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Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Critical Mass

It was a good Mass, especially for wintertime. Winter Critical Mass can be a dodgy proposition. Riding bikes is fun in any weather, but the social aspects of Critical Mass are trickier. Standing around drinking beer in stupidly cold weather just isn't that fun.

But the low 40s isn't really stupid cold. I dressed considerably warmer than I would for just riding in this weather, wore gear appropriate to maybe the low 20s down into the teens.

And while I know it doesn't actually help keep you warm, a little Irish whiskey sounded like it'd hit the spot as well. I haven't had Jamison in ages, and while it's far better sipped from a glass, allowing you to really inhale the aroma of peated malt, the chilly air makes it taste awfully good straight out of the bottle.

I wasn't the only one riding who passed around a bit of brown liquor. Summertime, you'll see a bit of the hard stuff from time to time but mostly just beer and the very occasional bottle of wine.

We went through the Plaza, stopped in Loose Park for the first time in my experience anyway, threatened to visit the Nelson and wound up at the Liberty Memorial where we gave the security guys something to look at. Right after we got there, a loudspeaker said, 'Security. Bicycles are not allowed on the observation deck.'

I doubt the Memorial has more than one or two guards on duty at night, it's not that busy a place, especially this time of year.

And if we'd ignored them, I suppose the worst they could do is call the cops and say we're trespassing on the basis of ignoring their voice-of-God bullshit. I've had my bike on the observation deck many times, set up my tripod and shot long exposures of Union Station and downtown, interacted with guards and only ever been asked not to ride my bike on the observation deck.

But the group migrated about fifty feet and the party resumed on the steps just outside the observation deck and I guess at that point we weren't worth hassling. I'm sure even if they called the law, the cops would first try to just get us to leave, I can't imagine they have a great appetite for the paperwork involved in the mass arrest of three or four dozen people who really aren't up to no good.

I don't recall a rider on a gray BMX bike, but I learned the following morning in Facebook's Critical Mass group that some people seemed to think there was one. A cyclist fitting that description was killed crossing Southwest Trafficway at 9:30, about the time someone would likely be if he left the Liberty Memorial when most of us did and, say, had parked his car at Sunfresh. Whether he was with Critical Mass or not, a tragedy.

A tragedy compounded by what passes for journalism in America today. KCTV5's site corrected the headline describing him as a 'pedestrian' killed, as if a bike is not a vehicle on the road, but it's a familiar narrative angle I've never seen deviated from in reporting cycling fatalities.

The cyclist apparently hit the median and fell into the road where a pickup crushed him, but implicit in the description is 'what the hell was he doing on Southwest Trafficway in the first place?' This is Westport on a Friday night, which means the cyclist might be impaired and/or taking chances he shouldn't, but it sure as shit also means there's a statistically high chance the driver of the pickup was impaired and/or distracted.

For my own part, I'll admit I was impaired by the time I left the Liberty Memorial. The difference between being impaired on a bicycle and being impaired behind the wheel of a pickup truck is highlighted by what happened on Southwest Trafficway whether either person was impaired or not.

I think we've evolved as a society to the point where a rape isn't investigated first on the question of the victim's clothing, state of intoxication, etc. We haven't yet reached the point where a police shooting doesn't emphasize the victim being 'unarmed' (if being armed means it's okay for someone to be gunned down, deprived of life without due process, logically all cops need to be shot on sight). Maybe someday we'll collectively decide roads are for people, that pedestrians, cyclists, disabled folks on Rascal scooters, everyone has just as much right to get where they're going alive, and reasonable expectation of doing so, as motorists.

Coveting Away

It will be mine, oh yes it will be.

It worked in Wayne's World, so I had to say it.

The 29 plus thing to me strikes a really nice balance. These bikes don't feel like they have basketballs for tires the way a Moonlander or Ice Cream Truck tends to (and yes I know that means somewhat less float for sand and snow). But you can still ride full speed into a curb and just roll over it. It provides almost as much shock absorption as a suspension frame, and seems extremely well suited to me for gravel grinding—being a heavy rider, my 700x35 Schwalbes seem incredibly skinny and hard when I get on gravel. They're fine for jockey sized people, but when you weigh as much as a pair of jockeys...

And this ECR isn't just the exact 29 plus bike I'd want built up, it's being built up as if I'd spec'd it out myself.

Had I the means anyway. You can get quite a bit of bicycle for just what the Rolhoff 14 speed internal geared hub runs. But from the super simple Rolhoff to the big, grippy flat pedals, this thing is just plain built for me.

So... It will be mine, oh yes it will be.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stuck Behind a Train

Riding home from work, I almost went back and over the James Street Viaduct or the Forester Viaduct when I saw this train park on the tracks where I meant to cross. But this tag was too enticing.

I set up my tripod, shot a few exposures, varying shutter speed, aperture, etc., and then right when I was running out of shots to try, the train started moving. To my shame, it turned out to have a huge arsenal of tags on it, but with the train moving and in such low light I knew better than to try capturing it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Battling in the Dust

Zippy and the late, great Jello, they used to have epic battles. They wrestled each other to sleep on nearly a daily basis. Which is why, when Jello shuffled off this mortal coil to join the bleeding choir invisible, I went to the Humane Society looking for a playmate for Zippy.

Bringing home two cats seemed a lock, but that's the thing with cats, you just can't tell what you're going to get. Gonzo, the handsome black devil, he was super friendly to me at the pound, seemed like a good lap kitty.

