Thursday, January 29, 2009

The life of a Pro Cyclist

A ways back I was introduced to twitter when I was alerted to the Caltrain tweets being run by Ravi Pina, especially valuable for the bike car information. Slowly but surely I was sucked into the twitter vortex when people started to follow my (infrequent) tweets, I started following them, I learned the search function, etc...

The final straw was when I found out that Lance was on twitter. Maybe not so much that he was using twitter, but that he was using it a LOT. Now, being a pro cyclist most of what Armstrong does with his day is...

1) Ride
2) Sleep
3) Eat

So his tweets could be somewhat one dimensional. Armstrong being Armstrong - and as my friend Dan Connelly calls it ... "Armstrong 3.0", Lance actually does a bit more than just Ride/Sleep/Eat (and I don't mean "get EPO injection - though apparently it does include 15 drug tests since he's returned to riding). Number 4 on Lance's list is apparently "Send tweets".

What's cool is that Lance is really pretty open on his twitter feed. Sometimes I find he tweets some things to showcase his hipness - "Tough loss for Roddick down under" - does anyone really care about the Austrailian Open (or Men's Tennis for that matter). But I can forgive it because there is a lot more there that, in addition to reports from the Tour Down Under, and his performance with the Mash SF guys that has me really liking the guy. Right now what's he up to?

lancearmstrong Just did Smoke Free Texas event at the capitol. Great turnout. Fingers crossed on getting it passed. It's the RIGHT thing to do.

Maybe I just like Lance so much because he's preachy like me. And on this one, he is right, and if he can get the Texans to give up smoking in bars, maybe we need to have him work on Bikes on Board. I hear he'll be in Santa Rosa by the time of the JPB meeting!

If you aren't a Lance fan, in my book you're missing something (or you're one of his former paramours, but love's a bitch).

So anyway, following Lance's feed, I see he's replying to dzabriskie. And ghincapie. ivanbasso. TeamAstana. and so on, and so on, and they're all sending dozens of tweets per day. At this point, I think someone needs to tell them to get a room. I'm too old to process 100's of tweets per day - I am pretty certain I'm just going to have to say "That was interesting" and take them off my follow list.

Except for Lance of course.

Latest: @lancearmstrong rode into work today with my new Mellow Johnny's socks. Very nice! less than 5 seconds ago

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The San Francisco Bike Plan EIR shows that bike lanes will slow MUNI!

But what about this?

(01-28) 17:11 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- An automobile collided with two Municipal Railway trains this afternoon, disrupting service on the N-Judah line at the start of the evening commute, an agency spokesman said.

The entire commute into cluster f**k because someone can't drive their car. Pull this guys license, force him to ride a bike (or MUNI) and we get back, in one fell swoop, years of "delays" caused by removing a lane of auto traffic for a bike lane.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bike to Caltrain JPB Meeting Day

Next Thursday, Feb 5, is the Caltrain JPB meeting in San Carlos. This meeting is especially relevant because Caltrain Staff will be presenting to the JPB their plan/ideas/whatever on a short term expansion of bike space on Caltrain. Some folks from the SFBC have spent a lot of time - as you may know if you actually follow this godawful blog - trying to nudge Caltrain to give those Holier Than Thou Cyclists more space.

What we are up against? Reference @seanpile

"I know you guys are all green... I am 100% anti-green" 8:50 AM Jan 12th from TwitterFon

quote(s) from caltrain operator: "you guys need to start leaving your bikes at home" 8:49 AM Jan 12th from TwitterFon

The only reason Caltrain is bending is because we are overwhelming them with "requests" for better service. Caltrain is a public entity, subsidized by tax dollars and not motivated by profit. But if the ridership is on the board's tail like visigoths at the gate, the staff has to respond or there might actually be some wrath delivered. If Mark Scanlon, Mark Simon, Chuck Harvey, Michelle Bouchard, et all deliver some useless pablum, we need to make our voices heard or the board will assume they have shut us up and can move on. We need a big presence at the JPB meeting. Yokota Fritz already told me he's taking the day off.

My plan is to lead a ride from San Francisco's 4th/King Caltrain station to the San Carlos station, using the SF2G routing with a minor diversion starting on 3rd since we're coming from downtown. On a fast day we make San Carlos in 1:45, so my plan is to leave at 7 AM, potentially leaving time for a snack at Mary's Depot at the San Carlos train station. Pace TBD but I am volunteering to sweep as long as we make San Carlos by 9:30 - if anyone is really struggling I will deliver them to a Caltrain station (surely to get bumped, of course).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't screw with American Apparel

Ritual Roasters decided to go after American Apparel. Have to keep those chain stores out of the Mission District, this is San Francisco after all. Even if said chain store employs dozens of heroin chic models.

