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My secret endurance bicycle racing obsession

Last week, Jill Homer's blog linked to this little article posted in the New York Times, and it got me pondering my secret obsession with endurance bicycle racing. I suppose now I've posted it on the interwebs, it's not so secret...(insert forehead slapping sound). It started shortly after I got back into bicycling, specifically, transportation cycling. Funny that I would latch onto racing when what I was engaging in was about as similar to endurance racing as apples are to oranges: they're both fruits but they taste and look nothing alike. Despite this, I was hooked after I read Kent Peterson's account of the grueling Great Divide Race. I've been following the Iditarod Trail Invitational, the Arrowhead 135 and the Great Divide Race ever since. When those races are on, I'm checking the leader boards and trail updates several times a day, and I often find myself drifting off thinking about who is where, what they're seeing and experiencing and what it would be like to do it myself. These are self supported races: there's no "support team". There's no sport network covering these races, there's no multi-million dollar endorsements, no professional video crews, no screaming fans, no prize money, just dedicated people pitting themselves against the trail and nature with their wits and their velocipedes to get them across the finish line. It's compelling and inspiring and I encourage all my readership to check it out. Many of the riders write about their accounts, my favorites of course being the aforementioned Kent Peterson and the lovely and talented Jill Homer. I just purchased a copy of Jill's new book and I look forward to reading it. I'll post my review here.


"Dry land is not a myth"

Yes, you can laugh (if you even got the joke) about the title of this blog entry, but all the global warming naysayers can eat a big fat slice of humble pie . Why? Keep reading:

The year 2008 was the ninth warmest year since instrumental temperature measurements began in 1880, NASA reported on Tuesday. (KRWB)

So, are all those scientists and engineers working at NASA wrong? Maybe you think the politicians know better than the scientists... Yeah, I thought not.

--Sent from my cell phone--



My friend Tara just started her blog and she's off to an AMAZING start: her first two articles deserve a much wider audience so I'm hoping to give her a little boost.

Today's article is entitled Microsoft OBS, read it and have a good laugh: I did! Someday I hope I write as well as Tara does.


High Transparency

While looking through my Twitter feed yesterday, I noticed an article posted by the Marin IJ about food safety. It's something I've talked about before HERE and HERE. According to the IJ, most of the counties surrounding mine have their food safety inspections posted on-line, but not Marin... not until now.

You can click HERE and be taken to the search site. If you want to do a general search (for instance, in just one town), you can fill in that field and click the search button. Interesting info: I looked up one of my favorite restaurants (Boca Steak in Novato) and was surprised to see it's had some minor critical violations. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised because I've had several friends who've worked in the restaurant business and I know all about things like the 5 second rule...


Plastic Free Bread: can it be?

I've been in search of plastic free bread, and I've found one that I really like. They are called Della Fattoria, based out of Petaluma, CA. That's +1 for Della since that places it within a 15 mile range of my home: definitely local! The closest place I can buy it is at Whole Paycheck... I mean, Whole Foods, San Rafael. That's a lengthy 9.1 miles from my house. Hopefully when Whole Foods opens up in Novato they'll carry Della Fattoria because they are less than 4 miles from my house by bicycle, slightly more by car.

Okay, enough about distances & transportation, let's talk about Bread. I tried out a loaf of the LEVAIN. Listed ingredients on the brown paper wrapper are organic wheat flour, water, organic rye, sea salt. Pretty simple really, but as always, the devil is in the details. Case in point: when I looked on the Della Fattoria website, I noticed a discrepancy between the packaging and the website for the listed ingredients on the Levain. I short phone call later and I was speaking with Kathleen. Looks like I managed to find a typo in the packaging! For the complete list of ingredients, see the website. I was looking for something wheaty, soft and tasty so that my son would like it. When I picked it up off the shelf at approximately 6:15pm, it was still soft and smelled good: a good sign! Next to it were several other brands of Artisan Bread, all wrapped in either plastic or paper WITH plastic. Jeebus... why does almost everyone do that? There are some other great bakeries in the Bay Area and almost every single one uses plastic in their packaging, which generally precludes me from buying it despite the good flavors, smells and tastes!

I brought the bread home along with my bulk legumes and grains (unfortunately, I had no cloth sacks for these items so I had to *sigh* use plastic bags.) I spent about 15 minutes attempting to chase down cloth sacks for holding grains/legumes but Whole Foods is not carrying them right now. HERE'S A TIP WHOLE FOODS: PUT THEM NEXT TO THE THINGS THEY SHOULD BE USED FOR SO THAT PEOPLE KNOW THAT THEY HAVE AN OPTION, THEN YOU WON'T HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME MOVING THE PRODUCT! DUH!

So I got the groceries home and put away (which included taking the bread and putting it in a reused plastic bread bag to keep it from drying out), finished making red beans and rice and decided to have a bowl along with a slice of bread with butter. YUM! *special note: when I talked with Kathleen, I found out that Della Fattoria bread should NOT be stored in a plastic bag: they use a wet dough and bake in wood fired ovens and it means that plastic will make the bread go soggy: follow the directions on their website!*

Now, I understand some people don't like Rye or Pumpernickel, and I can respect that, but this is good bread. It's a slightly different taste when you put the different flours together with the wheat, but I dig it: it's very hearty. I had considered the Rosemary & Meyer Lemon bread (it smelled delicious), but I was trying for neutral ground with the boy & I wasn't sure how he'd react. I'll try that next time and let y'all know how it goes. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for plastic free bread in YOUR area. If you live in Marin, check out the store finder at Della Fattoria.

Some corrections from Kathleen:

date Mon, Nov 17, 2008 at 4:37 PM
subject RE: Levain Review on my blog

Hi Ian! Well, not a typo really, just sort of a technical thing related to the way the state want(sic) ingredients listed. Pumpernickel is a coarse rye, like a whole grain rye, but the wording should correctly be rye. For your readers who would like to understand better, this bread is about 60% whole grain 10%rye 40% whole wheat, and 40% white flour. I find kids usually like this bread a lot. It makes great toast and the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The “who carries our bread list” is unfortunately outdated. We stopped serving most of Marin and San Francisco with the exception of Whole Foods San Rafael.

Thank you for taking the time to write about us, word of mouth is the best!



Do the children in Guiyu cry dioxin tears?

Just in case you haven't seen this elsewhere (or on TV), check out the 60 Minutes episode about E-waste in Guiyu... and then consider where your e-waste is going to go when you decide to "upgrade". Maybe that phone/tv/computer/gadget can last a little longer? Maybe you could try to *gasp*, FIX it? Now try and find someone to repair it... that's the first hurdle and trust me, it's a HUGE one! Probably the "greenest" job you could make for yourself would be repairing things that would otherwise end up in the trash.

Which reminds me, The Green Festival is coming to San Francisco this Fri, Sat and Sun and I plan to attend. I'll let you know how it goes and what I find out. I PRAY I don't see any single use water bottles there for sale.


Holy Brawling Monks Batman!

One of my contacts on Twitter who bought a Flash Flag from me a while back posted this news item to his Twitter feed today and I just had to share:

Monks Brawl at Holy Christian Site in Jerusalem

Thanks Robert for the "Pythonesque" link... you gave me the big LOL for the day!

A little Python reference for those of you who don't get it... mix this:

with this:

and you get the monk brawl.


5 Second Plastebrity

Hey howdy hey! Thanks to Beth, I'm a 5 Second Plastebrity (or Plastic Celebrity... now that I type it, it doesn't sound so appealing... DOH!).

HERE's the article on

It started when I read that Dr. Markus Eriksen & Anna Cummins were making a stop at the Marin Humane Society to speak on behalf of the Algalita Research Foundation for the "Message in a Bottle" tour. I thought "that doesn't ANY more convenient for me!" and planned to attend. It was a great presentation and I managed to record the audio, though not the video. I've yet to find a way to host it properly: most of the audio hosting services require folks to register and give away their info in order to use the service, and many folks aren't into that. I don't have the online storage to host the audio files myself: anyone know of a solution?

At the end of the presentation I spoke with Anna about the upcoming leg of the tour, which will involve riding bicycles from Seattle down to San Diego, bringing the Message in a Bottle tour to schools, community centers and other public forums to raise awareness. "RIGHT UP MY ALLEY!" was my thought, and I hope to do at least part of the ride with them, hopefully lightening their load and helping to haul along "Plastic Soup" samples and other presentation media. Now I've just got to get all healed up and my leg/foot rehabbed so I can make the ride!

On a personal note, I brought my stainless steel Klean Kanteen with me and I noted that there was NO one there with a single use plastic bottle: YEAH!

I also wore my Trogdor shirt (thanks to my friend Chris Gleason) which Beth immediately spotted and that made my whole evening because people so rarely know who Trogdor is: Trogdor the Burninator hates plastic waste!

Mental Splatter

So I'm actually editing a post I wrote several weeks ago. I had been writing about Obama v. McCain but it seems silly to publish it now, especially since it's FINALLY over! Instead I'll share my self scored "Voter Report Card" in the hopes that it will encourage others to post their own "score cards".

