Monday, December 22, 2008

Stop-Motion meets Lego Millenium Falcon

OK, so I'm a geek... but this project pushes several of my geeky buttons simultaneously. No description can do it justice, you have to watch the clip.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An astute observation

Found on

I take offense to calling Google an an "overgrown advertising agency". It's as crass a generalization as calling the US Government the Military Industrial Complex human resources office.

oh wait...the latter is not a crass generalization, it's the truth.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Your Tax Dollars

Ever wonder just *where* your tax dollars go? Wallstats has released their FY2009 poster, which you can view in all its glorious zoomable detail on their website, or order a copy. This thing is so well done, you have to see it to appreciate it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Current Bike-Lighting Configuration

Here's what I currently have as a winter time visibility kit:

- NiteRider 15W halogen on handlebars, with sibling NiteRider taillight, both running off my home-made 12V NiMH battery pack on the back of the seat tube. I just got this working again after a 2-year hiatus, so there are some other headlights still on the bike until I'm confident in the new battery.

- Small Cateye on handlebars -- mostly a backup light, it will probably go back in my bag.

- Big Cateye (HL-500 Opticube) on the left fork -- also currently a backup.

- NiteIze SpokeLit on the front wheel -- it's a very bright green, highly visible and unusual, I really like it!

- Blackburn taillight on back of helmet - this thing is *bright*! Between it and the NiteRider taillight, I get frequent comments from other riders when they come up behind me at stoplights, such as "wow those are really visible!"

- I also have a Planet Bike Superflash; it was mounted on the seatpost (where the NiteRider is now) but it's currently a backup and living in my commute bag.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

BUUD Alert #3!

This is Bicycle-Unfriendly Urban Design (BUUD) Danger Alert #3!

Location: Hollenbeck Ave at El Camino

Issue: The traffic signal yellow-light duration is way too short for a bicycle to make it across El Camino before the light changes to red. Even at >15 mph, a bike entering the intersection on a green light can't make the other side before the light is red.

Proposed solution: Increase the yellow light duration.

View Larger Map

Monday, November 03, 2008

Building a replacement battery pack for a NiteRider 12V light

Since it was quickly getting very dark in the evenings, and I knew the "fall back" time change was soon to be upon us to make it even darker, my thoughts turned to bike lights.

More specifically, my thoughts turned to the general inadequacy of my current white-light setup... I've been using a little Cateye on the handlebars in blinking-mode (to get the attention of cars) and a bigger Cateye HL500 mounted down on the fork blade for trail/road illumination. But it just can't cut through oncoming cars' headlights, and on a trail with twists and turns, it has too narrow a beam.

Last year, I put the small Cateye on my helmet, to get around the HL500's focused beam; that wasn't bad, but the combo just wasn't bright enough. I started using these lights after my NiteRider halogen's battery pack finally died. I got several years' use out of it, but a replacement battery pack is over $150, and I was having a hard time justifying the expense.

So, having decided the current combination was just not cutting it, I weighed my choices: get a completely new system (maybe a hub generator? can't switch it between bikes very easily, and quite expensive. New-tech rechargeable LED stuff? Nice, but pricey) or revive the old one (but a new battery pack is almost as much as a low-end LED light!) But perhaps there was a less-costly option...

With nothing to lose, I tore open the NiteRider battery pack. Inside, it's just made up of commercial/industrial NiMH cells -- which are available on the 'net, if one looks around enough. The only label was "4500mAh JAPAN". Turns out, they are "4/3A" cells; e.g. 1/3 bigger than a regular A cell. What, you've never heard of an A cell? Think about it, though -- we're all familiar with AAA and AA batteries... does not their existence presuppose the existence of an A cell? And indeed, they can be had, but a lowly A cell packs not the 4500mAh we're looking for... even a regular 4/3A is only around 4000mAh. We must find the mighty Sanyo HR4/3FAUX to get what we desire!

I found 'em at TNR Technical, for $6.50 each (and you need 5 for a pack.) They're available with solder tabs, which we need; no extra charge. With tax ($2.36) and shipping ($9.95), my battery pack cost $44.81.

