*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Saturday 31 December 2011

Bicycle Winter Tires, etc.

It kind of depends on what you mean by 'winter'.  On the West Coast, you think it means rain, so I am not speaking with you; here in Tokyo it is the driest riding of the year.  I am talking about winter that gets snow, in cities where it is more or less well cleared.  In Toronto, I keep my fixed gear on its standard tires in the winter, because there are plenty of days without ice or snow.  Other days I can't keep rubber down that way, and I have experimented with all three of the following options, except the last.

Studded Tires

I don't like them.  They do what they are meant to do, but they are noisy on pavement and slow.  Also play hell on any tiles or linoleum where you might store the bike.

Wide Tires at Lower Pressure
I have had best luck with cyclocross tires at a lower than normal pressure, for more surface area.  What usually took me down on normal tires was turning the front wheel and finding no friction.  Nobs on the sides of the tires will get you some in hardpack snow, or under a thin layer of light snow, just before you go down, usually.  I prefer the centre to be about as smooth as in this picture, because you don't need more to go straight.

'Fat-Bike' Tires
Have not tried these, but so want to!  Besides needing a fat-tire specific frame, they'd be slow on the road too, but that's not what you get them for.  You want them if you live in a place like Toronto: the snow is not reliable enough to get nordic skis, the city park paths are not ploughed for regular bikes, and the roads are poorly ploughed for days at time.  Boo hoo, that ain't going to stop these tires!  Bonus: nothing can stop you summer, either.

Wait!  How many bikes is that?
You're not going to try switching tires or wheel-sets on the same bike, depending on the weather.  Tried it: too much trouble.  I won't tell you how to spend your money on how many bikes either.  I will tell you what I'd do.
- One bike: have the cyclocross tires on it, as they are most multi-purpose.
- Two bikes: that bike, and one with normal tires for dry days; or with the fat-tires if you have a lot of snow, or good trails!
- Three bikes: one each fat, cyclocross and normal!

I should credit this blog's post, for the inspiration.

Other Thoughts:

Drivetrain - I hate 'singlespeed', but love fixed.  Either saves tonnes of trouble in the winter.  On the other hand, I run derailleurs on one bike through the winter and have had little trouble with moderate care.  Forget STI shifters with warm gloves.  Old style bar-cons work fine.

Fenders - Yes, of course.  Means you can forget a frame with tight clearances, unless you want to kluge something, as I have done.  Much like this.  Done similar on my Kona Paddy Wagon, but will be buying the right bike when I go back to Toronto.

Lights - Another post, here.

Pedals - From experience, clipless pedals are only for dry days.  Days with snow and ice means you'll need to 'dab' with your feet, and quickly: studded wide platform pedals.  Some go for plastic, because it does not conduct the cold so badly.  I just wear thicker soled boots those days, with winter insoles.

Clothing - Everybody has a post on this.  I can summarize my approach: layers, wool inside, 'soft-shell' outside, neoprene shoe-covers, pay real money for gloves, and consider goggles.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

New find: Japanese urban realism (fugly)

I found a very cool Japan blog today.  I have a great blog roll in my right-hand column, and recommend a look at each item on it: with the caveat that some should not be opened at work, or by the moralistic, because I believe you're adult enough to do your own censorship, or not.  I won't say the blog is the best, or better than others, but will say it's an original.


A lot like the excellent 'Spike Japan', minus the essays: Japanese decay of the built-environment. Lots of windblown concrete, rebar, and rust.

I'm interested in real-world urbanism, and you-and-I-who've-lived-here know that is what most of what we've lived in here looks like.  Not like this.

Bite me, JNTO.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Add it to my list! (Things I can't buy, so I can feed my family).

In the spirit of a cross-bike, which can ride anything like a road; or a snow-bike, which can ride anything like a trail; how about a 'river-tour' kayak, which can paddle anything like water?  It's the Pyranha Fusion RT.
'It's a kayak', so what?  Look, when I'm back in Toronto, what do I get for a solo boat?  A sea-kayak?  Sure, but I have to drive to Georgian Bay for anything scenic, and sea-kayaking in good weather is, let's face it, much more boring and slower than sailing (if cheaper), which you can do on any water you can sea-kayak on (and carry more drink).  A canoe?  Another person's usually not worth the baggage.  A play-boat?  Rapids are fun, but what if you don't want to rabbit up and down the same riffle all weekend, but want to camp on the way?  No, this boat can go all of those places, and play in surf on Lake Ontario nearer home.

Sure, it's a shade slower than a sea-kayak and carries less, but is easier to roll and manoeuvre, and cheaper and shorter to get on your car or store.  Yes, it is not nimble enough for class 5 water... but I'm a father now, eh?  Not as good for surfing as a board, no shit, and there's no warm water in Canada, either.  How does it track?  Retractable skeg!

Monday 26 December 2011

Why isn't there a cross-bike in your future?

In the old days a road bike took fenders, wider tires and was made of steel.  The reasons had to do with poor roads and bad weather, which most of us still come across.  Road bikes nowadays are geared for racers*, and not for duffers or tourists like me.  If you want a bike to commute on, randonneur on, or tour on: you don't want a racing bike, because you can't build it well for all conditions; you don't need an overbuilt touring bike, because it will encourage you to carry too much baggage: you need a CX bike**, or something much like it.

