Friday, April 29, 2011


I have Gout. On a daily basis I take Allopurinol to control the high uric acid blood content that causes gout flareups. When gout becomes symptomatic, uric acid crystallizes in the joints and the joint becomes very painful.

For centuries, it has been known that Colchicine can be used to treat gout flareups, references go back to 1500 BC, Ben Franklin took it for his gout.

The other day I was at the doctor and had to get a new prescription. He said "It's interesting, Colchicine has changed". I was puzzled - this was a drug from before Christ which is extracted from a plant. How could it change?

Turns out, that since this drug had been around forever, it pre-dated the FDA. So it was never "approved". Well, the FDA started an initiative to get drugs that were unapproved to be "approved". So URL-Pharma ran some tests, showed that Colchicine actually does what we've known it does for centuries, were granted 3 years exclusivity on Colchicine under the brand name "Colcrys", and they raised the price from 9 cents a pill to almost 5 dollars a pill. When you have a gout flareup you are supposed to take 2 pills immediately, and one and hour later - that now costs $15. for a drug that was developed by the ancient Greeks. All generic sales have been halted.

Here is an article from the New England Journal of Medicine

I'm considering not filling my prescription in protest. I haven't had a flareup in a very long time due to controlling the gout with Allopurinol - but interestingly, my allopurinol prescription ran out back in December. On January 1, I stopped drinking soda and have been avoiding sugars and especially high fructose corn syrup at all costs.

One symptom of gout is that when it gets bad, the crystals can form a hard deposit called a tophus. While gout is primarily considered a hereditary disease, the small tophus that had formed in my right elbow and was stubbornly hanging on through years of treatment, has almost vanished in the last four months since I stopped drinking a gallon or more of HFCS sweetened sodas daily. There is evidence that the fructose can lead to increased production of uric acid.

This isn't as conclusive as a blood test - we'll see what that says, I'm getting one before I start back up on the Allopurinol. I will be starting the medicine anyway, those gout flares really sucked, and large deposits can ruin your joints for good.

Stupid Human Tricks

This was a good one.

Riding on Skyline just into Daly City the other day, I was sitting 5th wheel in a paceline as we reached this spot.

View Larger Map

We were passed by a car that realized that they had wanted to exit. The car passed us then abruptly turned right, through the ice plants, and onto the CA-1 Entrance Ramp. Nice work, Elmo.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sorry Man, I just can't help you.

Saw this comment on the Daily KOS , a left-leaning blog (well, the right would probably replace "left-leaning" with "leftist" or "communist").

Were gettting royally screwed (0+ / 0-)
Here in Delaware Co., OH, I took my wife to work at 7 am. On the way back home stopped to fill up my F-150. Reg. unleaded was $3.99, this was about 7:20 am. At 11:30 am, it was $4.15. 16 cent jump in a couple of hours.

We should change our names to the Fucks, because were fucked. - Sam Kinison

by DF Dickson on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 10:39:52 AM PDT

I think there was something in there about gas prices and hardship, but I pretty much got lost when we were shuttling someone to work in an F-150.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Noe Valley Town Square - State of Play on the Road

Or should I say the state of play on the parking lot.

Subject: Time For The Heavy Lifting for Noe Valley Town Square

Hi All,

I had a meeting with Phil Ginsburg (Director of Rec and Parks) and
Supervisor Scott Wiener last Friday.

Phil and Scott are both excited about the Town Square Project. We all
agreed that the project is unique in its public private nature.
Politically, we acknowledged there are some challenges in front of us.

The best probabilities for success of the project is for the Noe Valley
community to start a serious and significant capital campaign. To that end,
I want to create a Capital Campaign Committee. If you are interested in
serving on the committee, please email me ASAP so that we can hold our first
meeting early next week.


Todd David

Monday, April 11, 2011

Here's something annoying

This morning Brooks and I went riding in the East Bay before work. Part of this ride is the descent of Calaveras into Milpitas. This is a fast fun descent.

Here's my strava gps log for the descent. On the right side you will see my average speed on the descent was 33.8 MPH over a 2.3 mile segment - over that segment size the GPS errors start to get pretty small.

About 1/2 mile from the bottom, the spidey senses went off and I did a shoulder check, and saw a vehicle behind me. I looked down and my GPS was reporting 34 MPH. There is one last S bend in front of me, and I drifted into the center of the lane to block the car from passing me. I didn't want to get passed in the S-bend at speed. This could hardly be contstrued as "impeding traffic" - the speed limit is 35 MPH.

Not surprisingly - I was passed right in the S-bend anyway. Shortly after the S-bend there was a speed trap, one of those signs with the speed limit posted and an electronic sign that shows the radar detected speed of your vehicle. The vehicle hit the speed trap - 47 MPH. Not surprising, as when I made the turn onto Calaveras there was nobody behind me and I was averaging the speed limit - the only way I could get caught is by someone exceeding the speed limit.

I caught the car at the stop sign at the bottom, but decided to just go on my way today. But I got a good look at the driver - a soccer mom in a mini-van with 2 kids in the car.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Caltrain JPB Meeting Clipper Rant

So as noted, I went to the Caltrain JPB meeting yesterday. While everyone was clearly focused on the service cuts, I decided to instead focus on my favorite waste of time, Clipper.

There was a snippet in the Executive staff report on Clipper, about the amount of outreach Caltrain has done with the adoption of Clipper. It was not read aloud in the meeting, because they were going over their February Passenger Counts. The counts were good, in addition to the bike ridership in my last post, ridership as a whole was way up, and the weekend baby bullet had good ridership - and surprisingly did not result in reduced ridership on the adjacent non bullet trains. That's not to say that the bullet didn't "just" steal riders from the locals, because overall ridership was up, but it was still good numbers.