Once I had the batteries, all I needed to do was solder them together in the right order, swap the cables and molded casing over from the old battery pack, and charge it up. The batteries are set up in two rows of 2, with the fifth one located on top of those two rows, all wired together in series to give 12V. The factory pack used heat-shrink tubing and hot glue to hold everything together; I used a small amount of electrical tape and it worked fine.

When I cut the grey silicone casing off the factory pack, I probably sliced it more than I needed to. I had to use a several wraps of electrical tape in putting it back together, to ensure it would be waterproof. In retrospect, I would have tried harder to get the casing off without cutting it at all -- I'm not sure that's possible, but I think it could be done with some patience.

Summary: Works dandy! 1/3 the factory price.

BUUD Alert #2!

This is Bicycle-Unfriendly Urban Design (BUUD) Danger Alert #2!

Location: E Evelyn Ave and Hwy 85 onramp

Issue: Bicycles headed east on Evelyn for the Steven's Creek trail must a) enter left turn lane, b) change course in the middle of the left turn, making a right turn and entering onto the south sidewalk, c) ride the wrong way down the sidewalk to the trail entrance.

Proposed solution: create a bicycle/pedestrian crosswalk directly under the bike bridge.

View Larger Map

BUUD Alert #1!

This is Bicycle-Unfriendly Urban Design (BUUD) Danger Alert #1!

Location: W Evelyn Ave and Hwy 85 onramp

Issue: Bikes exiting the Steven's Creek trail find themselves on the sidewalk, with no ramp down to the bike lane prior to this intersection. The curvature of the intersection makes visibility difficult, and cars making a right turn are frequently in conflict with bikes/peds heading west.

Proposed Solution: Cut ramp in sidewalk at junction of bike trail and sidewalk, to allow bikes to join lane where visibility is better.

View Larger Map

Bicycle-Unfriendly Urban Design

This post inaugurates what, unfortunately, will become a regular feature here on the blog. I see so many gratuitously bad and dangerous examples of the urban-bike interface that I decided I should:

a) keep track of them,
b) share awareness of the hazards with other cyclists,
c) have a convenient place to which to refer public officials and planners when I
d) make a habit of alerting said officials and planners to the dangers.

The first example will be highlighted in the next post. You will be able to find all the related posts by searching on "buud" or "bike danger".

Friday, October 24, 2008

Common Courtesies

OK, be forewarned...

What ever became of common courtesy among cyclists?

Even as the number of bike-commuters grows daily, I see less and less camaraderie in evidence -- it should be us vs. the cars/trucks/buses/potholes, but there's this negative vibe in the air of cyclist vs. cyclist.

It didn't use to be this way. (oh God, I'm gonna sound like a geezer, but:) I remember when people on bikes watched out for each other, helped each other, said "hi" to each other. If you rode by someone else on a bike, you at least muttered a greeting; if someone was on the side of the road and their bike appeared to be broken, flatted, or such, you at least asked if they needed help.

Now, I'm lucky if 1 out of 3 riders I see so much as gives a glance acknowledging my presence, and the number afflicted with, as my wife calls it, "grim rider syndrome" greatly exceeds those who are friendly. Is everyone really so bent on achieving their training/commuting goals that they can't say hi? The results aren't much different even when it's my darling wife and my adorable daughter on our tandem, and that's just sad.

Today's experience was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, inspiring this long-winded rant: I dropped my chain on the single-speed on the way to work, and while I didn't actually need help, I was pulled over on the side of the street with an obvious mechanical problem, and four riders went by without saying anything whatsoever. I passed one of them about five minutes later, and just couldn't think what to say to him... "Thanks, you jerk, for not seeing if I was OK? I'll be sure to do the same for you?"

That's just not me. I always ask. And say hi. And wave to people on crappy bikes. Because we're all fellow human-powered travelers, who need to stick together and watch out for each other, as the car-drivers sure as heck aren't gonna watch out for us. And it's those little common courtesies, so easily forgotten, that otherwise remind us of our shared experience as cyclists.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Airship coming to Moffett

Kind of cool -- Airship Ventures is bringing their new Zeppelin NT airship to be based at Moffett, and it should be arriving some time this weekend. I really like their size comparison chart, which includes a giant squid! One-hour flights are a bit pricey at ~$500, but what a fun experience it would be! You can follow the progress of the airship on their blog, which features lots of nice low-altitude photos.

