makes all the difference.

It doesn't look like there's much wind, but it's gusting up to 25 knots. If you're bored, you can see why I think windsurfing is better than cycling. It is, you know.


Long-term product review: Michelin XC Road 26 x 1.4 slick

I review the Michelin XC Road 26 inch clincher slick.

I'm moving all my cycling related posts over there, as I think this blog suffers from attention fragmentation disorder.


Compression: The bane of modern music

I stumbled across a fantastic article in Rolling Stone about the trend of increasing compression in CD masters. It explains the problem in laymans terms, and if you're not worked up about the problem already (I have been for years, but nobody listens to me) you probably will be when you're done reading.

What bothers me the most is the idea that portable music players require a highly compressed waveform to eke the best fidelity out of a compressed format. That may be the case if you're buying crap quality tracks from Steve Jobs. Those of us who do our own compression are using variable bit rates of 192k average, or more. With a quality set of headphones, you should be able to achieve highly dynamic sound in almost any environment.

This is, as with so many other problems, simply a failure of education.

I also take some umbrage at the blanket statement that 'nobody buys high-fidelity stereo equipment any more'. Yes, this is generally the case, but I'm of the CD generation, and I own a system that by any objective standard can be considered hi-fi. These days it's more affordable than ever to buy a great stereo system. Stereos just aren't cool. IPods are.

I guess I'm just not cool.


Long-term product review: Motorola L2

I hate cellphones. I hate cellphones for the myriad purposes to which they are put which have nothing to do with the one thing they facilitate - communication. Status symbol, game platform, music player, digital camera, object of lust... None of these uses interest me in the least. I just want a phone.

Some engineers at Motorola apparently read my mind.

There's this term that everyone knows of, even if they don't know the term itself: convergence. Convergence means that instead of two discrete pieces of consumer electronics that each perform a specific function, you have one piece of technology that does both things, only not as well, with less battery life, and more complexity. Not only that, but the weaknesses of each device - fragility, vulnerability to the elements, heat dissipation issues - are combined in your shiny, new, state of the art device that is sitting there, shod of it's clamshell packaging, fragrant of solvent and mold-release.

Oh, and when one function of the device becomes obsolete, as it inevitably will, you get to toss the circuitry and supporting hardware for the equivalent of two devices into the trash.

Ain't technology grand?

I was opposed to the idea of a camera in a cellphone from the first time the news of this fevered marketer's dream appeared, and cellphones started sprouting tiny plastic lenses like warts. I already had a digital camera, and the limitations of it's huge-by-comparison lens were glaringly obvious. I already had a cellphone, and I wasn't really interested in killing my battery life with a huge color display and a CCD sensor, and the comparatively huge increase in processing power needed to process digital imagery. But consumers as a whole loved the technology. They were only using their digital cameras for snapshots anyway, and this removed several pretty serious barriers to sharing their snapshots - the need for a separate computer to get the snapshots onto the internet, and of course actually getting the images off the camera. The cellphone manufacturers rejoiced as every cellphone in the world was obsoleted in an instant.

Pretty soon it was difficult to even find a camera-less cellphone on the market, let alone get one bundled with a plan from a major provider.

What was a cantankerous luddite like myself to do? Enter the Motorola L2.

The L2 - my Knight in Shining, uh, Protective Metal Casing
I'm not sure how I discovered the L2. I think I wanted to prove to myself (and others, more importantly) that it was possible to have a modern, stylish phone that didn't include a camera. Plus I'd been researching cellular technology, and lusted after a quad-band GSM phone - it'd work just as well in the Carribean as in Berlin. Sign me up. So, I punched these criteria into a helpful cellphone database, and happened upon this delightful sliver of technology.

Only problem: No cellphone provider offered this phone anymore. Some had, for a brief moment in time, particularly in pink, but those days - apparently only a few days total, as cellphones sans camera don't appear to do that well in the US market - had come and gone.

Next stop was of course Ebay, where I found a brand new example of the handset from a British reseller, unlocked, with a universal charger. It was from a batch of Cingular-destined phones, and still displays the vaguely annoying Cingular logo on startup. Hmmm. Perhaps I need to fix that. I think I paid around $90 with shipping. You can pick up similar examples (new, unlocked, US packaging) for $60, these days. The phone works great on T-Mobile's network, and it's easy enough to set up world-wide roaming. The option itself is free, but you'll incur per-minute charges in other countries. Of course, if your friends send you lots of text messages, you might want to tell them to lay off when you're on vacation.

I love this phone. I think I said that already.

