This Space for Rent

Nov 30, 2008

Trolley picture of the day


A couple of new Avanto trolley cars (for the new line to Clackamas Town Center, which I believe means that they won’t be put into service until that line opens) sit at the south end of the Ruby Junction yard. (industar 50mm, ~f8, 1/180th sec.)

Nov 29, 2008

Friday SATURDAY Dust Mite Blogging™


After going on holiday for almost a month now, Dust Mite strolled back in the door today and was discovered dozing comfortably under the sofa this evening. It did not answer when we demanded to know why we weren’t sent postcards from this holiday.

Nov 28, 2008

Picture of the day


The new front wall, on a long exposure with flashlight fill.

The wall is not finished yet because it has successfully eaten all of the broken up chunks of the front sidewalk, and I need to start dismantling the temporary wall along the driveway to get enough concrete chunks to finish it (and then I need to dump a dozen wheelbarrow loads of crushed rock in behind it so I can fill it up to the level where I can dump the excavated dirt back in.) I probably won’t finish it tomorrow (it’s supposed to be sunny, and Larch Mountain is calling “yoo hoo, it’s going to be COLD and SNOWY soon!”) but I believe that, modulo horrible accidents, that Sunday will be the day I finish this long-festering project.

Nov 27, 2008

Picture of the day


A fork in a glass, by candle and streetlight.

Nov 26, 2008

Yardwork trophies


The bottom layer (of three) of root from the front yard. As befitting the hellish nature of the root removal, each layer of root was larger stock than the level above. This horrible bastard is about as large as my leg, and I think there’s an even larger root underneath, but, fortunately for my sanity it’s below the level of the wall footing.

Nov 25, 2008

Bah, humbug


A rainy day at Llewellyn School

When our house was built ~100 years ago, the gutter drains were neatly fed into underground pipes, which we thought were attached to the house sewer and would thus dump water into the city sewer system whenever it rained. The city thought this, too, and as a result of this we got a fairly substantial discount on our water bill when we capped a bunch of the gutter drains.

This year, however, we had our sidewalk condemned (the entire sidewalk, including a slab which was not buckled, lifted, or tilted in any noticable way; I will be having a chat with the sidewalk inspectors about this after ever other bit of the sidewalk is successfully redone [this is hopefully not too far in the future; the majority of the broken sidewalk has been removed and replaced with concrete bricks, and “all” we’re waiting on now is for me to cut some triangular concrete bricks (can’t just cast new ones or leave root cutouts sawedged, because that would be against the city sidewalk code! Thanks, tax-cut assholes who have left me doing construction on city property at my own expense!) and replace or remove the goddamn driveway apron]) and, as part of the demolition work, I came upon some sections of ceramic sewer pipe that were laid directly under the sidewalk, right next to a huge honking sweetgum root. I wasn’t sure what they were, but since they were all broken up and separated I didn’t think they were carrying anything, so I just finished breaking them and buried them under the ballast base for the concrete block sidewalk.

But when that section of the sidewalk was done, I was left with a large pile (4-5 tons) of broken concrete which I had to get rid of. The concrete left over from demolishing the back part of the driveway is still stacked up into bins in the driveway, so I couldn’t easily add this pile to that pile (see also: estimated weight of 4-5 tons) so, after some discussion and the construction of a prototype, I started excavating the front of our lawn to replace it with a concrete rubble wall. With pickaxe in hand, it was pretty trivial to dig out the first couple of meters of front yard, but then I ran into a large tangle of massive tree roots, and, after some initial cutting and removal, even more large ceramic sewer pipes that the massive tree roots were all snuggled up next to.

These sewer pipes were the ones that the gutters drained into, and I’m guessing that originally they just dumped out into the street. But by the time I’d gotten to them, they had become merely a nice watering drain for the sweetgum trees, and the massive tangle of roots had managed to work their way into these pipes so that all of that lovely water would go directly to the trees instead of being wasted in the street.

