Dec 24, 2010

Left hand doesn't know from the Right

This blog is hosted by which is a Google entity. 

Just now blogger sent me an email describing new features, etc.  As it
turns out I received this email via another Google service -- Gmail. 
And wouldn't you know it... Gmail marked it as spam and moved
it to the spam folder!

Nov 30, 2010

I'll "give it a try"

No! Try not.  Do... or do not. There is no try.      -Yoda 

Sep 12, 2010

World's Sexiest Radiators

Painted a few radiators with Hammerite "Rust Cap".  It's expensive stuff but I'm really happy with the results.

Jul 8, 2010

Google Maps does Bicycling Directions!

I don't know how long this "beta" feature has been available but I just noticed it. I was using the usual "driving directions" feature to get an idea for a bike route between Chicago and Kenosha Wisconsin.  I hadn't noticed this before but there are now four icons above the area where you enter your starting and ending points.  The icons correspond to: driving, public transport, walking and bicycling.  This is brilliant!

Why Kenosha?  Well, there is a commuter train stop near where I live and the end of the line is Kenosha.  Since Metra allows bikes on trains I think it would be cool to take the train to the end of the line and bicycle back.  As most of you know -- it is much harder to get lost when heading towards home.  Anyway, the route Google gives me includes bike paths were they are available.  This is such a great idea.

Jun 28, 2010

Green - Cargo via Bicycle

A small effort to get a little "greener" has lead to a short-term OCD-type thought-binge on the best way to carry cargo on a bicycle.  The effort started with attaching a grocery pannier to the rear rack of my bike.  As I headed out to the store each pedal rotation had my heel bumping against the pannier.  Once I got up a little speed my heel launched the pannier right off the bike. 

At first I thought about different bikes and different racks and so on. I decided that if I was going to start buying things I better figure out exactly what I want in terms of where I ought to carry a load on a bike. A small series of experiments was in order.

For the first test, the panniers had to be either be moved back somehow or replaced by a way to carry a load on the top of  the rack.  I found these collapsible steel rear baskets (made by Wald) on Craigslist.  Being steel, I was able to mount them about 6 inches back on the rack.  That gives me the heel clearance that I need.

For "cargo" I used two empty cat litter containers and filled them with water. The containers were about 2 gallons each so they each made up a 16 pound simulated load. The ride was not bad and handling was hardly affected.  It did take a little extra distance to stop after braking with the 32 lb. load.

I used I used an old milk crate attached to a front mounted "porteur" style rack to test out the potential of a front delivery basket. This might not have been a good test as the load is so far forward.  As I started to ride it was reminiscent of first learning to ride a bike.  The front wheel wiggled a bit until I got up some speed then it settled down.  The handling of the bike felt strange but I got somewhat used to it after a while. When stopping, planting a foot solidly on the ground right away was more important than usual. Riding this way would require extra diligence.

I thought part of the problem was that the load and the handlebars were both forward of the head tube of the bike, basically, ahead of the steering fulcrum. I turned my "bull horn" style handle bars around to simulate a set of touring handlebars.  Unfortunately, the short "horns" and the long extension of the stem did not move my hand position to the other side of the fulcrum. The ride seemed better but maybe I was getting more used to the load.  Something I did during all test drives was jiggle the the handlebars left and right to get a sense of the bike's handling.  In these configurations doing so caused a noticeable torsion in the stem itself!

I went back to testing the load at the rear of the bike, now with it on top of the rack. I expected bike handling to be just like with the panniers.  However, this configuration had some of the uneasy handling as was the case with the front load.  Not bad, but noticeable.

Front and rear crates where attached to the racks using plastic tie-wraps.

For now I will probably go with some compromise.  Heavy loads will go low, on the rear on the bike. I like the convenience of carrying some things on the front but that will have to limited to lighter loads.  Maybe I'll get a small wire basket or a handlebar bag, perhaps with some upright touring handlebars.

Jun 24, 2010

Meet the Fawcetts

Our neighbors had their basement laundry room remodeled recently.  When they put these faucets out in the alley they still had the plumbing attached to them.  But still -- they spoke to me.

I happened to have a few pickets left over from a fence I built a long while ago...

