Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
So here's me after one of the runups. I'm pretty sure it was the big one.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Six hardest miles ever done
Blood but no glory
Actually these races are a lot of fun. But they've also been the most miserable forty minutes I've ever done on a bike. Imagine alternating full sprints and inadequate recoveries, with the motivation to go further into your anaerobic zone than you ever do in training. The first time I went racing, I almost puked all over the finish line when it was over. The second and third times I paced myself slightly better and wasn't in good enough shape to push quite as far into the whole "Oh my God, my heart's going to explode and I'm going to vomit it out and die" zone. I think that roadies call that zone by a number.
Many of my readers already know that I'm planning to compete in the Seattle Cyclocross Series this Fall. I've wanted to do some more racing ever since the last time I went racing, back in college, but dance was more important at the time, and doing any kind of off-road racing while based in Manhattan is incredibly difficult. I have the opportunity to do a whole series now, something I couldn't do in college or since, and so I'm going to take it.
In a way, cyclocross is the perfect sport for me. Conventional road and mountain bike races both take place over many miles and at least two hours (ok, maybe not crits) and because of my knee problems I can't complete that kind of distance. In my race class, a cyclocross race takes place over three or four laps of a 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 mile course. It also requires some off-road skill, which I have, fast accelerations and sprints, which I have, and a high degree of mental endurance - the course isn't long, but the unique joy of cyclocross is that a course includes obstacles requiring dismount and remount, and some uphill running. None of these are very long, so they can generally be done at the fastest sprint a racer is capable of given the footing. When I've gone racing in the past, I've found that maintaining a good flow was the most important thing for me to have my best race, and that this was a matter of maintaining the focus to do clean mounts and dismounts over the barriers and before the runups, and to charge the runups, mount cleanly, and accelerate out of them.
When I went racing in college, I had no strategy, per se. The first time, I just wanted to check it out. I'd been riding my mountain bike a ton for the latter half of the summer, and was doing a ton of riding in general, so I just went racing. I did well for the first three laps, but hadn't paced myself for a fourth and lost a lot of places during that lap. Even so, I actually did fairly well - I think I was in the top quarter of the field in my class (Beginner, but it was my first race.) The second and third races I went to found me in no condition to race. They were after I'd hurt my knee, and aside from commuting, I wasn't doing a lot of riding.
I don't remember where in the field I placed, but I'll always remember my third race because I found a guy to get competitive with at the end. I'd been doing alright for most of the race, but not well by any standard. I was passing some guys but I was also getting passed a lot. This guy, who was older than me, passed me with about a lap and a half to go. The thought that sprang into my head was, "No. You are not passing me." I reached a little deeper into my self and pushed a little harder and passed him. Then he got around me again. We did that for almost all of the remainder of the race, right up until the paved section before the end. For the lap and a half that we raced each other, we were both still getting passed a lot, but for me at least, this was where the race was happening. The other riders didn't matter, and for all I knew they could have been in a different class anyway, but this man was not going to beat me. That course ended with a straight grass section leading onto about a hundred yards of pavement before the start/finish line. The other guy and I were pretty even until we hit the pavement, but then I still had a sprint in me and he didn't. While from a performance standpoint, that was probably the worst race I ever rode, it's been my best racing experience. From the way that he said "Good race," and shook my hand at the end, I think it may have been his best too.
I don't know how I'll do this year. I haven't been riding off-road a lot, but I've had the best weekly mileage since college this summer, and I'm doing some interval and hill training here in San Francisco. I can also afford to buy a real cyclocross bike this time, which should be a considerable improvement over racing on the old sport/touring bike I was commuting on in college, which was still better than racing on a mountain bike. My goal for the first race is to time my kick for the right part of the race, so I don't blow myself out before the finish, finish the race, and not be the last rider across the line. Depending on how competitive my category is, that may be difficult - lapped riders get pulled - but my experience suggests that at my current level of fitness I ought to be able to achieve that. For the other seven races in the series... We'll see. It'll be good to get to do a whole season of racing.
Friday, August 29, 2008
After several days had passed and my ankles were getting, if anything, worse, and I'd had to cancel some work, I went to see my doctor. He had me get an x-ray to see if I'd fractured something, and I also had him draw some blood to make sure I continue not to have hepatitis, and to check for hemachromatosis, a blood disorder that family history suggests I might have. That was pretty much an afterthought, but since it has some bearing on hepatitis, I thought I should find out sooner rather than later. It's not confirmed, but I found out today that I probably have it. D'oh!
