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Friday, April 30, 2010

Tomatosaurus Rex Prep...

I spaded the turf where my raised beds are going in (with a little luck, my friend with a truck should be helping me pick up a yard or two of compost this weekend with which to fill these puppies up). It's not really well broken up, I was working on a tight deadline Thursday evening knowing it'd rain all day today and running out of daylight.

I'd have taken the picture when I was finished but it was a few ticks past 'dusk' when I got to that point.

I'll be picking up my plants tomorrow after I get Em and her sleepover buddy to school at Oh My God It's Early tomorrow morning. She's getting on a bus at 6:00 a.m., which is normally the time I reserve for ignoring my alarm clock on a work day.

I gotta figure out my stakes/cages situation pretty quick it turns out. My original thought was I didn't need to worry until the plants get bigger, but Mr. Worley pointed out that it's not great to drive a stake down through the root structure of an establishing plant. The caging options I've found seem expensive (you can get 'cages' for a buck and a half at Ace, but they are four feet tall and made of coat-hanger gauge wire; they won't work for an eight foot high Mortgage Lifter vine). The 'Texas' cages Worley uses are great but they are something like $22 per four foot section and realistically, if it comes to that I'll have to let the vines lie on the ground.

Grilled Salmon, Steamed Asparagus, Spring Mix

It's nothing difficult or exotic. Nor is it new to my repertoire, it's probably about a monthly sort of dinner here in Lobster Land, but a friend told me she missed my foodie posts.

I guess I got distracted lately, I haven't learned any new tricks in weeks.

If salmon was cheaper, I'd probably fix this every week. If I could get Copper River salmon year round, and could afford it, I might see my way to eat that stuff twice a week. I don't know if that's the best thing I ever ate, but it's top five.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Wish I Drove A...

I wish I drove an Oscar Meyer Wiener, except without the job of interning all summer. Unless I get to copilot with that one chick who was interning on the Wienermobile when I ran into it a few years ago.

She got her chocolate in my peanut butter if only for a minute.

Anyway, on my commute I was stuck in traffic next to a semi hauling what appeared to be part of a soccer ball truck. Or maybe it's a volleyball, but I think it's a soccer ball.

It's not a football, no matter what you metric-system types may say. If we call soccer 'football' the terrorists have won.

Viva Ukraine!

When I read this story about Ukraine's Parliament I was instantly amused and insanely jealous.

Dude, these are adults elected by adults and they brought smoke bombs and eggs to work to express how pissed off they were at being sold out by other adults elected by adults.

You and I have been sold out as badly, and possibly on even worse terms, yet our Congress and Senate doesn't have a single person willing and able to bring eggs or smoke bombs to the floor. We get nervous when one of our elected politicians calls the President a liar, which is a bona fide qualification to run for the job of President.

Why can't we get leadership as good as the Ukraine? Do we have to let the former Soviet Union build bases in Iowa or can we just elect people with normal reactions to human outrages?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brewery Ride

Me and Roj started out a full hour ahead of the Brewery Ride crew. We figured they'd still pass us on Mission Road or Lee Blvd, but they didn't We deviated a bit from the tail end of their route, going a bit further East at the end, but we rode basically the same route (I'm pretty sure).

Actually, now that I look at their map, maybe we deviated a bit on the front end, too.

19.7 miles, averaged 11.9 mph and topped out at 32.9 mph. All the while loudly arguing about politics, so you know I had a good time. Roj is maybe as contrarian as me, and we end up both accusing the other of playing devil's advocate.

Roj sustained an injury, actually. He'd fallen a bit behind me it seemed, and I thought maybe I was going too fast. Don't get me wrong, he's by far the superior athlete, but he's got one gear and 20 inch wheels, so I thought maybe sheer mechanical advantage had me on my 700c 21-speed hybrid outpacing his Mongoose BMX with leaden mag wheels.

But no, the only problem was he managed to slip of a pedal and take a bite out of the back of his leg. Yikes. The rest of the ride, whenever I looked back to see if he'd made a light or whatever, he was right behind me.

We got back to the Brewery and there were still people from the main group pulling in. Which would have made me feel really proud if it wasn't for that full hour head start.

