Monday, November 16, 2009

Wave

Got my Wave invitation. Now I have to figure out what to do with it. Any idaas?

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Series of Fortunate Events

It's a bit dark in the mornings these days to break out the camera and provide visual evidence of how gorgeous it is. Not that that's anything new to the huge number of readers I have the pleasure of counting as my audience. I have really nice camera, but I just can't seem to stop myself while riding long enough to take pictures. Maybe one day I'll learn to slow down and enjoy the views a bit more. Maybe some day I'll come up with a safe way to store the camera so that it's easily accessible.

Until then, my flowery language will have to suffice.

At better than 60°F this morning, cloudy and just slightly damp, it was a truly spectacular 5 mile ride in to work.

I couldn't have driven even if I'd wanted to, as my car is in the shop getting it's transmission and fuel system flushed, a tire repaired, and some drying and cracking belt that apparently runs lots of really important systems replaced.

Would I have driven? Maybe. I might have driven and brought with me a week's worth of clothes so I didn't have to pack each day. Then I would have driven again on Friday to take it all back home. This is an odd week, though... Nov. 11th is a holiday, and I have an early morning meeting on the 12th I have to drive in for. It'd be a weird week anyway. So I probably would have just packed the three days I'll be riding and called it good.

What's the real point of this post though? Even though my car is in the shop, I was able to easily make it to work without relying directly on anyone else, using skills and techniques that I've developed myself. We won't get into the hair splitting exercise that I do, in fact, rely on countless people, including bike manufacturers, road crews, clothing designers and manufacturers, programmers, etc. We'll just leave it with the idea that this morning, I got here on my own power.

In the end, I'm fortunate in that I don't require my car at work today, but I'm prepared in that I don't require my car to get to work. The gorgeous weather just adds icing to an already fortunately well-prepared day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pay-As-You-Go Auto Insurance

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner of California released regulations permitting and authorizing mileage verification for pay-as-you-drive. The idea being that Californians won't drive as much if they pay-per-mile.

Spokesmen from a few Insurance companies, including State Farm and Allstate, have stated that they are considering pay-per-mile auto insurance but haven't decided whether or not it'll actually become a reality.

With the economy being the way it is, getting a...

Read More
Is it just me, or would this be of great benefit to those of us who ride our bikes as much as, if not more than, we drive?

I can hear the detractors now, though... "Pay your fair share of the road costs! Register your bike so you have a right to the road just like we do!" Bah. As if insurance payments go to road maintenance.

I wonder if, after a year on a pay-as-you-go plan, they'd be willing to go the same route as utility companies who offer "Budget Billing" rates based on the average of your last 12 months?

Yay! Another Car Story — But Much Happier!

"Hi Readers — When you get right down to it, a lot of Free-Range Kids ends up being a plea for more community. More helping each other, more trusting each other, even more hanging out with each other. And here is a story of just that: A brief glimpse of how nice it is when [...]
When zero-discretion policies and accurate risk calculus collide we have... common sense. This story is remarkable by the very fact that it's unremarkable.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mental Password Algorithms

Interesting...
Security rule #1 regarding passwords is to not write them down. But we all have too many passwords to possibly remember. Here is a way to safely write down passwords.

All that's needed is a way to make the password you write down NOT be your real password, but be the input to a simple algorithm or mapping you can do in your head.

For example, your personal algorithm could be "remove all vowels and tack on the last 4 digits of my parent's phone number". When you sign up for a new account on some web site, you would create a password like "Rnbws8004" but what you write down is "Rainbows". Or your algorithm could be, "interleave the digits 4 2 0 3 between the consonants, eliminate the vowels, and put x's on the front and back", in which case you would set up the real password to be "xR4ain2b0ow3sx", but (as before) you would write down Rainbows.

You can't memorize 100 passwords, but you can remember one algorithm. If you never write down the algorithm, it is safe to write down the "seed" for the algorithm as if it is the password.

The key to doing this securely is to have an algorithm that's complex / odd enough no one can guess it or discover it by random testing. E.g. if your algorithm is "put 123 on the end", it's not safe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

She Was Reading. While She Was Driving.