It has:
  • Bluetooth
  • SMS, of course
  • MMS capability (send and receive picture messages)
  • a Java compiler
  • 128 x 160 x 16 bit screen
  • a USB port for charging and hacking
  • quad-band GSM
  • 310 hours of standby time, 4 hours of talk time
  • MP3 playback/ringtones
It doesn't have:
  • a Camera
Really, it has everything I need, nothing I don't need, and a few bits that I wasn't expecting. The only port is a USB port, which charges the phone and allows access to the filesystem on the handset, for adding carefully optimized background images and MP3 ringtones. I'm not sure I have the original charger anymore, and I don't care. The USB port doubles (triples?) as an earphone jack. I wasn't expecting MMS capability, but since the hardware is essentially the same as the L6 - the same phone, with a camera - the firmware is probably mostly identical. I get about three days on a charge with moderate usage with a one and half year old battery.

Yeah, you can get an iPhone. In fact, these days, there's virtually no limit to the amount of computing power you can carry in your pocket. Manufacturers are packing millions and millions of transistors into increasingly small form factors, hoping to convince you to upgrade your moldy old phone, hoping to finally get you on the bandwagon of cellphone chic, hoping that you'll toss the handset that's served you well for so long (or, perhaps, hasn't).

Good luck, Apple. Do your worst. I've found the perfect phone.


Why I ride

I was climbing out of the small valley where the Soos creek trail runs, and my legs were burning. My breath seared my throat as it rattled past my teeth, and I pondered the replacement of my front chainring with something a little more reasonable. Only another 50 feet of climbing, I tell myself. Only another 40.

It's times like this that I remember my childhood. I remember the running, especially.

The first time my family moved to the US for any substantial amount of time, I was 10. That seems incredibly young to me now (no, really!) although my math is definitely correct. I remember it so vividly. We had the good fortune to be living in Connecticut, fairly far from civilization, in the beginnings of the Adirondacks. Connecticut is a beautiful state, neither flat nor featureless, as the Midwest often manages to be. The seasons are vivid, and distinct, the entire valley changing color in a matter of days. The area we were in made poor farmland, and was mostly covered in secondary deciduous forest.

I had one particular teacher who was obsessed with fitness. He was in great shape, and loved to run everywhere, and couldn't understand why we didn't want to do likewise. I just wanted to build go-karts out of lawnmowers and electric wheelchair motors and play games on the 386 in the library. Thinking back, I just wasn't old enough to get it. I liked sports, and was reasonably good at them, but had no desire to go running for no good reason other than burning calories.

Frankly, it hurt too much. I'm just not built for running. I'm fast over a short distance, but on anything longer than a few hundred meters, physics and genetics both dictate that I will be experiencing serious pain in short order. My legs aren't particularly long, and I'm not particularly slender. I've already complained about how the BMI system consistently rates me as 'overweight' (and probably always has). I was blessed with a fair amount of childhood fat, and nothing I did seemed to make any difference. I remember swimming specific strokes for tremendous distances one summer as part of a contest - by this same teacher, of course - with fitness components. I swam 2 miles of crawl without stopping. It took all afternoon. I racked up tens of miles of sidestroke in half-mile or mile increments. I was still fat.

Still, I loved swimming, and since that part of Connecticut is dotted with small bodies of water, I had ample opportunity. There were plenty of things that I enjoyed doing that burned calories, although I didn't think of them that way. I could (and did) swing a ax or a maul for hours. Boiling thousands of gallons of maple sap into syrup requires a fantastic amount of firewood. I learned to ice-skate in Connecticut, and when the local lakes froze over you could skate for miles over a glassy sheet, frozen plant life flashing past beneath your blades.

I still had to run. I guess the idea was that once you were forced to do something you'd come to like it. It didn't work. The neighborhoods of Norfolk are seared into my memory along with the soundtrack of my rasping breath. Staring at the houses as they go by, ever so slowly, desperate for something to distract me from the pain. Just another few hundred feet to the top of this hill... Just another couple hundred...

Sure, there are moments on the bike I wonder why I'm doing what I'm doing, usually once the gradient gets much steeper than 10% for more than a few hundred feet. But even at it's worst, the pain doesn't compare to running. The scenery, the smell of the tree leaves as the year turns to autumn, the endorphin rush after the climb - that's all still there.

So I ride because it's everything running was supposed to be for me, and everything running isn't.

I'm sure my teacher would be proud.


Fullscreen DVDs: When more is not necessarily better

On the 1462002th day (approximately), God created the Digital Versatile Disc format, and saw that it was good. And he created standards therein, whereby his children could publish feature-length movies upon this format, and profit greatly.

And there was great rejoicing.

God in his great wisdom had optimized his most holy of consumer video standards (until many days later, when He created the Blu-ray and HD formats, which were more holy, and there was a holy standards war - but many days are to God but a tiny moment of time, probably only several milliseconds) for widescreen display. And, in the beginning, there came upon the market many discs of great quality, bearing naught but the movies in their original aspect ratio, as their directors had intended them to be seen. And God smiled upon his people, and there was peace throughout the land.