If it doesn't rain, we plan to hijack (or gate crash or whatever you call it when you are totally, completely out of your depth) the Blue Moose ride Thursday. And instead of lopping off the KCK leg by cutting across Roland Park, just setting out early and doing the whole thing. Maybe I can make it back into Johnson County before the first peloton blasts by me.

Anyone who wants to join us is welcome, we don't set any land speed records but we go the distance and have lots of fun.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cold & Wet

There are some things I like to be cold and wet. Diet Dew, for an example. Bike rides, thank you but no.

I managed to ride all last season without really riding in honest to goodness rain. It sprinkled, it misted, but it never really rained on a ride.

Tonight's Trek ride was the end of that lucky streak. When we were about as far from the store as the ride was going to get, it started to rain in earnest. And hail a little, though I only got nailed by a few hail stones, and they must have been small.

It was 58ºF when we departed and that temperature had easily dropped by ten degrees when the rain had started. 48ºF isn't bad for riding, really, it's virtually sweatless workout because your body stays cool enough to not need much perspiration to happen.

But rain evaporating off your bare arms as you ride at ten to twenty miles per hour, that's a frosty experience.

That last left-hand signal, as I lifted my arm I realized it was mostly numb, it felt like it would if I'd had it in a full sleeve ice pack.

Plus, I couldn't really see because my glasses were fogged and soggy with droplets. Plus, I didn't trust the traction of my tires.

Roger respoked my rear wheel, and he did a kick-ass job of it, too. And being the perfectionist he is, he Armor Alled the rubber when he put it back together. Which looks killer, but when it started to rain, I realized that newly wet pavement is the slickest kind. And while I'm sure I'd worn the shiny stuff off the main tread of the tire, I wasn't keen to do any leaning in turns.

The storm was fairly ferocious, winds had to have been over 30 mph out of the north, winds that took 10 mph off my downhill speed coming down Switzer from Edgewood, when I really wanted to go fast because there wasn't any turning to do and I wanted to get the hell back to my car.

I'm sure the rain didn't do any good to my new bike decals (I've added some more, and there's more to come, I'm sure). The label stock I use isn't so flimsy it just melts if you get it wet, but it's not weatherproof.

If anyone wants to joint me and Roger tomorrow for the Brewery Ride, I think we're planning to depart at 5:30, a full hour ahead of the official group. See if we can at least get to Somerset before the Animals overtake us.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Science City & Stuff

Union Station charges for parking, so I parked at Crown Center figuring we'd walk the habitrail over. I saw the sign for the Fairy Tale Village at Crown Center, so we checked that out too.

It wasn't as cool as, say, the Lego thing they did awhile back, but it was neat. Geared to kids younger than mine, really.

Coming into Union Station we met a dinosaur that turned out to be motion activated. When the girls got in front of it for a picture it came to life and menaced them. They weren't scared, but I saw a toddler who shrieked and burst into tears.

Dinosaur at Union Station from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Science City was cool. Not as crowded as it was when we were there on St. Patrick's Day. I wanted to ride the tight wire bike, but even when I was a senior in high school, I'd have been over the weight limit.

We learned that neither Em nor I are instrument ratable to land a Space Shuttle even on the easiest simulator setting.

We also sucked at mini-golf. And after Em easily defeated her sister and was all cocky about whether I could avenge the loss, I cleaned her clock, took her to checkers school. First time I'd played in probably 30 years, so I'm glad I was able to pull it off since she was talking smack.

I got weighed and measured by sonar, and I gotta recommend it, it's totally the best way to get this done. It put an inch on my real height, presumably because of shoes, but the part that rocked was it took almost 70 pounds off my real weight. I'm apparently dense or big boned or something because when I stood on the feet, even when I tried to puff myself up, it refused to put my weight over 215 lbs (and at that weight, for some reason, it shrunk me an inch to my actual height).

The best thing we found at Science City, though, was the tilted room. You lay on a bed and look at a white spot on the 'ceiling' then one on the 'wall' and then look at the bookshelf over your head, and when you then look back at, say, your kids standing at the foot of the bed it really seems like they're walking on the freakin' wall. Very disorienting.