Yes, I know you could get a hand-built bike for randonneuring, or you could get a semi-custom build-up from a good local bike shop, Rivendell or Velo-Orange or such... but who has that kind of money for each of several bikes they have.  Besides, you're not reading my advice if you are in that deep.  This is advice for people like me who want to pay the least for the most, and get a bike they won't regret paying for.  You want canti-brakes, because you can fit any tire under them, with fenders.  You want steel, because it is the cheapest way to get a comfortably riding frame.  You want geometry a touch more relaxed than a modern racing bike, but not so slow as a touring bike.  You don't want a carbon fork, because you cannot modify or attach anything to it.  You may want rack braze-ons, though I have eschewed racks for frame bags, seat bags and a handlebar bag mounted off my steerer with a strong (aluminum) accessory holder.

I prefer fixed-gear for commuting, because I do not like to have to shift in traffic, among other reasons.  Here are some options:
Fuji Feather CX
All~City Nature Boy

Sometimes you need gears after all.  Here are those options:
Gary Fisher Lane
Bianchi Volpe
Masi CX
Masi CX Uno
Salsa Casseroll (actually a rando bike)
Surly Cross Check
All~City Space Horse (also rando?)

You take any one of these bikes, strip off the chain-guard/bash-ring, throw on fenders and 28mm road tires, and you have a great all-purpose road bike.  Take off the fenders and put the cyclocross tires back on and you can race in that, if that's your idea of fun.  Use the fenders and as wide a tire as you can under them, and you have a third-world road touring bike.

For some real travel fun, you could get the Dahon Tournado, with a Richey Break Away frame, but I think it's a bit overbuilt; for about the same you could build up your own ride around a Ritchey Break Away Cross frame.  As the Break Away, or S&S coupler, premium is $500+, you have to ask yourself how many airline bicycle-baggage-fees you're likely to save.  This is not a quick folder for commuting.

*Literally over-geared, and on compact-double cranks impossible to decrease without a change-out: the easier way is a bigger cassette.  Some have a high bottom-bracket, moving your point of balance higher than you want: most don't.

No, I will not meet your friend visiting Tokyo...

... unless they are Japanese.

No, my story's not as interesting as the one in the picture, which would at least give me something to 'dine out on' for the decades I've got left.  I wouldn't even tell the story if it was not so common: Gaijin wastes my time.

A mutual friend of twenty years asks me to meet up with this compatriot when he visits here.  As a favour to her, of course, but it's not like most people are interesting, so I do not especially anticipate it.  However, he asks for some advice travelling here and there, by email, and I am glad to spend some time giving him what information and opinions I have so he can make the best of it.

This morning, Boxing Day, we were meant to meet in Shimokitazawa just before lunch, which is a fifty minute ride from where I live.  I get there; he's not.  I text him, because it's not hard for a noob to get lost in a Japanese train station, and I get a response that he's slept in, and an apology.  I have no time for apologies, giving them or receiving them.  They are something both Japanese and Canadians do more often than brush their teeth.  And as a 'lapsed Catholic', I don't believe in forgiveness... but I still believe in penance: 'Rem non spem querit amicus'*.  If I'd done it to him, I'd be telling him dinner was on my tab.  If not for his sake, but for the value of the friendship with our mutual friend.

So I can tell him all of that.  I can tell him that a Japanese person would have made the appointment hung-over or not, which he likely was.  I could point out that Japanese do not forget appointments, which is another possibility for him, and this largely endears their other compulsive behaviours.  Except, I'm never going to see this guy again, and westerners will never listen to anything that attacks the myth of their own self-importance.  He asked if we can meet later, at the end of his rambling apology.  My answer: 'no'.

I'm a married guy with a kid, been sick for two days, and not in a mood to be dicked around.  I don't know if he got the laconic answer because I couldn't be bothered (except I am writing all this...), I want to keep the mutual friend, or I'm just too tired, but better he got the short than the long answer.

*Deeds, not promises, make friendship. - Seneca
That is the full value of a year of university Latin.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Ἀντισθένης wants a 'fat bottomed' bike!

I have never had a mountain bike in my stable, and want one when I go back to Canada.  Three reasons: I had great fun renting one, the learning curve was not hard after urban fixed-gear riding; I want to be able to ride around Toronto without always fearing fuck-witted drivers; and I do not want snow-packed trails to stop me a third of the year.

Going to be hard to justify a third new bike!  You see, when I leave Japan I am going to try to sell the fixed-gear commuter, and leave the road bike for riding on family visits*, meaning I need to replace both of those in Canada (not sure of the road bike, I so distrust Ontario drivers and even more in the 'burbs and rural).  So the third (or second) bike is the off-road bike.  I'm a tall guy, and I am used to big wheels, so a 29er is it.  Also I would not go full-suspension, eschew hydraulics, prefer steel, and even prefer full rigid.  Some of that is luddite, but some of it makes sense for a winter/summer do it all machine: a fat bike.  What's that?!  You put enormous tires on a 26er, making the diameter the same as a 29er, having about half the suspension of an FS bike, but far fewer moving parts, and a tonne of float.  Goes over all but light snow, which we don't get near Toronto, and rolls over any damned trail.

