Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Big Picture


Hand's down, the best post on one of the best photo-blogs ever. Check it out. RSS it. Follow it. You'll be impressed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

flickr and self promotion

Since time has been tight in recent weeks (funny how a baby will do that to you), I've had little times for photography (or biking for that matter, but that's fodder for another post). Lately, in an attempt to quench my creative desire, I've been going back through the thousands of photos in my archive and trying to find the few gems that may lie hidden among the crap.

So far, I've found a random shot...

or two...

(maybe three)...

...that I don't mind much. Hopefully there will be more.

In addition to going back through the old photos, I've decided to start joining various flickr groups (for which I have appropriate photos) and adding my images to the photo pools. I figure, as much as I like having my 15 or 20 friends and contacts see my work, I'm not doing a very good job of expanding my audience. At this point, I have ~215 shots in various groups, and ~392 not. Time to find appropriate homes for them, while adding more to the inventory.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The new, new steed

With the demise of my last "new steed", I'd been on the lookout for a new bike to fixie-up as a one-geared-wonder road machine. A couple of weeks back, a candidate presented itself to me for consideration. A guy who sells old-ass bikes both on Craigslist and at a couple of local flea markets advertised a "ridiculously large" (~67cm), circa 1980 Schwinn Traveler road bike.

I told him that being ridiculously large myself (~195cm), this sounded right up my alley. I met him at one of his usual haunts and gave the bike a test spin. It rode quite smoothly. There were a number of oddly-colored painted touch-ups on the frame, but it seemed solid (hopefully). I managed to talk him down from his asking price by telling him he could have pretty much everything off of it, aside from the frame, fork and cranks. Less crap for the crap pile in my basement, and more crap for him
to fix up other long-in-the-tooth rides in his inventory.

I hauled her home, stripped off the remaining useless bits, cobbled together enough useful bits from fixies past and rebuilt her:

My initial test ride was last weekend. My kid had a lacrosse game ~8 miles away, practically on the local bike path. It was an agonizingly windy ride out (but the ride back was a breeze!). A few times, I literally had to stand up and pedal on a flat section of path cuz the headwind was so brutal. While the gearing on this build was the same as on my Sekai (42x15, 170mm crank), it seemed much more difficult. During the wind-tunnel portion of the ride, I decided that when I got home, I'd re-tool the Schwinn and make it 40x15 (since I happened to have a 180mm crank set w/ 40t ring lying around the crap pile).

My initial test ride with the new and improved 40x15 gearing was today. This time, the kid had lacrosse tryouts (for a different league) out in Leesburg, at a location again easily accessed by the local bike path. Being generally outta shape and on a test-ride, I decided to drive about half way out and ride the rest of the way (~7mi each way). The gearing was noticeably more spinny, but seemed more comfortable for my a fore mentioned outta-shape azz. (The lack of wind didn't hurt matters either.) Sadly, while I had no trouble finding the town of Leesburg in general, finding the specific school at which tryouts were being held proved more challenging. After tooling around the streets of old-town Leesburg for a couple of miles, I decided to throw in the towel and head home. Test-ride mission accomplished, meet-up-with-the-kid mission a total failure. Upon closer inspection (once arriving home), there apparently are not enough streets named "Catoctin Circle" in this world, as Leesburg decided it needed two. The correct one about a mile further out than the other (incorrect) one. SE? SW? Really, what are you...DC? You need NWs and SEs?? No, I didn't think so.

After the ride, I was hungry and looking for something different. Decided it was time to give Phở a try. Used the phone and Google Maps to find a local Phở joint and told them I was a total phở noob. They suggested the "starter phở", which included eye of round, flank and chicken (I think), but thankfully left out the fatty brisket, tendons and tripe. Downed about half of the as-big-as-my-head sized bowl before I noticed the bottle of hot sauce (rooster sauce?) on the table. After sampling trace amounts and deciding it was OK, I added a significant number of dashes to my soup which took it from "Eh, it's pretty tasty" to "Holy crap, this is good!!". This might be my new favorite post-winter-ride meal. The rooster sauce gives you the sweats in places you never even imagined you had sweat glands.

"Good lord...are my fingernails sweating?!".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


A couple of Sundays back, I had the opportunity to explore some new trails. My oldest kid had an all-day lacrosse clinic at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I took the opportunity to scope out some local trails.

After dropping the kid off at W&M, I had a few hours to myself. Area trail reviews tended to favor the Marl Ravine Trail at York River State Park, so that's where I headed. After finding the park and asking a local rider where the trailhead was, I suited up in cool weather gear, mounted the (still-fixed) Monkey and pedaled off into the unknown.

The trail was fast, fun and a hell of a workout (particularly for my non-ridin'-ass). The terrain was what you would expect if Fountainhead and Rosaryville got together, got bizzy and made a baby trail. Flowy, but not as flowy as R'ville. Lotsa quick up and down hills, but not as grueling as F'head. Total distance is anywhere from 6 to 7 to 9 to 14 miles, depending on who you believe. The trailhead says 5.8, I think, but the paper map available at the park entrance seems to say 9.1. I've ridden my local ~7 mile loop fixed a few times, and the Marl Ravine *definitely* felt longer. Probably didn't help that there was a ~1.5 mile ride from parking lot to trailhead. I definitely felt that at the end of the loop. I also took the opportunity mid-ride to take a break in the woods and just soak up the total silence. A rare item you don't find at many local trail systems.

I had planned on posting a GPS track of the trail. I meant to pack the GPS in the backpack, but managed to leave it safe and sound in the truck instead. So no waypoints for you.