But there in the city of Los Angeles there were many movie studio executives. "Why doth our discs only contain wide-screen versions?" they cried. "What of the poor, the meek, those that only possess small, pathetic, cathode-ray tube televisions, unlike my 72 inch plasma display? The one in my bedroom? What of them? When they buy our discs, they shall see bands of black at the top and bottom of the screen, and confusion and sadness shall reign." And they smote their breasts, and gnashed their teeth.

And with great sadness the engineers did adjust their presses, and cut glass masters of the movies with much of the good bits cut out, so the lowly could watch movies on their pathetic televisions. And the movie studios did distribute these discs to grocery stores, and department stores, and sold them for less money than the wide-screen versions.

Then God became very angry. "Why do you mock me so?" saith the Lord. "I create standards, and verily I say unto thee, thou shalt follow them. In a few short years of your time, I shall phase out all analog television programming. Then only digital programming will prevail, and wide-screen televisions shall cover the earth."

"What then?" pondered the Lord (aloud). "Shall these poor people, who bought this abomination, not notice the degradation of their picture as their television stretches the image in 4:3 compatibility mode?"

And God's wrath was a terrible thing to behold.


Note to the Lord: most people are probably using their new widescreen television in 4:3 compatibility mode, because that's how their nephew left it, and they can't tell how to change it, and wouldn't notice if they did.

Note to Safeway: stop carrying those crappy versions of movies, or I see some smiting in your future.


Ten sets of 10 reps

I've finally started hitting the weights in earnest, and have been rewarded by constantly sore muscles in my upper body to complement my sore legs. It feels great.

It's also a new feeling, for me. Granted, after a three hour windsurfing session, my entire body will ache from my toes to my neck, but that usually only happens at the beginning of the season. There really is no better full body workout than windsurfing. Swimming is great, but doesn't give you the incredible interval training that windsurfing can. That said, I've only been windsurfing a few times since I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Part of it has been the dearth of wind, at least by my standards.

Part of it has been that my wetsuit no longer fits.

Unfortunately, over the past year, I've become really fat - by my standards, anyway. For the first time in my life I broke 200 pounds, and not by a small amount, either. This is particularly sad given that I was down to around 155 two years ago, when I was windsurfing regularly (3 times a week, between 1.5 - 4 hours a session). My diet didn't change, although due to stress at leaving my job and planning a move 2500 miles across the country to a place where I had never been and where I had no friends or even acquaintances, I was eating as a stress reliever, and simply stopped exercising. Given that my job consists of punching keys on a keyboard, it's no surprise to me that I packed on the pounds. What did surprise me was how much I gained, and how quickly I gained it.

At this point it's probably a good idea to mention a blog that's been a source of motivation in this effort: the Fat Cyclist. Elden is a funny guy, and not really as fat as he claims to be. The confessional style of his early blog postings is not only wildly entertaining, but inspirational. Really.

So, I've been duly inspired to post about my own weight loss experience, in somewhat less excruciating detail. You're not going to get pictures of me, since I have no desire to subject anyone to such things, and weight measurements won't be included as any usable metric. You see, according to BMI calculations, I'm obese. Like, more than borderline, actually well within the category. On the other hand, BMI measurements are an incredibly generalized metric that doesn't take into account body type. Even at my most fit several years ago, wearing pants with a 30 inch waist and very little abdominal fat, I still weighed in at 155-160, placing me in the 'overweight' category. That's absurd.

So, BMI calculations aren't going to factor into this. However, I still want to set a target weight of 175, because I think I can reach it, although it might take a while. Yes, this still puts me in 'overweight' territory, but I don't care, because of my strategy for losing weight.

My strategy: add muscle. That's it. This requires the least lifestyle change for me, and as lifestyle changes that are dictated only by the requirement to lose weight are always doomed to failure (for me, anyway) this has the best chance of working over the long term. This definitely differs from most people's weight loss plans, including Fatty's. Let me explain why.