I showed up for a bike ride at 6:46 AM this morning. No, it wasn't scheduled for 6:46 AM, I was 1 minute late. Nobody waited for me because it was 38 degrees and the coffee shop was closed! No big loss for Ritual, the only people at Ritual at 6:30 AM are Trendy Google Professionals getting ready to ride to work.

But is there a correlation? Has AA put the hex on Ritual?

Update: Apparently not - it was the weekend of some big "Barista Competition"

Friday, January 23, 2009

The hard men (and women) of San Francisco

A second day of actual rain in the Bay Area. No way in hell this eco-terrorist is going to slag off and borrow the car, I'm getting on my bike and going to Caltrain. All summer long we've waited for the rainy and cold winter such that we could enjoy a leisurely, if wet, ride to our destination on an unpacked bike car.


Yesterday on NB #322 we had issues when the conductor mistakenly allowed 17 bikes on a 16 bike bomb car. He threw a fit about 5 in one rack, we pointed out (after the train had left the station) that there was no 3 bike rack to move to. He grunted but we rolled off. So he had actually bumped people, this continued at 22nd St, I expected to see maybe 5 of us. NB 230 apparently bumped people too per Adam Aufdencamp's twitter.

This AM, more wetness. More wet cyclists.

Not full, but close.

The passenger counter was there, good to see that everyone took my call to arms to heart!

I think there are 2 things in play. The cyclists are in fact getting a bit harder - selling their cars/etc... and have committed to the transit/bike commute. But there are plenty of faces that will disappear now - the thing is there are just so many MORE cyclists that the reductions brought by the rain aren't enough to solve the capacity issue.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Take your bike on Caltrain this week!

I rode to Redwood City this AM with Ted and Trinh and then hopped on Caltrain instead of watching the Inagural. I campaigned for the guy, he won, but even though I am sure the speech was very inspiring the sunrise over San Francisco Bay was pretty damn inspiring too, and not being broadcast over and over the next few days. In fact, the next few days it is actually supposed to rain, which we badly need.

So like I said, I went riding because it's supposed to rain tomorrow, I got on the Caltrain, and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Caltrain's annual passenger count has started! How can Scanlon cook the books?

1) Holiday week.
2) Inaguration Tuesday.
3) Rain finally coming.

OK, I'm sure Scanlon isn't that devious but certainly he won't be claiming that the bike counts were lower than typical this week because it's raining and half the bike car is in Washington DC.

Anyway, if there ever was a week not to decide to "just drive" or check your bike at Warm Planet, this is it. Suck it up, take your bike on Caltrain and if you get bumped make sure you tell the peon with the clipboard to write it down.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Clipper Street/Portola Drive area neighbors comment on Bike Plan

A group called the "Clipper Street/Portola Drive area neighbors" has submitted a comment on the Bike Plan EIR. I've never heard of this group despite having lived on Clipper at Grandview for a year, and having lived within 10 blocks of this intersection for 6 years. Google search shows nothing (for reference "Noe Valley Neighbors" shows 265 hits).

Rob Anderson posted the letter on his blog (I feel no need to drop him any link love).

There is a lot of general commentary about the bike plan in similar style to Rob. "We also request that the comment and response specifically disclose the amount of anticipated delay to the nearest second so that the decision-makers and citizens in San Francisco have full knowledge of the actual delay that they will soon experience." Amusing. I request that the City estimate it's budget to the nearest tenth of a penny as well. This line sort of makes the whole letter less than credible - basically making an impossible request to see if a Judge buys the troll. Given the similarity to Rob's style I wonder if the "Clipper Street/Portola Drive area neighbors" are basically a sock puppet.

They then go on to analyze the Clipper/Portola intersection. Clipper from Portola to Douglass is basically a super-freeway, the speed limit is patently ignored as people zoom over the top of Twin Peaks and into Noe Valley - this is the primary route from the West neighborhoods to 101. Not as dangerous as our other Noe Valley internal freeway - Eureka St - because Clipper doesn't have high pedestrian or bike traffic compared to Eureka.