In the past two years the number of fat-bike frames and complete bikes have exploded, and I will not list them all, but the cheapest/easiest options are the three series of complete bikes made by QPB:

Surly Pugsley Series

Salsa Mukluk Series

Surly Moonlander (overkill!!)

*Because the humidity's too evil to try to run for training around Tokyo in the summer.

Sunday 18 December 2011

'Peak oil': so what?

You ever heard that canard that 'peak oil' would save us from ourselves?  It won't.  No, I'm here to wipe that smug off your bike-riding face.
- climate change is real, and even if you do not believe it is (like my 'bad-faith' oil-company relative) it still makes no sense to shit in your own sandbox
- speaking of sandboxes, that's why the Albertan Canadian Government has ditched the 'Kyoto Accord', that even China's committed to
- if oil is worth more, you're going to do more and more stupid things to get it, like drill in the Russian Arctic
- there's lots of coal to burn yet, or to turn into gasoline like Britain resorted to in WWII
- humans will burn anything: even the mud under their feet when they've used up the trees.
No, there are only a few ways to get us out of destroying the only biosphere we'll ever get:
- our extinction, from which surviving species will diversify and renew a different biosphere
- our near extinction, from any of many human threats, from war to disease
- much cheaper clean fuels, and better use of water, and of land (the least likely to work)
- much more expensive use of resources by having all 'externalities' built into the price (no, this is the least likely)
It should also be said that if we did not fight wars (40% of world GDP) nor allow our rentier classes to hold most of the wealth, we'd have much less than half the problem we have now.  I know what we should burn!

The most likely scenario is the one that has faced all high-input empires: structural collapse due to resource depletion, followed by a collapse of population, followed by a millennial delay for forests and soils to rebound, followed by a repeat of the cycle.

Addendum: the Alberta scum ruining running my country into the ground have got even more stupid - they want Canadians to boycott Chiquita Bananas for boycotting tar-sand oil.  The 'astroturf' oil-industry organization behind this is called 'EthicalOil.org', of course.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Blog-splitting: 'Everybody Hates a Tourist'.

Not removing any posts from this blog, but I am going to split my output: this blog, and one better focused on cycling.  Left and right columns are still under construction.  There's nothing new on it: just the posts from this blog that have 'cycling' as a label.  That way when I comment on cycling blogs, readers don't get traumatized by coming here; and instead of posting reasonable cycling information here to get ignored, I can put it over there... to be ignored.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

A hell of a way to exercise 'sovereignty'.

Canada the first nation to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol.
 Hmmm... You think it's because 'our' government was bought and sold in Alberta?
Well done Canada, for making these two countries look classy!

China (what could the grey be?)


Friday 9 December 2011

So you think Japanese are conformist.

What makes you think your culture's not?

I came home early from a party tonight, because I was enervated by the predictability of the foreign staff, who outnumber the local Japanese. In fact, the most interesting staff were those from a certain SE Asian Catholic archipelago-nation, who try much less hard to be 'individual' and come off the better for it.

The Anglophone staff are going to talk about: how much they drank, or where they are going on vacation, or (if women) how nobody will date them in Tokyo, or how crazy the Japanese are (matter of perspective).  Not a tenth of them have an idea of their own, or even from a book rather than a TV show.

Walked out on good drink and food, and much younger women of various complexions, and am having more fun typing this.  God, I am turning into a curmudgeon.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Bike lighting, with emphasis on winter and tail lights

'Biking in a Big City' has put up a great post comparing AAA taillights.  I have comments below that post, but I'll expend on them here.  Note that all good lights now are LED, since they are bright and use little power; HID, incandescent and halogen are finished.

There are several questions that want answering about your bike lighting needs:
- urban or rural riding (city needs brighter)?
- how much night-riding are you really going to do?
- what are you willing to spend?
- what are the coldest temperatures you're going to ride in?

If you are an urban, fair-weather, short trip cyclist, your needs are simple: get a Planet Bike Turbo for the rear, and something with a white LED for the front.  The PB Turbo even shows in sunlight, so run it if your route takes you through shadow or bad drivers: that is, anywhere.  This set-up is cheap, reliable and removable: to avoid theft or to use on more than one bike.  How bright is the Turbo?  Bright!  View the pictures and video at 'Biking in a Big City' to see.

I use both PB lights shown on the post at 'Biking in a Big City' on steady for urban night riding: flash is too annoying. Also nice the two PB lights use the same mount, which is nearly the same mount that the PB Sport Spot headlight uses.  A very interchangeable system.  The Sport Spot can also be headband or helmet mounted, but it is a be-seen light, so not bright enough to light up a road.

But what are you going to do about winter, if you ride in it?  My experience matches the classic handbook, “Mountaineering, the Freedom of the Hills”: alkaline batteries crap out before 0C, and NiMH rechargeables not much later.  I have run regular batteries, NiCd and NiMH rechargeables, and lithium, down to -30C. Lithium have the best tolerance to cold, then in order of best to worst: NiMH, NiCd and regular. At -30C you can only rely on lithium for taillights, but I have had a headlight lithium power pack mounted on my frame get too cold to put out power.  Flashing also works better than steady in that cold. Perhaps because the batteries cannot put out the power for steady.  More money than lithium batteries, a dynamo, or batteries kept inside your clothing (usually a headlamp), is the best set up for winter.  A good dynamo, like the Schmidt SON shown below, or the cheaper Shimano ones, can drive about 300 lumens at speed.  Both dynamos, and keeping working batteries in pockets, are impractical for tail lights, but practical for front lights.