When the girls both got on this bed to do it, when Mo started looking at me I jumped and she cracked up.

Out a window I spotted a steam locomotive and passenger cars. I think I saw this same train about 15 years ago when Union Pacific was running it coast to coast full of bigwigs. I just happened to be driving along K-32 by the tracks and there were all these people pulled over and out of their cars, waiting for it. I waited too, and was rewarded with the sight of this thing hauling ass and belching smoke. Environmentally, I'm sure it's right up their with an oil well fire, but as a spectacle it's probably on a par with a KISS concert.

The tour of it turned out to be a separate, $7 ticket (I discovered after we accidentally toured the model train exhibit trying to get to this). $21 for the three of us and twenty minutes until it closed? Not happening. I did drive by and get a shot of the locomotive. Learned, too, that it pulls out at 8:00 Tuesday morning, which makes me think I need to work out an arrangement with my boss so I can be downtown to see it off. It's such a rare and remarkable sight, if I can swing it, I promise to post video.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bro

We went to Ingredient to celebrate my kid brother's 38th birthday.

As my brother pointed out, they should put an 's' on the end, there aren't very many ingredients a restaurant could have that aren't on the menu at Ingredient. They have a few stock items, my Mom got the Tuscan Chicken sandwich, but in terms of custom pizzas and salads, their checklist style menu has more possible combinations than the human genome.

I got a pizza with Alfredo sauce, balsamic onions, portobello mushrooms, bacon and Gorgonzola. But my sister in law got what amounted to a caesar salad on a pizza crust, and you could just as easily get roasted garlic oil, artichoke, broccoli and kalamata olives.

Their crusts are exactly what I aim for at home, thin with a bit of a handle, I don't know if they hand stretch/toss or not but I do know they cook them on stone in a wood fired oven, which probably yields the kind of heat I wish I could get in my home oven with its paltry 550ºF high end.

After, we went across the way for some gelato. The nice thing about gelato is they serve smaller portions than the frozen custard joints. Don't get me wrong, I love doing in a pint concrete at Foo's, but at my age I'd have to ride up Mill Street Hill a dozen times to work it off, plus there's that beached whale feeling after you put that kind of jolt on top of a meal.

The tiny spoon they give you helps, because it keeps you from shoveling, allowing you to really taste the smallish samples of three flavors I had them pack into my small gelato.

The Sea Salt Caramel was amazing. As was the Chocolate Turtle. As was the Italian Trifle. All this in a wee cup, what a delight.

And fingers crossed, my Bro and his wife have been in the process of trying to adopt a kid and it looks like they found a match. Nothing's certain until it's certain, but I know they'd make awesome parents and they've been working toward this for a long time.

What Am I Missing?

I've been hearing these radio ads for Southwest Airlines. The ads say I have business in Milwaukee, and now Southwest is flying there nonstop from KC. Also that the economy won't fix itself, which isn't technically true: if politicians and bureaucrats quit trying to diddle it to death, fixing itself is exactly what the economy would do. That's not likely to happen as long as Republicans and Democrats are in charge of anything, so I'm not waiting under water, but I can't grasp what about me flying to Milwaukee would do for anything.

I know nobody there, and I think if I had any business to do in that fine city, I'd at least have a name or two in my address book. I'm sure that like Kansas City and a bunch of other places you have no reason to think about for two seconds unless you live there, Milwaukee is a very livable place. Given it's on Lake Michigan just a bit north of Chi, I imagine it gets Chicago style weather, and I know it's a hotbed of pinko politics, but nothing's perfect.

So I'm driving to work the other day and the bus I'm stuck behind in traffic is another one of these crazy ads for Southwest. 'Nonstop to Milwaukee. It's on.' This in black, all-caps type on a yellow background with a little Southwest logo in the bottom right corner.

I keep thinking, What is it with these people and Milwaukee?

Philip K. Dick's Genius

I've been revisiting some old friends, Philip K. Dick novels and stories that I read years ago, but have been listening to in audiobook format on my commute.