  • Diet. I already eat a relatively healthy diet, and have cut down on grazing activities. The only meats I eat are various fish that I consider sustainable, and most seafood. I eat eggs and cheese provided it's a small quantity and non-processed. If it's sheep or goat cheese, so much the better. Most of my/our diet in this household consists of Asian cuisine, and I'm not talking about Chinese food. I'd say we eat at a Vietnamese, Thai, or Japanese restaurant almost every day now that we live in the Seattle area. It's not just an addiction, it's healthy and it's cheap. Bientu, of course, eats nothing but raw meat and organs, but she's a dog. I hate candy, and anything with corn syrup or artificial color in it is a non-starter (another household rule). I generally eat two proper meals a day, one of which is breakfast. So, I'm not sure I want to change anything. I did forget to mention beer, which can amount to 200-800 calories a day for me. I refuse to alter that part of my diet.
  • Exercise. I'm not relying on the things I do for fun to provide the increase in calories burned. This is because I want to continue to do these things for fun, and not to lose weight. I ride my bike for fun. Yes, all my miles are junk miles. Hah! I windsurf for fun, although it's hard to imagine windsurfing for any other reason. I snowboard for fun. I simply refuse to run, ever again, for any reason. I did for a while, and it did very little for me. My knees are still in good shape, and I want to keep them that way, thanks. Besides, the more over your target weight you are, the more you're trashing your knees. No thanks. So, my strategy is simple: interval training on the mountain bike for the lower body, weight training for the upper body in the gym that's conveniently located half a mile down the street. I have a route that I ride every day that includes some hard climbing for short periods interspersed with nice rest intervals. I'm spending an hour in the gym five times a week. If this doesn't work, nothing will.
So, if BMI metrics are pointless, what will I use to gauge my progress? Well, in the spirit of beth bikes!, I'm going to include a bunch of measurements of an specific muscle group. Actually, a bunch of muscle groups. There are lots of bodybuilding resources on the net, and I stumbled across a male "Grecian Ideal" calculator, that will give you your ideal measurements based on the size of... your wrist.

No, really!

So, based on my wrist size (exactly 18 cm) here are my ideals:

neck43 cm
chest117 cm
bicep42 cm
forearm34 cm
waist82 cm
hip99 cm
thigh62 cm
calf40 cm

I don't know, compared to my target waist and quad measurements, that's extremely close. The others... Well, I guess I just have to see. Here are my current measurements:

neck39 cm87% of ideal
chest102 cm87% of ideal
bicep32.25, 33, 32.6 cm77% of ideal
forearm31.25, 31.5, 31.4 cm92% of ideal
waist95 cm115% of ideal. ewww
hipi'm not sure how to measure this
thigh58.5, 60.75, 59.6 cm 96% of ideal
calf40.25, 40.75. 40.5 cm 101% of ideal

Hey, that was actually interesting. Aside from the obvious (I'm pathetic) there's clear evidence that cycling has been a good idea. My upper body, on the other hand, needs a lot of work.

Oh, my weight? 200.5, yesterday. Scary.


Quote of the day

From MSN Money:
It is only now, during this period of acute crisis, that individuals who won't go on a bicycle without a plastic-foam helmet are coming to grips with what business risk really means. And that is why a childlike innocence is dying along with the stock market this week, making people feel as sad, helpless and angry as when they first discovered the truth about other realities of adulthood.

Read the rest of the article for a reality check, although I think the author is wrong about one thing. It's not ignorance of the realities of investing that drives middle-class individual investors, it's willful delusion, tempered with the good old-fashioned American belief in the concept of 'hitting it big'.

I loved the helmet dig, though. Ok, people: it's actually more dangerous, minute for minute, to drive a car rather than ride a bicycle. So why don't I see more people wearing helmets when they're driving a car? Oh, because it's uncomfortable, cumbersome, and inconvenient. Hmmm.

I'm not sure the author regards helmet wearing in the same light that I do. He sees it (probably) as most people do - as a way to mitigate risk. I see it as a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived risk, without actually understanding the real risks that cycling involves. The majority of fatalities on bicycles happen in an encounter with a motor vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. In this case, as in the recent Puyallup death, a typical cycling helmet is unlikely to offer adequate protection.

Helmets may be risk mitigation, but far better to understand the actual risks involved in cycling, weigh them intelligently, and make an informed decision. If you really want risk mitigation, lobby for better infrastructure, tougher driving laws, and (it'll never happen) more stringent driver licensing requirements. Right now, though, I'd settle for tougher banking regulations.


Charges filed in Puyallup hit and run

Prosecutors have filed charges against Blair Jensen and his girlfriend. Bail has now been set at a cool half million dollars - but given Jensen's prior behavior, that's not exactly unjustified. At least we don't have to worry about him bailing out and running... again.

A man now charged with fatally hitting a bicyclist and then fleeing the scene is back in custody after his arraignment Tuesday, reported KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.

Police filed charges against Blair Jensen, 23, in connection with a fatal hit-and-run of a bicyclist in Puyallup last week. The charges include vehicular homicide and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. Jensen's girlfriend, Christina Ripple, was charged with rendering criminal assistance to Jensen and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Jensen pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Tuesday. The judge said there's a risk Jensen might run, so he upped his bail from $15,000 to $500,000. Jensen made bail when he was previously arrested, so he was out of custody when he came to court.

There are more details about the case and images here.


In which I am almost run down by a Camry

Ah. After a ten year hiatus from cycling, there are things you forget. Not how to ride a bike, but some of the wonderful adventures you can have on one. Indeed, my favorite impromptu adventure is the Near Miss. Today's Near Miss comes courtesy of one shiny blue 2007 Toyota Camry.

