• 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.


  • Cellos: 2, Coffee: 1

    Morning weigh-in: 173.5#, 13% BF

    I grabbed the road bike yesterday and went out for a hilly ride through Freemansburg, but something was wrong with my front shifting, and when I stopped to look at the situation — just in front of the Freemansburg Hill Climb entrance, ironically — I saw that my front derailleur was pretty messed up, like it had shifted its position on the frame and the chainrings were grinding into it. Not an easy roadside fix… I turned around and managed to limp home, but once I had access to my tools and a bike stand I was able to get the derailleur back in place pretty quickly. I’m still not sure what happened, but the bike is working fine now.

    So today Anne and I went out for a morning coffee ride, out to Taylor Roasted in Northampton. On the way we passed our favorite bakery (La Luna), so we stopped in there to pre-game with a cup and a donut, then continued on — a two-cafe day! But, when we got to our destination we found Taylor Roasted closed, and not like we were there at an off hour or day either: closed closed. We were a bit put out but hey, at least we got some La Luna… We took the Nor-Bath trail home.

    At home I looked up what had happened to Taylor Roasted, and it was a doozy: there is a small park next to the shop, and one night someone took a garden hose from the park, stuck it in the shop’s equipment exhaust pipe, and turned on the water. The place was flooded out and ruined, and their roasting equipment was wrecked; they’re temporarily closed now while they do repairs. According to Facebook there has been an outpouring of community support, but man, people can be awful.

    This afternoon was cello duets with Donna H, where it seems we have upped our game lately: we’re playing a lot of new and more difficult pieces, feeling more confident about them, and playing them unexpectedly well.


  • Twenty Eight Years Later

    I visited my parents about three weeks ago, and before the visit I rode at Allaire State Park:

    The soil there is pebbly/sandy, and pretty smooth, and the trails are twisty but easy singletrack for the most part — though I was gratified to find a few more challenging sections. Here are a few photos from a trail near the entrance, a section I’ve ridden many times over the decades:

    A trailside selfie! The place has evolved a bit (new trails have been built, older trails have worn in), but it hasn’t changed all that much. What has changed is me.

    Allaire used to host a mountain bike race every year, an important one in the state race calendar — maybe even the NJ State Championship? — and it was an important part of my riding/racing life back in the day. My very first race was with Mike K, at the God’s Country MTB Classic (in Potter County, October of 1992), but here is a photo of me with Mike after our very second race, at Allaire that November:

    That’s me on the left, in my “lucky racing shirt.” I don’t look like that guy anymore, but sometimes I still feel like him.


  • Map Update

    I finally got around to riding the southernmost part of the D&L about two weeks ago, riding from Yardley to Bristol and back, and ground-truthing the trail and access points. I can scratch that off my bucket list, and I don’t see any reason to ride south of Yardley again — this trail section, especially the Morrisville-Levittown portion, is nowhere near as nice as other areas — but I got what I needed to finish my trail amenities map. I may do a little exploring on the Black Diamond north of White Haven just for the sake of completeness, but I think I now have everything I was looking for.


  • Every Week Is Infrastructure Week

    Bike

    Speaking of Scott & Kellyn… I went looking for new parts for my road bike, but found instead that the component supply chain is still completely disrupted by COVID, and I may need to wait a long time to replace that freehub. So I went back to CAT, where Scott helped me find find a wheel compatible with my shifting system, and then guided me through rebuilding it: cleaning out and re-greasing the freehub, ditto the bearings, and putting it all together with my old sprockets. It looks a bit weird on my bike — even though it’s also Campagnolo it’s decades older than my other components — and I am still on borrowed time with my other worn drivetrain components, but the bike is rideable again. Thanks Scott!

    Computer

    My laptop started making a tiny creaking sound when I opened it, and the other day I noticed that the right hinge had become detached in some way. Fixing this, according to YouTube, is an easy enough home repair, and System76 says I can send the laptop back to the factory to get it fixed, but I think I’ll split the difference and bring it to some local repair place.

    Before I brought it somewhere though, I wanted to make sure I had my data backed up. (I used to do backups regularly but, ironically enough, my old backup drive crashed a while ago. So, step one was to get a new drive.) I picked up a 2.0 TB, USB hard drive at Staples, then spent a little time fixing it up the way I wanted it, re-formatting it with a more Linux-friendly filesystem and replacing the drive’s icon with one I like better. After that I just copied my home folder over to the new drive and called it a backup. (I also needed to back up a few other things, like global configuration files, but that was just more file copying.)

    My last remaining backups were the databases. These required using a few special programs, which, since I haven’t used them since my last major upgrade, I just discovered in the moment that they were not configured correctly, and in fact my whole database system was a misconfigured hodgepodge… I had to backtrack a bit and get my system in order, which meant I had to do a bit of learning first, but I eventually got the whole thing running and even managed to automate the process.

    The next step is to bring the laptop to a repair store.