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Autumn Days

I don’t write much.

Summer has been extended this year, and up until the past day or so it’s been more comfortable to ride to work in shorts than long legs.  This morning started to feel like Autumn.  And the leaves are a bonus.

In other topics:  I’ve re-kindled my enjoyment of photography by getting back to film.  Something really pleasurable about taking pictures with old mechanical cameras – not having a video screen and instant visual feedback on the photograph requires that one approach the process with more care – and perhaps more creativity.   Next, I used to think the Brutal Aggressives of the road were BMWs – – – not so any longer.  Mostly they’re used by upper-middle class women (and metrosexual men) who want to appear sporty.  the Brutal Aggressives now drive Audi.  And the Audi crowd used to be such a fun crowd.  Next, job changes mean I bicycle everyday.  And this past season, most of my driving when necessary has been in the TC.  Great fun!

What’s in the future?  Hopefully the apparent fiasco in American politics in 2016 will wake up Americans to understand that the crowed in DC is, by and large, not to be trusted with our children’s future.  One tiny ray of sanity has emerged – increasing the federal gas tax.  I have acquired the belief that much of our societal woes (e.g. drugs, fatness, stunted mentation, cultural ignorance) are a consequence of really cheap energy.  Think about that one for awhile!

Until next year,

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The Intersection of Motorists and NonMotorists

A fellow non-spandex/carbon cyclist in his recent and more frequent contribution to the blogosphere pointed out that even drivers in public employ i.e. bus drivers have little regard for the bicyclist’s perception of one’s personal safety. Laws meant to ensure adequate distance between enclosed and powerful shiny metal boxes and flesh/blood on a minimalistic piece of machinery first fail to consider the impact of differential velocity as well as the perceptions of safety.

We now live in a world that is statistically safer than at any time in human history (albeit I concede that the last 50 or 60 years are also the first time in human history in which humans could very quickly and voluntarily decimate all animal life on earth), yet we are afraid to let kids act like kids, we insist on the Theatre Securite Americaine despite a lack of evidence of effectiveness of personal screening to get on an airplane, and we are afraid of inanimate objects (mostly because we’ve allowed the insane to “mainstream” and then grant them access to those objects).

We have an entire political class exemplified by hypocritical Villagers such as Hillary who proclaim that we owe each other peace, love and happiness not to mention health care and the benefits of the Land of the (formerly) Free.  Right or wrong (and I, as a scientist, don’t have the foggiest scientific opinion) we are told that humans are destroying the earth by profligate conversion of fossil fuels to atmospheric carbon….while I don’t know how scientifically valid that claim may be, I am certain that we are overpopulating and overdeveloping the earth and their will be consequences….But this class of person proclaims that we should cease the use of fossil fuels while they glide about in their Priuses or various “hybrids” (if they have to stoop to drive themselves) or their driven limos (if they’ve managed to get elected to a taxpayer salary).  They work in air-conditioned offices and expect to get on jets to go see their foreign pals even in this era when video conference calls are very easily accomplished.  And last time I was in DC, I saw no veggie gardens on the Mall from which to feed the Villager Class.

So why is it that their is scant attention paid to the comfort and safety those who would actually advocate a more direct interaction with the natural world and contribute to the preservation of resources?  I speak of cyclists and pedestrians.

We do not need more useless laws about how much clearance motor vehicles need to give cyclists.  Mandating unpopular behaviours has never worked and I have no reason to believe human nature has changed.  As countless governments have shown repeatedly, legal coercian on the pain of penalty is highly effective (think what happens if you fail to pay your income tax….the boys with the guns eventually take you to jail.  Fail to pay your property tax?  Eventually that property is no longer “yours.”  etc. etc. etc….).

There are already laws that prohibit pedestrians on roads and streets except at regulated crosswalks etc…  There are already laws that specify that cyclists are to use the roads (and statistics showing the roads are – believe it or not – much safer than sidewalks for cyclists)…  High-speed thoroughfares are already off=limits to pedestrians and cyclists.  And automobile drivers have legal obligations to have their cars under control at all times.

