• Background Obsession

    There have not been too many morning weigh-ins posted here lately, but that does not mean my obsession has abated. Far from it — I actually started keeping a log of my daily weights as a spreadsheet, and set up an R script to analyze and graph the results. Behold my weight loss since late June:

    The blue dots are my weight measurements, the black dotted line represents a “linear best fit,” and the red curve represents a smoothed, “LOESS best fit.” My target weight is 167 pounds, which is the weight I need for a BMI of 25, the highest “normal” BMI — I get to 167# and I am no longer overweight.

    I used the linear regression to figure when I’ll reach my target — it’s not shown here, but the black line is set to cross that green line on October 19th. The red curve is kind of showing me hitting a wall near 170# though, so we’ll see…

    Anyway, today was the group ride with Sights for Hope. Anne arranged for a bunch of tandem bicycles, and sighted captains to pilot them, to give sight-impaired people a chance to go for a bike ride. Scott S, Brian S and Ben (who came up from Philly with his sight-impaired friend William) were the captains, and one couple came with their own tandem, so there were four tandems in all. (Ann, Sara A and I rode our regular bikes in support.) We went around the loop of the Ironton Rail-Trail, about 5 miles or so, then had a lunch break before calling it a day. A very pleasant ride, and a very interesting group of people.

  • Data Collection

    Part of what I do, as a member of the D&L trail patrol, is document issues along the trail — down trees, washouts — that may need to be addressed by the land managers. There is a specific report form for this kind of thing, where we enter a description, location (GPS coordinates) and maybe one or two photographs; you can fill out the form on the trail if you have a data connection — a big “if” on the trail sometimes, so I usually do it at home on the laptop, where all things computer are easier anyway.

    My typical workflow: I stop and take a picture, and later at home I use the photo’s EXIF data to get the location. This can be a bit of a pain, so I was thinking that maybe there is some app where I could create an entry, with location data, photos and maybe a timestamp, all added on the spot without need for data connectivity; I can then call the note up and refer to it later at home. (I have a “notes” app, where I can add photos, and paste my location, from say Google Maps or whatever, into a note, but I want the whole thing to be more integrated than that, with less human intervention.)

    There actually are some “geo-notes” apps, but I started overthinking things as usual, my wish list expanded, and then I discovered that here are two apps that actually integrate with QGIS: QField and Input.

    I am currently working with QField. You build a data-collection project in QGIS, then you run the “Qfield synch” plugin to export the project into a format that the app can use. Move the exported files to your phone, do your data collecting, move the updated files back to your computer, and import the updated version back into the original project. This process (export, move files, get data, move files back, import) is tiresome, especially since every data collection effort requires you to go through that entire process — I would much prefer something like “build project, export to phone, then: get data, upload data, get data, upload data…”

    Actually using the app, however, is easy. I set it up to record a timestamp with every point collected, then add a description and optional photos, and it works flawlessly; the only limitation I found so far is from the phone’s GPS, which is sometimes inaccurate. Once the data is back on my laptop, I can massage it (mostly automatically) into the form I need for the trail report.

    Next up is Input. This looks like the more promising app (based on their website), but the grass is always greener on the other trail…

  • Garbage Town

    I did a ride and two walks yesterday. The ride really boosted my civic pride, but the walks, especially the second one, left me feeling deflated and outraged.

    The ride was in the morning, and was a collaboration between CAT and the Bethlehem Historical Society. We rode around town, visiting various historic places (the original Moravian residence halls, the Colonial Industrial Quarters, Sand Island, Burnside Plantation) while our guide Keith told us about what we saw at these places. Some of it I already knew, but plenty was new to me and all of it was interesting. All in all it was a pretty good way to spend an autumn morning.

    In the afternoon I decided to go get my flu shot, so I walked over to CVS on 8th Avenue. It’s just under a mile through our neighborhood, and a very pleasant walk, up until I had to leave the neighborhood and walk a short section of 8th Ave that’s basically a highway. What an unpleasant, noisy, and dirty mess! I almost got hit too, when I had to cross the road (at the walk sign) and someone making a left almost ran me down — his green light coincided with my walk signal, a classic WTF design, and I don’t think he saw me, or even looked, until he was practically on top of me.

    The second walk was with Anne, a longer version of our evening stroll: we went up Broad and down Main, then crossed the Fahy Bridge, walked through Southside on 3rd and returned to the Avenues via the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. There was a rotting garbage smell in all sorts of odd places, possibly from the most recent “WhateverFest” last week, and overflowing garbage cans (and public drunks) along Main Street from whatever the current circus is; we managed to see — and hear, from really far away — parties or concerts at several public and private venues. On the Hill-to-Hill Bridge we negotiated a gauntlet of broken auto glass, garbage and dog poop while dealing with the obnoxiously noisy traffic just yards away. (Meanwhile, the big bright animated billboard had an ad shining down on us, touting the Lehigh valley as a great place for happy farmers and cyclists.)