Props to the Eastern Virginia Mountainbike Association for building and maintaining the trail system there. Apparently, they had been out cutting new trail as recently as the day before my ride. Well done! One request, tho: When you get to the one and only intersection with the vague marking "Raccoon Run --->" and "<--- Bluejay Jump", how about an idea what one is getting one's self into. I was actually looking for the longer route and decided on the "Raccoon Run" option, since it seemed to be more in-line with the trail and flowed more naturally than the other. But I have no idea if that was better/worse/shorter/longer than the other cleverly named path.

The entire endeavor took just about two hours (including gearing up before and gearing back into street-clothes after). Afterward, with time running tight, I tried finding a local pub for a beer and burger, but came up empty. I sadly had to settle for an Appleby's (Applebees? Whatever.) for a mediocre brew and uninteresting burger. Following that, I picked up the kid and took off north-bound on the leisurely three-hour drive traffic.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CNN: We're Good at Stating the Obvious

In a story about the Indian lunar orbiter overheating* CNN, speaking about a probe released by the orbiter, says

"Officials say that the TV-size probe...hit the moon's surface at a speed of 3,579 mph."

So far, so good, right? Then they thankfully point out

"...[it] was not intended to be retrieved after that."


Who'd have guessed.

* Side note, isn't space roughly 0°K (like -276°F)? Can't they just crack a window on the orbiter and be done with this overheating problem? If "yes", can I now add the title of "rocket scientist" to my resume for offering that bit of advice?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Dear NatGeo, don't you think you have enough quality photographs in your archive that you don't need to swindle average, unsuspecting photo-contest entrants out of their mediocre photos? Stop it already.

From the above linked site:

5. License

By entering the Contest, all entrants grant to Authorized Parties (National Geographic Society and its licensees) a royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable perpetual, nonexclusive license to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the entries (along with a name credit) in whole or in part, without further review or participation from the entrant, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional and trade uses in connection with NGS Products.

Bottom line, **every photo submitted** to them (not just the winning photo, which would be bad enough) becomes theirs to do with what they want. Forever. And ever. Amen. If you enter this contest after knowing this, you're an idiot. If you've entered without reading the fine print, you're naive.

Props to Twitter user Photo_Guide for pointing this one out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Best. T-shirt. Ever.

(Click the photo for link to original. Image by flickr user sconartist).

In case you don't get the reference:

Edit to add: Apparently the place to get this masterpiece is Slash Jeans in Berkeley, CA. They have a website where they were advertising the shirts for sale in CA for $25 (with $5 from each shirt going to the Obama election kinda shop!!). I emailed this morning to see if the shirts were still available and if they shipped. Fingers crossed.

Edit^2 to add: The shop in CA is sold out. The guy who made the shirts sells them online here:

Assuming he has them in stock, I'm placing my order tomorrow. Without a doubt.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

That which often halts my finger just before hitting the "send" button.

(webcomic XKCD)

Often, I spend time crafting a retort to a friend's/acquaintance's/random stranger's online post; Be it an email, blog post, Facebook post, news story comment, or whatever. I put thought into my reply, only to hit the delete key at the last minute. Invariably, I think back on this comic and see the futility of my actions. I'm trying to get to the place where I think of this comic *before* wasting my time crafting marginally informative missives, only to send them to the ether.
Here's hoping whatever ride takes place in DC on 1/20/2009 it will be more optimistic than the CritMass Anti-Inauguration ride of 1/20/2005.

DmofoT (slightly out of frame)

DmofoT (slightly overexposed)

Protest Props

(above photos not representative of the angry-ness of the CritMass ride of 1/20/2005, but they're all I had handy.

I feel like Gwadz

So many updates, so short a timespan.

Cool bit: Google Street View comes to DC.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thank. Fucking. God.

That is all.

Get Out the Pano

Left for the polls this morning around 5:40am. Got there by 5:45 and was at least 100 people deep in the L-Z line. The A-K line was just as long. Once the polls opened at 6am it was about a 45 minute journey through voting land.

The only strangeness came when a woman who voted before me came out saying "You guys might want to use the touchscreen voting machines. The optical reader is having problems and they* were telling people to leave their ballots and they* would enter them later". Er. Wha? No thanks. As unreliable and paper-trail-less as they are, I opted for the touchscreen. After I had made it in the door, I saw only one woman attempt to use the optical scanner, and it took her three attempts at feeding the paper before the machine finally accepted it.

I shot a couple of snapshots while waiting in line at 0-dark-30. Click the images for biggerer versions:


and a 5-shot pano of the line out front that I snapped after finishing my civic duty:


(better if seen full-sized)

*not further identified

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Potential new fixie candidate?

Anybody ever heard of a bicycle manufacturer named "St. Regis"? A local guy is selling a freak-sized road bike, but I've never heard of the brand. Google has been little help.


Friday, October 24, 2008


So local golden boys (and personal favorites) Bad Brains are playing at the 930 club in a few weeks. Why the hell didn't it occur to me that it might...maybe...just possibly...sell out? Cuz I'm an idiot.

It did, and yours truly won't be there. Unless I come across some tix on Craigslist. And even if they turn up, they'll prolly be a premium. I'm rather annoyed with myself.

In other "cool punk shows I'm not gonna see" news, apparently NOFX is playing in Annapolis tonight (also sold out...for good measure). Goddamnit. I guess I wouldn't have made that show, even if I weren't fighting this damn cold. Tonight is also my 20th high school reunion.

Apparently, I'm getting kinda old.

Hope all the former classmates attending the reunion have a blast.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Further Fixie Forest Forays (aka "The Epic"™)

Ok, so Epic may be a bit overly dramatic. Anyway...

