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

Monday 31 January 2011

A Call-Out to NE Tokyo Cyclists

I am looking for some people to ride with on the Arakawa, Edogawa and Tonegawa cycling roads, and sometimes further afield.  In the 'spirit of full disclosure', there are two groups I have thought of joining which you should consider: the Tokyo Cycling Club, whose members ride too fast for me; and Half Fast Cycling, who meet too far from where I live.  I know from the stats on my blog that I have some readers in Japan.  I hope some of you ride.

If your pace is about 25km, you like to ride 50km, or even more, and especially if you drink, for god's sake drop a comment here!  My location is near Kameari station.

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Optimized Technologies

There are certain technologies from the 19th and 20th centuries, and even some from earlier, which cannot be further optimized.  You can refine them for more specific applications, but you cannot improve them, without taking away their optimization in some other way: 'a thing is perfect when there is nothing more you can take away.'

Take the case of the 'safety razor'.  You can imagine that this made the lives of men, and women, much easier than when they had either to use a straight razor, visit a barber, or do something more creative for hair other than on the face.  A straight razor in the hands of a skilled barber does give a superlative shave, but this technology gives one nearly as good in the hands of a duffer.  All of the double, triple and absurdly quintuple, blades neither improve the shave nor the safety.  Even if they improve the shave for you, the disadvantages for most people are telling: they are ten or more times as expensive per shave, they are wasteful of materials and packaging, they are not interchangeable, and they gum up and wear out quickly.  The best and cheapest home shave is a 'safety razor' and a good shaving soap: brush not required, hot water or cold as an option.  Shaving foams are another 'innovation' that is no such thing.

Sunday 30 January 2011

29er! Alfine 11! Want!

This is not my bike.  It's just a picture of a 29er I found online, made of steel, with a suspension fork.  I want something like this:
- steel frame
- 29er wheels
- the new Shimano Alfine 11 internal hub
- Titec H-bars on it
- fattest tires possible for the frame (2.5"?)
- lock-out short travel non-hydraulic fork
- mechanical brakes with big rotors

Saturday 29 January 2011

Retro-Cross? Retro-Grinder?

It's neither a proper monster-cross nor gravel-grinder, but I like it.  The Salsa Fargo would be better at both.  I've lost the silly chainguard, but that's a legacy of the bike's original purpose: a fixed-free retro-style city bike.  In that guise it also had fenders, and those I kept.  It's in Canada, and I am in Tokyo.

To back up a little, my wife bought me this bike, with misgivings.  I'd bought her an engagement ring, little remembering that in Japan all gifts are requited with something of about half that value, so I suggest you marry a Japanese woman.  The guys at Urbane Cyclist in Toronto, where the build was done, have probably started to stalk every Asian woman they see, in hopes she is Japanese and will marry them.  They certainly thought she is cool; and she is.  She would rather have bought me a nice watch, but I pointed out to her another bike is something I would use; I use my cell as a watch, and it's more accurate.

All-Weathers Fixed Gear

This is an old post: the updated one is here.

The 2009 Kona Paddy Wagon I am mostly happy with, but that's because I'd already experimented fixed gear on what's become my 'retro-cross' so I knew what I wanted.  I compromised on my ideal, because I got this bike 25% off.  I love fixed for the interval training it forces upon me, for the quick acceleration, and the low maintenance.  I run both brakes.

Road Bike: Randonneuring Bike

I have quite a nice road bike, but I am not entirely happy with it.  I bought it five years ago when I knew little about bikes, so I am pretty happy that it has been as useful as it has, since joining every sport requires a financial outlay for equipment, which inevitably will not suit your interests as they develop depth.  This is true for the three of my bikes: the 'road bike', the 'all-weather fixed gear' and the 'retro-cross'.  I need to replace this bike with one of the three choices at the end of this post.

