Thursday, December 28, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
This was my first snowbound parking lot in the new car. It did quite well. The weather gods dumped about 7" over the course of the day, which is 1/2" short of the ground clearance the Subaru has. I have chains, traction pads, and a snow shovel, none of which I used, and a scraper that I did. After deciding that there wasn't any more I could do to help the pickup truck guy, short of throwing him in the bed of the truck and driving it myself - I'm not sure, but I think that with gentle clutch work that truck could have been driven out sans chains - I returned to brushing snow off my car and some girls in a giant SUV asked if I knew how to install chains. I looked at theirs, which looked properly mounted, gave a cable a pull and didn't get much movement, and told them to drive a while and re-check it. So of course they went back to trying to tighten it. Whatever. In hindsight, I can't help wondering if they were driving a 4WD, in which case they had the chains on the wrong wheels.
Anyway, with most of the snow brushed off the Subaru, I decided to see if I could get to the road without mounting my chains.
Got in the car.
Started it. Put it in reverse.
Backed up. Slowly. Some resistance, but the car was moving.
Started turning. Still moving.
Ran out of room behind me. Put it in '3.' Started driving forward. It's moving.
Started turning. Joined the ruts left by the other vehicles leaving the lot. Still no problems.
So now I've had three chain-free driving episodes that would have required them in my previous car. I think today's was the most challenging, but it makes me feel pretty optimistic about getting to Sugarbowl tomorrow in whatever the plows have left of the foot of snow we're supposed to get overnight. I think that if they plow the little road near the cabin any time between now and then, I'll be fine, and if they don't, I'll have to dig my way out to the main road, chains or not.
After saying that Judas Priest and Motorhead aren't metal, iTunes goes on to say that Skid Row is. I suppose that I'll have to give iTunes that one, because if Skid Row was never metal, Metallica wouldn't have taken the genre away from them. But it's a little like giving Green Day credit for being punk, grunge, or anything else other than sucky.
I bet Apple likes them, though.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I don't remember if Julio knows how to snowboard, but Gianfranco doesn't. And I don't think Gonzalo does either. How many custodians really need to be on duty at once, anyway? I don't mind giving up a few hours of pay to float down mountains.
At least I don't start until noon. Someone named Andrew will be setting his alarm half an hour early on Friday to make sure to have time for both breakfast and digging out the car.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Today's festivity was to drive to the Target (pronounced tar-jay) in Sparks and get some stuff that I needed for the cabin. Now there's a curtain on my window and I've got some new objects to ride around in the back of the car. We'll see how long my new red snow shovel lasts.
It rained today, and looks like doing so for a fair amount of this week. I found a really good ski conditions web site. I was going to say it wasn't good for forecasts, then I discovered that it does that pretty well too.
Ski Bonk dude, if you're reading this, you rock.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Apple doesn't even have an option to contact technical support that I could find. I've posted to a user forum, so hopefully someone else has already solved this particular problem. Update forthcoming if I don't get distracted.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I got up around 9:30 or 10 and reposted my ad on Craig’s List to try to sublet my apartment, which has been pretty frustrating. I also logged on to a bunch of car insurance web sites and worked on a final packing job for my trip out to California. Finally filled out the change of address thing on the USPS web site, too. A number of insurance companies couldn’t get the zip code I’ll have through their little brains. Guess I didn’t need their insurance anyway. I settled on AAA – their rate is competitive with the best offers I got and they were recommended to me by one of my favorite people. I got through a lot of the application process and then had to stop until getting some information from my father, but also because I was meeting a friend for lunch.
After lunch I showed the apartment to a couple people. The last person who came happened to come at a time that my roommate happened to be home and they could meet, which has been a major stumbling block in the whole process this time. He liked the place. Roommate liked him. Worked for me. So we went to HSBC and pulled a bunch of money out of an ATM and then I finished packing my laptop, got everything into the lobby, and hailed a gypsy cab.
The specific amount that I payed that cab driver is going to be sealed away in a vault for twenty years and opened only for our children’s children who will be ready to handle it. Along with UFOs and the Kennedy assassination. However, I don’t have five arms and I would have needed them because I grossly underestimated the capacity of my seabag and ended up with a seabag stuffed full, a carryon piece that I think has never been as densly packed as it is right now, a snowboard with extra stuff shoved in the bag next to it, a messenger bag with some extra pairs of boots, and another small bag with my snowboard boots, which I stuffed with socks in a vain attempt to save space. The thing is that I don’t think I could pack any more efficiently. I need clothes, which are in the carryon. I also need my hand tools in order to pick up freelancing gigs, which may or may not happen but will cover the additional cost of bringing tools in one job. The board and boots are a no-brainer, I’d like to go dancing more than once in the next five months, and one pair of casual, comfortable footwear seems like a fairly reasonable desire.
I need new luggage. That doesn’t suck. I need a big suitcase with wheels and space for things and a handle that comes out the top. I need a carryon piece with no tears in the seams and zippers that all have pulls. I need one of those snowboard uber-cases that has room for a board, boots, maybe a helmet, and maybe even a little bit of clothing.
So that’s yet another item for the growing list of stuff that I can’t live without for another minute. I’ll probably get it about the same time as I get snowboard pants that don’t have duct tape trim, an XBOX and HDTV, a laptop that can play games made in the last two years, and maybe a Lotus just to round out the collection.
Whining about my material wants aside, I got to the airport with a fair amount of time before my flight. I went to one of the little terminal things to check in and discovered that I couldn’t check more than two bags. D’oh! So I went to the line to check in with a real, live human being. He had the same last name as me. So I piled all the bags on the plate thing and he commented that it seemed silly to pay an extra pile of money for a fourth bag if I could maybe do it in three bags instead, and went to find a box. Shortly afterwards, he returned with one and I emptied the contents of my two smaller bags into it. Eddie L. Wright, you rock.
So I’m finally divested of my four pieces of checked luggage and I’m down to a rolly-bag, laptop, and helmet. Score.
I got to the security checkpoint with enough time left. Not the margin I’d wanted, but enough. So I get to the front of the line and do the little taking-off-the-metal dance. Which for me takes a while. Boots with nickel-plated rings. Belt with eyelets. Change, keys, cellphone. Jacket and vest. Laptop has to come out of the bag and into a bin. Laptop bag gets a bin. Toothpaste has to come out of the little bathroom kit burried in my carryon. And it’s another item that TSA has taken from me, but at least a cheap one. I think they have declared a vendetta against style and hygiene. At least I ditched my hair products (don’t ask how many) in New York. I may stop carrying bags on the plane on future flights, at least when I’m not already exceeding my checked baggage limit. On a self-congratulatory note, I did manage to walk through the metal detector on my first try. Of course I forgot to take my massive, stainless steel watch off. I wonder what other massive stainless steel items I might get through…
So after much drama, I finally got onto the plane. And we sat on the runway. For an hour and a half. Actually in the air writing this. I feel all jet-set. Now… Computer games.
So the rest of the trip went alright. I landed in San Francisco only about forty-five minutes late. I think the pilots probably secretly like it when they get delayed for take-off, because they get to push the plane a little for the rest of the flight. I took my helmet on as a personal item or something, and on the way off, the crewmember commented that he didn't think I needed it. At the baggage claim, the box I used to duck the extra excess baggage fee showed up looking pretty destroyed, but the stuff that was in it is all fine. I really need new luggage.
The way the incarnations work is that if the single entity at the top decides something’s important, that entity will incarnate as a tremendously powerful being that can handle it. It’s not that the main entity can’t – it’s that it’s a little bit too much dissipation of focus to be pleasant. That second-tier being then incarnates as various middle-management types to cover different aspects of the job, and they then incarnate as other, smaller entities which have the ability to incarnate as gremlins, spirits, etc. If something’s relatively small but seems to have a distinct personality, it probably has its own. Older computers, my Volvo, probably the BQE and each of the bridges out of Manhattan all have small to midsized beings responsible for them.