Anyway, they basically claim that traffic will back up on Clipper if a lane is removed. We do own a car and the most frequent place we drive is Tower Market in Miraloma Park - taking us right through that intersection. I also ride through here frequently to get to Twin Peaks for hill repeats or to head to work via Skyline. I don't see the problem. The author asserts that "some cars will queue up for 2 signal cycles". I don't buy it. It goes on to predict lines of cars on Diamond Heights Blvd waiting to get onto Clipper because the cars are backed up from the light. The cars in the PM commute are coming up Clipper, not from Diamond Heights, but generally I don't consider this to be a choke point. Regardless, the flow of traffic through this intersection is moot - all of that traffic is going onto Portola Westbound, where it then hits the REAL choke point - the intersection of Portola and Woodside, where the 280 traffic coming up O'Shaugnessy merges in with the Upper Market/Clipper traffic that came onto Portola.

Their expertise is definitely impugned when they claim that AM congestion would be worse than PM congestion. Having lived on Clipper - I know that all the traffic is basically from the Sunset to the East in the AM, and vice versa in the PM. They claim that traffic backs up 3 light cycles in the AM. If true, it's most likely because Clipper has a longer red cycle because the light is prioritized to get traffic moving from West to East on Portola to Upper Market. After my wife has the baby, I might just have to go analyze the intersection myself on one of my "down days".

The most amusing part of the whole letter? They offer an alternative. Build an underpass of Market at 24th St. 24th St is a 25% grade. So the alternative being offered "a more desirable and attractive Class 1 bicycle facility connecting Noe Valley to the Portola Drive corridor, improving the bicyclists connectivity to the Noe Valley business district", requires cyclists to ride up, and more dangerously DOWN a 25% grade. Thanks buddy! Maybe for effect we can scare up some of the homeless that live on the Cesar Chavez "Underpass of Broken Bottles and Dreams" to style it up!

Monday, January 12, 2009

You have to be kidding me...

Words Fail.

"REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KCBS) -- The CHP is investigating a possible road incident in Redwood City, where a pickup truck driver allegedly tried to run a group of cyclists off the road over the weekend."

What is with these Santa Cruz Mountains Hilljacks. Third Pillar is a hot shit team, I know that stretch of road. The cyclists were almost certainly going at the speed limit.

Helmet law avoidance

This is amusing.

Of course I went to it when it said "Bikers blah helmets" but the story is about Motorcyclists. Around here there is often debate amongst cyclists regarding helmets, on Alto Velo's mailing list and on sfbike. I always wear a helmet but I ride hard and I'm a klutz. Even just noodling around SF I put one on but that's more habit than anything. But I've long since stopped judging other people, especially since I don't wear one skiing - I probably share similar views on skiing with a helmet as 60 year old Belgian Hard Men have on cycling with a helmet. I figure - if I'm skiing hard enough to be worried about putting my head into a tree or a rock, I'm more likely to blow out my ACL first. Of course this does not take into account the dreaded Snowboarding Hooligans

The article does bring up a good point regarding helmet laws (or being able to wear one if you want to) and cost. The little girl killed in San Jose riding home from school was not wearing a helmet (not a factor in her death - FYI). This was because the family could not afford a helmet. I'll call that part of my 2009 Charity Plan - donating helmets to kids.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fixing my iPhone - stuck wake sleep button not holier than me!

Actually I fixed my wife's iPhone. A few months back I dropped her phone. The case dented right where the wake/sleep button is. This cause the button to be stuck in the down position, meaning the iPhone was constantly resetting, rendering it worthless.

She went to the store, they told her that the button was part of the case, and it wasn't a fixable problem. Since I had dropped it, it also was not covered by warranty. They told her for $199 she could upgrade to a 3G (upgrading the plan too...). I told her, what the heck, she is paying but at least she's getting the 3G.

Fast forward to last week. I left my iPhone on the Caltrain. I had gotten off in Palo Alto and went to the doctor, and leaving the doctor, no iPhone. I called Caltrain and PAMF lost and found - no dice. Called the phone, no answer. Nobody has made any calls with it, who knows. Next time, I'll download the app I just read about where you can get your phone to tell you where it's at. Until then...

I decided to see if it was possible to resurrect my wife's phone before buying a new one. Aside from saving a few bucks, it would put a tiny dent into the world's level of e-waste, so let's go for it.

After looking around on the web I found some references as to how to open the phone. ifixit has a decent blow by blow description. Looking at the internals of the phone I figured out that the button is attached to the case, peeking out of a button sized hole in the case. The hole being bent, the button was stuck. Plan - open the case, detach the button, bend the hole back open, and pray.

