Feb 28, 2009

Pancakes for Youth Farm

A quick public service announcement...

On Saturday March 7th, 9am-12pm there will be all-you-can-eat (how American) pancakes at Powderhorn Park in the South MPLS. This is a fund raiser for Youth Farm. The price is fair - $3 for kids and $5 for the grown-ups - and the cause is good: urban agriculture, youth organizing and nutrition. The Powderhorn Park shelter is located at 3400 15th Ave So., MPLS. A raffle with great prizes $1 tickets. Call with questions 612.990.0074.

Extra credit if you walk or ride your bike there!

Feb 24, 2009

Cheap Day Return (Rob Martino, Chapman Stick)

An amazing instrumental version of Cheap Day Return on a Chapman Stick. I am not familiar with this instrument, but it looks very interesting. It's a tapping (rather than picked fretted instrument. Very nice texture to this.

Feb 23, 2009

The Prophecies of Jethro Tull

I was re-listening to "Thick as a Brick" tonight and it dawned on me that the complex, at times bizarre lyrics of Jethro Tull's concept album are perhaps as illuminating as the famous quatrains of Nostradomus.  

Preposterous? Consider these lyrics.

"You curl your toes in fun as you smile at everyone -- you meet the stares
You're unaware that your doings aren't done.
And you laugh most ruthlessly as you tell us what not to be.
But how are we supposed to see where we should run?"

Does this passage foretell the Presidency of George W. Bush? You be the judge of that..

Or perhaps, consider these lyrics:

"I see you shuffle in the court room with your rings upon your fingers
And your downy little sidies, and silver buckle shoes
Playing at the hard case, you follow the example
of the comic paper writers who let you bend the rules"

Could this passage foretell the legal fight over the Coleman-Frankin election? I think that answer is evident to all who ponder this verse.

One of most revealing prophesies lies in these lyrics:

"So come on you childhood heroes!
Won't your rise up from the pages 
of the comic books you sold for crooks 
and show us all the way.
Well! Make your will and testament
Won't you join your local government?
We'll have Superman for President
let Robin save the day".

This passage clearly predicts the emergence of the relatively unknown Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate (note the reference to childhood heroes - she was a beauty pageant contestant) and served in local government. Coincidence? I think not! The passage then goes on to predict with startling clarity the election of Barrack Obama (the reference to estate planning continues to evade me, however).

As for Jethro Tull's prediction of the on-going housing crisis, consider this toothsome passage:

"So come all ye young men who are building castles!
Kindly state the time of the year and join your voices in the hellish chorus
Mark the precise nature of your fear.
Let me help you pick up your dead as the sins of the fathers
are fed with the blood of the fools and the thoughts of the wise
and from the pan under your bed".

Finally, ponder this mysterious passage:

"The Poet and the Painter casting shadows on the water
as the sun plays on the infantry returning from the sea
The do-er and the thinker; no allowance for the other
as the failing light illuminates the mercenaries creed."

This passage is one of the most fascinating because it clearly foretells something that has not happened yet, which makes it all the more mysterious. I am watching the papers from now on for something that might fit into this imagery, because I know it's a comin'. Perhaps a missing person story or something...

So there you have it. Pretty solid evidence that Jethro Tull accurately predicted many current events years before they came to pass.  

And if you are wondering, while this is fairly satirical, I am only half kidding about this.

Feb 22, 2009

Get Over it - The Lesson of Reeves BFK

Several years ago I took an evening class on "introduction to drawing" at MCAD. The class was a lot of fun, despite the fact that it pretty soundly showed I have very little talent for drawing. 

I have never taken art classes beyond grade school, so I had to stock up on some supplies just to start the class.  We had a supply list and I dutifully went to some art supply store on the East Bank and stocked up. Paper, charcoal, pencils, more paper, a drawing board... it added to a little more money than I expected, but I got an appreciation for the cost of materials and I still have most of that stuff today, so it's not a waste.

Towards the end of class we were going to learn "process drawing". Process drawing is a very deliberate and time consuming technique where you draw, erase, re-draw, edit, erase again, and eventually finish a still life. The results can be startling good if you work at it, but because you have to do so much to the paper during the drawing process, you need some pretty heavy paper to start.

The week before we started our process drawing, the teacher told us to get one more art supply - a big piece of "Reeves BFK". I had no clue what Reeves BFK was at the time, but Pad and Pallet knew exactly what it was - I was respectfully ushered to the back of the store and shown a selection of big beautiful, heavy, creamy smooth paper in flat file drawers.  I selected my piece of Reeves BFK and was startled to see that one sheet cost over $7.00.  The paper was carefully rolled, wrapped in butcher paper, and taped shut to protect it.