The most common symptoms of hemachromatosis are joint pain and an enlarged liver. This is interesting to me because I've had both, although my liver's fine at the moment. The liver connection means that, especially with my recent hepatitis scare, I'm back off alcohol, at least until I can follow up on the hemachromatosis thing. I'm also supposed to cut down drastically on red meat. Which is annoying, because I really like red meat. And no organ meats (which is fine - I never liked them that much and they're expensive.) Hopefully Washington State has some good laws protecting health insurance subscribers and dealing with pre-existing conditions. If not, look for me to remove this post in the next two weeks and commit some fraud.
As far as the ankles go, I'm off running until they feel all the way better, and then I should run with a trainer for a while. So for someone with my budget and preferences in sports, that pretty much means that at least until next Spring, when I may want to start training to do some cycle racing again, I'm off running. The mechanism for hemachromatosis causing joint pain is unknown, according to uptodate.com, but the theory they post is that the iron attracts calcium, which crystalizes in the joint. It sounds to me like grit getting into a bearing, which is bad news. The hemachromatosis thing does have the possibility of unifying my joint problems and my liver problem under a common cause, so in a way that's kind of cool, although my ferratin levels are within normal range at the moment, so it seems a little unlikely. I'm just annoyed to keep finding out about wierd health problems.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I think it helps that my LeMond is in Seattle already, so I only have my mountain bike and my commuter. The things the mountain bike is good for are stability and handling, but it doesn't have the need for speed that the racing bike does. When I'm on one of my bikes and I'm pushing myself, my world narrows to the road/trail/whatever in front of me and a scan along the sides to make sure that nobody's about to try to commit suicide by cyclist. Granted, I was going for it on the way out today, but after I stretched I decided that I was still feeling beat up from my running adventures and I soft-pedaled back. I got to look at the water, read the T-shirts of people coming in the opposite direction, listen to the knobs on my tires sing, enjoy the light, etc. etc. Nothing hurt, I barely sweated, and yet my speedometer somehow drifted as high as 19. I think I had a tailwind.
So now I have to figure out if and how I'm going to integrate this kind of thing into my training schedule, once I have one again. Most cycle training schedules call for six rides a week, with the sixth one being at an easy pace and distance. In the past I've thought that that was something I didn't get to do - I've always tried for consecutive off days. In the past I've also thought that my knees would prevent me from making running one of my regular activities, but it's my ankles that are limitting me now. If I can discipline myself to ride slowly, and not give in to the temptation to shift up a gear, push a little harder, and fill all that empty space in front of me, I can do one more ride a week.
There are a lot of reasons I enjoy riding bikes and, lately, running. One of the chief ones is that it gives me some privacy in the middle of a crowded city. Another is that I like to go fast, and a big one is that I like a challenge. Perhaps now I can add a fourth reason. A weekly slow ride might be the way I can do just enough not to get too jumpy to take some time to do nothing.
Monday, August 11, 2008
There turns out to be a running specialty store right next to World Trade, which puts it a very short walk from my apartment. When I decided last night to try running again, I also decided to give it a real chance. Rather than repurposing a pair of trail shoes I got on Steep and Cheap because they were cheap and running shoes are comfortable, I went and bought a pair of running shoes to address my foot type and gait and I even paid retail. Whether or not I can resume running is something I'll have a better idea of tomorrow and an even better idea on Wednesday, but it's important for me to wear something that supports my foot and ankle so they don't collapse inward when I weight the foot and my knee doesn't travel laterally. Once that happens, the floodgates of pain open wide.
I was pretty hungry, so I had a little more lunch than was perhaps wise, and then went for three miles. Three seems like a tiny number to me. Three on a bike, assuming I'm riding somewhere where I can be continuous, takes me about eight minutes. I probably haven't even figured out how I'm feeling that day, and I'm definitely not ready to stretch yet. To be honest, I didn't do three miles continuously today. One of the things that I never used to worry about when I didn't know my knees were flaky was stretching. I'd do it - I was doing dance and I wanted higher extensions and more stable balances - but it was only because it served a goal. I didn't think I really needed to in order to continue my chosen activities. So let's talk about one and a half on foot.