I decided that since it wasn't such a horrible experience the first time, I'd give this whole fixed-gear dirt riding thing another go. This time, however, I decided to step it up a bit, opting to ride my go-to loop in Reston.

Since this loop is significantly more interesting/challenging/rocky/rooty/hilly than my first fixed outing (@Wakefield), my plan was to only ride a portion of the ~10 mile loop. I figured I'd head out 'till I was half-tired, then head back to the trail-head.

Much like the first fixed dirt ride, I found that riding these slightly more interesting trails wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be (even with the 32x15x29er gearing still attached to the bike). I pretty quickly reached my first planned end-point (the cricket fields), but decided I felt no worse than a normal ride, so I pushed on, planning to make the halfway point of the loop. Once there, and still feeling good, I figured I could turn around and head out the way I came, or I could simply finish the loop. Since the second half of the loop has far less climbing than the first, the choice was easy. I continued on and made it to the end of the dirt portion of the ride (~8 miles) in decent time and feeling pretty good (aside from that pinch flat that I had to repair along gang graffiti row under the highway overpass - yay). All that remained was the ~2 mile paved bike-path ride back to the car. At this point, my lower back started bugging me quite a bit. I'm guessing that it was a result of either having to pedal every inch of the preceding 8 miles, or of having to strain like a bastard to make a few (aka "most") of the climbs. Whichever, the last mile was not terribly enjoyable.

On the whole, however, it was a great ride. I made all but two of the climbs (which is about par for me, even with a properly geared ride). I'm hoping that getting a correct size Tomicog will lead to easier climbing and hopefully less back anguish on future rides. I'm still leaning towards running fixed at a certain beercentric ride in the not-too-distant future. Gotta put in a few more rides with the right equipment (cogs, not beers...tho, now that I think about it, beers might help too) to be sure I'll survive the experience.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Told ya so

A month back, Sara Palin quoted a "writer" (apparently not further identified at the time) when she said "We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity". It turns out the writer is one Westbrook Pegler (1894-1969) an ultra-conservative (*surprise!*) who also had nice things to say about Jews, gays and the civil rights movement. He had especially kind words for Robert F. Kennedy, saying "some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies". RFK Jr. was, understandably, unamused.

Originally (as far as I know) blogged here.

I found it (as I do much of my news) via Boingboing.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bicycling Magazine makes things right(!)

Bicycling Magazine has put things right regarding the use of my image in their print magazine and on their web page. They've asked that I keep our specific communications confidential, and I've agreed to that. So, I've pulled down the letters I wrote to them, as well as their responses to me.

Generally speaking, I specified terms and compensation that I felt were fair, and they agreed to them. They also agreed to post a correction in the magazine giving me credit for the original image.

I'm happy with the way things worked out. I can only hope that going forward, Bicycling Magazine (and publishers in general) will be more careful about the images they use and the manner in which they acquire them. That's really the heart of the matter. Photographers have rights. We've got to stand up for them. They've got to respect them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Welcome fascism!

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the Flag, and carrying a cross." -Sinclair Lewis

I fear he may have been right.

(Lest anyone think I've boosted the photo and taken food out of some poor Alaskan photographer's mouth (and in light of recent events))...The image is from The image is here. The instructions under the photo state "To download image for comp use...", so I'm assuming it is OK to use. "Comp use" seems to be definied as "PRIVATE USE, limited to: (a) personal, non-commercial or (b) sample, design, test, or layout use ("comp use")"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Fixed Forest Foray

(That one was for you, Spearman)

With the untimely demise of my road fixie last week I had the brilliant idea to take fixing into the woods. Why not? I had just started my affair with fixed riding. If I shelved it now until a new road frame presented itself (side note: if anybody comes across a bigass (59+cm), cheapass (<$100) road frame capable of fixing, email me please!), who knows how long I'd have to wait. So I pulled the rear wheel off the roadie, pulled the tire off the wheel, slapped a dirt tire on and put the whole shebang on the Karate Monkey. At 32x15, she's not optimally geared, but I was hoping she was at leas survivable.

Having taken last Tuesday and Wednesday off of work, I was able to sneak in my first fixed dirt ride at Wakefield. was a lot of fun. Way more than I expected. And not nearly as agonizing as I had envisioned. I guess the same could have been said at the dawn of my singlespeed riding years back. In each case, I fully expected the experience to be agonizing. Not understanding how or why so many friends chose to endure it in the name of "fun".

Anyway, for those familiar with Wakefield, I started on the flattest section I could find...the far end opposite where the races are run. I tooled around on the flats for a while until I felt comfortable pedaling every dirt inch. I then headed over to try my luck riding the race course (which is a bit more hilly). By the end of my hour ride, I think I had covered the whole race course, and even added in a few climbs just to see if I could manage them.

So I guess my shopping list is a bit longer now, and must include a new Tomi Cog in a more dirt friendly size. Spearman has generously offered the loan of his 19t Tomi cog. I hope to give that a spin and decide if 19t or 20t is the sweet spot I require.

As for riding fixed on dirt, it's amazing how quickly you stop thinking about the fact that you're constantly pedaling. That always seemed to be the most physically daunting aspect of fixed dirt riding (or road riding, for that matter). But after a short while, you don't even notice it...Until you try to coast when crossing a log. Twice. Aside from that, there were no mishaps. I made all but one of the climbs I attempted. I successfully crossed about 40% of the logs I attempted. I had to bail on a few attempts, but I never fully hit the ground. I did keep grabbing my rear brake lever. The fact that its cable lead to a caliper sans rotor never seemed to sink in.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Broken? Fixed?

When life gives you "Goddamnit, my frame broke" make "Goddamnit, my frame broke"-ade.

In a plot that could only have been conceived by my fatass after two (so far) 8% ABV beers...

