Sunday, December 07, 2008

T30 results for 12/7/08

Happy Pearl Harbor Day, everyone. Being of Japanese-American ancestry, I always find myself feeling conflicted on December 7th. And don't get me started on the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. But that's the subject of another post. Today's post is a simple recording of my test data:

T30 power is 261 watts. I weighed in at 66.7 kilos, so my power/weight ratio is 3.92 W/kg. An improvement over last time, but I still have a long ways to go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Celebrating" a Decade Off the Grid

No, not the power grid. The propaganda grid. It was 10 years ago that we unplugged the television in our house. We were insulated from 24/7 coverage of: Monicagate, the 2000/2004/2008 election cycles, 9/11, the Global War on Terror. We stay informed: high-speed internet, two daily newspapers, and countless magazines. It's interesting to note how perception of events change over the course of time. When you're not part of the hype cycle, you have the luxury of reflection and contextualization.

I guess that makes us happier, as well. At least according to this study

Monday, November 10, 2008

In the beginning...

The beginning of another training season. I race bicycles. My racing season runs from March through the end of August. September and October are for yardwork and just putting around on the bike. November is when I start training for next year. So I started off with my baseline test to see where I'm at and will chart my progress over the next 4 months. I'm recording it here so I can refer back to it later. You may or may not be interested.

My T60 power is 248 watts. "T60" is the level of effort I can sustain for 60 minutes. I also weighed in at 68 kilos, so my power/weight ratio is 3.65 W/kg. Horrible numbers, but you have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can

I've been trying to avoid politics on this blog, but I can't not talk about last night. I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from this country. Instead of casting our eyes downward and backward, we can now look up and forward. Our disastrous experiment in the deconstruction of government is at an end. We now begin the task of putting our country back together.

People, in general, like government when it does things for them; and dislike it when it tells them what to do. We like it when the roads are in good repair, the environment is protected, and markets function efficiently. We don't like it when we're told how to worship, or who we can or cannot marry. The last administration demonstrated what happens when government stops working. Abu Ghraib, Katrina, the failure of the financial industry. Government is not always the problem. Sometimes government is the solution. A good first step would be to stop blowing up infrastructure in countries around the world and start rebuilding it here at home.

It's been eight years since the departure of the man from Hope. Eight years of fear, cynicism, and despair. Now, a young man from Chicago has brought Hope back. The election is over, together we now undertake the hard work of governing. Yes we can, and yes we will.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Slowing down

This time I'm really taking the pledge. I am swearing off "instanews". You know what I'm talking about. All the online news sources, blogs, and social networking sites that perpetuate the idea that the world changes instantaneously, and if we aren't in constant contact with a source of information, we will be forever lost in the dark dungeons of the Internet.

Basta! My world encompasses my family, friends, neighborhood, hobbies, workplace. And to a lesser extent, my community, environment, government. And to an even lesser extent, radical fundamentalists, commodities markets, MMORPGs. Change occurs over months, years, generations, eons. I don't need Twitter to inform me that a leaf has just fallen. I can notice that for myself. If not today, then tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Starry, starry night

I enjoy this time of year. Cool evenings. Cold, crisp mornings. Even the sound of the word "crisp". It makes me think of ripe apples, frosty lawns. Orion is high in the sky when I go out to fetch the newspaper. The Pleiades are sinking in the West.

The Pleiades are one of those night-sky objects that I have difficulty seeing if I look directly at them. Showing my age, I guess. Retina burnout from too much time in the sun. If I look just off to the side, however, I can see their ghostly wisps reaching out from deep space.

I need to remind myself to do that more often. Stop staring directly at things, sometimes, if I want to see them more clearly.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Footsteps echo down the empty hall.
Through an open doorway, comes the rattle of a can rolling across a deserted street, pushed on by a dry wind.
Who lives here?
And the chorus replies: We do. We all do.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Spam, spam, spam, spam

One of my joys in life are the little surprises that Gmail sends my way. Invariably, everytime I visit my Spam folder, I get a banner ad for the latest SPAM recipe. This one begged to be shared:


Recipe By :
Serving Size : 16 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Sandwiches

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
10 sl Bacon, cut in small pieces
1/4 c Finely chopped onion
1 cn SPAM Luncheon Meat, cubed
- 12 oz
1 Egg, beaten
3 tb Grated Parmesan cheese
2 tb Chopped fresh parsley
2 tb Dijon-style mustard
1/8 t Pepper
2 pk Refrigerated crescent roll
-dough (8 oz)

Heat oven to 375'F. In skillet, cook bacon and onion until bacon is
crisp; drain. Stir in remaining ingredients except crescent roll
dough. Separate each package of crescent dough into 8 triangles.
Spread top half of each triangle with SPAM mixture; roll up. Place on
baking sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Skinning a Bus

This post has nothing to do with my usual subject matter, but it's still pretty cool. If you've ever watched the Tour de France and seen the tricked-out team buses, well this is how they get the logos on the buses:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Hero

I just figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be this guy.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Yet another good reason to ride a bike (instead of driving). This article from the LA Times highlights the emotional (and physical) stress caused by congestion.