    It was all a bit much.

    Anyway, the quartet is getting together this afternoon, for the first time in maybe a year.

  • This Old Video

    Here’s the video I did of our memorial ride for Brian. I made this about eleven years ago and put it on Facebook, where it sort of languished ever since — FB “memories” just brought up some of that trip’s photos, and so I went rumaging for it. I just added it to my Youtube channel, where it will have a home — maybe a more accessible/discoverable one — with my other videos, if I ever actually make any.

    So anyway, there it is. I can’t say “enjoy;” it was a pretty somber moment but I sometimes like to look back at that day. I would love to know what happened to some of Brian’s own ride and vacation videos, he was a master at that sort of thing, and his videos were almost as much fun as the trips themselves.

  • Working Man’s Blues

    “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    I did another stint as a bicycle guide over this past week — this time, and rather unexpectedly, as the “ride leader”. I think I did well enough and liked it for the most part, and I think the riders got a pretty good experience out of it, but I also think I’ll not be doing that again anytime soon. Lesson learned: I like riding, and riding with other people, but I am not as comfortable schmoozing as I thought I’d be, and I absolutely hated feeling responsible for people and situations over which I didn’t have much control.

    What I did enjoy, strangely enough, is what I always enjoy: planning bike rides using map and database software. I started this particular ride-mapping project a few years ago. Rides, routes and alternate routes; points of interest and local trivia along the ride; ride logistics like bathroom locations and transportation times between the base and the start/finish — I stuffed it all into a database and managed the whole thing with QGIS. That was all well and good, but then it sat moribund over the COVID hiatus.

    As this new ride season approached I cleaned up and updated my project. Maybe this was really just the “fantasy football” or cosplay of the bike-guide biz, but it did come in handy after some local trails got wrecked by recent storms: I had backup rides already on deck, and enough information in my head to make plenty of other sudden changes “on the fly.”

    It seems a shame that I no longer have a use for my toy. We’ll see, maybe it can be the basis for some other project.

  • Ida, High And Mighty

    We went down to Sand Island, to look at the flooding we got after Wednesday’s heavy rain. This was the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, and though we got a lot of rain, maybe five inches or so, it was an all day affair — I’ve seen more shocking results from a heavy thunderstorm, at least in our neighborhood. The sheer volume though, of the rain that fell everywhere around here, made the situation with the rivers a very different story….

    The Lehigh, when we saw it at Sand Island, was running high; it was almost over its banks, and was running vigorously, almost angrily, and fast. The canal had overflowed onto the island and was pouring down into the river, but if the river were another foot or two higher that flow would have reversed. There was everywhere a sense of overwhelming power, unleashed and rushing past.

    (The Monocacy Creek was also flooding, but I’ve seen it worse — it goes up fast and comes down fast.)

    The last two photos are at the confluence of the Lehigh with the Delaware in Easton. Normally there is a 10 foot high waterfall at this spot, where the Lehigh goes over a dam, but yesterday it was invisible, except for a scary line of whirlpools that kept forming and disappearing.

  • She Hangs On The Western Wall

    I wrote this on Valentine’s Day thirteen years ago. Valentine, Venus, Vesuvius, Venezuela, Vhiessu

    I had several projects I wanted to work on this evening, and a whole bunch of straightening I could be doing, but instead I fell down a rabbit hole — I’d been perusing Anne’s copy of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places last night (after reading some non-Lovecraft Cthulhu stories), looking for the kinds of entries I might like. Plenty of Narnia and Middle Earth, and other things I could do without, but nothing about the Miskatonic River (small blurbs about Arkham and Innsmouth), and then I flipped to the back to read the entry for Vhiessu — nothing.

    So today, after a pretty trying day, I sat down at the computer to do those projects (more on them at some other time), and instead I Googled Vhiessu. There really isn’t a lot about it, though it was used as the title for some rock album, and, on obscure fan pages for Pynchon and Jorge Luis Borges, I found some reference to a fictional travelogue by the “accidental founder of Rosicrucianism,” which also mentioned Vhiessu, and which was in the 1740’s the inspiration for some intentional community outside Prague, which collapsed into “cannibalism, orgies, and mass suicide.” WTF?

    I tried to find more, and found that some of what was referenced was real, but other parts seemed to lead to weird Internet dead ends: circular references, missing articles in archives of dead journals… In the end, I may have been the victim of an elaborate literary prank.

