22 January 2018

80's Budget Bianchi Bit Busted But Born Better

Not much I want to blog about lately. Fixed up my friends old bike so he could ride it and/or use it on an indoor trainer. Did that for his birthday as part of his birthday present. Probably you are super interested in reading about that? I thought not. It wasn't much of a project, as the bike itself was not great when it was new, and as my man dumbomollusk reminded me: you can't polish a turd. Even so, I polished that thing up as much as I could. It turned out pretty good.

I put new tubes and tires on it, fixed the handlebar tape, which I think was original vintage circa 80's. Lubed the chain, which should really be replaced, but there's a limit to how much I want to invest in this bucket. And I deleted the awful reflectors, which were hideous and useless.

The updated handlebar wrap will not be confused with anything from your local bike shop but it's not bad for a first effort, and it is perfectly adequate given our source material. You can actually ride it now, which is something. And if you did ride it somewhere people would not look at you funny. They would think you were a dedicated hipster riding a retro bike. Except for the saddle, but that was another piece that was a step too far for this effort. If my buddy wants to replace it then he will do so.

Me At Every Party Ever

I don't get out much in my advanced age, but this song describes a very familiar feeling, and it makes it sound very catchy.

15 January 2018

No Need to Argue and Dolores O'Riordan

News out today that Dolores O'Riordan has died.

I have not listened to a Cranberries song in a while, so it was time to dive into the back catalog. Of course I bought the records in the mid-90's; EVERYONE bought the records in the mid-90's, and that was a time when people were still buying records for real. Those copies are long gone but the internet provides.

Linger was their first hit, but Dreams was very much My Jam, and I absolutely wore it out back in 1993, so I was well-primed for their follow-up record in 1994. Zombie ended up being the song that charted the best on that record, and it's a great song, but if you're dealing with some kind of overly dramatic love-of-your-life relationship breakup drama in 1994 (or ever) then look no further than the underrated No Need to Argue.

We could dive into the mechanics of this song, and explore its' clever combination of simplicity and sophistication, but let's not. O'Riordan had a beautiful voice, and this song is beautifully sung. It either speaks to you, or it does not. It speaks to me in a different way than it once did, because it's been a long time, but the sound has held up well. I expect it will continue to do so, and that sad-hearted kids will be listening to it for many years to come.

Dolores O'Riordan was 46.

01 January 2018

Happy Fuckin' New Year!

Hot damn! The year of our lord two thousand and eighteen. Twenty-fucking-eighTEEN!!! Are you ready for this shit? I SAID ARE YOU READY?? I am so ready. Just, so goddamn ready. What are we gonna fuckin' do this year? Oh you have no idea. NO IDEA! So here's some things that we are gonna fuckin' do:
  • Hit the gym, because that gets me out of the house, which is Good and Healthy. (Sleeves optional, obvs.)
  • Shock the fuckin' pipes (see previous bullet point) 
  • Work at the place where I work, up to and including maybe getting a new job, at which point I will work there like its my fuckin' job. It's not easy being a goddamn genius at work every day but somehow I manage. 
  • Ride the fuckin' bike farther and faster than ever before, though not at the same time. (Actually kind of looking forward to this one.) May make a pilgrimage to Santa Barbara and do some fuckin' riding up there. May ride from LA to SB and take the train back. May also ride down to Solana Beach and take the train back. Maybe both? We will see. 
  • Read the pile of books in my bedroom currently doing double duty as a nightstand
  • Fuckin go somewhere. Not sure where yet! Mexico City was awesome so maybe go back there and do different stuff. Maybe somewhere further afield. 
  • Be fuckin' social
Tried to get started on this last one already by creating an account in one of the free-to-browse online dating app services. It fuckin' sucked. Out of the 300 or so people I found in my search and that I can message "right now" mayyyyybe five in my age range are appealing? Thousands of guys on the site in my area are looking at that and seeing the same thing. Sooooo... yeah. It's a tough market. 

Let's fuckin' do this. 