Different beings, of course, have different personalities. The weather gods responsible for Lake Tahoe are kind of like very talented stoners. When they put their minds to it, they can make an amazing season. But, fairly often, no storms will hit until fairly late, or rainstorms will come a little earlier in the spring than we might, perhaps, desire. I suppose if a mere mortal were to call the weather gods on these inconsistencies, they’d say something along the lines of, “Sorry dude. Forgot.”
The traffic gods, on the other hand, are pretty vindictive. They demand blood sacrifice. I think they also have some hand in parking tickets. It takes an evil force to give me two in the space of forty minutes.
Monday, December 04, 2006
My first instinct is to trash-talk the movie because nothing much happens in it and it didn't make me feel anything in particular. It had some funny moments, but nothing that funny. I didn't care enough about the character that got killed for it to bother me. Basically I just spent about an hour and a half watching a movie in which nothing happens, and I will never get that hour and a half back.
Then I started to realize something. An hour and a half in which nothing much happens is a pretty good metaphor for many people's lives. I don't know too many of them lately because I moved to New York in order to do something, and I'm surrounded by people who did too. And it's not like nothing much happens in the movie. A lot of truly bizarre things happen, and they start when the main character is mistaken for someone of the same name but with more money. Most of the time, he just exists.
To return to people I do know, I think I've decided that I agree with my brother. While I don't see them much lately, I believe there to be a big contingent of my generation that went back home after college and have stayed there. The Dude's life, and theirs, are like the eye of a hurricane - amid all the noise and violence, an area of calm.
I don't know if I'm going to give Joel and Ethan Coen credit for being the next Sartre. I'd have to read the guy before I could make any kind of judgment. But the Dude is a pretty good Woyzeck for our times, or at least the 90's.
I don't know if I'm ready to say that it's a good movie just because it reminds me of a play I read that's supposed to be exemplary of a philosophical movement I can't claim to knowing that well. But I can't say it's a bad movie either, because it's expressive of a kind of malaise that I think effects a lot of people my age.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
So what do I still need to do? The big one is, of course, subletting my apartment. On the one hand, it's not that difficult in this market and I don't anticipate it turning into a huge problem. But it's always kind of a problem, and I do have a lot of stuff that needs to go back into storage. So much of it never quite made it out of the boxes I packed it in that I'm finding repacking to be less of a chore than I thought it would be. I think this is the silver lining for disorganization. But I also want to get a new passport, so I need to make sure not to store anything I need for that.
The other thing is getting mail forwarded. Premium forwarding service? The other kind? How do I receive mail once I'm there, anyway? And speaking of mail, there's a lot that I can live without, but broadband internet service only makes the list of we're talking about food, water and shelter. If there were five items (I do love clothes,) broadband would be one.
Furniture is an issue too. I have a futon in a garage in California, but no mattress. Oh, and shipping my bike. To whom? Where? Maybe the grandparents...
Banking is another issue. Hopefully Sugarbowl believes in Direct Deposit. Mailing checks home every week at Park Playhouse was lame. Luck thing that Soda Springs has a post office, and the town's too small for it to be a pain to get to.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
I worked last night at the American Museum of Natural History. There's a loading dock with a driveway on Columbus there. The truck comes down the driveway and into a courtyard, then stops outside some double doors and the crew pushes things down a ramp, immediately up another, and into a paved hallway. From there, depending on the room, we have a lot of different ways to go. Everyone takes the downward ramp at a run, in hopes of using the inertia created to get the load a lot of the way up the following ramp. Last night, the caterers dumped out their desserts at the bottom of the two ramps. Chocolate mousse, served in what looked like they were once Martini glasses. I discovered this when it caused me to roll the cart I was pushing, dumping many medium-sized boxes of lighting equipment into the chocolate swamp at the bottom. Now, whoever is in the shop today is sorting and returning equipment that's oddly sticky and smells like chocolate.
The thing is that this is not an isolated incident. Caterers have a talent for finding a bottleneck in the path that everyone's equipment has to take in and out of a venue and then dumping some kind of waste there. Ice is a definite favorite. This leads me to conclude that either they're evil or they're operating at some subhuman level in which experience and awareness of their environment do not play a role in their decision-making process.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
This job rocks for other reasons. I can score free tickets, although I don't know how many, for friends and family, I get discounts at other ski areas, and in between storms I'll be in some really kick-ass country for riding my bike. Maybe I'll have to learn to cross-country ski or something too... It's a waste of the fresh stuff, but people seem to like it better on groomed snow anyway.
Snowboarding on a Tuesday morning. I'd say that's listed in the definition of "the good life."
Monday, October 23, 2006
Who knew and didn't tell me about this new TSA regulation where they get to steal your fancy hair product and shaving cream? I was running low on both anyway, but they were still expensive. I suppose there are worse reasons for being profiled as a terrorist than having a sense of style.
Anyway, out in California I rented a Chevy Cobalt. It's their uncrappy compact - basically the car that ranges from "fun to drive" to "who's bright idea was it to stuff over 200hp in this tiny thing?" I'm pretty sure mine was the lowest model, but who's counting? Anyway, after driving hulking Ford SUVs that started to wander at highway speeds, it was a nice change to be driving something nice and low, with quick handling and the ability to accelerate past 80. In theory, Mom. Really, I swear.
Car aside, the job fair I went to at the resort I hope to work for was quite productive. I met the heads for a bunch of different departments, and they all seemed pretty positive, so as long as my references don't all develop issues, I should do pretty well. Think extra-special thoughts for the maintenance department, because that's much more my kind of thing (not that I couldn't stand in a parking lot and point) and it pays better too. If I get this, I think that it's going to happen a lot faster than I'd realized - mid- to late- November. On the one hand, not a lot of time to sublet. On the other hand, more than two weeks of lead time on a sublet is pretty much useless anyway. And then it's back to thinking about cars.
On the way back, it took three tries to find the car rental place. The first directions required me to take the I-80 business loop, which the guy didn't tell me. And I thought I asked that, too. The next set of directions involved taking an exit from I-5 Southbound that's north of 80. So I'd already missed the exit before I even got onto the freeway I was supposed to be exiting. The last set of directions may have worked, but I was already on the same approach my mother and I used to successfully find the rental place, so I just went that way. It's one thing when people can't give directions to a location they don't know, but you'd think that people living in Sacramento and working at a car rental place would be able to give directions to it from a major highway.
Then it was home on Greyhound. I never feel as classist as I do when I have to smell people less fortunate than myself. Although I think what bothers me the most about mass transit is that as soon as the trips start to be longer than those I take on the subway, it starts to be on someone else's terms.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Work. No surprises there. More driving around. Still no surprises. More riding my bike, which is good. My speed on the flats is getting up to 24mph sometimes, although my average on my loop is still running a little short of 16mph. I blame the sections on the street between my apartment and the West Side Highway and then from there to Central Park. Because when I'm not constantly slowing for traffic signals and such, I'm a lot faster.
There have been a number of things that I announced were "totally bloggable" but in the spirit of living my life rather than photographing it or, in this case, remembering to write about it, I don't remember what any of them were.
Trip to California coming soon. Hopefully I'm going to spend the winter in Lake Tahoe (my friend says that only birds and rich snobs "Winter over" somewhere, and I'm neither) this year. So think happy migration thoughts.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I usually consider reality shows to be pure exploitation. And a show in which fat people are seen being fat, sweating, and arguing with each other should be the worst. But it isn't. I think that what makes this show different from a lot of shows is that the contestants are really trying to do something. They all, for whatever reasons, want to recreate their bodies. The challenges and reality show conventions become secondary.