I ran the West Side Highway from Vesey St. to W. 11th Ave, stretched, and ran back. According to Google Earth, that's one and a half miles each way. It also terminates in a nice little plaza thing. The first thing that happened was my hip flexors got sore. I'm not surprised. I do most of my cycling on a road bike, riding either the hoods or, frequently, the drops. Riding in a tuck means that even when I extend my legs, I really don't extend that muscle. I don't even unfold it. Doing something that involved being forward of my foot didn't make that muscle happy today. Masochistic reason #1 for me to think I'm doing something I should be doing. This happened less than a quarter of a mile into the run. Next, my right IT band started getting tight. That, to me, is a little more worrisome. Not that worrisome - it's not a problem until it pulls my patella out of its track. But definitely something to watch. At around a half mile, my quads started to hurt. It was inevitable, really, that the other three heads should follow their early-adopter partner in protesting this unaccustomed activity. Apparently running is harder than cycling. About a mile in, my hamstrings decided to join the fun. That actually surprised me a little. I use them on my bike and my brother has commented that his hamstrings hurting is something that typically happens when he's getting back into shape after a period of inactivity. I didn't think I'd be strong enough to do that to myself.
When I knew I was near my mile and a half mark, it got really hard to continue. I knew that I was going to stop and stretch soon. I typically wait until I've been doing something for fifteen minutes before I break, but I didn't think it would take me thirty minutes to do three miles, so I figured I'd stop at my halfway point. I occasionally do this for really short bike rides too. Now I know what the landmark for a mile and a half is, so I won't have the excuse to slow down and look at street signs in future.
Running the mile and a half back to Vesey street was easier than the first leg. I read something about distance training that recomended loops because you can't just decide that you don't like cycling that much after all and turn around, and once you hit halfway, it gets easier. I can see where the writer was coming from when he wrote that. On my bike, I have inertia. Once I get going, I want to continue. Running, I have the ability to stop at any time. Today took some determination - it was difficult.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
The inn itself is a beautiful old-fashioned hotel. The rooms aren't very big, there are no TVs, and the bathrooms are down the hall, but I'd choose it over a Motel 6 any day. It has character, and that character isn't mildew or a parking lot. They also have an excellent kitchen. Because Rainier is a national park, nothing served there actually comes from there, although the dishes are designed to reflect their environment. I found that amusing, although it seems like it would be logistically a little awkward, especially in the winter, to try to source the principal ingredients for things locally. They also have an afternoon tea service, which is very civilized and of which I'm now a fan.
It was pretty cloudy when we arrived, and Mt. Rainier itself was hidden. While Action Mom and I were sitting outside and having tea, the clouds parted for a little while and we actually saw Rainier. This is in contrast to Grand Targhee, where we never actually saw the Grand Titons, and Whistler, where we rarely saw anything, including moguls the size of Volkswagens. The mountain is huge - most mountains I've seen, I've been able to look at and say, "Yeah... That's pretty big." Mt. Rainier has such a large prominence that I actually had to look up. It's a fairly perfectly shaped cone from a distance, with a glacier cap. We tried twice over the next few days to get closer, and met with limited success.
The first trip we planned was going to be a loop around the Sunrise area. Due to some theories involving heavy traffic and parking issues, we decided to go to the White River campground, three miles away by foot, and start from there. The route from White River to Sunrise turns out to be 2.6 miles climbing about 2200' and then another half mile that would be pretty easy if it wasn't under snow.
Near the top of all the climbing, we found a stream crossing that had washed out. I couldn't tell if it was supposed to have a bridge or not, because there was no sign of one. The point where the crossing used to be was about a foot away from a waterfall that was going pretty hard, and crossing at that point didn't seem like a good idea. Upstream was at least 20' straight up a rock face, so that didn't seem like a great idea. We ended up scrambling down a pretty steep bank to a point where the stream narrowed, the snow bank on the other side didn't have any cornicing, and there were some rocks big enough to sit out of the water and offer some stability. After that, we had to scramble back up the bank on the other side to get back onto the trail. Whining and moaning aside, I actually find that sort of hiking much more engaging than walking around on some ridiculously well-maintained trail with little handrails and stuff. Not too long after that, we reached the elevation where the trees started to thin out significantly, and could see all the way down to the White River. It looked really far away, and the sense of having traveled that kind of distance on foot was kind of cool.
Around that time, the water falling from the sky turned from being a fairly gentle mist into rain. Northern California has similarly unpredictable weather, especially in the foothills of the Bay Area and in the Sierras, so Action Mom and I weren't unprepared - we just took our shells out of our bags and continued. When we got to the top, where the snow started to be more of a snowpack rather than random banks of snow hiding in sheltered spots like stream beds, it was still raining and we figured that we didn't have anything to prove and hung out inside the lodge for a while. It continued raining and didn't look like stopping, so we got a ride with a church group back to the intersection with the road to the campground where we left the rental car and called it a day.