29 December 2017

Year in Review: At Least There Were Cookies

This calendar year marked a new low in the total number of posts in this space. There was not much that I felt like writing about when I had time. Politics is fatiguing, and the fact that the United States used the electoral college - a system originally put in place to appease slaveowners - to elect an angry, demented pissbaby is something that will cause harm for years if not decades. Great job, America! The founding fathers really paid it forward. It as if appeasing slaveowners was maybe not a good idea. Go figure.

There is an uncomfortably high likelihood that the most powerful pissbaby in history will lead us to nuclear war, killing tens of millions of people, throwing the economy into a tailspin, and making the Korean peninsula completely uninhabitable. The GOP could do the right thing and remove him from office, but as long as he keeps giving rich people tax cuts and promoting income inequality that seems unlikely.

Two hurricanes blew through the USVI and somehow my uncle's house survived intact. He was lucky, but the experience was so harrowing that he still has nightmares about it, three months on. It turns out that sitting in a house lit by flashlights while the wind outside is blowing sustained winds over 170 MPH for hours on end will leave a scar. St. Thomas and St. John are trashed (literally) and will take years to fully recover.

Hurricane Harvey caused similar levels of damage in Houston by dumping enough rain to cover the entire continental United States under four centimeters of water. That's a lot of water! Houston metro is over 600 square miles of ugly urban sprawl, and the massive flooding did it no favors.

Does the fact that I got a new bike count as good news? I guess it counts as good news for me. There were other ups and downs this year but they do not make for very interesting reading.

See you in 2018. 

13 December 2017

Not the Definition of Insanity: "Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting a Different Result"

I am worn out with the bullshit, inaccurate statement that "doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity." Fuck no it is not! There is a whole book about the definition(s) of insanity, and you can buy a copy.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of STUPIDITY.

Don't be stupid.

10 December 2017

Race Reporter Ruby Rides a Bike

Just in time for the holidays, here is Specialized with some superb marketing sweet cuteness. This makes me want to go ride a bike. And also buy one for my niece, if she were at all interested in riding bicycles (she is not). I can't ride right now and it suuuuucks. So watching cycling videos and getting super pumped about getting back on the bike will have to do.

Speaking of being super pumped about getting on the bike: this video is good because Ruby makes bike riding seem like a hell of a lot of fun. People have a tendency to take it very seriously, and wear terribly ugly outfits, etc. They don't always seem like they are having fun. Weird, but here we are.

Ruby's bike has a custom front crank (it's a 1x, i.e. it only has a single chainring up front), Dura Ace brake controls / shifters, an ultegra rear derailleur, and probably some other bits that I cannot figure out. It's a lot different from the stock bike, but whatever. My only quibble with the video is that she says that her power 'comes from her bike'. That is wrong. Her power comes from her, and that is awesome.

08 December 2017

Bicycling: Peter Sagan and Race Reporter Ruby

Peter Sagan, aka the guy that your ex hooked up with during her backbacking tour of Slovakia a couple years ago but don't worry he was totally chill about it, is the most popular cyclist in the world right now. He often rides the Tour of California as a leisurely warm-up for the Tour de France. Most professional riders are riding the Giro d'Italia in May, but that race is a brutal slog (like the Tour), and riding the two efforts back to back is not common for riders that want to win the GC of the Tour. (Chris Froome, who is a great rider but the type of guy that your ex felt very comfortable rooming with during her backpacking tour of Slovakia because they were such 'great friends', made big news when he announced that he was riding the Giro this year. Chris Froome is good at a very specific type of cycling, and he is boring as hell.)

In 2016 Sagan won the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). In his words after the race, "no one wants to work with me, so I just have to do it by myself." Which is true, but almost impossible to actually do. (Sagan was leading the 2017 Ronde van Vlaanderen when he crashed because a jacket hung over a barrier caught his handlebars.)

As part of Sagan's effort at the ToC last year he sat down with Race Reporter Ruby, who is the best. Please enjoy this interview between two stars. Race Reporter Ruby did more very good interviews with other riders, so if you liked her interview style I encourage you to review those as well, if only to hear how she pronounces "South Lake Tahoe", which is adorable.