So let’s have a new law that holds the motor vehicle operator definitionally liable (both criminal and civil) in the case of any collision with a pedestrian of cyclist.  This is not “guilty until proven innocent” any more than if you shoot somebody you are presumed guilty of a crime until you can prove that it was in self defense; it is simply acknowledging that on thoroughfares legally shared among motorized and nonmotorized vehicles, those who are motored about have a responsibility to not injure those who are not motored.   (and it is not disingenuous to compare cars and guns…..far more people die as a result of cars every year in both absolute and relative numbers than die as a result of gun play.  Motor vehicles are in fact highly lethal weapons).

I would also argue that if a segment of society can pursue civil lawsuits because of failures to ensure restrooms appropriate to one’s perceived gender, then that same society must certainly be open to huge and punitive financial awards to pedestrians and cyclists who are merely frightened by a motor vehicle that passes too close, or whose occupant(s) harrass by yelling, honking, swerving, etc….

An armed society is a peaceful society, the Founding Fathers wrote about that. We are in the process of granting the legal arms to the less powerful in this society in hopes of advancing civilization. Let’s include in this how we transport ourselves about our cities and towns.

 

Bicycles, SUVS, Global Warming and Politics

On this first spring=like day of the season I had two big thoughts as I rode to work. First, I only missed 4 days of riding to work this winter; three due to snow-clogged roads, and one because the morning temp was about 5 below zero (yes, I draw the line at zero). I would gladly buy a set of studs and/or a fat-tired bike for snow days if the suits would make driving cars illegal on snow-covered roads. It’s fear of the fools that makes me join them for the day….
Next, I also observed all these parents (moms and dads, or at least adult humans of both sexes and probably all genders) delivering their kids to school …cars follow principally one of three forms these days. Teenage wet dreams (Porsche, a variety of rice burners, etc….), suppositories (any standard non-SUV transport appliance), and SUVs. The latter are most irritating because they project the entirely pretend image of adventure and ruggedness. By and large I’m guessing their drivers are anything but rugged (in general) and hardly adventurous; at least in Yankeeland where I live now, I suspect they spend their days worrying about how somebody might be having fun. Just my guess. I really wish we had an extensive steel-on-steel, electrically powered transport network so we could free the land of automotive congestion and get people who would really rather not drive out of cars.
OK so I then got to thinking about 7 billion people each spewing 500-900 gms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day. At the same time we vigorously make more carbon polluters, we appropriate CO2 recycling space (forests and fields) to make more human use space. This is the fundamental hypocrisy….driving cars and burning fossil fuels aren’t the problem, they’re really the symptom of a sick society that won’t recognize that life is terminal. Fine to make more humans, but we have too many already…. We all die and so we should prioritize developing an ethic that allows natural death for those who can’t survive the rigors of living without some sort of extensive life support. The grand network that provides food and shelter, and basic trauma care should be about the extent of our interventions. A century and a half and people still routinely die of cancer despite our toxins and injuries (a.k.a. chemo and surgery). Our society facilitates maladaptive living (overeating a lousy diet and lack of exercise) by providing “insured” covered for the consequences including diabetes, blood pressure problems, and heart disease. We have intensive care units stuffed with the truly sick who will never regain independent function. What the hell are we thinking?
Finally, politics. What a depressing presidential election year. We’ve got exactly two candidates who speak their minds, Bernie and Trump. Neither seems to have any respect for the idea of responsible individual liberty and freedom accompanied by a duty to be an informed thoughtful citizen that my readings have suggested that those who conceived of the US of A were thinking of with their grand experiment. Bernie would march us down Marx’s road, and Trump…well, he’s just scary and is playing well to a pissed-off silent majority. But at least we know where they stand, and our country is going down one of those two paths anyway. Cruz and Clinton are both conniving opportunists (and Clinton has a long history of actions of questionable legality….Cruz just isn’t smart). Rubio? I haven’t perceived any great intelligence from what I’ve read and heard. Kasich could be the Great Shaker Upper, but he has not an ice-cube’s chance of having even name recognition in more than a small percentage of American households. I hope it comes down to Bernie vs. Trump. That would be a good contest to watch, but I think I’ll go drink way too much beer on election day rather than contribute to the madness.

