Friday, November 28, 2008

Meanwhile, I was still thinkin',,,

Was it only a couple of weeks ago that Fritz said my snot rocket haiku rivaled Vogon poetry? Now, I ask you, should a charge like that go unanswered?

He said something about being gone for the weekend, so maybe I should sneak into Cyclelicious and add some suitably florid poetic, um, whatever, in order to increase the intellectual appeal. Or something like that. Regardless, it would be an outstanding opportunity to indulge both my creativity and some shameless rationalization.

Vogon poetry? Just see if I don't!

(Why yes, since you asked, I'm sitting around in the house being bored. Mary isn't feeling well. Both kids are at work. I have to find something to do and re-fried Vogon haiku with guacamole and beer sounds quite good just now.)


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

("Planksy" from Okie Funk: Notes from the Outback by DocHoc, another liberal in this most red of states. Go read his post for today!)

You don't often see a pirate turkey. Maybe Thanksgiving Day should be another religious holiday on the Pastafarian calendar and we could have roast turkey as a sacrament.

It's just after 8AM CST as I write this. I've been up since 5AM like most mornings. There's fresh coffee in the pot. Actually, it's the second pot! I made French roast appropriately enough in the French press when I got up, but the second pot is in the drip machine. I've been busy.

Since my son has to work today at 2PM, we're having dinner early. Lyndsay and I stuffed the turkey and put it in the oven. She fed the cats while I prepared the bread machine. We cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher, then she went back to bed. We'll probably do the bulk of the work on today's meal because Mary is still sick.

Yes, Mom is sick, so the family tradition - someone's sick or we have a plumbing disaster - is holding true once again.

I'll miss out on Black Friday. Darn the luck! A friend is having outpatient surgery tomorrow and I agreed to take him to the hospital. I'll have to miss out on all that shopping mayhem. Gosh darn it. My heart - it's broken.

Since I'll have some free time this afternoon, I'm thinking about getting the Pennine road-worthy again. It's the only fixed gear in the garage right now because I converted the Centurion to a single speed. And there's little doubt I could benefit from some exercise after the food-induced coma that will arrive later today. Besides the turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies, salad, and fresh baked whole wheat bread, there are 2 pies and a crock full of cookies out in the kitchen. I bought some Sam Adam's Honey Porter yesterday too, dark beer for guys named Sven or Olaf. I have no idea what the difference is between porter and stout, but I do know that I like both of them immensely. Hmmm. Big meal + beer = nap.

Gotta go. The cookies are calling. Enjoy your holiday!


Monday, November 24, 2008

News Flash

Be still my heart!

News Flash

Help Re-Name Thunderhead Alliance - Win $$$
Thunderhead Alliance is embarking upon a process to rename/rebrand the organization. We’re inviting all our members to share with us ideas for a new name. If your suggestion is selected, you will win a $250 voucher good towards your Thunderhead Alliance membership, events, or publications.

Soooo, they're looking for a new name? I can suggest a few, but remember, this is an organization whose former leader labeled me as "an enemy of cycling" because I had the effrontery to question their accepted wisdom on spending public monies on bike lanes. Imagine that. Their reaction to differing viewpoints was worthy of Joseph Stalin, but at least he would have offered a blindfold and cigarette.

With that as prologue, here are my suggestions for a name change (and I'll do my very best to keep it clean!):

Give Us The Money Bicycling and Pedestrian Advocacy.

Inferior Cyclists/Inferior Facilities.

Cycling Shills for Cash.

Know Nothing Cycling.

Money Money Money Money Money Money Money and...uh...oh, yeah, Pedestrians.

And you didn't miss the fact that they're (sort of) offering money for a good suggestion, did you? Normally, an organization brings in a consulting firm to conduct some surveys about the perceptions associated with a new name. They have focus groups. But TA is doing this on the cheap, and only offering $250 VOUCHER for the winning entry.

So I'll make a counter-offer right out of my own pocket. I have $3.28 in change in my pants pocket right now. Put your own suitably twisted suggestion for a new name for TA in comments. The winner gets that princely sum of $3.28! What a deal! To keep this impartial, I'll ask Doctor Wally Crankset to be the judge, assuming he's not currently incarcerated and he's reasonably sober.