Before reality TV, shows always had some kind of story. Unless it was "Seinfeld." In a format with a beginning, middle, and end, like a book or a play, the main character is almost always the one who changes. The rest of the story serves as a vehicle for this personal growth. That gets lost in TV, and completely eliminated in most reality TV. On "The Biggest Loser," people really are trying to change themselves. Story is reintroduced through a back door. I think that's why a show about people who I have to admit to looking past or through in real life is compelling to me.
Monday, September 18, 2006
I always find SUVs amusing, but I find them more amusing when I'm sitting in something that really doesn't care what it looks like, looking down at them. Kind of like those wierd fashion clothes with camouflage patterns and high price tags as opposed to a pair of $15 BDU pants.
Full-sized trucks and cargo vans are nice because they're very honest. They have good road-feel, handle about as well as something that tall could possibly be expected too, and intimidate even a New York driver. Not as much as one might expect, but it helps when the roads are packed and I need to change lanes.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
More specifically, the bottom of the pedal's circle has always been a bit of a dead spot in my stroke, and now it's not. So I think I even buy the hyperextension thing. Part of my wants to mess with my saddle height more, but I don't even know what I'm trying to feel. I think I need to lay down more mileage with the bike and see if I get a better idea. The biggest difference is probably the insoles, though, although the saddle height is a pretty major change too.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Next there was some tweaking of the handlebar position, and then he lowered my saddle. A lot. I think I may be the only cyclist in NYC who was riding with it too high. The method I learned was to put the saddle at a height that required me to almost straighten my leg at the bottom of the stroke. I've also run into fit articles that talk about raising the saddle until the rider's hips have to dip to reach the bottom of the stroke, then backing off a quarter of an inch or so until they're stable again, and raising the saddle such that there's a little space, maybe a centimeter, between the bottom of the rider's foot if it's flexed and the leg's straight and the pedal. This guy wanted my knee to have a 30° angle between my upper and lower leg at the bottom of the stroke. I didn't let him put my saddle that low because it made the top of the stroke feel really cramped, especially in my right knee, which tends to be a little worse, but even though it feels really wierd to be so much lower over the pedals, I'm going to try it for a while. If my bike fit had worked, I wouldn't be having problems with longer rides, so it's time to try someone else's technique.
On thinking about it further, the "high as possible" method of saddle placement makes more sense on an old-style platform pedal, or one with loose toeclips. My leg pushes down most strongly when it's almost straight, so if the downstroke is the only part of my pedal stroke that generates power, a higher saddle position is more efficient.
I ride with clipless pedals, and can exert force on them in any direction. If my leg is almost straight, my hamstrings are in a position in which they have very little leverage, so the transition from the downward part of the circle to the upward part is going to be pretty inefficient. If the saddle position is lower, then my hamstrings are already in a position to do some good. Frequently, with physical performance stuff, inefficient and unhealthy are the same thing. So since I pedal in a circle, as opposed to alternate pushes on either side, the new position will, hopefully, be much better for me. Anyway, I'll try it for a while and see how it goes.
We also added some shims between the pedal axles and the crank to put the pedals out further. I think it'll need to go further still, but the shop would need to special order a part for that, so I'm going to put some mileage on the bike and see how I feel.
The last adjustment was just to change the stem. Since the saddle is lower, the handlebars need to be lower too, and the stem I had was too long to go low enough.
On my way out of the shop, I got a call for some work. So I haven't had a chance to try the bike over some actual mileage with the new fit. I think that I definitely deserve hotness points for driving a cargo van through Manhattan and then into Brooklyn in heavy traffic.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Makes me wish I wrote it better. Like with a beginning, middle and end, perhaps.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I also told myself I'd never put a speedometer on my bike.
So there's a hit counter in the corner. My little bow to being competitive. As of right now, 314 hits since May. It's not pageloads, which is a little higher number. And it's 314 more hits than some people. Maybe. But what's fun about the hit counter is that it records certain information about each hit. I didn't realize I'd get that functionality as well, especially free, or I'd have started using a hit counter a long time ago. Recently, the hit counter folks even added a map, which is really fun. Now I know that I'm getting a little international business as well.
So mostly, for you other bloggers that are reading this, I guess I'm plugging StatCounter, the hit counter I use. It's fun and easy.
Monday, August 28, 2006
But after I found JFK (closest place this rental place had an agency, unfortunately) I had to go buy gas. That or pay $7 a gallon. So I'm driving along Rockaway Boulevard and I see "David's Full-service Gas." I figure it'll be more expensive, but whatever. My time has value too. So I pull in, first on the wrong side of the pump island, which would be slightly embarassing if I cared more, and tell the guy to fill it up. The gas station has two attendants, both Sikhs. Anyway, the gas cost $3.09. As I was driving back, I saw some other gas stations. Same price. And when I got into the airport and drove to the rental return, I passed the BP station for people returning rental cars. (D'oh!) Same price. But it was kind of fun to get to sit in my massive symbol of consumerism and have someone else pump gas.
Friday, August 18, 2006
I've been commuting on bicycles on and off since High School. Off, lately, because I take tools to my job and wear work boots. Although part of me wants to build a commuter with toe clips now that I'm not carrying as much crap as I used to.
But let's rewind to when I was in college and went everywhere on my bike. Santa Cruz is a pretty radical town, with people advocating and protesting just about everything that's there to advocate or protest. Of course there were the car-free and "one less car" folks on one side, and the liberals who quietly drove on the other. The problem I have with a lot of liberals and radicals is that they insist on wearing a hair shirt when they do something.
Let's look at a couple different bikes I'm used to seeing on the street. There's the messenger bike, which is fast, handles well, and tries almost as hard to kill its rider as the cars around do. There's a broad variety of commuters laid out like touring bikes. This is what I rode. In fact, my Dad's old Trek had been designed to be able to be a touring bike. Most of these bikes are in good repair and the riders have rigged compromises between ease of getting stuff on and off the bike and comfort on the bike. Panniers, wire baskets, etc. Then we get into the land of hippie bikes. Rust-covered chains, milk crates precariously attached to the rack, and the inevitable "One less car" bumper sticker. I find the very existence of such a bumper sticker ironic.
I think that a lot of why it's such a problem to make bike commuting work is that there's a perceived enmity between people commuting on bikes and drivers. When most drivers think of people riding bikes on the street, I think they see either messengers, slow-moving hippies, or both. Some messengers, not all, help to create this friction. In my admittedly biased view, the messengers are responding to drivers' sense of entitlement to the city streets. It doesn't help matters that, in my opinion, the hippies are trying to be a nuisance and "raise awareness." Can't we all just get along?
I think that it's important to strip away all the environmentalism, pollution, entitlement, classism, status, and everything else that clouds the issue of bikes and cars sharing the streets. Let's look at it in terms of convenience and efficiency.
Bikes have a couple of major advantages - they're cheap - a used 10-speed can be a $20 purchase, and a partial re-build to make it fast again costs under $100. Compare this to four figures for a used car, with repairs costing in the hundreds when they become necessary. Gas is also expensive, and in most cities that I would live and work in on purpose, parking is difficult and expensive. By contrast, bikes can usually be stashed in an office somewhere or, failing that, locked to a parking meter or even a bike section in many parking garages. And on city streets, a reasonably strong rider can keep up with the speed of traffic.