I meant to post about this yesterday, but I got busy right when I got home, and then when the busy wore off, I got relaxed on the couch in front of the television.

To set the scene, as I was riding home yesterday, around the corner of 91st and Lamar, I was part of a long line of traffic caught behind a school bus that had stopped to let off some kiddos.

The woman in the car in front of me was reading what looked like business documents. The papers were propped up on her steering wheel, and she was reading them the entire time I was behind her. Granted, it was very slow moving traffic, and it was stop-and-go while we approached the stop sign, but she was reading while she was driving.

She was reading. While she was driving.

Nothing is so important that it couldn't wait until she got to where she was going. I don't care what it was. Nope. Not even that. It could have waited.

Remember the school bus? There were children all around. They were running this way and that on either side of the street. How many of you haven't seen a child run out into the street without warning? They don't do it often, but every now and again... and this idiot woman was reading while she was driving. With children around.

I know she wasn't paying attention to the road because twice she jerk-stopped the car in surprise because the car in front of her had stopped. She didn't notice the illuminated brake lights because... well... she was reading. While she was driving.

I really wish I'd gotten her license plate, or called her in for reckless driving, or at least tapped on her window and suggested she pay attention to what she was doing - the driving part of what she was doing, not the reading part. Had she actually hit someone, I guarantee I would have felt guilty for not doing so. Not as guilty as she would have felt, but guilty nonetheless.

At the stop sign, she went straight and I turned right. I watched her drive away, shaking my head, hoping she didn't have far to go and praying that she didn't kill anyone on her way.

Feel free to quote me the next time someone complains about cyclists behaving recklessly, inattentively, or unpredictably. It's not a bicycle problem. It's not a car problem. It's a people problem.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Best Buy Sells Surveillance Tracker

Only $99.99:


Keep tabs on your child at all times with this small but sophisticated device that combines GPS and cellular technology to provide you with real-time location updates. The small and lightweight Little Buddy transmitter fits easily into a backpack, lunchbox or other receptacle, making it easy for your child to carry so you can check his or her location at any time using a smartphone or computer. Customizable safety checks allow you to establish specific times and locations where your child is supposed to be -- for example, in school -- causing the device to alert you with a text message if your child leaves the designated area during that time. Additional real-time alerts let you know when the device's battery is running low so you can take steps to ensure your monitoring isn't interrupted.

Or...


Helicopter parents rejoice! Now you can give up any semblense that you're raising your child to be his or her own person. With this device, you can establish, without a doubt in your childs mind, that he or she is completely incapable of doing anything on his or her own. Do you want to raise children unable to make decisions on their own? Do you want to ensure that they rely on you for the simplest of tasks well into their adult life? Do you want to spend every waking moment worried about where your child is, what he or she is doing, and who he or she is doing it with? Are you convinced by the mass-media that there are abductors and molesters around every corner, even in your own yard? If you answered yes to even one of the above questions, then our Surveillance Tracker is for you!


If you call within the next 10 minutes (and we know you will, because every second counts when your child's life is under immediate and extreme threat), we'll throw in our home surveillance system that allows you to monitor every room in your home from your smart phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the low low price of $24.99.


Restrictions and shipping charges apply. Only available in the continental United States.


All that said, I can see a use for this in tracking friends and fellows on long rides, such as the Triple Bypass.

Winter Checklist

Winter is approaching. It's snowing in Colorado right now, so my friends tell me. It normally follows that whatever they get, we get here in eastern KS a few days later. We may not get the snow, but I'm sure it'll get cold again real soon. Maybe not next week, or the week after, but it’s coming.

So, it's time to take stock and make sure I've got everything I need in order to weather the cold air on the bike.

The Bike


It's a nearly new bike, with only a few hundred miles on it, so there aren't any major issues, and all the components are in top shape. A Kansas winter will be a good test of it.

Knobby tires: Well, sorta. The stock tires on my Kona Dew Drop are Continental CountryRide. They won't do too well in standing snow, I don't think, but they're fine in wet conditions. With any tires, though, it pays to ride very carefully when it's wet.