Remember, this ain't no VOUCHER. It's cash. Real money. So make your suggestions and I'll announce the lucky winner by December 7th.


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This just in...

Via Cycle South Dakota:

Viagra may be placed on the banned drugs list.

Yep, that's right. Apparently it has a performance benefit (besides the obvious one) in that it permits greater blood flow and therefore greater oxygen carrying capacity. Follow the link to the full article on WWOS.COM.AU

I know. I know. There's a strong temptation to indulge in some cheap humor over this. It's hard, very hard (oh damn!) to resist. I mean, if we simply rise to every sophomoric joke about those little blue pills, we richly deserve some stiff punishment. So I beg of you, all of you reading this, to refrain from making fun of something as serious as abusing Viagra in cycling. It's so wrong. Most of us know the satisfaction that derives from pushing to the very limit when climbing a steep hill, our breath rasping in and out, and forcing the pedals around again and again and again as we try to reach the pinnacle, knowing that the sense of anticipation is best felt and most intense just before that climactic moment. We collapse exhausted across the handlebars, drenched in sweat, deflated, and satisfied at making yet another conquest. Who needs Viagra for that?

Gotta go see what the wife's doing. Later.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Study Finds Cyclists Disobey Traffic Laws

This study from Hunter College did not survey a random sample of cyclists in New York City, so its accuracy is questionable. That doesn't stop people from reaching conclusions on the basis of this questionable data, however, so let's make fun of them.

First up - helmets. I guess the idea is that if more cyclists wore helmets, they'd obey traffic laws. I get a headache trying to connect those two ideas as a logical sequence because they're utter nonsense. Maybe if cyclists wore helmets they'd be better equipped to survive doing something stupid and contrary to traffic law. But if they adhered to the law in the first place, maybe the helmet wouldn't be entirely necessary. Think of it this way - a helmet is a good thing to have in that instant between something bad happening and something worse happening. Our goal in promoting bicycling education is to prevent something bad from happening in the first place. I still use the seat belt in my car, but I don't want to find out how well it works.

Then there's this bit from Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives. “It doesn’t surprise me to see high rates of traffic infractions on streets that do not have provisions for bicyclists.”

Excuse me? Streets which are expressly designed for motor vehicles see high rates of traffic infractions by drivers. How does engineering for bicyclists magically improve their adherence to traffic law? Do bike lanes or the currently fashionable 'cycle tracks' deter wrong way cyclists or red light runners, or are we seeing wishful thinking substituted for valid information?

(On a side note: My apologies to regular CycleDog readers for being so lax in posting new items. The kitchen is almost done - thankfully - so I may not be completely exhausted in the evenings. I have vacation coming up this month and next. Also, my work will be seeing the usual winter lull after Christmas, though we're losing 8 people to early retirement and gaining 13 replacements. I feel like Alice, running as fast as I can just to stay in place!)

Study Finds Cyclists Disobey Traffic Laws

By Sewell Chan

Hunter College study found that many cyclists improperly ride against the direction of traffic.

Updated, 12:50 p.m. | New York City is witnessing an upsurge in the number of cyclists, but many of them do not obey traffic and helmet laws, according to a observational study by students and professors at Hunter College.

Among the more important findings of the study, which was released on Wednesday:

* Nearly 57 percent of the cyclists observed failed to stop red lights.
* About 13 percent of cyclists (and a quarter of cyclists under the age of 14) were observed riding against traffic.
* Almost 13 percent of cyclists (and more than half of cyclists under the age of 14) were observed riding on sidewalks.
* Nearly 14 percent of cyclists did not use a designated bike lane when one was available.
* Only 36 percent of cyclists wore helmets. About half of female riders wore helmets, compared with just about one-third of the males. Nearly half of the children under the age of 14, and nearly three-quarters of commercial cyclists — like messengers and delivery workers — did not wear a helmet, even though the law requires that both groups use helmets.

...Professor Milczarski said that “greater adherence to these traffic laws” would help to reduce reports of “conflicts between cyclists and motorists.”

