Earth Girls are Easy

As part of an ongoing experiment to see if I can attain Buddhahood, I have been trying my best to make time to meditate. I’m not really very good at it. Most people have a little voice in their head that sort of narrates their thoughts. The idea of meditation is to try to get that voice to be quiet. It’s really hard. A couple of months ago, I managed to get mine to shut up for maybe a minute, but when it started talking again, it said something really odd.

“Teela Brown is a filthy whore.”

I wasn’t sure who Teela Brown even was, so I got up off my cushion and googled her. Turns out, she is a fictional character from a book that I read about ten years ago as part of a course in “The Philosophy of Science Fiction.”

I decided that, perhaps, this was a Holy message from the Great Pumpkin or the Buddha, or whoever it is that puts crazy thoughts into my head, so I found a copy of the book and re-read it.

Ringworld
Ringworld

“Ringworld” is “hard” science fiction, which means it doesn’t suck like the stuff they show on the SciFi channel. It’s a really good story, with interesting characters and even a few non-humanoid aliens. I heartily recommend the book, and give it a rating of 4 Jihadis out of 5.

4 Jihadis out of 5
4 Jihadis out of 5

In this book, Teela is about 20 years old, and I didn’t see anything in her behavior that would have qualified her as a “filthy whore.” As far as I was able to discern, she conducts herself in much the same way as every standard-issue 20 year-old Earth-girl I’ve ever known.

I enjoyed Ringworld so much, that I went ahead and read the sequel, Ringworld Engineers. It’s set about 20 years after the events of the first book, so (without giving too much away) we encounter a much more mature Teela Brown.

Ringworld Engineers

I enjoyed the sequel, but it didn’t have the perspective-shattering impact of the original. Nonetheless, I give it 3 Jihadis out of 5.

3 Jihadis out of 5
3 Jihadis out of 5

Over the holidays, I met up with my old Philosophy professor. He told me (in his characteristic style) that I should have read “Protector” before Engineers, and that I probably don’t understand “Engineers” correctly, because I read the books out of order. (In my defense, I was unaware of the existence of “Protector” until Christmas Eve). He also asked me if I had gotten my semester grades. (He was apparently unaware that I haven’t been his student in any official capacity for over ten years.)

The upshot of all this is that I’m now able to forgive Teela of whatever whoreishness my 22 year old self had been accusing her of. I suppose that makes me ever so slightly closer to Buddhahood.

MUSA Britches

After reading the Large Fella’s glowing review of Rivendell’s MUSA bicycling pants, I ordered a pair for myself. I took them for a 25 mile ride tonight to see how well they worked.

Tonight's Route
25 miles and a happy butt

Holy shit, they are awesome. 25 miles with normal underwear, and no sore butt. I walked into a 7-11 for some refreshment, and didn’t look like a bicycle weirdo at all. The only way the pants could be any better is if they looked more like khakis so I could wear them to work. I give them 4 jihadis out of 5.

4 Jihadis out of 5
4 Jihadis out of 5

Speaking of work, tonight’s ride was reconnaissance for a commute route. I think I have one figured out. I found a gym about 1.5 miles from the office. They were running a special, $150 for a year’s membership. I signed up so I can use the showers. I figure I’ll ride 12 miles, stop to shower and change, and ride the last 1.5 miles in my office clothes. (Another reason I wish the MUSA pants looked like khakis.)

I’m honestly not sure I’m up to riding 30 miles a day, so, to start out, I might drive part way, and ride in from a parking lot. I’ve located parking lots from which I can make my commute 3, 6, or 7.5 miles long in each direction. Hopefully, I’ll be able to build myself up to doing the whole thing. If not, I’ll move. I don’t like the idea of living farther away from the office than I can sustainably ride.
Anyhow, these pants have me wondering how hard it would be to have a gusset sewn in the crotch of actual dress pants. I bet it wouldn’t be too hard to hide some shock-cord in the cuff to knicker them up…dress pants are often made of wool, which is very a bicycling-friendly material. Hmmmm… MUSA formal-wear?

Prophet of Reason

10 years ago, almost to the minute, I was sat at a bar having too many beers. Normally, in this sort of setting, I would have been laughing, carrying on, and making an ass of myself in a goofy and idiotic way.

But on this particular night, I saw something come across the screen of one of the TVs that had me sobbing in my beer like a country music cliché.

Professor Sagan had passed away.