President: Obama/Biden [ WIN, 59% In California, 53% Nationwide)
U.S Rep: Lynn Woolsey [ WIN, 72%]
State Senator 3rd District: Mark Leno (only choice for democrat) [ WIN, 80%!!!]
State Assembly: Jared Huffman (Democrat) [ WIN, 70%]

Prop 1A: Safe Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act: YES [ YES, 52/48%]

Prop 2: Standards for Confining Farm Animals. Initiative Statute: YES [ YES, 63/47%]

Prop 3: Children's Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program. Initiative Statue: YES [ YES, 55/45%]

Prop 4: Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment: NO [ NO, 52/48%]

Prop 5: Nonviolent drug offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Initiative Statute: YES [ NO, 60/40%]

Prop 6: Police and Law Enforcement Funding. Criminal Penalties and Laws. Initiative Statute: NO [ NO, 69/31%]

Prop 7: Renewable Energy Generation. Initiative Statute: YES (but I meant to vote NO) [ NO, 65/35%]

Prop 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment: NO [ YES, 52/48%]

Prop 9: Criminal Justice System. Victims Rights. Parole. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute: NO [ YES, 53/47%]

Prop 10: Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy. Bonds. Initiative Statute: NO [ NO, 60/40%]

Prop 11: Redistricting. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
YES [ YES, 51/49%]

Prop 12: Veterans' Bond Act of 2008.
YES [ YES, 63/37%]

County of Marin Measure B: NO [ YES, 59%]

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District Measure Q:
YES [ YES, 63%]


Note that the text in italics is how I voted, italics inside the brackets was how the vote actually went and the percentage it won by.

Here's an inspirational music video I had to share: there's quite a few images of the plastic pollution in our oceans, a problem that HAS to be addressed in a comprehensive and thorough manner, but it's going to mean that single use plastics will have to go the way of the dinosaur, the dodo and pretty soon, the polar bear.

Alright, one last piece of politically unrelated news:
Are you a sailor? Kite surfer? Even if you're not, check out THIS post from and see how the U.S Navy is using a partially kite-powered cargo ship to reduce fuel... pretty damn cool!


LED Bulb Update

I thought I should post this, as it's good info to spread around.

A while back I posted about the problem with CF Bulbs (Compact Fluorescent). To recap, they contain mercury (Hg on the periodic table) which is toxic. To read the entry, click HERE.

In an attempt to reduce my electrical needs, I've started slowly buying LED Bulbs to replace my incandescents and CF bulbs. They are quite expensive still so I'm not rushing out to do it all at once. Someone in a forum (don't ask me where, I can't remember now) mentioned that running LED's on standard dimmer circuits can significantly shorten their life. They didn't back this up with any info, so I FINALLY decided to contact the people who make the bulbs I own, C. Crane Company in Fortuna, C.A.

Here's the skinny, according to them:

Dear Ian,

Thank you for taking the time to contact our company. Yes, dimmer switches will destroy an LED bulb prematurely. Currently dimmer switches are designed and built with incandescent bulbs in mind. These products are not good for low wattage bulbs such as LED bulbs and fluorescent bulbs. Hopefully dimmer switch manufactures will start producing a new line of dimmer switches with these low wattage bulbs in mind.

If you have additional questions or we can be of further assistance please email or call our toll free number.

John Wilder
Customer Support Supervisor
C. Crane Company, Inc.

Hours of Operations
Mon - Fri 6:30am - 5:30pm (PST)
Saturday 7:00am - 5:00pm (PST)
Sunday and Major Holidays (Closed)

Sign Up For New Products and Special Offer Notifications:

----- Original Message -----

Customer Name: Ian Hopper
Subject: Product Question

I purchased a couple of your Par 30 LED Bulbs from the Green Fusion center in San Anselmo C.A a few months ago. Recently I heard that running these bulbs on a dimmer circuit was bad for them and that they needed a dimmer circuit built for LED's. I was wondering if you had any further information: I don't want to prematurely burn out my bulbs!
Thank you!

So there's your answer: don't run your LED Bulbs on dimmer circuits! Now I need to get busy replacing the dimmer circuit in my son's room so I don't burn out the new bulbs. You've been warned!


My 5 minutes of fame

My xtracycle got featured as #95 at the Xtracycle Gallery: whee! I haven't posted in over a month even though I have 3 posts in draft... DOH! Hope y'all can forgive me...


New Houbliette Fodder

Thanks to Russ Roca (the Eco Friendly Bicycling Photographer) for the newest resident in the Houbliette. Some of you may have never scrolled to the bottom of my webpage, but at the bottom is the Houbliette (or The Hopper Oubliette). The Houbliette is a place for corporate assholes who abuse all that is good and right in the world and deserve to be shoved down a deep dark hole and forgotten about forever.

So, without further ado, I submit to you THIS video. If you don't "get it", try reading back a little in my blog and see if you can figure out why I put AutoZone on permanent time out.


Waste or wasted?

This was eerily appropriate considering I'm having to use pain killers right now for my leg & shoulder damage. If I have left over painkillers I will be taking them back to the pharmacy for them to be properly disposed of!

V.ENVIRO The most tightly controlled drugs like painkilling narcotics are the ones that often elude environmental regulation when they become waste. (AP)

--Sent from my cell phone--


Just call me "Crash"

I'm thinking of changing my name to "Crash".

On August 29th (yes, I know that's 15 days ago) I talked to my brother in Sweden via Skype (god I love those free video calls!) for well over an hour. We talked about family stuff and skating. Mostly skating. He's been riding skateboards since he was about 6, and he's 46 now: you do the math. He's also been racing in slalom and Giant Slalom for many years and he's quite good. When he was here in July of 2007 with his family, he brought me a deck of his own design AND manufacture and I was so touched. It's a beautiful lightweight slalom race board, and I built it up with his coaching and advice. It's a blast to ride and very lightweight. It is also rather fragile, as it's made from foam and carbon fiber!

I started riding it around on my little cul-de-sac and enjoying it more and more. I started thinking about the giant steep hill I lived on and riding down it, but the concept was way too daunting at that point.

In January of 2008 I went to London with my mom to visit family there and attend a christening. I figured since I was already half way across the world, I might as well take the opportunity to go visit my brother in Stockholm. It was a short trip, but a total blast and we went skating with some of Sweden's premier skaters. It was just a routine practice day for them, but it was the first time I'd skated with anyone good and I was blown away by the talent there. I managed to pull a calf muscle, but not too badly and I was able to continue skating, using my other leg to push (I'm goofy footed and push mongo, and I had to learn to push regular that day: good practice!). We went to a skate shop the next day because I had started getting a speed bug, and my little slalom board was not really appropriate for bigger hills and the kind of cruising I was thinking about. Let me start by saying that the guys at the Kahalani skate shop are the most professional, knowledgeable and sincere skaters I've ever met. They make some of the worlds most sought-after trucks, seen HERE. They are ridden by many of the worlds top downhill riders, and some mere mortals as well (my brother Selle just joined the ranks of the elite with some Kahalani's on his new board). Back to the story: Dan (or maybe it was Mike) helped me pick out a beautiful board by Fibretech along with some Holey trucks and Retrotech Big Zigg wheels (the Lime 78a, 75mm ones), Khiro angled risers and and a couple different Khiro bushings for different conditions. I couldn't wait to ride it, but I didn't want to dirty everything up and then have to pack it into my bag with my clothes, AND I wasn't going to have time to ride it when I got back to London, so I left the board unbuilt.

Getting the board home was a bit of fiasco with the airlines, but we got it sorted out eventually. (Airlines do not seem to like anything that's unusual in the luggage dept. so I had to do a fair amount of jedi mind tricking).

When I put the board together and rode it, I realized I finally had a board that would go as fast as I wanted to and was durable enough to survive my totally greenhorn downhill status *cue ominous music*.

I've been riding the shorter, lower-pitch grade at the top of the big hill and getting comfortable with the speed and feeling a lot more confident on my longboard. On the 29th, I talked to my brother (yeah, I mentioned that in the 2nd paragraph.) I got all amped up on riding and going fast hearing about what he's been up to lately (he and I are inspiring each other to try some new things). He's been practicing his downhill and he's getting better as well, though he's crashed a bit too. What i keep forgetting is his 40 years of experience. Yeah, that's 40 years of experience, which is about 38 more years than I have. You can see where this is going right?

So that night (the 29th) after we'd put the munchkin to bed, I strapped on my pads (knee, elbow), my helmet and my new Loaded Slide Gloves. I told the wife I was going to go out for a little skate seshion. She didn't think much of it and wished me well.

Out in the street, I thought I'd try working on the lower section of my hill, as my goal is to eventually ride the whole thing top to bottom. After a short run at the top (just to test turning and my own comfort) I realized I was in over my head and I needed to start WAY lower on the hill. So I walked down to the park and started from the top. What I SHOULD have done was to start at the bottom and work my way SLOWLY upward, but sometimes my brain writes checks my body can't cash (to misquote James Tolkan "Stinger" from Top Gun). I got to the bottom of the park and realized I need to blow off some speed. My MISTAKE was not using the slide gloves at this point to assist me in performing a powerslide. Instead, I tried to take a toe side turn onto a side street that goes back uphill. My line was all wrong and I cut in towards the turn way too early. Near the northeast corner of Pacific and Highland I got a speed wobble, which I managed to correct, but I panicked and target fixated... and those of you who known what target fixation means can probably guess what happened next. CRASH. I hit the curb/drain near the southeast corner of Pacific & Highland and flew on to the lawn across the sidewalk. As I lay there with my left arm lying agonizingly underneath me and my ankles/feet screaming out in pain, I thought to myself "Fuck, that was NOT supposed to happen, what have I done?". I managed to sit up with no help from my left arm (something was VERY wrong with it) and I nearly passed out when I jarred my left shoulder and left foot. It was no easy feat getting my slide gloves off (the palm pucks had diverted the abrasion damage, and the wrist support saved my wrists) with one hand, but using my teeth, I managed it. After that the helmet, and then I managed to get my backpack off. I retrieved my cell phone (glad I put it in an armored case!) and called my wife.

