June 27, 2005

Sport Utility Bicycle

A couple of weeks ago I was reading through the day's accumulation in Bloglines and came across this entry at the ever-prolific Treehugger blog.

I did a double-take at the picture showing a strangely elongated mountain bike, and before I'd really even figured out what it was I was looking at, the five-year-old part of my brain was already saying "want! want! want!" I spent an absurd amount of time poring over the wealth of information at the Xtracycle web site. I looked at every picture in the galleries, read through all of the FAQs and even downloaded and printed out the user's manual. A week ago last Friday I ordered a Freeradical conversion kit which arrived last Wednesday. It was all I could do to force myself to wait until Saturday to put the thing together, but the trepidation about possibly rendering my bike temporarily unrideable if I couldn't finish it helped me out.

Here's a picture of my bike before the conversion.


To install the Freeradical, you take off the rear wheel, the rear derailleur, the rear brake, and the chain (and in my case, the fender and rack). Once the rear end of the bicycle is naked, you bolt the Freeradical frame into the rear dropouts (where the wheel used to go) and onto the chainstay bridge (right behind the bottom bracket where the cranks attach) or in my case onto a couple of plates sandwiching the chain stays (no bridge on the 6500). Once the frame is secured you mount your brakes where the wheel will now go, mount the derailleur, string new long cables for each of those appliances, patch in a chunk of chain to make the chain long enough for the new geometry, then mount the wheel and get everything adjusted into functioning properly again.

Here's what the bike looks like with just the Freeradical installed.


At this point it's rideable again, but it isn't an SUB until you've installed the vertical racks and their custom-fitted gear slings called "Freeloaders" (yes, the guys at Xtracycle have a lot of fun coming up with all these names). Plus the snap deck, a varnished wooden board that tops the whole thing off and makes it a polished hand-crafted sport-utility piece of bicycle art.


Pretty cool, huh?

It rides really well, maybe a little smoother than before. I need to tinker with the derailleur adjustment, but that's just because I'm not used to working on these new-fangled indexed shifting systems.

The cargo capacity is easily 10 times what I could carry comfortably with the rack and panniers. There's pictures on the website of people carrying kayaks and surfboards. I can't wait to take it to the lumber yard for the first time. One of the things I need to do is rig up a platform for carrying home a pizza (though I can probably just bungie the box down to the snap deck).

Posted by jeffy at 11:22 PM in Transportation | Comments (3)

June 26, 2005

Lost Glove #51 revisited


After only a week on the street, not only is Lost Glove #51 starting to look a little frayed around the edges, it's also displaying a bit of an attitude.

Posted by jeffy at 10:07 PM in Lost Gloves | Comments (2)

Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt

title plus picture of smiling authorSomeone on the 43 Folders mailing list mentioned this book with an executive summary that turned out to be the main thing that stuck with me from reading the book.

Here it is: First, kill off all your unsecured debt. Done? Good. Now out of every paycheck, put 10% off the top in savings, give away another 10%, and then live on the remaining 80%. By way of managing that 80%, set up a "contingency fund" to bail you out in the event of a major catastrophe (lose your job, that kind of thing), and then through monthly contributions, build a "freedom account' which buffers all your recurring, but non-monthly expenses so that the money's there when you need it (for insurance premiums, tax bills, christmas presents, whatever).

None of this is rocket science, but it is spelled out here in one place where you can see it long enough to get it into your brain (if your brain, like mine, isn't very good at holding on to such concepts). There's a bunch more stuff delving in to more of the nitty gritty details of living a debt-proof life. The book is no Your Money or Your Life (Dominguez & Robin's deservedly classic financial management book), but it was a good refresher for me.

Posted by jeffy at 09:24 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (2)

June 24, 2005

Sun worship

cat sprawled in sunshine

I've started using flickr more lately so if you want to see some of my recent pictures, visit my flickr page.

Posted by jeffy at 11:52 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (0)

June 23, 2005

Dark As Day by Charles Sheffield

big silver rocket ship in some distress in the vicinity of JupiterThe cover declares this as "a sequel to Cold As Ice". I suppose this is true in the loose sense of historical continuity (plus one common character), but there's hardly any plot continuity between the two books. Not that there's a problem with that, just me getting annoyed with misleading cover copy. Usually I avoid reading any of the words on the jackets, but that bit keeps getting its barbs into my brain.

