Thursday, December 25, 2008

#@$*&((*&% unholy packing peanuts!

Christmas is (was) here!

As I've gotten older, Xmas has lost a bit of its edge, but I still like presents as much as the next guy. It's just harder to buy for me because I've lost interest in a lot of things that you get 40 year old men - stuff for cars - and what I really want - stuff for bikes - I get for myself all the time. I do manage to hold off and make a list and I got some good presents this year. Some family members latched on to my newfound interest in growing vegetables and fruit.

One problem with having a far flung family is that a lot of the stuff is shipped. And from the middle of nowhere, stuff gets shipped in big boxes stuffed with these...

The dreaded styrofoam packing peanuts, destroyers of landfills. And they get all sorts of static cling on them such that they jump off and hide everywhere, you find them all over your house until next Xmas. A lot of shippers moved to plastic blow up bags that are not nearly as crappy, and now there are some that use shredded newspaper stuffed into recycled paper shapes - good stuff. But in the boondocks shippers don't want to pay extra to hug a tree - and here come the styrofoam peanuts.

Dilemma - What to do with them?

I got rid of multiple boxes - including the peanuts - on Craig's List It's amazing what you can divert from your trash can on CL. Even better - try FreeCycle. Over the years I've managed to get rid of all sorts of things that would otherwise be piled up in our landfills - there is a college student in Reno sitting on my old couches from Lake Tahoe to this day. My less enlightened management company was going to charge me $150 to haul them off to the dump - I told them to give me a week. I knew there had to be someone less finicky willing to give extra life to my old couches - still functional but not exactly goodwill quality.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nicely Done Sergeant M.G. Cesari - SFPD

From the sfbike mailing list (
Reprinted with permission from the author

From: Michael Anderson

This morning while riding in the right lane heading east on Geary St. in front of the Curran Theater, I got "corked" by one of San Francisco's finest. His name: Sergeant M.G. Cesari. The officer came within inches of hitting me and then cut me off, causing me to slam on my brakes and swerve to the right. No siren, no lights, no warning at all! It was an attempted vehicular assault. Sgt. Cesari stepped out his car, and asked me for my driver's license. When I asked him why I was cut off, he became more annoyed than before and demanded my license. When I insisted on knowing why he needed my license, he told me I was impeding the flow of traffic. When I informed him that there was obviously no bike lane and that I'm allowed Full Use of the Lane, he told me that either I show him my license or he would take me to the station. I showed him my license, and after taking his time, he handed me a ticket to sign; CVC 22400a Impeding Flow of Traffic. When I told him that thi
s was outrageous and wouldn't sign the ticket, he told me to turn around and put my hands behind my back! I said to him " you gotta be kidding me". He responded by saying that this is the last time I'm telling this to you. I reluctantly told him to show me the ticket and I'd sign it under protest.
And yes I got his badge #: 155. I also took pictures but I have no witnesses.

After this incident I headed straight to the SFBC office, where Andy helped me out and gave me some excellent advice. Next stop, Office of Citizens Complaints.

And this all happened after a lovely morning of Christmas Shopping.

Thanks again to Andy Thornley!

Be careful out there. Happy holidays to my fellow bicyclists.

Michael Anderson

The right lane of this section of Geary is a bus only lane - 24 hours a day. Bicycles are allowed to use a bus only lane. While motorists often
feel free" to use this lane, to claim that one is "impeded" by a cyclist is a little irreverent, given that the car is not supposed to be there in the first place.

Mr. Anderson claims that there were no buses to be seen. What exactly was he impeding? And if there is no traffic (aside from himself - bikes are traffic) allowed to use that lane, he could claim that he is in line with the CVC - "Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than
the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall
ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway"

And where is SFPD when someone "impedes traffic" by double parking in a bike lane?


Perhaps double parked in front of a Starbucks?

As far as I am concerned this is just harrassment. Maybe that's a bit too holy - but at the very least it's a waste of the officer's time. If only the SFPD could be as crackerjack about those 100+ homicides in San Francisco this year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bogus Bicycle Commuter Act

Ray LaHood - uncle of one of my Wife's Sorority Sisters back at the the good old University of Illinois is the nominee for Secretary of Transportation.