Now, getting a call that your husband has just chowdered himself on a downhill run can't be fun, especially at 12:35am. Yes, this was the middle of the night. She jumped in her car and came and found me, but it was one of the longest 8 minutes of my life.. I was in a bit of shock. She was visibly and vocally displeased with me and I felt bad for making her resuce me, but I was in no shape to rescue myself. My head was WAY out of it, though I never hit my head (pain can do funny things to your mind). Just after I'd got in her car, I thought maybe I would try sleeping it off with some ibuprofen. Then I mentally slapped myself and made the decision to go the hospital.

Just an aside (because so many have asked), I was riding this late because there are no cars on my street at that time of night, which makes for safer riding for novice downhillers like me. As well, it had been nearly 100˚F all day: too hot to ride!

So.. we get back up to our house and we discussed how to deal with getting me to the hospital. It was decided a taxi was the cheapest easiest way because she'd had a few drinks, I was in NO shape to drive and an ambulance is EXPENSIVE.

I sat in the driveway waiting for the cab. It was another VERY long 10 minutes.

I managed to get in the cab (somehow) and off we went, the driver taking corners waaaaay too fast and slamming me all over the vehicle. I finally had to ask him to take it easy on the corners, as the G forces felt like hot ice picks in my shoulder and ankle. He went a little over the top and started driving like my grandma, which of course lengthened the trip. We got to the emergency room and I had to ask the driver to go in and have them bring me out a wheelchair. One of the guys in admitting came out with a wheelchair while I threw money down for the cabbie. I was rolled inside to the ever-unpleasant glare of overhead fluorescents. I honestly believe the fluorescents are half the reason that A) everyone looks bad in a hospital and B) most people abhor hospitals. The guy admitting me asked what happened and relayed his own motorcross shoulder dislocation stories (3 on each side: OUCH!) while assuring me that they'd get it all fixed. His positive energy did wonders for me and I worked on being as jokey and positive as I could.

After being checked in with no delay, I gratefully realized that it was friday MORNING, not Friday night. I've been to emergency rooms on Friday nights/saturday mornings, and you better be bleeding bad or they're not going to see you that fast because EVERYONE seems to get hurt on Friday or Saturday night.

Got into a bed, and they gave me 5mg of Dilaudid, which did wonders for bringing my pain levels down, but started to make me nauseous, so they gave me some Zofram to get rid of that. On to X-ray and then back to the trauma room. Xrays revealed a dislocated shoulder, but no breaks in the ankle. The doctor used a mild technique called the Hennepin Technique to put my shoulder back in place. It didn't hurt much more than the pain I was already in, and I appreciated that. The nurses were amazed at both the doctor skilal and my ability to breathe through the reset process.

My ankle on the other hand was another issue. They tried to put me in a moon boot and have me use a cane, but the pain was intense (probably an 9 on the 1-10 scale). I went back for more xrays, this time on the foot and to check that the dislocation was reseated properly. They conferred with some podiatrists while I was sleeping and when they woke me up I found out that I'd supremely crushed my left foot. They decided to do surgery that evening, so around 9:00am I was admitted to the hospital. Spent the day wacked out... several friends and family came by to see me, but I don't remember too much of our visits. I was told the operation would be at 4:30 but it didn't happen until 6:30. Man, operation rooms are weird places, especially when you're the patient. I woke up in my room around midnight, disoriented and ornery as a wounded grizzly bear. They had put a catheter in me (my first, and hopefully my last) and I was sweating buckets under all the blankets they'd put on top of me. While cursing and ripping blankets off (or attempting to) I discovered the catheter and almost ripped it out (good thing I didn't because it was stil balooned... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!)

Finally made it to sleep... woke up in the morning and insisted they remove the catheter so I could pee normally. Part of me just wanted to affirm that I wasn't dead and that I still had some locomotive power under my control. I have to tell you, I hate catheters with a passion now. HATE them. I don't HATE a lot of things, but I fucking HATE catheters.

The doctors came back in the morning to tell me that I had pulverized the navicular bone in my foot and they were only able to salvage a couple of small pieces which were screwed back together. 2 pins and a bunch of bonegraft and they stitched me back together. He said the navicular bone looked a bunch of sand in my foot... wow. I hit the curb hard enough to turn a bone in my foot to sand. They asked me again how fast I thought I'd been going. I refrained from pointing out that my skateboard doesn't have a speedo on it and told him between 18-25 mph, but honestly, I have no idea. I'm used to much higher speeds on my bicyles when coming down my hill, and it's much harder to tell speed in the dark.

The nursing staff at Kaiser varies greatly in their abilities. My favorite (and very best) nurse was Susie. Thank god for susie: she made me laugh a lot, and she's not just a nurse, she's a healer. Susie, if you ever read this, thank you thank you thank you so VERY VERY much for all that you do!

They kicked me out on Sunday around midday. Jessi came to bring me home but lo and behold, the wheelchair didn't fit in her car. My mom was nice enough to use her SUV to bring it to my house for me, so I'm now a wheeled menace again. It's been 15 days since I crashed, and yesterday was the first time I let the house in 12 days. Went to a doctors appointment with the orthopedist yesterday at which time the informed that me that I need to be careful with my shoulder, as if I screw it up, recurrent dislocations due to instability in the shoulder can develop. Lovely.

I'm off to see the foot surgeon shortly... they are going to pull the staples an sutures, put on a lighter fiberglass cast and xray my RIGHT foot and leg. Why? Because while we know I sprained my right ankle, I woke up this morning with my right foot in AGONY. Ran the ice machine on it and took some ibuprofen and that helped, but all of a sudden, it's getting worse.

Wish me luck folks... hopefully I'll have gross pictures to follow later on tonight.

Beth sez it better...

... than I could. She's a plastic reduction pro. Please stop reading me and go read THIS


Green Reesus

I was just watching TV (not something I normally do, but I've got a broken foot and a dislocated shoulder & things that keep my mind off the pain are appreciated right now: mindless TV is just the ticket.) So I was watching Spike TV, the king of "guy's TV". They were running an ad for Reesus Peanut Butter Cups, The ad copy went: "Stop Global warming now... Or all the reesus will melt." Now, I try to keep my refined sugar consumption to a minimum, but I love Reesus Peanut Butter Cups. L O V E them. It's got to be the best use of"green" marketing I've ever seen. Thanks a lot Reesus, now I'm jonesing for a Peanut Butter Cup. Good thing I can't drive quite yet...

--Sent from my cell phone--


What's the breaking point?

While reading through the comments on today's edition of Yehuda Moon, I followed links first to the CNN video about an assault on 2 cyclists (a fear inducing article, a technique I'm never fond of) and then on to another one of my occasional reading spots, Copenhagenize.

Here's the video:

There is no excuse for assaulting cyclists in a car. Doctor Thompson deserves whatever punishment he gets: these cyclists could be DEAD instead of just badly injured. If he HAD killed them he might have gotten off easier because he would have claimed it was an "accident" and no one would have been there to refute the claim and testimony from Patrick Watson would likely have been deemed not admissible in court. Hard to say with "What If's?". Either way, watch out for those road ragers!

When I made it over to read the "More Expensive Gas Please" article at I realized that someone (once again), beat me to the punch. I've been wondering for some time: how high does the price of a gallon of gas have to get before people REALLY curtail their driving? I've already been doing it, and I know others have too, but when is it going to happen en masse? I predict 10 dollars/gallon. That sounds insane to most americans, but they're paying that right now in England. So tell me: what's YOUR breaking point? What's it gonna take to get YOU out of your car?


The Itch

I read THIS ARTICLE this morning, and it's fascinating. I'm generally an itchy person... lots of things make me itch. I often have phantom itching, mostly due to the perception that I'm bitten by mosquitoes or fleas. I have pets who spend time outside, and mosquitoes are common in my area so occasionally, I HAVE been bitten by biting insects. If I'm actually bitten once it can set off a chain reaction of swatting and scratching that can last up to an hour. Now I think I begin to understand why... and while some folks may say I'm "crazy", the "swatting at insects that aren't there" may not be.

All the fools men

Looks like Goebbels is at it again...

V.USGOV Karl Rove on Monday defended his defiance of a congressional subpoena over allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department.(AP)

--Sent from my cell phone--


200th Entry: Cruising

Well, today is my 200th blog entry: Happy Anniversary to me! :)

Much of what I'm doing here is way of taking mental notes for myself... a way of remembering things that I find that I don't want to forget. It's also been a way to make note of the evolution of my thinking. The things I read, the things I see and the things I learn all shape who I become, how I behave and how I think. With that in mind I give you the subject of today's blog entry: Cruising.