This would not have been a problem except that the roots are in the way of the wall, and have to be removed. Some of these roots are as big around as my upper arms (which are, thanks to this horrible sidewalk project, no longer the pleasingly twig-like form that you’d expect from an (ex-) computer programmer. It’s kind of unnatural.) It took me 2 hours to excavate the first two meters of notch for the wall, but it’s (so far) taken me about 6 hours to cut the first layer of these stupid roots that are in the way of the second three meters of yard front.

And, of course, it’s raining today. And cold, and guess who didn’t have the good sense to throw in the towel and try to get 50 more km on my bicycle? There’s something about spending three hours knee-deep in a claypit trying to saw through wood that’s half-buried in clay muck that makes the idea of living in a desert seem really appealing.

Perhaps I’ll use dynamite – or low-yield nuclear devices – to finish the job tomorrow.


Context is everything


The end of the paved section of the Portland Traction trail

A couple of months ago, when I started using my ancient Trek to get away from the demons of high blood pressure, riding out to Gresham and back seemed like a nice long jaunt out to the country. 25 km out, 25 km back, or about 2h25 was sufficient for the day, and if I was feeling ambitious I’d push it out to a little above 30km and back.

Well, I wasn’t actually reading any bicycling weblogs then. Why should I? After all, most people seemed to be interested in racing racing racing, and this middle aged man’s reaction to all of the rituals wrapped around racing is to simply slow down a bit and wave as the bespandexed pacelines vanish into the distance. So it’s not as if I really had much in common with the rest of the bicycling world aside from the safety bicycles that most of us ride; I could see eventually doing some of the group rides in town, just because it seemed like it would be fun to do nice long 160km rambles around town, but there wasn’t any great hurry to do something like this.

But sometime this summer, someone on the Pentax mailing list pointed at a webpage talking about some insanely long distance bike thingie which involved riding, by yourself and with no sort of support (or even things like roads,) along the Continental Divide all the way from Canada to Mexico. Not that I’d ever do this, of course, and it was surely just a matter of boredom that I read all of the rider diaries I could find about this, and about various other related rides (I am strictly a surfaced road rider; the extent of my offroad activity in the past 20 years has been riding the gravelled section of the Portland Traction Trail from Rugg Road to Boring, plus gravelled and mudded parts of the Portland Traction Trail this side of Linneman Station during the installation of that new sewer line which ripped up the trail for most of this summer.)

But one of these websites mentioned something about something called “randonneuring”, which doesn’t involve (much) offroad riding, but has the oh-so-appealing “ride ridiculously long distances without any huge support organization” aspect of it. These people tend to toss off 100km rides with the same sort of regard that I treat riding down to the big big store, except that they’ll go out in the sort of weather that chills me even watching the rain pour down outside. Now, racing might be all fine and good, but heading off in the pouring rain for a 200km loop in the country, now that’s the sort of thing that makes my heart go pitter-pat, and which has helped me become unhealthily (I’m not employed, so I need to sell off computer equipment to outfit the Trek for long rambles) obsessed with bicycles.

But it makes the old 50km (intermittently) daily ride seem really short, and now I find myself trying to allocate 5hr slots to fit 100km rides into. Context is everything, I guess.

Nov 23, 2008

Picture of the day


The lights of east Portland, at (shudder) ~6pm tonight.

Nov 22, 2008

Domestic vermin picture of the day


All three cats, neatly lined up and chowing down.

Trolley picture of the day


A Hillsboro-bound train starts to turn north from Burnside to the private ROW leading to Gateway Transit Center and points west (almost) to Lloyd Center.

Nov 21, 2008

Stratovolcano picture of the day


Mount Hood as seen from the I205 bike path.

Out on the line


Since the weather forcast claimed it would be sunny-ish today, I decided that this would be a good day to load a small picnic lunch (2 bananas – at 185 pounds, I carry enough spare kcals so I don’t need something huge) and ride somewhere. I wasn’t sure exactly where I’d go, except that if I rode up to the mighty Columbia I might be able to get up to a round 100km, and when I reached the Columbia the wind out of the gorge blew me eastwest far enough that I figured that Kelley Point Park would make a nice lunch and turnaround spot.