The next day, we planned to hike the Wonderland trail from Longmire to Paradise. Due to multiple bridges being out, with no alternative routes, we bagged that plan and did a ridge trail near the inn. That trail was another one that went straight up the hillside - 1.8 miles of switchbacks, with about 1300' of gain. After that, we took the bus to Paradise, had lunch, and tried to find a loop in that area. It turned out to be fully buried under snow, and after a short hike that went the wrong place, we found the right line of flags but the weather got nasty again. We decided that neither of us really considered walking several miles in the rain over snow fun if we couldn't see the mountain anyway and we weren't going to be skiing down, so we hung out in the lodge for a while, had dinner, and headed back to Longmire.
Unfortunately the way mountains create some of their own weather makes it difficult to catch them on a good day. At least this mountain we got to see, and of course the weather turned nice on Sunday when we were leaving, so we could see it all the way from Seattle. On another day, I saw Mt. Baker from Seattle. It's pretty cool to be a place where, on clear days, it's possible to see mountains as far away as Rainer, Baker and the Olympics. I've also come to the conclusion that hiking is kind of okay, as long as it goes places that are inaccessible by other means. Part of the reward has to be that I won't arrive at a destination and have people there who drove their cars and RVs, or worse yet rode their mountain bikes - then I'd be really envious.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Follow the link, and then click the big pink button near the top of the page.
The Breast Cancer Site
Saturday, July 19, 2008
It was also fun to do some real mileage with friends. We didn't talk a whole lot, but it's nice to share the ride and sprinkle in some drafting now and then. Of course it didn't hurt to be doing the ride with a guide - the whole loop is signed, more-or-less, but the more-or-less and transitions between road and path could have been difficult to figure out if I was on my own.
Around mile 20, my knee started to bother me a little bit, but we stopped and stretched and it calmed down. It feels pretty good at the moment. I think it helps to be riding with friends - without an impressive degree of organization it's a somewhat slower pace than when I'm riding solo. I was also trying for an 18mph pace as the point where I started to really push, rather than the 20mph pace I've been trying for on my shorter rides in New York.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
So far, I'm already working as a stagehand. It doesn't mean all that much - my friend got me the job - but it suggests that there's a decent amount of work to be had. There are also a couple of employment options I haven't had time to pursue, since I've been working, and the union, which sounds like it's relatively easy to get into, at least as a general stagehand. My friend was grousing about their apprentice program today, so maybe advancing within the union is tricky right now. I'm not too concerned about that, because being a stagehand is just a job, so as long as it pays I'm happy.
The next thing is that I want to do is design shows. That's not just a job - I love telling stories, although I don't necessarily feel like I have any stories of my own to tell yet. Design is a way of helping someone to tell a story, and I think that absent telling my own, that's pretty cool. This area bears further investigation. Since I've been caught up in having a job, trying to secure housing, etc. etc. I haven't looked at it as much. However, Seattle is supposed to have a huge independent theatre scene with production values roughly in between Off-off-Broadway and Off-Broadway. Since in New York, Off-off usually can't afford me and Off is looking for a more experienced lighting designer, this could be perfect. Of course Seattle also has the larger regional theatre appropriate to a city of its size, so it's not like there'd be nowhere to grow as I design more shows and want to take on bigger challenges.
Going dancing has already happened by accident, which ended up being a very fun evening. On the principle that people who are any good at partnering are at least somewhat hooked into the swing scene, I asked around and found the local calendar web site (every city with a swing dance scene has one and only one.) So in that area as well, more dancing awaits. I've heard that the blues scene in this city is awesome too.
All that leaves the two areas where living in New York has been very disappointing. One of the reasons I think I need to actually move to a city where the access to skiing is better is that I think that it gets in the way of building the career I want if I leave the city for months at a time to go skiing. Two years ago, when I spent five months in Lake Tahoe and collected 90 days of skiing and snowboarding, I didn't do anything about trying to design more shows while I was away. That's a pretty big problem since spring is a big season for openings and it's also the time to be looking for summer work. Essentially I left myself the summer to look for something to do in the fall before leaving. I did luck into a show, and it's one of the better ones I've done, but if I lived in one place year round I think I'd be better able to create the career I want. I want skiing to be something that I can go and do on random days off during the week, for a week at a time a few times a season, maybe after work sometimes, but not something that takes me away from my "real life."