Civilization

Last night I went to an symphonic/choral concert by a well-known and internationally respected orchestra. The performance started late because the same hosting institution is gaga about basketball and there must have been an important game just before, traffic was snarled and gnarled.
And today I was looking to see if I could find film for a Minox B I have in my collection.
This all reminds me, at least in the judeochristian ethic, it seems a prime and consistent tenet is to rise above being an animal. Humans are charged with something more. I’ve seen videos of a crow making a tool and using it to get food. Very clever. Most things that most people do are similar – very clever.
But I suspect that only humans ask “why?” or try to engage deeper meanings via artistic expression – the Hallelujah Chorus I heard last night doesn’t require a religious being to feel something incredibly moving.

Marx said something to the effect that religion is the opiate for the masses.
I think he was not quite right. Team sports are. It is good that violence and warfare have been largely sublimated by team sports, but the way in which these activities are encouraged and followed – to the detraction of real human accomplishment in the arts and sciences – emphasizes that most humans still behave as tribal beings, not far removed from other mammals.

Religion can of course be all about prayers and hymns and ministers and priests. It can also be the quiet internal movement that occurs within when that rare bit of human creativity is evident – for me that understanding is in music (how can one not be awed By the structure of a Bach fugue? By v.Beethoven’s piano works (especially the 4th concerto)? By Zappa’s schizoid fusion of classical sensibilities with a pop overlay, all while thinly hiding a tremendous cynicism for it all including those who would claim it to be great?)

Check out this website: http://www.bluemooncamera.com/ How to capture time in an eternal fashion. Good News that there are people who understand the idea of Quality.

TC Satisfaction

This weekend I completed a rebuilding of the TC’s brakes.  When I built the car, 20 years ago, I had the original cylinders brass-lined and put in all new pistons and rubber.  Two decades later – despite changing fluid every 3-4 years- enough crud had accumulated that during a drive earlier this Spring I started losing pedal, suggesting a fluid leak. Plus I’ve had a new set of hubs and halfshafts around for a couple of years waiting to replace the worn originals which had gotten quite clonky.

How satisfying.  Cylinders all honed, new rubber, lots of fresh new DOT3 to flush it all out and refill the system, new shoes on the front axles (rears were OK), and new, tight hubs and halfshafts.  My initial test drive last night was very satisfying.

Also got new wheels when I bought the hubs/shafts, so I’m saving up for a new set of Dunlop B5s….

This season I want to flush the cooling system thoroughly, and at the end of the season maybe drop the sump and see if there is something wrong with the oil pickup.  TCs are known to oil starve on hard cornering if the oil level is down at all, but 7617 seems a little too sensitive.

Earlier this Spring, the 911 got all new fluids and filters.  I couldn’t get the clutch hydraulics to flush well with standard technique, so it gave me an excuse to buy a new tool, a power bleeder.  Now that’s a treat to use.  The car’s at 120k+ miles, and the only non-iatrogenic trouble it’s ever given is the original A/C compression pooped out a few years ago.  The thing is a tank.

Two extremes of the world of cars as expressions of sporting engineering.  The TC, arguably the single machine responsible for the introduction of “sports cars” that those outside of the plutocracy could dream of owning – and therefore paving the way for Porsche, the Corvette, and dozens of other less-expensive English, Italian, and Japanese brands – was a collection of mundane parts-bin pieces but done so in a way that stood on a solid racing heritage to deliver sporty accessible motoring to regular people.  It remains beautiful, elegant, sporty, but operationally fussy – not a car for those who don’t really want to be involved.  Contrast the 911 (air/oil-cooled —- I will not comment on the current batch of water-cooled things currently made); origins from the VW parts bin, but evolved over 5 decades into an incredible piece of engineering and production elegance which still after decades of hard daily use exudes quality, strength, and huge rewards for driver involvement.  And, as much fun as the TC is to drive, it is not a machine for modern crowded roads.  The 911, on the other hand, remains a superb road partner in all modern settings, despite its age.  I have no preference between them, both machines are best driven on the interaction of hands, feet, seat and brain.  They are both machines I can reduce to nut and bolt and reconstruct and so they are ultimately fix-able for as long as I care to drive.