On my way in this morning, I got stuck behind a slow car. So I slowed down too, and took the opportunity to hum a song to myself and listen to the birds sing. I can hear a car behind me, also stuck behind the slow driver, revving her engine and getting frustrated. Slow car finally turns, and we're both free to go. Frustrated driver guns her engine and charges off. I keep humming.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Save Gas - Ride a Bike!

Yet another benefit to riding a bike - saving gasoline. There's the obvious reduction in consumption by replacing car miles with bike miles. But don't forget the increase in fuel efficiency when you do drive. How's that? Certain behaviors become inbred when you're personally responsible for outputting the watts needed to move through space.

If the stoplight ahead turns red, stop pedaling. Try to time your arrival so that you can coast through on the green and save momentum. Don't race away from stoplights/signs. It takes a lot of energy to accelerate quickly. Build up speed gradually. Slow down on hills. You're working against gravity, so it costs 4 times as much energy to go up a hill at 20 MPH as it does at 10 MPH.

All this becomes second nature on a bicycle. Strangely enough, it also works just as well in a car.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mine is a Crazed Life

Today I had to admit to myself there are many facets of my life that are just not sane. Among my other pursuits, I race bicycles. Yesterday, I spent approximately 3.25 hours riding as fast as I could in the rain. Up and down hills, through pastureland. Getting drenched and covered with mud, sand, and cow sh*t (I did mention "pastureland"). Did I also mention I paid $20 for the experience?

So today, I open the garage door to head out on the morning commute. It's raining. Hard. 15 minutes later, I'm drenched. Water is dripping off my helmet, my nose. My socks are waterlogged and making that unpleasant squelching sound. And my first thought is: "Hey, at least it's not cow sh*t".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Maintaining the Ratio

I made a pledge to ride twice as many miles as I drive this year. Just passed 2,000 miles on the bike and still under 1,000 on the car, so I'm good. Approaching 120,000 vertical feet as well. My quads aren't quite the size of tree trunks yet, but they're noticeably larger than this time last year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Overlapping Grids

Another nice thing about bicycling is that it gets you outside, in the environment. I feel more attuned to the weather, the change of seasons. Spring is trying to force its way into the Seattle area, though Winter is still winning at this point. The songbirds, however, have a schedule to meet and are doing whatever it is they do.

They sing, sometimes loudly, to each other and the world at large. I assume they're calling for mates, marking out territorial boundaries. They have superimposed a kind of bird grid over our urban environment. Of course, from their perspective, we have imposed a kind of people grid over their avian environment. The two grids can coexist, as long as one of them refrains from filling up the other with noxious gases and chemicals.

Seattle Audubon Society

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Driving is not an Olympic sport

There was one thing that came up during my vacation that I wanted to pass along. We journeyed to another state (California). Somehow, the driving down there seemed so much more stressful than in our home state of Washington. It finally dawned on me that the drivers around me were viewing it as some sort of competition. I can't tell you how many times I would leave a small gap ahead of me on the freeway, only to have the driver behind me pull around and jump into it.

Expressways were another eye-opener. The lights were thoughtfully timed to allow traffic traveling at the speed limit to hit all of them on the green. But everyone was so consumed with getting to the light first that there was inevitably a backup of 5-10 cars at every light, waiting for it to change. Which it did, usually just as I rolled up having driven at the posted speed limit from the previous light.

I guess I'm used to viewing traffic as a cooperative venture. We're all trying to get somewhere and if we cooperate, we might get there a little faster. These guys were all out to grab whatever fleeting advantage they could, even if it meant that all of us (including them) ended up spending even more time on the road.


No posts in a couple of weeks, but I have a note from my mother (work, vacation, catching up at work after vacation). Purely in the interest of keeping this blog alive, I'm stealing content from another site. The Bamboo Bike Project is a joint venture of Columbia University and Craig Calfee (of Calfee Design) to empower Africans to build bicycles out of local materials, bamboo in this case.

I've donated several bikes over the years and the cost of shipping frequently overwhelms organizations trying to get the bikes over there. This sort of project sounds like a much more effective solution, along the lines of: "
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

From the site:
The Bamboo Bike Project is a collaboration between Scientists and Engineers at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, and a bicycle builder at Calfee Design. The project aims to examine the feasibility of implementing cargo bikes made of bamboo as a sustainable form of transportation in Africa. The ultimate goals of the project are:
To build a better bike for poor Africans in rural areas.
To stimulate a bicycle building industry in Africa to satisfy local needs.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I don't like being honked at, but it's not because I find it irritating or intimidating. It's because honking is such an ineffective form of communication. Why did you honk? Did I intrude on your space? Am I going too slow? Maybe you just object to my being on the road at all. Maybe you thought I didn't hear you coming up behind me. Perhaps you like my jersey/bike/backpack? Maybe you just bought the car and wanted to hear how the horn sounds.