Wow. Peoria. Not exactly what I considered the hub of the Transport world. There is a train from Chicago to St Louis, that I even tried to take once. It was sold out, strangely enough, apparently it's gotten quite popular. Despite the fact it basically goes through a bunch of cornfields, LaHood stated that people from Central Illinois don't want trains going through at those speeds. I dunno, as a kid visiting the metropolis of Gardner Illinois I would have probably been thrilled to see those trains come whizzing through. Of course, we'd need to figure out how to keep people from getting hit by them, but plenty of people manage to figure out how to get killed by Caltrains going at much lower speed. As for cutting through people's fields - my father-in-law is already being approached by Wind Farmers who are trying to put windmills on farmland down there, why not some better train tracks?

One plus for LaHood - he co-sponsored the Bicycle Commuter Act. Of course, so did 64 other representatives, so it's not like he really stuck his neck out on that one. It did get snuck into the bailout bill, but I find it very humdrum. $20/month subsidy for people who bike to work. Great! Except that if you already participate in a pre-tax transit benefit, you can't take advantage. People who bike often are people who take transit, even if they aren't multi-modal commuters like the Caltrain bike cohort. For example, I know people in SF who bike to work, don't own a car, and also have a MUNI pass. A MUNI pass is $45. In order to get the bike benefit, they'd have to forfeit their much larger transit benefit.

The transit benefit itself is a pretty good deal, but I find it a bit annoying as well. The current monthly limit for pre-tax contributions is $115. My monthly Caltrain pass is $198. So I certainly think the limit is too low, especially since I also use BART and MUNI to get around, I could probably blow through $220 or so a month.

Of course, if I were so damn holy I could just move closer to work where my pass would be cheaper, you might say. Allow me to retort - the only reason I moved to SF in the first place was because there was a very viable transit option. More to the point - there is also a pre-tax commuter benefit for PARKING. Parking? What the hell. Why are we subsidizing the parking of someone who drives into work?

Don't answer that question. Answer this one instead. Why is the pre-tax maximum for transit $115, and the pre-tax maximum for parking $220! Especially since most places (SF, NY, Chicago) where parking near places of employment costs $220 a month have excellent transit options. And what really rubs me the wrong way - if I COULD get the bike benefit AND the transit benefit, it would still be substantially lower than the subsidy given to people for parking!

I have taken the matter into my own hands a tiny bit. There is a bit of a 2nd hand market for commuter checks on Craig's List. Some of this is the result of people getting the checks and then changing jobs and not needing the commuter checks. More likely? Some companies just give you the checks if you apply for them, rather than making you contribute money pre-tax. Some people have figured out that they can take the benefit and re-sell it. I figure the employee and I can split some money that otherwise would go to the feds, and I can funnel it to Caltrain.

I managed to finagle $290 of checks for $250 from someone. Most of the checks (greater than $115) had the same expiration date, the way I figure it she and her co-workers were collecting the benefit monthly and it was her turn to sell them. She definitely wasn't ditching ones she couldn't use - she didn't even know where the Caltrain station in Palo Alto was at, and some denominations were greater than a SamTrans or VTA monthly. Some day maybe I'll be buying "Biker Checks" from some 370 pound wheelchair bound "cyclist" who had some extras!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Johnnie Lee Higgins Update

You may wonder why an Oakland Raider's prediliction for expensive Cognac is relevant to this blog aside from trying to snarf some traffic from the Black Hole. Well, as Yokota Fritz would say, "We already know this, I think, but now research shows that "experiential" gifts are more satisfying than material gifts." I'm guessing that Louis XIII Cognac is quite the experience. And hopefully Higgins planned to recycle the bottles. Or better yet, reuse them as decorative flower holders.

Anyway, turns out that maybe the Cognac was a bit overboard.

