Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Is It?

This is in my bathroom, near the sink. It's not very good as a towel rack. Should I be using it for another purpose?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mr. Oizo

There's a new Mr. Oizo record out. I like it. Here's a hit from a few years back.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sexy Veggies

Some of the reasons that a sexy pro-vegetarian PETA ad was rejected for the Super Bowl by NBC:

Licking pumpkin
Touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli
Pumpkin from behind between legs
Rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin
Asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina
Licking eggplant
Rubbing asparagus on breast

You can watch the vegetable debauchery here

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Great Video

Just head this band for the first time tonight. Metronomy - A Thing For You.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Winter Biking Experience, Part 2

Today we hit a high temp of F 24° and it felt pleasant! I was an enjoyable alternative to the sub zero trend we've been in of late. I rode balaclava-less to work under sun and calm winds.

My bike is 20 plus years old, but it's a quality machine with quality components, and as far as I can tell, it has aged well. This year I have devoted more attention to it than ever before. I've taken axles apart and greased bearings, I've overhauled caliper brakes, replaced cables, touched up chipped paint, taken the toothbrush and citrus solvent to the bike with new found vigor, and, of course, replaced the bar tape. Most of these things don't really require much skill, but there is a right way and multiple wrong ways to do them. It's been a learning process along the way, and I'm looking forward to taking a stab at disassembly and reassembly of my freewheel and headset for some cleaning and lubing.

I ride a steel frame. Steel frames are said to provide a smoother ride than those made from other popular materials like aluminum or carbon. I haven't really ridden enough other frames to vouch for this with any authority, but my bike does roll really nicely. Steel frames are also supposed to retain their ride quality longer than those made of other materials. Maybe some bikes just get stale. The trade-off is that steel is heavier than other materials. Of course, steel will also rust.

Now, as this bike is 20 years old, and as I got it for a steal, (and it's the only bike I own) I don't feel too bad about taking it out in some pretty harsh conditions. Ice and gunk can be slippery and messy, but it's the salt that does the most damage, isn't it? The salt that the city lays down will rust out my bike if I don't take steps to stop it.

Here's how I prep: I use a lot of two fluids - ProLink chain lube, and Boeshield T-9 Rust and Corrosion Protection/Waterproof Lubrication. They do just what they sound like they should. This weather does a number on my chain. But keeping it lubed up will keep it running smooth and fight rust. In these conditions I lube the chain a few times a week. I should probably do it everyday. For the rest of the bike, I'm pretty generous with the Boeshield. I'll spray it on vulnerable spots on my frame and on my cassette, hubs, and bottom bracket. When things warm up, I'll use it more sparingly, as it has a bit of a tackiness that retains dirt and grime, which is unappealing cosmetically, but in the winter I'll sacrifice looks for longevity. Of course, when I'm at home I keep the bike inside my apartment.

When it's time for a ride, I expect my baby to take whatever I dish out. The bike lanes get slushy, and the side streets stay snowy and there is salt all over the place. In winter conditions, it doesn't take long for ice to accumulate all over the lower parts of the bike the same way it might on the fender of a car. Ice on the hubs, the spokes, the frame, just about everywhere except the chain. If I'm headed to work, I lock the bike up like that outside, and when work is over, it's more of the same on the way home. But once I'm back at the apartment, priority number one is putting my baby in the bathtub for a nice shower. I bought a spray extension that mounts between the shower spigot and the shower head. It's convenient and the perfect thing for a quick wash. The pressure is enough to get the ice and gunk off, but hopefully not enough to push water into spots it shouldn't really go, like inside hubs and the bottom bracket. It takes a minute or two for a rinse, and then it's a rag to the frame to dry it off. When I'm done, the bike is still a far cry from clean, but hopefully most of the really nasty salty bits have been neutralized.

Afterwards, I might reapply some lube, spin the freewheel a few rotations to keep it loose, and set it aside until it's time to head out again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Winter Biking Experience, Part 1

It only takes a few seconds. I'm a few steps outside my door, and no matter how I'm feeling, within one full rotation of a crank my mood is lifted.

I live and work in Chicago and I always commute by my road bike. The last time got to work by mode other than bike was in May, when I had a mildly injured foot from running.

It's cold outside, but I'm equipped. Most of the things I wear on the bike were collected piecemeal as I felt I needed them. Perhaps my most important clothing isn't clothing at all, but my fenders. I have recently replaced a seat post-mounted rear fender with a set of fork (front) and seat stay (rear) mounted low profile fenders. They do a fantastic job keeping me seperate from the majority of the road spray and gunk my tires throw around. But before I had a front fender, it only took a few rainy days of wet pants and soaked feet to convince me of the necessity of the following: a waterproof shell over my jeans, with velcro straps at the ankles to keep things nice and tidy and away from the chain. Simple and effective.