After a couple of half-commutes* into the office on the fixie, I noticed the headtube/toptube crack mentioned previously had bested my attempt to have it welded shut and had re-cracked. (Cue the much deserved "Told ya so" from Spearman and Palmero Cycles). I decided not to further risk life and limb and deconstructed the bike. My original plan was to take the parts off and fix the other frame hanging in my bike shop...and '80s era Canondale. Sadly, that bike has got two things going against it: vertical drops and a ridiculously-long 11.25" head-tube (for which, apparently, no fork exists with a long enough steer tube) so that plan was ruled out.

So now my former Sekai fixie sits disassembled in the basement. Destined for a sledgehammer and a recycling bin. (Don't want anybody finding it and trying to use it again). With play-money in short supply these days, the question becomes "What to do about my budding interest in fixed-gear riding...on a budget?".

Cue the beer.

At some point in the evening (at about beer 1.25), I decided it would be fun/interesting/adventurous/life-threatening (in a good way) to fix my Karate Monkey mountain bike. Why not? It's got 29er wheels (which are nothing more than 700c road wheels with a fatty mountain tire on there). It seemed destiny. All I needed do was take the fixed rear wheel from the recently departed Sekai and mount the 29er mountain tire on it. There will be no rear brake, as the wheel from the Sekai had a non-disk hub, and the KM is disk, but running fixed, all that is necessary is a front brake. Which I've got covered. You want a brake in back? Stop pedaling.

10 minutes and a couple of greasy knuckles later and I've got a fixed off-road machine.

There's little chance of her ending up on any hardcore trails (the 'Shed, Gambrill are right out, not that I ride there often anyway...I'm just sayin'). Inaugural ride will probably be Wakefield. As will many subsequent rides. And the lamest/flattest part of Wakefield that I can find. If I'm feeling particularly strong, I might try to climb a hill, but no promises. The only fixed cog I have is 15t mounted to the formerly-road wheel. The cog that came off of the KM was a 20t. That's a 5t difference that I'm gonna feel. A lot. The chainring on the KM is 32t. So...

The gear-inch measure that I'm used to riding off-road is 46.4.
The current gear-inch is 61.9.

Truth be told, I don't know what exactly gear-inches are, but bigger=harder. I foresee a lot of hiking on my future mountain bike rides. More then usual, even.

* As I'm still quite new to fixed gear biking, I opted to test-commute before committing to the full 10 mile ride. I drove about half-way in and biked the other half.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Oh, snap! As my eagle-eyed buddy RickyD discovered and posted over on bikecentric, it appears that one of my photos...

Cleared for take-off

...has been, um, borrowd... least in concept. And by none other than Bicycling magazine, in both print (October 2008 edition, page 49) and on the web.

Just for fun, I thought we'd play that old Highlights Magazine game "Spot the similarities/difference between the two photos". Here's what I found:

Things that are the same
Baby-blue frame
Skinny, black fork
Front disk brake
Rear rim brake
Bendy (Mary?) handlebars
Bike position over log
Rider's leg position
Race number plate
Zip-tie position holding front brake cable to fork
Black spandex shorts, light swoosh (and position of swoosh)
Black socks with light top
Black shoes with three light straps, yellowish sole and yellowish heel part
Black 3/4 finger gloves with small white stripe at the pinky
Backpack straps (number and position including the dangling end of a strap)
Thick stripe down the side of the rider's jersey

Things that are different
Jersey color
Number on race plate
Their rider doesn't have a head. Poor fella.

(Some of the similarities and differences are more easily seen looking at the larger copy of their illustration found in the print mag.)

Did I miss anything?

I wonder if I should be more pissed than I am. I mean, imitation *is* the greatest form of flattery. But flattery don't pay the rent. Maybe I'll send them an email.


My buddy Ben (THANKS BEN!) put together a little animated GIF of the two images. It leaves no doubt that they're the exact same shot. In fact, I'd be surprised if the "artist" did little more than take my image, run a Photoshop "sketch" filter on it, and posted it. Make sure your image animation is turned on then check it out...

It's not as humorous to me this morning.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bet the authors didn't think of that one.

The wife heard of a book titled something like "365 Things to do with your Baby", so naturally, I asked Google where to find it. I don't think that's one of the 365 things she had in mind. Er...hopefully.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More spam, but in a good way.

I rarely look in my gmail Spam folder, so today when I noticed it contained nearly 600 messages, I figured I'd take a peek before dumping them en masse. I was quite surprised to see all of the things Paris Hilton has apparently been up to lately. A selection of subject lines:

Paris Hilton violated by Gypsies
Paris Hilton Loses Vagina - Blames Dr Phil
Paris Hilton tosses dwarf on the street
Paris Hilton's ingrowing toenail was life-threatening
SpongeBob named in Paris Hilton paternity Lawsuit
Paris Hilton To Become Nun
Paris Hilton Sold Her Soul to the Devil, admits it on Larry King
Paris Hilton Lectures on Dickens and Dostoevsky
McCain Chooses Paris Hilton to be Running Mate

In a slightly more serious tone...just what the hell do these spammers hope to gain/sell by sending these messages? I mean, at least I can understand purpose behind the \/1@gR@ spams.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Infinite penis!

As much complaining as I did about spam in my last post, sometimes, they just must be shared.

For example: When a chick's cervix emails me directly to tell me "how big he was". That is a _serious_ endorsement! However, I'm not sure I want to "extend [my] penis infinite inches". That sounds...uncomfortable.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: cervix
Subject: Did you hear about how big he was ?