One methodological drawback: The observations were not a random sampling of all city cyclists. However, Professors Tuckel and Milczarski said the cyclists observed represented a broad cross-section of them.

...A study by the Bicyle Helmet Safety Institute found that nearly all cyclists who died in New York City were not wearing a helmet and that only 13 percent of those seriously injured while cycling were wearing a helmet.

...Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, a leading advocacy group for cyclists and pedestrians, said, “It’s our philosophy that good street design gives us better behavior.” Dedicated bike lanes will encourage cyclists to stay off the sidewalks, he said, noting that children under 14 are permitted to ride on the sidewalks.

“Obviously it’s incumbent for cyclists to obey the laws: they have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians and motorists,” Mr. Norvell said. “The most important rule is to yield to pedestrians, always, no matter what. It gets under my skin if a bicyclist doesn’t yield to a pedestrian.”

As for running red lights, Mr. Norvell said, “It doesn’t surprise me to see high rates of traffic infractions on streets that do not have provisions for bicyclists.”

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another Saturday post...

(Friday night. The line of tiles down the center of the room are on the centerline and they provide my reference point. Saturday's project is to fill the areas to either side of this reference. The area at top center was just tiled. CycleDog photo.)

I haven't written about cycling lately because I just haven't been on the bike much. In all honesty, I'm afraid of doing permanent damage to my knee. It's been troublesome for about 2 years now, and it reacts badly to cold, wet weather. Since I've been laying tile, my knees are sore and riding aggravates them. I can take no more than 2 hours doing tile work. You'd think it wasn't particularly difficult, but why do I have sweat dripping from my nose?

Originally, I'd planned to have the kitchen finished last weekend, but I was called in for overtime and I had no energy for doing tile. Also, since I left the area in front of the sink and the stove for last, it meant that the kitchen would be unusable until the thin set (a kind of tile adhesive) cured under the tiles. But there's a fast-curing thin set that sets up in just 3 hours. It has additional quicklime that makes it set up so rapidly. One problem, though, is that you have to work very quickly and work with small quantities. The stuff hardens in the mixing bucket otherwise.

So this morning I bought a 25 pound sack of this thin set. It's from Mapei! I'm assuming it's the same company that sponsored a team through the 90s until 2002. I can't wait to tell Mary her floor has a connection to professional bicycle racing. I'm sure she'll be overwhelmed with emotion. Oh, the joy!

Anyway, I mixed it in 2 batches, laid the tile in about an hour and a half, and cleaned up before noon. As I write this, Mary is still asleep. She's had a cold and sinus infection that interrupted her sleep until the doctor prescribed some high-powered cough medicine that knocks her out. I think I could ride a motorcycle around inside the house right now and she wouldn't wake up.

(Saturday morning. The bags, cans, boxes, etc, are there to remind us not to walk on the tiles until the adhesive sets. CycleDog photo.)

So when she gets up, the tile should be ready for grout. As you can see from the photos, I left the final cutting work for tomorrow. I hope it's a little warmer because the tile saw tends to spray me with water. (It uses a water bath to cool the blade and it slings water off at the operator.) Right now it's about 45F with a stiff north wind. When I went outside to clean up the tools, the combination of sweat, low temperature, and wind left me chilled in seconds. Adding some water from the saw wouldn't be any fun.

Right now I'm looking forward to a shower to get the smell of quicklime off of me, though with all that stuff curing in the kitchen, I should look forward to smelling it for the rest of the day. It's also very good at drying the skin. My hands feel like sandpaper.



Sunday, November 09, 2008

A boy and his ride...

The Ride

Saturday morning. 1AM.

The phone rang, waking me up. Mary was still awake out in the living room. She came in to tell me that Jordan's car was stalled up on SH20. I came fully awake, pulled on my clothes and shoes, then went to the garage for a gasoline can.

Minutes later, I was in the car driving through the night to find my son. Last weekend, he called to say, "Can you meet me at the hospital?" This was another of those moments that parents dread despite their seeming inevitability.

Sure enough, his car sat on the roadside with hazard lights flashing. I pulled up behind him with my flashers on too. Within seconds, a police car did a u-turn and went by us. I figured he either had a call or he presumed we had the situation in hand.