Three Raiders rookies came in to return Johnnie Lee Higgins bottles of cognac. Johnnie has taste....especially when someone else was paying. These rookies probably see some of the writing on the wall for a three-win team.
Coming up with the $4200 cash at noon was impossible as we deposit cash to the bank every night via the armored truck. We asked them to comeback at night and fortunately when they did they dropped $1,000 on three bottles of Ace of Spades champagne. Still had to come up with $3,000 for them.

Kind of crushed our gross margin for the day.

Wonder if Lance has to buy Cognac for Contador?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Reptilian Brain - foe of the Holier Than Thou

I read a post on bartmusings the other day and had to comment.

The Author of the Blog is a daily BART commuter. Last week was her husband's Holiday Party and hubby - who drives for work - was trying convince her to take BART to the party in SF, and she was pushing back. She was stepping out in her finest after recently giving birth and wasn't necessarily thrilled with going out onto BART all gussied up.

At first he conceded, but eventually they ended up taking BART. Part of the rationale was so that both of them could knock a few back without having to worry about designating a driver. Good thinking, Drunk Driving is most unHoly.

Overall - she was happy - "So, in the end...yes, I conceded but I was glad to have taken BART although I have to say, it was an unpleasant ride to the city being overly crowded and full of passengers who did not care much about personal hygienes"

The unpleasant ride included "One guy picked his nose and grabbed on to the safety bar, one women scratched her inflamed acne before holding on to the pole, while another sneezed into the hand that held on to the handle."

Students of the Reptilian Brain or Freakonomics would love this one. Saturdays in December are loaded with Holiday Parties in San Francisco. I rode down the Embarcadero, it was packed, with people who can't drive sober, let alone drunk. The most egregious was some guy who whipped out of the traffic lane, made a quick stop in the bike lane, rolled down his window and asked THE VALET if he was leaving so he could poach his spot. Amusing.

Now imagine those people driving home. What is more scary - sharing a BART car with an inflamed acne scratcher, or sharing the Bay Bridge at 65 MPH with hundreds of drunks. Just because YOU have a designated driver does not mean the person in the next lane does. But the reptilian brain cannot see, sense, or fear the drunk 5 yards away because of the layers of metal and glass, yet the flight response is triggered by a guy picking his nose.

Ride safe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Neither Rain Nor Snow...

shall deter our determined Holier than Thou cyclist from riding to work.

It was actually a pretty respectable rainstorm this morning. I started getting dumped on in the Mission, so much so that I almost bailed to Warm Planet given that the 7:19 bus meets an nVidia Shuttle. I decided instead to suck it up to leave me afternoon flexibility.

Caltrain certainly wasn't full this AM, but I saw plenty of tweets so there were plenty of other hardy souls. But I'm not very concerned about getting bumped tonight.

And of course, I got out of bed, rode in the dark and the rain to get an early-ish train because I had a 9 AM meeting, and I would want plenty of time to get showered before the meeting. The only other party attending said meeting was 15 minutes late - "THE TRAFFIC IS ALWAYS HORRIBLE WHEN IT RAINS".

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eating Local

I am a fan of eating local when possible. Regardless of whatever else companies might be doing, if the product is local, it has been transported less distance. There are other factors and you can (I certainly do) drive yourself crazy picking the best option. Is the company local but making products with food shipped in from wherever? Certainly the guy at the farmer's market selling organic bananas isn't growing them in Watsonville. I support Clover-Stornetta farms not only because of their Moo-Cow billboards, but because they have signs outside various random local dairies giving me at least the impression that they are sourcing dairy products locallly, and in fact supporting local dairies outside of ones they own. And they have a good variety of Organic products. Of course being an extremely self-flagellating holy environmental warrior I wonder how much I don't know. In the end, they also donated a crapload of land near Manchester California for public open space, so they can't be all bad.

Anyway, the best way to verify you are eating locally produced food - produce it yourself. Tonight we'll be dining on some serious argula and spinach from our winter garden. I spent more time trying to verify how I am supposed to harvest this stuff than actually harvesting it. The theory is that you cut the shoots and the stuff grows back (and in fact if you don't cut it back, it goes to seed, as I found out with my basil this summer).

Here are the results!

