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

Sunday 31 March 2013

Gear Inches, Weights

If you don't ride bikes enough to know what 'gear inches' are, which is likely to mean you have not yourself changed chainrings, cassettes, freewheels or cogs, skip this.  The rest... the few... I have thought much and am making some changes on my road bike and fixed gear.  Links, and more links.

It's all about efficiency.  I am a spinner, not a cranker.  I do not bother with a cadence monitor.  I know I am cranking too hard and spinning too slow if: my legs hurt early and my speed goes down a few km for doing more work.  And if you want to learn to spin smoothly, get a fixed gear: spin badly and get spanked.

On the commuting fixed-gear I had it at 74" (28mm tires, 44 ring, 16 cog), which worked well in Toronto, except for a few hills, and worked well when I stayed on the levée paths and east side of Tokyo.  Crossing the city, with its ridiculous number of lights to start off from, and finishing over an hour of that with some hills on the Yamanote side, I am wanting to take it down to 69.5" (28mm tires, 42 ring, 16 cog).  The latter is the way it came stock.  I rarely get spun-out now, and have brakes if I get spun out with the change.  It will be nicer on the hills and lights I cannot avoid.  11.5kg/25lb: not bad for a steel mid-range fixed-gear in a 59cm.  Too bad I have just found I need to overhaul the headset...  PITA.

On the road bike this is no issue on the flats: you can always find a gear, double or triple.  However, I want to climb the irohazaka this year, which means I need low gears, but I do not race in pelotons, which means I do not need the highs. 

I bought a triple, which was foolish: heavier, and a wider q-factor/tread, and I never use the big ring.  It came as 30/42/50, but I changed the 50 to a 46 and still rarely use it.  Fact is with an 11-28 cassette 42/11 is 102.2" and tall enough, outside of a paceline.  With the 50 the range is 28.7-128.6"; with the 46, -111.9".  Now a modern 'compact double' is still a range better for racing than nimble touring and training; a 34/50, even with my wide 11-28 cassette misses a lot of low end: 32.5-121.6".  What to do?

This is the shit!

The Sugino OX801D is devilishly simple: 'compact+'  The short version is that it is a double equal to a triple without the big ring, so instead of a q-factor of 165mm, 145mm, which is as narrow as a frame will let.  That much narrower is said to be 5-10% more efficient.  I have ordered the 44/30, with a 175mm crank (love to try 180mm, but the Japanese don't make that size...).  With the 11-28 cassette: 28.7-107" with a better spread of gears in the middle than a modern 'compact double'.  If that doesn't have enough wall-climbing ability I'll put a spare 26 ring on it: 24.8-107".  Incidentally, she's a steel frame/fork bike, 59cm, and still just 10kg/22lb.

Road bikes and fixed-gears come over-geared.  There are two reasons: built for doping racers in pelotons, and bravado.  Truth is, if you are cranking hard, you are not efficient: you are slower.  It's all about efficiency.  You want to go as fast as possible for the least work, money and discomfort.*  I have achieved that.

*least work - correct gearing to spin, not crank
  least money and discomfort - steel over plastic or aluminum; seat and handlebar bags over panniers and racks; tires neither too thin nor wide

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Today's generalization brought to you by 'konbini' incompetance.

In this country
this is who you are.

We don't have a printer at home: we don't print much, cartridges dry out and replacement prices are thievery.  I'd print the document I need at work, but I am on holiday.  So I take the Word document on a USB key to the konbini that has a printer, right?

Of course the first girl I speak with doesn't know what to do, but she plays with the machine for minutes before admitting that, and calling the manager.  Him, likewise, but he has nobody to call.  Along with the usual 'moshiwake-agemasen' meaninglessness, I get an explanation that it can't access a Word document, though it can access Excel, so I should go home to change the file type, and return.

Sure, I'm going to do that.

J-wife goes online to see if we can Internet transfer the document to the konbini, even after my usual rant about not giving money to idiots (such is her respect for me).  She discovers their system doesn't support Microsoft documents in English.  Well, not like anyone can speak it after studying it for most of a decade...

Tuesday 26 March 2013

"Sometimes, you gotta not assimilate."

A fine philosophy.
No, don't think about the caption too hard... as it were.