The Cult of the Kancho

I'd forgotten all about the vile cult of the kancho, but some vile Japanese child put their hands together in the gesture soon enough for me to back against a wall and let them know just what I thought of the cult.  I suppose that every culture has its weird childhood behaviour contagions, but 'playing doctor' or 'show me yours...' seems altogether more of innocent curiosity than shoving fingers at an inattentive person's rectum.  Wedgies and goosing are also not done in the presence of an adult, much less to an adult!  That Japanese adults think this is cute behaviour, and not cause for corporal punishment, is one more 'WTF?'

How do these awful things get spread?  I've thought that it must spread much in the way of Borges' "Sect of the Phoenix".  That Wikipedia link does not do justice to the mysteriousness of a viral spread of a ritual, the content of which is left undescribed.  I also find the story far more interesting as written, that the content itself is unknown, and without inherent meaning, than theorizing about how the story relates to Borges sexuality.  It is one of the stories in "Ficciones", which is one of the books I have read than make it daunting for me to write.  Here is the full text.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Ignorant and hateful: Catholic fundamentalists are like any other.

Some fundamentalists in the Halton School Board (where I went to elementary in Ontario, Canada) tried to disrupt a civilized integration of gay and straight high school students: they lost.  Thank god for the idealism of youth.  This sort of thing has been tried more than a few times, and a little publicity lifts the stone from these vermin.  Students have been banned from taking a same-sex partner to high school dances, among other bigoted actions. No surprise that the most odious justifications came from quotations from the Old Testament, since the dude in the New Testament was all about tolerance and reflection.  Halton, if you don't know, is outer suburbia to Toronto, where white people move to stay away from 'other' people who live in the areas closer to the city.  It's a place where real estate agents sell streets as white: I have stories.

It's one of the reasons I won't teach in high school, though I was fool enough to start my career in a Catholic board: I would have to risk my career and speak out, though little more would happen than being sidelined, which is already the position of all the teachers with a personality.  A close friend and colleague, and bisexual if you need a label, quit her job in a Catholic board because she refused to live a double life: quite proud of her.  I have raised the hackles of a few parents and administrators on this issue, by pointing out to students that more than 5% of the people they know are gay so it is not a big deal, and by adhering to the Catechism of the Catholic Church by teaching tolerance.  Shoving the latter in their face shuts up most, and the rest I tell them take it up with the bishop if they think I am wrong... Wonder if he's gay?

Monday 17 January 2011

Huffington Post: Japan's Declining Sex Drive.

Holy $#!+, I don't know where to start.  Let's start with the link, and follow with the page's picture, just because she's got great skin.
Reporting on sex surveys is a complete minefield, much less on a survey from another culture well known for dissembling.  That said, there's a high level of pussydom among young Japanese men, worse and worse since I first saw the place in '93.  On the other hand, I live between two 'bawdy houses', and the media is well known for portraying women as sexual devices, especially if they are not of age.  If he has cash in hand, Taro will find it a lot easier to get off here than John will at home, if he doesn't mind the most straightforward transaction.

Sunday 16 January 2011

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!"

I'd forgotten that the winter winds in Kanto are very constant.  Glad I remembered enough of it not to bring my fixed-gear, but I could use one with the three-speed S3X hub.  We've had 20-40km winds from the NW for weeks, and it is cramping my shiftless training.  I have a couple of choices: fly downwind for minutes, and grind back for hours, or the opposite; or take a train upwind, and fly home.

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!"

Nothing beats Shakespeare on a tear (King Lear: Act III, Scene II).

Monday 10 January 2011

"Stop the Child Murder."

I have been saying for years that the only way to get people to care about road safety is to call-out the child murderers: this link shows how it worked in Holland.  It also worked against drunk-driving here.  Remember those controversial commercials in the 80s?  Everybody had 'one for the road' before then.  'Cycling advocates' should stop thinking about themselves first: that's what drivers do.  Drivers have no defence against getting called-out on endangering children.  Get this message out, then get some real enforcement.

My personal quarantine of America.