For randonneuring or other rural night riding, any tail light on flash should be good enough to be seen, or on steady not to dazzle other cyclists. I’d use the Turbo for randonneuring, because a pair of AAA lithium batteries would get you through the night.

Then there is Reelight.  No batteries.  A ghetto-dynamo: powered off of spoke-mounted magnets.  Only a be-seen light, but clever.  Never tried them myself.  Hmm... wonder why nobody's made a more powerful version so you could just use one of these to drive a front light, rather than have to use a dynamo hub?  Oh, they have, but even the manky 'Magtenlight' is putting out only 100 lumens.  I want triple.

*With 'HID' on this post I kept getting spam commercial comments.  Comments on this post closed because of it.  Not even about bike HID, but for cars.  Damn, design a better spam-bot, assholes.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Ignorance is 'blue-balls'.

Hey religious bigots, the 'separation of church and state' stops the state taking your gay children from homes where you victimize them, even by them having to hide their identity. It also allows you to say to them that all the accurate sex-education they get is wrong, and to try to keep your children from being sexual adolescents and to try to stop them having sex: instead leading to a higher teen pregnancy rate among American evangelicals than the rest of the American population; and higher than the lowest rate, in sex-positive Holland.  It should not allow you to fuck up the education my kid gets in school, but though politicians and the public are pussies and give in to you, it will not fuck up the education he'll get in my home.

You haven't done enough damage to my HS years you need to mess with my kid's?  Catholic girls that would let you do anything at all to them, except what would help a poor teenage boy get off?  I admit life-long issues with trusting females' coupling motives, kilts and stockings, thanks to you freaks.

Just because you've no idea how to get each other off is no reason to make the rest of us as miserable.

'SAD' Kenyan runner in Alaska

Sounds like this poor bastard got Seasonal Affective Disorder, and went out for the fateful run to help it, consciously or not.  Anyone else think it's a dumbassed idea to give a scholarship to someone from the 1st parallel at the 61st parallel?  Maybe someone should have thought about the consequences of that after his buddy committed suicide?  You wouldn't look into contributing factors?  A few lamps couldn't have hurt.

As for me, it's only my morning bike rides that gets me out of bed through the winter, at the 43rd and 35th parallels.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Japan: wise the fuck up.

So little has changed since I first visited Japan in '93, except it's shabbier.  I like the place, but fuck...
My brother tried to shop for a gift for the hybrid using Amazon Japan's and Rakuten's English pages, on my following advice:
You can use Amazon Japan, or the J. equivalent: Rakuten. Both have English websites, though they do tend to give you a J. page before billing.
Which prompted the reply I expected:
So, we looked at Amazon and Rakuten, in a vain attempt to buy him something locally, but gave up quickly...
To which I answered:
I don't know what it is with Japan's English customer service and marketing... They mean well, but have the wrong people at the front desk, or IT. The fluent staff member who was abroad in school or university is never put there, instead someone who took some English classes within Japan. Little better in twenty years. Why should they have a seamless English website for Amazon or Rakuten? It's only millions of dollars lost when people sign out in frustration. It's not like English is the international default language...
But if you want to hear me go on how lame Japan is at ESL, for its economic status, look at those links in this sentence.  Too bad they have not realized twenty years after 'The Bubble' that: those days are never coming back, and nobody will do business on your peculiar terms anymore.

This post is about what has not changed in the eighteen years since I first came:
- The status of women is still the worst in modern nations, apart from Korea (but they do everything like Japan, a few decades later).  Not like Japanese women take it anymore, nor will they rebel openly: instead they screw foreigners or nobody at all (see marriage and birth rates).  We wouldn't want to accuse Japanese society of passive-aggression, of course.
- Pedestrians still can't walk.  How can a whole society not know how to walk?!  How do they even get to work doddering around in shoes sized for an older sibling?  You're not going to grow into them, at fifty.
- Middle aged men still care more about their cars than their daughter's virtue.  I've seen Japanese men go apeshit after cutting me off, when I punched a body panel.  Found inside their daughter's wet groin?  They'd just leave the room or take video.
- More subway lines in Tokyo; no more room than before.  Despite a job shortage.  Don't understand this.  Are people dressing for work and riding aimlessly?
- Absurd real estate prices have still not collapsed enough from 'The Bubble'.  Business centre or not, given the size, shite economy and (lack of) quality, prices should be lower than even a third-tier city like Toronto.
- Domestic hotels cannot get their act together for native or foreign guests, even after half of them have gone bankrupt since 'The Bubble', as it is a better deal to go to Hawaii, Whistler or Guam.  Pricing per person?  Still?
- Still cannot get a decent breakfast (read British or American), even in a proper hotel.
- Still surprised that non-Japanese can speak it.  Even if they have lived here a decade.  Even if they speak it as poorly as me.  Even though they watch 'pet-Gaijin' on TV every night.
- Still hire from 'elite universities'.  Even though all Japanese know nobody studies at university, and the only way to give up life enough to get in is be autistic.  Even though no research comes out of Japan unless it is related to sex-bots.  Even though the rest of the world is kicking your ass.
- Spend a fortune on the sex trade, but no time on how to date each other.  It's not hard to make a Japanese girlfriend happy (a wife on the other hand...).
- Men still look like girls, and yet are homophobic.