Jun 8, 2010

Bikin' in the Rain

Today was the first time I can recall -- in a long time -- that I started out to run errands by bicycle when it was already raining.  I've been caught in the rain before but I don't know if/when I ever started out when it was already raining. I know this is no big deal to hard-core cyclists, but I am just getting back into it and using the car as a last resort rather than the other way around.

The interesting thing is that... it was fun.  Sort of like being in on some silly secret.

May 1, 2010

Derby Day

Friend and neighbor checks in from the Derby via the miracle that is modern cell phone technology.

Mar 21, 2010

The Cat-Lady Makes Breakfast

This "Apple Pancake" was just a few raisins short of being Apple Strudel -- but I'm not complaining.  The photo was taken before the powdered sugar was applied.

Mar 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jack

Last week would have been Jack Kerouac's birthday.  I read "On The Road" many years ago and was a bit disappointed.  I just didn't see what the big deal was.  After listening to a radio program over the weekend I realized what the big deal was -- or more accurately -- why I didn't see the what the big deal was before.

The book "On The Road" was published before I was born, and it chronicled his doings from years before that -- life and road trips starting in the late 1940s and extending into the 1950s.  By the time I read this book much of that radicalism had been main-streamed into our lives.  Reading about Kerouac "living" the 1960's just didn't seem so cool when I read about it in the 1980's.  That is until I looked at it from the perspective of  post-war America in the 1940's and 50's, which is when he was actually doing it.

No MSG for me...

There is a very interesting article on MSG over at the Huffington Post.

Mar 4, 2010

Cold-Brew Coffee

Of course I was intrigued when my local bashful-beatnik sent over a link for a new device that claims to: 1) make the best coffee,  2) make coffee with 70% less acid and 3) work without power.

The device doesn't brew in the true sense of the word.  You actually steep the (coarse ground) beans in water for 24 hours to make a high octane "extract" that can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  To make hot coffee you mix some of the extract with hot water and there you go -- the best, lowest acid coffee ever. Right?

I took a look at the pictures of the $80 contraption and immediately saw about 3 or 4 other ways you could steep the beans with equipment you already have. I chose one method and 24 hours later tested some of the extract. Man, if I had spent $80 I would have been pissed disappointed. At least it doesn't require power -- (except to make the hot water you could have used to make drip coffee in the first place).

I may repeat the experiment one more time using beans coarse ground at the store (which uses a burr grinder) rather than use my home grinder (which uses a spinning blade). But the results will have to be much better just to equal the coffee I make the usual way.

Mar 2, 2010

An ounce of prevention

In our rather large home-office network I have been using an old PC running IPCOP (Linux-based firewall distribution) as a firewall.  And by "old" I really mean OLD.  Since it had been running 24x7 for many years I decided to build up (add 3 network cards, etc) a "newer" old PC as a replacement.  The plan also called for refurbishing the old firewall as a back-up to the new firewall.

It all went according to plan but, about a week after the new firewall was in place it experienced a memory error -- which results in a kernel panic and a system halt.  If I didn't have the old firewall still sitting nearby this would have meant a day or more of no internet access, several websites unavailable to the outside world and probably other network problems as well, since the firewall is also a DHCP server.

For sure I will be building up back-up machines for the web-server, the file-server and might even pick-up some other spare network components as well.

Quoting John Kerry

About two years ago I removed every "political" post from my blog thinking that commentary just didn't belong here.  A few years before that, the Democrats held the minority position in both houses.  At that time, the main stream media were calling out every parliamentary maneuver as "obstruction" and actually using the word "filibuster".  On the other hand, yesterday the media reported Senator Bunning's outlandish obstructionism only as "Senate Gridlock".  The following is a snippet of a post by Senator Kerry in the blog Talking Points Memo:

In the last Congress, the Republican minority more than doubled the previous record for filibusters, and they are on a pace to challenge or surpass that "accomplishment" this Congress as well. And filibusters are only the most obvious part of it.

On issue after issue, votes large and small, the strategy from the GOP at the highest levels has been the same: exploiting every Senate rule, playing every trick to try to slow things down. They put holds on bills that later pass by 90 votes, filibuster things they later vote for, block things they previously proposed. They used the filibuster to shoot down a debt commission that they themselves called on President Obama to implement! They block completely uncontroversial nominees and cause days of delays on the most critical of legislation. They even stalled on money for our troops last year, just to try to delay debate on health care reform.