I posted back in May about my phone call to Best Foods. I've been making a point to speak out against the things that bother me, and those few who've ever heard me rant about cruise ships know that I'm not a fan. Yes, I have been on a cruise ship. No, I wasn't paying to be there, I was being PAID to be there. Overall the experience wasn't terrible because of the lovely staff I met while I was there, but after seeing the crew quarters, I was rather appalled. "Jail Cell" comes to mind when I think about the room that I saw. Actually, "lurchingly nauseating, poorly ventilated, windowless, and badly lit" also come to mind. Two of our crew were being paid to work on the ship for a couple of shows (I was working for a rock band) so I got to see their quarters for the 5 days they were on the ship. They were being paid better than any of the regular crew so for them it was "tolerable", but ugh... the idea of PAYING to spend time in a jail cell is insane.

I don't see the appeal of the cruise ship: you're on this giant ship with not much to do other than eat and sit around in the sun. To some folks that might sound great, but the whole scene had me creeped out. You've got a bunch of underpaid folks, mostly under 25 from every country under the sun working for shit wages serving overprivileged, overfed, overweight, overly loud tourists with bad hair, bad skin, bad manners and bad attitudes (and their similarly shaped and mannered offspring). Sound fun yet? It gets better. They feed you about 6 giant all-you-can-eat meals a day, so you're constantly so full you just waddle around. I kept looking for the vomit buckets (like in that one Monty Python skit), but I couldn't spot them.

The crowd we played for was rather non-plussed (this was a corporate gig, and the crowds aren't usually "fans" per se, but this crowd was particularly unenthusiastic, no doubt due to the sickeningly large meal they had recently ingested). I wanted to scream at them "Get off your asses and dance/rock you fat f*cks!" but I wisely restrained myself. The band was more used to this kind of response during their corporate shows, but it continued to bother me the entire time I worked for them.

The highlight of the whole shipboard experience was in talking to the catering crew sent to service the backstage area. They were all from Turkey (a country I've never visited nor even met anyone from) and were convincing enough to make me pine for Turkish beach side towns I'd probably never see. They were friendly and funny and genuinely sincere guys: I don't know how they managed to keep from going insane in that job. They were all earning money and seeing the world (they little that they were able while working) and invited me to come visit them back in Turkey. No, not casual "Come to Turkey!" kind of comments, I mean names, phone numbers, names of relatives... real info. Somehow over the years I managed to lose that info and I regret that because I really would have liked to Turkey with a bro-deal.

So I suppose my own cruise line story has been a long winded intro to the ARTICLE that dredged all these memories up. Please read it and have anyone you know who's thinking about going on a cruise read it. The article brings up some safety issues that didn't even occur to me while I was on the ship. I'm not a single woman, but I would be a little concerned about going on cruise after reading the article. As well, the social and environmental impact that cruise ships have on the places they visit is largely unfelt by the tourists, but the denizens of the destinations must deal with the consequences.

The impact our vacation plans can have can be huge even though we might not see it. Perhaps consider a vacation closer to home? I know *I'm* not going on any cruises... at least not on a cruise ship.


...and the flames climbed higher

Cheney is definitely going straight back to hell. Can you believe this sadistic shit?

V.ENVIRO Vice President Cheney's office pushed for major deletions in congressional testimony on the public health consequences of climate change. (AP)

--Sent from my cell phone--


Effluent of the Affluent

My friend Jessica Mordo, an american living in Paris, posted THIS little news item to the posted items section of Facebook... I got a good laugh out of it, and if you're not a George W. Bush supporter, you probably will too. Hey, I'd sign the petition if I resided in San Francisco. I live just north in Marin County, and I think there are too many republicans in Marin to get the sewage treatment plant renamed "The Novato George W. Bush sewage treatment plant".


I warned y'all

Back in July of 2006 I mentioned that congress had again weakened our safety and consumer rights with the National Uniformity for Food Act (see the blog entry HERE). It looks like it's getting worse because the following snippet was sent to my phone this morning:
V.USGOV Tainted tomatoes highlight how Congress forfeited some food-safety opportunities in the new farm bill.(KRWB)
The full text of the article can be seen HERE.

--Sent from my cell phone--


The future's so bright, you gotta wear shades

Today's post is for those of you with a bit of science geek in ya.

NASA is going to the sun
. HUH? Yeah, they're going to send a probe into the corona. It's considerably hotter there than than on the surface, and they're hopefully gonna figure out why (assuming the probe doesn't burn up in the process)

Of course, we have to wait another 6.5 years before they're ready to launch, but this looks like one of the cooler (uh... should I have said "hotter?") missions that's NASA's got up it's sleeve.

Hopefully they'll publish more about the materials and science they'll be using.. then my inner geek will be satisfied, because this is really just a teaser.


Phone Call to Best Foods

In an ongoing effort to reduce the amount of plastic in my life, I've started contacting the manufacturers of the products I like and asking them to go back to glass/ceramic/paper, reduce packaging, go organic (yeah right!) and otherwise "go green". I'm all for small companies putting out great green products in green packaging, but the way to affect REAL change is to change the behavior of the people who are controlling the majority of the market share (Kraft, ConAgra, Cargill, Safeway, Albertsons... take your pick). Today we're going to use mayonnaise for our example.

I grew up eating mayo on just about every sandwich. I love sandwiches, and I've yet to find a replacement that tastes as good to me as Best Foods Mayonnaise. I know it's not particularly good for me, so I try to put as little on as I can get away with, but I love the stuff. For the sake of argument, we'll call it one of my guilty pleasures (because I'm bothered by the fact that I'm contributing to a multinational corporation with a rather spotty record.

Used to be that mayo always came in glass jars. They were useful for lots of things when you were done storing mayo in them... drinks and fluids of all sorts come to mind (my favorite was lightly used degreaser that I reused). So why the switch to plastic jars? Sure, they break less and weight less so they cost less to ship... but plastic almost NEVER gets recycled, and you can't take one mayonnaise jar and reuse it as another mayo jar or melt it down and make another one (a stupid idea anyway, but at least you can do it). Plastic mayo jars... well, it's hard to every get them really clean. I certainly wouldn't store other edible fluids in them (the washing process tends to scratch the inside of the jar and everyone knows (don't they?) about how plastics degrade when you scrub them... yuck.) The plastic (even after scrubbing) always seems to retain the smell of the mayo... the glass ones never did that.

So I called them to let them know what I think of their plastic packaging... the first thing they said was that they hadn't used glass in 2 years (and I don't think she meant it to sound as flippant as she sounded). I told her that I had only recently become aware of the "eastern garbage patch" and that I didn't want to contribute to that anymore with their mayo jars. She became a lot more polite after that, wrote down my comment and said that she would forward it to the marketing dept. We shall see. If you feel like I do, start calling the people who make the products you like and tell them what you want: the won't know any other way (focus groups are stupid and they know that when people actually volunteer their comments without any pay, that they're getting real data). They need to hear from a LOT of people in order to make changes. I implore you, dear reader, to ask for reduced packaging and packaging that allows for true re-use: if I haven't HAMMERED this point enough, read the article about plastic in the ocean, ok?

Tempted more than once...

... to do THIS. Rick Smith of Yehuda Moon has got one of the best cycling based comics I've ever seen. It's funny, witty and spot on accurate. I've known and know people who are each and every character in the comic.. I feel right at home.

Those of you who aren't bikey people may not get all the humor, but those of you have seen my bicycles, will get a laugh out of THIS episode.

My sentiments exactly

There's a special place in hell for bicycle thieves, but when you catch one in the act... hell hath no fury like a cyclist catching a bike thief, and we come equipped to maim. NOW SEE HERE!


Greatest Underwear... Ever.

Ok ok ok.. I'm usually not one to rant and rave about things... wait, no, that's no right, I rant all the time. What I don't usually do is give my endorsement to clothing companies, THAT'S what I meant to say. But I have to gush about one particular piece of clothing I recently acquired that has become my favorite, so much so that several days ago I ordered 5 more so I could have one for almost every day of the week (I have 6 of them now). They arrived today and it occurred to me that I should share my discovery with others, so here we go!

Devold Multi Sport Boxer shorts. Hands down, they rule supreme over the nether regions. Women have their favorite panties, mostly favored for their sex appeal, or for how sexy they make the wearer feel. There's nothing particularly sexy about these underwear but they outperform and outshine every other boxer I've ever worn, hands down.

I originally read about them in the Rivendell Bicycle Works catalog, though I can't remember if it was the online version or the print catalog. Doesn't matter really. I pondered them several times, wondering what Grant Peterson was so excited about: underwear are underwear right? I'd tried "coolmax" underwear from REI and wasn't impressed: too hot, the "wicking" was a joke and they didn't fit right (too long in the crotch, seams in bad places), not to mention the fact that they chaffe on a bicycle seat, at least for me. Sorry if that's TMI, but we're talking about underwear here, so stop if you're squeamish.. whatever. I finally decided to pull the trigger, and I ordered some socks too. It turned out to be one of the better purchases I've ever made over the internet.

Now understand this: I am normally a cheap BASTARD when it comes to underwear. Shelling out $31 for a pair of underwear seemed an ASTRONOMICAL amount of money to pay for such a small piece of clothing, even if it IS made of Merino wool. I was skeptical, especially since you can never return underwear because it's against state law, or something like that. I figured if I got the wrong size I'd have to use them for a rag: thankfully I got the size right. It's not something you can generally find in your local store: Devold garments come from Norway, and very few people carry these. I'm not sure why this is, but it's a crying shame as far as I'm concerned.