I could do this all day.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Masao Yoshida, stone-cold hero.

The head of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant... told workers to disregard Tepco's order to stop injecting seawater into a reactor soon after the crisis erupted in March [saving Japan's ass!], according to government and other sources.
Read the rest here.

PM Kan admitted in an interview that the discussion about a full evacuation of Tokyo had begun.  Yoshida and the Tokyo Hyper Rescue Squad (with balls that big, you can call yourself whatever the fuck you want!) made this avoidable.  Tokyo is Japan: the rest are regions.  The rest can be nice, but government, business, entertainment... all of it is centred in Tokyo.  After a two-decade recession this country could not have picked itself up after that kind of a beat down.  Japan would have a N.Korean economy, because everyone with options would get out, leaving only the monolingual and ancient.

Here's the subtext:
- most Japanese cannot crisis-manage even if their own life is on the line (Fukushima, not changing their codes or tactics for all of WWII...)
- Japan elevates the most studied, not the most capable
- there is no sense of civic-responsibility individually, corporately, or in bureaucracies
- the power company did not communicate accurately to the bureaucracy, which did not communicate accurately to the Prime Minister's Office
- the power company was willing to put all of Tohoku and Kanto (Tokyo) at risk to try to save one plant already near the end of its working life, already damaged beyond repair
- none of the brass were on sight, at risk, or to asses the situation
- the power company CEO was missing for the first several days of the crisis
- personal connections are how anything gets done (Yoshida was a graduate of the same university as then PM Kan)
- the power company is all over the place about what kind of radiation sickness he has
- the tool in charge of the power company's nuclear plants is taking over for Yoshida instead of gouging out his own eyes

Yoshida stood against all of that and did the right thing.  Whether or not his illness is related to radiation, there is no reward large enough.  In jest, Socrates wanted Athens to pay for his meals.  I'd be happy for my taxes to go towards a sinecure for him, and every single member of his family, for a few generations.  After all, how many centuries would it have taken for ten prefectures to become inhabitable again?

Favourite Posts

I'd be flattered if readers would look at my favourite posts, 'Read my best', in the left column.  Most recent are at the top, but the earlier ones at the bottom have had the fewest readers, from when this blog had an even smaller following than now.  I'll be adding more to this later, with more recent at the top once more.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Excuse my insanity.

This blog is under resurrection/facelift. I appreciate the comments I have recently got, and I have given it better thought.  I am not closing the blog, but the renovation is going to be messy.  Bear with me, please.

Have I mentioned the amount of bi-polar disorder in my family?

As for the Ancient Greek and Latin: sure it's pretentious, but I have to do something with my long-ago BA, 'Major in Philosophy', or it was a complete waste of time... (!).  If you care, there's Google.  If not, I think unknown script looks cool: my favourite is Korean, which no, I can't read.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Thank you, and goodbye.

The year this blog has been active has been an interesting experience, and I have had some great communication, but alas... the blog doesn't do what I want it to do anymore.  I wanted to play with writing about the things I know and the thoughts I have, and now that I have done that for a year, I want to write more seriously, and in longer format.  My longer format pieces have got less readership than the shorter, so this will be blog-suicide.  I've had a naive dream of being a 'writer': trying to start online should soon kill that.

I'd love to tell you more about my plans, but since my new blog may include my full identity, whereas this one does not, I am going to be more judicious in how I use my identity: here I have not, and need to disassociate from it.  'Mr.S.' may also no longer be commenting on your blog.  Thank you for that opportunity.  I'll still be reading yours, if I have before, and I may comment under a new name.  I will not admit any connection between the two names, of course.

Thank you to all of my readers, and especially to those who have commented with their blog linked.  The latter are, in no preferential order:
- Will
- Chris
- BiggerInJapan
- kamo
- Derek
- angrygaijin
- Medea
- Brian
- sixmats
- octopus
- Martin
- jay@newzjapan
- Blue Shoe
- Our Man in Abiko
- loneleeplanet
- Robbie

Keep writing.

Thursday 24 November 2011

'What's old is new', or not?

Old: Brooks Titanium Swallow, 307g, $400 US. More expensive, requires upkeep, weather-sensitive, heavier; time-tested and classic.

New: Fizik Kurve, 220g, over $200 US.  Cheaper, low-maintenance, weather-resistant, lighter; unproven and soon dated.

I own the top one*, but have never had my hands on the bottom.  The Fizik has copied the rail-suspension system of Brooks et al. but in aluminum and plastic (... carbon-composite).  It may be great, or not, but the points of comparison above stand.  It's certainly clever, but I am a fan of proven and older technologies, as in an earlier post.

*Went to get a Brooks for my road bike a few years back.  Was looking at a $200 CAD 'Professional' at Curbside.  Shop-dude brings down the $500 CAD 'Swallow' to ask me if I'm interested.  I tell him that's what I want, but there's no way I can afford to spend that while saving for a wedding ring.
It's on sale for half-price.
Here's my credit card...