I didn’t manage to break 100km – I fell short by ~2700 meters because I started running out of usable daylight (not sunlight, because the sunnyishness only lasted about until the time I reached Kelley Point Park) 5km into my proposed side-trip to Troutdale – but, modulo the wind out of the gorge (which was very nice for going west, but, ahem, not quite so nice for going east,) my cold toes, and my legs, neck, butt, and hands starting to bitterly complain about this trip starting at 75kms (about all that got me over the “hill” on i205 was the thought of getting home and having a nice hot cup of tea in a hour or so) it was a nice way to spend ~5½ hours (~4½ hours riding, 1 hour eating, taking pictures, or sightseeing) of a cold and damp November Friday.

(This will have to take the place of riding in the Wine Country Populaire tomorrow, because even though I’m pretty sure I could survive 112km of programmed ride I’m equally sure the additional 80-odd km r/t to get out to Forest Grove would result in someone finding my dead from exhaustion body somewhere along a country road in Washington County. I’d love to get into shape to ride R[23]00s, but I’m not in that shape now and I’m not going to jump from 80-100km all the way to 200km during the colder end of November.)

Oh, and the trip average was a whopping 21 km/h. The Xtracycle is slowing me down, but I’m not racing against anything other than my mortality so it doesn’t really matter as long as I can meet brevet time constraints.

Picture of the day


Downtown Portland on a cold November morning.

Nov 20, 2008

Domestic vermin picture of the day


Consider the domestic cat, how it dozes: it toils not, neither does it spin; yet I say unto you, even Solomon in all his glory does not nap like one of these.

Nov 19, 2008

Picture of the day


A mongrel duck (a half-mallard, if you’re playing D&D) attempts to intimidate me into feeding it. If it worked for great-6*107 grandpa, it should work now.

It would have worked better if the size ratio of me to the duck was closer to the size ratio between me and great-6*107 grandpa, but, alas, this is not the case.

Nov 18, 2008

Cute baby picture of the day


The bears play their own variant of Clue (their variant had clone troopers and battle droids, and was somewhat short on the detecting part of the game.)

Nov 17, 2008

Domestic vermin picture of the day


Crêpe Miaou?

Nov 16, 2008

Not just a pretty face


It’s not one of the super-huge loads that people have carried on their Free Radicals, but a weeks worth of groceries carry themselves very well, even including the traditional xtracycle shimmy (which is easily avoided by simply going faster.)

If it had been raining, the trip would have been more challenging (I need to carry a lightweight tarp for those days,) but on a sunny day like today it’s perfectly fine to sail down the avenues with our dinner peeking out of the top of the grocery bags.

Nov 15, 2008

Picture of the day


Our new “brick” sidewalk, in the light of the moon. With this little light, you can’t easily see that it’s not quite finished yet, at least until you walk over it.

Nov 14, 2008

And it hasn’t collapsed yet!


The triple threat of bad weather, a cold, and trying to finish redoing the front sidewalk before the city rolls in and charges us US$5150 to slap down a concrete slab has seriously cut down on my riding, but I’ve managed to get about 200km onto the bicycle since I tightened down the last bolt on this ridiculous thing. And the only thing that’s making unhappy sounds is the saddle, which has started to go squeaky-squeaky every time I push too hard in a too-high gear (I try to keep in a 52:18 gear as much as possible, but it doesn’t take too much of a headwind before I run out of steam and – accompanied by a chorus of squeak-squeak-squeak-squeaks – have to go down to 52:20 to maintain a reasonable pedalling rate) and which will need the loving touch of 3 in 1 oil to make it STFU until it finishes delaminating and I have to start selling my body on the street to buy a somewhat more durable replacement.

Out on the line


Mount Hood peeks up over the Portland Traction Trail just west of 138th Ave in East Portland.

Nov 13, 2008

Picture of the day


It’s been raining a bit over the last few days (including a spectacularly wet morning yesterday; I went out on the bike to take some clothing to Goodwill, with the intent of going out on the line afterwards, but the 20mph headwind with extra downpour managed to get all the non-raincoated parts of me soaked to the skin by the time I’d reached Tacoma Street, which is not much more than a kilometer away from home. I didn’t want to test my water solubility, so I revised my plans slightly and went right back home after dropping off the Goodwilled clothing) and some of this rain has gone to putting every little creek and river around Portland into flood stage. Ordinarily Johnson Creek sits quietly in the distant channel, instead of flooding up over the bank and trying to cut a new channel closer to the path, but today it wanted to prove that it could cause flooding all by itself.

