Monday, November 30, 2015

war on christmas

Forget Starbucks. THIS is a sign that there's a war on Christmas.

Found it on Imgur.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

smaller big ring

On one of my recent group rides, I noticed a friend was tooling along in 53x11 top gear. Now, this was on a downhill... but the cadence looked like it was about 20rpm, far from the 60-to-100+ that's the ideal (of course, how much does it matter on a downhill?).

I used to grind up hills in my 50-tooth big ring. But I've seen the error of my ways, and now I'm more likely to spend most of the ride on my smaller, 34-tooth ring. These days, when I have the chain on the big gear in the front, I rarely use anything other than the three biggest gears in the back.

I've had it rattling around the back of my head that this is inefficient, and that I might want an even smaller large ring in the front (standard gearing is 53/39 in the front; modern road compacts are 50/34). The standard cyclocross double is 46/36, but I'm reluctant to add those two teeth on the smaller gear; I LIKE my low gear! I USE it!

One of my bike blog gurus is Dave Moulton (no, the Moulton you're thinking of is Alex Moulton). I've had a link to Dave's blog over there on the right for years, and he'll never know how tickled I was to meet him at the 2014 Philly Bike Expo. I came across one of his posts about replacing his big ring with a 46. From his post:

Even with a “Compact” crankset with 50 – 34 chainrings, the 11 speed rear cassette comes with a 11 or 12 tooth top sprocket. And the 12 x 50 gives me a top gear of 112 inches, which I can guarantee I am never going to use.
Even more frustrating, the gears I use most, the ones between 65 inches and the upper 70s, fall all the way over on the large inside sprockets of the cassette, when using the 50 tooth chainring, and the other extreme when using the inside 34 chainring and outside small sprockets on the rear.
Riding most of the time with my chain out of line just causes unnecessary wear on chains and sprockets.

He found one for his Campagnolo setup, and apparently it works for him. I can get either a Shimano or FSA for my cranks for about $45 plus shipping. The only things that are stopping me:
  • I'll have to adjust the derailleur, which MIGHT mean re-cabling, which MIGHT mean tearing off the nifty (but already slightly soiled) yellow tape that was a gift from Snakehead;
  • I'll probably have to shorten the chain... so maybe I'll wait until it's time to change the chain anyway, and
  • With Christmas coming, I can think of better ways to spend the money. I mean, I'm glad I'm employed, but I'm hardly wealthy, knowwhumsayin'?
Still, I expect I'll be gearing down by spring.

Friday, November 27, 2015

master class

After a flurry of email correspondence this week, Tom H decided he'd lead a ride from the Mercer East lot today, and a few of us got invited. It turned out five of us showed up, all ride leaders except for me (and I sort-of qualify after doing a few D rides for the club, and social rides for the New Brunswick Bike Exchange). Somebody called it a "Master Class", I presume on the model of musical master classes; I liked it at the time, but the name doesn't quite fit.

But the five of us (Tom, Winter Larry, Chris C, Laura OLPH, and me) like one another and ride well together. We haven't ridden together frequently all as a group, but we have all ridden together, and we know what to expect from each other. There's a certain pleasure just in that comfort and confidence.

At the start at Mercer East, Laura and Chris were in their usual colors. I ride in bright colors to be seen, but I'm a somber sight in comparison.

We did this route. Tom was making it up as he went. One of his recent posts was entitled "Stupid Is As Stupid Does", but the only thing stupid I could catch about this ride was eight crossings of interstate highways, including six of the NJ Turnpike, mostly in the last bit.

I was dressed for the damp cold that prevailed when I left the house, but the day warmed a lot, and I was shedding hat and gloves long before we got to the stop at New Egypt.

When Laura got down to take that bikes pic, she was amused by how much lower her saddle was than the others; she's got a picture on her blog post, but it's not as good as seeing it in person was ( I guess ya hadda be there...).

She was also complaining about an out-of-round section in her wheel, and how the mechanic fellow at the shop she uses said they didn't have the stand to fix it. I was outraged: pretty much every stand has that guide, and you can look at the list of favorite posts in the lower right for a link to the Sunlight truing stand, the inexpensive one I use, that has such a guide. (I think the mechanic dude just doesn't want the job, which I respect: it's  PITA, and he probably can't get enough money for it to make it worth his while.)

On the way back, we stopped at Walnford for pictures.

That might be one for the calendar.

Before the ride, Chris gave me an old (I think) Suntour bottom bracket to use for my bike maintenance classes. It needs a bearing, but I'm not sure I could find such an old thing... but it's still a neat old assembly. I'm glad to have it. When the weather warms and I can get into the garage at night, I'll clean the grease off it.

It was a great day. After being nice to the in-laws yesterday (and eating way too much that didn't really agree with me [and what is this that suddenly there are things that I eat that don't agree with me?]), this ride was just the ticket.