Let's see. The innocent protagonist is riding his beloved Peugeot mountain bike (also blue, coincidentally) to the local corner store to procure some liquid refreshment.

Since there are no cars stopped at the light right before the store, he hops his bike onto the sidewalk and presses the button for the crosswalk, rather than pointlessly standing in the bike lane as the traffic light ignores him. The light changes. The little white man beckons. As he crosses the street he notices a car approaching from his right. He notices that it's closing quickly. Very quickly. Our protagonist mashes the pedals as he realizes that the driver is planning on making a rolling right turn, and has enough time to utter a very loud, very startled expletive as he clears the front bumper of the car moments before it comes to a halt several feet past the end of the crosswalk. He catches a glimpse of the driver's startled face as her head swings around, her gaze having been transfixed on the oncoming lane of traffic to her left...

She just didn't see me.

She didn't see me, because she wasn't looking. I'm sorry, when you approach an intersection with a red light, your primary focus should be on actually stopping for the light. Once you've obeyed the letter of the law by stopping for an instant, you may do as you please. However, may I ask that you stop before you've driven through the crosswalk?

As she drove away I noticed on the back of the Camry - what else? - a bike rack.


Fatal hit-and-run suspect surrenders

From the PI:
A 23-year-old Puyallup man suspected of fatally hitting a Sumner bicyclist with his car Monday and leaving the scene has surrendered to police, authorities said.

The man, joined by his attorney, turned himself in to Pierce County sheriff's deputies in Tacoma on Friday around noon, Puyallup Police Department Cmdr. Bryan Jeter said. He was then placed under arrest.

Jeter didn't know whether the suspect has made any statements regarding the hit-and-run that killed John "Chip" Murrell McRae III, 51, in the 2600 block of East Main Street in Puyallup.

Investigators have linked the man to the fatality based on witness descriptions and the 2005 Cadillac STS that struck McRae.

"He was seen in it in and around that time," Jeter said. "He is our prime suspect."

The suspect was booked into Pierce County Jail on suspicion of vehicular homicide and felony hit-and-run.

Well, that didn't take long - only about a week. John McRae died on Monday, and the prime suspect is finally in custody. Looks like his parents hired him he retained the services of an attorney, too. (I'd hate to unfairly impugn his parents in this matter. It's entirely possible he turned out a toolbag without any assistance from them). Isn't that nice. I supposed the good counselor advised him that fleeing from police was unlikely to endear him to the court.

I was supposed to post something constructive, but I'm too upset right now. Ride safe out there people, and watch your six. I mean it.


Driver named and photos released in Puyallup cyclist death

Technically, I shouldn't use the term 'driver' in the title of this post, since the person pictured below is merely the owner of the vehicle, matched witnesses descriptions, and is now apparently on the run from police. He has not yet been convicted of a crime, although an arrest warrant was supposed to be issued today.

Feast your eyes.

According to KING5, these two are now on the run from police. Apparently the male (driver) is also a convicted felon and should be unable to leave the country. Well, that makes me feel better.

An arrest warrant will be issued Friday for a man police said caused the hit-and-run death of a bicyclist in Puyallup.

Police said as 51-year-old John "Chip" McRae III was cycling down East Maine Street Monday when he was struck and killed by a silver Cadillac STS.

Police said 23-year-old Blair Jenson owns the Cadillac that killed McRae and have identified him as a "person of interest." Jensen may be with his girlfriend 20-year-old Christina Ripple. Jensen and Ripple may be driving in her vehicle, a white 2008 Toyota Scion TC Coupe with the Washington license plate 523XEM, Puyallup police said.

Puyallup police said they found the vehicle involved in the cyclist's death on Tuesday. Officers said the vehicle was damaged as was expected after such an incident.

“Anyone harboring or protecting him is, in our minds, rendering criminal assistance so they need to give us his location,” said Lt. Dave McDonald of the Puyallup Police Department.

Authorities said Jensen is a convicted felon and cannot legally leave the country.

Puyallup police have sent the attempt to locate bulletin to police agencies across the state including the border patrol and the Sea-Tac airport police.

KING 5 also put up a series of images related to the crash. Here's the car.

I think it's fairly clear that the driver wasn't exactly obeying the speed limit at the time of the crash.

If you really want, follow the link to the KING 5 article and view the rest of the photos. Not exactly the most upbeat viewing material for a Friday.

I'll close with some appropriately enraged commentary. I can do that, right?

This guy has now proven that not only is he a complete and utter toolbag who is so hopelessly lame that he has to race people on Main street in a car that is usually driven by men in the acute stages of a midlife crisis, he's incredibly, painfully, awe-inspiringly stupid as well. The pathetic attempt to hide the crime after leaving the scene was just the beginning. Now, he's running from police. Well, if we didn't have an admission of guilt before, this should pretty much do it.