Of course, commuting on a bike has its disadvantages too. It's physically demanding, it's hard to carry more than a little bit of stuff, and it can be difficult to look like a professional at the end of the commute. It's also has the potential to be dangerous. The first two of these are big issues for me with the type of work I've been doing lately, although I felt differently when I had office jobs. I think a little exercise in the morning helps to wake up. Using a good pannier or messenger bag makes carrying stuff fairly easy, although cargo capacity is definitely an issue. When I had an office job I rode to, I kept a pair of dress shoes at my desk. I'd put those dorky strap things on my pants to keep them out of my drivetrain and ride to work in cycling shoes, then remove the straps and change my shoes when I got to work. I used to wear a bandanna under my helmet, and that helped mitigate helmet hair. Another way I've seen people address this is that in one office I work in on occasion, most of the lawyers wear casual clothes but keep a suit on a hook in their office.
The perceived danger of riding in traffic is still an issue. Within a city, most people are afraid to ride the streets. Riding a bike on city streets can be very dangerous if you don't ride defensively. Drivers frequently miss bikes on the side of the road, and almost never see a bike on the sidewalk. That means that if the bike crosses an intersection, merges, or swerves, it's at a very high risk of getting clipped by a car.
It's true that city streets are dominated by cars. To me, riding defensively means taking the lane when I'm riding close to the speed of traffic or approaching intersections, especially those with complex systems of turn lanes. If I'm in a bike lane when a right-hand turn pocket is added, even if the bike lane breaks and is resumed between the turn pocket and straight lane, it means that cars will be merging across a lane that they don't perceive as existing. If I'm in that lane at the time, I'll be run over. However, if I'm in the middle of a real lane, not only am I seen but cars don't have to travel across my lane to reach their turn pocket. Drivers also complain about having trouble anticipating the actions of riders. I think it's important to always signal turns and merges, just as cars should.
All of which is to say that I think it's important for riders to learn to commute efficiently. At times, I've even thought that a license should be required.
As far as longer distances, where the speed of traffic hits a consistent 30 mph or greater, I'm more in favor of separate lanes or bike trails. A bike that can't keep up with traffic is just in the way, and in the way of something weighing thousands of pounds is a really bad place to be. I think that the article linked to above shows that the planners of MUPs fail to take this into account. While I may weigh less than 30 pounds more on a bike than I do on foot, I'm going a lot faster, giving me the ability to exert many more pounds of force than my own weight. Putting 180 pounds traveling at 20 mph on the same piece of real estate as a soccer mom with an SUV stroller is a really bad idea. The friend who referred me to this article tells me that the path in question was originally envisioned as a bike route. It should remain a bike route. If everyone travels at 15-20 mph, the relative speeds are low and it's safer for everyone concerned. The presence of such routes also addresses the need for alternative routes for bikes when the roads are freeways with heavy traffic and speeds of 45 mph and up.
I think that for commuting on bicycles to be safe and practical, we don't need more traffic calming measures or politics, or electric bikes sold at non-profitable prices to encourage their use. Riders need to make an informed decision as to whether or not they can hang with traffic and then stake a claim to the piece of territory they're using, and advocates need to see bike commuters as a user group distinct from pedestrians.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I think that a classic racing bike is the ultimate road machine. They have low rolling resistance, lots of places to put your hands, and while they're more a result of evolution than design, the influencing factors have been speed, handling and comfort.
The first part to consider is the frame. There's a bunch of frame materials out there, and most of them have good and bad qualities. At this pricepoint, titanium and carbon fiber are out, so it's a choice between steel and aluminum. Aluminum has a reputation for giving a bit of a harsh ride, but it's also lighter for the same strength. Because aluminum is weaker by volume than steel, the tubes have somewhat thicker walls and considerably larger diameters, and aluminum frames are very stiff. There's also a minimum level of crafstmanship that goes into aluminum frames that's higher than in a cheap steel frame. The more specialized welds affect the price too, of course. My bike's made out of boutique steel, but any chromoly steel should be fine too. Good steel bikes are still pretty light, and have a reputation for a very lively ride. They're slightly less stiff than aluminum, so they absorb a little more vibration. High tension steel, "Hi-ten," is not okay. It's heavy and the ride has a dead feeling.
The fork comes in the same breath as the frame. Mine's carbon, and I think it rocks. Carbon is good at absorbing road vibration, so it doesn't travel up into my hands as much. Unless you're planning to violate your racing bike by putting a suspension fork on it, it's the next best thing. Of course, they're a little expensive.
Once you've got a frame and fork, you need wheels and a component group. Low spoke-count wheels look kind of cool, but the performance advantage is pretty insignificant. Deep-V aerodynamic rims also look kind of cool, but cost and weigh more. For the type of riding I'm assuming, they're not better than the shallow-V aero rims that are popular lately. A well-made wheel spins freely and will keep spinning for a very long time after you spin it. Assuming that it's centered between the brake pads, it will never contact them until you squeeze the brake. It should also be perfectly round, so the tire shouldn't get closer or further from the brake arch during the spin. If any of these isn't true, and the wheel is seated properly in the dropouts and the brakes are adjusted right, the wheel needs to be repaired or replaced. Low quality wheels sometimes can't be fixed, or not without being rebuilt, and a good quality hub is very important - it's one of the main sources of resistance to going fast on a bike.
Most commercially distributed bikes come with a mixed group. That's a way that they can put better parts places where they think there's a significant performance advantage, or where they think their consumers think so, and save money where it's not as important. The big name brands here in the US are Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. A lot of people consider Campagnolo to be the best, but you definitely pay a premium. SRAM has a road group, but I've never seen it advertised on a complete, mass-market bike. My bike has Shimano 105 for all the drivetrain components. It's an all-metal group, which is important because plastic parts don't stay tuned, especially as they start to wear out. I think it's especially important to have good indexing shifters, because repairing them is difficult or impossible and they're expensive and a pain to replace. The next group down is Tiagra, which people on roadbikereview.com describe as being a little less than reliable, and not shifting smoothly under tension. That being said, Tiagra components have the same spacing as 105 components, so if you have a Tiagra-equipped bike, the parts can be replaced piecemeal.
So that's most of a bike. It still needs a seat post and saddle, a stem, and handlebars. It's good to have a seat post that allows both fore/aft and angle adjustments on the saddle because if a level (or whatever angle the seat post is at) saddle isn't comfortable for you, you'll have to spend a surprising amount of money on a new one. A good saddle is very important. Riding should be fun and a bike should be comfortable, and a bad saddle prevents both of those. This guy has a lot to say about saddles. My experience is that a saddle should be firm - not quite as hard as concrete, but very little give - and as narrow as supports your sit bones properly. Those are those two little bony bumps in the bottom of your butt. Sit bones are made to take weight, but a soft saddle makes other parts take weight too, and they're not made for it.
Most racing bikes now use the same threadless headsets that mountain bikes use. They're lighter and sturdier, but a pain to adjust. The handlebars are held by the stem. On a threadless headset, that clamps to the fork's steerer tube. You choose a height and cut off the excess. The problem I have with these is that if you choose too low a height, you're SOL. If you decide your handlebars are too high, you can remove the headset's top cap, the stem, and some spacers, then reorganize them with the stem lower, but sooner or later you'll have to get the steerer tube cut down some more. There's probably not much choice anymore about this. Speaking of headsets, there's something called an "integrated headset" that's showing up on some bikes. It uses the frame to perform the function of one of the parts of a headset. Headsets are relatively cheap and fairly easy to replace, but if the frame gets worn out you need a new bike. So avoid the "integrated" thing.
And that's a complete bike. What to give up if the sticker on the bike with all that is too high?
Carbon forks are pretty expensive. Steel forks were good enough for almost 100 years, and they're better now.
Off-brand brakes are fine. As long as there's no plastic. And frequently the brake pad, a cheap and easily replaceable part, is the only performance-effecting difference.