Louis XII Cognac is a Holy Touchdown maker.

My buddy Joe works as a store manager for BevMo! Working retail is a gold mine for amusing anecdotes. He could probably write 2 books based on his tenure as a store manager for Home Depot.

The other day I got an email from him that Oakland Raiders Wideout Johnny Lee Higgins had stopped in the store. Apparently the Raiders must have the right tools to party properly, as Higgins purchased BOTH of Joe's bottles of Louis XIII cognac - priced at $1900 a bottle. Not only that, Joe had to give him directions to the two other BevMo! stores in the Bay Area that had single bottles in stock - apparently a Pro Wide Receiver needs 4 bottles to party properly. Maybe they were gifts for Al Davis.

I just got a text from Joe - "guess that cognac worked - 40 yd receiving TD for Johnny Lee Higgins!"

Of course this makes it 28-7 New England - apparently Johnny Lee wasn't sharing the love.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Group Ride Rules for the Holy Cyclist

"Dude, Why am I sweeping your ride?"

To me, cycling is best done in large numbers. Give me the Solvang Century with 5000 riders any day of the week. Davis Double? Check. Riding Solo? Bullshit. But if you are going to ride with others, there are rules by which Dudes must abide, and this depends on the ride itself. I'm not talking about rules of how to ride your bike, I am talking about decorum and respect for the people with whom you will be spending the next couple of blissful hours with - don't start off the ride with bad karma.

1) "The Ride that's been going for years" (Spectrum, Valley, Noon). This ride has only one rule. "Starts at X:XX". If you're late, you chase. If you get dropped, that's your problem. Everyone meets at the coffee shop and the biggest swinging dick notes that he owns that position and says "LET'S GO".

2) "Ride with your buddies". You know everyone coming on this ride, or if not it's just because someone has brought along someone worthy. You set a time, suggest a route, and we're on. Everyone says yes or no, often you ride to the start together, and you wait for everyone to show up. This ride is by definition "No Drop", which means whoever is in the best shape repeatedly tries to drop everyone and then nonchalantly sits up, then bitches that they haven't been able to get out and ride much.

3) "The Mailing List Ride" (SF2G, GGTC, WNR, bikeforums) This one is the most complicated and the primary focus of today's lesson. Someone sends out a ride notice, with a general description of route and pace. People are encouraged but not required to RSVP. Some people just show up without notice. The ride leader is required to show up, unless nobody RSVP's in which case the ride leader can start drinking to excess and oversleep the ride, the lurker can suck it if he was so non-committal as to not RSVP.

The mailing list ride is perhaps the one place in cycling where sandbagging is punished. Advertise a "NO DROP" ride, and Aunt Mildred might show up on her rusty Schwinn expecting a guided tour of half of Marin County. Because one thing you are required to do if you are the "Ride Leader" and you advertise it as "NO DROP" is that you make sure everyone makes it home. If you were hoping to spend the day in a blissful bath of lactic acid and pokey and dopey show up, that's your problem. "Ride Leader Sweeps"

Years ago the day after Davis, I went to a "Beginner's Ride" around Paradise Loop with the SFTri Club. I figured 30 painfully slow miles might be just what I needed after 200 brutally hard miles the day before. The "Ride Leader" promptly went off the front (in her aerobars of course). First I had to "rescue" some guy whose derailler hanger broke and threw the derailler into his spokes, tearing apart the wheel. He was of course "Getting ready for a my first triathlon, but it's only a half Ironman, next weekend". Not only did he not have a marginally working bicycle, he didn't have a cellphone. Wonderful.

Next, way out on the backside of Paradise, someone flatted. As I watched the "Leader" ride off into the mist, I examined the situation. Rusty Nail through the tire. The 26 inch tire. Mounted on a bike with no toolkit, no spare. After removing the wheel, there were 2 massive punctures. 30 minutes later I had managed to McGyver patches onto his tube and get him rolling again. 31 minutes later someone sent back by the "Ride Leader" showed up, saw that we were OK and he tucked back into his aerobars and rode off, leaving me to nurse the newbie back to the Marina where I dropped him off at a bike store and barked at him to get a bag, levers, and a tube. I rode home and sent a nastygram to the tri club mailing list expressing my disdain for the "Ride Leader" and the fact they didn't tell their "Beginners" to show up with at least the barest of tools.