Opening the phone was a bit of a pain. I bent the rear cover a bit, I recommend being more careful than I was getting the rear cover removal started.

Here is the open iPhone.

Here is a picture of the bent case blocking the button.

I was able to bend the hole open and verify that the button now clicks. The phone is now plugged in and charging. I definitely have a charging screen, so I haven't completely destroyed the thing. We'll see if I can boot it up (the phone isn't activated, still having my wife's old sim card). The rear case is bent out so it isn't the prettiest job ever, but if it works I'll be feeling pretty smug and my wallet will feel $199 heavier.

Update: In fact the phone is working, the button is working. The antenna cover has some tabs on it that I sort of busted up. You definitely want to be more careful than I was, perhaps getting dedicated plastic iphone opener tools instead of a screwdiver! Doh!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Al Capone passed gas here in 1932"

My Mother grew up in the booming metropolis of Gardner, Illinois

"Gardner is known on U.S. 66 for it's historic 2-cell jail and the Riviera Restaurant, 1 mile east of town, a prohibition hangout of Al Capone with a beer cooler located in a basement vault."

The Riviera restaurant was opened in 1928 by Jim Girot - my great-grandfather. It has had 2 owners in its years. During prohibition there it was known for three things - booze, slot machines, and gangsters. Not Holy in a literal sense, but hey, a little color is good and we should all let our hair down as often as possible. And I'm guessing the booze was locally produced moonshine or somthin' !!!

Anyway, the Riviera is closing, up for sale. The Sun Times ran a little article on it this week. And yes, a poster in the Men's room says "Al Capone passed gas here in 1932"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A post with intellectual depth.

There has been a call for a post with intellectual depth on my blog. Since I don't possess any, I am calling in a guest blogger, Rob Anderson, former District 5 Candidate for Supervisor.

Message 1/241 From Rob Anderson
You are just another know-it-all prog prick, Murph. Good at name-calling but
essentially a dull-normal intellectually. Tell us again about your
credentials and qualifications! Why don't you put something demonstrating
your intellectual depth on your lame-ass blogs?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Escape your Car

Apologies to Fritz if he was already planning an extended blog on this WSJ article.

"In 2007, the most recent year that numbers are available, the American Automobile Association figured its members paid about $7,800 a year on average to own and maintain their cars. That figure dropped to about $6,200 for small-car owners."

My wife and I do own one car. I like to prattle on that "I sold my car" and "It's her car", but I do benefit from ownership of one car, even if the only time I ever drive it solo is because I dropped her off somewhere or am going to the airport to pick up someone who I worry will be utterly confused by BART and end up in Dublin.

This sort of data is very relevant for those who complain over and over that removing travel lanes and *gasp* parking in San Francisco will be devastating to local businesses because people won't patronize those businesses. Consider the flipside with some back of the envelope calculations. 8 million or so people in the Bay Area, call it 3 million households. Let's say 2 million of them have multiple cars. If they all get rid of one of them, that is 1.2 BILLION extra dollars that they could be spending on all sorts of crap from local businesses. Even if they spend some of that on Taxis (which don't have to be parked...) we still get a huge boost. Sure, gas stations would lose some business, but they don't make their money on gasoline anyway.

Nobody has more parking than big box retailers at malls. And they are going out of business left and right. I point this out and the deniers say that it's just "The Economy". Exactly - it's The Economy, Stupid. More money in people's pockets is more important to business than parking is to business, unless you are GM/Ford/Chrysler. While the loss of those jobs certainly hurts Michigan and well, all of us, the sooner we wake up and smell the coffee, and start to make smarter choices, the sooner we become more competitive.

Cars with better mileage do not solve this problem. Read the article. "It's hard to imagine gas prices will to remain at today's panic-level $1.60 per gallon for long. But even if they do, that will only cut the AAA's figures by about $400 annually." If prices dropped to ZERO, drivers would still be out over $5k per year to keep a small car. That would be the same as if everyone started driving electric cars powered by solar panels. You still have to pay for the steel frame, transmissions still go out, batteries die, insurance must be paid, etc...

Sure, the state would lose some serious tax revenue (note Oregon's strange proposal to start taxing miles instead of gas due to a worry Hybrids will cause gas tax revenues to drop). But if people spend that money on skis and computers instead of gasoline and insurance - skis and computers have sales tax baby.