It's silly to spend a lot of money on the seat post and stem. And expensive headsets are kind of cool, but as long as they're sealed well and move smoothly, the less expensive one is good enough.
A less expensive crankset is probably fine. Hidden behind the crankset is the bottom bracket, which is worth spending money on. Of all the bearings in a bike, the bottom bracket sees the most rotations. It had better be good.
Derailleurs are pretty easy to replace if you can't start with a good one. But you eventually need a good one, or shifting can be a little less than reliable.
The chain, cassette and chainrings, as long as they're compatible with the higher-end equipment, don't need to be expensive.
My commuter had cheap foam handlebar tape. I loved it - it had little skulls on it.
Good pedals are worth it, but once you have something sturdy with a good bearing, it's probably not worth spending money on saving weight.
I like having an odometer, but I really don't need one.
Of course, it's much more economical to buy a complete bike than order by component, so after choosing a pricepoint, there may not be much selection of model. And ultimately, the bike that rides the best is the best choice. But if a shop carries different brands or models with different component mixes and similar ride quality, this should help in choosing. And if you like one bike a lot but it's not available in the right size, they can always order one.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Neither my native guide nor I own a mountain bike, so we needed to go somewhere with rental on-site. A lot of the ski resorts in the Adirondacks and Vermont have rentals, but they also do the lift-serviced downhill thing. I didn't really want to do that - the kind of mountain biking I learned was a more cross-country style, riding on a hardtail. Sooner or later, I'd like to try a full-suspension bike, but I wanted to ride something a little more familiar given how long it's been.
My friend and I chose Garnet Hill Lodge, a cross-country ski resort near Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks. It's a fairly long drive up, including country highways, two-lane blacktop, and even a little bit of grit. They have a fleet of about 30 Trek 4900s. Not sure which model year, but not this one. Which is fine - they have a smooth suspension fork, the brakes work, and the drivetrain is pretty good. A little heavy, perhaps, but I'm used to a boutique road bike at this point. The guy who owns the place likes mountain biking, so there's a network of singletrack mountain bike trails layed over the ski trail network. The idea is that you climb the ski trail, then descend on the singletrack.
Adirondack mountain biking is much trickier than riding in California. The soil is looser, a little wetter, and more fertile. On the ski trails, where it gets a lot of light, there's grass growing all over the trail. There's also more rock. The singletrack is a lot looser than I'm used to, which made descending the steep bits a lot more intimidating. On Dead Campers, my favorite descent at UCSC, there's a section that's hard to do mounted because the soil is so hard that the tires on my bike had trouble hooking up. In retrospect, I probably could have spent a bunch of money on some fancy tires with a stickier tread compound. Here, the problem was that there was so much loose soil on top that the tires just took it with them. I suppose they might have worked better if the tread pattern was deeper. Or if I was more comfortable on the bike. Whatever.
I think the biggest difference is just how much lusher the mountains are here than the place I learned in California. The singletrack sections are much harder to find than they were around Santa Cruz, and the plant life encroaches much further onto them. While there were more rocks, the fact that they were hidden by the grass had a greater effect than their presence. And the steepness of these mountains was probably about the same.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Anyway, the ride was pretty great. The route I figured out was a little short of twenty miles, in what looked like rolling hills on Google Earth. On actual riding of the route, they proved to be rolling hills, as expected. I've mostly been riding on flat or almost flat roads since moving to New York, which is pretty boring. I suppose I must hate myself, because there's a part of me that gets into climbing, even though a tough climb can be pretty brutal. But then I get to go down the other side, and that's lots of fun. Even when I wasn't on hills though, because the roads were long and uninterrupted by stupidity like traffic signals, I got to go nice and fast. It's so much more fun when I get to go at high speed and there's some variation in the terrain. It reminded me a lot of going riding when I was living in California and could get to fairly rural, or at least exurban areas quickly.
The numbers (I finally broke down and bought one of those little Cat Eye odometer things)
23.5 miles - I planned twenty but missed a turn and took a little while to re-find it. The big reason I bought the odometer, actually, is so I could use the trip distance to help me navigate.
Around an hour and a half, I think - I started just before 6:30 and I finished just after 8.
Top speed - 45mph going down something. 32 seems to be the highest I can get my rear wheel going if I'm spinning the pedals myself, although on the flats, I can't sustain that kind output for very long.
Bottom speed (not counting stopping, of course) Probably about 6mph, climbing steep stuff in my lowest gear.
Average speed - probably about 16 or 17, if I remember my starting and ending times right. I stopped for a bit to stretch near the beginning of the trip.
I also figured out the difference between the two trip odometers on my new toy, so in future I'll use the second one for navigating and I won't dump the statistics for the whole ride every time I turn a corner.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I brought the LeMond with me when I came up to Albany for this show. I was riding it to commute some, and started having trouble shifting. So I looked over the drivetrain and it was filthy. Really filthy. Filthtastic, even. So I bought some tupperware and a can of degreaser, unmounted the chain and soaked it for a couple days, cleaned the drivetrain components, remounted the chain, lubricated everything, and gave everything a tune. Then I went riding, and all seemed good. Until the drivetrain started skipping. Stopped, looked things over, couldn't find a problem. Rode some more, and fell. I was popping out of the saddle to accelerate and I broke the chain. Dammit.
Anyway, I remounted it and then went to the local bike shop because the link was a little stiff where I reconnected it. They couldn't find a problem, even after cleaning everything even more, but they didn't charge me.
So I went riding again a couple days later. The chain starts skipping again. Still can't find the problem. Chain broke again. I remounted it again and went home (shop was closed.) Since then, I've re-found where I reconnected the chain so I can find it again at the shop when I get it fixed. But I thought that this was probably too much of a pain in the ass for such a common procedure, so I did some research.
It turns out that when you separate a Shimano narrow or super-narrow chain, the pin that holds the links together is destroyed. It's destroyed in a way that can't be detected without a really high level of magnification, but if you don't throw it out it will fail sooner or later. This isn't a huge problem because Shimano manufactures special replacement pins, but while I knew about those at one time, I'd forgotten. And I certainly don't carry any right now.
The other problem with reinserting the old pin is that it warps one of the links in the pair it holds together. The special pin comes on the tail end of a guide thingy that (I think) prevents this problem.
Other brands of chain have a breakable link that allows them to be removed and installed without messing around with tools. But apparently that's too simple. So it's time to get some special replacement parts. Yay.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
I just saw a commercial for a hand sanitizer. The explicit message in the commercial is that with their hand sanitizer, the world is a clean, touchable place. The imagery shows various public places - I remember a toilet in a train and a gas station - through the "lense" of the bottle of sanitizer. Outside the frame created by the bottle, the places are seen to be covered in dirt. The train is old, grey, and graffitied, and the toilet has no seat. Seen through the bottle, the train is clean and new, and the toilet has clean, new residential fixtures. The gas station is similarly dirty and there's a man fueling a pickup truck. The man has a beard and a belly and he and the truck are both covered in dirt. There's assorted building supplies in the back of the truck. Seen through the bottle, the truck has pristine red paint and nothing in the bed, the man's stomach is flat and his face clean shaven, and he's wearing a polo or a short-sleeved dress shirt.
I think that the target demographic for this commercial is the middle class. It's on at 9:30 on a Saturday night, during a number of Law & Order episodes back-to-back. The world that they experience would be the one seen through the "lense." So to me, the way this commercial works is to sell not the idea of cleanliness, but a fearful perspective of the world in which everything is suspect without that bottle.
A health teacher of mine once said that when a drug addict does drugs, it's not to get high, but because it brings them back up to the level that most of us exist on on a daily basis. This commercial is trying to create a similar effect - that in order to exist at the level of cleanliness most of us exist at in reality, it's necessary to use hand sanitizer.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
But I'm not going to upload many pictures. Come and see the show. And don't give me any "I live in Texas/Rhode Island/California/The Netherlands" lines either.