Jordan and I pushed the Supra about a hundred yards - slightly uphill all the way - with me huffing and puffing to keep the legs working. A big oil puddle was under the car. We moved it off the roadway onto a farm ramp. Obviously, it had electrical power but it would not crank. There's little I can do to fix a car in the dead of night, so we went home.

Yesterday, I went up after work to check it out. It wasn't surprising to find that the car didn't have a drop of oil. The engine was seized. I left a note on the windscreen saying that the motor was trashed and I'd call for a wrecker. I left my phone number too.

Someone left a message on my phone offering to buy the car! Steve has a business restoring old cars down in Tulsa. He saw Jordan's Supra and called me about it. This afternoon, we met him on SH20 and he bought the car.

Happier Days

This was a good first car for the kid and he really liked it. The Supra came from a co-worker who retireed. It had about 250,000 miles and as you can see, it was pre-disastered. Jordan didn't mind the flaws. I think he may have the sports car bug now. We'll see what he chooses for his next car.

In the meantime, maybe I can get him back on his bike!


Just send a check...

I'm wondering about all that bailout money going to the banks, with even more going to automakers, and an eventual stimulus package meant to build infrastructure and generate more jobs. Now, the banks are getting about $800 billion - that's billion, with a b - meaning that if we divvy the cash up among the population, the average is about $2600. For a family of four, that's a little over $10,000.

So here's my alternative. Just send me a check for $10,000 and we'll call it even. Honest. Chateau CycleDog operates with a very low overhead, so there's little worry about the 'executives' here giving themselves a nice, fat, golden parachute. The money would go back into the economy in short order, and it would see that local grocery store employees keep their jobs. I'm sure the liquor store clerks would be grateful too, as well as the bike shop staff, the delivery drivers who bring the bikes into town, and the bicycle manufacturer's employees.

For a lot of us, $10,000 would go a long way toward purchasing a new car, thereby keeping the automakers and their employees afloat. No need to bail out Chrysler again if people start buying cars.

Or some of us could pay down our mortgages, freeing up cash for other discretionary spending. And that spending generates more jobs.

Now, I realize the utter insanity of simply letting taxpayers themselves decide where the money should go. What nonsense! If you want to subsidize, say, whale oil lamp manufacturing, you offer the business owners tax breaks or even cash to keep their businesses in operation. You allow them to outsource the work formerly done by the Amalgamated Wick Weavers Union, and allow the company to flout environmental restrictions against the accumulation of whale oil in the ground water around the lamp factory.

Of course, if you go the other way and allow the taxpayers to get the money directly, they can make a decision as to the desirability of whale oil versus those new-fangled electric lamps. What a concept.

So I just sit here waiting patiently for that check to arrive. I probably won't blow it on beer and pizza, but then again, the guy tossing dough in the air probably wants to keep his job too.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gosh, it's cold this morning...

It's called cold induced rhinitis, or as motorists commonly wonder, why do cyclists leave a trail of slime like two-wheeled garden slugs in loud clothing? You have to do something with all that snot, otherwise you end up looking like a woman I saw in a cyclocross race who had (I am not making this up) at least a foot-long booger hanging from her nose. And yes, she had just lapped me at the time, so it's likely that I looked even worse.

Besides our sartorial splendor, cyclists have to deal with runny noses when it's cold. There's no easy way to use a handkerchief, so we resort to snot rockets. it may be uncouth, but, well, it is what it is.

So with that thought in mind, some snot rocket haiku (just to annoy Fritz!):

It's not haiku

Haiku, haiku, wheeze
Eyes water and nose running
Snot rocket machine

What's that on my arm?
A band of gooey mucus
Must improve my aim

Stoplight snot rocket
Two shots on the cold pavement
Driver looks aghast

Ride below freezing
Icicles form on mustache
Only some is ice


It's snot haiku.

Good advice

What sparked the following was a post called My Brother Got Hit by a Car on Jason Kearney's blog, "Out Here in the Middle." It worth taking the time to read. His brother, Spencer, was involved in a hit-and-run. The motorist returned and assaulted him. Go read.