I was careful to not crush or soil the Reeves BFK before class. Unless you have tried to paint, draw, or write, it's hard to relate, or fully appreciate, the feeling of promise and potential that comes from a clean, blank page.  And, the mystery and expense of Reeves BFK amplified that feeling for me significantly (and I suspect, most of the other students in class). 

We all stood there in the studio, clutching our brown rolls of high-end paper nervously waiting to see what this was all about. When the teacher came in to class, she told us to take out our Reeves BFK, place it on the floor, and step directly on the middle of the pristine white paper(!). Some students laughed nervously, uncertain if she was serious. She was - and she really made us all do it, telling us that "you are all going to do a lot of things you don't like to this piece of paper, so get over how you feel about it right now".

That was the best piece of instruction I got from that whole experience. How often do you find yourself reluctant to try something, or take on a challenge, because it might not turn out? If you have any perfectionist tendencies at all, this problem is just exacerbated. This shocking act of desecration freed us from that fear in about 5 seconds.

I bought another sheet of Reeves today because I am planning a new project, and I was reminded again about my first experience with the stuff. I wanted to capture it here in case anyone else out there could benefit from the lesson of the Reeves BFK.

Minneapolis Bike, Walk and Roll Comprehensive Plan

The Minneapolis Park and Rec Board is pursuing their Bike, Walk and Roll Plan. I completed an on-line survey to assist in their planning efforts back in December, and see now that they are a little more than half way through a series of six public meetings to help inform the plan. The two remaining meetings will be held at 6:30 PM at the following locations:

  • Monday, February 23 at Lynnhurst Park (1345 Minnihaha Parkway)
  • Thursday, February 26 at Wirth Chalet (1339 Theodore Wirth Parkway)
Input received from these meetings will help to guide programming and infrastructure for biking, walking, mountain biking and in-line skating.  Here is the Park and Rec page on the project.  The comprehensive plan and background material can be found here.

Energy and the Bailout

I had the opportunity to spend part of my wekend reading the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (e.g. "The Bailout") that was recently passed to see what the Obama administration had in store for energy programs. Here is a very brief summary of what's included in the Act:

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
$16,800,000,000 including:

  • $3,200,000,000 for energy efficiency and conservation block grants
  • $5,000,000,000 for weatherization assistance
  • $3,100,000,000 for state energy programs
  • $2,000,000,000 for grants for manufacture of advanced batteries and components

Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability
$4,500,000,000 for expenses necessary for electricity deliverability and energy reliability activities to modernize the grid, including:

  • $100,000,000 for worker training
  • $80,000,000to conduct a resource assessment and analysis of future demand transmission requirements

Fossil Energy Research and Development
$3,400,000,000 for fossil energy research and development

Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup
$483,000,000 for non-defense environmental cleanup

Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund
$390,000,000 for uranium decontamination

$1,600,000,000 for “science” (seriously - that's all it says)

Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy
$400,000,000 for advance research projects agency – energy

Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program
$6,000,000,000 to pay the costs of guarantees, including:

  • $25,000,000 for administrative expense
  • $10,000,000 for Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program

Office of Inspector General
$15,000,000 for expenses to carry out the provisions of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (presumably to help adminiser all of this)

Defense Environmental Cleanup
$5,127,000,000 for Defense environmental cleanup

Western Area Power Administration Construction, Rehabilitation and Maintenance
$10,000,000 for WAPA functions including conservation and renewable resource programs

Temporary Program for Rapid Development of Renewable Energy and Electric Power Transmission Projects
Secretary of Energy may make loan guarantees for the following categories of projects that commence construction not later than September 30, 2011:

  • Renewable energy systems including incremental hydropower that generate electricity and thermal energy, and facilities that manufacture related components
  • Electric power transmission systems, including upgrading and reconducting projects
  • Leading edge biofuel project that will use technologies performing at the pilot or demonstration scale that will likely become commercial technologies that substantially reduce green-house gas emissions for transportation fuels

I think it is safe to say this is going to stimulate electric transmission reliability and research into batteries and alternative fuels. I think for this to truly be effective for the long term (both for the economy and for energy/environmental sustainability), these programs are going to have to produce commercially viable solutions and systems with broad applications. I was pleased to see that the Act specified these types of criteria when providing guidance on loan guarantees.