Last season was an experiment in having a less disruptive season in terms of being able to work, and I'd say it was moderately successful - I was back in New York in time for Fashion Week, and when those paychecks came in I stopped being broke from spending a lot of time in Tahoe working for ridiculously low pay. People I worked for hadn't forgotten I exist, so even without Fashion Week, getting back into my regular work load wasn't too hard. However, I was still away for a really big chunk of time rather than promoting myself and it also wasn't as many ski days as I'd have liked to do. I filled out my season with some family trips (thanks, Mom!) and some day trips but it wasn't like my 90 day season either.
My theory about the winter is that if I do the appropriate coursework to be a ski patroller and join National Ski Patrol at one of the local resorts, I'll be committed to a certain number of on-hill days doing that and between the season pass at that resort and visiting privileges at others I'll be able to add all the days I can fit into my schedule. Given the drive times, I may still spend a fair amount on hotels, but at least that's lift and plane tickets out of my ski budget. More importantly, I'll still be living full-time in Seattle so aside from my commitment to NSP, I'll be able to make myself available for work and production meetings and promote myself as those opportunities come up.
While I haven't been able to properly explore cycling here in Seattle yet, I get the impression that it's a really great place to do it. My LeMond recently and I got to ride it yestoday. The trail that everyone talks about is nice and long, which is cool, and supposedly leads into some nice, long road loops. I'm looking forward to exploring that further. I did a little riding when I'd just arrived on my friend's hybrid and found the city very friendly to cyclists. There are bike lanes all over the place, and drivers are accustomed to sharing the road. There are also nice, big hills and mountains all over the place and the local mountain bike advocacy group has secured access to lots of them. In New York, I spend at least as much time getting to where I want to ride as riding, and I would prefer to have more fun with the sport.
I guess I'm not that solid as to whether or not Seattle has everything I want. But then, no city will ever be completely perfect for me or any other individual. I'm over New York, so I figured I'd probably get an idea very quickly as to whether or not Seattle would work for me, and so far it's very appealing.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
So I got into the airport a little early, met my friend, and we went to pick up my rental car. It's a Dodge Caliber. These things suck. It's a five-door with incredibly poor visibility, kind of on par with a box truck except that trucks have bigger mirrors. Supposedly it's got incredibly cool folding seats, but I haven't played with that yet. It's basically Dodge's more expensive answer to the Honda Fit, down to being front wheel drive (and feeling it) and having drum brakes on the rear wheels. Anyway, it's not like I'm going to have the car for that long, and when I'm shopping for a real one I'll try for a Subaru.
After that was lunch with friends and a pilgrimage out to a park that not only has a velodrome but has some freestanding climbing walls and a spire. They should change the name from "Marrymore Park" to "Andrew Park." My friend taught me how to use the ATC device I've had kicking around with my climbing gear since February, so that was cool. It was kind of embarrassing to only know how to use the automatic, cam-locking, idiot-proof(ish) but non-versatile device that my gym in NY uses.
The pre-dinner conversation was something along the lines of "we should ride bikes to the park" "Andrew doesn't have a bike" "we still have your old hybrid kicking around." Following that, my friends made the mistake of letting me and my multi-tool attack the aforementioned hybrid. I didn't get too crazy about performance tuning, but I thought the riding position was completely unacceptable and turned it into this.
I only did a couple of things to the bike. I lowered the stem all the way, then adjusted the angle to 90 degrees (it wouldn't go smaller, unfortunately.) Then I took everything off the handlebars and flipped them over - they're on the bike upside down now. If they were riser bars before, I guess one might call them dropper bars now? Or faller bars? In any case, the riding position is slightly lower than on my mountain bike and feels longer, but I think it's not because I had to put the saddle as far back on its rails as it can go and I still feel like I'm sitting too far back on it, so I think the top tube's too short for me. I also through on my venerable Time ATACs, so it's got clipless pedals. The trip there and back was quite amusing - this bike is definitely the silliest non-Burning Man bike modification I've ever done. It does ride better, though.
After dinner, we went to the park. The park in question is a beach on Puget Sound. There were lots of people there, even though it was fairly cold, and some people were practicing on a slackline, kind of like a tightrope but without the tight. Riding over on the hybrid was funny. It's got a sprint speed kind of like a real bike, but I had to lean back because it's got a garbage suspension fork on the front that can soak up energy. Its cruising speed, however, is much slower.