Thanks, Mr. Jenson. You've just bolstered the state's case. Traffic laws are incredibly lenient, although this state is better than most. Still, the more crimes you commit, the less likely it is that a judge is going to be nice to you when it comes to sentencing.


I'm going to go for a long, long ride (and yes, some of it will be on roads) and clear my head. Then, tomorrow, I'm going to write something about cars, fast cars, my love for said fast cars, responsibility, and physics - all things I've been thinking about a great deal the past few days.

Panorama: Narada Falls, Mt. Rainier

If you enter the park at the Paradise entrance, you'll encounter these falls about 15 miles in from the entrance. There's a short, steep path to a natural viewpoint.

Managed to remember to lock the white balance this time. It's definitely overexposed, though. Having so much detailed material in the center of each shot meant that autostitching the images worked flawlessly.


More ugly details in Puyallup hit and run

I missed this item on King5 yesterday:
Witnesses say John McRae III was riding his bike down Main Street in Puyallup at roughly 8 p.m. when he was hit from behind.

Pieces of evidence left at the scene suggest the driver knew he hit McRae.

"It's over 300 feet of debris, so we think the victim was drug," said Lt. Dave McDonald, of the Puyallup Police Department. "So this is not a brush off the shoulder into the ditch. The victim was left in the middle of the street."

McRae, a 51-year-old from Sumner, died at the scene, despite wearing a helmet.

Well, a helmet isn't going to do much good when you're dragged for 300 feet, then left in the middle of the street. We also get:
The car is registered to a Puyallup woman and to 23-year-old Blair Jensen. Since Jensen matches the description of the driver seen by witnesses, police call him a "person of interest" in the case. They want to talk to him immediately.

Jensen is not considered a suspect.

Whoever is responsible will likely face vehicular homicide charges for causing the death of John McRae.

I don't get it. Get caught on camera for speeding, and the owner of the car is not only a suspect, but in most jurisdictions, considered guilty by the preponderance of evidence (a few crappy photos triggered by a sensor). Here, we actually have witnesses, and the apparent driver isn't even a suspect?

Full story here.

At least vehicular homicide is a Class A felony in this state, with a max term of life. I bet he gets a couple years, if he gets anything at all. A cyclists life isn't worth much, even in this state.


Police find car suspected in Puyallup hit-and-run

I'm following this story because I'm not far from Puyallup (in fact, I'll be there this weekend), and while I don't plan on doing any riding there, I'm curious to see how this case pans out. There seems very little doubt that the driver is at serious fault. From the News Tribune:

Puyallup police have impounded the car believed to be involved in a fatal hit-and-run crash Monday night and were looking for its driver.

A damaged silver Cadillac STS was found about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. It had been abandoned in the 1200 block of Ninth Street Southeast, Puyallup police Cmdr. Bryan Jeter said.

Investigators have identified a person of interest in the incident and were looking for the 23-year-old man Tuesday night. The News Tribune is not identifying the man because he’s not been charged in the case.

John McRae III, a 51-year-old Sumner father of three sons, was riding a bike in the 2300 block of East Main Street when he was hit by a car about 8:10 p.m. The car didn’t stop.

Witnesses provided a description of the car to investigators. Someone called Herb’s Towing on Monday morning to request a tow of the abandoned car, Jeter said. The tow operator found the car, noticed its damage and called police at 10:30 a.m.

“When they saw the condition of it, they called us,” Jeter said. “It was definitely wrecked, and there was blood on it.”

The damage on the car was consistent with striking McRae, police reported. Investigators also were looking into the possibility the car was racing another driver at the time of the crash. Police identified and interviewed the other driver, Jeter said.

“It’s a distinct possibility, but we haven’t confirmed that yet,” he said.

McRae worked as a computer technician. His family has asked for privacy.

The ugly details of this incident keep piling up. Not only did this worthless piece of shit leave someone lying in the road to die, he (and I'm pretty sure it's a he, regardless of whether the police have enough evidence to bring charges yet and make an arrest) had the temerity to call a tow for his wrecked car - without even bothering to wash off the blood.

Either he's simply an amoral psychopath, or he's just incredibly stupid. I'm voting for the latter.

This is the main reason that my regular ride only has about half a mile of road in it - the part where I get to the trail, and get back from another trail. I just don't trust people. Granted, riding in the road here is vastly less dangerous than the last place I lived on the outskirts of Cleveland. Ohio is just a huge wasteland of trucks and SUVs and asphalt. If people ride, they ride MTB or on bike paths. I wouldn't want to get into an argument with a midwest redneck about who has a right to the road.

Here, things are different. The prevalence of cyclists, and the courtesy/timidity level of most drivers make for a fairly harmonious environment. Of course, there are always outliers, and it only takes one careless asshole, after all. And who wants to be killed by a statistical anomaly? I guess the only thing worse would be to be killed by clerical error, Brazil-style. One way or another, though, you're still dead.