Extend your peni5 with infinite inches using the best cure.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Co-opting other people's idols

In this case, they're not my idols. Not by a long shot. But I still think its a pretty weak to name a pair of bikes "Sid and Nancy"; An obvious reference to Sex Pistols bass player* Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Worse yet? Looks at the f*cking pansy-ass bikes to which they chose to attach the names in question (click on the photos for larger images):

Hi, I'm Sid. I like gracile hairless boys.

Hi, I'm Nancy. Me too.

I mean, seriously. If you're gonna name a bike after Sid _fucking_ Vicious, it had better look mean:

Flat black. No gears. No brakes (ok, maybe a coaster, but if you really wanna be hardcore, you fix that bastard). No fucking around. If it's gonna be mass produced, at least make it *not* look mass produced. If we don't put a stop to this now, the next thing you'll see pedaling down the block under the butt of your favorite neighborhood 6 year old little princess will be the Harley Flanagan:

If you're gonna go all namby-pamby on the names, why not just name the bikes "Blink" and "182".

* the term "bass player" is used in its most loose sense here. From what I know if the Pistols, Viscous was a guy who stood* on stage holding a bass, occasionally (perhaps accidentally) hitting the strings.

* the term "stood" might be an exaggeration here as well.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Randomness , now with photos!

I finally bought a SDHC card reader, so I can pull all of the photos off of my phone camera. So here's a quick post of some of the "WTF?" things I've come across of late:

Er, huh?? I love me some creative marketing, but seriously...why not just name it "This Is Your Favorite Ice Cream! Buy It, Fat Boy!". I did. It wasn't. I felt cheated.

Speaking of creative marketing/ do you leverage all that wasted space on movie theater shitter-room doors? Advertise on it by making it the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Poo™ Women's Shitter, that's how!

Then there are these poor Fouches. I bet they never thought they'd end up spending eternity in a 10'x10' patch of grass in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. Poor bastards. Sadly, "that's how they do" in *cough* beautiful *cough* Ashburn, Virginia. One of the fastest growing Setpford-esque towns in America, where any 100 sq. ft. of land is fair game for another Mc D's, Starbucks or Home Depot.

And finally, from the cafeteria in the hospital what birthed my latest kid...

Why are the spoons given the highly coveted "Multipurpose" label while the lowly forks and knives are relegated to a miserable single-purpose existence? It's not fair! Not fair I say!

Stay tuned, more foolishness to come. I've got more photos and opinions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And now, for my next trick...

Blog, meet Amy. Amy, this is blog. Amy is new around here...matter of fact, she was just born...oh, about 2.5 days ago, so you guys take it easy on her. She clocked in at 7lbs 5ozs and an astonishingly average 20" long. If you know her dad, you'd know her mom got off easy.

Ok, everybody, all together now...

"Hi Amy"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The thing is dead, long live the king...

Old and busted (really, *really* busted):

New hotness:

Less engine
Less horses
More MPGs
More sunroof
Less years
More redder (=faster!)
More interior space
Less carpety spaces to get smoodged up
More reliable
More XM (maybe)
Less spraypaint
More sleeping space
More warranty
More payments :(

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking forward...

So here's a post I started back in Febuary. It's been slightly updated to reflect the passage of time.

As I think most readers of my blog know, the wife is pregnant. We're gonna have a kid in July about two days (er, roughly). The last time I had a kid, I was not yet 22 years old, earned about $20k/year by working construction, was living at home with mom, had no health/life insurance and was scared shitless. This time, I'm somewhat better off emotionally, financially, benefitially and relationshipally (I think I made those last two up), and therefore just slightly less terrified. So this time, I plan to have some fun.

Since, oddly enough, we didn't any of this stuff at the baby shower, here are some things I'm left to buy for my new kid myself:

Giant effing microbes!. My kid will be the hit of the germ-caked playground. I'm definitely getting him/her the stuffed Ebola virus. (Remind me to tell you about the time I spoke with Dr. Frederick Murphy about Ebola sometime):

And probably a Rabies too, since it's near and dear to my heart (remind me to tell you that story some time, too):

In addition to all the pinks and blues, my kid's got to have some non-traditional gear. First up is this Iron Maiden "Killers" onesie:

Still trying to find micro-sized Operation Ivy, Bad Religion, Ministry or Thrill Kill Kult t-shirts. If you have a lead on some, leave a comment!

At sleepytime, my kid will be rocking out, nappy style. None of the Barney "I love you, you love me" bullshit I had to live through the first time around. This time, it's all about quality songs. My most recent CD purchase have just arrived: Three flavors of "Rockabye Baby: Lullaby Renditions of..."


Nine Inch Nails

The Cure

Chill enough to listen to with the baby around, yet grown-up enough not to lead to total psychotic break. The Tool Lullaby disk may be my favorite CD purchase of the last few years. To a kid, it will sound just like any other mellow lullaby type music. To an's creepy. Really creepy. I'm talking abandoned-run-down-carnival-on-a-gray-winter-day kinda creepy. It's really quite fantastic. Their music really lends itself to creepy-lullabying.

I also picked up the "String Tribute to Tool":

In the pile of bits and bytes that make up my stuff "saved for later purchase" are:

The String Quartet Tribute Nine Inch Nails
The String Quartet Tribute to Tool's Aenima
Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Green Day

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dance the SKA!

Ok, time to honor my recently departed aunt with a more upbeat memory.

A couple of years back, I found this old 45RPM record in a box of stuff at my aunt's house (with countless other old 45s, but none as cool looking as this). I asked her about it, and she didn't remember when she gotten it. She said I was welcome to have it if I wanted it.



(Click any of the images for the full-sized versions. You can read the text and learn how to "Dance the SKA" yourself!)