While I can appreciate the folksy upbeat adventures of Heinlein or Asimov, they don't do much for me really. PKD, though, like Kafka, was thinking about important things.

I'd love to see Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? made into a movie. I know, there's Bladerunner, but that movie stripped away some of the most brilliant aspects of the novel.

In the opening of the novel, Deckard's wife (he is married in the book) picks a fight with him about where to set their mood organ. They can dial it to various settings, sexual ecstasy, contentment, motivation to do well, etc. In the hands of someone like Heinlein, this would be a tool used by well adjusted characters to optimize their life. But Dick's characters are real people, and when discussing what to schedule their mood organs to after having a little fight, the wife reveals that her morning schedule included a six hour self-accusatory depression.

This, I think, is a fair reflection of how technology affects our lives. Everything gets better all the time, but nobody is really happier.

For that matter, the way animals are status symbols in the novel, Deckard's electric sheep being a cover for the real ewe that died, that he can't afford to replace. You can really see the way the things you own end up owning you when it's removed from the context of your own life and translated into this alternate reality.

The Man in the High Castle, another masterpiece, explores life in California after Japan and Germany won World War II. The U.S. is partitioned into spheres of influence, the Holocaust has been extended into Africa, and people you can recognize as ordinary every day Americans are taking the I Ching seriously and debating the relative merits of Goebbels, Heydrich, or Göring succeeding Bormann (who had taken over after Hitler) as Reichskanzler. They talk about it in the same tones as Kennedy versus Nixon.

The self-congratulatory nature of the winning side, it's obvious by the very fact that they won the war: their culture and values have merit and the losing side's is deeply flawed if of value at all. It's not so bizarre that the conqueror thinks this way, but the extent to which the conquered tend to embrace the same notion or feel they should be able to embrace it, that's what grabs.

Some of what I get a kick out of with these stories, too, is Dick's social commentary about the details of his contemporary existence. Pay toilets were common when he wrote Ubick. Our hero Joe Chip can't afford to leave his apartment because he's broke and maxed out on every line of credit he has. To get him to come to work, his coworker has to pay his front door to open.

Paycheck explores the world when the real powers are the state and big corporations, and those without the direct protection of one or the other are essentially serfs, which is to say Paycheck explores the realities of today. The Second Variety gets at the heart of the madness of war, with its punchline that the machines man made to kill other men are not only rendering humans extinct but are already building weapons to use on each other.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, which was made into a halfway decent movie (Total Recall) with an entirely different ending, gets into the existential nature of experience. If you think you really did something, have tangible proofs and realistic memories, does it matter if you really did?

There's more, of course. So much more. But you don't want to read me dissecting Philip K. Dick for 30,000 words, that'd be a waste of time. Time you could spend acquainting or reacquainting yourself with one of America's greatest literary treasures. He's not the wordsmith that Faulkner or Steinbeck were, but in terms of ideas, he's up there with the greatest.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Puzzling Evidence

I've gotten a bit hooked on crossword puzzles lately. The local paper runs one with the comics, I guess because it tends to be so obvious it's humorous. They run the syndicated New York Times crossword in the sports section with the classified ads. Probably because the NYT puzzle is difficult enough to be classified a sport.

Actually, once you get your sea legs, some of them aren't bad. They famously get harder as the week goes on, so while I had Monday half solved on my lunch break and completed later with only one or two Google searches to amplify clues, Tuesday took longer. Curiously, Wednesday seemed easier than Tuesday, and I felt pretty good going into Thursday.

Thursday is what they apparently call 'rebus day.' 38 Across was an obtuse master clue about how you could draw a picture by connecting the dots of this that and the other starting with the circled square. I read the clue a few times and didn't comprehend it, so I hoped other words would fill in enough blanks to get me there.

It turns out it wasn't just a rebus, it was the worst kind of rebus, a 'themed' one. 1 Down was 'Rémy Martin units,' which I rightly got as 'FIFTHS.' The musical theme is thus hinted at, since the puzzle starts with descending fifths, but even being a bit of a musician, I missed that.

My frustration came because I assumed, foolishly it turns out, that each square had just one letter in it. Isn't that an obvious, unstated rule of crosswords? Apparently not.