Fenders: Check. I don't have the rear fenders on, but the commuter panniers I got from NashBar serve the same purpose. If it's crazy wet, I'll bolster their water resistance by lining some plastic on the inside.

Brakes: Check. Disc brakes, stock to the Dew Drop. One of the reasons I picked up that particular bike. They’ll serve no matter the weather.

Me


Body


Wind Breaker: Check.

Layers: Check. I have plenty from last winter. Wicking layers, thicker warming layers for when it gets really cold, and the wind breaker will serve. I can double up the under layers for those sub zero days. The key is to layer layer layer.

Legs


Layers: Check. My legs don't get nearly as cold as my torso, so I don't need as much. Winter leggings and thick sweats will do. Standard bike shorts under the leggings will serve as an extra layer as well where it counts.

Hands, Feet and Head (aka “extremities”)


My fingers and toes are the hardest to keep warm when it gets really cold, so I've devoted more energy and thought towards them than everything else combined.

Winter Gloves: Check. I have thin and thick fingered gloves for cool and cooler days, lobster gloves for cold days, and neoprene liners for very cold days.

Shoes: Check. They’re basic MTB shoes, if you consider $200 basic. At least I got them for half price.

Shoe Covers: Check. Toe covers for cold days. Neoprene boots for very cold days. I can double up the toe covers and the boots for exceedingly cold days. For cooler days that aren't quite cold enough for the boots, I have a stock of plastic bags I wear between the shoes and my socks to help keep the wind off my toes. It's a very effective and very cheap method. I like the Target plastic the best.

Socks: Check. Wool. I need a couple more pairs, but I'm pretty good here.

Head Cover: See below.

Helmet: See below.

Eye Wear: See below.

What I'm lacking


There are a few things I’m missing, though. I need something for my head, and better riding glasses.

Where the head is concerned, I have some specific requirements that others might not share. I’m not a fan of the balaclava, b/c I don’t like my face covered. While it does get cold, even the coldest days last year didn’t make me wish for something over my face. It’s just a pet-peeve of mine, I guess. What I’d like is a hood that covers my whole head and neck, but leaves my face open. Something tight, made of neoprene, I think, would be nice.

I’ll also need a helmet that’s got a generous enough fit that I can wear it with and without the additional layer over my head. My current helmet fits my head fine, but when I start layering, it’s a little too small.

Finally, the glasses I’ve worn do a less-than-stellar job of keeping the wind out of my eyes. When it drops below 40 or so, it’s immediately apparent by the fact that it looks like I’m bawling like a baby. Tears just stream down my face b/c of the cold wind. I need some cycling glasses that do a great job keeping the eyes out of the wind. I almost bought some onion goggles, but they were a touch too small. That’s the idea, though.

Conclusion


So, I have a few things to procure before winter really sets in, but for the most part, I’m nearly completely covered. Last year taught me a lot of hard lessons with regards to staying warm in the freezing cold and wind. As I said, my fingers and toes are the hardest to protect. There were a few mornings when I was sure I'd take off the gloves or the socks to black frostbitten fingers. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, but the pain was still very real. I'm hoping that I'm prepared enough for that this year. My route is shorter by two miles, and it was during those last two miles last year that the most pain occurred, so I'm confident this winter won't be as hard.

In the end, it's all about preparation, and if you've not ridden in single digit weather before, you're just going to have to accept that it's going to be a trial by error process until you get it right.

Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Balmy 42 This Morning

To this day, I very clearly remember the joy and relief I felt when the morning temperatures finally returned to the 40's and 50's last year. It was sometime in March, I believe, and it was a blessed relief after a couple months of temperatures below 10°F, and in the teens and twenties. It didn't stay steady in the 50's, but it was a wonderful sign of things to come.

Now, I know it's only going to get colder, so I'm enjoying the 40's while they last.

This morning, at 42°F, I was quite comfortable.

Some thoughts about my equipment:

Feet: Wool socks with plastic bags around my toes for wind breakage. And Shimano MTB shoes.
Torso/Arms: A moderately thick wicking layer, a thin wicking layer and a wind breaker.
Hands: Salsa N'AGUA™ Gloves.
Head: A thin head scarf pulled down over my ears and the standard helmet.