Frustrating. I'd like to have a meaningful conversation to find out why you honked, but your tinted windows are rolled up tight and you've floored the accelerator.

Full Disclosure

I have not always been kind to the planet. There was one very dark period of my life, referred to as the "mid-life crisis" where I succumbed to the siren call of Detroit and purchased an SUV. I regretted signing the lease almost immediately, but I was stuck. I compensated by driving it as little as possible (the leasing manager was surprised when I turned it back in, well under the lease limit).

I mention this as a word of warning, and present a possible solution. Detroit used everything in its power to convince me that I absolutely needed a vehicle that could take me anywhere on the planet under any conditions. And the vehicle needed to produce 250 horsepower while consuming vast quantities of fuel. That thesis is absurd, of course. I don't need to cross the Sahara Desert. And if I do, there are other ways of accomplishing it.

But the desire remains. I bought a cyclocross bike last Fall, so I could commute through the winter without ruining one of my pricier bikes. I immediately swapped out the knobby tires for something a little more road-friendly. Winter followed Fall, and I put the knobbies back on for the occasional snowy commute. And a strange thing happened: I discovered I could go practically anywhere! I found myself seeking out unpaved roads, trails; snow, and mud. It satisfied the desire Detroit had implanted to "conquer the planet". Except I'm no longer "conquering", I'm "communing". Has a much nicer feel to it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Nice Ride

Mount Si elements, originally uploaded by vsz.

Went on a nice little ride yesterday. This loop includes a little of everything: paved roads, paved trails, fireroads, singletrack, and a section that's steep enough to make me dismount and run down.

The best part is right when I hit the Lake Alice road. A farm with two standard-size poodles, waiting behind the fence. I like to think of them as brothers. As I approach, you can see the energy begin to coil within them. I have to unclip to get around the jersey barrier. I give them a wave and call out, "Ready, boys?" And we're off, charging down the hill. Me coasting, building up speed; the poodles in full flight. I round the corner and am gone. The dogs head back up the hill to do it all again.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why I Ride My Bike

There are a lot of reasons I ride my bicycle, mostly having to do with how much fun it is. From an environmental perspective, I ride primarily to avoid consuming fossil fuels. We're rapidly approaching a time when the "easy to find" oil will plateau, and we will be forced to develop other sources of hydrocarbons to continue to feed our addiction. I want no part of it.

The Alberta oil sands are the poster child for alternative hydrocarbon sources. The damage being inflicted on the Earth is visible from space. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll ride my bicycle.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rush Hour in Bellevue

Well, it wasn't nearly as impressive as Copenhagen (see previous post), but it was a bit crowded on the bike path this morning. At one point, I could see four other cyclists ahead of me. Even more impressive is that it was a chilly 26 degrees. It looks like the combination of congestion and high gasoline prices are starting to impact commute habits. Article in the local paper this week highlighted the recent increase in bus ridership. All good stuff. Maybe we won't need those extra freeway lanes after all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rush Hour in Copenhagen

Lest you think this is some kind of Critical Mass-type stunt, check out the background: there are just as many bikes going the other way.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On Your Left!

I'm sure there's a rational explanation for this, but I have not been able to come up with one. In the United States, we drive on the right side of the road. That holds for both cars and bicycles. Pedestrians are supposed to walk on the left side, facing traffic. That lets pedestrians see oncoming cars and bicycles, and take evasive action if necessary.

On multi-use trails, though, pedestrians end up walking on the right side with the flow of prevailing traffic. This results in peds being overtaken from behind by faster-moving bicyclists. Thus ensues the endless debate of how cyclists should alert pedestrians to their approach, etc. Why don't pedestrians walk on the left side of the trail, the same as they would on the road? Cyclists and pedestrians would be facing one another, with each moving slightly to the left as they pass. Cyclists wouldn't have to continually call out "On your left!" Pedestrians wouldn't be startled by either the sudden appearance of a bicycle, or the disembodied (and ambiguous) command "On your left!"

Works for me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Changing Perspectives

So, I've decided to do a couple of things: (1) post more regularly on this blog, and (2) use it to communicate some of my views on the environment and other topics. I'll start with an interesting change of perspective that hit me a couple of days ago. We had one of those rare snowstorms that hit our area during the winter months. Since it happens so infrequently, it tends to paralyze the transportation system, which consists primarily of solo car drivers. I normally commute by bike, but not knowing what the conditions were like, and acceding to my wife's desire to have someone drive her to work, we carpooled.

My first thought was, "I should throw my bike in the back of the car, just in case we get stuck somewhere along the way". Sometime during the last 2 or 3 years, my thinking has shifted from the car as "universal transportation device", to the car as "2 tons of steel that requires a parking space". My bike will take me anywhere, in (practically) any conditions, whereas the car has become this huge liability that can easily get stranded/gridlocked at the first sign of inclement weather.