So far I've done every sport I do in these underwear, and they wick better, dry faster, are cooler and more comfortable... and they don't smell. I've ridden for hours in these underwear, wore them the rest of the day, took them off at night and hung them up... and they didn't smell the next day. IMPOSSIBLE in any other pair of underwear (I've checked). I decided to torture test the underwear and wear them until they started to smell. 5 days folks. For me that's a miracle, akin to turning water into wine. If I was touring the country by bicycle, I'm fairly certain I could get by with just 2 pairs of these, at least until I wore one pair out.

Riding a bicycle in regular clothes is something the folks at Rivendell endorse heavily and about 8 months ago, I decided to try it. Kent Peterson pointed out at one point that for those who ride a lot, you soon weed out what works for riding and what doesn't and Grant pointed out the same thing but added that you soon realize that your "riding" wardrobe is about 3-4 times the size it was before you started riding in "regular" clothes. The interesting thing I've figure out lately is that even padded cycling shorts can cause chafing, but my Devolds NEVER chafe. They don't offer the padding that cycle specific shorts do, but unless you're going to ride over 20 miles (and you have a comfortable saddle: I prefer Brooks saddles), you don't really NEED cycling shorts. People who don't ride very often think that a big squishy gel seat is the way to go to keep you tender posterior from hurting. For rides under a couple of miles, you could probably get away with this. Anything more (especially in warm to hot weather) and you're gonna hate that seat. I do have an avenir saddle that I bought back in 2000 for my Burning Man bike that is sprung AND has a little gel in it: it's a VERY comfortable seat, but it's not "squishy"... just very supple. I've ridden all day around Burning Man for years and my butt is never sore. It's downside is that it doesn't breathe well at all (unlike my Brooks seats) so it does get sweaty, but as far as comfort, it's a champ. Saddle selection is one of the most crucial parts of riding a bike as it's one of the 3 spots where you body interacts directly with the bicycle. If it's uncomfortable, you're not gonna be happy. What you wear next to your skin is almost as important as the saddle, though this varies person to person. Anything with seams in the crotch is a no-no for me on anything further than about 11 miles. The Devold undies for me are good for all the distances I've biked since I've bought them (the longest being a little over 40 miles.)

Well, I'd better wrap this up: try out the Devold undies. They are great for cycling and everything else too. They are ACTUALLY worth the $31 dollars: I can think of several other things I've spent more money on that aren't anywhere near this comfortable!


Open letter to 3M

I was doing dishes tonight and I needed a sponge. So I dug around in the kitchen and found a pack of 3M sponges I'd bought a few months back. Sponges are one of those things that's ubiquitous in every modern kitchen. Most people don't spend more than a few minutes a year thinking about sponges. Normally, I don't either, but I hadn't opened a new sponge since before my February 6 entry (and for those of you who are wondering, YES we've replaced our sponges since February, but my wife has done it the last few times) about reducing plastic. I was dismayed to see that each sponge was individually wrapped inside the larger package. For one, I was annoyed to have to open yet another layer with wet hands, and second: what the hell is the point? The outer packaging contains all the pertinent info but it's certainly not full and could take the additional info that the individual wrappers have.

I thought about where the wrapper would go once I threw it in the trash. In an ideal world, I could compost it and use it to feed my garden, but we are living in a far-from-ideal world. More than likely, it will go to the Marin Sanitary (who thought THAT would be a good word to add to a DUMP?) Landfill, but if I'm very unlucky, it'll end up in the "Eastern Garbage Patch" out in the north pacific gyre. At that point, it'll likely be ingested by a fish or other animal and cause death and mayhem for that creature. Lovely. Either way, plastic wrap that can't be reused / recycled is just plain stupid. SO.. I decided to start taking a stand, one product at a time. Many folks might argue against buying this kind of packaging in the first place, and that's ok too, but it's far more pro-active to ask for changes from companies that are going to continue on with the status quo unless the market demands that they change. I started by writing to 3M: here's the text of my email.

Several months ago I purchased a 15 pack of Scotch-Brite Multi Purpose NO SCRATCH Scrub Sponges (Item 15550). I believe I purchased them from Costco in Novato, CA. I am writing to implore the marketing and management branches of 3M to reconsider their packaging for this item, and other items like it. The amount of packaging in this product is excessive, as each sponge is individually wrapped INSIDE the larger wrapper. That extra plastic goes immediately into the trash and is a waste of precious global resources and landfill space. It is also NOT biodegradeable (there are NO petroleum based plastics that are) and it increases the cost of the product AND it's impact on the planet. Please consider reducing your packaging to minimalist levels and ALSO using a corn/soy based biodegradable plastic or better yet, recycled paper for your packaging needs. The global biosphere and your customers will thank you for being caring about their pocketbooks AND the future of the planet. Please let me know how and if 3M has any plans to implement greener packaging policies: it greatly affects the probability of me buying your products in the future. It's imperative for me to use sustainable products ,and companies that can't "get with the program" will lose my business to companies that can.

I look forward to your reply.

A copy of this email will be posted to my blog ( as well as any reply you choose to send.

I think it's a good thing to ask for a reply and some sort of accountability when you write a letter like this. I hope they follow through in replying and I REALLY hope they make some changes.

A couple of excerpts from the article I linked to in my Feb 6th entry:

This news is depressing enough to make a person reach for the bottle. Glass, at least, is easily recyclable. You can take one tequila bottle, melt it down, and make another tequila bottle. With plastic, recycling is more complicated. Unfortunately, that promising-looking triangle of arrows that appears on products doesn’t always signify endless reuse; it merely identifies which type of plastic the item is made from. And of the seven different plastics in common use, only two of them—PET (labeled with #1 inside the triangle and used in soda bottles) and HDPE (labeled with #2 inside the triangle and used in milk jugs)—have much of an aftermarket. So no matter how virtuously you toss your chip bags and shampoo bottles into your blue bin, few of them will escape the landfill—only 3 to 5 percent of plastics are recycled in any way.

“There’s no legal way to recycle a milk container into another milk container without adding a new virgin layer of plastic,” Moore says, pointing out that, because plastic melts at low temperatures, it retains pollutants and the tainted residue of its former contents. Turn up the heat to sear these off, and some plastics release deadly vapors. So the reclaimed stuff is mostly used to make entirely different products, things that don’t go anywhere near our mouths, such as fleece jackets and carpeting. Therefore, unlike recycling glass, metal, or paper, recycling plastic doesn’t always result in less use of virgin material. It also doesn’t help that fresh-made plastic is far cheaper.


Except for the small amount that’s been incinerated—and it’s a very small amount—every bit of plastic ever made still exists,” Moore says, describing how the material’s molecular structure resists biodegradation. Instead, plastic crumbles into ever-tinier fragments as it’s exposed to sunlight and the elements. And none of these untold gazillions of fragments is disappearing anytime soon: Even when plastic is broken down to a single molecule, it remains too tough for biodegradation.
Truth is, no one knows how long it will take for plastic to biodegrade, or return to its carbon and hydrogen elements. We only invented the stuff 144 years ago, and science’s best guess is that its natural disappearance will take several more centuries. Meanwhile, every year, we churn out about 60 billion tons of it, much of which becomes disposable products meant only for a single use. Set aside the question of why we’re creating ketchup bottles and six-pack rings that last for half a millennium, and consider the implications of it: Plastic never really goes away.
"Our Oceans are turning into plastic... are we?" by Susan Casey

----------UPDATE: 5.19.2008----------

So I got an email back from 3M. I was not surprised to see that is says NOTHING of significance and generally implies that it wasn't read by a human. I will continue to post any feedback I receive from 3M, but I'm not getting my hopes up. Here's the text of the email:

Dear Ian,

Thank you for taking the time to share your comments/concerns with 3M. Feedback from our customers is an integral part of our business and we encourage it. Please know that we have forwarded your message to our marketing and lab departments.

We appreciate your input!


3M Home Care Division

Surly's Swervy is my hero

If you've ever been honked at by a motorist (on your bicycle man, not while you were DRIVING stupid!) and wished you could have the last laugh, read THIS blog entry by Swervy. It made me laugh out loud and pump my fist in the air. I've got 2 words for obnoxious honking rude cagers... but I think you already know what I'm going to say. ;)



So, I've been thinking about security for my new bike, a Surly Big Dummy that I've named Yggdrasill, aka Big Ygg. I thought I'd share my thoughts on security for bicycles, since the theft of bicycles is perhaps the most onerous type of theft, mostly due to the fact that bicycles are almost never recovered. As it says on the sticker on my water bottle "There's a special place in hell for bicycle thieves".

So let's start with a little locking strategy from the late Sheldon Brown (Ride In Peace Sheldon!). If you just want to see a picture of the U-lock scheme, the direct link to Sheldon's picture of a U-lock on his 1916 Mead Ranger is HERE. Sheldon's tips on locking are right-on if you own a U-lock AND a cable lock (I own several locks, including a "mini" lock like the one Sheldon recommends). I've used many locking options in the past and am considering new ones for Big Ygg.

I don't know how long the Pitlock has been around in Germany, but they are only really being sold by Peter White Cycles. I haven't purchased anything from Peter yet, but if I buy a SON hub for the front of Big Ygg, I'm going to get it from Peter. He is the exclusvie importer for several items from Europe and by all accounts, his work is impeccable. The Pitlock looks very nice and since it's built by Germans and Peter White Cycles carries it, it's damn nice stuff. I have no experience with it, but I'm looking for feedback. Anyone?