Robots and Sci-Fi exhibit @ SFO

There's a great exhibit in the north terminal connector at SFO, featuring the artifacts of the 50s-60s space craze. (SFO Museums has many exhibits of very high quality; I've always impressed by them, and I try to take a little extra time to look at them when walking through the airport!) This exhibit brought back many childhood memories...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Home at last (or nearly so)

We're just now coming in through the Golden Gate -- home never looked

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day 16

Off we go - leaving Port San Luis, heading for San Simeon - about 40
miles up the coast. I'll fill in the last couple of days, spent
waiting out the big winds, after we get underway.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Days 12 and 13

We sailed from SB yesterday morning; was sunny & calm & smooth up to
point conception, then a headwind and big steep waves all night.
Trying to get a nap in the forward berth was like an amusement park
ride, I was catching air when we went over the biggest waves! We got
in to Port San Luis at 5 this morning, just beat and in need of rest
and food. It is incredibly warm, no wind. Will and I just got back
from getting fuel; the Coast Guard brought in a sailboat that got
clobbered today - reports are of 40-knot winds through Saturday! So,
(a) our choice to come up last night looks comparatively good, but (b)
now we have to play it day by day and see if there's a break in the
high winds. We'll definitely be here tonight, though.

Coming by Vandenberg air force base (on the coast just south Santa
Maria) last night in the dark was interesting - they have numerous
space & missile launch complexes all lit up, for miles along an
otherwise desolate coast. I had the 10-2am watch, and enjoyed the
brilliant stars and bioluminescent bow waves once the half-full moon

I woke this morning to find that the yummy organic nectarines I bought
fresh in SB, and carefully stowed in the netting slings we use to keep
all the produce, were dashed against the wall during the night's
adventures and the juice proceeded to drip all over my sleeping bag...
Bleah! Seems to have cleaned up nicely though.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Day 11

Took care of chores today, walking many miles in the process... Got my
first latte in 12 days (and oh, it was good!) at Red's cafe. We found
a new stainless steel air pot for the boat, to replace the glass one
that fell and broke a few days ago; I got some shorts, Alan wanted an
iPod, and we experienced full crowd immersion after 11 days of near
solitude. We found a laundry that we could drop our stuff off at for
$0.75/lb, which sounded like a bargain! After picking up groceries and
the laundry, we went to Joe's for dinner - a wonderfully old-fashioned
place that serve traditionally delicious food, suitable for hungry

Monday, October 06, 2008

Day 10

(Note: I re-organized a couple of the posts below -- I somehow skipped Day 6, and then numbered the following days wrong. Maybe forgetting what day it is, is the sign of a good trip?)

We sailed from Santa Cruz Island over to Santa Barbara (about 25 nm) under delightful conditions -- light wind, brilliant skies, balmy warmth. Had a perfect view of the lovely oil platforms cluttering up the coast... We got in to the Santa Barbara marina around 5, got a slip and tidied up the boat, and got our first showers in many days (oh, that felt sooooo good!) Went to dinner with Bradley. Back to the boat for a nightcap and conversation; we got to bed around 1 am.