Local attorney and cycling advocate Malcolm McCollum wrote this for anyone involved in a similar situation:

In addition to the info below, I have to again preach to everyone check the uninsured/underinsured (UM) coverage on your auto insurance, which covers you in hit and run cases. Remember one-third of the drivers in Oklahoma have NO insurance.

Bicycle-Vehicular Accidents:
What to Do If It Happens To You

By: Malcolm McCollam

The unthinkable happens. You - not someone else, mind you - but YOU are involved in a bicycling accident with a motor vehicle. What do you do?

IDENTIFY THE VEHICLE INVOLVED. Most of the time, this is easily done because the driver stops. In the case of a hit-and-run, however, you have precious few seconds to identify the make, model, color, and maybe even license number (if you’re good) of the vehicle. You can test your powers of observation while on group rides. Turn to the rider next to you a minute or so after a vehicle passes, and ask him or her to describe the car that just passed. This little exercise can help teach you to be alert.

CALL THE POLICE. Always have an official report prepared. The information that will be gathered may become critical to your obtaining a recovery for your injuries and other damages. Law enforcement authorities are trained to follow procedures, most of which involve information gathering. This process can identify evidence which may become important in either presenting your claim or trying your case. That evidence gets harder to gather when, as they say, the trail gets cold.

OBTAIN PROMPT MEDICAL TREATMENT. Don’t be a martyr! If an ambulance arrives on the scene and you are hurt, let them take you to the hospital. If there is no ambulance involved, and you get home some other way, obtain medical attention promptly; don’t wait several days. Not only are you probably delaying your ability to get healed and back to full strength and training, but you are not doing yourself any favors in the processing of your claim for damages. Insurance adjusters are notorious about claiming a cyclist must not have really been hurt because the cyclist didn’t seek medical treatment for several days.

GATHER AND PRESERVE EVIDENCE. Take pictures of your injuries from different angles. Keep a daily diary of your symptoms. Leave your bike, helmet, and other items as they are; that includes your clothing - as nasty as it may be. Do not wash it. Stick it in a box and put it out in the garage if you want to, but don’t change it’s condition.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO NEGOTIATE YOUR OWN CLAIM. Do not attempt to negotiate with either the at-fault driver or the insurance company. My files are full of cases where the driver jumped out of the car apologetically and accepting blame, only to have reconsidered once it became time to consider the ramifications. Likewise, insurance adjusters are always eager to communicate with you to gather information so they can "take care of you" or make a "fair settlement of your claim." What they perceive as "fair" may be much different than your perception. Which brings me to my final point.

CONTACT A QUALIFIED-EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY. As soon as you hit the ground, a number of insurance policies sprang into effect. Handling any accident case requires knowledge of how these policies interact and how to maximize their application. Handling bicycle accident cases requires additional specialized knowledge many accident lawyers do not have. A lawyer involved in bicycle accident cases has experience with bicycle traffic laws and ordinances, negotiating the unique personal injuries associated with bike wrecks, understands the prejudice against cyclists with juries and insurance adjusters, knows the right questions to ask about our bike and it’s damaged parts, understands the significance of varying degrees of bicycle handling skills, and has access to a network of bicycle accident forensic engineers who are skilled at reconstructing accidents for presentation of your claim to an insurance adjuster or jury.

Bicycle accident attorneys typically handle claims for a percentage of any recovery obtained for you, and your recovery - even after deduction of an attorney’s fee - is generally higher than if you attempt to go it alone. Most accident claims can be successfully negotiated to conclusion without a trial. Hopefully, you will never have to use the information contained in this article. If, however, that day comes, be prepared and follow the steps laid out above - for your sake and the sake of your family.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Heartbreak of Addiction

This is my column from the November issue of the Red Dirt Pedalers "Wheel Issues."

Once again, I've spent a chunk of a very nice Saturday on my knees in the kitchen laying ceramic tile. This job should be completed sometime next week, and believe me, I'm looking forward to it.

Also, I made a trip down to Tom's and came back with a new goodie - not a bike! - 'cause Mary would simply shoot me. No, I bought a commuting essential and I'll be writing about it in a few days.

