• I Think I See A Pattern Here

    Right now I have three books open: The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West by Wallace Stegner, and Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, by history professor Martha A. Sandweiss. This last book was a gift from Ray, and tells the story of famed geologist/explorer Clarence King and his secret double life, married to a black woman and passing as black, but all three books deal with the changing world of the mid and late 1800’s, and John Wesley Powell is the thematic center of the three.

    Unfortunately, I stopped reading them all, and have become obsessed with Craig Johnson’s “Sheriff Walt Longmire” series, a bunch of cowboy detective mysteries, total page-turners: great scenery, great characterization, but essentially chewing gum for the mind. Anne got them from her Mom, and I got them from Anne; I think she’s read all we have, and I’m on the third one in the series now.


  • Jim Thorpe: A Sunday Ride

    I carpooled up with Renee E yesterday, and we met Hope M at the small parking area where Flagstaff Road meets Lentz Trail Highway. The plan, at Hope’s suggestion, was to ride “Twin Peaks” — a pretty old-school name for an old-school ride, basically up Flagstaff to do Mauch Chunk Ridge, then into Summit Hill to pick up the singletrack through the old strip mines on Pisgah Mountain. I think Hope wanted to see what the old trails looked like, or even of they were still there. Her use of the term “Twin Peaks” told me she was familiar with the area as it was Back In The Day, but I don’t think Renee had ever been on Mauch Chunk Ridge, though she’d been on rides through the strip mines.

    (I’d been in the strippings on Pisgah, or at least portions of it, as recently as this year, and had done the full ride at least once last summer, but it has been years, possibly as many as 10 years, since I’d been on Mauch Chunk Ridge. Much of the area where the singletrack used to be has come under multiple attempts at development — someone bulldozing a bit and trying to sell lots before shutting down operations — so it was likely that the most interesting parts were long gone.)

    Anyway, here was our ride:

    We had a good ride, and it was a lot of fun with a few adventurous parts, but I’ll say it now: Mauch Chunk Ridge, the ride, no longer exists in the form we used to know. It was hard to look at what had been done: forest turned into “scenic overlook” meadows, old singletrack trails buldozed into wide walking paths… I remember so many good times up there, with people who are now long gone from my life, and even from this world; I prefer the unspoilt memories, and don’t think I ever need go up there again.

    We skipped Bob’s Option and continued on the fire road at the top of the ridge to the end, and descended (or tried to) via the powerline trail, and from there we took the road into Summit Hill  and picked up the singletrack behind the cemetery. We actually took the Rim rather than the Ridge Trail, then ended up on a much-damaged Green Blaze Trail (ATV’s). From that point on, we were relying on my trail expertise…

    I eventually made a wrong turn and got us lost, but kept my mouth shut about it, and fortunately we were soon back in familiar territory. Good thing too, because it was raining pretty hard by this point. Down the hill to the Switchback, over the cave crossing, and back to the cars for a total of almost five hours, and almost 25 miles.

    This was a fun ride, the woods were beautiful, and Renee and Hope are both great company on a bike ride, but in the end I’d have to characterize this one as “bittersweet.”

    UPDATE: I looked through my GPS tracks, and the last time I rode Green Blaze was the spring of 2011, the time with Anne when we rode among the mountain laurel and the locust brood. Five years… it seems like yesterday. How long since Mauch Chunk Ridge? My GPS records only go back to 2009, and there’s nothing. I’m fairly sure I rode it at the last Mountain Bike Weekend in 2005, so that’s probably my last time up there.


  • Compiz: Goodbye To All That Eye Candy

    A computer update: the file selection dialog boxes on my machine, as well as quite a few programs, rely on GTK+3 widgets, but my desktop is really MATE (using GTK+2), and the generic theme that the GTK+3 stuff gets rendered in was just plain ugly, so I added an upgrade to the Cinnamon  desktop, and have been playing with that for a bit. My thoughts so far:

    1. Cinnamon seems faster, and seems to also use less computing power.
    2. It (Cinnamon) seems less complete, and more buggy, than MATE.
    3. It has some clean looks, but it is really plain, and all my favorite little pieces of eye candy are gone.

    I tried going back to the MATE desktop, but I found that even though I enjoyed having my toys back, the ugly GTK+3 programs really were too much, and so I’m trying to get used to my new plain-Jane desktop. (I should look into installing a MATE theme that works for both GTK+2 and 3. Then I could go home again.)

    One motivation for changing desktops was that I was planning to use Eclipse as an IDE for Python, which meant that I had to start using Eclipse, one of the ugly programs under MATE. I also upgraded to the latest Eclipse, and installed Java 8, the latest Java runtime environment, and added the PyDev IDE plugin. OK, all of that went well, though I did things in a slightly nonstandard fashion, and I now have an up-to-date Eclipse IDE with Python, as well as C/C++ and Javascript installed.