I'm on the train to get Hybrid II's Japanese passport, because I cannot get Canada's until her birth is registered, which takes a year!  I have two-month old her bound to my chest in an 'Ergo'; the J-wife's got toddler Hybrid I in a baby carriage.  None of the locals makes so much as a glance from the 'courtesy seats', despite most of them being able-bodied and in their twenties.  This has long ceased to surprise me, and this time it doesn't even bother me because the J-wife's not bearing the weight of either kid, and the one I've got weighs nothing more than what I used to be able to eat at a 'tabehoudai'.  Hell, I've seen a stupid twat flirting with her boyfriend while he ignored two pregnant women standing in front of him.

Seriously, fuck the locals.

A decent person in the 'courtesy seats' would have offered anyone a seat schlepping a child, even 6'+ me, and I would have demurred and thanked them.  For the first time though, I see a white 'man' acting as much a twat as the locals.  Worse, he's witless enough that he doesn't pretend to be asleep or stare at his shoes.  Or is that better?

So he doesn't have manners, or he doesn't know how to decide if it is more polite to offer a guy almost twenty years older a seat, without implying the guy is infirm, maybe.  'Benefit of the doubt' and all that.  At the next station a petite mother with a kid in a sling, a daughter not out of elementary, and a grandmother well past retirement age, enter and stand right beside him.  Nada.  No, just a cock with as much gel in his hair as the local 'men'.

There is only one person who's looked cool with visible hair gel.

So here's the warning signs to flee Japan for male Gaijin who haven't decided to assimilate to Japan with the worst local characteristics:
- you don't stand up for people entitled to the 'courtesy seat', no matter where you are sitting
- you chain smoke in restaurants beside people who don't smoke
- you cough/breathe/chew with your mouth open
- you fart in enclosed spaces
- you fuck your students under eighteen (mine was twenty and I wasn't yet thirty then...)
- you have the silent camera app on your smartphone
- you pay for sex
- you think happoushu is a great deal

Go home before it's too late, or stay here forever - so much the better for us leaving

Monday 18 March 2013

I have a big head.

No metaphors, please.  Two product posts in a row is lame, but this business deserves wide publication.
You know that 'one size fits all' label in hats?  Bullshit.  Even when they come in two sizes, the 'large' is bullshit.  I base my hat and helmet purchases simply on, 'It's fits, so I'll buy it, because I won't find one later'.  What else is sized that way and meant to satisfy most body types?  Oh...
This is not about those 'units'.

I have looked long and hard (stop it!) for a cycling hat that would fit.  I like them because they fold into a pocket nicely, and get my balding pate out of the sun and the wind; however, they rarely fit.  Now the self-titled 'Velominati' will tell you never to wear a cycling cap except cycling, but they'll ride plastic, so what can they say? I have tried the large Walz caps, and that was money wasted.  There are only two stock cycling caps I have found to fit my 62 cm dome: an Assos I bought, and a Timbuk2 I didn't.  Here's a story on different options, but most of these do not come in varying sizes (pin-heads!).

Looking around (Googling) I found an endorsement on the 'Urban Adventure League' website, and thought I'd give it a try: 'Little Package Cycling Caps' (mind out of the gutter, you).  Custom hats for reasonable money.  Not much more than off the peg, and they fit!  Worth mentioning that as cycling caps are light, it cost only $11 US to have two sent airmail to Japan.  Worth adding that I had them in hand in about two weeks.

If you are interested you can follow any of the links above, or in this sentence.  I got the black cotton with an orange stripe, and the black wool/silk mix.  Most pleased.  Customer service was great, also.  I emailed the owner more than once, and got quick, polite and pertinent replies.  When I ordered I wrote this:
Size 63cm for both, please. And if it saves postage, send them in the same package, even if it is a longer wait. If it matters any, my head is long, rather than wide, and 62cm precisely, but I figure 1cm extra will be more comfortable. Thanks.
She let me know she found and used a pattern for narrower heads.  She made them for 62cm, not 63cm as I asked, and she was right.

I am fully satisfied for what I paid.  No, more than satisfied, even if 'beggers [could] be choosers'.  If she reads this, there are just a few things that would make me buy about four more:
- elastic webbing all the way around, not just at the gather at the back, to feel even more secure
- softshell materials for winter hats, in dark colours to gather what UV it can
- cool synthetic materials for summer hats, in light colours to reflect UV
- more colour options for the cotton hats as black is too hot in the sun, but white gets too dirty looking

She will certainly get my business again.