I've used the PinHead locks that are repackaged by OnGuard on the front and rear skewers and seatpost binder bolt of SuperVato, my stokemonkeyed Xtracycle. It was pointed out to me that they could be defeated with a nail set and hammer (by putting the nail set into the "holes" and hitting it with a hammer to turn it), but that it was unlikely that an opportunistic bike thief would be carrying these tools: only someone who'd been casing my bike for a while would know to bring these tools. Of course, if you just bought up all the different sets of Pinhead locks, you'd have a key for everything. They claim to have "dozens" of different combos, but that's not an actual number. The Pitlocks evidently have 256 different combos, which to me sounds higher than "dozens", but I digress. The hackability of a system is it's vulnerability: someone who can afford to buy up every different set of lock combinations can probably afford the bicycle parts anyways. Sure, they could slowly STEAL the keys over time, but these are far fetched as well. There are 2 ways I can see of defeating the Pitlock. The first would be to use a set of locking needle nose plyers to lock onto the locking nut and then turn it. With certain locking nuts, this might not be possible, which is where the second method could enter. The second method would be to use a material that can be injected like a syrup but that hardens very quickly (like an epoxy) with a method of turning it (maybe deep reach pin spanners?): once the material hardened enough, you could use the handle to turn the lock. I don't know if this would work: would the dimple the pit slots into be too shallow to hold enough of the hardening stuff (let's just CALL it epoxy for brevity's sake) to create the necessary bond needed to open the skewer? I dunno... all these measures are really just to slow thieves down right? The reasoning goes that the harder the theft is, the more likely they'll go for easier bait...

Which brings me to another measure. Use the pitlocks/pinhead locks AND a cable lock on the wheels. How about a cable lock that erupts with noise if it's cut or the lock is tampered with? I found the LockAlarm originally when I was first exploring the Stokemonkey world. I found another user who lives in SF by the name of Bill Manewal and I asked him about the weird lock/alarm on the top tube of his Instigator. He travels around SF a lot for his job on his bike and last time I checked, his bike hasn't been stolen yet! The system locks onto the top tube (or probably in my case, the boom tube or the downtube: I don't know where I'm gonna mount it yet) and can't be removed without setting off the alarm. Picking the lock sets off the alarm and cutting the cable does as well. It's waterproof, so you can't short it out... beating it with a hammer/stick/blunt object is going to draw a lot of attention and it's going to take a lot of abuse before it shuts up, not to mention the fact that it'll still probably be locked. If you have

If you want to be totally overkill, in addition to the previous techniques, use a heavy duty OnGuard Beast 5016 to lock the frame to something that can't move. In the realm of ridiculous, also add a RFID Registry Tag AND a GPS tracking system OR... and I love this idea most of all: hook up a battery and a rheostat to all conductive metal parts of the bike and shock this SHIT out of anyone touching the bike... oh, and add a wireless remote "off" switch for the "electrified" part so you don't have to get close to the bike. I think that electrifying the bike could violate some ordinances, but then again, so does theft :)

Oh, and I found a very interesting article about RFID tags on bicycles: The University of Portsmouth tried out a system designed to reduce/eliminate bike theft. The article is an interesting summary of the system, and I think it's something that could work in urban areas like San Francisco and L.A.

Some simple solutions for improving security on a bicycle which I've seen posted here and there on the interwebs:

-used chain run in a loop through the seat rails and through around the seat stays, seen on Flickr
-hose clamps holding the QR Skewers on the wheels closed (comment from alternately removing the skewers when leaving the bike (cut the lock and you STILL have to carry the bike/wheels away: no rolling away!)
-stickers and detritus added to frames to uglify the bike and reduce theftability (all over the bikewebs...)
-derailing/removing the chain to make pedaling impossible until chain is fixed/replaced.

And the best one (which I attribute to a Harley riding friend of mine by the name of Bill Langhorne):


It's the hardest one to do for most people.


What happens when you stick a P-Nut in an electric sports car?

While doing a little further research on EMB's (electromagnetic batteries), I found my way over to the Tesla Motors website. I heard about the guys from Tesla years ago and I've been checking in on them from time to time to see what's developing. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd done this until this evening. There's a lot of people (ok, a LOT of people is hyperbole) who've driven them at this point, and a few that even own them. I found my way to THIS BLOG ENTRY and read with some enthusiasm about one of my favorite bass players (P-nut of the band 311) trying out the Tesla Roadster. I posted a comment: we'll see if they publish it, as I mentioned riding my bicycle past the roadsters stuck in traffic and admiring them that way due to the VERY high cost of the vehicle. I won't deny the fun factor of pressing a little pedal and getting 0-60 in under 4 seconds (WOW!), but is that REALLY necessary outside a race track? For really rich guys it sounds like a guilt free way to have your cake and eat it too, but in reality, the Tesla doesn't get us any closer to reducing our need for oil. It's a cool idea, and no doubt a blast to drive, but it's completely outside the realm of reality for the average person. The "blast" of riding a regular bicycle around a corner fast can be just as exhilarating, it WON'T break the bank, and it doesn't require a power outlet. The argument that humans have to eat FOOD for fuel doesn't hold up either: we have to do that anyway. Unless you plan on riding more than about 20-30 miles per day, you probably (unless you're a world class athlete) don't need any additional calories either. Bicycles still kick the roadsters ass in terms of fuel efficiency, if not in the acceleration dept.

And for the record, if I got a chance to test drive one, YES I would. Would I buy one for $350,000 if I had the money? Not a chance: do you know how many amazing bicycles you could own and GIVE AWAY AS GIFTS for that much money? You can buy a mansion in most parts of the WORLD for that much money. I wonder what Nicolas Tesla would think?


Why we "Ride there"

I would like to reiterate something that Kent Peterson said in his "Ready to Ride" blog entry. I'm also pointing it out because it so eloquently states why I'd rather "ride there" even if it takes longer.

"Or maybe, just maybe, the old adage has it wrong. Time is not money. Time is more valuable. You don't save time, you spend it at the same rate as everybody else on this planet. The rate is 24 hours each day. You can never save it, but some ways you spend it may work out as investments. Am I wasting three hours each day by cycling back and forth to work? If I drove a car my commute time would be half that, think of what I could do with that time I saved! But that hour and half each day that I drove, that hour and a half each day that I didn't enjoy, I know that would be wasted. And I know that I love my hours on the bike.

...It's all within biking distance. I learn this one pedal stroke at a time and it's a lesson I get to keep relearning every day. Like Joe, my own power is pretty ordinary. And my own time gets delivered to me at a rate of 24 hours each day. I guess I could waste it racing around in some attempt to save it but mostly I spend it slowly, close to home. But the funny thing is those trips add up. My legs get into the habit of turning and I learn how many sandwiches it takes to go from here to there, even if there is Tiger Mountain or Portland or Minnesota or Mexico. I still don't travel far from home, but home is a lot bigger than it used to be."

Kent Peterson, excerpts from "Ready to Ride"

I wish I could remember Kent's words when someone questions why I ride sometimes instead of driving, especially on what they perceive is a "long ride". My answers often sounds so lame to my ears "it's not so far..." "it only took me an hour"... that "only an hour" one is usually the part that people don't get. They can do it in a car in 20 minutes, maybe 30 and so I'm "wasting time" by riding. I LIKE to ride, and I very very rarely like to drive. Maybe if every road I drove on was a curvy winding swooping road with banked corners and there was no one to get in my way or tailgate me, sure. But it's rarely like that.


McCain says Suspend the Gas Tax

Today's news:

V.USGOV Sen. John McCain called yesterday for the federal government to suspend gasoline taxes from Memorial Day to Labor Day this year.(TPI)

Hmm... As little as I like petro fuels, our government gets a lot of revenue by taxing it. Where will this money come from? How will the war pay for itself (since it's all about oil and money anyway)? Are they going to cut funding to schools again? How about roads and bridges and water supplies? These damn messages to my cell phone pose more questions than answers...

--Sent from my cell phone--


Barbourula Kalimantanensis: "Lungs are for sissies!"

BORNEO, Indonesia
In a hushed press conference today a spokesfrog for the elusive Barbourula Kalimantanensis spoke out against illegal gold mining in Borneo. "Look, I'm a frog and it's all fine & good that you guys need to make a living, but see, I breathe through my damn skin and your mining operation is fucking up my river, see? Yeah yeah yeah, we've heard the whole "but I've got no other way of making money" talk before... Frankly I don't give a damn: you LUNG breathers are just a bunch of sissies! Why don't y'all try breathing with YOUR lungs full of silt and see how YOU like it!"

The spokesfrog promptly snatched a fly buzzing around it's head and hopped out of the room leaving the slew of reporters shaking their heads in amazement.

Seriously though, there's an interesting article about this at Reuters Mobile.
Anyone care to pontificate as to why this amphibian evolved backwards? Tripy ain't it?

--Sent from my cell phone--


Valor Theft

I meant to post this the day after I forwarded on the "miss speak" entry. I was right: the opposition jumped all over miss speak a.k.a Hillary. Blunderpuss.... wait, did I misspeak myself? Muahahahah!