Gonzo, instead, adopted the smaller of our dogs, Foster. He's so in love with that dog, he followers her around, sleeps with her, makes kitty biscuits on her. It's pretty cute. And he's a solid mouser. See also birds, moles, we haven't seen any squirrels yet (Jello was an ace squirrel killer), but Gonzo is a mighty hunter, a total dog lover, and not a lap kitty at all. That little bastard has never once sat on my lap, and if I try to pet him, it's a four stroke limit before he leaves.

Bulldog, he is a lap kitty. But he prefers Corinna's lap. Or Molly's. Or Emily's. He'll settle for me in a pinch, but only if I'm the only one home and I beg for it. And I'm the only one in the family that gave enough of a shit about having cats to go get some from the pound. Bulldog will sleep on the bed with me, but only at the foot, and I have to watch out he doesn't pick a fight with Zippy (who does, faithfully, snuggle up to me of a night). Sometimes they get along, sometimes they try to kill each other (and no, it's not play like these pictures).

Gonzo and Zippy are hit and miss on the playing, they mostly ignore each other, but today in the dust where the dogs have destroyed the lawn under the peach tree, they were going at it good. Gonzo would take Zippy down, then after they kicked each other's heads a bit, they'd sit and pretend not to know the other one was there until Zippy would sneak up and pounce on Gonzo. Then he'd break from the scrum and slowly walk away until Gonzo tackled him. It did my heart good, though after I'd clicked a few frames with the camera and they realized they were being watched they both slinked away.

Kansas Child Support Rip-Off

Not long ago, I was asked for a voided check and had trouble coming up with one. I have a checkbook, I just didn’t know where the hell it was. Who writes checks?

For years now, I’ve been paying child support online through the Kansas Payment Center website. It’s convenient, just fill out a few forms, the money comes straight out of your account, and I think it goes fairly directly to the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster for the maintenance and upkeep up honyocks.

I only just noticed, though, they’ve been hitting me with a $16 fee every time I do this. A convenience charge. In other words, the state of Kansas is charging me for their convenience. Sure, paying online is easier for me, but I’m also saving them from opening an envelope, processing a check, crediting it to the proper account and so on.

What an outrageous rip-off. I’m saving them at least as much trouble as they’re saving me, no doubt saving them money, too. The thanks I get is to be robbed to the tune of $192 per year. Spread the word, never pay Kansas child support online.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Street Cred II: Cyclocrossterium @ Kaw Point

I didn't try to race this one, though I'd have had more fun with it than I did with the Filthy Several Hill Climb stage two weeks ago. I had Molly this weekend, and she requires enough supervision that it was either me or Corinna, we both couldn't race. And she's a lot more competitive person than I am, and a lot likelier to prevail for that matter, so I wore my photographer's hat.

And I got some pretty satisfactory results, I think. I have 41 shots to share here, which seems like a lot until you consider I culled them from 566 frames I actually shot.

Panning is tricky, though, so I don't suppose there's anything to do but shoot a lot and then see what you get. If your focal point is just slightly off, panning creates a piece of shit image. Or if you shoot too slow, the subject needs to be clear, it's the background you want blurred.

I didn't just pan, of course. Before and after I did my usual search for interesting portraits. And I experimented a bit with location relative to the riders. The criterium only lasted a half hour, so I could only experiment so much. And a couple of the places I shot from yielded almost nothing I liked.

They started with all the bikes laid down by the silhouette of Lewis & Clark at Kaw Point. Then the riders all went down to the tip, by the water. The race then started as a footrace up the hill to the bikes.

Someone got on the wrong bike and raced the whole race on someone else's ride.

It's a fairly competitive group, at least half of the group. There's a contingent that ride at a more casual pace, just enjoying a few beers and riding with friends in the park on a beautiful, unseasonably warm January afternoon.

Which is probably how I'd come off if I had ridden the race. Even when I'm going balls out, I doubt it looks it. I'm certainly nobody's idea of fast.

Corinna finished second among the women, but considering the long, hard road she's had recovering from TBI, the fact that she was able to ride to Kaw Point, race for a half hour, then lead Sally and Phil on a levy adventure, that's huge. Sally had beat her by a pretty wide margin, but if they both had the same injury, my money would be on my wife.

Molly was pretty bored some of the time, but she seemed to think the before and after party were pretty fun, and when the pack of people ran past to get to their bikes, she thought that was pretty cool.

And after, I treated Molly to a trip to the garage sale store (that's what she calls thrift stores). She digs thrift stores more than any kid ever.

I had a couple of beers during the after party, though that's something I'm trying to cut out. It's 182 days until RAGBRAI, and a couple months after that I'll be on BikeMS, and I know these rides will go tons better if I lose some weight. I missed the century loop cutoff by a half hour both days on BikeMS last year—I bet if I drop 50 pounds, I beat that cutoff by a half hour instead.

I've got 172 miles in the saddle already at the middle of January, so it's not that I'm inactive. But it's easy to put back what the bike takes out plus interest.

The number one source of empty-ass, totally useless calories in my life is booze. Beer, mead, cider, bourbon, scotch, gin, rum, schnapps, tequila, I pretty much love it all. Not a big vodka fan, but it'll do in a pinch. Half the battle is not keeping it in the house, same as potato chips. If I leave potato chips in the store I basically never eat them. If I bring them home, somehow they end up getting eaten.

I guess I just need to stay focused on the long game.

Hell, if I get skinny, I might even be able to put in a respectable showing at Street Cred.