• Just An Experiment

    Posted on by Don

    Here is a test of an embedded Strava activity:

    There’s noting special about this particular run, I just picked it as an example to see what it looked like in my browser.

    Here’s another example of an embedded map, this time from Google Maps:

    Again, there is nothing special about this map — in fact, I’d be wary of using it, as it’s probably years out of date — I just picked it out from a bunch I made once. The point is to notice that the embedded map showed up.

    One more embedded map, this time from Ride With GPS:

    They all just seem to work, right? Contrast these with this one from Garmin:

    If you have anything other than Firefox, you may see the embedded activity (inside the box I added for clarity), but if you’re using (a more modern version of) Firefox you should just see a gray line and a blank space in the box — Firefox is blocking what it now considers an insecure script coming from Garmin. I talked to Garmin tech support, and they say it’s a Firefox problem — that is, their insecure script is really a Firefox problem — and they won’t be fixing it.

    This screws up about a half dozen pages here, and a few more on my old blog, and maybe even some other websites where I’ve embedded Garmin rides over the years. I think I may be going back and re-doing my ride pages in RideWithGps. Ugh, work… Oh well, lesson (re)learned: avoid counting on Garmin, especially their website.

  • Back From North Carolina

    Posted on by Don

    We just got back, this afternoon, from a trip to visit Emmi & Kyle, see their new house and help them paint the interior. Drove down last Thursday, then did four days of camping in their new place — they haven’t moved in yet; the only furniture was a card table (with four folding chairs) and an inflatable mattress — but we got four rooms prepped and painted, and we even managed a little bit of sightseeing, dining out, etc.

    We  also did a bit of exploring: their new neighborhood is next to a preserve along the Eno River, so one night we walked a trail to the river, which led to a large and popular swimming hole. After we were done yesterday we went back for a well-deserved dip. Our work was indoors with the air-conditioning on, but it was still hot: the weather down there was upper 90’s and sunny. Sweltering…


  • In Memory of Two American Badasses

    Posted on by Don

    Yesterday was some awesome mountain biking at Merli-Sarnoski Park, just outside Carbondale. I rode up with Scott S, and we met Mike K and Renee E at the park. This place is pure northern Pennsylvania, hardwoods-and-granite singletrack, with rocky surface and plenty of climbing. Those guys rode like the monsters that they are, and I managed to hang on the back…

    Merli-Sarnoski State Park is named after Gino Merli and Joseph Sarnoski, two local guys who both won the Medal of Honor in WW2. I found no biographical information about these guys on the park’s website, which I thought was strange, so I Googled them:

    • Gino Merli (1924-2002), one of the inspirations for The Greatest Generation, left high school and fought his way from Omaha Beach to the Battle of the Bulge. Along the way, in Belgium, he covered his comrades with machine gun fire as they retreated from a German attack. His position was overrun several times — he feigned death as he was bayonetted, then when the Germans moved forward he got up and shot everything standing. Twice. When the Americans counterattacked the Germans surrendered, and his comrades found him still at his gun, surrounded by enemy dead. After the war he returned to finish high school, and later in life he worked as an advocate for veterans.
    • Joseph Sarnoski (1915-1943) was the son of a coal miner. He joined the Army in the 1930’s, became a bombardier, and when war came he was assigned to lead training and practice missions in Australia, where he started volunteering for other missions. In June 1943, with three days left before being sent home, he joined a B-17 flight crew on an unescorted photo-reconnaissance mission over Rabaul, where they were attacked by Japanese fighters. (Photography means the plane has to be flown straight and smooth over its target — no evasive maneuvers, they’d just have to fight it out as the cameras roll.)  Blasted from his station and mortally wounded by 20mm cannon fire, he crawled back to his guns and continued firing, while the mission continued, until he died at his position.

    It seems fitting to recognize them here, and it was good to remember them as we rode in their park. I have no idea what they would have thought of mountain biking, but I’m glad that the Merli-Sarnoski trails have not been dumbed down; they are as badass as the men they were named for.

    Anyway, back to our ride: it was really fun, and (luckily) uneventful. There were no serious crashes, no mechanical problems; the only mishap was when I looked at our ride time and distance (seven miles in three hours, according to my GPS), and panicked because Scott said the ride was 20 miles long — we had another six hours of riding to go! I actually volunteered to bail, so they could finish the ride at a more reasonable pace. They talked me into continuing, and the pace picked up, though not by much, as the trails became a bit easier in the second half — and then, just like that, the ride was over. My GPS read 12.9 miles total riding, but since it calculates distance by connecting the dots between location measurements, it was cutting corners and under-reporting distance on the twisty trails. Well, live and learn.