V.USGOV Calling it "valor theft" Barack Obama's campaign highlighted Hillary Clinton's admission that she "mispoke" about being under fire in Bosnia(TMCAP)

--Sent from my cell phone--


I've got a better idea

Today's enviro blurb:
V.ENVIRO As style consumers we can demand that our beauty, grooming and fashion products be eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and recycled. (SJMNC)
I've got a better idea; How about we just BUY LESS? It's a much simpler solution, and easier to figure out. Sure, if you HAVE to buy something, buying the "greener" option is better, but it's the consuming drive that's actually burying us.

--Sent from my cell phone--


Sheldon Brown Memorial Ride 3.30.08

The ride will be this coming sunday March 30th (yeah, I know, I know, it's late notice. Hey, that's what the internet is good for right?) starting at 3:00pm. Meet in the parking lot in front of the Java Hut (across the street from the Iron Spring Brewery). There's a map of the route HERE.

I designed the route to be easy and fun and most of all pretty. You can do it on a tall bike, a road bike, a mountain bike, a unicycle, a recumbent, whatever. The ride will go past at least 3 LBS's, so mechanical issues shouldn't be a problem. Those who are fast are welcome to blaze ahead, but those of us riding 126lb Dutch City bikes (that includes the weight of my child) will be running a more sociable pace. When I started planning this ride, I stayed with the idea that this, while a memorial ride, should be festival and celebrate the quirky, prankster human and humane sides of SB. So the more goofy jerseys, one of a kind bikes, fun and funny accessories you bring to this ride the better. If you have a helmet, feel free to adorn it with an eagle, or whatever other totem road score you like (ala Sheldon). I appropriated one of my son's toys and turned it into a Sheldon Helmet memorial.. but come as you are. Don't feel obligated to don the Eagle on your helmet: show you own sense of flair! Also welcome are photos of you with Sheldon, photos of his life and best of all, stories and songs (some of you may not know, but Sheldon was quite fond of singing!)Children are welcome too, though they are the responsibility of their parents/legal guardians!

I will print some cue sheets for those who don't know the route. When I run out, follow those who have one, or print your own!

Some may ask "Why aren't you doing it on April 1st? That was Sheldon's day to make funny jokes about bikes!" Well... lots of folks have families and work and other things that get in the way of a evening ride, and weekends are usually better for a lot of people (me included), so we'll just PRETEND like it's the 1st, ok? If enough people come, we'll do it again on Sheldon's BIRTHDAY (July 14, Bastille Day).

One last thing: for those of you who enjoyed racing, local legend Jacquie Phelan told me she would come on the ride, so if you're feeling really saucy, ride up next to her and challenge her to race. It's been said she never turns one down.. but she rarely loses either.


What's your trash output?

Today's enviro news blurb sent to my phone:
V.ENVIRO Japan aims to reduce the total amount of garbage - produced by both industries and individuals - by 60 percent by 2015. (AP)

Hmm... That sounds pretty awesome. Think the U.S can do as well? I have my doubts...
--Sent from my cell phone--


So what did you "mean" to say?

Today's news text message:
V.USGOV Hillary Rodham Clinton "misspoke" when she asserted last week that as first lady she had landed in war-torn Bosnia under sniper fire.(NMN)
So Hilary, what did you "mean" to say? How the hell could you make this kind of political no-no? This further proves my point that as long as their mouths are open, they're lying (politicians that is).

--Sent from my cell phone--

The Diablo Gets It's Due: Dead Mallard

So I'm riding my son to his preschool this morning traveling down our normal route. Just before the intersection of Diablo and Novato Blvd (Northbound) in the left lane is the freshly strewn remains of a mallard duck. The vivid green/blue plumage of the neck and head contrasted rather starkly against the red and white of bone, flesh and entrails. It was pretty in an abstract kind of way, but it made me sad: Someone killed this little canard. Then I began to puzzle: ducks can fly: what happened that this guy didn't get out of the way? Did he decide to chill in the middle of the street during the night when there was little traffic? Did he not hear the car/truck?

Then I got to thinking further: why is is that we lament the loss of that that is beautiful over that of the mundane? Much of it seems to be in the eye of the beholder. My heart fell when I saw this ducky roadkill: most of the drivers were driving over it like it was a lump of dirt. Part of me wanted to scream at everyone of them "Hey assholes, don't you see the beautiful thing that died in front of your wheels?" Part of me wanted to stop traffic and carefully pull the remains off and bury them. Without a police car or ambulance running interference, this would have been a risky endeavor and I (and my son) might have ended up like the duck. So I rode on, hoping that the duck didn't leave behind a family of little ducks and a mate.

I got to thinking further: Bicyclists don't kill animals with their bikes right? Well, I know there have been some close calls: Kent Peterson and several other who've ridden the Great Divide Race have had some pretty close calls. One of the Fatcyclist's friends (I think it might be Kenny) almost hit a deer. So who would have won/lost these collisions (if there can ever be said to be a winner and loser when a collision happens) if they'd actually happened? Neither is the likely answer. The fact that these "near misses" were just "near misses" might have something to do with the fact that the vehicles being piloted were bicycles. It could be that the riders were particularly adroit. If could be that average bicycle speeds are usually slower than cars (except in urban areas where they are often the same or higher). Just as I was thinking about all this, I turned into Miwok Park for my usual shortcut. I had to slam on the brakes and swerve b/c there was a clueless squirrel who started to dart in front of my tires. He had to have heard me coming, but the squirrels in that park have seen and heard it all so I don't think he took particular note of me. Either way, I almost had to eat my own words. I don't find squirrels particularly BEAUTIFUL, but they are pretty cute. It would have been a shame to crush the little guy.

Stay alert out there... it's a beautiful world and there's lots to see. You'll see more on a bike, I guarantee it.

Oh... and watch out for ducks & squirrels.


Am I destroying my bulbs?

An update to the CFL / LED Conversation. THIS comment at Treehugger made me realize that I may end up burning out my new LED bulbs that are currently on a dimming circuit in my son's room. I was under the impression that when you turned down the dimmer switch you were applying less current to the bulbs which is what I *thought* they need in order to "dim". I guess turning on fewer of the bulbs in the array is the better option, but I know these bulbs weren't wired that way (they would have cost a lot more than they did!). I've seen some DC flashlights that had circuits that were designed this way (Princeton Tech) and I know that LRI (the folks who make the Photon Micro lights) uses Pulse Width Modulation in their Photon Freedom line of lights to "dim" the LED's. In a household application, I'm not sure if this would be distracting (or even possible) to walk around under (I have recessed ceiling cans in most of the rooms in my house). Any electrical engineer types want to chime in here?


The "Magicians" at the EPA

So I get this text message every weekday morning on my cell phone giving me interesting tidbits of "environmental news" This was today's entry:

V.ENVIRO Locomotives, cargo ships, tugboats and passenger ferries will become much cleaner under new air pollution requirements announced by the EPA. (AP)

So the EPA says "you will become cleaner" and it just happens? I'm all for the increased efficiency of large vehicles and municial transportation but what I'm curious about is how this gets paid for... But you can't get all that from 160 characters of text.

--Sent from my cell phone--


Taken in their prime

Yeah, I'm slow. Slow on a bike, slow to post, slow to multi-task without losing my place... yeah, slow. Several folks have been talking about the deaths of Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson. Jacquie did it, and there's an AMAZING article HERE.

Last week Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson lost their lives to a car. They were riding their bicycles, Kristy was training for the Olympics. A sheriff's deputy fell asleep at the wheel (some are blaming bad scheduling plus the time change), went across the yellow and crushed both of them. Kristy's leg was severed. Matt was killed instantly. Another cyclist got hit as well, though he survived. Ugly ugly shite, and everyone's lives are ruined. I read the article in the SF Chronicle and was PISSED. Pissed that these folks lost their life and PISSED at the Chronicle for letting it create fear amongst the public. I quote "Riding a bicycle in the Bay Area is an increasingly deadly pastime". That's the first line of the "Safety" article that accompanied the photo of cyclists standing looking at the memorial on the front page. Great great... let's scare everyone into thinking that bicycling is inherently dangerous. Then call it a "pastime" and marginalize it as a valid transportation source. THEN go on to publish a study to show that bicycling crashes are down but deaths are up. Then DON'T publish a similar study that would show the number of car-car or car-stationary object crashes and deaths for the same period. NO.. let's just make cycling seem more scary. I'm NOT happy with the Chronicle, but then I rarely am. Listen, you are at least a HUNDRED times more likely to die or be seriously maimed in a car crash than you are in a bike crash. Sure, you could be the unlucky person who get's killed like Christy and Matt. More than likely, you'll live a lot longer. The more of us that are out there riding, the safer it gets, so don't submit to fear. As Paul Atreides recited when facing the Gom Jabbar:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."

RIP Kristy Gough & Matt Peterson. May you live on in the minds of those who love you and let your memory serve to inspire us to make the world a safer place for bicyclists.

As the SI article cited in it's own litany against bike accidents: START SEEING BICYCLES!


CFL: A Mercury Time Bomb?