I love seeing such heretical stuff published in one of Rupert's rags.

California beats Italy

On Caltrain this AM I saw a man come rambling into the bike car with his camera, snapping pictures of the bike configuration. The SFBC had been taking some photos to show full bike cars on trains with low passenger loads, but I didn't recognize the guy and the car was half empty. No, the capacity problem isn't gone, it was raining and I slept in and was taking a local.

Anyway, it was pretty obvious to me what was up. I walked up to him and said "you are from Europe?". He answered "Italy". Europe has us bested for transit, especially trains, but every Euro who sees Caltrain's setup loves it, I've seen 10 or so take pictures over the years. He said "in Italy this would be impossible" (I love how the Euros use the word impossible). I have actually taken a bike around Europe on trains and it isn't as nice. Most trains you had to box them and hope you don't get yelled at. Some had a "bike car" which was a big freight car with a high entrance door and no seats.

Maybe we need to get a Milano newspaper to do a story on Caltrain's bike car.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

San Francisco Bike Coalition - Bikes on Board Outreach Newsletter.

The tireless efforts of Dr. Shirley Johnson continue. Here is the SFBC's Bikes on Board committee's outreach newsletter regarding it's position on Caltrain's bicycle program.

Caltrain's staff has promised a "modest increase" in Bicycle Capacity. We fear that this will be peanuts for paupers in order to fend off the hounds, rather than a comprehensive solution, so it is time to keep the troops rallied to make sure the effort is worthwhile.

Additonally, the current theory is that Caltrain is going to roll out the "big plan" at the JPB meeting February 5th in San Carlos. Unless my wife is in labor, I'll be there, and if she's in labor I will probably bitch about her timing (and she will be justifiably bitch back). If you care about cycling capacity on Caltrain, be there as well!

Outreach Newsletter 090105

Friday, January 2, 2009

Skiing vs Snowboarding

Answer: Skiing.

Reason: Snowboarding rots your brain.

Having grown up in Colorado and skiied my whole life, certainly I can be a bit of a retrogrump in this regard. Certainly Snowboarding looks very cool, very fun, and I can see how people are drawn to it. What I cannot figure out is why people strap on a snowboard and completely lose their common sense and sense of civility and common purpose. I had a boilerplate speech regarding this but this weekend we went up to Murph's Tahoe to do a bit of skiing at Heavenly and a snowboarder sunk to a new low.

Heavenly is not a very good place for snowboarding (one could argue this holds true for skiing as well) in that it is riddled with long traverses of flat sections in order to get from one section of the mountain to another. Bad on skis, extremely painful on a snowboard - it's just too hard to keep up any momentum on those things, and once you are stopped, you can't push off on one foot as you would on skis, and you don't have poles. What drives me nuts is that the snowboarder, once stuck, decides to take a nap in the MIDDLE of the narrow traverse, typically around a blind corner. Anyone trying to keep their speed up on the annoying traverse will now have to turn around the snowboarder (or two side by side!) in the middle of the road, costing one the speed needed to make it without having to start using the poles. How hard is it, really, to do your nap on the outside of the road?

Next annoyance - snowboarders have an even worse tendency than skiiers to go after runs beyond the level which they can nominally ride with some proficiency. Once stuck on this run, the snowboarder proceeds to turn their board sideways to the slope and slide down the slope, which packs the snow down, screwing up conditions. The next tactic is to find the underside of a mogul or dropoff and take another nap in the middle of the run where nobody can see you. Skiiers who go beyond their limits typically get down the hill, and either learn a few things or decide it's beyond their limits, by either crashing out hard or getting completely tired out. The snowboarder slides down the slope, ruins the run, then high fives his buddy about the two turns he took before crawling down the mountain.

But what happened this weekend took the cake. Coming off the Sky Express chair, I spotted a fairly large opening in the crowd and turned towards the big hill map at the top of the slope. A snowboarder who had just crossed this opening - carrying his board instead of having it strapped on his boots - decided at the last minute to switch directions and flung his board right across my path.

His edge caught me right beneath the knee and gave me a nice little gash. I let out some expletives and he said "Sorry" and moved on to his next victim. Apparently he then walked by my brother in law who overheard him say "That guy needs to watch where he's going". Amusing since HE was "watching" North and "going" South.

Maybe it's because most snowboarders tend to be younger and are thus naturally less wise than old codgers like myself, but this wunderkind was in his late 30's.

Off to the next round of Neosporin. Argh.