So 6 Down was 'Mideast peace conference attendee, 1993.' It started with AR and ended with T, so I naturally thought Arafat, but there were only five boxes. After Googling to see if there were any minor characters that fit, I decided they must mean ARABS.

See also 65 Across, a 'Renaissance cradle city,' I immediately thought Florence, but with only seven boxes I was stumped since Florence has eight letters. DaVinci has seven characters but Leonardo's last name means 'of Vinci,' and 'VINCI is only five characters.

Since the rebus encompassed all four quadrants of the puzzle, I was absolutely landlocked between things I couldn't come up with a plausible answer for and things that seemed to fit but then thwarted their intersecting words.

The key, printed in today's paper, includes the connect-the-dot drawing showing how 38 Across, EIGHTHNOTES is illustrated by a pair of eighth notes tied together, the dots being the multi-character squares occupied by DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI DO.

I've tried, lately, to make my own crossword puzzles and they are maddeningly hard to create. You can paint yourself into a corner instantly if you follow the rules: all the characters have to be part of both an across and a down (though the center of this Sphinx-stumper was isolated; which is defended I hear by the fact that it is both the part of a word and a phrase), it has to be diagonally symmetrical, etc.

Which is to say, I can appreciate that the puzzle's author, Danial Finan, is a genius, but I think it's an evil sort of genius...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

I know, it's become gender neutral, but I happen to have daughters. I wasn't sure I could really manage Mo and do my job, but the question was settled when I asked her if she'd rather go to work with Daddy or go to school. She picked school.

Me and Em got almost to the office when I realized I hadn't given the girls their morning meds, so we had to turn around and take Mo her meds at school. She was in the midst of dissecting a frog when I got to her, and appeared to be having the time of her life doing it. So that was cool.

The whole class was doing it, she didn't just catch herself a frog and start cutting. Just thought I should clarify, this is the kid that once bit a possum.

Anyway, we got to the office at ten and I proceeded to train her on bits and pieces of my job.

Some of the stuff doesn't translate well, but she had her MP3 player and her cell phone (until she killed the battery texting).

She did get to make some plates. A lot of what we do goes direct to polyester plates, and I was hoping that device would run out of media or chemistry so I could walk her through loading it with plate material or even better yet the mixing of noxious chemicals. No such luck.

We also have a metal plate maker that's not as automated as the poly machine. A long run, an item that's likely to be reordered over and over without changes, something with critical registration, or anything that's going on the big press, these are the things we make metal plates for. I'm pretty sure my explanation went right out the other ear if it even got into her head, she was surprised that what I referred to as 'plates' were big rectangles instead of little circles.

I tried to get into the history of lithography a little bit but I might as well have been telling her about the last time I got stuck in the Inner Circle of Fault.

She had fun making plates, though. There's not a lot to it, and at one point she asked me dubiously if this was what I did all day. It's one of the things I do all day, my job (thankfully) has quite a bit of variety in it. I do prepress, I design, I rescue 'art' from word files, I do Photoshop surgery, etc.

But as with most jobs, it's not much to watch. I remember reading in 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might, a section about the fatal error of including way too many details of an author's day job, about Pat Walsh meeting a woman who worked for a circus. When he eagerly asked her what that's like, she answered that it was a lot of paperwork.

So Em made a lot of paper cranes. We had our brown bag lunches, we met the other kids who were on hand, etc. It surprised me she didn't want to work the bindery with the two other teenage girls, but the two of them were already friends, and I think Em felt the outsider when introduced.

Then my boss' kid entered the mix. (Well, one of my bosses, describing what to expect at work I had to admit I had more than one boss. Two, in some ways three or four of them, kinda like Office Space except it's such a tiny company it kind of beggars the meaning of hierarchy. If I'd thought of it, my answer would have been really that there is only one boss, the customer. Whatever I do, if anyone from the owners on down question it, as long as the honest answer is 'Because that's what the customer wanted or needed,' it's all good.)

My boss' daughter is less than half Em's age, which means she was instantly drawn to her. My kid says she wants a career on Broadway, and I know she loves the stage and musicals, but even money she ends up in Elementary Ed and happy as a clam.