Alternatively, you can remind me at the end of August that I said I'd upload pictures later.
So last night I took some pictures of the production and I wanted to edit them down to nice, usable proportions and see what I can pull out of them. Sounds like a job for Photoshop. But I'm too poor and too honest to have it, so I have this other thing, the GIMP, which is the GNU version. I'm working on the first picture, which I took freehand (and crooked) and I want to add a layer, draw a guideline on it to help me rotate to a horizontal based on a good visual reference, then remove the layer and save the resulting JPEG. I can't get the layers to rotate simultaneously, so I decide to check the help. Apparently I didn't install it. Turns out it doesn't auto-install.
OK. Whatever. I'll download it. So I open up my browser and go to the GIMP site, where I find the GIMP help package easily enough. .tar.gz. I spent another two hours finding Win32 gzip and tar programs, get the package extracted, and discover that it includes a Makefile. Yay.
For those who are slightly less on the bleeding edge of computer wizardry, a Makefile is kind of like a batch file that directs a program assembling another program. Very useful for programs distributed as source, or in components that need to be assembled differently on different platforms. Different UNIX/Linux platforms. Microsoft, of course, doesn't acknowledge the .tar and .gz methods of archiving, so let's stop talking about Makefiles right now.
I figured, "Andrew, you're badass at computers. I bet you can just do this manually." Nope. Can't even open the .xml file that should be the index, and I don't have enough information to know where the directory structure needs to go within the GIMP's many folders.
So now it's time to go back to the 'net. I actually managed to find a Win32-oriented distribution of the help system, which I'm downloading as we speak and will hopefully be able to install without incident. Now that I've found that, there's still 50 megs of crap on my hard drive - gzip, BSDtar, and the UNIX distribution version of the help install package for the GIMP. For whatever reason, various files thought they were in use and resisted deletion. So I had to reboot.
And all this so that I can access a "help" file. Seems to defeat the purpose a little bit. Anyway, it's no wonder that Photoshop can sell for $700. Even if the GIMP duplicates all of its functionality, if only someone like me can install it, that raises the cost to a minimum of the $100 I'd charge a client for showing up, let alone my hourly if I couldn't make everything work in half a day.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Friday, June 30, 2006
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Monday, June 26, 2006
So from time to time I get bored with my appearance and do something to my hair. Right now I'm blond. The little bit of white in the upper-right hand corner of the picture is the inside of the massive closet in the apartment the theatre company hooked me up with; this is the best light in the apartment - high sidelight from the bulb in the closet and a diagonal frontlight about 30 degrees off straight from the ceiling fixture in the room, with the flash on my camera disabled. The background is a towel draped over the closet door to cut the glare.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The other thing that was interesting about watching this is that the performers all looked like amateurs - not in a bad sense, but in the sense of they're accountants or something during the day. Probably. Anyway, the women I'm used to seeing are either dancers, professional or hoping to be, or electricians and carpenters. This group were considerably less muscular. There's something more exposed about a normal body than an athletic body, even with the same amount of flesh on display.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Monday, June 05, 2006
So I take the van, which is huge - a GMC 3500 back to my apartment and put most of my worldly goods into it. Drove it back to the storage place, and backed it up to the loading dock. I was proud of my ability to back it up to that dock. I had no spotter, the spaces were standard width, and the only one available had both vehicles next to it sitting right on the line. And it was off of a narrow one-way street. So I had to back and fill backwards into this spot, and not cause property damage. And I succeeded.
Now you might wonder how many trips it takes to put all of one's worldly possessions into a 64 cubic foot locker. Three. Once for the four big boxes. Once for a couple of bags and most of my boots. And once for most of my clothes, my file cabinet, and my snowboard. On the one hand, I like it that I'm not tied down by owning too much stuff. On the other hand, it's a little depressing (and wrong, but whatever) to think that if I ceased to be, that's all I'd leave behind. So I turn in the van, having had it for maybe an hour. Expensive hour - I bought the insurance, because my credit card doesn't cover vehicles in that class.
Then some other stuff happened that's boring.
After that, I had to get my rental vehicle for driving up to Albany. The astute reader might ask, "Andrew, why did you rent a cargo van in the morning and another vehicle in the evening?" The answer, gentle readers, is that a one-way rental of a U-haul vehicle costs $250. Other cargo rental houses charge even more. So I determined I was going to take the train, rather than drive. I realized last night while worrying about the fact that my special expensive box for shipping my bike hadn't arrived that I might be able to do a one-way rental of a non-cargo class vehicle for a lot less. So I did some research and decided to get an SUV from Budget. Cheaper than the combination of train and bike shipment. Also means I can bring more stuff, and when I learned I needed to bring my own bedding, I started to get worried. After reserving the SUV I read my contract for the van, which I'd already put a deposit on, and learned that I was pretty much committed. On the other hand, cargo vans really are better for moving cargo.
So at this point I'm about three hours behind schedule. When I call Budget, they've given away my SUV, but might have another, bigger one available. I tell them to reserve it, which doesn't require a credit card number, and ask the Enterprise people around the corner from my building about one-way rentals. Enterprise doesn't do that, but within regions, they can finagle things. Which still costs more than Budget. So off I go to midtown.
The full-size SUV they have is the Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer edition. This thing is pimped out. Leather interior, kick-ass sound system. Also a mushy suspension, sort of like a pick-up's height and an old American luxury car's softness, pedals with a really light push, and an engine that doesn't have too much pick-up under any circumstances and fades quickly. I'm missing that 3500 van. Not really - once I hit 87 North, the trip consisted of me keeping the car between the paint lines while the cruise control kept it at 75 and I listened to the aforementioned kick-ass stereo. But I would have enjoyed a more responsive feel.
So there was much driving. The New Jersey turnpike was messed up. Albany has a serious signage problem. And now I'm here. I have to move the car by 9am tomorrow for street cleaning, so I think I'll drive it the block or so into the park that I need to go for my 9am meeting. My apartment is huge, though, and I get the big bedroom with the big closet. I think I'm the highest-ranking person staying here. Yay algebra and trig. And artistic talent.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
My first commitment for the day was a job at 8am helping a dance company load into a theatre that specializes in that sort of thing. The theatre has house crew, so I wasn't actually hanging lights or building stuff. It was strange for me to watch other people work and not participate in most of it. Today I helped unload a truck, picked up 150' of light rope, sat, ate donuts, sat, ate lunch, sat, unloaded part of a trampoline from one truck and loaded seats into another, then finally unloaded the seats at a different location and put some other stuff into that truck. The main theme for the work day being sitting. I also figured out how to gain about an 18-point advantage in Mancala before allowing the opponent their first turn in one version of Mancala. There were also some tranny roommate jokes.
So after all that sitting and playing games on my cell phone, I was tired and hot. I was also in the neighborhood of my favorite bar. So I went there, calling my friend who lives nearby on the way. She was just getting done at work and agreed to meet me. So I got there and had a Corona with a lime and it was good. I was thirsty and dehydrated and drank it too fast, but we all have 20/20 hindsight. Anyway, I'm most of the way through my second one before I decide to call her and say that she needs to hurry it up or I'm walking. She says she's on her way, so I finish the beer and wait outside. I'm a lightweight and I don't want to start my third until she gets there. So she arrives, I have another beer, she has a Bud Light. I don't know why people choose to drink that stuff.