Nov 11, 2008

Domestic vermin picture of the day


Dorrie, all curled up and cozy on a dining-room chair.

Nov 10, 2008

Railroad picture of the day


EPT #100 in the foreground, EPT #5100 in the background. EPT #1202 is out of view to the left, and EPT #187 is still nowhere to be found.

Nov 09, 2008

Railroad picture of the day


EPT SW-1 #100 sits on the OLCC spur (in the Milwaukie industrial park) at about 12:20 today. (Industar 50-2, 1/90th second @ f5.6)

Nov 08, 2008

Domestic vermin picture of the day


Leo and Mavis are extremely interested in a lacewing fly’s attempts to mate with our living room chandelier.

New Code!

Discount has (finally) been rolled up to version 1.3.0 with the addition of documentation for all of the new features I put in for the 1.3.0prexxx series.

To recap the feature list, I’ve added

  1. In the theme program, if I pass it a directory argument it will attempt to open the file index in that directory.
  2. Add the flag MKD_STRICT, which disables superscript (A^B ≠ AB) and sane handling of A_B
  3. Add blockquote-as-division processing; a blockquote that has a first line of >%ident% expands to

     <div class="ident">

instead of the traditional

  1. Extend list processing to enable alphabetic lists;

     a. this
     b. is a
     c. test

    expands to

     <ol type=a>
     <li>is a</li>

    (enabled with -enable-alpha-list)

  2. Add table of content support; if discount is run with the MKD_TOC flag, <hN>’s are name=d, and the function mkd_generatetoc() will dump a nested list containing links to every header in the document.
  3. Add the new function mkd_xhtmlpage(), which dumps the document wrapped in a skeletal html page, with the title taken from the header block and styles taken from any <style> blocks.
  4. Add the new demo program makepage, which is a program wrapper around mkd_xhtmlpage()

And I’ve fixed a few bugs and boundary conditions:

  1. Single-character ETX headers now work.
  2. Null lists don’t cause core dumps any more.
  3. Don’t set subblock paragraph alignment unless that subblock actually has content.
  4. Zero the input buffer every time I finish processing it (I was getting lookback errors with relaxed emphasis.)
  5. An inline code block now needs both beginning and ending `’s
  6. When processing lists, don’t kick header blocks out of the line.
  7. Correct list processing so that
     - A
     1. B

    produces a single <ul> list, not a <ul> list followed by a <ol> list.

  8. Do not superscript items inside a title.
  9. The line ## should now expand to <h1>#</h1>

Have I missed anything? Perhaps I have, but there’s only one way to find out – grab this New Code! and see if the smoke comes rolling out of your computer or not.

Nov 07, 2008

Friday (not) Dust Mite Blogging™


Dust Mite has managed to collapse itself into a Schrödinger waveform and made itself impossible to accurately detect, so to take its place here’s a picture of a giant squid trying to eat my bicycle.

An interesting story about bicycle damage

This pedal was maimed protecting me from a Corvette

If you look closely at the Trekracycle picture in my previous post, you might notice that the poor pedal looks somewhat raggedy on the outside end. That’s because once upon a time (17 years ago, on Oahu) someone in a Corvette decided to turn off the road into their driveway without bothering to check to see if there was someone between their car and their driveway. Fortunately for me I was travelling far enough back so I could crank the wheel over to the far right when my field of vision suddenly filled with Arrest-Me Red, and fortunately managed to get the bicycle turned far enough so that the offending Corvette crunched into me right at that pedal instead of against the front wheel, and also fortunately for me the pedal stuck into the car long enough for me to get the bicycle turned out of the way and to not get flipped and used as an informal road surfacing.

Every time I look at it, I’m reminded that I need to be extra-paranoid when I’m on the public roads. One right hook is enough for a lifetime.