If I were to change a thing, it would be to eliminate the thin wicking layer. I got a touch warmish up top.

I think it's time for a new helmet, too. I've had my Giro Atmos for a few years now, and I hear it's a good idea to replace them periodically. With all the weather extremes it's seen, I'm sure it's ready to retire.

I think I'll go for something a little cheaper, and with a little more breathing room for the head coverings I'll be using this winter. I'm thinking about the Urbanize N Light, though I can't help but think it looks pretty dorky. Then again, is there a bike helmet that doesn't? Maybe I'll pull out all the stops and go for the pink one.

Regardless, I won't buy anything without trying it on, and the only place in town that appears to carry them is Waldo Bikes. Does anyone have any experience with this helmet? Any reviews worth reading? Any other ideas? My only requirements are that the helmet fit, and that front and rear lights can be mounted to it.

Preferrably blinky lights.

The TransIt Garment Bag works out a lot better on my Kona Dew Drop than it ever did on my (now deceased) Kona Fire Mountain (may she rest in peace). The rack just holds it in a much better position, and though the straps don't hold it down quite as tight, it's still plenty tight for urban/residential riding.

Oh, and I need to correct a previous post. The last time I rode to work last year was December 8th. Don't know where I got that October 3rd date. So it really hasn't been that long.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Commute Ride in over a Year

I had no idea that it'd been that long. The last time I rode my bike to work was October 3rd, 2008. Well, unless you count today, that is.

I dressed well for the chill 44°F air, and 12mph ENE wind. Naturally, I'm heading SE, so it was a head/side wind. The wind will undoubtedly shift so that it's a head/side wind this evening.

The only thing I'd change is the panniers. The TransIt Garment Bag is a great bag, and I'd recommend it to anyone, though I would stress trying it on for size first. On every back stroke, my heels scraped the front of the bag, and it's set on the rack about as far back as it'll go. Were the strap on the front of the bag that ties it to the seat tube a little longer, it might work better. As it is, though, it's going to scrape.

So, tonight I'll bring clothes for the rest of the week in to work (I have to come back up here anyway - and yes, I'll drive due to the schedule and the various buildings I have to visit), and try to figure out something to do with the panniers.

The digs in the new building aren't ideal, but I'll make it work.

All in all, it's damn nice to be back on the saddle again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

First Test Ride

I just dropped my car off at the shop to get the ignition looked at. It doesn't like to start in the cold. Contrary to all previous experience, they were unable to give me a ride home after I dropped the car off. I had a feeling this would be the case, so I'm glad I called to confirm it. Rather than scramble to find a ride, I just used it as a test ride to make sure all was in order for the bike commuting, which I start tomorrow.

All was in order with the bike.

With me, however... I'm a touch out of shape.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Missing the Saddle

I really do miss the daily riding. Every day I see one or two people riding their bikes to work. Ironically, I see more people riding bikes now that I'm driving, than I saw while I was riding. They look like well seasoned and responsible riders too. No wrong-way bike ninjas, these. They're sporting all the requisite lights, panniers, layers and neon wind breakers. I think one of them even has the new 2010 Kona Dew Drop. It probably has more miles on it already than my '09 model.

Sigh.

It wasn't all fun and games. I know there was pain. I know that there were days when my fingers and toes hurt so bad from the cold and wind I could barely stand it, and honestly wondered if I'd arrive to find frostbite setting in.

I know there was frustration. It was sometimes burdensome having to plan so carefully for weather that goes by barely noticed from inside my car. Wearing winter clothing on the way to work, and summer clothing on the way home was tough to plan for. I got used to it, and learned my temperature comfort thresholds, but I had to get used to.

While I know there was pain and frustration, true to the natural tendencies of the human mind, I don't remember it. I remember the sense of pride. I remember the feel of the cool wind. I remember forgetting my helmet a couple of times, and being so liberated by the wind in my hair that I only begrudgingly went back to get it. Once, I didn't. I felt so very... European.

I remember being more aware of, and more connected to the world around me.

I remember being more aware of, and more connected to the world within me.

