Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Your foot, I wanna see the bottom of it, could you flip it up?"

Some soeaker at Bike the Drive said some bullshit about how biking has "no carbon footprint". Which is, of course, totally not true at all.

Caveats on this article: these calculations assume your food's carbon footprint is in line with the national average, that you're riding really fast, riding a new bike, and care about hygiene. These are all significantly more flexible than the fuel consumption of your car (you can eat local food, not ride 20MPH on your commute, ride an old bike or keep your bike going for longer than most people, and tell people that complain about the natural odor of the human fucking body to fuck off). It also ignores how many more miles you're likely to drive if you have a car instead of doing things closer to where you live, assumes that you won't live closer to work to facilitate a bike commute, and fails to account for how many miles the average male driver spends cruising around with a car packed full of babes attracted by how much they love the loud, bass-heavy music he cranks out the windows at full volume all the time. Anyway, regardless of the numbers, it's not zero-carbon footprint.

I guess, all in all, I have to apologize for flipping off and spitting on the car of that stupid fuck that honked at me as he passed me yesterday on my way to Lincolnwood (I was overtaking another cyclist, checked for traffic and gave ample warning that I was going into the middle of the lane, and got back right promptly; he accelerated just to swerve out into the opposing lane and pass me in the short time I was wide... in the end the whole maneuver was worthless, because he got stuck behind a line of cars at the next stoplight, and he never came close to catching up to me after that). There were three people in that car. Three pre-torn-pre-faded-baseball-cap-wearing douchebags. Out saving the earth from the high energy costs incurred by selfish asshole cyclists.

So, um, Drive your bike to work, motherfuckers. Or, alternately, stop saying things, loudly and into microphones sponsored by the Mayor's Office of Special Events, that make us look like fucking morons. Or, alternately, I shouldn't expect thoughtful comment from what's ultimately a manifestation of a "green marketing trend" in mainstream America. Or, alternately, I should sleep more and be less angry.

A Man's Gotta Do...

... and I don't mean that in a gendered way, of course. A woman would have had to do the same. But, due to a medium-sized plumbing catastrophe, I can say with a high degree of certainty the following things:

  • I had less fun Saturday night than you did
  • My bathroom is cleaner than yours
  • A couple hours ago my bathroom was not cleaner than yours (even if your bathroom looks like Anurag's from his first year of college)

Now I'm going to get no sleep and then go do Bike the Drive tomorrow. Should be a blast.

Edit: when I wrote "no sleep" back there, I thought I was just exaggerating. Being a drama queen, as is my custom. But I just looked it up and the blasted thing starts at 5:30AM. It's 2:30. So I literally am pulling an all-nighter between cleaning shit-water off my bathroom floor and biking the drive. Charming.

Oh, yeah, I guess I have a bit more time now 'cause I'm not sleeping, so I can write about the other thing I wanted to write about. I hit baseballs today! Not that exciting, just felt the urge and biked up to the batting cages at Novelty Golf in Lincolnwood. I am still an absolutely awful hitter, but it's fun to take some hacks. My strategy, since I was going to miss a lot anyway (and since I had plenty of tokens and a distance runner's endurance and tolerance for repetitive activities), was to take the biggest cut I could muster at every pitch, figuring I'd at least get a couple of good knocks. I probably looked like a jackass all those times I mis-timed my weight-transfer and went flying out the front of the batter's box, lunging at the pitch, but I did get several good knocks, and had a pretty awesome time doing it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Firefox to become evil?

Well, probably not, but you should always be on the lookout anyway. Read this delightful blog entry about Mozilla and data collection.

A few things. People generally don't want personally identifiable information about them on the Internet. Even if Mozilla Foundation does a better job at anonymizing the data than, say, AOL did (long story short: AOL released what users were searching for and assigned each user a unique ID; many users had searched for their own names or other personally-identifiable data, and so the IDs could be traced to specific people), there's always a chance that collected data could be stolen by hackers before it's anonymized, by compromising browser security (every major browser has security vulnerabilities discovered all the time... sometimes they even get fixed) or the server that collects the data (servers get 0wned all the time, though not so often when administered competently, as MoFo is likely to do).

And as vague as they are at this stage on what data is to be collected, I'm not sure even if they pulled it off perfectly it would be for the best. Web designers improving their sites, making them more addictive, using more fucking slow-ass Javascript, forcing hardware upgrades, encouraging people to waste more of their lives on their cute, vapid social networking and meme-multiplication sites. Marketers understanding consumer behavior better, driving more sales, driving more consumerist waste, more debt, more environmental destruction. Sounds like a positive outcome, 'eh?

