Monday, February 28, 2005

Architectural Salvage

[1. a rack of ceramic doorknobs, looking somewhat like a package of white mushrooms in the produce aisle. 2. ornate hinges of indeterminate age.]

Nor'east Architectural Antiques
is an architectural salvage business, a sort of Salvation Army store for bits and pieces of old houses. Lisa heard about this place from Bill and Jennifer, and it turns out to be just a short walk away from our house. We visited the store a few days ago, to browse at benches and transom windows. I found a venerable "Bezzera" espresso machine, a dystopian copper monolith which looks like a misplaced prop from David Lynch's Dune:

The heraldic crest of a snake devouring a man is connected to the city of Milan. It also appears on half of the Alfa Romeo badge.

[Ex-ter-mi-nate! EX-TER-MI-NATE!]Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Downtown Picture

I took this picture two weeks ago, a few days after a snowstorm. The photo looks downhill, towards the Powow river (not visible behind the buildings). An organic bakery with passable corn muffins is right behind the bank building on the left. The chimney in the background protrudes from an old carriage factory, which now contains offices and a charter school.

The train used to pull into a station behind the grey building in the center of the photo; the former tracks are now a paved bicycle path. What is striking about old photos of the town is how bare the landscape was - very few trees were left standing in the vicinity of the town, whereas now the countryside seems to be "greening up" again. Posted by Hello

Friday, February 18, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is the English title of the new Hayao Miyazaki film. Miyazaki is the director responsible for Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and several other excellent animated films. If you haven't seen a Miyazaki film yet, I highly recommend his work.

I don't know much about Howl's Moving Castle yet, except that it features a monstrous fort that walks about on chicken's legs, like Baba Yaga's hut. I'll write an update when we get a chance to see it...

EDIT: The New Yorker magazine published a good article on Hayao Miyazaki in its January 17th issue. The reporter managed to talk to Miyazaki for a bit, which is, apparently, a rare thing. Unfortunately, the New Yorker does not seem to have published this aticle online. They have posted an interview with the interviewer, Margaret Talbot.Posted by Hello


[This circle is supposed to contain the number '6'. I can't see it.]

A friend of ours has periodic "game nights" at her house in Cambridge. Last Saturday Lisa and I went to one of these, and ended up playing a board game that relied on a scheme of colors connected to trivia cards. The game also had a die, with colored triangles printed on each face that corresponded to the game board. The die colors were not exactly the same shades as those printed on the cards or on the board; indeed, some of them were several shades off. The die's "yellow" side appeared to be a very solid orange. The "blue" and "purple" seemed almost indistinguishable to me, and in the dim light, I even had to look at a face for a couple of seconds in order to decide if it was green or red.

I have a "red/green" colorblindness, a very common type that is said to afflict about 1 in 12 males of European descent (women have it much less frequently). My brother has also tested positive for colorblindess, back when he was in the service - we just had an email conversation about the subject. I was first tested for it at about age 11, but I didn't believe the results until I found an online test involving the colored dots you see on this page. The web-pages from which I stole these images are here and here.

While there are some people whose color-deficiancy is so severe that they cannot distinguish between red and yellow traffic lights, and still others who see the world only in monochrome, "colorblindness" may not be a good term for this condition. When I mention it to people, most will start pointing at articles of clothing or upholstery, asking "what color is that? Do you see any difference?". I suspect that I can see 95% of the same colors as a normal person could; I usually have trouble discerning close shadings, especially when the lighting is poor.

There are some sites that attempt to show how the world looks to people with different kinds of colorblindness. It seems that the mildly colorblind see some colors as more "bleached out" than the normally-sighted, like a old magazine cover left in the sunlight, or how things look when you open your eyes at the beach, after laying in the sun with them closed.

[I can see what looks like a '5', or even a warped sort of '6' in the above circle. The real number is '8'.]

Interestingly, it seems that those with color-deficiency can see some things that the normally-sighted cannot; they can pick out patterns from complex backgrounds, and are said to be less confused by camoflauge. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some inate effect, or whether the colorblind have simply become more adept at discerning shapes and patterns. I found a couple of online sources that talked about this:
"most color deficient persons compensate well for their defect and may even discover instances in which they can discern details and images that would escape normal-sighted persons. At one time the U.S. Army found that color blind persons can spot "camouflage" colors where those with normal color vision are fooled by it. "-- from here.
"On the positive side, there is some evidence that colour-blind people are much better than average at certain jobs. They are very good at finding green things hidden against green backgrounds - for example grass or leaves. They tend to find things by shape and get less confused by camouflage. Because of this, colour-blind entomologists still catch lots of bugs and in wartime, armies prize their colour-blind snipers and spotters."--from here.