  • Two Books And Some Living History

    We just got back from a mid-week vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. Verdict: meh. The buildings and the grounds were nice enough, but for all the fuss I’ve seen it get over the years, I would have thought the place was much bigger, and much more active. We were there mid-week of course, and maybe also off-season, and that may have been all that was really going on, but it did seem somehow smaller than its reputation. (It didn’t help that the surrounding area was a sort of corporate/suburban strip-mall hell, with not particularly walkable streets — biking wasn’t much better, despite the faux “bicycle friendly” sharrows in the gutters — and a dearth of decent, non-chain restaurants.)

    There was also a fairly strong whiff of self-congratulatory propaganda throughout the historic district, of the “we have inherited the virtues of our all-wise WASP ancestors” sort, which had to also contend with more modern understandings of Colonial history — slavery and the African American experience, Native Americans and genocide, and so on. This led to a Disneyfied narrative, with much use of the passive voice, and a defensive tone to gloss over the tough parts: “The colonists did this-and-that, and were welcomed by the Indians. But then war came… Did you know, a slave could buy his freedom? Also, slavery was OK in Africa…”

    This may have just been the result of our off-peak visit, so that we were interacting with newer or less skillful guides. But then, we also visited the nearby Jamestown Settlement, which was basically an indoor-outdoor museum, with permanent exhibits, and the place was actually worse — it fairly dripped with that self-congratulatory/defensive tone.

    Reading #1: Annihilation

    I had Annihilation (by Jeff VanderMeer) on hold at the library, and it arrived in time for our trip. This book was much better than the recent movie, and so creepy and suspenseful it gave me — well, not nightmares exactly, but some very strange dreams… The story is a little more complicated, and a little more well-built than the movie (this parallels my experience with Altered Carbon), and there is more suspense (and less action/horror) than in the movie, but the plots pretty much follow the same outline: a group of women, on an expedition to a mysterious abandoned region in the southern US, are slowly overwhelmed by the weird phenomena they encounter. Great book, first in award-winning trilogy, and I am going to get the second book from the library today.

    Reading #2: The Big Sleep

    This was the first of Raymond Chandler’s “Phillip Marlowe” detective novels; I have it in an anthology that I bought around 1992. I’ve read it many times over the years, the last time being probably more than a decade ago: it has not aged well in that last decade. The novel is still a pretty good read, and because of the quality of the writing it’s a cut above your typical detective story, but the basic plot, the basic behavior of the characters, is outlandish by modern standards: blackmail and killings are involved as secondary crimes, but the primary criminalities are pornography and homosexuality. It’s almost quaint, and the underlying “of course it’s evil, he’s a fag!” tough-guy moralizing grates, and comes across — especially knowing something about the author, who was a bit of a mama’s boy — as a sort of Walter Mitty overcompensation. Looking back now, the most criminal activity (other than the shoot-em-ups) is all the drunk driving done by the protagonist. As Anne said — and this could apply as well to Williamsburg, reconstructed around the same time that The Big Sleep was written: different times, different mores.

  • Wasted Day

    It’s been pretty rainy, and cold again, for the past few days. The sun is out now, but it’s still a bit chilly; I just came back in from a short yard work stint, which has been the only thing I did so far today — no Canal Museum, no ride…

    Yesterday I went over to CAT and did some work on b-i-l Ray’s bike, a 5-speed Raleigh (circa 1974) which is now almost roadworthy, and the past few days I’ve been grinding through a cleanup of my giant mail pile, tossing or filing things as necessary, paying bills as I find them. Both of these were exhausting work, my brain was fried, and I did something I thought would be restful: I watched the new NetFlix series Altered Carbon.

    Big mistake. I loved the book(s), and found the dumbed-down TV version somewhat unsatisfying, but I couldn’t stop watching. I ended up binge-watching five episodes last night, and two more this morning. Plenty of violence, and sex (or at least nudity), and the basic outline of the story is still there even if the backstory has been uh, altered. I was up past midnight watching, so maybe that’s why I was so tired today.

  • And A Couple More

    Friday’s ride at South Mountain in Emmaus was awesome, though it started late in the day with some missed connections. (We were all together at the trailhead by 4:30 and riding soon after, so it all worked out.) Greg, Ken M, and Mike K and his brother Mark. The day was pretty warm for a change, and I was puffing and sweating but I thought I rode well enough, especially on unfamiliar and sometimes difficult terrain.