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Tuesday 22 November 2011

UC Davis Chancellor Katehi's Walk of Shame.

Hundreds of silent students make UC Davis chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi take the 'walk of shame' to her car.  Powerful.

I'd feel pity for her being the scapegoat*, until I read her self-justification for letting lose the campus pigs with pepper-spray.  Read it if you'd like, but I can paraphrase: it's not my fault, the kids brought it on themselves, some of them weren't even 'one of us'.

We have to scorn the cops, as I already posted.  Also filth like her.  The first message we give the rest of the 99% is that the cops, and the 1% who run them, do not rule by our consent, but by violence.  The cops and the 'elites' don't care, but we care, and they'll care when too few of us believe in them to run their system.  Violent or peaceful, that's how a revolution is won. She ought to thank whatever she believes in that no kid suffocated on that spray.  It will happen yet, and people are pissed-off already.  Going to be ugly.

Quite a number of people are cancelling employment, or lectures at UC Davis, or speaking out as faculty about their own abuse by her cops, and putting it on her.  Hope the door doesn't hit her too hard in the ass on her way out, because the university board's going to scapegoat her to try to keep it from sticking to them.  Good luck with that, cowards.

*No, no pity.  Seems like this is in character (link sent in comments below).   %$#@ deserves whatever she gets.

"Bad decisions make great stories."

Most of the following links from Treadly, whose blog has risen from the dead.

Seattle Randonneurs Trailer from Dan McComb on Vimeo.

Ha, I think that should be the motto for Chris' blog. Has nothing to do with bicycling, but will tell you more things about the Japanese and Gaijin than you expected to learn.

Returning to the theme of the video, I have just about got my ride set up for randonneuring, which I will display when done, explain, etc.  100km rides tend to start in January here in Kanto, then move on to 200km, then 400, 600, and the 1200km ride in Hokkaido...  There's an elegance in long distance riding, which I don't see in racing or in mountain biking; those sports have their own pleasures, but competing against strangers and hopping logs is not elegant - if otherwise cool.

I have my own take on this, but here's another good one on staying alive riding in traffic.  It would help if drivers would put the fucking phone down, and the Blackberry outage proves it.  And if you don't like red-light cameras, maybe it's because you're too stupid to slow the fuck down!  Racing is cool, on a track.

Back to the title, I've had a few bad decisions turn into great stories (but nothing on Chris!):
- hiking in a typhoon
- hiking at night in the mountains without any light, in clouds, during a new moon, along a cliff
- riding over two 1500m passes, over 160km, on a crap bike
- taking a dart on the bridge of my nose
- putting a few cars in ditches in my youth (which is how I know fast drivers are immature)
- winter camping, several times, in Canada
- winter riding in Toronto
- crossing 5km of very bad water on Georgian Bay in the cold, without a wet or dry-suit, alone in a kayak, with a leaky spray-skirt, without anyone to rescue me from hypothermia if I had fallen over... and I still don't know how to roll (this probably the most stupid and luckiest to survive)
- a loud, unintentional full chiropractic adjustment in a bad landing during Aikido that made three dozen people look to see if I'd ever walk again.  Never felt better
- unprotected sex with an ovulating nutter...  Wait, that's my wife!

Yeah, pretty mild.  What have you got?

Monday 21 November 2011

Blog Anniversary: 30 240 views; 180 posts, big and small.

More for my own sake, because I don't know how many readers I have: this is what my blog has got in a year.

Most popular posts: I should hate-on Canada more.

Referring sites and keywords: Google hits mean shit, but thank you to the others; Canada makes people angry as fuck.

Overview: wish my popularity did not spike with tragedy.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Some day someone's going to ask...

why they've been taking 'a knife to a gun fight.'  Just saying.

You want a link to ten scenes of gratuitous police violence, for which none of the fucks will be charged?  Kind of makes you wonder if they've not been paid to terrorize...

Or a mercenary.

東大 Blows

Went out with the native-wife and two older friends of hers last night for bits of endangered fish: no whale.  The husband of the pair is mid-fifties, speaks English pretty well,* and is the VP for a couple of countries of a Japanese automobile-related company you've never heard of.  He went to a mid-tier university, from a middle-class family, and worked his way to where he is.
A couple of tokkuri in#, he asks me about education.  Well, I am a teacher: I've taught elementary in Canada, and been a body in a Japanese JHS: AET.  He asks me what I think of Japan compared to Canada.  Now I'm in the position of being critical of my host's country, but since he'd lived in mine for a few years, and he's damned smart, I can't dick around with him either.  So what do I do?  I told him that my opinion may not match his, and it certainly doesn't match my own wife's, but here it is anyway.
Your elementary is better, but your junior and high school doesn't cut it.  You teach your kids far more information in elementary than we do, but you don't teach them to think later on.  That's no problem in elementary, because kids don't know anything yet, so how can they have a real opinion, and we're wrong about that in the West.  In JHS and HS, they need to think, not memorize.  Especially now that you can get information immediately, why bother to memorize: learn to find it and use it.
He smiled at me and said, "That's what I think, too."  He also told me that their Tokyo University and Waseda graduates were smart enough, but useless: always asking what they should do - never thinking on their own.  I have said this plenty on my blog; I have said this plenty to my native-wife; damn it was good to have him tell her this!  She has to listen to him, the husband of her senpai.  Japan's problem is those 'elite-university' idiots run the country, but that is little different than the 'Ivy League.'