26 November 2017

The Wayback Machine: Counting Crows and Middle Age

I had a chance to see Counting Crows recently. Free tickets, free beers, super good seats. I opted not to attend. Skipped it because they have a tendency to get all jam-band-y in their live shows, which is definitely not my jam. (HONK) And also because the songs on August and Everything After mean a lot to me; I was afraid that hearing them again a lifetime later in a different context would have made me feel some feels, which is blah. I was also afraid I would feel nothing at all, which is worse.

When I first got a copy of the record on which this song appears I wore it out. If it were an actual record I would have had to buy a new copy because the needle would have smoothed the groove. As it is I just wore out everyone else's patience while I load-tested the speakers and repeat-offender'd my preferred cuts. Rain King remains my gold-standard, all-time favorite from this record. YMMV.

Covered this already in another post just over two years ago, so I will not belabor the unhappy sections. I will say that this song reminds me of spending time with Big Cheese and Sweet Katie when we were young. It's all a bit of a blur - it was a long time ago, and I spent entirely too much time drinking as much as I could afford, as often as I could afford it. The mere fact of my survival during that era is partly dumb luck, and partly my patient and generous friends.

As for generous friends, were we ever that young? I guess so, because there are pictures. I remember Sweet Katie was the best kind of beautiful (she still is). I remember laughing a lot. Big Cheese was funny (he still is), and he and I had a good time together, celebrating our infrequent successes and laughing about our many, many fuck ups.

It's been decades, but the Counting Crows remind me of the pure truth of Big Cheese and Sweet Katie's tremendous kindness towards me; it is a through-line that spans my entire adult lived experience. The other through-line, closely related to the first, is how much I love them. The only way I would see the Counting Crows at this point is if they were playing a live show at my cousins house and all of us were going together. In December. In 1993.

Also, not for nothing, but: this song fucking rules. Merry Christmas.

23 November 2017

Happy(?) Thanksgiving

I hope that you are having a good thanksgiving. If it is not good then I hope it is over soon, and that there is pie. If it is not good and there is no pie (which is very bad indeed), then make yourself a goddamn pie next time. It is not hard to do, and everything is a little bit better (or less bad) if you have some delicious pie.

I made four pies (so far) this year. Ate half of one, gave the rest away. Pumpkin pies are easy to make two at a time because the recipe can be doubled without affecting the result.

This particular pie is a variation of the classic pumpkin, with an amaretti cookie crust. It is very tasty and pretty easy, so if you want I will send you the recipe. The hardest part is forming the crust in the pan with your hands. I looked at a couple videos on how to make a graham cracker crust and they were useless garbage, so your best bet is to get in there with your hands and go for it. A bit of trial and error will see you through. Aim for an even layer of crust everywhere, and pay special attention to the angle of where the bottom of the pan meets the side of the pan - always a lot of buildup there.

Big plan for thanksgiving over here is doing homework. I cannot make any more pies because I loaned out all my pie tins. Fuck.

I went there: Boulder, CO

Boulder was nice. The trip itself was a drag, because the training was not very helpful. But the town is lovely, and it snowed while I was there. I very much enjoyed the snow, although the locals were not pumped. I got to leave for more temperate climes at the end of the week (87 and sunny here today).

Got myself a souvenir jersey from one of the local bike shops. Not the famously pretentious snobs at Vechhios, because f those guys. I got it at the Rapha store, which is a coffee shop that also sells flattering cycling gear.

The people I spoke to at the Rapha store were very chill, and we talked a lot about how the old-school model of the "Local Bike Shop" is not sustainable, because it does not take long for people to run out of stuff to buy. Yeah sure you need n+1 bikes, but even then you cannot buy a new bike very often (and if you can, most people do not). So how do you drive foot traffic and keep the lights on?

You used to be able to do that with Service and Parts departments, but Amazon has killed the latter, and general commitment to DIY (and instructions for everything on the intertubez) has put a huge dent in the former. Which is why most new bike shops now prominently feature a coffee bar, and also probably a bar bar. This gives cyclists (or coffee drinkers, or beer drinkers) a reason to come to the shop, hang out, talk to people. Rapha sells yearly memberships that offer unlimited free coffee drinks at all their shops. The (very nice) guy working the shop told me that they have people that sign up for the club just for the coffee deal; they don't even ride. Your local bike shop wants to be your local hangout, and that is smart business.