Image from

I thought I had beaten it. I thought the monkey was off my back and I could turn the corner into a future free of the scourge of my addiction. I was wrong.

It started innocently enough when I was in college, cramming for those all-important mid-terms and finals. Late at night hovering over a manual typewriter, I needed just a little 'something' to get me through and get the work done. A couple of years later, it was six to eight cups of coffee a day. I was hooked.

I drank to excess, using a crude electric percolator to cook my 'stuff.' When it broke down, I switched to a drip machine, one with a timer that woke me to the smell of fresh coffee. It was the first of many cups every day.

Then came the exotic beans. Simple Colombian or Eight O'Clock wasn't good enough. I had to have the best. Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kona were staples on my table.

And I worked hard to support my habit. At first, it involved entry level jobs that had no future. They were dead-ends career-wise, but they supplied cash for the beans.

Then I found the local supplier for high-end addicts, a guy who sold cheap Bodum French presses to bored suburban housewives, and sleek, shiny Capresso machines to wild-eyed addicts. It's like giving a gun to a loaded baby. But I didn't have the cash for such elite 'works' so I stood outside his shop with my nose pressed up against the glass until he called the cops. They were fairly sympathetic since they're usually coffee addicts themselves. I got off with community service.

I got a better job. More money lead inevitably to more coffee. I slept some nights, but not all. My dentist asked if I smoked cigarettes. When I said no, he mumbled, “That's a LOT of coffee!” Sure, his hands didn't shake, something I was thankful for when he had sharp implements inside my mouth, but he could have had the courtesy to ask before strapping me into his office chair because I was vibrating so much.

The kicker came when I visited my doctor for the annual physical. He took my blood pressure and said, “I've seen pressures that high before, but it was in a steam engine.” He ordered me to cut back to no more than 2 caffeinated beverages per day. With Mary's help, I did it, though her part consisted of locking me in the garage now and then.

Like I said, I thought it was behind me, until the kids gave me a shiny new Bialetti coffee maker for Father's Day. They liked it because it's old-fashioned and Italian. Besides, it's tiny. How much trouble could it cause? When loaded with freshly-ground espresso roast, the answer is painfully apparent. It causes plenty of trouble. I've loaded it twice so far today. The monkey is back and he wants a cappuccino.

For real information about coffee and bicycles, see Steven Scharff's page.



It's just after 7AM....

It's just after 7 AM as I write this. I've had 5 or 6 hours of sleep.

Yesterday, Halloween, went true to form at the lovely Chateau CycleDog. Holidays usually involve one of two things: plumbing disasters or personal injury. Halloween was no exception.

We saw the last of the neighborhood kid's at the front door sometime before 9 PM. Mary ran a tub full of hot water, wrapped her hair in a towel, and prepared to take what we call "Mom's vacation" - a long, hot, steamy tub bath. Both of our kids were off at parties with friends. I sat on the couch splitting my attention between television and this laptop.

At 9:45, the phone rang. Sometimes, as I go to answer it, I have that fleeting idea that it may bring bad news. That thought bounced through my head last night.

"Dad," Jordan said, "Can you meet me at the hospital?"

He broke a finger playing touch football about three weeks ago. He was afraid he'd broken it again. I told him that I'd be on my way in a few minutes.

A broken finger certainly isn't life threatening, but it can be very painful due to all those nerves. I've broken one in a car door and another while cheating in a relay race.

I went into the bathroom to tell Mom that I was leaving for the hospital. She was up and out of that tub like a Polaris missile launched from a submarine, absent the towel on top and all the bubbles, of course.

We were at the hospital a little after 10PM. Jordan stood at the ER entrance shuffling back and forth in obvious pain. We went inside, did all the usual paperwork, etc. They x-rayed his fingers and announced that in addition to the original break, he'd managed to sprain it as well. They relieved us of the co-pay, and a few minutes after midnight, we were on our way home.

The next holiday is Thanksgiving. I'm considering putting the family inside individually bubble-wrapped coccoons and turning off the water at the street side connector. Then I'll sit in the dark with a flashlight in hand while wearing my bicycle helmet. You can never be too careful.