Day 9

We went explored around Cuevo Valdez a bit - this part of Santa Cruz
Island is owned by The Nature Conservancy, so some parts are posted
off limits as private property. We were able to see a marvelous hidden
waterfall, accessed through a sea-tunnel, as well as the sea-cave for
which the cove is named. It is interesting for its three entrances
into a central cave; we took the skiff into one of them.
The day was very nice and warm, and we even went for a swim after all
our hiking around. Soon it was happy hour, and we enjoyed some snacks
on deck and appreciated the calm air and pleasant sun. However, a
breeze started coming up as the weather shifted around to the NW -
pretty quickly, there was a stiff wind. We had put out both bow and
stern anchors, to steady us against the previous night's swell, and
now the anchor configuration caused the boat to turn sideways to the
freshening wind. This caused the bow anchor to start dragging... We
wouldn't be safe in the anchorage under these conditions, so we
decided to pull up the anchors and go down to a more protected spot
around the west end of the island.
Will started getting the skiff ready to go get the stern anchor picked
up, as I motored Libertine to take the strain off the bow anchor. As
Will cast off the skiff's stern line, the bow attachment fitting chose
that moment to come undone... and the skiff started going rapidly
downwind, much to our astonishment! Will dove in after it, and climbed
aboard. Fortunately, we had left the oars on the skiff, so Will could
get back to us... otherwise, he might still be on the island :-)
We eventually got both anchors, the skiff, and Will back on board and
departed around 6 pm under increasing winds.
We made our way down the coast of the island, with big wind and
following swell making for a wild ride; we finally made it to
Smuggler's Cove around 11 pm, wind blowing 30 knots but offshore.
There were at least a dozen other boats in the anchorage, not too bad
in the daylight but tricky to navigate in the dark. We put the anchor
out as close in to the beach as we could, and had some quick soup for
dinner and went to bed.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Days 7 and 8

We sailed under delightful conditions from Cuyler Cove northeast
around the corner of Santa Rosa island (catching our 3rd albacore
along the way) to anchor at Ford Point. Even in the shelter of the
anchorage, by afternoon the wind was howling 40-50 knots, blowing the
tops right off of the wave crests. Fortunately, it was blowing off
shore, so we weren't too concerned, but it sure was loud.
We left the next morning and crossed over to the northern side of
Santa Cruz island. We stopped to look at Painted Cave, a huge sea-cave
over 150 ft high and 600 ft deep. Conditions were too rough to take
the boat in the cave, though, so we continued on to Cueva Valdez, a
pretty little cove at the foot of a wooded canyon. We have it to
ourselves; it is quite calm this morning, a bit gray and drizzly at
the moment but we'll go ashore later and explore.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Day 6

We explored San Miguel Island a bit - took the skiff over to the
beach, and hiked down the beach, then up a trail to the top of the
bluff overlooking the bay. Discovered a marker on the bluff
commemorating the Portugese explorer Joao Rodriguez Cabrillo, buried
on the island in 1540. Many weird and wonderful plants there, and lots
of seals sleeping on the beach. A volunteer ranger and his wife were
hanging out on the beach, and we chatted with them for a bit. They
come spend a few weeks on the island, and have it mostly to themselves.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 5

We departed Port San Luis at 3 am, and headed out under brilliant
starry skies... We found a pretty calm and relatively flat sea, and
made our way down the coast. Chad caught a fish, but it escaped as we
were netting it. Not 30 minutes later, though, we hooked another one
and managed to keep this one - even bigger than yesterday's fish! We
will be eating well for a few more days now (not that we weren't
eating well to begin with!)

We passed by Vandenberg AFB and could easily see the space launch
facilities from an unusual perspective; we then passed several oil
platforms -there aren't too many left on the California coast, but we
saw most of them pretty closely. After passing point Arguello, we made
for San Miguel island. Along the way, the wind picked up, and we
regularly were seeing 8-9 knots as the swell helped us along.
Fortunately, the crew seems to have become inured to the motion of the
boat, and we could easily eat and tend to chores.

Approaching the island, we saw whales (blue whales we think) up pretty
close! We reached the anchorange around 5 pm, and while it's very
pretty, the wind is howling -- we'll be keeping a close eye on the
anchor tonight.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Days 3-4

Last we heard from the intrepid sailors, they had put in to Stillwater
Cove... The story resumes:

We set sail in the morning, figuratively speaking; the skies remained
grey, and winds very light. Mercifully, the swell was much smaller and
easier, and the fog higher, so although we spent most of the day and
the following night under motor-power, we were able to eat and
function pretty well.

We caught a fish on Sunday, a nice albacore, who gave us a delightful
dinner one night, lunch today, and another meal yet to come.

We saw lots of wildlife - some whales in the distance, many dolphins
and porpoises came racing over to play, including some at night
leaving glowing trails of bioluminescence in their wake.