Sagan in 1996
Sagan in 1996

Most of the other bar patrons probably thought I had just had one too many brewskies, but the loss of professor Sagan still makes me sad. It’s been ten years now, and (with all due respect to Professor Hawking) no one has stepped forward to carry on Sagan’s work of making science popular to the masses. I can remember seeing Sagan on TV when I was little, and thinking, “Man, astrophysics is cool!” I may have been a tad more nerdy than the average boy, but I don’t think that very many boys have eminent scientists as role models these days.

Everybody, it seems, is under the impression that the entertainment industry is the place to be. Movie stars, rock stars, professional athletes, and other worthless professions seem to top the list of “what I want to be when I grow up.”

It works, bitches
from XKCD

This is a sorry state of affairs. The Church of Reason needs a new prophet to inspire the next generation that it is a better thing to be smart than to be cool.

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

— Carl Sagan. 1995

This year, as part of my winter solstice observance, I intend to raise a glass (or two, or three…) to the memory of Carl Sagan, and wish upon a star for a new cosmic holy man, who can inspire awe and wonder in the minds of young geeks.

Bikes and Boobs

My bicycle helmet is getting old and tired. I have been mulling over the idea of replacing it with a Bell Metropolis.

So, I went out to Bell’s web site to have a look at it. I was kind of surprised to see that big-boob ladies are being used to sell bicycle helmets.

Bell Big Boob Bicycle Lady
boob-a-licious bicycle lady

Boobs are an amazingly effective marketing gimmick.

I think I’m getting a Metropolis.

Exfiltration

North of Harrisburg stands an inpenetrable wall. At 1300 feet tall, Blue Mountain halts all northbound bicycle traffic, forcing us to ride the same, boring roads, day after day.

But not for long!

Impenetrable
I am trapped!

There are a few roads that go over the mountain, but I do not have the strength to ride a bike over them. Fortunately, in the death-match showdown between Blue Mountain and the Susquehanna river, the river prevailed, reducing the mighty mountain to a minor rapid.

Oh how the mighty have fallen
Oh, how the mighty have fallen

Along the sides of the river, the terrain is relatively level, perfect for bicycling. Unfortunately, almost all of that area has been taken over by highways and railroads, where bicycles are forbidden.

Due to my obsession with maps, I discovered a road that runs along the river that bikes are allowed on. I must have driven past it a hundred time or more and never saw it before. It’s imaginatively called River Road. On the other side of the mountain, it becomes Main St, before it goes through an old rail road tunnel(!!) and pops you out in downtown Marysville!

It’s a very scenic ride. You can look at the river, the mountains and cool-looking old-school railroad stuff.

Railroad tunnel
This tunnel is cool, but there aren’t any tracks in it anymore.

With the leaves all down, and no snow, you have to look pretty hard to find any natural beauty.

Ice
This ice is the best I could find.

I found a nice, quiet spot to stop to eat my bananas.


Lunch break spot

Astute readers will notice from the first picture, that there is actually a second mountain I have to cross to get past Marysville. I’m not sure how to do that yet, as River road dead-ends just past Marysville. I may have to try riding up the other side of the river.

There are a couple more pics in the gallery if you’re interested.

Shakedown Cruise

Brandi and I took the Mixte down to City Island and made a few laps around the bike path to shake out any mechanical problems.

Mixte by the River

Everything appears to work, but Brandi had a few complaints.

  1. Handlebars too low — my hands hurt
  2. Seat too hard — my butt hurts
  3. Downtube shifters hard to reach — they suck

I’ve already taken steps to fix #2. I had to order a “seat sandwich” to get the B.72 to work with the micro-adjusting seat post. I also placed an order with Rivendell today, mainly for stuff for me, but I also got a Nitto Technomic long-ass stem for her, which should bring the bars up a few inches.

I think I’m going to get different handlebars, grips, and shifters. To fix #1 and #3. I was going to go with Albatross bars, but I think they may sweep back too much, so we’re going to give the Nitto Promenade bars a try (thanks for the recommendation, Jim), probably with thumbshifters. The only fly in the ointment is that the downtube shifters are clamp-ons, so I’ll have to rig up some sort of clamp-on cable stops.

It’s Here

The ebay girlie bike has arrived.

Living Room

My living room is temporarily a bike shop. I had to replace the brake cables, they were pretty frazzled.

Centerpull brakes

The headset was loose, so I had to go pick up a headset wrench. I didn’t have one before.

Made in France

We didn’t get a chance to take it for a ride before it got dark out. Maybe tomorrow.