Feb 19, 2009

Fame - I'm Going to Live Forever...

Okay, probably not. But my bike is more famous...

Theglife, author of Xtracycle Gallery, recently contacted me to ask about posting a photo of my Cross Check conversion.  I said "heck yeah" and now it's up.  Here's a link to the post on his Xtracycle blog. He got a nice shot of the bike and a "before" photo for comparison.  

Feb 17, 2009

Things that Make Me Happy

Lira at The Fool's Journey tagged me with one of the latest internet memes, 6 Things that make You Happy. Here is the reply/response/rebuttal in no particular order:

6 Things That Make Me Happy:

1. Anything that works really well (it doesn't matter what it is; anything that works slick, be it a wine cork pullers, derailleurs, socket wrenches, binoculars, or whatever - stuff that works makes me smile).

2. People that think about more than themselves and have empathy and concern for others (yes, I know, it sounds like a Miss America answer).

3. Good co-workers; life is to short to shoulder the load alone.

4. People that take ownership of their situation and actually do something to change and improve it.

5. Friends. We don't have to agree on everything, or see each other all the time, but those social connections are key to helping me maintain balance and be happy.

6. My wife and family, including my in-laws.

Here are the Rules for this meme: Link to the person who tagged you. Post six things that make you happy along with these rules. Then tag six others (letting them know, of course). Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.

Feb 15, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Podium Girls

With the start of the Tour of California upon us, my attention is again directed to Podium Girls. I have always wondered about these mysterious lovelies, patiently waiting at the end of each stage to hand over a bouquet, maybe a stuffed toy, and of course, to smooch the victors valiant.

Pez Cycling News had a recent interview with a podium girl! Now all is revealed (okay... not quite all). Lien Crapoen, our Pez podium girl, fills in the blanks on how to land the job and what a "day at the office" is like (spoiler - essentially, becoming a podium girl seems to require being good looking, female, and a little nepotism).  That would count me out on all three criteria.

Feb 14, 2009

Hi-Viz and Oh So Hip

My brother sent me an article from BusinessNorth about a company in Barron County, WI that is pursuing an invention they call Litroenergy. The stuff sounds promising and the inventor is currently seeking investors, so this may be your chance to strike it big. They already manufacture Glopaint, but are looking at other applications as well.

I like wheel treatment. That would be really sweet on some Deep V's.

Feb 10, 2009

The State of Fear

Several years ago, I read Michael Crichton's novel State of Fear. This novel got a lot of attention when it was published because Crichton took on environmentalists and challenged the validity of global warming using scientific data. 

The story is pretty far-fetched, as most techno-thrillers are, and I don't believe that global warming is a fraud, but Crichton struck a real chord with me with one of the themes of this book, which I submit is his real motivation for writing the novel.

One of the main characters, John Kenner, has a monologue in which he lays out a very compelling argument that elected officials, certain scientists and the media actively cultivate crises, and magnify minor issues to become major crises, in order to keep the public in a constant state of fear. This mass manipulation helps those in power to further consolidate that power and to maintain the existing social order and status quo. It's a win-win-win because the politicians set the policy agenda and can be seen as defending us, the scientists can get funding for research to solve the issues, and the media can sell us the stories to keep us informed. Crichton argues that his is a paradigm change from the old military-industrial complex that shaped public policy from the 1950's -1970's, but this cabal is no less insidious.

Ridiculous conspiracy theory? I find evidence of the State of Fear all over the place. Today's headline in the Star Tribune references President Obama's recent statements urging the Senate to pass the economic stimulus bill before "crisis turns into catastrophe". This statement clearly seeks to build support for his stimulus package through fear.  Obama's just the last in a long line to use the State of Fear to advance policy (Bush was a master at it). Before today's headline, we had bird flu, SARS, TSA's alert level system, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the war on drugs, Iran-Contra, acid rain, africanized killer bees and the domino theory of communism. 

I am not suggesting here that any of these problems were not real or don't exist. Rather, I submit that many, if not all of these, have been hyped well beyond their level of significance by the media, to the benefit of the politicians and scientists.

What can we do? Wake up to the possibility that we are being manipulated and weigh the evidence for ourselves. Get informed and then evaluate your true risk. Remember, risk is the probability of something happening multiplied by the consequence of that event happening, so high consequence but low probability stills means relatively low risk, and vice versa. And above all, reach your our own conclusions, don't just adopt someone else's position. 

And for those who dismissed State of Fear was an anti-environmentalist diatribe, I think the title says more about the message of the book than the plot does, and it's more subversive than most people seem to have caught on to.