Many people are touting CFL's (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) as being a small but good way to start "going green". What they usually DON'T tell you is that CFL's usually have significant amounts (5 mg on average) of MERCURY in them. In case you've been living under a rock, Mercury (Hg) is toxic to the human body. So, how is this helping us "go green"? CFL's use less electricity than standard bulbs, and that's good. The average lightbulb buyer won't keep the ubiquitous non-recyclable blister-pac PLASTIC packaging after they install the bulb, and therefore they'll miss the TINY print on it that says "Do not throw this product in the trash, take it to a Hazardous Waste Recycling Facility for disposal". I REPEAT, THE HAZARDOUS WASTE RECYCLING CENTER. Plastic = petroleum by the way, which of course greatly diminishes the "greeness" of the bulb. When the consumer tosses the bulb in the trash instead of recycling it, the mercury often ends up in the groundwater or in the ocean, which in turn ends up in our bodies. SO, Every time you buy a CFL, you are bringing Mercury (Hg), a hazardous and potential lethal chemical into your home or business. You wouldn't bring a rabid snarling dog into your home would you? You wouldn't bring a pestilent dead rat into your home and rub it like a dishrag over the kitchen counters, would you? Though that might be fun, most of us are smart enough not to do it. Can you tell I'm not a fan of CFL's? I have one minor exception in my rant against the CFL manufacturers: The folks at EarthMate Lighting. They package in post consumer cardboard and their mini-CFL's(and only the mini-CFL's) have 75% less mercury than standard CFL's. Why couldn't ALL their bulbs be low Mercury? I'm guessing it has something to do with the dimming ability in some of the bulbs, and for the full spectrum bulbs, something to do with the extra phosphors needed to produce full spectrum light. Hey, they're far from perfect, but they're better than a lot of their competitors. EarthMate's biggest downside? They appear to only be distributing to the east coast of the U.S. DOH! Oh well...

"Ok smart guy, what's the alternative?" I'm glad you asked. There's NOT a lot of good alternatives. Currently, using lower wattage incandescents is an option, though they don't last as long as CFL's are "claimed" to last. Subjectively speaking, my CFL's seem to burn out (and I've been writing the date I install them on the bulb) at about the same frequency that the incandescents did. This could be because of faulty wiring or old fixtures, but I digress. CFL's cost more initially and they cost more to clean up (Mercury is expensive to deal with). They use less a lot less energy during their life, which should give them a slight overall environmental edge. Durability of CFL's may have a lot to do with how often they are cycled on & off. The inital "lighting" of a bulb (just like a car) is the part of the cycle that's the hardest on it. If you turn your lights on & off a lot (like I do: to save ENERGY!), then you cycle the light a lot. My impression is that if you turn a light on and leave it on for the duration of the time you would have used it, it will last longer. I have no evidence to back this up, though the data is surely out there. The ballast required for the CFL's is likely what wears out first, and since most (if not all) of the CFL bulbs being sold in the U.S today are made in China (who has notoriously poor environmental controls), there's no guarantee of bulb quality or diligence to environmentally cautious manufacturing.

One of the few good alternatives to incandescents are LED Bulbs. Many people still assume that LED's are at best used in weak penlight flashlights or more commonly for indicator lights on stereos, computers, and power supplies. In the past 10 years, household LED's have increased exponentially in output while experiencing only modest increases in electricity required to power them. I recently bought a couple of PAR 30 LED bulbs from The Green Fusion center in San Anselmo, CA. Green Fusion gets them from C.Crane company. About 4-5 years ago, I got an early version of C.Crane's LED bulb. It's not NEARLY as bright as the new ones, but it's still going strong, and I expect it will be when my son turns 25 (he's nearly 4 now). LED's contain no mercury and they are solid state, so they only break if you hit them hard and direct with a big hammer or other similar object. Drop one and you'll find it unscathed as long as it's potted in place correctly. The bulbs I've bought from C.Crane are high quality and it's one of the few companies I have a lot of confidence in. If it's not right, they make it right.

With the advent of Luxeon Star emitters and just recently, the new CREE bulbs, LED Bulbs have gotten SIGNIFICANTLY brighter than they used to be. I recently purchased a flashlight for my bicycle that features the new CREE Q5 XR-E bulb, and I'm damn impressed with the power of this bulb. I got my Fenix L2D Premium Q5 Cree XR-E LED Flashlight from the guys at EliteLED. I'm using it as a helmet mounted light and much of the time I run it in it's low mode. In darker areas, I'll run it in medium or for high speed descents in the dark, I'll use the Turbo mode. It's a little like wearing a search light on your head, though it weighs a fraction of the weight. EliteLED offers the CREE LED's in household bulbs as well. I haven't tried any yet b/c of budgetary restrictions, but I look forward to trying some of THESE for lighting my entire living room. With a 20,000 hour life, I'm guessing... that's about 8 hours a day, 365 days a year for 6.85 years, or 5 hours a day, 365 days a year for 10.96 years or 5 hours a day, 200 days a year for 20 years. It's a lot of light (300 lumens) for only using 7W! By the way, most LED manufacturers are rating their bulbs to their HALF-LIFE (when driven to spec), which means the bulbs dim to half their original brightness. LED's can last functionally forever, though their brightness does diminish at some point to negligible levels.

I figure if I replaced the 13 PAR 38 bulbs in the ceiling canisters (10 of which are on dimmer circuits and all are 60 watt bulbs) with THESE ones from C.Crane, I'd spend $662.48 up front. If I had every single LED PAR 38 running full tilt, I'd be using just slightly more (48.75W) than just ONE of the ones I'm using now (at full blast)(45W). So.. the energy savings would be $326.44 / bulb over the course of 60,000 hours (listed life of the bulb). For 13 bulbs (the number of PAR 38's in my house), that adds up to a savings of $4243.72. Wow. It also amounts to 32,175 kWh of energy saved. WHOA. According to the math done by C.Crane,

"If every U.S. household replaced just one standard 60 watt bulb with a CC Vivid LED bulb, we could save 24,184,400,000 watts or 24,184.4 mega (million) watts per day.

National savings information based on 103,000,000 households with an average use of 4 hrs per day per house. Based on gross watts.

One of the largest power plants in the U.S. could be eliminated as a result of each U.S. household replacing just one standard 60 watt bulb with a CC Vivid LED Light bulb."

C.Crane is just one company selling LED Bulbs: here are 4 more (with varying prices for similar products):
The LED Light

I guess I know where that cash rebate the government is talking about giving every american is going...

Finally, the way to properly recycle your CFL's when they break is to take them to a proper recycler. You can FIND ONE HERE.

Calfee Bamboo UTILITY Bikes?

While looking through the most recent entries at Fake Plastic Fish, I stumbled upon a link to AfriGadget. There's an article up there about Bamboo Bikes, and none other than Craig Calfee of NAHBS fame was behind it.

I saw Craig's creations last week at NAHBS, and as usual, he doesn't disspoint. I would put a link here to my pictures, but since the hard drive on my Mac G4 iBook is apparently roasted, my photo uploading abilities are somewhat... limited. Anyway, check out the article.


Thank You David Sylvester

If you haven't read THIS article written by David Sylvester, you should. David "Just a man" Sylvester is an inspiration to me, and no doubt a lot of others. Though he'd likely eschew it, he gets the H.O.T.M (Hero of the Month) award from me. I hope I get to meet him someday, and maybe ride a few miles with him. His article put tears in my eyes and though that's not that hard to do (yeah, I'm a softie), those tears honor a beautiful life and a life lived beautifully.

Thanks Kent for the link.


Fallen Heros

I found out this evening while looking through the iBOB Digest (Vol 62, Issue 43) that Sheldon Brown passed away from a heart attack on Feb 3rd. It's a heavy blow and it took the wind right out of my sails. I'm headed for the NAHMBS tomorrow afternoon, and I'm sure there will be those there who knew Sheldon, at least I hope there'll be. I'm hoping I get to hear some tales of Sheldon from those who knew him. I attribute much of my "bike knowhow" to Sheldon and his loss is a loss to everyone who rides a bike. Yeah, Sheldon's one of my bike hero's. My thoughts go out to his family.

Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works wrote a very nice article about sheldon and summed it up better than I could. So did Todd at Clevercycles. I just wanted to acknowledge Sheldon and how much he contributed to my own love and involvement with that 2 wheeled conveyance we so loving call "the bicycle".

Sheldon Brown, RIP


New Years Resolutions... in February

Well, I've decided (after a LONG look at the Fake Plastic Fish blog) that I have 2 goals for 2008.

1. Ride my first century, in one day. In all the years I've been bicycling, I've never ridden a century. I've never owned a "road" bike, though all my bicycles are of course capable of riding on the road. I'm told it's foolish to think I can ride a century on my Azor Oma, and the naysayers are probably right, though I may try it once I've done a century on a "go fast" bike. To this end, I've borrowed a "fast" bike from my uncle, a Kestrel 200SC. It's not set up TOO racy: a high rise stem brings the handlebars to within a reasonable facsimile of level with the seat. The bars slope more than I like, but I may be able to turn them up slightly without screwing up the cables.

2. Reduce the amount of plastic I throw away by 50% this year. After reading THIS article, I can no longer in good conscious blindly use plastic the way I have in the past. Recycling is NOT enough, reduce reduce reduce is the key. This morning when I first broached the goal with my wife she was amicable, but the realities of the loss of "convenience" may cause her and my son to balk. We (our family, and likely yours too!) have become completely blind to the "convenience" factor that plastic provides. Even at places like Whole Foods & Trader Joes, plastic is EVERYWHERE. Prepackaged foods are the worst culprits, and their lure is similar to crack cocaine to the addict. Cutting the cord won't be easy: it's harder to find things that AREN'T packaged in plastic than things that are because EVERYTHING gets packed in plastic now. Read the ARTICLE (mentioned once already) and you'll begin to understand my sense of urgency.