This morning I rode further into Seattle with my friend and had breakfast before she had to work. I figured it would be good to get started semi-early in the morning and there's also the whole jetlag thing. I'm glad I modified the hybrid because trying to do that ride in an upright position would have been pretty unpleasant. After that, I rode around for a while.
Seattle has a mountain bike park under I-5 that I wanted to look at. I even tried to ride parts of it, but I had a lot of trouble with the 40mm tires on the bike. For comparison, my mountain bike has 54mm tires with a large tread mounted on wider rims than the hybrid, so the whole system can run at a much lower pressure without pinch-flatting or wallowing, and the contact patch is much bigger. It's also a much lighter bike, and while I recently discovered that the suspension fork hasn't been functioning correctly, even when it only half-works, it's superior to the one on the hybrid. I decided that I didn't need to kill myself, so I left. It's a cool park, though - lots of stuff isn't finished, but they have a neat switchbacking section that would give a rider excellent low-speed stability and a great pedal-up if they practiced on it some, lots of log rides, a couple of teeter-totters, and a small hanging bridge. I couldn't get the hybrid through any of this stuff, but I'm promising myself that I'll revisit it on a real mountain bike at some point.
Next I rode north across one of the bridges and poked around the University of Washington. It's a more urban feeling campus than UC Berkeley, and not all that attractive. The surrounding neighborhood is nice, though. Most of what I've seen of Seattle, at least north of the canal, seems to be a lot like Berkeley - densely packed houses, narrow streets, lots of traffic calming devices. The main drags are nice, though. They seem to have mainly local stores - there's some character. After that, I found my way home along the bike path that runs the length of the canal, with a stop for coffee (served in a real mug) along the way. It's really nice here. As best as I can figure out on Google Earth, I did 15.2 miles. But that involves some guessing about turns.
My friends insist on the importance of using fenders here, and the one who commuted all winter says he actually wore out a set of rims too. So between that and the hills, I think that if I move I'll leave Skank in New York and put together a light touring-based commuter here. I think it would be really cool to do a disc front/cantilever rear braking system to reduce wear, at least on the front rim, and have full fenders and a rear rack. The distances involved here seem to be longer, and the streets are long enough to get a decent flow going, so it would be cool to get the load back off my back and into panniers. Also I haven't built up a load-carrying bike in a while.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Sometime after I cross the intersection and haven't had to fight with the shifter, it occurs to me that the bike now accelerates much, much faster. I think the biggest improvement to the acceleration is probably just that the derailleur was pretty badly gunked up, so it had to have been generating a lot of friction. But it can't hurt that the whole bike's a little bit lighter now. Certainly it feels a lot lighter in its acceleration and general handling. I notice a more direct feeling when I start pedaling, and I suspect that the lighter feeling of the bike in general is to do with that, although the rear derailleur certainly weighed a lot.
The big disadvantage to the new setup is hills. This bike has never been that good on hills, I think because of the friction generated by the rear derailleur and that it seems to be a fairly heavy bike in general, and it's a lot worse now that I can't give myself some mechanical advantage. The ratio is have is about 5:2 (actually 52 teeth on the chainwheel and 20 on the freewheel, for people who really want to know) which is a pretty high gear, so it doesn't take much resistance before I have to stand up and really push into the pedals. That applies to starting from a dead stop as well - since I geared the bike to perform best cruising at high speed, starting is a bit difficult. What it comes down to is that the bike has two gears: sprinting and soft-pedaling. On a hill, of course, there is no soft-pedaling, which leaves either charging or going into the anaerobic zone. I have to admit that I do run out of steam before I hit the top of the arc crossing the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridge and I don't necessarily have enough uphill sprints in me to ride all the uphills traveling uptown if I hit the lights wrong, but I stand by my gearing choice. With 22 teeth, I sometimes got too fast to pedal smoothly.
So far, I have to say that I really like my commuter as a single-speed. It has a much more aggressive feel and I think my speeds are a lot higher because it's tuned to be best at about 18 mph. The handling's quicker, the bike feels more agile, and it's more fun. Because of the necessity of sprinting more, I suspect that it's also going to make my speeds creep up on my better bikes. I think a single-speed layout's not for everybody - it really requires an athletic style of riding. It reminds me of switching from a soft, intermediate ski to something bigger, stiffer and heavier - this bike really needs to be pushed in order to ride well, but it gives back much more when I do than it did when it had all the components I've thrown out over the year or so that I've owned it.
Monday, June 23, 2008
This is yesterday's first configuration, using the 20 tooth sprocket and a 3/32 road chain, shortened to have no slack. The smaller hole immediately above the adjusting nut on the quick release skewer was the one used to prevent inadvertent rotation of the derailleur; the other is for mounting a rack or fenders.