I was reading another blog, where the writer always signs off with a pleasant little address to his readers; it's a custom I'm going to start to steal. So remember: keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


When I was five, I almost died of measles. I have no use for anti-vaxxers.

From today's Oddman.

Monday, November 23, 2015

letting the terrorists win

After September 11, 2001, I let the terrorists win. I was suspicious of Muslims, and angry at the whole world. I was not yet an atheist, but that was one of he events that led to my atheism.

Since the Paris attacks, though, I've thought more about what my reaction must be.

First, I'm hearing from Muslims that the attacks are not Islam (and I didn't have to go search out articles that say so). I don't remember hearing that fourteen years ago.

Second, I understand that what the terrorists want is to precipitate a war between Islam and the west. So hating Muslims plays right into the hands of terrorists.

Third, I know that too many people died in the attacks. But how many people died of complications of smoking in Paris, that day? (This IS France, after all.) How many of auto accidents? How many the next day? And the day after? And on every day since? The number of people dying of terrorism is minuscule. We pay attention to it because it's news. But it's news because it's rare.

Fourth, as far as I can, I'm going to go on with my life ignoring terrorists. There are people whose job it is to deal with them. I'm going to let them do that. If I pay any more attention than that, the terrorists win.

That said, though, I want to say something about why I don't want to see the death penalty for terrorism. There are two reasons for this. The first is that terrorists are nihilists, and they see death as a glorious end. Their cohorts will see them as martyrs. We should not give them that glory.

The second is that I do not believe that death is the ultimate penalty. It is too quick. I'm sure it would be much more painful to have to endure a long, isolated imprisonment, with monotony as your only companion. To die, decades later, forgotten by the world, and have your body and your effects thrown in the trash.

I'm not against the death penalty because it's cruel. I'm against it because it's not cruel enough.

Until that day, I'm going to live my life, being careful of the things that are actually likely to kill me, like traffic and overeating.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

weekend rides

Saturday, Nov 21: Laura OLPH planned a ride notable for two things: the route, which went about 25 miles from Pennington to Lambertville (normally that would be about sixteen miles, but direct is never what we're about), and the fact that we got to see some folks - Mighty Mike, Robert, Celeste, Winter Larry - whom we haven't seen on Hill Slug rides in quite some time. Also notable about the route was the unusual way we left Lambertville: by going up 179 to Mill Road, then across to Rocktown-Lambertville. There wasn't much traffic, and this seemed much less demanding than any of the usual routes (although that may just have been novelty. Unless you float down the river, you've gotta climb pretty much any way you leave Lambertville). While this route included a number of roads we ride often, we did a number of them in the opposite direction. That, and the good group, made this ride fun; I hope we do this route (or some variation) again soon.

Some pics: First, Celeste and Laura both had their lovely blue bikes: I was afraid one or the other  would have to go home and change, or something:

Today, eight or nine of use went out with Jeff H from Cranbury. Over the summer, he'd led a really fast ride (listed as a "B", but actually faster), on some busy roads with little shoulder. He's mostly learned better; the pace was manageable ( you can see on my ride page), but he still takes some busy roads (he seems to like a stop in Englishtown/Old Bridge, near the auction, to which there doesn't seem to be a bike-friendly road). That said, this ride was generally on much better-for-bikes roads than the previous I rode with him; I'll give him an award for Most Improved Player.

Raj was showing off his excellent new Colnago:

We found a road closed on the way out... but we got through.

On the way back, there was ANOTHER closure, but Chris knew we could get through this one.

The group split just before we found this closure. Jeff went to chase the others, and a few of us made out way back.

my handlebars

Winter Larry asked about the bars on one of my bikes. On that bike, the Yellow Maserati, I have the Velo-Orange Gran Cru Course.

On the Krakow Monster, I have the Nitto B115.

They're similar. The Velo-Orange has an expanded section in the tube where it goes into the stem; the Nitto uses a tube-within-a-tube system. The Velo-Orange may have a bit more flare in the drops. The Velo-Orange is polished in the section between the tapes; the Nitto is bead-blasted, but both have brand markings.

I go for raw metal rather than black. My stems (also from Velo-Orange) are polished, as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

present-day scrooge gets minor comeuppance

About fifteen years ago, a coworker at the company I worked for then was singing the praises of Commerce Bank. We dropped in one day, and they prospected me for an account: no fees, low minimum balance, plenty of locations and ATM's. "And our change machine is free, even for people who don't have an account with us."

"Wait," I said. "You mean I can stand on your roof, slander you all day long, come down and use your change counter, even if I don't have an account?"

"Well," said the clerk, "we might have a problem with you being on the roof, but yes, you'd be able to use the change machine."

Well, I set up a checking  account, and, when we moved to our current condo, The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I set up a checking account for her, a joint account, and got a line of credit against the house, which we could access by writing a draught (of which they provided a pad; we used the credit line twice when we mistook the draught book for the joint account checkbook).

