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.

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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!

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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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.