Friday 15 March 2013


That's almost affordable.  Titanium is the right material for bikes: rides as nicely and as durably as steel, weighs as little as plastic (carbon), usually costs double the prices listed here.

If you can afford custom...  Moots.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Extemporaneous Rage-Haiku

Posted to my personal Facebook from the train this morning:
Yamanote train.  Girl with a cast.  Nobody stands.  Die oyaji.
If I had known I was only a syllable or two off an accidental haiku, I would have tried harder:
Yamanote car.
Girl with a cast.  No one stands.
Fucking oyaji.
No 'seasonal word', but fuck it, Japan.

Dude, got 'the clap' much?

That's why you shouldn't go to soaplands.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Starbucks 'Reserve': we've been had, of course.

It's for chumps, but for 'shits and giggles' thought I'd see how good a coffee sold by them is, that costs a pint of beer.
I do like a good cup of coffee, and I am willing to pay a premium for a premium product: to a point, not a fault.  Also, too much coffee in Japan in a fancified cafe is no better than from an automatic brewing machine: often worse, so it drives me to this chain.  Japan: process divorced from product, immunity to cognitive dissonance, the 'uncanny valley', and all that.  I'd just about kill for a cafe anywhere in Tokyo that could: make a machiatto with little foam, pull the espresso with any crema, and if they could do either of those without a bloody show.

The bloody show...  Rather charming onesan made this coffee for me, and rattled off the spiel in Japanese, corporate Starbucks has had scripted.  Good for her she found it about as silly as me, but hey, she had a job to do, and keep (and who can help enjoying an honest giggle from a girl half his age?).  Gave me the grounds to sniff before the machine did its voodoo.  And sure, it was good.

About as good as Starbucks coffee was five years ago...  Anyone else noticed the change?  I am no devotee - never was - but in less fashionable parts it was the more palatable option.  My palate has not aged so quickly.  That is to say, it's more likely the corporation found a way to skim money for cost-savings since most twats who go to Starbucks get something more masturbatory than my black coffee: 'venti no-fat caramel frapuccino', or such.  You want some coffee with your baby formula?

This snowflake knows when he's being had.

Sunday 10 March 2013

A little too 'Cloud Atlas' for me.

Yes, the pun's intended.
So, this might be how it felt to live in third century Rome...

Go to 0:43.
I have been here for the Kobe and Tohoku earthquakes, the Fukushima disaster, the Tokyo Sarin Attack, and this. What's next, fucking kaiju?!

Just call me 'Rob McKenna'.

Saturday 9 March 2013

"The psychological barrier of the fourth bike"

I have a plan...
Once the psychological barrier of the fourth bike is crossed, the bike collection can be expanded indefinitely.
It so happens, I have only three: two in Japan (road, and fixed), and one in Ontario (city/gravel).

Will leave the fixed here for training, take the road bike back, get another fixed-gear in Ontario for commuting (4!), then a Madsen for the kids (5!), and a Krampus for myself (6!). Think I'll need a well-locked garage...
Even then, that's one bike in Japan, one for the kids, and only four for me: road, fixed, urban/gravel and dirt.  And hey!  The road bike was bought before marriage, the urban/gravel for me by the wife, the fixed is a commuting 'necessity', so that's only one bike for me as a toy: the dirt - Krampus.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Gilliam or Japan?

Forget the obvious, like English, or white actors.  Can you really tell?

The future you got may not be the one you want, when it looks like "Brazil" or "12 Monkeys"!

Sunday 3 March 2013

Kanji is stupid.

A Vietnamese solution makes a whole lot more sense.  Vietnamese had a Chinese-based phonetic script with tonal marks.  Japanese needs a phonetic script, and can even use the native ones, with inflection marks to differentiate: the three different 'hashi', for example.
And context would take the place for the rest, as it already does in speech.  Hell, most people are using fewer than a thousand kanji in daily life from what I can tell when I ask a native to read me something, and they fail.  Maybe if there was any other way to learn vocabulary than kanji by rote these people might modernize their education, and society some.  Nah... Too late.  Romanization was considered during the American occupation.  The Americans got rid of the peerage, but not their stranglehold; and got women the vote, but no social influence.  Alas.