I remember loving the extra time to myself that I had to think.

What started as a training exercise, building up to the 2008 Triple Bypass, turned into a fantastic educational and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I learned more about the way I drive during that one year of riding than I did in 16 years of driving.

I remember finding it strange that every day someone said "be careful out there" when it was obvious to me that it's just as dangerous, if not more so, to drive. By the numbers, anyway.

I find it remarkable that since I've been driving, no one has told me to "be careful out there." Not once.

I remember feeling proud of myself, and smiling while people told me I was crazy. I knew something they didn't. I knew something they couldn't.

They look forward to arriving at home. I looked forward to getting there.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time to change your hotmail/gmail/yahoo password

Microsoft has confirmed that thousands of Windows Live accounts have been compromised with their passwords posted online. Mainstream media such as the BBC are also carrying the story. Some information is posted here.

Some password tips for your safety goodness:
  • Change your passwords on a regular basis (every few months at the latest, every couple of months is better)
  • Whenever possible, use long complex passphrases rather than passwords. They're easy to type, easy to remember, and difficult to crack.
  • If ever you notice anything suspicious with your accounts, change all your passwords immediately... especially those guarding sensitive information such as financial sites, online e'mail, online storage, etc.
  • Learn how to combat identity theft.
  • Use a firewall.
  • Use two firewalls, a software firewall, and a hardware port-forwarding firewall if possible.
  • Never click links in emails. Ever.
  • Try not to use the same password at multiple sites. If you must, then at least use passphrases. Not that you ever must.
  • Never share your password with anyone. Ever.
  • Always ensure that anytime you sign in to a website where sensitive information is stored, that you're signing into the correct and legitimate website, and that the connection is secure. If you don't see a closed padlock somewhere indicating that the connection is secure, or an "https" in the URL, then DO NOT LOG IN.
Be careful out there...

Friday, October 2, 2009

First Fridays

I've recently started up something I hope will eventually take on a life of it's own. I've pulled together a few people from where I work to get together informally on the first Friday of every month to talk about... well... things.

It was spawned from the desire to learn more about the other side of banking. I've been in the financial sector for over 10 years now, but it's always been in the technology and security side. I know next to nothing, even after all of these years, about the business of actual banking. My interest is more professional and out of a sense of responsibility than it is passionate, but I am interested nonetheless.

What I would like to see happen, that is to say, my vision, is that it become a slightly more formal, if generous and forgiving, discussion where a given topic is chosen and presented, then discussed, each month. The goal is to learn. It's really that simple.

I was part of something very short lived and similar to this years ago in college. I vaguely remember it being inspired by yet another similar undertaking by one of the Founding Fathers, though I cannot, for the life of me, remember who, or by what name (if anything) it went.

Today was the first First Friday. It was an informal get together at a local restaurant with no real direction, or topic or goal. We talked about our own histories a bit, and shared stories, and generally let the conversation evolve as it wanted to evolve. The four of us enjoyed it enough that we decided to let it continue.

Topic ideas are, at this point, the average weight of tulip stems through the ages and how it relates to climate change, the height of the Empire State Building and what it reveals about the industrial trends of the 18th and 19th centuries, the state of the economy today and what we can learn from the rise of Rome as a superpower, whether Enid, OK has a reasonable chance of becoming the site of the 2020 Olympics, the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, and how we drive in traffic and what it says about us.

Anything that spawns healthy debate is welcome.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Triple Bypass 2009 Recap

I'm not going to break down every day like I did last year. Suffice to say the photos are available online here...

Enjoy!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Filthy Nasty Poison Ivy... We Hates It!






I've known I've had poison ivy in my yard for a couple years, but I get hit by it rarely enough that I didn't do anything more than a cursory examination with little in the way of actual familiarity with the vile plant. I got it again a few weeks ago, though, and decided I'd had enough. Today I did some serious research over lunch, and my suspicions grew as to the location...

I just checked, and I definitely found it. It climbs up the tree in my front yard pretty far, as you can see to the right, and judging by the size of the leaves, is a relatively old vine. At *least* a few years... more than I've been here, anyway. There is more at the base of that same tree growing from the root system that spawned that filthy, horrific vine.