Not much like that made anymore.  Certainly not when it comes to automobiles.

April musings about Why.

In fact, the St Patrick’s day post was written on March 17 but was saved only as a draft….

So now it really is April 9, a cold blustery day that could easily be confused for a November day were one to just drop into the world to see what’s up.  There have been very few – maybe one? – not bicyclable days since the last post, and that had something to do with thunder and lightening.  Some things I just won’t do.

The world is an amazing place and that’s not a good comment.  My daily work, the people I work with, the projects I work on, are all very rewarding.  There is great pleasure in finding things out, to paraphrase Feynman.  But I wonder about the sanity or genuinous of the bigger picture. For example, our governor recently banned state travel to another state based on a law that is very much the same as what we have had on the books in our state for several years.  The only difference is, that other state wrote specific definitions about to whom the law applies, whereas my state’s laws are vague.  Seems to be the bigger problem is in my own state, since such vagary would seem to allow the gov’t to interpret the law according to convenience rather than by statute. But then, I’m not a lawyer —which makes me even more skeptical about the entire mess.

Wasn’t this country founded on the idea that citizens should be left alone by gov’t?  Have we become legally intolerant of opinions which are not approved by Oprah, NPR, and Nancy Pelosi?

It seems to me that I do not have the right to refuse my services to anybody who needs my services.  Yet, I owe my creativity to nobody.  This is the paradox, but it’s not really.  One can simultaneously not refuse service yet refuse to engage in symbolism which lie outside of one’s values.  As a mechanic, if somebody came to me to fix a problem that I’m not comfortable fixing, who would force me to attempt to fix it just because the customer demanded?  yet, among those problems which I am comfortable fixing I would not refuse any potential customer.

How has that common-sense way of thinking become incorrect?

Is this the world I want to live in?

Far more important…is this the world in which I want to raise my offspring?

What are my options?

I’m back to the true paradox, how to survive as a retrocrank.  Values are important.  The nature of those values is less important than the firm holding of values which do not harm others – – – which allows me the right to not fear harm by the values of others.

St Patrick’s Day

First Day biking to work since the winter blizzards hit a month or so ago was last week. First Day biking to work and not finding ice on the road was this morning. Hopefully we’re done with the icey nonsense for the season.
Good news is that a change in workplace means I can now realistically bike in 4 days per week rather than 2. It was do-able 4 days before, but the ride on two of those days took an hour each way….and since my employer won’t grant me that time it had to be taken from my family. The result was I didn’t very often make that commute on the bike.
One day each week I work deep inside the city. Between my home and that place there is a street beyond which all hell breaks loose when it comes to driving aggresiveness/disrespect for normal traffic signals etc…. And bike riding really would be analogous to Russian Roulette. I want the safety of my shiny metal box for those days.
So now 4 of 5 days (and the occassional weekend) I can ride my hilly 4 miles in and hilly 4 miles home with minimal impact on my work or my family, and most of it does not require being on a main road. Good news.
Meanwhile I recently heard the definitions of moron, idiot and imbecile. Tried to reconcile those terms with some drivers I see out there….

Why don’t more people ride to work? Yesterday one of my coworkers, a cyclist, stopped me to discuss how I deal with the cold, the wet, clothes, etc….  he lives only 2 miles away, minimal hills.  My question for him is, how can he deal with driving to work every day?   That’s such obvious walk/bike distance that I have to question what goes through peoples’ minds (if anything…) that they would drive that?

DualDrive possibilities

GreenBike dropsetupYes, it is possible to shift SRAM DualDrive without using the plasticky index shifters that are meant to go with that kit.  It’s good stuff, after years with it, it has been unbreakable.  But I wanted drops on this bike and so went with the Retroshift (different name now…) modified Tektro brake levers.  Center position on the left is mid-range on the internal, that’s my “index” and the only critical one, the other two positions being at the extremes.

Very happy with this set up so far.  And the bike seems to like it as well.