(Detail of the front cover text)

(For all you Arthur Murray dance school drop-outs)

(Seriously? I'd drink more Red Stripe beer if they were still using this slogan!)

Now I just have to hook up my old turntable to my PC and rip the four songs on this record to MP3 and I'm ready to!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


My aunt died. Connie, for those from way back who remember her and read my blog. She was a good aunt. A great aunt, you could say. But not "great aunt" like that.

(Connie, circa 1932)

My dad split when I was 7 (my sis was 4). We didn't see much of him again (to this day). My mom raised us. Connie was there. Always. Every weekend she'd make the drive from her home in Arlington to MD where mom, sis and I lived. Usually she'd arrive bearing gifts, which over time, spoiled us rotten. She was almost always the "good parent". When mom was "being mean" (i.e. making us do things we didn't want to do), Connie was the person we could run to. Not dad.

When I was a kid, and in the throes of a pretty severe Star Wars addiction, she was my primary supplier. She would have no problem trekking around town, looking for that one elusive figure for me ("Klaatu in Hoth gear with a brown Yoda snake and special edition Han blaster pistol? I'm on it!"). Like I said, she spoiled us pretty badly. But in a good way.

As we got a bit older, Connie was the chauffeur. Anywhere we asked (begged/pleaded) to go. Starting with a Blue Oyster Cult show in '82, she was my ride to nearly every concert I saw until I could drive myself. Always happy to endure the worst 80s metal bands; whatever it took to make me (us) happy. Judas Priest, Metallica/The Cult, Dokken, Skid Row, Iron Maiden (how many times?), Dio, Kix, Pink Floyd. You name it, she saw it with me (us). And only rarely had an ill word to say about the experience, no matter how bad the bands or opening acts were.

As time went on, and I had my daughter (at the ripe old age of *almost* 22 years), Connie was there to help with the next generation. Diabetes had left her wheelchair bound by this time, and she needed help around the house. My (then) wife and I were barely into our 20s and together pulling in maybe $30k/year at most. We needed a roommate. It seemed a perfect fit. She was there to help with babysitting and pretty much anything else we needed when it came to our kid. When my (then) wife and I split years later, Connie became even more important to my kid. My daughter and she were together daily for the first ~6 years of said daughter's life. Without Connie and my mom, raising my kid the years after my (then) wife left would have been infinitely harder, if not impossible.

Later in life, she inherited her mother's house in PA and moved up there. I didn't visit as much as I should have. I didn't call as much as I should have. The usual story. We get older, we get busier, we seem to have less time for those around us who matter. By we, of course I mean "I".

Her health had been up and down over the last couple of years. The diabetes continually assaulting her body. She wasn't really one to abstain from the things she enjoyed in life. Not a good idea, when the things you enjoy are cookies, brownies and the like; the whole while you're fighting your body, and sugar is the enemy. But I suppose it's a quality vs. quantity of life issue (at least I tell myself that). Do I really want to live forever eating only wheatgrass shakes and slices of white bread? No thanks. I think, towards the end she made the same choice. 76 years may have seemed like enough to her.

Thankfully, the end was peaceful. She had gone into the hospital, and been transferred to the ER a week or so back. She had a couple of bad days in the ER, and then a good day. She'd pulled out miracle recoveries in the past and we were hoping for one more. Then she had a really bad day. Thursday. She was unconscious for the most part all day. As my mom, sis, other aunt [edit to add: and perhaps most importantly for both of them, daughter] held a bedside vigil, her vitals faded over the course of hours. Her blood pressure dropped to nearly nothing, and sometime around 6pm, she was gone.

The funeral was Monday. It was tough. My sister and my kid both got up and read/said some wonderful things about the woman who meant so much to all of us. I wasn't able to say a thing. I tend to devolve into a blubbering mess at funerals. At least I do so quietly, for the most part. If I'd have been able to utter a few words about her, they'd have been pretty similar to this post. Thankfully, my sis hit on almost everything I wished I could have said. Thanks K.

Connie is buried in a cemetery a few blocks from the home in which she grew up, and spent her final years. It's a good cemetery. I used to take walks there with my mom when I was little. It's home to a lot of my family these days. She's among friends. And at peace.

Damnit. I almost made it through this without crying. Almost.

If there's a silver lining to this dark-cloud of a week, it's got to be that my kid is now almost certainly the only junior in her high school who is homeowner.

Edit to add: This is the poem that my sis and kid found to read at Connie's funeral. My kid read it. I blubbered.

Many Winters - by Nancy Wood

All my life is a dance.

When I was young and feeling the earth,
My steps were quick and easy.

The beat of the earth was so loud
That my drum was silent beside it.

All of my life rolled out from my feet
Like my land which had no end as far as I could see.
The rhythm of my life was pure and free.

As I grew older my feet kept dancing so hard
That I wore a spot in the earth.
At the same time I made a hole in the sky.
I danced to the sun and the rain and the moon lifted me up
So that I could dance to the stars.
My head touched the clouds sometimes
And my feet danced deep in the earth
So that I became the music I danced to everywhere

It was the music I dance to everywhere
It was the music of life.

Now my steps are slow and hard
And my body fails my spirit,
Yet my dance is still within me and
My song is the air I breathe.
My song insists that I keep dancing forever.
My song insists that I keep rhythm
With all of the earth and the sky.

My song insists that I will never die.

Monday, June 30, 2008


This was supposed to be a post about the "2008 Reston Town Center Grand Prix" road bike race I shot yesterday. It was supposed to talk about the hundreds of photos I took, and maybe even show off the two or three that *might* be worth sharing . It would probably have gone on and on about how much different road race shooting is from mountain race shooting. And it would have mentioned me being in the right place at the right time when the race promoters started giving away free bicycle messenger bags, and about how I managed to score one. It would probably even included a photo of my fancy new bag, to illustrate the fantastic irony of my new *bicycle* messenger bag sporting a big "Mobile 1" motor oil logo.