This morning brought us past Moro Bay, and into Port San Luis by
lunchtime. We anchored and had the aforementioned fish for lunch, then
took the dinghy in to shore for a beer and a shower. We got the boat
ready after dinner for the morning's passage to the Channel Islands -
we will leave around 3 am, so as to arrive at San Miguel Island before
tomorrow night.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 2

We made our way out the Golden Gate and right into the fog - cold,
gray and a big Pacific swell. Heading south, we split into two 4-hour
watches and made an average of about 4 knots. With the wind nearly
dead astern, and wind light and moving about, we had a hard time
keeping the headsail filled and elected to run through the night
under just the mainsail.

No one was feeling well in the rolling swell - it was impossible to
eat or drink, and the fog made it very cold and damp. By morning, we
were all wiped out, and decided to take a break.

We came in through the fog to Stillwater Cove, which turns out to be
right under the end of the famous Pebble Beach golf course! It is nice
and calm and still, we ate and slept up and cleaned things up on the
boat. The stars are out and magnificent for the moment, until the
marine layer comes back in.

We'll head out in the morning for Port San Luis, which is likely to
take another 24 hours. Our run yesterday was about 105 miles, which
wasn't bad given the conditions.

--chad, aboard the S/V Libertine

Friday, September 26, 2008

Voyage of the Libertine: Day 1

I'm aboard my friend Will's sailboat, Libertine, in Oyster Point marina (South San Francisco) -- we are leaving this morning for a journey down the California coast, to the Channel Islands and back. With Will as the captain and Coleen, Alan and myself as crew, we will be on the water for the next 6 or 7 days; next stop is planned to be Port San Luis. I will post updates as connectivity permits! We should be underway by 10 this morning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hacking the iPhone

My phone is much more entertaining now!

Riddle of the day

I have not figured this one out yet...

If Seoul is 34 miles
Tokyo 259 miles
San Francisco 5428 miles
Decatur 9412 miles
Death 6116 miles
Burbank 5610 miles

where are you?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hell Ride 5

So, Mark Weir and Rachel Lloyd pick a crazy route to ride around Downieville, and then sucker some poor folks into going with them by holding out a new bike as a carrot -- what a great idea! They call it the Hell Ride. Check out the route and stats -- I can't believe these guys did it in under 8 hours! That's just rippin'. Either one of the loops in this course makes for a pretty decent ride.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Coming home from Houston

I was snoozing, and woke up to see a large city passing by underneath...
"why, that looks remarkably like Phoenix" I thought. And indeed it was,
the city of Nimue's birth, so I took a picture.

We also flew just south of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, but the iPhone camera, shooting through two layers of airplane window, just does not capture well.

But Anna and Nim picked me up at the airport, and we walked out of the
terminal to the sight of a spectacular rainbow -- one expected to see a
pot of gold at the end! And if you look closely, you'll see that it's
even a *double* rainbow.


My co-worker Vytas rides this fantastic bike... not only stripey, but
furry, too!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Live from Houston

Where the weather is fine (well, 100 deg and 90% humidity, but it ain't raining yet!) Tropical storm Edouard is bearing down on us, predicted to come ashore early Tuesday morning. This should be interesting...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Running the Numbers

Quite brilliant, passed on by my friend Dave:

Running the Numbers
An American Self-Portrait

Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

~chris jordan, Seattle, 2007

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Perot Charts » Charting Government Fiscal Irresponsibility

From Ross Perot, the "father of fiscal charts", comes a new site to help us understand just how screwed we really are:

"The American people must wake up and face the reality that promises made in the past will soon bankrupt this nation. These problems are explained in an easy-to-understand chart presentations..."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

After a long hiatus...

So, I let this blog go fallow for a couple years -- I was trying out other ways of posting stuff (iWeb using my Mac) as well as buying a house, getting married, selling the house, buying another house, etc.

During that time I put together a different blog, focused on letting our friends and relatives know what our family is up to. That's not a good outlet for rants, technology, bike fetish, and such, so I'm reviving this one at last!