Which brings me to today. After my Wednesday Ride was a 3 hour bloodbath with just 2 riders the whole way to Mountain View, I was hoping to ride again on Friday at a slower pace with more people. SF2G always rides on Friday, but nothing had been posted. So I broke the seal and send out the smackdown, taunting people who would be so softcore as to use the cold weather as an excuse to not come out. It worked - 18 riders showed up at 6:30.

Friday is always "No Rider Left Behind" which is not exactly "NO DROP", but close enough for Google work. I stretched the legs out on Cortland and a little bit more on San Bruno Ave. We regrouped at Bayshore, after the three little hills were over. As we rolled down Tunnel, Scott Crosby rolled up and said...

"Dude, Why am I sweeping your ride?"

He had a point. I did put the first post out. And while I wasn't exactly off the front, I wasn't waiting up for the back end either. One could try to excuse this by denoting that we had 18 riders and multiple groups were sure to form, but this is bogus. If someone who doesn't know where they are going is dropped off the back from the last group, the "Ride Leader" is to blame.

However, there is a Corrollary to the "Ride Leader Sweeps" rule. If the "Ride Leader" is married and his wife is 7 months pregnant, and what is being swept is this...

The "Ride Leader" has the right - nay the MORAL IMPERATIVE - to relinquish his duties as sweep to a single Male from the pack.

Now, Scott has a lot of miles in his legs. He knows more about cycling than most people will ever hope to know. So not only does he know the "Ride Leader Sweeps" rule as he pointed out, but he most likely knows "The Corrollary". What gives? Scott was probably taking it to another level and just blowing me shit. What Scott was not accounting for was that I have a lot of juice with the Bike Gods due to my extreme levels of piety and general Holiness. While I was willing to forgive Scott his transgression and immediately re-asserted myself as sweep, the Bike Gods were not amused. They struck down with furious anger and did smite Scott with their karma as before I could even relate to Scott my sincere aplogies for my transgression, his tire was rendered sans l'air.

The Bike Gods had rendered their verdict. However, even the most pious of cyclists must respect the Bike Gods at all time. I fell prey to human frailty and let myself be amused by Scott's fate. The Bike Gods turned their vengeance upon me - after the rest stop they brought Scott back to the group and allowed him to foment a split in the Autobus, stealing 3/4 of the harem. In the end, much like on Wednesday, I rode in a group of 2 people from San Mateo to Mountain View. Fortunately my last companion was genial and jovial, the sun was rising over the San francisco Bay, and everyone arrived at their destinations intact.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I am holier than Kim Kubik of San Francisco

Letters to the Editor

If it were not for the accidents described in letters from bicyclists relating to the Market and Octavia streets freeway onramp, their complaints would be amusing. Why? Because the no right turn law from Market Street onto the freeway is a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Bike Plan mandate.

The SFBC set up this ludicrous situation and now they wail loudly when the obvious occurs. The solution is simple: Put in a right turn lane and traffic light for cars -- and require that cyclists dismount and walk their bikes across the intersection during a pedestrian countdown. (emphasis murph's)

That is a win-win solution, because then cars could turn and cyclists would be much safer. But since it means cyclists must give up some of the privilege they feel they deserve, it will never be implemented.

-- Kim Kubik, San Francisco

I have a better idea.

require that drivers get out and push their cars across the intersection during a car countdown.


Bob Shanteau hears back from Richard Chiu

--> Richard Chiu wrote:
Bob, Thanks for the information. The pavement marking was originally installed to encourage bicyclists to use the new pathway through the college. It was brought to our attention that some drivers may act more aggressively towards bicyclist with the markings in place.
The Town wants to encourage various modes of transportation and does not want to do anything that would result in more drivers behaving badly. As a result, the Town has temporarily covered the markings and made arrangement to have it permanently removed by early next week.