Anyway, I pointed out to the board that there was a snippet about the outreach, and that this was not something to be proud of and basically reiterated the points in this blog post . Director Ahmad had made some rumblings earlier in the meeting that alluded to the piece in the Merc regarding the JPB's "rubber stamp" history. I looked at him and said "This is something that you CAN do - this is broken, ask them what they are going to do about it"

I left before the copious comments on the service cuts. I had heard it all before and wanted to get a burrito and go to work. The burrito place near San Carlos Caltrain is first rate - as are the Buckwheat Banana pancakes at Mary's Depot cafe at the train station. What I did miss, was that the JPB voted to postpone a vote on the proposed reduced schedule

From the Caltrain website

4/7/11 update : The Caltrain Board of Directors at its monthly meeting voted unanimously to postpone a decision on a reducted-train schedule until April 21 and directed staff to work to identify additional funds that would make the cuts unnecessary

Kudos to Mike Rosenberg, as far as I am concerned, for putting the fire to the feet of the JPB.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Build it and they will come

The staff report at the Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting today had an interesting nugget.

Ridership on the train by cyclists bringing their bike on board increased by 1100 riders per day from February 2010 to February 2011, to a record level. An over 33% increase systemwide.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd looked at the graphs and charts, and spoke up. "I am going to be a bit parochial here, but I see that the numbers are even higher for San Francisco". COO Chuck Harvey responded by saying that "4th and King is a very popular stop for cyclists, both arriving in the city and people in the city headed to the South Bay". Elsbernd asked about the "bike lockers" at 4th, Harvey responded that the Warm Planet bike shop was "flat out full - every day".

What's changed? Why the big increase?

I posit two things.

1) Increased bike capacity, thanks in no small part to the San Francisco Bike Coalition
2) New BIKE LANES on Townsend Street, making getting to the station much more pleasant.

Build it - and they will come.

Harvey was very energetically describing the additional on board capacity coming online this summer - 2 bike cars on every gallery set, money is in place and the plan is ready. The bike capacity portion of the presentation was more than mere afterthought - the staff is trying everything it can to show that ridership is strong and on the increase, and the cyclist program continues to be a huge - and growing - success.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caltrain Staff Report FAIL

From this month's Caltrain JPB Meeting Agenda - item 7 - Report of the Executive Director.

Clipper – Caltrain continued to make customers aware of the imminent elimination of the paper Monthly Pass. It also reminded customers of the top tips for riding Caltrain with a Clipper card: maintain a minimum $1.25 on the card; tag on and off each time for e-cash and 8-ride Ticket customers; and tag on and off the first ride of the month for Monthly Pass customers. Information was disseminated with staff visiting stations and onboard outreach, website posting,conductor announcements, station electronic message board notices, brochures, take ones, station flyers, and via ticket vending machines.

This should not be a point of pride. It should be a point of embarrassment. Currently the conductors get their daily orders from Caltrain and every day are instructed to repeatedly remind customers to have $1.25 on their cards, instead of focusing on passenger and train safety. All of this costs money, in addition to the $450,000 that MTC has allocated due to excess Caltrain customer complaints.

The Clipper Facebook page and some rumbling from Conductors on the train mentions that they are looking at ways to change the system. This better include public outreach.

Caltrain they held 4 public outreach meetings on fare increases and service cuts - meetings which predictably consisted of "Please don't cut the service". Unless someone was showing up with a check for $30 Million, the meetings were redundant.

Meanwhile, Caltrain - "train guys" - are probably going to overhaul Clipper without doing public outreach. Clipper is "Computer Programming", "Algorithms", "User interface", "Market Research". Some of the foremost experts in the world on these topics RIDE Caltrain, but do not WORK FOR Caltrain. Caltrain could leverage those highly paid professionals - FOR FREE - but history indicates (Bike Cars, no public outreach on Weekend Baby Bullet Schedule) that they are too stubborn or too incompetent to do so.

Monday, April 4, 2011

cyclists run stop signs? WTF

Here is a video from my buddy Theo from this AM's ride. I was sitting right behind Theo when this happened. My Garmin GPS shows us going 23 MPH. A Honda passed us on the left, no big deal, Bayshore in SSF is pretty wide and we have a pretty posh bike lane.

There was a split in the group, as the front group amped it up to 26 MPH or so. The Honda passed 13 of us and then shot the gap and cut across the bike lane into the parking lane with yards to spare in front of a group of 13 cyclists going over 20 MPH.

This is ignorant, stupid behavior. If you are so careless, you should lose your license immediately - you are indifferent to the lives of others and should not be allowed near anything that can kill as simply as a car can. Yet we run stings on cyclists rolling stop signs in the middle of nowhere.

Clipper exploit?

I am blogging from Caltrain right now. For this month I have a Zone 1-3 pass, this is my first ride of the month. Due to poor system design, I am supposed to tag on/off for this ride, exactly from zone 1-3 or 3-1. If I don't tag - citation. If I get off at BART and tag off at zone 2, I pay $4.50 to ride less than the pass I own allows, and my pass is still not activated.

This is asinine. To explore the algorithm the lovelies at Clipper designed, I decided to try an experiment. At Sunnyvale, in zone 3, I tagged on. $8.50 - the fare to Gilroy, was deducted. Then I tagged off - this should annul my trip and it did, refunding my $8.50. The question is - was my pass activated (probably not). I do know that the pass had been "loaded" - I had seen that on a ride last month (why not just activate it?).

I got on the train and found a conductor to ask if my pass was valid. He tagged my card and it said "YES ZONE 3 - ZONE 3".???

It did not say monthly.

I'm hazarding a guess that there is a bug that would allow you to tag on, annul the trip, and ride in the same zone.

I got off in Mountain View and tagged again.