She taught the little one to make paper cranes, they played hide and seek, they hid each others shoes, they played cards, they ate Dum Dums, etc.

It was super-enjoyable. I know my last employer, when asked about 'take your daughter to work' scoffed at it. Yes, it's a formal way for my kid to play hooky for a day, no it's not a big deal. But it's not devoid of value, and you have to be dead inside to not see the fun of it. I learned when part of 'management' at that former employer that you could screw around and pretend it was legitimate as 'team building' or a 'morale booster.'

Much more than the things that flew under radar in that environment, I think a bunch of us bringing our honyocks to the shop was legitimate team building and a real morale booster.

For true, our kids are why we do what we do. It's not like any shop went out of business because it shut those kids out for the sake of a 5% productivity drop for one day of the year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Credit Where It's Due

As much as I hated the W. administration, I'm not thrilled with Obama either.

I gave the Bush crew credit when they did something right, all three times. That's only a slight exaggeration, but Bush's Supreme Court picks seem to have cerebral activity at least some of the time. W. & Co. understood that while we might not be in a Cold War, Putin has to be brushed back from the plate and maybe even hit with a pitch from time to time. They even sounded like the understood that taxes, all taxes, are bad and need to be minimized.

Unfortunately they liked to spend money as prodigiously and recklessly as Obama, don't let anyone fool you about that. Republican budget cuts? Show me even one budget proposed by a Republican administration OR a Republican majority in Congress that is actually smaller than the previous year's. If you can find one I'll eat a bowl of thumb tacks.

In true Orwellian fashion, in Washington spending more money is actually described as a budget cut. If you forecast that you'd spend, say, 10% more on the Ministry of Silly Walks and you only give them a 5% increase, you somehow slashed their funds by 50% even though you grew their allotment by more than the inflation rate. NPR will report about how walks may not be as silly as they could be ever again. Both parties do this and it is stupid and wrong.

So anyway, when the Republicans aren't trying to outspend Democrats or accidentally invading the wrong country, they can have their moments.

I know, there's the war on drugs and the odd position Republicans take on homosexuality. Hey, if we're all rugged individualists here, who cares if some guy decides to putt from the rough? And if you are big fan of committed, monogamous relationships, why shouldn't those dudes be able to get a piece of paper from the state formalizing their domestic relations?

For that matter, if someone wants to use IV drugs, that's an individual choice: you own your own body, if you want to load it up with heroin, good luck with your plans for life. In true Republican fashion, I don't want to pay taxes to subsidize your bad choices, so you might be surprised how low rock bottom gets, but you're free to find out.

But that's not what I came here to talk to you about, as Arlo Guthrie would say at this juncture. I came to talk about NASA.


Yes, because Obama has done a few things right. Don't get me wrong, I think that boob is doing more harm that good, but since it's different harm than W., maybe things work out in the end.

First off, lightening up on the medical marijuana people was a good move. It's a half measure, what we really need to do is quit trying to legislate sobriety altogether, but stopping the DEA raiding state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries is at least a start. What if someone who didn't have cancer, or anything else wrong with them, got some of that marijuana and had a nice mellow evening eating too much in front of the TV? Gawd, that'd be horrible! Kick down the door and throw them in prison, let us pay for their housing while depriving them of their rights for a few years. That'll teach them to stick to beer.

Another thing I think Obama deserves credit for is deciding to cut the manned space program. I'm a model rocket hobbyist sometimes and I'm a big science fiction fan, to boot. You'd think I'd be all about NASA's manned missions. Go back to the moon. Man a mission to mars, etc.

But there are several problems with that: one, the whole manned mission thing might make since in 1969, but with robots, there's no need. We got shit-tons of science from mars with unmanned craft. Add astronauts to the mix and you just added a big-ass liability and you have to feed it, water it, and bring it back to earth.

The Space Shuttle was famously obsolete on its first mission, it takes that long for an outfit like NASA to get shit done. More efficient launch systems (single use, in all likelihood, the reusable stuff doesn't save nearly what we thought back in the 1970s) aren't developed because corporations with big payloads that need to get to orbit can get a tax-subsidized (not free, but not real cost) ride on the Shuttle.