08 November 2017

I Went There: Ciudad Mexico

Yeah I Was That Guy
I went to Mexico City (Ciudad Mexico, or CDMX) with some friends. It was pretty good! I took a bunch of pictures, a very small portion of which I will share here as I sort through them.

This is me on the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, just hanging out, as you do. That's the Pyramid of the Moon in the background.

Mexico City was a fantastic time. Super good food, excellent sightseeing, easy to get around, and lots to do. Many neighborhoods are walkable (depending on where you stay). We were in Roma Norte by Fuente de la Cibeles, which is in the city center, right in the middle of several very nice neighborhoods.

I travel quite a bit for work so it takes a lot for me to want to get up and out of the house for a flight. CDMX was only 3.5 hours away from LAX but (the same as Chicago!) but worlds away in terms of culture and adventure. Flights were cheap - only $300 round trip from LAX, and lodging and food were similarly affordable.

Speaking of food: even if you don't like sightseeing and cool stuff you should go for the food. Ohhhh the food. I loved the food so much. I would eat it every day if I could because it is glorious. I would probably have to mix in some salads because based on my experiences I am not sure my body can handle Tacos al Pastor for dinner every night. :-/

I was there the weekend before Dia de los Muertos so there were many festivals and a parade and decorations everywhere. That was a good and fun time to go, so if you're not doing anything at the end of next October and feel like taking a trip let me know, maybe we can check it out.

CDMX: Highly recommended.

05 November 2017

People Are Awful: Mass Shooting in Texas

In the less than 24 hours since my last post went live there was another mass murder, this time in a small Texas town.

In my post yesterday, I said:
However, there are many, many people with ready access to the guns used by the Vegas shooter. The only thing preventing more of those types of mass murders is basic human decency.
It turns out that human decency was in short supply when (another) white male decided to go on a killing spree today.

This happened in one of the most gun-friendly states in the Union, so there is no chance that they will enact any type of meaningful gun control legislation. These people's lives (and the lives of their loved ones), are just the cost of doing business. Also, these types of murders represent only a small fraction of the total number across the country. Despite what you see on the news almost all gunshot victims die one at a time, from handguns.

Guns are too easy to buy and own across the country, and we as a society can and should do something about it. It it easier to buy a gun than it is to get a Cosmetology license. Can we maybe make it at least as difficult to get a gun as it is to learn to cut someone's hair? That would be progress.

Banning guns completely is a non-starter, as it makes the people dependent on the state for protection. That is a mistake, because the state is not going to protect you (it does not protect you in countries where guns are banned - you will always be at the mercy of someone more powerful than you unless you have a force equalizer). There is a middle ground, and we could get there if the gun lobby and gun control advocates were able to have a reasonable exchange. Maybe someday.

04 November 2017

Gun Control is Overdue: Ban Bump-Fire Stocks Already

After an elderly white male in Nevada killed 59 people and physically injured around 500 more with a collection of military rifles, some of which were equipped with 'bump-fire' stocks. These stocks enable you to use the recoil of the gun to simulate full-auto fire. According to the Washington Post the shooter had 23 guns in his hotel room, at least a dozen of which were AR-15 style rifles with bump stocks. (Note that 23 guns is 20 more guns than you need to do what he did, about which more shortly.)

A friend of mine that hunts and shoots recreationally asked me what I thought of bump-fire stocks a while back. I said that they were stupid toys, and not for serious shooters; they are strictly for clowns and/or novices. The stocks cannot be accurately aimed, and as such serve no purpose except to dump a bunch of rounds aimlessly downrange. This is exactly what the murderer in Las Vegas did, and it is exactly why those kinds of toys should be thrown in the trash forever.