Instead, it's about how, on the 3-mile drive home after the race, my truck died a mile from my house. And about how, now that I've had the truck diagnosed, it appears that the timing belt has snapped. And about how Nissan (in their infinite wisdom) use an "interference engine" which means that should you be unlucky enough to snap your timing belt, there's a hell of a good chance that dainty bits of your engine will smash into other dainty bits of your engine causing not so dainty catastrophic failures, probably costing in the many-thousands-of-dollars range. More thousands-of-dollars than the truck is worth, some would say.

Oh, and in addition, it seems that my favorite aunt (who was a huge part of my growing up) is in the ICU with failing kidneys and is quite probably dying.

O hi, welcome to Monday.

Fuck you, Monday.

Now where'd I leave my beer?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sad day

One of my favorite atheists/philosophers/comedians has gone up to the roof.

There's a Slashdot thread in which people are quoting favorite lines. A few of my personal faves:

"Think about how stupid the average person is. Now, realize that half of them are dumber than that."


...And here's something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your prayers aren't answered. What do you say? "Well, it's God's will." "Thy Will Be Done." Fine, but if it's God's will, and He's going to do what He wants to anyway, why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me! Couldn't you just skip the praying part and go right to His Will? It's all very confusing.

So to get around a lot of this, I decided to worship the sun. But, as I said, I don't pray to the sun. You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: First of all, I think he's a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn't fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.

For years I asked God to do something about my noisy neighbor with the barking dog, Joe Pesci straightened that cocksucker out with one visit. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a simple baseball bat.

So I've been praying to Joe for about a year now. And I noticed something. I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same 50% rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don't. Same as God, 50-50. Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe, the wishing well and the rabbit's foot, same as the Mojo Man, same as the Voodoo Lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat's testicles, it's all the same: 50-50. So just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself.


"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"


"Get 'on' the plane, get 'on' the plane..."
"Fuck you, I'm getting *IN* the plane."

(CC licensed photo from Flickr user Mr Scratch)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Test flight

I got the injured Sekai frame back from the welder earlier this week early last week. While the weld might be the ugliest one I've ever seen (and believe me, I made some *ugly* welds back in my construction worker days), it appears solid enough. For now.

Earlier this week Early last week, Spearman and I had discussed the idea of hitting a local watering hole followed by Artomatic in NE DC, via bicycle. I figured that would be a not-too-strenuous inaugural fixie ride for me. After talking with Spearman about my frame and weld and the possibility (and ugliness) of a separated top-tube crash, I decided (at about 10:30pm the night before) that I wanted to put the rear brake back on. My thinking was that a disintegrating frame at 10-15mph was better than one at 20-25mph. My legs and poorly-aligned 27-year-old front brake would not be enough to keep my speed down on some of the descents through Arlington. The job of re-adding the brake would have been much easier had I not used my cable cutter to sever the original brake cables and housing when I removed them in the first place. C'est la vie. An hour (and a few parts stripped from various other horses in the stable) later and my Sekai was ready to go. As far as I could tell.

After work (last) Wednesday, I drove down to Arlington, parked the truck, mounted the Sekai and pedaled (and pedaled and pedaled and pedaled) a couple of miles into Georgetown. Spearman and I spent a few hours BSing and partaking of some extremely tasty brews. Primarily Lagunitas Maximo (from the cask) for me. Quite tasty, but very powerful magic.

After putting away a number of the liquid courages, we remounted our bikes and headed east the 30 or so blocks to Artomatic. I had high hopes of seeing a good bit of the 10-floor, 1,000-artist exhibit, but after lingering at the bar longer than expected, we were left with limited time for broadening our artistic horizons.

The 6th floor was the home of the "visual arts" displays. I knew of at least one friend who's work was hanging there, so we decided to start (and end) our tour there. After a single lap of the floor, with 11pm fast approaching and a not-entirely-sober ride across the city ahead of us, we decided to call it a night and head west.

The ride back to Georgetown and over the Key Bridge was uneventful (as far as I can remember). The ride up Mount Rosslyn was uneventful but damn painful. I made it perhaps half-way up the hill before I had to dismount and take a nice near-midnight stroll. Once I crested the hill, I remounted and eventually caught up with Spearman who had turned back around to see what had happened to me.

Another mile up the road and we were back at my truck where I hitched up the bike, bid adieu to my partner in crime and headed for home, well sober by this point from all the incessant pedaling. Damn fixed gear bikes.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A (TIG) spark of hope?

She may yet live.

I ended up taking my new/old fixie to a local bicycle frame welder who advertised his services on Craigslist. If he manages to bring my injured frame back to life, I'll sing his praises here - stay tune. After talking with him via email and showing him the photo of the damage, he thought the crack might be fix-able. For the quoted $30, I figured it was worth the risk. He can't destroy it any more than it's already destroyed.

I spoke with another semi-local frame builder/welder last week who didn't think it could be repaired. He also mentioned that he was backed up with work, and that his summer was going to be cut short by the arrival of his first kid. So I'm thinking he didn't want/couldn't spend time on a rinky-dink fix like this. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

On Saturday, I stripped the paint off the damaged area with a wire-wheel on the grinder; the crack definitely seems to follow the joint between lug and tube. At no point does the top tube appear cracked. Fingers crossed. I figure once I get it back, I'll put some weight on the top tube itself and see if there is any indication of immediate danger/destruction.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Neither bikes nor cars (for a change).