*... a lot better than my Japanese, so I'm no position to criticize.
# I will always recommend good sake/nihon-shu over anything else for a less painful hangover, and warn you off bad sake for the worst. Do not even consider shochu, and nobody but Okinawans will drink awamori.

Scorn the Collaborators: Start with 'The Filth'

My best friend from my twenties in Japan became the top-spook for CSIS (Canada's low-rent branch of the CIA/NSA) in a Muslim country.  I won't speak with him anymore.  I gave him the courtesy of telling him that it wasn't possible that his position accords with any understanding of democracy or decency, or even Canadian sovereignty or good state-craft, but I blocked him from making any response.  In his position, what would he be allowed to say that wasn't part of the script, and even if he were allowed, how could he square the cognitive dissonance considering himself decent and having any part in getting people sent for torture?*

I have offended mutual friends, but that says more about them than me.  This article points to some better information on the Milgram Experiments and the Stanford Prison Experiment, which everyone needs to be aware of if they have to live among humans: in short, your 'neighbour' would send you to Dachau.  It's self-serving for me to quote this, but it's no less correct:

In “When Groups are Wrong and Deviants are Right,” published last year in The European Journal of Social Psychology, Australian academics argue that group members are often hostile to people who buck conformity, even if the members later agree with the dissenter.
Even when, say, a whistle-blower may prove to be correct, she is not always admired or accepted back into the fold, the academics found. Rather, the group may still feel angry that the whistle-blower damaged its cohesion.
Yes, high school never ends.

It often seems there's nothing to do about the injustice in the world: your power is too small, and there are too few who would join you.  It's still true, for the most part, though the 'Occupy' movement has some traction.  Even if it gets bigger, expect it to be co-opted by the same people who brought our society to this, or taken over by the usual manqué-elite. Who else has the time and the influence?  No, there are two things we can do right now, no matter what your opinions are on 'a diversity of tactics': not collaborate, and scorn the collaborators you know.  In the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments, as well as popular revolt, the first step is to refuse to collaborate, and it is a powerful one: the machine requires collaboration.  It's also the message of the Gospels.**  It is also the basis of the best question I heard a priest ask his congregation: we all 'know' we would have protected Jews and fought the Nazis - what have you done to 'know' you are better than the majority of Germans?

I'm fully aware you can't be absolute about it.  I know I am enmeshed with some people who've made choices I am wary of, such as family members who worked for Wall Street companies, and that it's not possible to live in our economy without being fouled; however, aim for the biggest 'low-hanging fruit'.  I have.  It's nearly useless to scorn 'the 1%', because you can't reach them.  Scorn their agents, because they are nothing without the dupes who work for them, against their own larger interests.  Remember Europe, 1989.

As a start, we should scorn all police.  If you have a friend or family member who is a cop, cut them out of your life.  Extreme?  Not at all.  You may think that only 'a few bad apples' pepper spray (torture) non-violent demonstrators, including 84 year old women, and in a limited way you are correct.  But let me ask you this, when such 'bad apples' remove their badges and put on masks to get away with violence on unarmed people, or run their own drug and prostitution rings, how many of their colleagues will testify against them?  Eh?  Fuck them all.

Maybe not fuck them all.  There are a couple of cops who grew a conscience after they retired, and now speak up (how much nicer if they had done so before).  The onus is on any cop you know to prove himself.  By virtue of association, they are guilty, until proven innocent.

*I am against torture, capital punishment and extra-judicial sentencing for various reasons, but the most important come in this order:
- States have shown they cannot be trusted with these powers
- agents of the State too often nab the wrong person, especially if their complexion is darker than the agents'
- torture and capital punishment demean the perpetrators of it, even should the subject have earned it
- if someone's guilty, charge them  on the evidence; if you won't (Bin Laden) it's because you are afraid of what they may say
- torture gets bad intelligence
- I am happy to pay to quarantine murderers, rapists, etc. for the entirety of their lives - I see no reason to sink to their level
- the expense argument is BS - it's far cheaper to incarcerate someone for life than to put them on death row

**I am no Christian, but was raised a Catholic: a church so twisted to operate in contradiction to the message of its messiah.

Friday 18 November 2011

Quote of the Day: I couldn't resist this.

New Kate Bush album! And she's having sex with a snowman? Sounds like Christmas to me!
- organicprankster on guardian.co.uk

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Oh, look! Another Fucking 'Chicken-Hawk'!

What an ass Frank Miller is.  Read 'The Guardian' piece on how he slandered the Occupy movement, and consider that his blood-soaked homoerotic comic strips are uninformed by any risk or sacrifice on his part.
In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas' basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft. Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.
Despite all the acclaim he got for 'Sin City' and '300', I thought that they were pretty typical 'torture porn'.  'The Dark Knight Returns' I'll give him credit for, but... some people are corrupted by success, aren't they?  He ain't no Alan Moore, in politics or in talent.

Guardian has commented well.