    But in the meantime… The next time I fired up the Java Open Street Map editor (after installing the new Java), JOSM just puked a bunch of error messages. No idea what went wrong, but I was launching it with the old Java Runtime Environment, and I thought that maybe there was an interference with the new environment I installed. So, I tried launching it with the new JRE, and it came up just fine, along with a message that, at long last, it too had been upgraded to the new Java 8, purely by coincidence but at the same time as my own fiddling.

    Anyway, all is well again, if slightly dull, in my computer land.


  • Leg (and Bike) Update

    So as a follow-up: I managed to not only have my knee banged up from cycling, but I also managed to walk into a gas meter at the sidewalk just outside a house. I kicked it, hard, at shin-level… It hurt worse than the knee, and eventually became infected. The knee suffered a torn meniscus by the way, which needed to have fluid drained and a cortisone shot; the shin needed antibiotics and an ultrasound at the hospital, to check for blood clots (there were none). Really, a banner week for me.

    The shin is pretty much healed at this point though, and the infection is gone, and the knee is also feeling better: I have much less trouble walking, and — when I haven’t been on my feet too long — stairs are not a problem. Luckily, the orthopedist told me that cycling is good for it, so I’ve been doing a lot of “knee rehab” on the towpath, getting more and more used to the new bike. I also set the seat height and position better, and put on a slightly longer stem, and the bike now feels much more comfortable, and rides much better. I took it out Sunday for some time at Jacobsburg, and it quickly became awesome.

    I tried running yesterday. Verdict: nope. Too much pain, and the knee stayed painful for quite a while afterward. Luckily, I was meeting Rich B at Jacobsburg, and my only way to get there was to ride — I ended up doing about 38 miles total. Knee feels great today, though the rest of me needed a two-hour nap yesterday when I got home. I’ll be going down the towpath to Easton this afternoon, for some Delaware Canal volunteer work, so I think I’ll be getting in some more “rehab.”

    And just to throw it out there: I haven’t weighed myself in a while, but I was 177.5# and 11% body fat yesterday, 20-25 pounds lighter than in January, and the first time below 180 in years.


  • Ghostbusters!

    Anne and I saw Ghostbusters the other night. It was no Woman In Gold, or even, say, The Lady in The Van, but it definitely was a fun way to spend a few hours. Silly and dumb, a bit cheesy at times (especially with the shout-outs to the original movie), it was still a fun movie to see. Did I mention that it was fun? Some observations:

    I’m a big fan of Melissa McCarthy, by the way, or at least I really liked her in Spy, and I found her to be a bit of a disappointment here, possibly because they didn’t give her enough space for real physical or verbal comedy. Leslie Jones was really good especially early in the movie, but she sort of faded once she became a Ghostbuster, while Kate McKinnon did the opposite, starting out annoyingly, almost cartoonishly affected before settling into her role. Kristin Wiig seemed to be the designated star, and she did a great job (never heard of her before, but I became a fan over the course of the movie),  but it seemed that her best parts were her dialogue with Melissa McCarthy, and in fact it seemed that some of her lines would have been better coming from McCarthy.

    There was one other main character, Chris Hemsworth as their ditzy beefcake receptionist. Some of the things he did made me laugh out loud, but it was mostly affected sight gags, and little skits that didn’t work for me.

    Affected, cartoonish — these were my only real issues with the movie. They seemed to like tossing a bone to different possible audiences: cameos by Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver for fans of the original (actually I liked these), manic cartoon ghosts (and manic Kate McKinnon) for the kids, etc. Kids might disagree but I found them annoying.

    Bottom line: this is a decent “stupid summer fun” movie. Definitely go see it, but don’t expect Shakespeare.


  • One Day On The New Bike…

    …and I am incapacitated.

    I took the bike up to Sals for its maiden voyage, and I managed to catch a tree with the left handlebar — the handlebars are much wider than the ones on my Turner, or any of my other bikes — on a downhill no less, just after the 3 B’s climb, and it dumped me at speed into the rocks. I landed on my right knee, hard enough to see stars, and to literally bounce across the trail and roll down the hill. It took me 10 minutes to even get up, I was convinced I’d broken something, and I had to walk most of the way home. I spent most of the afternoon and evening with ice on my knee, and I will be doing the same today.

    Other than that it was an OK ride, not awesome but OK. The Santa Cruz rides quite differently than the Turner did, and there will be some things I will just have to get used to, and a few things I’ll need to do — suspension adjustments, seat height, possibly change the handlebar length (shorter) and the stem length (longer) — to dial in the ride. I would like for the bike to be a bit more responsive in turns, but that may come with time and those adjustments.

    There are three pieces of new technology, new to me anyway, on this new bike: tubeless tires, an adjustable seatpost, and 1×11 gearing. The tires are probably an improvement, but one — the absence of flats — that I might not really notice, and the seatpost is a cool gimmick so far, but it’ll be a while before it’s really incorporated into my riding; the new gearing is a bit more problematic. I went from 17 effective gears on the Turner’s 3X9 to just 11 here, and it seems like I have less of a high end, and less of a low end, as well as a less fine-grained set of gear choices. This may be the hardest thing to get used to, but there is apparently no going back: triple chainrings, and even doubles, are being phased out on mountain bikes, this is a weight savings for what could be a bigger and heavier bike, and I think the Santa Cruz has a lower bottom bracket, so a smaller, single chainring helps with ground clearance.