    Now I have to read some Borges, and I’ll have to see if Anne’s book has any references to Ukbar or Tlön.

  • Kathryn Kerrigan Kelly (1900-1967)

    That’s my paternal grandmother, who passed away on this date, fifty four years ago. I was only four at the time, so I don’t really remember her. I have one vague memory of a visit to the nursing home, probably not long before she died: she was in a wheelchair, and I climbed up onto her lap and gave her a hug.

    There’s no point to this post. I just happened to launch GRAMPS for other reasons, and there was an “on this date in your family’s history” notification about her, and I thought I’d remember her (as best I can) for a moment.

  • Eat Sleep Ride

    Some recent rides:

    Yesterday Anne and I did a ride out to the “Snoopy Barn” in Nazareth with our cycling neighbors Mat and Diet, and our other neighbor Josh. Our true goal was Sweet & Savory Bakery in Nazareth; we stopped there for donuts and coffee on the return trip and had a picnic at the nearby park. We were out from about 10:00 to about 2:30, with actual ride time of just over three hours for our 33 mile round trip.

    Saturday we went with our friend Yani B, and Dwight and Rachel with their son Josh, up to the Game Lands in Jim Thorpe. We parked at the first Game Lands parking lot, rode out the the second overlook, then on the return trip we stopped to hike down to the big flat rock area at the top of Glen Onoko Falls, where we dipped our feet in the creek’s freezing water. We spent quite a bit of time at the overlook and the falls, and we also stopped for a picnic in town so it was a long day, but our total riding time was about two hours for seven miles on the old Broad Mountain doubletrack.

    These trails are, sadly, far less fun than they used to be, ever since the Game Commission put down ballast stones, but mountain biking was an exciting new experience for our friends, especially Yani (and Rachel — Dwight is an outdoorsman with quite a bit of MTB experience, and I’m sure he’s brought Josh on some adventures), so it was fun to share the general enthusiasm.

    Thursday was the make-up day for the Weekly Women’s Bike Ride, and I joined Anne and the ladies for a ride down the South Bethlehem Greenway and part of the Hellertown Trail. (Musikfest was in full swing, with Sand Island as ground zero, so riding the D&L was out of the question.) Thirteen miles total, about two hours at “conversational pace,” and then we stopped in at F&A Grog House afterward.

    Saturday a week ago I helped Anne run a Smart Cycling (i.e. LAB “road one”) course, with some classroom learning, skills training at a nearby basketball court, and a 5-mile “put our new skills to use” ride around town. I haven’t done anything like that in quite a while, and I was surprised at how much fun I had teaching.

    The Friday before was a road ride, just me and Anne, down to Milford for lunch. Forty-six miles, maybe five hours plus breakfast and lunch stops. It was a bit on the warm side (and we were out in the sunny hills at exactly the hottest part of the day), but what a beautiful day!

    Thursday was the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at the Canal Museum, and I rode there on the Iguana. Twenty towpath miles — two 10-mile rides really, with a breakfast in the middle.

    All of these events were followed, eventually, by an afternoon nap.

  • American Psycho

    I finally watched this last night. I’ve been meaning to for years in a not-very-urgent way, since I often come across references to it (references that I sort of get but not quite), and then the other day someone posted a small clip as part of an Internet comment, and I decided to just get it over with. So while Anne was at ukuleles (she’s really not into these kinds of movies) I went online and rented it.

    I paid for the movie, pressed play, and got nothing but cryptic error messages from Amazon. D’oh! I upgraded Firefox and re-loaded the necessary plug-ins, turned the machine off and on, all the usual suggested fixes — nothing. (I also tried Netflix and Hulu, they were similarly borked.) Finally I noticed that I had a plug-in installed that I’d forgotten about, one that blocks video auto-play. I was pretty sure it’s obsolete at this point so I just disabled it, and suddenly everything worked.

    (By this point a good chunk of my “alone time” had been used up, so Anne came home just at the violent, climactic ending…)

    All that troubleshooting was the highlight of the experience; the movie itself was strangely …dull. Everyone in it seemed like a coked-up, hyperprivileged Eighties-era sociopath, which is what they all turned out to be. I found none of them sympathetic — I would not have minded if they were all murdered, and would not have been surprised if they all were murderers. The actual psychology of the main character seemed to come more from a book than anything else — he even used the phrase “mask of sanity” at one point in his internal monologue. In terms of tension or suspense, there didn’t seem to be any, and the ending (no spoilers!) would have seemed less trite if it had been just a little more ambiguous.

    Anyway, there it was — I finally saw American Psycho. It was worth seeing, and worth paying $3.99 or whatever, but that’s about it.