Early Winter Days

The last few days have been cold enough that the long johns are needed for the ride to work.  But it’s a glorious ride in this weather.

Billowing winter clouds this morning, threatening a drizzling enhancement to my ride in…..I find riding in a moist atmosphere, especially just before sunrise and just after sunset as my ride takes me in this season, to be conducive of thinking about the big picture, getting me away from the petty aggravations that really, in a world in which the average American Joe has little to fear regarding survival on a day-to-day basis, do not deserve the degree of Brain RAM usually allocated.  Seeing the edifice of my workplace made red (it’s really an industrial concrete color) by the rising sun as I come up the hill is a seasonal visual treat.

Holiday preparations apace at home, it’s a good season.  Other tasks have kept me out of the woods so far this year, usually by now I’ve made a pretty good dent on getting next year’s supply of firewood cut and split and stacked.  Fortunately there is no really big snow predicted for the near future, and it will stay cold.  Really the best weather to work outside, so hopefully I can get a jump on next year’s woodpile over the Holiday break.

I was reading about the native Americans of New England after the King Philip war, farm life of post-revolution America, and looked at some Matthew Brady photographs.  I have to reflect on the lives of our ancestors.  We have it so easy in the current era.  Will my son appreciate that?  Will he live it?

Uppers and Downers

My ride to work starts with about a quarter mile of 10% uphill grade, at the top of which it levels out and comes to a STOP sign at a “T” intersection. I turn left there to ride another mile along a seemingly rural (it’s not) winding street past a meadow (I often see a group of wild turkeys along this stretch, have also seen deer and one bear) before I have to get on a traffic artery. This first mile+ is a great way to start my day, one forgets that one lives in a metropolis.
Now this is a small, backstreet, not much used, and nearly everybody who does use it tends not to drive fast-it’s just really hard to see around a sharp bend mid-way up the hill (or down, if you’re going home). Problem is that some boxed commuters passing through my town/suburb think it’s a freeway or MidOhio racetrack and flog their machines. That’s alright I suppose; like Al Haig once said, everywhere you go you meet an asshole, they always standout in the crowd of decency.
But today took the cake. I ride by ear as much as by sight, and as I’m grannying up that hill on my loaded LHT, I hear some car coming up fast. As I approach the stop sign, that driver is rounding the bend, and by the time I clear the STOP sign, the car is there…a dark silver (meteor grey?) Audi A8. That’s OK, except as I make the turn I see coming around the bend on the cross street a large SUV, a Ford Exploder or similar. Maybe 100 feet and closing. No problem for me, I am now already headed in the opposite direction on the opposite side of the road.
Jerky Boy in the Audi however decides that there’s plenty of time as long as he uses his gonadal substitute Big Engine, and guns it. SUV has to slam brake, and Jerky Boy comes within a few inches of sideswiping me. It’s not like he missed the stop sign, that jerk meant to fully accellerate away from that STOP sign. I confess, I had to drop my Christian ethic, and raise an impolite digital salute (I thought he slowed down….to pick a fight?…then thought better of it. I was already reaching for the tire pump)

What a bummer of a way to start the day, especially the best part of my day. The rest of the way to work I secretly hoped it was some bigwig at the place where I work and I could remove the valve stems from his wheels (non-destructive technique for slowing down dicks who believe their rush is more important than any consideration for other people).

Ah. daydreams. I live in the capitol city, a city full of businesses who take their profit from fleecing the gullible (“sure….you can pay me to take your financial risk —-(in sotto voce now...) heh heh heh, but I’ve got actuaries to make sure I don’t really assume any risk, you actually pay me every cent I’d give you anyway). Self-important Rubes like this are commonplace in this town of politics and legalized larceny.

On the positive however, it was a nice brisk ride, just at freezing, very refreshing in other respects. Good meetings with my mentors, co-workers, I learned some cool stuff, and by the time I was on my way home for lunch the sun was out, traffic was minimal, and I had a great ride.

I don’t yet know if I should add the A8 to the list of dangerous road weapons and their drivers universally to the class of Treacherous Cretins. I’ve usually thought of the A8 as a Buick for the carriage trade, but maybe I should re-think that….