Ready to ramble? (pt 4)


A fully functional trekracycle.

I probably would have been better off just going out and buying a Kona Ute, but if I’d done that I wouldn’t have been able to puzzle out just how to radicalize a less than perfect bicycle.

The finished bicycle contains parts from Rivendell (a Nitto F15 handlebar rack, a Sheldon Brown memorial fender nut), Clever Cycles (the Free Radical kit and the additional embarrassingly named attachment plate I needed to clip the Free Radical to the chainstays), Mike @ Clever Cycles (the warranty-killing surgery on the Free Radical), Western Bike Works (the Planet Bike fenders and the pink handlebar tape), Team Estrogen (a blinky taillight and the silver reflective tape that’s plastered all over the Free Radical), my local bike shop (new SRAM chain, Salsa Delgado 36-spoke rear wheel, 7-speed (13-32) Shimano cassette, Jagwire rear brake cable, Shimano brake cable housing, the yellow reflective tape that’s plastered all over the Trek frame, and a few random bolts (two to replace the rear FreeLoader bolts, which vibrated themselves out of the Free Radical when I went out for a hour yesterday, and one to attach the front of the rear fender to the Free Radical)), and, finally, my local hardware store, which provided the zip-ties I’m using to keep the wiggly snake that is my rear brake cable from wiggling loose.

The magpie-style colo(u)r scheme is not deliberate, but I don’t regret it. I like bright colo(u)rs, and the only change I would be likely to do would involve a bright screaming pink powdercoat.

When fully loaded up with U-lock, grocery bags, camera, water, cookie bars, patchkit, a spare tube, tire irons, and me the total weight is about 230 pounds, or me and about 45 pounds of bicycle. The additional 10% is noticable, particularly on upgrades, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing me down as much as I thought it would be (at least on short (<35km) trips along the flat-flat-flat Portland Traction Trail – more steeply graded routes may suffer a bit more of a speed penalty,) and this means that if I decide to go out for really long rides, I can pop in at the Big Big Store and pick up ice cream as a bribe before I return home.

Nov 06, 2008

Ready to ramble? (pt 3)


After a brief trip out on the line sans rear brake (and averaging about 13.5 mph, which is down about an mph from my last trip sans free radical,) I took a bus over to the LBS (there is a short but really steep drop on Woodstock just west of 39th, and I don’t want to go blasting down that grade without having each wheel braked thankyouverymuch) to get a longer rear brake cable and housing. I didn’t want to cut the cable housing too short, so I was extra-paranoid when I measured, as you can see by this elegant wiggly snake that’s slithering down the seat stays towards the new rear wheel.

Amazingly enough, this arrangement actually works. I spent a little bit of time futzing around with trying to get the Cane Creek SCX-5 cantilever brake braking properly, but when that continued to fail I punted, pulled the Mavic 26" to 700c cantilever adapter plate out, drilled it for my old caliper brake, and used that instead. And now the silly thing actually brakes, which makes up for the host of kludges attaching it to the rest of the bicycle.

Nov 05, 2008

Dealing with a dead refrigerator in the most fattening way possible


When a refrigerator dies, you can keep eggs edible for a while by bunging them into a cooler and packing them with freezy packs. After a while, though, it becomes tedious to step over and around the cooler whenever you’re navigating through the kitchen and you need to deal with the eggs now if you don’t wish to have them become little aromatic death bombs.

Thank goodness for the Moosewood Dessert Cookbook and the everyday biscotti recipes found therein. It would be a shame to have the eggs go bad when they could be helping me replenish my caloric reserves after riding around (or trying to properly install the rear brake) on my bicycle.

Ready to ramble? (pt 2)

  • On the plus side, the trekracycle goes like a bomber. It feels really heavy, but I seem to be able to get it up to cruising speed in my traditional gear without any trouble.
  • On the minus side, the rear brake, um, doesn’t actually brake. Part of that is because of the vast towering pile of bodges which is my construction technique (I foolishly cut off the cable too short, so I’m stuck with it diving into the brake at a steep angle) and part of it is that I didn’t plan the rear brake properly (which was why I cut off the cable too short.) Fortunately most of the braking on a bicycle is done with the front brake, so I can still stop the bicycle without having to wait for several hundred feet while the cantilever brake asks the tire to please consider slowing down, please? I’ll go downtown and see if the people at Clever Cycles have any of the special xtracycle super-long brake cables for sale, and then I can revisit the whole “maybe the bicycle will slow down now, okay?” concept in a more fruitful manner.