Dark as Day follows the pattern of the other two books in this setting having bunches of seemingly unconnected characters slowly converging towards an exciting conclusion. This one includes threads about historically predictive computer models, reception of alien transmissions, a plot to destroy all life in the solar system, and other fun stuff like that. The characters and their individual sub-plots are more distinctive and engaging than in Cold as Ice making this book fun. I lost my suspension of disbelief late in the book when a lot of the action depended on some extremely smart people behaving in an uncharacteristically dense way, but it wasn't enough to ruin the book, just enough to pull me out of it for a moment. Overall, an enjoyable future solar system book.

Posted by jeffy at 11:10 AM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

Lost Glove #51

glove on pavement forming a fist

Posted by jeffy at 02:15 AM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

Personal grooming

alice licking her brother

Sometimes, when Alice has absorbed enough lappy goodness, she forgets to be aloof with her brother long enough to clean his ears for him.

Posted by jeffy at 10:05 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Crash costs

Clark Williams-Derry of the ever-fabulous Northwest Environment Watch has written an excellent post on the cost of car crashes in Washington State.

A few of the more sobering statistics from his post (but go read the whole thing because it's very close to something I had in mind to write for Mad Times only much better)

  • "motor vehicle accidents are the leading killer of Washingtonians between the ages of 1 and 44"
  • Each year car crashes in Washington kill 700 people and injure another 37,000

Williams-Derry goes on to estimate the economic cost of all these accidents and comes out with somewhere between $4 and $8 billion per year. At the low end that's a per capita cost of over $600 per year.

It's like with health care, though. It's hard to get too fired up about it because if you're lucky, most years, your share of that cost is $0. Speaking as someone whose share for this year is in four figures (and could have been a lot worse!), I'd like to find ways to lessen these costs both for myself and for my neighbors.

Posted by jeffy at 03:23 PM in Transportation | Comments (0)

June 12, 2005

March of the Penguins

I wouldn't have even known about this movie except that Julie posted about the trailer a couple weeks ago. Some friends had tickets for today's SIFF showing at the Harvard Exit that they couldn't use so they gave them to us. Thanks, friends!

So last night we were trying to figure out how to get there for the 11:30am showing. We wanted to get there in time to stand in line for decent seats so that meant getting to the theatre no later than 11. I used Metro's extremely frustrating trip planner to figure out the times for an 11am arrival and came up with these three options:

  1. 9:00 Leave Issaquah P&R on ST 554
    9:23 Arrive Rainier Avenue I-90 freeway stop
    10:20 (yes, 57 minutes later) Leave on the 7 for downtown which turns into the 49
    10:49 Arrive at Broadway and Mercer
    Elapsed time: 1:49
  2. 8:41 Leave Issaquah P&R on MT 271 (University District)
    9:42 Arrive 15th and 42nd
    10:33 Leave on 49 for downtown
    10:43 Arrive at Broadway and Roy
    Elapsed time: 2:02
  3. 8:00 Leave Issaquah P&R on ST 554
    8:09 Arrive Eastgate P&R
    8:58 Leave on the exact same 271 bus as option 2 and the rest is the same as option 2 Elapsed time: 2:43

None of that counts the fact that we live a 15-minute bike ride from the Park & Ride.

This is a pretty daunting prospect (especially when you had the Saturday we had: B biked to the P&R, bussed downtown, met a friend who drove them to Ballard for an art studio open house, then dropped B off back downtown where she bussed and rode through the rain home. I had a computer crash at work so I had to ride in and I was so mad when I left that I forgot to take my key card and when I got there and realized my mistake I spent half an hour cursing and pushing the various doorbells around the building trying to get the attention of the 24x7 security guard who seemed to have taken the day off. So I ended up riding all the way back home to get my damn card and all the way back before I could fix the stupid computer and ride back home. Biometric authentication now!)

So when Rachel called at about 11pm and offered to come spend the night and let us take her car to the movie in the morning, we couldn't quite bring ourselves to turn her down.

So this morning we got up, hopped in Rachel's car, drove to Capitol Hill, parked the car, and got in line for the movie. Elapsed time: 30 minutes.

Of course the irony of our transportational shortcut was not lost on us when we watched the movie, which depicts the rather bizarre reproductive cycle of the emperor penguin. When winter starts closing in on Antarctica, the penguins get out of the ocean where they've been fattening themselves up through the short summer. They walk 70 miles across the ice to their mating grounds. They pair off and consummate their relationships. Mom lays an egg. Mom hands the egg off to Dad, then she hikes 70 miles back to the ocean to eat some more. Dad hatches the egg (if he manages to keep it alive through 100 mile-per-hour winds and 80 degrees-below-zero temperatures), and tends the chick until Mom gets back with a full belly to take over. Now Dad trudges 70 miles to the sea for his first meal in 4 months. By the time he gets back, junior is big enough to boot out of the nest (if they had a nest), so Mom and Dad both take off and leave the kid to fend for herself. (Actually I think Mom and Dad take a few more trips for groceries before this; it wasn't quite clear in the movie.) Fortunately by this point the ice has melted back far enough that the mating ground is less than a mile from the open water so the kid can find her way to the water where she gets to live relatively care-free for 4 years before she has to go on the crazy march herself.