RIP Mr. McRae. My heart goes out to your family.

As for me, I'm going riding.


Hit and run driver kills cyclist in Puyallup

Great. This kind of thing always makes excellent reading before you go out for a ride. From the Seattle Times:

Puyallup police are asking for help identifying the driver of a Cadillac that killed a bicyclist in a hit-and-run Monday evening.

The victim, a man in his 50s, has not yet been identified.

The driver struck the cyclist in the 2600 block of East Main Avenue then fled eastbound on East Main at 8:10 p.m., Puyallup police said.

Witnesses said the man was driving recklessly before the collision, police said.

Full story here.


Panorama: Pritchard Island Beach

Went sailing at Pritchard's Island beach on Lake Washington the other day, and it's a really nice launch. There's a grass rigging area mercifully free of duck and dog shit and a trivial carry to a small, sandy beach.

So I made a panorama, and forgot to lock the white balance. Nice going.

I'm using panotools with Panowizard. I didn't spend much time stitching this one together because, quite frankly, the images aren't that good.


Technium CityLite dumpster rescue (II)

I would like to point out that these posts aren't happening in direct chronology with the images. I started that project, then started this project, but I wanted to break the narrative up into logical chunks and make it accessible in case someone else has one of these bikes. There's very little information about this particular model on the web, although I found pictures of someone else's (road) Technium fixed-gear conversion on Flickr.

I'm not sure I would have turned such a complete and (from the pictures) barely ridden geared road bike into a fixed gear, but that's just me. Regardless, there's no arguing that he did a fantastic job with the frame, and almost certainly spent a lot more time with it than I did. I also can't deny that it was helpful to have someone else's project as a reference.

Which is why I'm posting this. Uh.

Oh, if you have a 54-52 cm Technium road bike, and you want to sell/give it to me, that'd be great. Preferably a nice clean one like the aforementioned Flickr dude's. Thanks.

Anyway. At this point I had a stripped and fairly rust free frame and fork. I masked the aluminum sections, including the aluminum rings that butt the tubes together. Prep was limited to washing the steel sections with degreaser, and using a self-etching primer.

I did spray some of the previously rusted areas with a one-step rust conversion and then sanded off the residue before priming. This is a good idea if you're lazy and don't want to grind out every single pit of rust, or simply don't want to remove half the dropout in the process, for example. Hopefully your frame hasn't been neglected like this one.

The head tube logo is cast aluminum and has two pegs that simply press into the holes in the head tube. You can (carefully) pry it off with a flat-head screwdriver.

Primed and ready to paint.

For some reason I didn't take any pictures of the bare frame after the final paint coat, possibly because of inhaling too many paint fumes. Or something. Here's how it turned out, though:

I just put a random road seat on it to be able to get a feel for how it rides. Still need to go to a single chainring up front, and install a rear brake since I tend to ride on loose surfaces quite a bit.

Oh yeah, and that fork and headset is from a Trek 850 I had lying around. I'll explain that later. Now if you'll excuse me, it's staggeringly gorgeous outside, and I'm going riding.


Another day, another tool purchase

Of course, as anyone knows, you can't tinker without tools. Without the correct tool, any project other than the most simple task is doomed to failure, but only after a large amount of frustration and the eventual, inevitable destruction of a critical part or fastener.

A well-made tool is a beautiful thing, not just because of the innate beauty of a piece of carefully crafted precision machinery, but because it's a key to a physical lock, a man-made solution to a particular problem that has been honed by thousands of years of directed evolution.

There's something I've wanted for a very long time, and that's a set of Vernier calipers. Unfortunately, my lust for this particular instrument has been blunted by the fact that I really didn't need calipers, or a micrometer, or really any precision measuring instruments of that nature. I don't own a metal lathe, or a milling machine, although I'd dearly love to. As a renter, however, it's simply impractical to own pieces of machinery made of cast steel weighing hundreds of pounds.

Which sucks.

Still, I wanted to measure the inside of a seat tube, and do so accurately, and determine if there was any deformation of the tube. I'd also been finding myself wondering exactly how wide some wrench flats had been. I've bought the wrong size tool for a particular task twice now, and while given the number of tools I seem to be finding myself buying, that's not a bad ratio. Still, it's annoying as hell when it happens.

So, I had my justification.

Now, I'd like to direct your attention to a picture of two very different tools.

One is designed to transmit large amounts of force, the other no force at all. They are still both adjustable calipers, of a sort. They do have two things in common, though: they were both made in China, and they were both really inexpensive. They are also both well-made, high quality tools. The wrench was just under $15, the calipers $40, both at my local hardware chain: McLendons. Yeah, McLendons actually sells precision measuring instruments. Suck it, Home Depot. They have five or so different grades of Vernier calipers, ranging from a plastic $3 model, all the way up to this one (I do realize that's not very far up, but bear with me).