I know that a majority of Americans, who voted, voted for a Democrat president who isn't white.  I know that the Tea-Party insanity is a creation of Fox 'News' and some dubious moneyed interests, and not an organic movement at all.  I know that those fighting against their own class-interests at the expense of their neighbours, live in conservative fear, in fly-over states; even there a number of people are not insane.  I know that America's two centuries of imperial wars have been fought by young men who died for freedom or their fellow man, while someone else profited and kept their own sons out of the line, and 'dusky people' were decimated.

So no, I don't hate most Americans: I rather like most I have met there and abroad.  I do hate America as an abstraction, and I want it out of my mental space.

Friday 7 January 2011

Crazier than Japan?

It sure seems that way:
- ESL robots with 'white' faces
- Imported Prostitutes Don't Need HIV Testing, But English Teachers Do (aren't we were all whores?)

At least K-Pop girls dance like adults, not eleven year olds.  It still makes me feel dirty, but 'can't let my wife see me watch Kara' dirty, not 'I'm going to jail' dirty.

"Post tenebras spero lucem."

I did some minor research and as I suspected Tokyo's solar noon is more than a half hour earlier than Toronto's, so that's why evenings are so damned dark!  To put it another way, Tokyo is further east within its timezone than Toronto (closer to the sun on this rotating planet).  You can use the links to determine your home city's relative timezone location.

This is less of an issue in the winter than the summer, though I do get some manifestations of SAD.  All winter daylight hours are wasted on work hours.  Toronto is blessed with late summer evenings, and sunsets after nine; Tokyo's summer evenings are dark a full two hours sooner, due to no daylight savings, earlier solar noon, and being further south.  The benefit to darker summer evenings is the feeling you've been out drinking longer.  For Japanese employees the benefit is that it sends your boss home sooner than if it were bright.  After your boss leaves you may think of leaving (shouldn't the higher earner stay longer?).

Wednesday 5 January 2011

They're called 'space-heaters' for a reason.

I am so %$#@ing tired of draughts.  I don't want to roast my legs and freeze my back under a kotatsu, because I don't need eczema concurrent with jock-rot.

I don't enjoy breathing in kerosene fumes and am hoping the 'big one' happens after I leave, or in the summer, so I never learn how napalm feels.  I doubt that a Rube Goldberg contraption is going to vent the fumes, but don't doubt it would also vent the heat.  If I were a positive person...  If someone else were to be positive, they'd be pleased that fifteen-hundred years of Yamato occupation of these islands have allowed them to figure out you shouldn't use burning charcoal under a table, or in an enclosed room.  I suppose kerosene is a small improvement, though don't tell that to the hundreds killed by fire in Kobe.

Man up!

The low-birthrate in Japan, and the resentment some Japanese men have of Gaijin romantic success might have something to do with this!

That's quite alright if getting with a woman is the last thing on your mind, but if you want to be seen as a red-blooded hetero, this isn't a way to dress.  When you already have neotonal features, roughen it up a bit.  You should never threaten being prettier than your girl.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Where Pedestrians Go To Die.

Found this in "Good": among its collection of 'progressive' infographics.
Whatever your politics, it's stupid so many people have to die going for a walk, or getting to work, especially since so many of them are children.  Maybe baby-eating Bush-Cheney Republicans prefer that, come to think of it.  Toronto's rates are right up there with great cities on this graphic like Atlanta, Detroit and all the crap cities in the two outer rings.  All of the cities you might travel to visit, unlike Toronto et alia, have a death rate half, or less.  I am almost three times as likely to die by car in Toronto as Tokyo, despite the far worse infrastructure and crowding in Tokyo.  All it would take is a little enforcement to change the tide.

Minimally related links:
"A Physicist Solves the City"
"Paris may say 'non!' to SUVs" (Imagine the violence in N. America!)

Sunday 2 January 2011

Japan cycling: get a GPS.

I am tired of being misdirected.  I won't say lost, because I can read the maps, and do understand the address system here, such as it is.  The tedium is that once off the levée cycling roads I have to stop every couple intersections to check the map against the address banners on the nearest traffic standard.  Having few street names, and fewer signs, wouldn't be so bad if Tokyo roads were organized in a grid like Toronto's, or Kyoto's!  How am I supposed to navigate this $#!+?