Feb 8, 2009

Going Naked

I can't really remember the last time I rode a bike without a helmet. I probably logged several thousand miles in my youth without a helmet and never thought a thing about it; nobody wore helmets back in the 1980's. My cousin had one, but he had toured across the county and wore one of those Bell Egg Shell things (but only later in his touring career). 

I bought my first helmet in college, after a pretty scary near miss when I almost got left-hooked at a busy intersection in Madison (it was one of those Vetta units that looked like an imperial storm trooper prop). I have faithfully worn a helmet on virtually every ride since then (and because I am pretty cautious, have never needed it).

Today I charmed my wife into getting out her bike and going around a local lake. The entire ride was going to be on very quite side streets and Multiple Use Trails, and I could not find my little beany thing I wear under the helmet on cool days. So, I rode without a helmet.

It felt so... naughty, at first. Riding helmet less? How irresponsible! What kind of example does that set? I was surprised at how these thoughts were playing through my mind as I headed down the hill towards the MUP. I also secretly hoped for some kind of taboo instant gratification for this minor act of disobedience - the wind blowing through my hair, etc., etc.

Sadly, my lidless ride was nowhere near as liberating as I would have thought. Certainly not like skinny dipping. Not even like sneaking into better seats at the Metro Dome. In fact, after the first 10 minutes or so, I pretty much forgot all about it. It's kind of disappointing when your minor acts of rebellion turn out to be mundane.

Feb 7, 2009

A Good Saturday Morning

I am appreciating small victories more these days.

It's above freezing.

I met a friend for breakfast at the Bad Waitress and rode my bike there.

Breakfast was great, and for some reason, the coffee seemed extra good.

I got Bike Loved by two people when I was unlocking the Cross X.

The ride home was great, now I am getting caught up on a million things on-line and it's not even 11:30. Awesome...

Feb 4, 2009

Riverlake Greenway Open House

I attended the Riverlake Greenway open house meeting this evening to get more information about the project and make any comments I might have. There was an interesting presentation by Don Pflaum (who I am glad to finally meet) followed by a comment session. 

Most of the participants seemed to be in favor of the project and  several just had questions. I did not hear anyone that was flat-out against it. At this point, the emphasis is on locking in the alignment of the greenway. The western leg of this project is on 40th Street to take advantage of the pedestrian bridge over I-35W and previous bike lane work by Kingfield. The route then drops south on Nokomis to 42nd and cuts east to the River Road. Time  is running out, so if you think that is a bad idea, you have very little time to comment.

The real problem area on the alignment is at Hiawatha Ave. This is a bad intersection that has been made worse by the Light Rail. The City was seeking input on what kind of provisions to make for bikes at this intersection. One commenter suggested doing nothing, and I agree, since putting in green bike lanes would narrow the intersection, and moving bikes on to the sidewalk would likely increase car/bike accidents. I feel this can't be fixed to make it safe enough for a casual or nervous rider and trying to do so will probably hurt traffic flow and not adequately protect novice riders.

They also have a stated preference for dedicated bike lanes where road widths allow for that rather than sharrows. I commented that my preference would be to give sharrows preference over bike lanes. My concern is that bike lanes send the message that bikes only belong in the bike lane, and sharrows reinforce that "share the road" mindset.

It strikes me that a lot of what the City does to improve cycling is aimed at what Don Pflaum called the "B and C" riders rather than the "A" riders, who will pretty much ride their bikes anywhere and are not intimidated by traffic. I get this, but I really want to see the City take on the real problems of people who use bikes during the work week for transportation and not on weekend recreational rides.  Connecting and completing bike routes in the central downtown and fixing the bike lanes that just end in the middle of nowhere seems like better ideas to me.

EDIT - MBL has a thread running on this topic right here.

Feb 2, 2009

Let the Cyclism Begin

Versus has a page up on their website that shows the pro cycling coverage for the 2009 season. The season began with the Tour Down Under, which I all but missed due to not paying attention and the fact that those dirty dogs at Versus tagged this as "Tour Down Under" rather than the usual "Cycling" so my DVR missed it. Next up is the Tour of California, which starts on Valentines Day (my wife will love that).

Predictably, they also have a "Tour de Lance" page devoted to the second coming of Lance. That disappoints me a little bit - before Versus, TDF coverage was the domain of OLN, which I have long maintained stands for the Only Lance Network. I appreciate what Lance did, but I really enjoyed getting a chance to see Jens Voight, Christian Vandevelde and a host of other good riders race it out. I suspect Versus will play up and Armstrong angle to a grotesque proportion, but perhaps the presence of other good U.S. teams like Columbia and Garmin out there, they may try and cover the whole race, not just one guy's race.