Well, they are changing the signage. It's somewhat amusing that they are removing it based on this "result in more drivers behaving badly" instead of "because it is an illegal marking", but we got rid of it.

Chapeau to Jeff Orum, gmcpheeter, Bob Shanteau, SVBC, et all...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I become a published author Old School style...

In today's Palo Alto Daily News. Not a direct link (I can't figure out how to do that with their reader), so here's the text.

Illegal bike ban?
Dear Editor: Recently, it has come to the attention of the cycling community that Los Altos Hills has installed a stencil that says “NO BIKES” on El Monte Road Eastbound, just east of the Moody/Elena intersection. The town public works department indicated this was done at the direction of council due to safety issues.
Regardless of any good intentions of the town council, El Monte is not a freeway and cyclists cannot be prohibited from usage of that roadway per CVC 21960.
As such, this traffic device is illegal, and should be removed as soon as possible.
John Murphy , San Francisco

Monday, December 8, 2008

Los Altos Hills - YOU ARE ON NOTICE!

Los Altos Hills 94022 - the 26th priciest Zip Code in the US has decided that there is a stretch of their precious roads where bicycles are VERBOTEN. Given that El Monte Road is not a freeway, their little stunt is, umm... ILLEGAL.

I use this stretch of road frequently. Los Altos Hills has decided that instead I should wind into the adjoining college property onto some bike path I didn't even know existed until LAH decided to be ignorant, stupid, or both. I have never heard of a cyclist hit or injured on this stretch of road (not to say it cannot happen) but I consider the two things of equal likelihood.

1) Someone on the LAH town council saw bikes there and feared for their safety.
2) Someone on the LAH town council lives on Elena or Moody, and feared they would be late for coffee at Peet's because their trip to I-280 was delayed by some cyclist.

Per Jeff Orum on the South Bay Cycling Listserv.

Some time this week a "NO BIKES" sign was stenciled into the pavement as you are heading southeast on El Monte Road just past the intersection of Elena/Moody/College Loop. The only places bicycles can be prohibited are freeways (CVC 21960) and clearly this road is not that. So it would appear this ban is not allowed.

I've been in contact with Richard Chiu of Los Altos Hills Public Works ( He indicated this was done at the direction of council due to safety issues and the bike route is through the college. My understanding is that even if there is a bike route, bikes can still not be prohibited from alternate streets.

I did sent Mr. Chiu a link to Alan Watchel's excellent article on this ( and he said he would look at it and also review it with council. However, if you also feel that bicycles should not be banned on this road you may want to contact Los Altos Hills as well.

Jeff Orum

Per gmcpheeter's flickr stream we can see photos of the illegal signage.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

My lawnmower is holier than yours.

Free Lunch for Holy Cyclists.

New bike to work program at nVidia.

Not really an implemented program but nVidia is asking employees to come up with good ideas to be environmentally friendly. The suggestions are all over the map, mostly impossible, but it's sort of cool. From my viewpoint, Jen-Hsun Huang, our CEO, is really into this sort of thing and very clear on the concept that what is good for the environment can be good for the company too. He rails on how much money the company wastes - "Money we literally threw into the trash" - using anecdotes about using electronic documents instead of printing stuff out, using the washable cups in the cafeteria instead of the disposable (compostable made with cornstarch) cups, etc..

Warms my holy heart. And I'm not too upset about not getting free lunch, nVidia subsidizes the cafeteria and I spend about a dollar a day on lunch (which gives employees an incentive to not drive off campus for lunch. Good for the environment, and good for the company as we get back to our desks sooner).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gettin' my Halo on for the SF Bike Coalition Winterfest

This weekend is the SFBC Winterfest! This is the Bike Coalition's big annual fundraiser, including an auction of all sorts of bike goodies, art, and this year, a 2 night stay at our Le Tournesol Healdsburg Vacation Rental donated by ours truly Jill and John Murphy.

The lucky winner will not only have posh accommodations in the heart of Sonoma County Cycling (and of course Wine!) country, but if they time it right they can chow down on the goodies from my organic garden!