There was a great outcry in the gun community about the NRA agreeing not to obstruct a ban on bump-fire stocks. The NRA has since walked back that agreement, and the repugnant, idiot CEO of the NRA has gone on the offensive, blaming, among others, the "Hollywood, television, gaming industry". Not sure which of those things drove the shooter to stockpile so many guns, aim them at defenseless civilians, and mow them down in great numbers, but I would venture to say that if he did not have a gun it would have been much harder to do. It would have been somewhat harder to do had he not had ready access to devices that serve no purpose beyond turning money into noise.

The Las Vegas shooter was the perfect storm of amateurism and mental illness. He had a very limited grasp of the proper equipment required to accomplish his terrorist attack, and his compulsive behavior is more common than you might think in 'two is one and one is none' shooting circles. He did not need "at least 12" AR-15 style rifles to shoot a bunch of unarmed, unprotected civilians. At most he might need four guns, and then only because the AR-15 is not designed for sustained rapid fire like a proper air- or water-cooled machine gun. The gun gets too hot and either the gas tube melts (in a direct impingement gun) or the barrel overheats (gas-piston gun) and the rounds start to tumble or 'keyhole'. (This second issue was maybe irrelevant for someone not concerned with aimed fire, but who knows.)

Why did the shooter have so many guns in his hotel room? Because he was fucking nuts.

Your typical combat rifle (I reject the term 'assault rifle', as should you, because it is ignorant and imprecise) is a very practical tool for hunting many different animals (if that's your thing) or to protect yourself or someone you love (if that's your thing). It is designed to inflict harm, which is what almost all guns have been designed to do since they were invented in the 14th century.

Since I first started this draft a couple weeks ago the Las Vegas shooting has fallen so far off the front page that you cannot even find it should you go looking. That is a concern, because the Vegas shooting is much more relevant to the national discourse than the Newtown massacre. There very few autistic, hyper-violent, over-indulged teenagers whose mom will buy them weapons of war and then give them the keys to the gun cabinet.

However, there are many, many people with ready access to the guns used by the Vegas shooter. The only thing preventing more of those types of mass murders is basic human decency. I would prefer if we could make it more difficult for insane people to commit those types of violent acts. I think that we can do that without compromising anyone's right to self-defense and personal protection, and the first step is by banning bump-fire stocks completely. It will do nothing to reduce the gun violence in the United States, but it is past time that we did something about making it so easy for insane people to inflict harm on others.

10 October 2017

Don't Steal Shit

I had a couple bikes stolen at UCSB. I got both of them back later, and while it did not make up for the tremendous frustration I felt when my bikes were stolen, I remember the recovery events with fondness.

So this thing should bring a lot of people great joy, and I wish them luck.

BTW, the cops are not at all interested in recovering your stolen bike in Isla Vista. Too hard to prove, too hard to prosecute. Fight crime? lol why would they do that? They could not care less. All they want to do is write tickets for MIP's, DIP's, and open containers. Those are revenue generating opportunities.

07 October 2017

Go Do This: MDTS Practical Shotgun for Home Defense

AAR for MDTS Practical Shotgun for Home Defense
Course date: 30/31 Sept/1 Oct
Instructors: Chris Fry and Bill Aprill
Gear required: A working shotgun; your brain
Rating: Five stars (out of five)

I took an excellent class over the weekend; I cannot recommend it highly enough. The instructor runs classes all over the country, and if you are at all interested in improving your mental and physical approach to your (and/or your family's) safety then you should attend. The only reason not to participate is if you already know that you are not the type of person that would use a firearm to defend yourself in a life or death situation. In that instance you should focus on techniques that are better suited to your abilities.

MDTS is run by Chris Fry, based out of upstate New York. He travels around the country doing trainings for firearms, edged weapons, and unarmed self-defense. Chris was joined by William Aprill, of ARC, who runs his own training programs down in New Orleans. Together they delivered a curriculum that covered both the mechanics of shooting a shotgun and, more importantly, the mindset you must cultivate to protect yourself from violent criminal actors, up to and including using deadly force in your home. As a special bonus, Bill Aprill did extensive lecturing on the mindset of violent criminal actors: where they come from, what they want, and provided the students with anecdotes backed up by hard data accrued during his career in both mental health and law enforcement.