Just bitching because with my several hundred kanji I cannot decipher how to fix the settings on my phone that my J-wife fucked up, and she is out of town.  She gamely tried to help on a phone call, but when I can only read the less important half of the instructions, and Docomo and the other providers have utter shit for English pages, it's a wash.

And before some Orientalist starts telling me I am a bad man for not learning kanji, it's called a 'cost/benefit' analysis, pinhead.  I have two kids, a wife, a job, a desire to stay decently read and in some kind of shape, and learning any language would have to come after all of these, and sleep.  And oh, most languages would require less input for more fluency, and its speakers might not forever consider me Gaijin, and as I am better looking and have more charm than you, I got some in Japan before I could speak even as poorly as I do now.  Sucks to be you.

Kindle Android App: Japan Fail

Getting your Paperwhite to work in Japan is not such a big deal, so long as you have a wireless router at home/work for set-up, or find a public free one in Japan: PITA.  Getting the Kindle App on your smartphone/tablet to sync with your Japanese Amazon account?  Ha!
Customers of Amazon.co.jp will need to create a new account on Amazon.com
Fuck off Japan.  No, just fuck off.  There is always something in Japan's import or content laws to fuck up things for the consumer, and much like how they build, belies it as a 'First World' country.

I bought the Kindle hardware via Amazon Japan, and I checked I could reregister the location to Canada/USA later, as I am leaving in over a year, and because I assumed there would be reduced content on Amazon Japan.  The content is fine, but that the app doesn't link to Amazon Japan, but seems to in other countries is the usual Japan BS.  I don't even know why, or care, but can guarantee it is on the Japanese end.  (Canada's Kindle seems to link to the US, which is fine).  So I was wrong about why I would need to be able to deregister the Paperwhite and my account from Japan, but I was right that I would need to, long before leaving Japan.

What one does, and I will do, is link the Japanese Kindle account with the ebooks one has bought on Amazon Japan to a US account, or Canadian one (just make sure your account has an in-country address or you may have trouble), and move the Kindle registration to the same US or Canadian Amazon account.  I have an account in all three countries...  Because hey, maybe I want to be able to have my ebooks at both my reading devices, and even my laptop, all on the same account and equally accessible to each device!

Fuck off Japan.

And I still have not figured out how to get my Docomo Galaxy 3 to tether to my Paperwhite!

To answer kathrynoh's comment, "Why not just one Amazon?", much of it must be about licences and taxation.  And I do not know if Amazon Canada or Japan has fewer English ebooks, but I do know that the US site has them all, but not Japanese titles.  Still, seems like there should be one damned site at which you could choose your location and language, and Amazon sort out the licensing and shipping efficiency.  Maybe the way to go is to use your local Amazon site for anything physical, but the US site for anything digital.  You need an American address to avoid trouble, but surely everyone has a friend in the US...  Do not know how much trouble you might have if you do not have a US credit card for buying ebooks.  I have ordered gift certificate to relatives in the US, and physical objects sent to a friend's address in the US, all on Canadian and Japanese cards: no ebooks yet.

I am trying to convince the J-wife she needs an Android tablet so she can get her own Japanese books in Japan and in Canada, and for the hybrids.  She'd need to use the Japanese site, of course.  kathrynoh, have you tried putting in a fake Japanese shipping address?  For media it's not like anything will physically ship...

Saturday 2 March 2013

Coedo Beer


Hate their website: don't get fancy, just get me to the brew.

I had not been as impressed when I'd had it in cans, but cans blow.  Most recommend their 'Kyara' (hoppy medium lager, but tastes something like an English 'bitter' ale) and 'Shikkoku' (dark ale, nearly a stout).  Both are not too sweet (looking at you, Belgian-style beer) and extremely well balanced.  The 'Ruri' is a nice hoppy pilsner.  It'd be brilliant in summer.  The 'Beniaka' has been well reviewed, but not my favourite; I am impressed that it is technically a happo-shu as it uses sweet potato rather than malt, but rather than the vileness of happo-shu it is not a chemical product and uses a more expensive process than malt.  The 'Shiro' is a good 'white-beer', but Hitachino-Nest makes a better one.

They have an online shop, and you can get micro-brews on amazon.co.jp