Even NASA's staunchest defenders will say, 'Don't get me wrong, they waste a ton of money, but...'

Thing is, if the private sector has to figure out how to get this shit up there on their own, they will innovate. They will find cost savings. If a manned launch is required, they will hire someone willing and able to do that, such as Russia. If a manned mission is pointless, they won't pay for it because they aren't a government agency that can lose a fortune and claim success.

I know Obama did it for the wrong reasons, and I know it'll be a hard transition for some people, but in terms of access to space, the less Federal involvement the more access we'll get, long-term, and for less money. Throw it open to the profit motive and you'll be amazed at what is possible.

Now, if Obama could get the message that the private sector does a better job and for less, that would be a great day. For instance, healthcare...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Retro Recovery

More or less the usual route when Julia's leading us, but this time we went clockwise instead of counterclockwise.

Great ride, great weather, great people.

I got lots of comments on my wobbly rear wheel, owing to three or four broken spokes. Roger has confiscated my wheels once again determined to re-spoke them entirely.

Oh, I got curious about my 'infinite' miles per gallon on the bicycle and did some checking. According to a web site I found, riding at 12-14 miles per hour, weighing what I do, I burn roughly 1108 calories per hour. Call it 12 miles per hour, that's 92.33 calories burned in a mile.

A gallon of unleaded gasoline has 31,250 calories worth of energy, equivalent to about 32 Big Macs with 32 Large Fries from McDonalds (I'm throwing up in my mouth a little bit just typing that).

But anyway, the fast food conversion isn't really material to how many miles per gallon I theoretically get on my 1993 Diamond Back hybrid. Taking that 92.33 calories per mile into the 31,250, I'm coming up with 338 mpg.

I'm still gonna use the infinity symbol on my mileage sticker. I think the thing I like most about it is it implies dividing by zero. Which some people think is impossible, but Chuck Norris can do it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mill Street Blues

I've been trying to plot courses that are hilly. The stress of climbing a hill is the best training I know of, and the exhilaration of flying down a steep or exceptionally long one is the best reward.

As I strain to make it up a hill, I have to remind myself that really, the hill is a friend. It's making me stronger if I could just see it.

I've been hearing about Mill Street from a riding mate, and I knew I'd been near it, so after the delightful (three quarters of a mile) descent from 14th Street on Springhorn/Ball (it changes names as you glide down it), I looked around until I found it. It didn't take long, it's near where Ball dumps out to Merriam Lane/Southwest Boulevard.

I can't believe you can pour concrete on a hill this steep, it'd just slide off. I know they have that hot shot stuff, but damn. I made it about halfway up, parallel with the last house on the left, my front wheel popping up ever crank. It felt like, had I the lungs to continue the effort, I might tip over backward and dump myself.

The steepest road in the continental U.S. is Canton Avenue in Pitssburgh, PA, between Coast and Hampshire. That's a 37% Grade. There's a 45% grade in Waipio, HI, but I'm not sure it's paved. It's supposedly 'four wheel drive only,' but it sounds more like you need a winch to get up it.

I've failed to find a number for Mill Street searching the net, but I'm pretty sure it's the steepest thing I've seen in the KC Metro.

My average speed didn't really show it (maybe in part because of me dicking around trying to get into my granny gear before I fail to climb a hill I can plainly see is too steep for me at this point) but I felt stronger on this ride. As I cranked up Roe Lane, I realized I'd been climbing a while and cranking faster than usual and wasn't fading.

I averaged 11.6 mph on this ride, which isn't noticeably faster, but I sure felt like I was cranking better than I have been. 22.8 miles total, the top speed was 36.5 mph, hit almost out of the starting gate going down 54th Terrace from Lowell. If I could have gotten to the top of Mill Street, though, I bet I could have reached near-light speeds coming down it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Not Bumper Stickers

I don't know why it took me this long to realize I could make my own decals for my bike.

I've made a few now, and deployed them. There's more to come, including, I thought, a Miles Per Gallon EPA sticker that belongs on my bike.