[I can see a very obvious '2' in the above circle, in what looks like an old newspaper font. I'm told that, if you have normal color vision, you can't see the 2, but rather a 5 instead.] Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Old Bike

This is the bike I have been riding since 1993. I bought it at a yard sale in Marblehead for $75, from a woman who had bought it new 10-15 years before. It is a old Trek sport-tourer with a Chromoly steel frame made of Ishiwata tubes. I don't know the exact age, but I suppose I can look up the serial number here to find out.

Since 1993, I've replaced everything on this bike except the shifters, brakes, seat-post, and front derailler.

For anyone interested in bicycle minutia (likely very few if any people who read this), it is equipped with the following:

  • 46cm wide Nitto bars with black cloth tape (width as recommended by Rivendell's Grant Peterson). I once tried Nitto moustache bars from Rivendell, but found them to be uncomfortable on long trips.
  • 8cm Nitto dirt-drop stem, which puts the handlebars up at the level of the seat.
  • 27" Weinmann wheels (replacements) with Conti Top Touring tires (the most flat-resistant bike tires I have ever used).
  • SKS fenders
  • a Sugino crank, 46 and 34 tooth chainrings
  • cheap-o Alivio rear derailleur, which seems to work fine.
  • Nitto platform pedals with toe-clips and straps (the toe-clip bracket of one broke shortly after the above picture was taken, yet to be replaced).
  • a Tubus Cargo rack
  • a Busch and Muller 6-volt Dymotec 6 bottle generator (now living on the Biria bike, as mentioned below), running a Lumotec Oval Plus headlight and a DToplight Plus tailight. Both of the lights have LED "Standlights" which remain illuminated when one is stopped at an intersection. Also, battery back-up lights both front and rear.
  • a Carradice Nelson longflap canvas saddlebag, which sits on the Tubus rack.
  • a Brooks Conquest saddle. This saddle is a leather Brooks B17 but with springs. Previous un-sprung saddles would cause me discomfort after about 60 miles or so. The Brooks soaks up almost all road vibrations.
  • a Sigma odometer (cheap one).

I used to use this bike to commute (18 miles/28km round trip), and have gone on a couple of longer rides (70 miles/112km was the most I have ever done, from Roslindale MA to Stratham NH). The idea behind building up this bike was always long-distance light touring, commuting, and perhaps randonneuring. Hopefully its ragged appearance will discourage theft.

This picture was taken in October, during a ride/picnic to Maudsley park. In the background of this picture you can just see Lisa, standing behind her new Breezer commuter bike. Posted by Hello


The creatures in a moment of peaceful coexistance. Taken in the spring of 2004, back at our old place. Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Busch & Mueller 6 Dynamo

I have ridden the Biria in the snow several times now, and also at night. The Nokian tires work fine, even on packed snow or ice patches. The bottle generator that was supplied with the bike - a Basta or similar brand - had slippage problems in rain or snow. The stock generator didn't have a way to adjust its tension against the tire, and the driven wheel was serrated plastic.

I swapped out the stock generator with a Busch and Mueller Dymotec 6, which I had installed on another bike. The Dymotec 6 has a small knob near the base that allows one to tighten the tension when riding in rain, which works well. The standard Dymotec wheel has a notched rubber "tire", and this can be replaced with a wire wheel for use in rain or snow (shown in picture above). The wire wheel works passably well, but can still slip when the tire becomes encrusted with ice. Also, it is visibly wearing away at the tire sidewall after a few nighttime trips. Dymotec 6's have become much more expensive since I bought mine - I suspect because of the weak dollar (Busch & Mueller is a German company).

The ideal solution to night-time winter riding would be a Shimano generator hub built into the front wheel. Posted by Hello

Friday, February 11, 2005

New Bike!

Lisa got me a new bike for Christmas, and here it is: a Biria TC Top-3 city bike, which I had been coveting ever since I saw it in a Cambridge bicycle shop last September. The bike is an aluminum-framed three-speed with a SRAM internal hub. It has front and rear hand brakes, and a coaster-brake in the rear hub.

In this picture, it is outfitted with winter tires: studded 700cx35 Nokians. The regular tires are much larger, 700x47 or so. The step-through frame is useful when one has a bag of groceries on the rack. Eventually I'll get a pair of rear baskets.

I keep it locked to a post outside our house - the whole idea of this kind of bike is that it lives outside, requires minimal care, and is always ready to go.

Thanks, hon!Posted by Hello

Click Here