Sunday 13 November 2011


I don't know if the word is meaningful to me as an aetheist-Catholic*, or it's more scathing use in Lu Xun's 'Benediction', which left me a lasting impression.  However little I believe in god+, there are moments where you are blessed.  Since we have so much to complain about, I'll share one of mine.  One of them that keeps me from jumping in front of a train (the main one, my wife and child).  Be forewarned of sappiness.  You look at the world differently with a kid.
I'm waiting for the native-wife to come out of an Ueno Starbucks with our coffees, but there must be a line, because I'm spending about ten minutes keeping the kid happy by tickling him, and acting like an ass.  He's a year-and-a-half, but he belly-laughs.  He's also cute, or I should say: Japanese think he's cute because he's a fair, big-eyed, half; I think he's cute because he's mine.  A well-presented Japanese couple comes out of the same shop: she's close to forty, him more to fifty.  She's as big as the picture.  She looks down at us where I'm crouched with him and smiles, and reflexively puts her hand on her belly; he smiles at her, and puts his hand on her back to help her down the stairs.

For once, I did not feel like a Gaijin with a cute half, getting attention.  I felt their happiness at their late, unexpected, chance for a baby.

*Because like Judaism, you never really leave.
+Not at all.

Quote of the Day: Veteran at Occupy

I went and fought for capitalism and that's why I'm now a Marxist.
- Army Specialist Jerry Bordeleau
Fucking the vets might turn out to be the biggest mistake the 1% made.  Politicizing them would be the biggest success the Occupy movement can make.  I'm no Marxist, though that dude's earned the right to his opinion.  Enjoying reading about 'Wobblies' pamphlets available there: one union versus all the corporations is the way to punch above your individual weight class.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Sorry this blog is going political (and losing the Japan and bicycle posts),

but times are fucked up.

Good god, just days ago I wrote this comment:
Is this crap about Iran the new distraction? Well-timed to distract against a citizen's movement? Iran, at best, is Iraq's problem. They are a nuisance, but not an existential threat, to countries without a shared border: Israel.

If we are lucky, the 1% has lost the plot; if we are unlucky they'll resort to fascism to get it back. At a certain point they may decide if they don't enslave us, they'll lose it all. If they make that choice... the rest of us have all the authority we need
And so it comes to this:
Yet alarmingly, the assumption that Obama would never be so dumb as to start another Middle East war [Iran] is questioned.
Just what American money, military, or public consensus is still up to fighting strength to do that?   And 'nuclear proliferation'... how is it the purview of the old nuclear states under international law to have the authority to police emerging nuclear states?  Besides, we're looking at it the wrong way round.  MAD works (until it doesn't...)!  America never directly went to war with the USSR, China, or North Korea.  Hmm...  Not my preferred version of peace, but in this world I'll take what I can get.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Quote of the Day: 'self-attribution fallacy'.

Been saying this for years...
If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you're likely to go to business school.

documentary website
And in Oakland it looks like the police have been instructed to bring in les agents provocateurs.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Quote of the Day: Tiabbi on Wall Street's 'Noble Lie'

Noble Lie?
Were there a lot of people who wouldn’t have gotten homes twenty or thirty years ago who are now in foreclosure thanks to government efforts to make mortgages more available? Sure – no question.
But did any of that have anything at all to do with the explosion of subprime home lending that caused the gigantic speculative bubble of the mid-2000s, or the crash that followed?
Not even slightly. The whole premise is preposterous. And Mike Bloomberg knows it.
In order for this vision of history to be true, one would have to imagine that all of these banks were dragged, kicking and screaming, to the altar of home lending, forced against their will to create huge volumes of home loans for unqualified borrowers.
In fact, just the opposite was true. This was an orgiastic stampede of lending, undertaken with something very like bloodlust. Far from being dragged into poor neighborhoods and forced to give out home loans to jobless black folk, companies like Countrywide and New Century charged into suburbs and exurbs from coast to coast with the enthusiasm of Rwandan machete mobs, looking to create as many loans as they could.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Quote of the Day II: pissed off, weapons-trained, 99%ers

Here's a thoughtful quotation:

2nd time I’ve fought for my country. 1st time I’ve known my enemy.

Throwing grenades at a vet... really fucking stupid.  Now there's a group called "US Veterans of the 99%".

Addendum: fucking cops busted the spleen of another vet in Oakland, and left him on the floor of a cell for hours.  Lucky he's not dead, for the vet and their legal department.  Wait... 'the filth' never get charged.  You'd need a pig to tell the truth about another.

Been a long time coming...

Fuck yes.

And it looks like the mercenaries are getting ready to switch sides.

Quote of the Day: Glen Greenwald on Washington.

"In this world, it is perfectly fine to say that a president is inept or even somewhat corrupt. A titillating, tawdry sex scandal, such as the Bill Clinton brouhaha, can be fun, even desirable as a way of keeping entertainment levels high. Such revelations are all just part of the political cycle. But to acknowledge that our highest political officials are felons (which is what people are, by definition, who break our laws) or war criminals (which is what people are, by definition, who violate the laws of war) is to threaten the system of power, and that is unthinkable. Above all else, media figures are desperate to maintain the current power structure, as it is their role within it that provides them with prominence, wealth, and self-esteem. Their prime mandate then becomes protecting and defending Washington, which means attacking anyone who would dare suggest that the government has been criminal at its core." (my bolds and underlines - Mr.S.)