I did not know the first thing about these guys when I registered for the class. I signed up because they were recommended by Craig Douglas. He is an awesome instructor, so anyone that is approved to work with him is likely to be good. Not only that, they will likely have a cerebral, intelligent approach to the hard truths of self defense and personal protection in a low-pressure environment.

That is the best course summary I can offer you: a cerebral, intelligent approach to shotgun home defense, which includes an excellent lecture course on violence and criminality. To do this kind of thing on your own you would have to read The Gift of Fear, and then read Meditations On Violence, and then read Thinking, Fast and Slow, and then read Sources of Power, then read a great many more books that I cannot remember because they are not already sitting on my bookshelf right now, and then spend thousands of hours studying and talking to violent criminals, and also spend thousands of hours practicing your weapon mechanics. Or you can take advantage of seasoned professionals and use their knowledge to your advantage. (Still have to practice your weapon mechanics though.)

I have been fortunate in that I have been able to take many shooting classes over the years. This is the most useful, most applicable, and most valuable of all. Useful and applicable because the information about mindset and criminal actors can be used and applied during every waking moment of your life. The gun mechanics are useful and valuable because you learn skills that you may actually have to employ. (This is a contrast to the long-gun courses and handgun courses that you might take - they are fun but they are really just LARPing for guys that like molle webbing - you will never, ever do that shit IRL.)

The value of these real-world, readily applicable skills cannot be overstated. You should take this class. It is a superb way to learn skills that will keep you and your loved ones more safe.

See you out there.

03 October 2017

That's Not Where That Goes

Rather Have This On the Wheel and On the Bike TBH
Why do I have a rear cassette (Shimano Ultegra R8000 11-32, if you must know) sitting on my desk? Don't those things belong on a bike? Wellllll it turns out that if you have a mental episode splurge on some super-sweet wheels* to put on your super-sweet bicycle and you don't read the directions about maximum tire pressure during tire installation you might have a Negative Outcome. And by that I mean they might crack at the valve stem. I needed a place to store my cassette until my new wheels got back from the vendor, and there it is. Just pointing all this out in the event it ever happens to you.

I had originally thought that the wheels were defective (and they may have been), but I probably contributed to their demise when I inflated the tubeless tire to seat the bead and exceeded the specified maximum tire pressure. (The bead is the part that touches the rim and seals. It is very tight in tubeless tires; it has to be in order to keep the air from spilling out.) This may be more information than you need, but the important part is that the prohibitively expensive, hand-made-in-the-USA carbon fiber wheel cracked before I even put it on the bike. The other wheel leaked badly from the valve stem during inflation and installation of the sealant, so it was a goddamn debacle all the way around. Though it eventually sealed it did not seem like it should have happened - the wheel that cracked did not leak at all.

The only good news about this whole thing was that I still had the boxes when I went to return them, and the vendor (wheelbuilder.com) was phenomenal. They handled my returns and warranty and rebuilt my wheels extremely quickly. Enve was also extremely apologetic, and I think it is probably the first time ever I had a c-level executive address an issue with a product I bought. They took my issue seriously and handled it no questions asked. Official word is that early versions of the wheel may have had some issues at the valve stem, but they have been resolved, and with a five year warranty you can buy with confidence.

Do I need prohibitively expensive, pro-level, hand-made-in-the-USA carbon fiber wheels on my bike? Fuck no! I do not need almost all of the shit I buy. But the groupset I want to put on the bike (Ultegra R8020) is not available in the states yet. So, here we are. I could have opted out after the unpleasantness detailed above, but one of the nice things about being a party of one is that I can allocate my resources however I choose. (Could also have switched to the main competing brand, but I do not like the branding, and the last time a rich white guy passed me on the bike path without responding to my friendly greeting he was on Zipps, and I refuse to ride the same wheels as that asshole. Also the patented dimpling seems like pure ::wanking motion:: to me. YMMV)

* Wheels: Enve SES 4.5 AR Disc; hubs: Chris King R45D in 'jette' aka matte black; bladed spokes: I forget which brand (DT Swiss?), but also in matte black; Hutchinson Sector 28 tires; orange seal sealant