Nov 04, 2008

Ready to ramble?


The new rear wheel arrived at the LBS today (actually yesterday, but I didn’t check the phone messages until late at night) and I finally got the damned bicycle all assembled.

There was much excitment when I realized that the Xtracycle assembly instructions referred to a different version of the Free Radical than the one I actually had in hand (it chatted on about how important it was to wind various restraining straps around the body of the extension. The straps I had were not even long enough to do this, but they came with little hook thingies that attached to bosses that were not described in the instructions. After puzzling it over for a long time, I finally realized that the little pink anodized knobbies that came with the kit were intended to be screwed into the bosses, and then I could attach the hook thingies onto them and make the panniers about as tense as I was by this time of the project.

The less said about the new cantilever brakes the better. The rear brake cable drops down from where the top tube is welded to the seat tube, and until I threaded it under the old rear brake mount it was attached to the cantilever at such an acute angle so that the brake wouldn’t brake no matter what. Now it brakes. Poorly, but it brakes. A future enhancement will be to run the brake cable along the down tube and under the bottom bracket (along with the two derailer cables) and then up to the cantilever.

The resulting bicycle weighs a ton. Before I put on the Free Radical, the adapter plate that shifts the cantilever mounts from 26" to 700c positions (Clever Cycles didn’t have any 700c Free Radical kits because Xtracycle has decided that there’s no call for cheddar in these parts,) the new Delgado wheel, and the important but heavy kickstand, the Trek weighed in at ~22 pounds. It’s not quite so light now – from picking it up, I think it’s about 34 pounds right now, and I haven’t loaded up the panniers with my essential tool kit and a U-lock yet (the Trek by itself was such a quaintly old machine that I felt safe with a simple cable lock. But now that I’ve tossed another US$700 into the thing, I think I’ve made it enough more appealing to the light-fingered classes so that a cable lock would be a “yoo hoo, here I am! Come and steal me!” sign) – and it’s going to be really interesting seeing how much I’m slowed down when I take it out for my next long(ish) ramble around east Portland.

(The OOF picture is because the el-cheapo MIR-1 40mm lens I used is just a little bit out of adjustment. At least the blurriness hides the bodge I made of rewrapping the right handlebar.)

Nov 03, 2008

Picture of the day


The Big Yellow House looms in the background of a rain-flecked spiderweb.

1 comment

Nov 02, 2008



Behold the automatic refrigerator. As you can see, it makes an excellent object to stand in the corner of the kitchen, and, because it is metal-sheathed, it is just the thing for covering with pictures and little bear-prompted mysterious things.

But it’s not quite perfect. It does the job of holding pictures off the floor very well, and that corner of the kitchen just wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t have a large white humming box sitting there, but I have been informed that one of the primary jobs of a refrigerator is to keep food cool (and/or frozen, depending on which of the little shelves you place the offending pieces of food into) enough so it doesn’t immediately spoil and send you and your family to the hospital with many new and interesting types of food poisoning. And the one little flaw in our refrigerator is that it, um, doesn’t actually keep food cool (unless you consider having the freezer compartment go down to a whopping 60°F to be “cool”) but instead has embarked on a sort of performance art piece involving spoiling every spoilable bit of food we foolishly placed into it.

I have some unpleasant words to say about this, but it will have to wait until I bundle up my entire science fiction book collection and trot it down to Powells to see if they’d be interested in helping me with my “needs a new fridge” fund drive.

1 comment

Picture of the day


OHSU from the Ross Island Bridge, “improved” by the magic wand tool in iPhoto.

Nov 01, 2008

Railroad picture of the day


The southbound Coast Starlight, just after it passed under the Tacoma Street bridge in South Portland. (Industar 50-2, f8, 1/180th second)