San Francisco Time / UTC Time


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?