For the ever-critical feet, I have a system - I wear wool socks and size 11.5 Sperry Top-Sider slip ons inside some size 13 neoprene booties. The slip-ons make good cycling shoes because they are not bulky and they have no laces to get tangled up in the drivetrain. I comfortably wore them all spring and summer, the exception being wet days. The uppers are one layer of cotton canvas and when they get wet, whatever is inside them gets wet. It is a happy accident that they are so at home in the booties I bought to keep them dry.

My Performance brand booties are the only pair I have seen with a full sole. Most have holes for cleats, but mine come hole-less and the user may cut holes according to the type of cleat they use, or leave the sole intact. After riding for a while with full soles, I cut out a piece so that I could also wear the booties with my cleated bike shoes. They function very well with either shoe. Now the soles of my street shoes are exposed only at the contact point with the pedals which in most cases is ideal. My ride is not really long enough to justify clipping in with cleats, but the top-siders fit perfectly in the booties. So perfectly, in fact, that I usually leave the slip-on shoes inside the booties, and when I arrive at work, I put my dry and warm feet into other footwear that I keep there.

I layer it up on top. I prefer a light jacket under my thicker (but not "thick") biking jacket with the special cut (a little longer in the back to compensate for a riding posture) and subtle reflectiveness. Of course I often also layer with a long sleeve shirt and sweater as weather dictates. On my hands, I have a thin pair of wool liners underneath a pair of regular fleece gloves. On my head, a knit cap and some sunglasses with exchangable lenses (clear for after dark) plus my helmet. Next to the skin is a baselayer of merino wool. I have a balaclava I have not yet worn.

It may be in the single digits, it may be 30 below wind chill. The body at work is an oven. If I'm covered up, I don't get cold. (My ears did take it hard on that 30 below wind chill day. That's why I bought the balaclava)

My commute is short. Too short. I'm off the bike before I get my fill most days. My route, when I'm not running late, is on the side streets. The main roads between my home and my work don't yet have bike lanes. Side streets take a little longer, but they are less trafficked, and auto traffic moves at a speed much closer to cyclist speed. In the winter, these roads are also the last to get the attention of the Streets and Sanitation department and often go unplowed.

Ah, but this is a lovely thing! Riding through the snow is a joy!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Atheist Bus Ads in UK

I think Darwin has something to do with this too.

BBC Radio Darwin Doc.

The patron saint of freethinkers is getting the deluxe treatment from Melvin Bragg of "In Our Time" on BBC radio. Part one of four on Darwin hit the web yesterday, and the successive parts are to podcast today through Thurday. Part 1 was pretty good!

Update: The podcasts are available on iTunes. I should have mentioned that.

Another, er, "cool" thing about Japan

I've been a little fixated on Japan lately. I'm reading Samurai books. I'm watching films about Samurai. I just saw a good three-part documentary about the Tokugawa Shogunate that you can stream instantly if you got the Netflix thing happening. I was walking around work this week saying "Omedeto" because someone told me a while back that it means "Happy New Year" in Japanese (although as I've repeated it, I've grown suspicious, and learned that well, no, it doesn't exactly).

Well, allow me to direct your attention to something else cool about Japan. Via No Impact Man, it's an account of an American's first winter in Japan. I think that we Americans could learn a lot from it.
There's another reason I appreciate this new experience, too. It is what the Japanese call "Gaman." It means "endure," or "tolerate" but there's more to it than that. It ascribes value to enduring something difficult. To Gaman is a principle, its a virtue. It's a cross between hanging in there and fighting the good fight.

There are times when gaman is a pain. Sometimes enduring hardship as a virtue when the situation could just as easily be made more comfortable seems nuts. But as a cultural value, doing your best and enduring hardship is refreshing. I won't speak for other Americans, but my experience has often leaned too far the other way when it comes to putting up with difficulty without complaint.

I like finding the easy way, I seek comfort, I reach for whatever might soothe the least bit of discomfort I feel. This wouldn't be so bad if it actually worked. But too often I've emerged woozy from another day of escapism and wondered if there wasn't another way. The connection between comfort, consumption, and happiness seems to be more tenuous than I once thought. Here I am in Japan, my fear of a heatless winter come true, and I'm happier than I've been in years.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Another New Year's Resolution

To keep up with this. At the very least it should get me out of the apartment.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Resolution

Make my car superfluous.

Click pic for full size and stare.

Been there, done that.

Photo: James Haygood via