Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Over the river

and through the woods

November Snow in Seattle is a rare thing, but we've got it. It's 11:00 am, and the mercury (or, accurately, the digital thermometer...) says 25 degrees fahrenheit. A "normal" November day would be about 40 degrees, and have a bit of rain. The normal month entire would see a bit less than 6 inches of rainfall. So far, we're pushing 15 inches, which is the record for any month they've got.

But it's made me create a brilliant new energy-saving invention that I hope will come into use. I had a brief silly moment when I went to get a soda and was disappointed that there were none in the 'fridge, but then realized that there were more in the patio storage area. Since a refridgerator is normally at about 38 degrees, the patio was cooler, and, of course, costing no energy. But then I thought, my refridgerator lives in a well-insulated apartment that usually is at about 69 degrees. Why am I paying for power and coolant to reduce the stuff inside by 30 degrees when everything outside is colder than that anyhow?

What I need to invent is some way to link the thermostat to a refridgerator to a blower hooked up to the outside. Naturally it would be prohibitively expensive to modify just one 'fridge this way, but wouldn't this be a great thing to invent? How much energy could be saved in millions of homes by being able to cool your food with only the power of a small fan any time it was less than 40 degrees outside? All you would need is a thermometer outside, and a sensor that would decide whether to use the powered air conditioning, or the passive cooling.

Imagine not just home refridgeration, but the massive walk-in coolers at grocery stores, being able to just channel outside air rather than use energy.

Is this possible? Has anyone tried it?

I'm sure this would save a jillion and a half watts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

(Nor do the wind and the sun and the Rain)

Yesterday was the 15th of November, which puts us halfway through the month. It's been raining cats, dogs, buckets, kitchen sinks, and whatever else you want to use to describe this nonsense. People have been poo-poohing me when I've ranted about this; it's Seattle, they say. It's supposed to rain in November.

Yeah, well, not like this. It's the wettest November on record, folks. Not as in "wettest to DATE," mind you. Wettest ever, and the month is half through. Today the forecast has only "showers," but the overall trend doesn't look like it's getting any drier. The wettest month on record, ever, is December 1933, and there's good odds we'll pass that soon.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can you swim?

Can your bike?

It's been raining here in Seattle, which is not a shock, but it's raining the way it's not supposed to. I mean, with a few reprieves, this is forty days, forty nights type rain. Seattle is supposed to be perennially grey and drizzly. If you look at the number of days of rain we get, it's huge, but the total inches of precipitation isn't much greater than many other major cities, and you can do the math and sort out that the average inches of rain per wet day really isn't that big. "Average." "Usually."

There's a series of multi-use trails that I often ride on, and like most MUTs they usually follow riverbeds or wetlands. You can see where this is going. At a number of junctions the trail dips down a bit to pass under a road or highway. In ordinary times, of course, the river would still be several feet below this level; it's not as though the trail even goes right up to the water's edge. In the summer, the Green River is little more than a muddy creek. If this weren't the pacific northwest, I'm sure we'd say "crick."

But today, today is a very different day.

I should've been warned by the "puddles" that filled some of the gravel parking lots from the wetlands, or the farmers using bilge bumps and hoses to drain the contents of their fields-cum-swamps into the street. I should've been warned by the "water over roadway" signs. But no, thinks I, I have my cyclocross bike, I am invincible, I can handle this stuff!

The first superpuddle I went through was pretty small, and I was able to simply coast through the whole thing. Perhaps a foot of water bogged things down considerably, and completely soaked my feet. This last part is the important bit. I HATE wet feet. I mean, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. But the simple truth is that there comes a point when wet is a binary statistic: your feet are either soaked, or they are not soaked. These, then, were soaked, and nothing I could do for the rest of the ride is going to make them UN-soaked.

So, when I hooked up with the group, they of course asked how the trails were, and I honestly told them they were "pretty wet." Of course, if I were forthright, I'd have said "impassibly flooded," but I'm not that nice. After all, these are the crazy folks that decide that the "Caution 21% downgrade ahead!" hill is a good thing to ride down in the rain, they can handle it.

At the first underpass, it's clear that the whole thing is submerged, and I'm in the front of about a dozen riders. What follows is a dirty trick. You all know the cyclocross dismount, right? You just swing your right leg over the bike, step through between your left leg and the frame, pick up the bike like a suitcase, and run over the barrier / obstacle / hay bale that the organizers have put in the way. The idea is to keep as much momentum as possible. This is the plan here, and the folks behind me suddenly have to decide what to do. A few try to RIDE through the water, two others, one also on a 'cross bike and one on a fixie with mountain pedals, do the same thing I did, some curse and turn around. A couple do the curse and turn around part, but they don't decide to do this until they are already in the water, which means they're basically standing in the water trying to get unclipped and turn around.

Remember how my hated wet feet can't get any wetter? I keep telling myself this as I wade across the knee-deep stream. A few laughs, a few punches in the shoulder later, we're back on the road.

My comeuppance arrives at the third underpass, and everyone but the Other Guy on a Cross bike has learned the "fool me twice" saying and go the long way around. This time, I can tell the water is a little deeper, so I carry the bike over my shoulder and wade onward. The water is up to my thighs when Other Guy shouts out "dude, screw this, let's go around." Whatever, I'm deep enough in the mud as it is, may as well go through it, right? Right?

The water is touching the wheels of my bike, still over my shoulder, and if I thought my feet Could Not Get Any Wetter, at least I could feel them before. About the time the water gets up to my hips and I think I've reached the deepest part, I find that I'm falling into the water. The city of Kent has helpfully put some A frame warning signs out, suggesting that the trail is closed due to high water. One of these signs has become completely submerged, and I've just run into it. I'm falling forward, try not to drop my bike or face plant in the water, lean back, end up sitting down onto the sign, the top of which is only about six inches deep, and spend a moment figuring out exactly how I'm going to stand up.

Eventually, I do, eventually, I continue my ride, and at some distant point in the future, I can feel my toes again.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Jack Abramoff: One Cool Cat.


Nevermind the lobbygate. How cool is Jack Abramoff? This guy needs to be on the Sopranos. Remember, kids, crime doesn't pay. Except in money. It pays a lot of that.

Bugsy Moran shows us how it's done

Yes, that's Bugsy Moran.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I suck at HTML.

I've got a simple version of a weblog, and generally use the basic blogger format to make stuff work, but I seem to have kicked my links and sidebars to the bottom of the page and don't know how to fix it. Oh, bother. Hopefully I'll get that sorted out shortly.

This is post 201, which means I've been kicking out enough of this rambling that I should figure out how to format it!

In other news, the Fat Cyclist (who is not at all fat any more, though I suspect this may change over the winter) has been rescued from beneath the oppressive thumb of Microsoft, and now blogs fully independently at It's pretty funny stuff.

Now, it's "off-season." This means I'm taking a week off of riding, as part of my transition to getting started for next season, when I hope to kick more butt (mostly my own,) and suck less. That means that this week is entirely off the bike. I can't remember the last time I did that. I took 4 or 5 days off, I think, when I got injured when hit by a car last winter... but this is an intentional down-time. The idea is to come back wanting to hit the road more than ever, though there will be the added challenge that it'll be cold and rainy at that point.

Right now it's just cold. Actually, really really cold, but only for Seattle. Places that are actually cold laugh at our pretend cold.