Fortunately it is open-source. If Mozilla Foundation decides to collect web usage data on users a fork will actually get some attention (unlike the current forks, which have occurred because of the clash of Mozilla Foundation's rather corporate take on branding and the four or so freedoms of Free Software, which only dorks like me care about). Firefox has long had features representing interests other than its users', and the geek community has stood by because they've lined up closely enough. But I think even a pretty benign-seeming (to the bureaucrats, marketers, and web designers that love this proposal) data-collection feature could send important parts of the geek community to forks, or even to other browsers like Konqueror, Opera, or even IE.

EDIT: the link to the Mozilla branding thing up there is old, and doesn't refer to any of the specific issues relating to branding trademarks and software modification that caused the forks, but it's a decent example of Mozilla corporate speak, of yet another Mozilla guy that is standing above his community rather than within it. "If we want to have an impact we have to trick people into it with clever branding and marketing." As a side note, Firefox "evangelism" has always creeped me the fuck out.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

There are hills in Illinois!

And they're closer than I thought! I mean, I know there are awesome hills around Galena, and in Little Egypt, and these aren't really hills so much as undulations, but they may be the best hills within the Metrasphere (the Metrasphere is the radius around Chicago served by Metra, Chicago's excellent commuter rail system; in many areas the extent of Metra service is the extent of the sprawl).

Today I did a real proper north-suburban/rural-ish grueling bike death march. The route went like this, from the Zion Metra station to Jess' house in Cary. If you turn on the elevation chart you can see what I'm talking about. No big climbs, but lots of little chops. The hardest climb was probably the one right at the end on Rawson Bridge Road. I hadn't looked at the chart beforehand and wasn't expecting it.

I spent a fair amount of time with my Chicagoland bike map plotting the route out of Zion, since I'd be going through the middle of town and the network of recommended bike streets was sort of complicated. All the time was wasted. There was not a whiff of traffic anywhere. I have to go ride out there more often. The wind came and went throughout the ride, probably more due to how exposed the various stretches of road were than the wind really shifting around. While I was in the wind it was steady and coming from the west or northwest, making the initial gradual climb away from the lake shore a bit tougher. Grass Lake Road was the early scenic highlight, winding through the Chain of Lakes.

Coming south was a mixture of far-suburban subdivisions and more rural stretches. Johnsburg Road north of Johnsburg was downhill, smooth and fast, scenic at times, mundane at others. I was pretty tired by that point, not looking around very much. In my directions I'd accidentally written a left turn instead of a right onto Bonner (easy to do when writing directions from a map coming south; I make mistakes too frequently, though). Fortunately I was properly suspicious of the left turn, because three straight lefts didn't make any sense given my location and bearing, and I didn't have to go far to determine I was going the wrong way: the road ended after two miles. The wind in my face coming back west on Bonner after crossing Highway 12 (at the top of a ridge) was particularly strong but that wasn't a long stretch. The last few miles into Cary flew by.

Jess wasn't sure if she'd be home, she was to leave for Urbana at some uncertain time. She had already left when I arrived, so I went over to the train station and waited for it. Bunch of hooligans on a bar crawl on the train going from either Woodstock or Harvard to Mount Prospect. I got off at Jefferson Park and rode the 5 miles back home. Hit just about every red light on the way back, including the lights at consecutive blocks at Damen, Wolcott and Ravenswood, then two blocks later at Ashland, the next block at Clark, three blocks later at Broadway, and two blocks later at Sheridan. Reminding me well of why I wanted to get out of the city for a bike ride.

I didn't time the ride very precisely but I think it took about 3:10, including the time I spent doubling back, and the two times I stopped to stuff down food (I haven't mastered eating and riding simultaneously, let alone opening wrappers for stuff... I guess if traffic was really light I could go no-hands and do it). With the four extra miles from the directional mistake, my pace for the ride was about 17MPH. I don't know if that's good or not (I know nothing about biking, and I've really tried to keep my biking simple rather than getting a trip computer to feed me data I don't know how to interpret. I've just been paying attention to myself physically and learning how to read my body). Wind, the slight overall climb and rolling hills throughout, eating time, and occasional waiting to cross streets slowed it down, obviously. I was pretty tired by the end of the ride, but I was strong on the last little climb, the last few miles flew by, and my legs never really died. I think I paced myself well, kept my cadence pretty fast, and remembered to eat before I felt like I needed it, avoiding the lull that I've had on some other rides between desperately choking down a Clif bar and being able to use that energy. But I have no data to back any of this up.