I'd love to buy tools made in the US, but those two tools pictured sourced locally would run over a hundred dollars. So, sorry, not on my budget. I bought that wrench with the sole purpose of removing fixed bottom bracket cups, and it works perfectly. There is no slop in the wrench movement, it's far more solid and precise than my other adjustable wrenches, some of which cost a great deal more. So, yes, you can remove a fixed cup with an adjustable wrench. Just be prepared to use a great deal more force than you think can possibly be transmitted through those tiny wrench flats, and keep the damn tool straight.

The calipers are fantastic. I expected them to be cheap, and crappy, but they aren't. The carrying case is vaguely plasticky (well, it is plastic, after all) but the calipers themselves are solid and heavy, and don't feel or look cheap in the least. The casing for the electronic module is cast alloy, instead of plastic. It even comes with a replacement battery. I'm impressed.


Oh yeah, Park makes a tool for removing bottom bracket cups, and it also costs $15. It's a piece of thin stamped steel. I'm not sure it would actually work as intended. There's probably some megabuck tool that shops use that I'm not aware of.

Technium CityLite dumpster rescue

Ok, so this wasn't technically a dumpster rescue, as it wasn't in a dumpster. Whatever. I was doing my regular out-and-back along the gas pipelines in Renton, when I spotted this frame on the side of the road. It looked a mess, and from it's placement someone had thrown it over a privacy fence from a house that was being renovated. Trash pickup was that day on that particular street.

Since I have a fondness for picking things out of the trash, I rode over and checked it out. Two things caught my eye: the Raleigh heron/loon/whatever it is badge/you know/thingy on the headtube, and this label.

I used to have a steel lugged Raleigh 10 years ago that I put a set of mountain bike chainrings and cranks on, and loved dearly. I ended up selling it to some dude for 20 bucks, and didn't touch another bike for almost a decade, which is a tragedy, but whatever.

I guess I've been living in a box, because I didn't know that Raleigh used bonded aluminum and steel frames in it's Technium series of bikes (with some exceptions in very recent cases, where they might be welded aluminum). Of course this begged further investigation, so I went and got the van and tossed it in the back.

It looked like shit.

Never even mind the fact that the chain was rusted solid, and all the various chromed bits were corroded. The riser handlebars filled me with a powerful loathing. Ugly and inefficient. A win-win for the upright seating position. No matter - all that stuff was coming off in any case.

Another interesting point was the awe-inspiring front cantilevers.

I can't attest to their stopping power, as I haven't reinstalled them, and don't intend to. Someone else with an original CitySport/Lite/whatever it is can do that. The CityLite appears to be popular around here, possibly because they were manufactured right down the road in Kent. About the only data I've been able to find on them was that they were offered with 26 inch wheels. Indeed, a set of old mountain bike wheels dropped right in. The original wheelset included a rear drum brake, although the frame is (apparently) drilled for a rear brake.


I bet it shares the rear triangle with other steel Raleigh frames of the period. I guess the drum brake tied into the whole 'practicality above all' aesthetic of the bike. I've seen original ones on craigslist, recently, and it's just stunningly ugly. Taste is of course subjective, and thus not up for discussion. It's ugly.

Not that I care - all that I care about is that frame.

Without further ado, I stripped the frame of parts, and then of paint. I know you're not supposed to use paint stripper on a bonded frame, so if anyone can explain how the paint stripper can penetrate into the bonded joint, I'll be happy to listen. I'm certainly not using heat to remove paint on a bonded joint.

Whatever. Stripping was a quick and extremely nasty process, as anyone who's done it can attest. The results were seriously cool, though.

A wire brush makes quick work of getting off the loose paint and stripper, and also tends to fling it around. I'd recommend safety glasses. Oh, and please do this outside. The aluminum cleaned up beautifully with some steel wool. The corrosion on the dropouts and rear triangle didn't take long to scrub out with a flexible abrasive disc.

I know I should have driven out the headset races before stripping, but it was due for replacement anyway, so I left it in, as I actually wanted to mostly assemble the bike and ride it around at least a little so I'd know whether I liked it well enough to finish the project. I know that doesn't make any sense.


Yeah, so, I'm finally succumbing to the awful yet oh-so-compelling trend of everyone, everywhere, to publish online without knowing any markup language or ever having to undergo the indignity of FTP. Everybody knows what this is called, but I simply hate the term. I also want to punch people that use the name 'Google' as a verb.

Feels pretty strange, even though I installed pyblosxom on my own server, ages ago, and then let it languish, neglected, with like three posts a year or something. I guess I just didn't have any reason to put up any content.

Now, however, I do, and since the various social networking sites I've been persuaded to join have completely garbage blog capabilities (there, I said it. Does this make me a blogger? Euch.) I'm going to try this.

Thanks, duke. I blame you.