An yet it looks so peaceful and serene in that image to the left, doesn't it? Don't be fooled. It's of the Devil.

If you look closely, you can see the telltale hairy root feelers that keep the vine attached the the tree. Nasty things. They just look evil. I hates them. I truly do.

I pulled quite a bit off that tree out front, and I think my next step is to wash the gloves I was wearing very very very well. If they're not machine washable (I'll be *very* careful when I check), I'll just throw them away. It's not worth it.

I found more along the west side of the house, and more yet on the east side in the wood pile. Three little patches, and one hefty vine. I couldn't find any in the back yard, which would explain why I've never gotten any from Squanto. You'd think, if there were any back there, he'd have gotten it on his fur, and transferred it to me. That hasn't to the best of my knowledge, ever happened. I'm going to count that as a positively Good Thing. I've only ever gotten it from when I, myself, was outside working.

More images in the online album...

Friday, June 26, 2009

King Joe 3 and a Saturn ION... They Said it Couldn't Be Done

In the manual, the 2004 Saturn ION is listed as "No Fit". On their website, they say I need a custom fitting in order to get it to work.

I say they're wrong.

I installed the King Joe 3 on my 2004 Saturn ION Quad Coupe yesterday without any problem whatsoever.











Friday, May 29, 2009

The Acpi 2.0 _PCT object returned an invalid value of 7

So, I've been fighting a stuttering issue with my laptop, an Alienware Aurora m9700, for the last few months now. Whenever I played a movie file it would start stuttering badly after about 20 seconds, and then every 10-20 seconds for 2-3 seconds. In .mov files, this affects the sound, but in all others, it affects only the video. The same held true for games. I was unable to play any games (on a gaming laptop!) due to the crippling drop in FPS every 10-20 seconds.

I tried reinstalling the OS a few times. I tried updating this driver or that. I fiddled with BIOS settings. I fiddled with video card settings. I spent hours researching it online using variations on the terms "stuttering video xp seconds fps chop 'frame rate'" and a host of others.

Two nights ago I was looking through the Event Log on a whim on a completely unrelated topic, having all but given up on the stuttering issue. At that point, I was all but convinced it was an SP3 issue, and there was nothing I could do about it.

But I came across this: "The Acpi 2.0 _PCT object returned an invalid value of 7". Hmm… Acpi… power management… and my fan has been going mad the last few months. More than I remember it going when I first got the laptop. Still could be SP3… I've heard it jacks with power management. But I keep looking through the error log, and this error seems to coincide with the stuttering incidents.

A google search for the error string, and I come across a lot of things related to (get this) stuttering during video playback and gaming.

From looking around, it could be one of the following:
  • Broken heat pipe
  • Unseated CPU heat sink requiring the reapplication of Arctic Silver (or similar heat sink paste)
  • Dust on the heat sink and/or vents
  • Faulty CPU
  • Faulty motherboard controller
  • Faulty drivers
Huh. Some of those are pretty expensive. So I think about it, and decide to start with the easiest. Grabbing a screwdriver, and air canister and a flat surface, I take the bottom panel off the laptop, revealing the cooling pipes, heat sinks, and other various whatnots. I do this 1. to inspect things b/c I still love the look of computer circuit boards, and 2. to give the dust a place to go after I hit it with air. I do so, and nearly blind myself with the dust that saturated the air in my kitchen.

Huh.

Coughing and hacking, I put the panel back on, boot her back up again, and notice immediately that the fan is a LOT quieter. It's odd, actually, I could actually barely hear the HD clicking. That had been drowned out by an overworked fan just minutes before. I head over to http://www.thehuntforgollum.com/ and load it up. It used to say "Your CPU may be too slow to process HD video, would you like to view the low res version?" right about the time it would start stuttering. Even the "low res" version would say that same thing.

I watched, my anticipation mounting, expecting the video to stop and stutter any second… or at least expecting the fan to kick in loudly… neither happened!

Months of frustration and trouble, and all b/c the heat sink and vents were full of dust.

I wonder how much longer I could have gone before I actually damaged something.