    Anyway, the bike seemed to perform well, especially on downhills, though the big crash wasn’t my only one yesterday, and though it seemed both twitchy (the short stem) and hard to turn (the long wheelbase) it did well enough at Sals. Unfortunately, it’ll be a while before I get to ride it again, and even worse, I’m going to have to bail on the Wilderness 101 this weekend.

    That’s right, no W101. We saw Renee last night and I had to give her the bad news. I felt like such a disappointment, but I won’t be walking much, much less riding, in the next week, and even if I could ride, my knee could never handle 100 miles the way it feels now. Timing is everything.


  • Sixteen Years A Turner Man

    Posted on by Don

    Here’s something that I did today: I bought a new mountain bike! (And despite the similarity in titles, I did not get rid of the Turner like I did the Outback.)

    What I got was a Santa Cruz 5010, though I’m not sure of the exact price point and I don’t recognize the components well enough to evaluate them — 11×1 gearing, adjustable seatpost, the Turner was the pride of the new millennium when it came out, but I feel now like I just traded in a stagecoach for a starship.

    Anne and I had gone over to Saucon Valley Bikes for other business, and I thought I would just look at a bike or two, since I was sort of in the market… We got there and there was Renee, who when I last saw her got on my case about getting a new bike. She and Anne both got on me because I obviously was in love with this bike, and we even did a quick singletrack ride from the shop. I came back and said “I’ll take it!” A few things needed to happen but I came back and took possession a few hours later. Tomorrow is the inaugural ride, at Sals, and I’ll make my decision on which bike to ride for the Wilderness 101.


  • Eighteen Years An Outback Man

    Posted on by Don

    Just thought I’d check in with a Subaru update: the engine is shot, there’s nothing short of a new engine that can fix it and a new engine is not worth doing, so I’m scrapping the car. The towing company will actually donate it to a local (Saranac Lake) fire company, and I get a tax write-off — I just have to wait for my new, duplicate title to come from Harrisburg since I lost the original, probably years ago.

    Anne and I were talking about cutting back to having only one car between us, so for now we will not be replacing the Outback, though our original plan was to get rid of her aging Mazda and keep the Outback, so our situation is a bit fluid, and we may end up getting a replacement for the Mazda in the foreseeable, though probably not the immediate, future.

    The question then becomes: what kind of new car? I have had an Outback for about 18 years at this point; the first one lasted 10 years and almost 200,000 miles, while the second did eight years and only 170,000 miles. I suppose I’d consider another Subaru if we could find a used one for a decent price — it still is pretty much the only game in town if you want a 4-wheel-drive station wagon — but the problems I had with the second one were depressingly familiar, almost at the exact same mileage as the first, and though I know every old car will have problems — and I have trouble imagining myself in something that isn’t a 4WD station wagon — I think I’m a little tired of Subaru right now. I guess we have to do a bit of research.


  • Vacation End… Or Is It?

    Posted on by Don

    Today was the last day of our Adirondacks vacation with Anne’s family; we got up early this morning, cleaned the cabin, said our goodbyes and took off in the rain, the only rainy day of the trip. We (Anne and I) got as far as Ray Brook NY, midway between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid — in other words, we’d just barely started our homeward journey — when the car made a “clunk” sound and died. I had just enough presence of mind, and momentum, to pull into a parking space on the side of the road, in what turned out to be the local Post Office.

    Long story short: my timing belt snapped, and there was no oil in the car. I have no idea which came first but both are bad, like possibly “car needs a new engine, which really means I need a new car” bad. We’ll find out Monday, when we also are going to rent a car in Plattsburgh, so we’re here in Saranac Lake until then.


  • Live And Learn

    Posted on by Don

    I’ve had trouble recently with using my email here at donkelly.net: some — not all, but some — networks wouldn’t communicate with mine, emails couldn’t be exchanged, and looking into why that was so, at say, SDF.org I found that they couldn’t even resolve my domain. The domain always resolved on my home computer though, so some DNS was working somehow.

    But my laptop generally uses the DNS server on whatever wifi it’s connected to, and now, connecting here on Rainbow Lake, whatever DNS server they use wouldn’t resolve my domain — which I took to mean uh oh, there really is a problem with my setup and not just at SDF or whatever.

    I checked my DNS info using third party websites and found that here were some major discrepancies — there were four nameservers listed rather than two, and two of them didn’t work. Turns out the original ones had been retired (by my service provider) but my system hadn’t been updated, and the broken servers were the retired originals, which were the only ones listed in my site’s configuration — I have no idea where/how the correct nameservers got listed. I went in and removed the bad servers, added the good ones to my configuration, gave it a few hours, and now even the formerly broken emails seem to work.

    I could have, and should have, done something about this months ago.