Further research suggested that by changing to a cog actually intended for singlespeed use, I might fix the problem. The hyperdrive cluster I was using is designed to shift well, and when used with a derailleur it's a huge improvement over previous systems. However, without a derailleur it still performs as designed - it shifts - but without a derailleur to pick up slack and maintain tension, the chain drops. It turns out that BMX hubs use the same threading as road hubs, which means that a BMX singlespeed freewheel will go onto a road hub with no adapters, etc. required.
On my way to work this morning, I stopped at Gotham Bikes to see if they had a BMX freewheel - I figure this is a really common part, and since I don't have the tool to remove a freewheel, ordering everything for the next phase of the conversion online would probably be more expensive than letting them take care of it. They had the part, but only for a 1/8" chain, the standard singlespeed size, usually used on BMX and track bikes as well as many urban singlespeed rigs and probably cruisers. D'oh! Anyway, I figured that the bike's not working very well for me as it is - I want to be able to accelerate rapidly - so I went ahead and bought a new chain too.
This is the new freewheel, and the new chain.
Finally, here's the new iteration of the drivetrain. The only original parts left are the bottom bracket, crankset and pedals (not including toeclips, which I had the shop throw in when I bought the bike.)
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the black and silver finish on the chain, or how clean this setup is. The gear ratio is 52/20. According to the gear ratio calculator on Sheldon Brown's web site, this means 69.6 gear inches, whatever that means, or 18.6 mph if I spin at 90 rpm. Which means that my cruising speed on the flats is terrifying by casual cyclist standards and not half bad by mine. If I get strong enough riding this way, I might get an 18-tooth cog, which would bring my speed to over 20mph; I'm concerned that any larger and I wouldn't have the torque to accelerate effectively or cruise comfortably.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
So I've been meaning to give my beater bike, "Skank," a tuneup for a while now. I even bought it a new chain, which I never got around to installing... Until today. I also got some new bar tape. I was about to clean the rear derailleur when I noticed that it has an insane amount of play - like a whole gear's worth. Which explains the ghost shifting I thought was just me having a hard time with the old-school friction shifter. So I went on a bit of a tear removing parts.
Here's everything I took off. In the picture are the chainguard and small chainring from the front (I removed the front derailleur months ago,) the rear derailleur, the old chain, which was badly stretched and the old bar tape and plugs.
And finally, the finished product. It's not going to feel quite as good to blaze past the hipsters now that I've got something "cool" and not antedeluvian, but whatever. I wasn't about to pay money for a new derailleur for this bike.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I was buying some cycling stuff online, and one of those Google ads on the right-hand side of the confirmation page I got in my e-mail was for cycling jerseys. I'd been having a frustrating time trying to find something for intermediate weather, so I followed it and found, among other things, Metallica cycling jerseys.
I didn't buy it right then. I tried to resist. But the more the day wore on, the more I knew I had to have one. So I bought one.
Now when I pass yuppies on $8000 bikes, I'll be wearing lightning bolts. So they can feel less bad. I've refused to wear brand names or teams for a long time. But this is Metallica.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Anyway, there are big, powerful computers that are devoted to this sort of thing, but it's still a time-consuming and expensive process. The project that released FoldIt has a theory that if they can better understand human problem-solving strategies, which are intuitive for us, they can program computers to emulate some of them and solve protein-folding problems more effectively. They also think humans might beat computers to the solutions of some proteins using this program.
Most of the users, at least those that talk about themselves, are in math or science fields. I think there aren't too many biologists, because it's too much like what a lot of them spent a summer doing at some point during their education, but the point is that most of the people playing with this thing have some background. My background is theatre. The program represents degrees of stability and other pieces of information mainly with color-coding, and with a couple of other graphics. Their web site explains it better.
So now for the ego portion of the blog. I was up way too late last night playing with one of the proteins. Something to do with lipids. I managed to get all the way to 7th place, out of a few hundred players. I think that 98th percentile, give or take, is pretty good for not having a clue what I'm doing. I pretty much just have visual cues to go on, and some recollection of the material that this is supposed to represent, from the tiny bit of organic chemistry covered at the tail end of my class in high school. As of now, I'm in 11th, with 9,117 points. For context, most puzzles will go to scores in the mid-8000s just by telling the computer to shake the sidechains and then wiggle the backbone. Basically, telling it to automatically find the lowest-energy state of the sidechains, which is time-consuming but relatively easy, and then mess with the configuration of the backbone. While it sounds like this is allowing the computer to solve the whole puzzle automatically, it doesn't really make any positive or creative choices.