Blogging in General

I started this blog about one year and one month ago. At the time I started, I was not sure what my motivation was. I know that it was partly curiosity - I wanted to see what all the blog fuss was about. I was looking for some kind of creative outlet as well, and have always liked writing, so I thought a blog might fit the bill there as well. 

After gathering 13 months of data, I have learned the following:

I am not a one-topic blogger and I am glad I made peace with that.
I have tried at times to come up with bike-related content because I liked the concept of a bike blog. There are some good ones out there and I am into bikes, so in the spirit of "me too" I sort of followed along. I still do a fair bit of bike content, but I have broadened out into other topic areas, and I have to say that's been very liberating. I may have lost some readers by meandering, but I might have picked up one or two as well, so it's probably a wash. Plus, it's not about the readers... mostly. More about that below.

There is a sense of duty to maintaining a blog, and that's a good thing.
I made a commitment to myself that if I was going to do this, I would actively do it - no half-assed attempts tolerated. For one thing, it's too public to do it halfway, and for another, I am pretty intolerant of "good enough".  When I made the commitment to try a blog, I also made a commitment that if/when I lost interest in the pursuit, or concluded that this was just not my cup of tea, I would take the thing down lock, stock and barrel (I was actually pleased to see how easy Blogger makes it to nuke your blog). Having gone into blogging with that mindset, 

I also have developed some sense of obligation to come up with content that hopefully does not suck. One unanticipated benefit of this is that I find that I look at things a little differently, and actively seek out topics that are relevant and that I have some opinion about. I also find that I tend to explore my opinions a little more than I probably would have as I work on a post or sift through ideas for a post. This introspection results, I am sure, from the act of writing rather than the medium used; if I were locked up in my bedroom journaling, or writing to my Mom, I would probably have arrived at the same destination. But the fact is that I don't journal and I can't remember the last time I wrote to my Mom, so getting there by this route is fine with me.

It's not about the readers, so you say...
When I started this page, my primary motivation was curiosity, not readership. It is apparent now that I did not fully appreciate the dynamic that comes from people reading any of the content (in fact, at some level, I seriously doubted anyone would look at the site at all). However, anybody who says they don't think or care about the audience when they blog is probably being a little less than truthful, present company included. After all, if that was the case, then why a blog in the first place? As I said before, you could get to the same end point via a journal just as easily. 

As I have grown into blogging, I now find that the notion that there might be reader brings with it an increased accountability, and a motivation, that I suspect most journalers do not experience. Interestingly, for the most part I have no idea who the readers of this site are (other than a handful of friends and family), which makes you all pretty much anonymous. This both a little intimidating and liberating. So despite being somewhat uneasy about the public aspect of blogging, I have to say that it is satisfying to see that someone other than me visits this site occasionally.

Feb 1, 2009

Oh My God.

Now I am going to have nightmares for a week.

Mt. Redoubt Gets Restless

Mt. Redoubt, about 160 miles or so from Anchorage, is showing indications that it might erupt in the near future.  Here is a link to Volcano Observatory in Anchorage for more details. There is a chain of active volcanos along the west side of Cook Inlet, southwest of Anchorage, and when we lived in Anchorage, Mt. Spur got restless and erupted a few times. We never had an ash fall in Anchorage when I lived there, but some ash from Mt. Spur was found just southeast of town. This activity coincides with increased earthquake activity, and the earthquake feed at the right backs that up.  They had a sizable earthquake in Anchorage the day after I left most recently, and quite a few smaller shakes since then.

Strategic Reconfiguration - Phase 3

The third and final phase of my bike realignment (at least for now), is the addition of an old school, steel mountain bike to the stable. This takes the place of the Pugsley and then some, allowing me to ride single track which I really enjoyed in Connecticut and would like to do here occasionally) and to run studs in winter.  This came to me used, although it looks to be in virtually brand new condition. I can't tell exactly how old it is, but I would guess early 1990's or so. It has mostly Shimano XT stuff on it and some very nice, light Mavic rims.  The whole bike is pretty light, which is unusual for me, and is tons of fun to ride.

More images on Flickr.

EDIT - Bike Lovers are so great.

Here's some more information about the bike. It's a 1996 (a little newer than I was thinking). Thank you Slimpee for the 411.