Think before you submit

I recently saw this extremely cool, probably once-in-a-lifetime photo of a tanker fire and lightning strike on CNN's "iReport" website:

(Photo by Chris Phillips. If it weren't a stupid Flash slide-show I would have simply linked to the photo instead a copy to show here).

Basically, iReport is CNN's site of user-submitted content: news stories, photos and video. They get content without having to pay a reporter, photographer or cameraman, you get some tiny modicum of notoriety for your work. However, a wise man (or woman) may ask "What exactly do you give up when submitting your work to their site?" Quite a bit, actually:

By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, create derivative works from, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.

(via iReport's TOS page).

So basically, they can do whatever they want with your image forever and you get neither a dime for it, nor a say in its' use. What if they license it to WalMart's advertising department for $2,000,000? You get nothing. What if they license it to the KKK, the NRA, NARL, the ACLU, the GOP or some other group that goes against every fiber of your being? Tough shit.

So, before you submit your work to online photo contests or news sites or pretty much anywhere else...remember to read the fine print, then read the fine print, and read the fine print, and always remember to read the f*cking fine print. And think about what your image is worth to you, and what it may be worth to you in the future. Do you really want to see a photo of your grandma blowing out her birthday candles on a billboard advertising anal-itch cream? Yeah, me neither.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.

Spearman said it first. RickyD repeated it shortly thereafter. I suppose it fits here too:

"Crack Kills!

Alas, the Beast—this Beast, my Beast—is no more. My Cross-check MC Sekai has checked out, given up the ghost, bought the farm, bit the dust, kicked the bucket, taken a dirt nap, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain, joined the choir invisible, cashed in its chips, hung up its spoon, had its ticket punched, sung its chant du cygne, earned its wings, gone tits up.

It is finished."

I contacted Baltimore-based framebuilder/framerepairer Tom Palermo at Palermo Bicycles (Flickr group here) and asked about the chances of recovery for my cracked-out Sekai frame. Sadly, the prognosis is not good. Tom says:

"It's repairable but it's a pretty involved/expensive job. It looks
like the top tube is cracked as well as the lug. So, you're looking at
a top tube replacement, which is major surgery... at least $200.
Personally, I wouldn't spend the money to do that. You can probably find another used frame for what it would cost to repair this.

Cars, bikes, cars, bikes, repeat.

This is video shot by the girlfriend of one of the attendees of the Lamborghini event the other day. This is her test ride in a Gallardo Spyder convertable. Her driver was the same guy who took me out.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Papa's new pride and joy

"It was the best of times,"

" was the worst of times."

(Click on images for larger sized versions)

Let this be a lesson to all my DIY-bike-building-I-got-the-frame-from-some-guy-in-the-"Free Stuff"-section-of-Craig's-List readers out there. Probably a good idea to clean the frame and give it a *thorough* going over before you put your heart into building your new friend up into fixed-gear glory. Cuz that ain't no crack in the paint. It's a crack in the lug that joins the top tube to the head tube, just below the top headset race.

So what's a guy to do? I'm hoping somebody with a brazing torch and a modicum of talent can simply repair the injury for a modest fee. Until I get around to getting that done, I'll probably just ride it and hope for the best (some might call this "living 'DT Style'"). Maybe I'll throw a zip tie and a couple o' wraps of duct tape on there, you know...just to be safe. I guess worst-case scenario, I've still got the jumbo aluminum Cannondale frame from the same Craig's List post.

My adventure started a few weeks back when I saw a Craig's List post advertising a free jumbo-sized bike. I picked it up with the idea in mind that I wanted to try building (or un-building, as it were) a fixed-gear bike. I stripped off about 4.25 pounds of stuff, bought a pair of IRO flip-flop hubs, a mass of DT Swiss spokes, a couple o' 700c WTB rims, (in addition to a Surly 15t cog and lock-ring, and a new chain). A few years back I'd bought a wheel truing stand and wheel dishing tool, so I guess I've been aiming for this process for a while now. How hard can building your own wheels be, anyway??

Actually, with knowledgeable friends like Spearman who are willing to spend a good deal of time and explain the subtle nuances of wheel building, and Sheldon Brown's (RIP) website which spells out quite clearly how to go about the process, it's actually not too hard. It requires patients, beer, and an almost zen-like sense of peace and concentration and beer. But once you have those, it's pretty straight forward. So far.

I got the wheels laced without much fuss. Getting them true was a bit more challenging, but listening to Spearman's advice ("Take your time and make lots of little adjustments") they eventually came together quite nicely. I'm still awaiting the delivery of my new Park Tools Spoke Tension Meter*. Once that arrives, I may find that what I thought were fairly well-built wheels actually need semi-professional help. We'll see.

There are still a couple of things to do to finish up the project: I need to buy new (or Dremel existing), shorter chain-ring bolts, so I can run just the 42t ring, instead of both the 42t and 52t as it is now. I also need to wrap the handlebars, and perhaps install a different brake lever. And I need to install new brake pads, hopefully on adjustable posts, as the current brake arms don't reach far enough down to center the pads on the rim. After that, it's just a matter of hoping it doesn't disintegrate under me on a hairy downhill or anything. Wish me luck.

*Allow me to digress just a moment and bitch about how annoying Performance Bike is for damn near anything. First they don't stock anything the least bit technical in their stores (nor do any local bike shops, for that matter). When you order online, they slug you with a $10 premium for shipping (in addition to the 5% state sales tax). Of course, if you pick the "Shipping free when sent to your local store" option, you can save the $10 and pick up your item in, oh, say...about 23 f*cking days. Kinda forces your hand to pay the shipping (or plan out your bike needs a month in advance). We now return you to your happy go lucky bike post.