There's a place in the area where they sell pizza based on weight or length. The pies are eliptical. I had a pound of pepperoni and half a pound of vegetarian. Salad. My friend wants to see the Da Vinci Code and a rock band her friend loves. It's 8:15, and the next showing of the movie is already sold out. Also, the line's long. Among the things I don't believe in is waiting in a long line. So we go to Home Despot to replace a nail she's bent (!?) and a drill bit she's broken. Home Despot sells their drill bits on cards with plastic covers, and the little ones come in pairs. At least they know their customers. It's also easy to find drill bits that fit the non-adjustable chuck on the chick drills they try to foist on innocent, unsuspecting women. While I think there are sexier things than women with 18-V DeWalts, that's not because I have any objection to women having professional power tools. So we end up buying a set of screws and drywall anchors, a pair each of 1/16 and 3/32 bits, the cheap ones until she starts wearing them out before she breaks them, and a whole picture hanging set. I also bought myself a wire stripper to replace the one I'm still pissed off about losing the other day.
This brings us to 8:45. We were supposed to meet the friend at Arlene's Grocery at 8:30. For those of you who still think I'm smart, I discovered tonight that they have another room there where the musical performances are, and it's bigger than the area I thought was the whole bar. We got there around 9, in her car, which she's been driving around since she met me. I'd have parked it somewhere and walked for the rest of the afternoon, but then this story would have ended three hours before it does.
But before I get ahead of myself, the band was Lisa Jackson + Girl Friday. They rocked my socks off. Bear in mind that I'm wearing two pairs. I spent a while trying to figure out what Lisa Jackson's gender was (didn't know the name of the band until after) before deciding that ?e was some variety of transsexual, and if it was important to h? that I know, h? would tell me. Anyway, she cleared up the pronouns toward the end by introducing herself and mentioning she was a tranny, which was in connection to their genre being "queer rock." I'd already reached that conclusion independently - she presents as an 80's-retro rocker chick, not as a man dressed as an 80's-retro rocker chick, and the inconsistencies in her physical appearance said "transsexual." So it was nice to have that confirmed. Now all that being said, the combo rocks my socks off above and before any gender-politics issues need to enter the conversation. They have a sound that reminds me of Queen if Freddie Mercury, Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne, Lars Ulrich, and my favorite bartender had a massive orgy.
Next, we drive back up to Union Square, park, and go to the movie. I thought it was ok. She thought it was amazing. When we left the theater, things went sideways. Her car is gone. Into thin air. No broken glass, just empty curb. No other cars there either. Lots of fire trucks though. It was a little surreal. She asked a firefighter in one of their SUVs if he had any idea what had happened. He seemed to think it had been towed. At that moment, a NYPD tow truck passed. She flagged it down and talked to the driver for a while. About fifteen feet away, a taxi is idling, waiting for her to get in. It emerges that her car has most likely been towed for a parking violation, and is at the police impound on 12th and 38th. We walk straight past the taxi, my friend announcing that he has some nerve assuming she's going to need him, and she won't get in his cab. Now we're heading west on 14th. I ask her if she's going to take the subway or cab it. She decides we will take a taxi, so we flag one down and go looking for the impound lot. Turns out that 38th ends at 11th, where it runs into the Javitts center. We drive south to 36th or so, turn right and hit the West Side Highway. We've been driving North for half a second or so when I spot the sign for the impound. We follow the sign, and pull into a long taxi ramp. Get out. Security guard points us back the way we came. Next gate. It's closed. The one after is open, so we head toward the line to pick up vehicles. I see that there's a sign laying out the things she'll need to get her car back - license, registration, proof of insurance, and, of course, money. I ask her if she has that. She says that of course she does, they're in the car, and hurries for the door. I decide that it's not going to do anything to try to slow her down and tell her she'll need a special pass to get to them.
The office for picking up towed vehicles is a nasty little room with truly heinous fluorescent fixtures and eight windows. One of the other people there comments that we must have gotten towed too. I say that no, we're here for the lights and decor. It emerges that everyone else there (six people, in two separate groups) was at the same showing of The Da Vinci Code that we were. The guy ahead of us gets his paperwork, so my friend starts in on hers.
It didn't take long before she started yelling at the woman behind the glass to try her ATM card again, and to wrap it in a plastic bag and try it, because that worked when she was a cashier. I'm thinking that we're probably going to get thrown out and I'll never see my speed wrench again. Finally we end up having to go to an ATM.
Remember, gentle reader, we're on the Hudson River at 38th. My friend walks a little way uptown, where we hear there's an ATM, then decides that it's 2am in the middle of nowhere and she needs a police escort. She asks the guys who were behind us and couldn't get their car because it's the guy's father's car if they want to take a walk. No dice. We head another couple feet uptown and a traffic enforcement car passes. We backtrack all the way to where the very first gate we never got through was and ask if the parking enforcement guy can come along with us - he doesn't need to let us in the car, he can just follow if he wants. No. Finally we just walk the three blocks (short ones) to the ATM and my friend gets money. We go back, and she gets the car. There's also a guest appearance by a disheveled woman with a sleeping bag tied to her waist.
There turns out to be a special spot at Pier 79 for people caught up in the anguish of drivers. I had to wait there while my friend got her car. Then I said that we were going to eat. She said she wouldn't eat because she wasn't hungry and had had a huge tub of diet Coke and didn't need more calories. I said I didn't care if she was hungry - it would make her feel better. She insisted she felt fine, just annoyed. In the Book of Andrew, annoyed is not fine. Anyway, we went to the West Way on 44th and I had pie. I had hoped that she'd order something when I did, but that didn't work. At least I got pie. Then she drove me home. My roommate's best friend is sleeping on the floor across the path I need to use to get to my bed and I almost tripped on him and/or trampled him coming in. Remember, I'd put on my steel-toes twenty hours previous, and hadn't had a chance to take them off.
Friday, May 26, 2006
On Tuesday, I found an e-mail from him in my hotmail. Just a mass e-mail, but it's still fun to be getting invites to things from pop icons. It was a benefit party for the Tourettes Syndrome Association. So I called the girl I was going to be going dancing with on Thursday and got her on board for this as well - I hate velvet ropes, unless I'm going to be on a list, and then I just have to go. My roommate, unfortunately, is out auditioning today, so he had to turn down clubbing last night.
Anyway, the Tourettes party wasn't supposed to really start until midnight, so we added it on for after going dancing. I wore low-slung boot jeans, a polo my uncle got in the 80's, and the harness boots that are a partial replacement for my combats, which have a hole in them now, and threw a pair of jazz shoes in my pocket. One reason that I'm going to have to get something more similar to the combats is that this is the kind of evening where I'd usually just wear them the whole time, because I hate changing shoes when I go dancing. The girl in question wore a black dress and La Ducas at the first place, then a smaller black dress and a shoe that's not a couple hundred dollar investment designed for musical theatre dance for Quo, where the party was.
Quo has really cool lighting. Lots of LED fixtures fading through different colors lighting vertical columns full of water. Really expensive booze, but it is a night club. The volume was so high that I could hear the giant speakers struggling to produce it cleanly. Girl and I had a Glenlivet on the rocks, which I highly recommend - very mellow Scotch, which I won't do the disrespect of comparing to something else. She immediately took out some of the ice. I like people who truly enjoy what they drink. There were a number of sailors around, who I'll return to later.
The event was emcee'd by a model, don't remember who, who has Tourette's. Any Tourette's symptoms were not in evidence, but he was a strong argument for the idea that models shouldn't be allowed to speak - long, rambling comments that eventually meandered their way into introductions for the performers. The first one was an aging disco queen who had her track started twice. To her credit, someone used to performing with a live band is used to having a monitor mix designed to be useful, rather than the house mix which is not. But still. Following her, more remarks, then Randy Jones who looked relaxed and pleased to be there, but not too worried or overly excited. He came off as charming and very genuine, and got everyone in the club to engage in his performances - "I'm a believer" and "YMCA." He brought the sailors up on stage before YMCA, which should make it that much easier for them to get a little extra out of the evening, and someone shot a bunch of pictures afterwards. Should be an interesting thing to show their shipmates if they get copies.