Nature is truly stranger than fiction. Made us feel kind of bad for quibbling over an extra hour and a half of travel time to see the movie by bus. ;-)

We enjoyed the movie. It seemed like it was pretty realistic, portraying some of the ways that the process can fail in addition to all the adorable footage of baby penguins and their almost equally adorable parents. Some of the failure scenes are truly heart-wrenching, so be prepared to talk to the kids about death and loss after the movie. The antarctic icescapes are stunning and make it worth catching this one on the big screen. Even if you have to take the bus.

Posted by jeffy at 10:52 PM in Movie Reviews | Comments (0)

June 10, 2005

Nap time

cat on chair next to cat on cushion on chair

Posted by jeffy at 10:52 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (0)

Bus Monster

One of my biggest gripes with the bus route maps provided by Metro and Sound Transit is that there's hardly any reference to the actual landscape along the routes so unless you already know where the bus goes it's really hard to figure out where the bus goes. And there's no system map on either of those sites letting you see what routes might serve the area you want to get to.

Enter Bus Monster, a brilliant melding of the bus routes with the fabulousness of Google Maps.
You can search for a location and see what buses stop near it. From there you can click on the route you think you want and it will be overlayed on the map. Even cooler, you can load up to five different routes on the map at once to visualize your connections. It's also tied in to the cool prototype bus monitoring system UW-ITS so you can click the pin on a particular stop and get an estimate of when your bus will arrive there.

All of this was developed by Chris Smoak and just went live yesterday, so be gentle with it for a while. And send Chris lots of money.

(via Rhonabwy)

Posted by jeffy at 05:39 PM in Transportation | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

Car-free with cars

Before I start prattling on about buses and walking and bicycling I need to come clean and confess that while we haven't owned a car for almost three months that doesn't mean we haven't used cars in that time. I'd say that maybe two days per week on average we've had the use of a car.

We've done weekend rentals from Enterprise twice which is ridiculously convenient with their rental office only a couple of miles from our house.

We've mooched rides to events with friends (thank you, Chris and Larry & Ann and Karen and Marilyn and others). ("mooching" is carpooling when there's no prospect of your returning the favor of being the driver any time soon)

We've taken shameless advantage of the fact that Rachel still has a functioning car.

But the most gratifying thing has been how many people have just handed us their keys and loaned us their car for an afternoon or a week when they weren't going to need it.

My favorite example is Becky's Thursday art class. The class is in Kirkland. Taking the bus from here to there is far from convenient (rant saved for another day). A friend pointed out that when she takes the bus to work each day her car sits at the Issaquah park and ride doing nothing. She gave Becky a key and Becky takes the shuttle to the park and ride, finds the car, drives it to Kirkland for her class, does a couple errands on her way back and leaves the car back at the Park and Ride. It's like the car has a secret life on those days.

The gift in all of this is that it makes us aware of our dependencies. When we have our own conveyance, we live in the illusion that we are self-sufficient. We hop in our car and we go where we want when we want without having to answer to anyone. But there are dependencies tugging at us all along the way that we don't even think about. We depend on other drivers to follow the rules of the road and be predictable. We depend on emergency personnel to help us if we have an accident. We depend on the road crews that build and repair our roads. We depend on the businesses that supply our gas and car maintenance and our cars themselves. We depend on the people who work to pull crude oil from the ground and process it into gasoline.

Each one of those dependencies has a need on one side fulfilled by an effort or surplus on the other. Yet almost all of our dependencies are formalized away, fulfilled without our ever having to face the people in whose lives we are partners. We live in tight community that we don't even see.

One unlooked-for benefit of our carlessness has been that it gives a glimpse of the community of need, not just to us, but also to those who have so generously been helping us.

Posted by jeffy at 01:12 PM in Transportation | Comments (7)

June 03, 2005

*Kill* the monster!

cat attacking toy

This was taken a couple years ago, moments after Alice unwrapped a new toy from her grandma. You can't really tell from this picture, but it's a little plush green froggy sort of thing with a compartment in its belly for a little teabag-like pouch full of catnip. Alice claimed it immediately (as you can see) and still plays with it quite often. We know this because when we put their toys away her monster (as we call it) is always one of the first things to begin mysteriously moving from place to place in the house when we're not looking.

Posted by jeffy at 11:49 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (0)