I think it's interesting because it puts a complex scientific pursuit in the context of being a puzzle game, with competitive scoring on the internet. While I don't think it would hurt to include a bit more of the science, it's interesting to me that such a simulation could be represented in such an accessible way.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The commute bike problem was basically the other shoe dropping - last summer I discovered that the rims on the bike are so old they can't accept new tires, even ones designed for its size rim. This was after a chunk tore out of the front tire. I built a wheel from parts using a newer rim that can accept new tires, which was a nice project, and stuck a new front tire on. I figured I'd put off building a rear wheel until the rear tire died, which happened today. I thought I'd fixed a flat I had in it this afternoon, but when I went to a bike shop and used a floor pump to bring the pressure up to where I like it, the tire wouldn't stay seated. I noticed in removing the old tube that it was stuck to the tire, so I think that perhaps the old tube was helping hold everything together by being stuck to the tire and rim. Anyway, the bike's at a random shop in midtown getting a new rear wheel. It's going to be a real Frankenbike now - original front hub, new 27" front rim and new spokes, and a new 700c rear wheel. By process of elimination, it'll eventually be a cheap but modern bicycle.
Friday, April 11, 2008
With the exception of a film of a piano being destroyed, the more extreme pieces were just recorded in photographs. I found that I was not at all bothered by the destruction of found mattresses, chairs, etc. - these were all mass-produced things that I would throw out without a second thought if they'd worn out beyond being useful to me or salable to someone else. The destruction of the piano bothered me. Even a piano that's cheap as pianos go requires many hours of labor by a skilled person to create, and I guess I believe that when something is built by a person who puts care into their work, it's imbued with a soul. That gives it a little extra value, and means that it deserves respect beyond its monetary value.
While for me the destruction of the piano and especially the slaughter of the chickens moved the art beyond some sort of line, that didn't make the pieces cease to be art. In judging them, the question of whether or not that destruction and murder is justified becomes a part of understanding the piece as a work of art. It also raises the question of whether it's ever justified to commit such acts in the furtherance of art. Certainly the nature of what was destroyed made the art a much stronger expression of the anguish I believe the pieces were meant to show. Most of the art from the show, while it was meant to cover the period from 1960-2000, seemed to be from the '70s, a period during which a lot of the countries represented were becoming military dictatorships with oppressive and frequently murderous policies toward citizens seen as dissenters. One of the questions I had to ask myself was how an artist could possibly express what was happening around him in such an environment. If human lives are being destroyed around me, could I possibly express something meaningful with standard artistic media? If I don't believe that I could, I don't believe I can hold another artist to that standard. At the same time, destroying something with a greater value, such as a piano or a living creature, is immoral in itself. At the same time, by living in an oppressive regime and not overthrowing it, all citizens become complicit in their policies - can the artist express this without being a sinner?
All these questions, though, are somewhat beside the point. While I haven't been able to find any good information on the installation with the dog, what I have been able to find suggests that it's about the large population of stray dogs in San Jose, the artist's home town. I've also bumped into records different places suggesting at least three different things the artist has said to justify the death of the dog. In all his statements, he says he's trying to draw attention the tens of thousands of dogs wandering the streets, but he begins by saying that the dog was so sick it was refusing food, and dying anyway, and eventually says that yes, he killed the dog. Regardless, the dog was being denied food while it was in the gallery, so if it was healthy enough to eat it no longer had the option. Most of the web pages I have seen condemn the work and say that it isn't art. While I certainly question whether or not the creation of the piece justifies the killing of the dog, I think that the post-modern movement has ended any way of separating things that are art from things that aren't. Ultimately, I don't think that this piece of art is justified. While it creates notoriety for the artist, I don't think it supports the point he claims to be making, and I don't think it really does anything that a series of photographs doesn't. Part of why I believe this is that I don't think that the death of a dog has the magnitude that the death of a person does, so I'm not nearly as bothered by dogs starving to death in San Jose as I am by people being imprisoned, tortured and killed for suspicion of harboring the wrong political views. While, to me, the situation of people being murdered by their government is one of indescribable evil, requiring the artist to commit an indescribable act, if Habacuc is to be believed, he's just trying to raise awareness concerning a public health problem.
Is it art? Yeah. Is it justified or effective? I'm disinclined to think so.