    Saturday I rode in to the Museum again for the annual volunteer cleanup day at the park. Unfortunately, I got my signals crossed (maybe a theme for the weekend), and arrived at the end… Facilities guy Scott set me up with some work for me before he left though, so I got in my share: about about four hours of sanding benches. I only got four done, and part of a fifth, but it was hot, dirty work; when I left for the ride home my butt was dragging…

    We went to Ted & Mary Lou’s house last night — after my too-short nap — to celebrate their daughter Lily’s marriage. A fun evening with a lot of really nice people, but it was also an early night: we were home and in bed by 10:30. The evening, which started out just on the good side of “too warm,” had already turned chilly on our walk home. Now it’s cold and blustery out, and we’re expecting rain.

  • A Coupla Rides

    I’ve been getting out a lot more as the weather gets nicer…

    Last Thursday I took a “mapping ride” on the Iguana, down the South Bethlehem Greenway and over into the Intermodal Facility, aka Commerce Center Boulevard. There’s been a lot of construction over there, new buildings as well as new roads, and there has also been a persistent (and likely erroneous) OpenStreetMap note connected with that location, that I wanted to clear up but I didn’t know the area at all. So off I went, to see it all firsthand and gather data. Total ride mileage: 14.8 miles in just over an hour and a half.

    The result? After the ride I was able to update the map with several new roads and buildings, including the extension of Commerce Center Blvd into a huge, newly constructed loop. (I’d never been back there, and was amazed at the size of the place and its buildings.) I also updated the Greenway, which is now no longer under construction, and added a new access point.

    On Friday I did a towpath ride, 23.5 miles in 2:04.

    Wissahickon was on Saturday. I half expected this ride to be canceled because the weather was supposed to be bad (one reason for Friday’s ride), and the day started cold and a bit sleety, but things rapidly improved… I rode down with Lou and Scott, and we met Jason and Mike down there. I have not been to Wissahickon for mountain biking in probably 20 years, had no idea what to expect, and ended up having a hilly, rocky blast. We all felt good and rode well, especially for how early in the season it was — weather-wise at least, if not according to the calendar. Ride stats: 16 miles in just about 4 hours.

    Monday was another Towpath ride, and yesterday I rode the towpath to my Canal Museum gig — on my ride home I was running on fumes.

    Today is a rest day, and it’s raining anyway, and tomorrow I may ride with a few friends at South Mountain in Emmaus.

  • Double Nickels

    Happy Birthday to me! Yesterday was my birthday, and I’m now 55 years young. Dinner and cake at Mom & Dad’s on Sunday, drinks with friends last night, a good birthday weekend all around.

  • Gautama’s Gizmo Time

    Posted on by Don

    Today I’m writing at Lit, the relatively new coffee shop in Southside, while hanging with Anne. I could say I’m now living the dream: laptop and wi-fi in a caffienated third space, except that the dream actually is a bit noisier  than I would have liked…

    Sometimes I think I’m drawn to tech more because I like the idea of tech — the toys and gizmos, smartphones and memory sticks — like the feeling of being in Staples or another stationary store. All that paper! The desks! The organizers! Actually getting the new stationary, or learning the tech, leaves a hollow, let-down feeling, like after all your Christmas presents have been opened, or like a sugar-buzz come-down.

    My latest tech acquisition — my latest trip around the tech wheel of samsara — is a WordPress security plug-in. I’d noticed a lot of traffic on the site, which is cool, but the traffic was basically to my login page — not so cool. The plug-in I installed blocks IP’s that try to login with the wrong user name or password, plus a few other things, and I spent a good part of last night watching it catch and block malicious users. I know I’ll eventually get bored and achieve that come-down, but for now it’s hypnotic…

  • Springtime! Happy Easter!

    Posted on by Don

    I’m sitting at the Bethlehem Library right now — I was planning to maybe ride today but last night’s wet spring snow put the kibosh on that. I felt a bit cooped up and wanted to get out of the house for a bit, so I thought I’d check the new coffee shop (the Church Street Market) across the way but it’s closed on Mondays. I’ll be meeting Anne and maybe Deb at Wise Bean in a bit, but I had a hankering to do the laptop-and-café thing… Oh well, the library works.

    We had a fairly hectic weekend: Friday night was the Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Anne’s niece’s house, Saturday was a Seder at Toby & Erika’s, and yesterday we did an Easter brunch. I got in a ride on Saturday morning, and I’m glad I did since conditions were really good, and it looks like they won’t be good again for a little while. Spring’s coming, it’s just taking its time.

    Fun with Computer Maintenance: I got fed up with Adblock and installed uBlock Origin instead. Better, faster, less intrusive.

    PostGIS Fun: I merged all the bus routes into one GeoJSON file, then loaded them into the database. I then took that table and broke it into two others: one containing the bus stops, with their names, reference numbers,  OSM attributes, and geometries, and a bridging table (sans geometry) containing fields for the bus stop reference, route and stop order for all routes. Some new ideas: “select distinct on” and “window functions.” Works like a charm!

    Off to the Wise Bean…