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.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


"...Do ya want to drive it?" he asked as we swung a left around a 90ยบ corner at something north of 60 mph.

Do I??

The "it" in question is a $250,000, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. V10 engine. 500+hp. Sleek lines. Low weight. More carbon bits than a Stealth fighter. And gas mileage that would make a Hummer driver blush. F*ck yeah, I want to drive it.

Only there was a problem. A simple matter of physical limitations: My ability (and lack thereof) to squeeze behind the wheel. You see, the distance from the underside of the steering wheel to the pedals on the floor is less than the distance from my knee to my ankle. (Just one of the perils nobody thinks of when they say to someone 6'6" "It must be nice to be so tall". Sure, it's nice, but at least you can drive a $250k sports car when you want to! Don't mind me...I'll just be over here in my '78 Buick. And don't even get me started on low-hanging ceiling fans!). Anyway...what was I saying? Oh yeah...So I can't move my legs/feet enough to go from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. So, until they make a production stretch model for us freak-sized folks, I'm stuck riding shotgun.

It was still a ride during which the acceleration and deceleration *literally* made me light-headed.

The reason I was able to get up close and personal with that nifty little toy was the local Lamborghini dealership had a "Hey! Why don't you come by and test out a new Lamborghini" event and hired me to shoot photos. (I tried bartering my services for goods, but sadly they weren't having it). The shooting was nothing special, just people standing around chit-chatting amidst freakishly expensive cars. I also tried to get shots of happy test riders returning from their runs. I guess the idea is that when people see how good/happy they look in the $100+k cars, they'll be more inclined to buy them.

So I may post a few random shots of mine in the next day or two. Sadly, the shots above were simply taken from a website of freely-downloadable desktop backgrounds, shot by someone else. Mine are not nearly as professional looking. Of course, I wasn't in a pro studio the size of an airplane hangar, either. I'm just sayin'.