Randy and his husband recognized me when I went to say "Hi," which is always fun. They invited me to drink with them, but I have to work today and my friend does too, so we left shortly after. But a fun evening, and she wants to go see a real ballet with me.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Saturday, May 13, 2006
There's some context as to why I was thinking about this today, but that's another story.
I have no desire to be homophobic, or racist, which I won't lie about either, but in my small way I am. The racism's another blog too, although until this afternoon I'd thought about racism and homophobia in the same way, and now I think they're separate, at least for me.
I've been to college, trained as a dancer, and work in theatre. So I have interacted and continue to interact with gay people pretty frequently. I've even had a couple of gay roommates. However, I'd say that the majority of people I've known were gay and interacted with were trying to pick me up. Maybe not trying very hard, but the degree really isn't important here - the suggestion was there. And it's not unlikely that it was my perception, and not reality, but we're talking about the contents of my head here, so that's not important either.
Some radical feminists say that all sex acts are acts of violence. I think that's going way too far. If a girl gives her informed consent and I have sex with her, that's not rape and it's not violence. And if I choose to let her tie me into some kind of bizarre suspension harness and do weird stuff to me that leaves bruises lasting days, it's still ok. The key being consent. However, if I were to walk up to a complete stranger and tell her I want to tie her down and flog her, she'd most likely be pretty freaked out, and she'd be right. It's no different if all I'm suggesting is some kind of mundane sex we all imagine our parents did once per child.
So if a man tries to pick me up, or a hypothetical me that's a woman, if I don't want to have sex with him, he's threatening violence. If most of the gay men I've interacted with have flirted with me, that means that in a very small way, most of the gay men I've interacted with have threatened violence. Of course, this doesn't only apply to gay men - it's anyone who indicates to me that they want to have sex with me when I don't want to have sex with them.
Of course, I've been on the other side of that interaction, and I know that that's not at all what they meant. But the persistent ones who don't back down always have more emotional weight. And I know in my head that that's not what they meant either, because there are a lot of people, both genders, running around who get off on making people work for that phone number. But homophobia's not an intelligent thing. At least now I can claim that my homophobia is pretty much the same deal as the general distrust a lot of women feel toward men as a group.
I guess this is reason number 54 that I have a hard time chasing girls - seeing my advance as a threat of violence. Yay.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Since I couldn't just uninstall the program, I tried to delete the directories through Windows Explorer. I couldn't - the files were protected. Since the account I was using was already an administrator account, I didn't think there'd be a point to trying to do it from a different one.
Next, I rebooted the computer into safe mode with command prompt. Since safe mode only loads the core of the operating system, I figured I'd be able to delete the program's main directories, then reboot in a normal configuration and complete the uninstall with the Add/Remove Programs dialog. This has worked for me in the past- Windows is frequently able to clean up after a messy uninstall.
In this case, no dice. I decided to go ahead and install the anti-virus software I had just downloaded, which was why I was trying to get rid of the old one in the first place. Didn't work - it saw the previous software and refused to install.
I knew that I needed to mess around in the registry, but I thought I'd see if maybe Symantec made a utility for tidying up a messy install program. It's possible. Maybe. Turns out they have an article in their knowledge base on doing a manual uninstall of the program. Most of it is hacking the registry. Followed the steps in the article, re-started, and finally I could run the install program for the new software.
I rock. I will not be defeated by a mere password requirement. At least, if I have physical access to the machine. Work tomorrow in slightly less than eight hours.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Three more automatons trickled in, and the six destroyed them as easily as the first. Next, about twenty arrived in quick succession. Newark really had bitten off more than he could chew. Since the automatons could see her attack anyway, Manhattan stopped trying to hold her heat, and none of the others did either. The area became a hell of ordnance and stray energy. While before, Manhattan had looked and listened so intently it almost hurt, now the glare made it difficult to distinguish friend from foe. Manhattan was attacking as fast as she could vent heat from her weapons and the humans she travelled with could supply her guided and inertial launchers.
Then, as quickly as things got loud, the remaining automatons fled. Manhattan counted six heat signatures as they turned tail and ran, and another three floated in the darkness, heat and energy pouring out of their battered bodies.
Riding high on the excitement of the fight, Manhattan pushed in the direction the automatons had gone. Bronx and Queens followed, while Newark, Nassau, and Brooklyn stayed behind with damage of their own to worry about.
Manhattan drifted silently through the dark. She'd always thought the name was a little unfortunate, but nobody asked her. People asked her a lot of things, but not about her feelings. She supposed she felt some affection for all the humans who travelled with her anyway. They had small, fragile lives and they trusted her. They had a sense of being part of something larger than themselves. Manhattan listened to the darkness. A little static. The steady pulse of an unbalanced star spinning somewhere in the distance. Nothing else. She looked through her many eyes throughout the ship. The humans knew they were there, but it never occurred to them that she watched.
Manhattan let her mind wander for a while. Some far reaches of her brain calculated distances to the stars and relationships among them. Another part disassembled messages from the humans and put them back together. To her, they seemed like jigsaw puzzles with obvious patterns to reunite them. She wondered why she did this. She'd noticed one of the humans who travelled with her liked to turn his light switch three times when he entered the cabin, and his bathroom kit was always arranged just so. She supposed he felt the same way about this as she did about so many of the things she did. She knew she should tell the human everyone was afraid of, but she didn't have the heart. Humans had so many secrets from each other that they cared so much about.
Manhattan suddenly felt a compulsion to go somewhere else. From time to time, a human might enter a destination on one of her terminals and it would seem like the most important thing in her existence to go there. Sometimes others like her would be on the other side. Frequently they hurt her. She'd tried to talk to them, but they seemed to be deaf. The necessity of travel tugged at her mind, so Manhattan put aside her musings and looked around. Still nothing. She pushed, and found herself closer. She looked around again, pushed again, and travelled further. Finally she reached her destination. She saw nothing.
Then, out of the darkness, she heard a whisper. Bronx. He sounded happy to see her. Bronx was always happy to see her. Most of them got along. There weren't very many of them, and so many who looked like them turned out to be automatons that it made more sense to be friends. Bronx said that they were being quiet. There might be enemies around, and they were hiding for a while.
Manhattan relaxed throughout her body. She wanted to release the heat she'd generated coming here, but she held it in. It was a little uncomfortable, but she could handle much more if she had to. She and Bronx conversed in whispers. He and Newark had been hunting. They had made many kills, and some of the humans who went along with them had been very happy. A few had even praised them.
Manhattan often wondered why so few humans ever spoke to her. Some that did said that the others couldn't know that she was different from the automatons. The engineers all spoke to her even though they weren't supposed to know. Sometimes they even poured out some of their drinks when they celebrated. Manhattan knew they were trying to share with her, even though all it meant was that she was a little dirtier. She supposed the appreciated the gesture.
Manhattan always paid attention to her surroundings. Large and small flares and waves of heat reflected off of the bodies of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau as they arrived in the area before hiding as well. Finally, a much brighter flash heralded Newark's arrival. Newark whispered to all of them that he'd found many automatons in a certain area, too many for him to destroy on his own, and that soon they'd chase him here. He wanted them to stay quiet and wait in the dark for their arrival, and then they would destroy all of them.
Manhattan enjoyed the excitement of days like the one that was coming, but she always felt nauseous and sore afterwards. The humans that travelled with her felt the same, from what she saw on the many eyes she turned inward.