When I needed a quick transfer to buy a car, the Commerce Bank folks helped out for free. I really liked Commerce Bank. And for a while, thy kept growing.

Commerce Bank was taken over by TD Bank. And, little by little, everything went sour.

Despite the fact that there are TD Bank branches throughout New England, on a trip there, I found my account locked after I used a TD Bank ATM.

Then fees started to show up. Every bank charges a fee if you use their ATM and don't have an account with them. But TD Bank began also to charge a fee for using another bank's ATM, so the fee was imposed twice.

Then TD Bank imposed fees for ACH transfers, the ones that you can do on your computer with a couple of days notice. No humans need to be paid for these transfers; they are all mechanized.

The last straw was when a fee was imposed for our paper statement. If an announcement was made, we missed it; the fee was just deducted from out account one day. We found a local savings and loan that offered us terms similar to those Commerce Bank had initially offered (because they have few locations, they even reimburse fees imposed by other bank's ATM's), and moved our accounts there; all except for the line of credit on the house.

Several months ago, we got a note from TD bank offering us a $250 gift card if we would relinquish the line of credit. Partly out of concern for what it would do to our credit ratings, but mostly out of inertia, we didn't do it.

A few months later, we got an offer of a $500 gift card in return for giving up the credit line. Now, this was intriguing to me. How could it be worth $500 to TD Bank? I decided that, in light of the increased bank regulations and scrutiny after the fall of Lehman and the financial crisis, banks were unable to do the questionable, underhanded stuff they wanted if too much credit was outstanding. It seemed to me that I was costing TD Bank more than they had cost us in fees and inconvenience... we decided to see what happened.

A few weeks ago, we got a somewhat stern letter from TD Bank saying that the line of credit would be rescinded unless we provided them with a number of documents (and they were vague about what these documents are). We started to collect that stuff.

In today's mail came another offer for the surrender of the credit line: this one for a gift card valued at $750.

We're considering our options.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Winter Larry sent me the pic below in an email with this text:

"J, I found this photo in velo news….has to be the son you never told us about!
Pls. put it in your blog and ask readers if they agree."

D'ya think? Family resemblance? (Who is it anyway?)

The guy's mouth is almost as big as mine. Maybe we ARE related.

Edit Nov 18: He's Fabio Aru, the "little angel", winner of the 2015 Giro D'Italia.

Monday, November 16, 2015

favorite posts list

It was not my intention, when I started this blog (almost 1200 posts ago!) that its content should be so bike-heavy. But so it has become, and I've noticed that I've referred people to particular posts, or people have asked about topics that I've had posts on.

It turns out that this blog has become a source of information... or at least, I flatter myself that it could be. So I've set up a list of "favorite posts" in the lower right. As I write more posts that I think belong there, I'll add 'em to the list (I've got one percolating on cleaning your bike), and I may delete listings that no longer seem important (I've been working on this list for a while, and I've already been editing it).

Hope you find it useful. My words are not yours to steal (there IS such a thing as copyright and fair use), but the information is there for your use.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

short post about a long ride

After a flurry of emails, Snakehead, his friend John, and I did a ride from Piscataway...

... to Cocoluxe.

And then we went back to Piscataway. It was a beautiful day, and we passed some autumnal gorgeousness, for which I didn't stop to get pictures.

The Garmin stopped when we were less than ten miles from home, so the first forty-something miles are at this link, and the last not-quite-ten are at this one, and there seems to be about a mile I missed.

We changed up the route just before the Garmin cut out, and had to do a little exploration when the roads didn't correspond with Snakehead's memory, but that didn't matter. And I didn't like the late (10:30) start, but I have to admit the ride was much warmer than it would have been had we started earlier.

I got to talking to John about the Garmin Touring. John, this post, and the pages linked from it, include the info we discussed about changing the default settings on the Touring.

And, of course, since we went to Cocoluxe, and since Ed had a pannier, I got four dark-chocolate truffles for The Excellent Wife (TEW). Life is good in the Plain Jim household tonight.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

american still life show at pma

The Excellent Wife (TEW)  has a birthday coming, and, in celebration, we went to the "Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life" show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The show was great (check the link for videos).

On walking in, the first painting was this "Deception" of Venus rising from the sea, by Raphaelle Peale:

The "deception" comes from the realistic treatment of the draped linen, and the hiding of the figure behind it. The show had other examples of humor in still life, like the beetles included in flower paintings (a convention since at least seventeenth-century Holland).

There were a couple of other artists with whom I was unfamiliar who caught my eye. There were three by Sheeler, and when I saw the second and third, I knew they were his. He reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Cassandre:

Below, Calla Lilies by George Cochran Lambdin. I don't know if I like this because of the painting, or because of the arresting black background.

Robert Spear Dunning did this one; it's as much of the reflections as it is of the fruit. I loved the virtuosity he displayed.

It was a great show. We've been out to dinner, and we're back, and TEW has her year's subscription to Netflix to set up (it was what she wanted for the gift).