Mmmmmmyoooooooozik Nonstop

The first music I ever purchased was Queen’s “A Night at the Opera.” I’d spent the summer of 1976 in Hollywood with my Admiral shortwave transistor radio going crazy and stopping whatever I was doing every time to listen enthralled by “Bohemian Rhapsody” whenever it would play on 94.7 KMET.

I preambled that because I was going to start this post with my first music purchase being Kraftwerk’s “Computer World,” but obviously that’s not true. What is true is that Kraftwerk’s wonderful work of technoelectropopmuzik genius was the first cassette I ever purchased to play in the Sony Walkman that I bought at the old Adray’s on Wilshire Boulevard with money I took out of my mom’s checking account using one of them newfangled ATM cards that she’d given me strictly for emergencies (but that’s a story whose decidedly unhappy ending involving mom swinging a crutch at me for being such a selfish stupid idiot is one I believe I’ve told before or if not is for another day).

The whole point of this is that I’ve just found an artist — Tyler Walker –who when I listened to the sampling of tracks on his Myspace page, totally made me remember the joythrillwantnow upon hearing Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” for the very first time.

Discovering Walker’s intriguing musicality is a perfect example of the entirely random way you can discover stuff out there in the ether. I was on Tony Pierce’s blog and he had a post that included a Revver vid embed of the Improv Everywhere group’s recent and triptastic “Human Mirror” mission on a subway train. Check it:

I was immediately struck by the bitchin’ track accompanying the vid and at the end of the clip I was rewarded in the credits with a link to Walker’s Myspace page, where I found a selection of his other works.

Even if techno ain’t your thing, you should check it out. In the meantime I’ll be downloading whatever he has available and eagerly wanting more.

The Logistics Of Bike Commuting

I got an email from a fellow named Eduardo who’s recently and awesomely gotten back on the bike saddle for his work commutes and… well here, let me let him tell you:

I’ve been reading your blog and other entries on group blogs and have enjoyed your take on various aspect of cycling in Los Angeles. I recently resumed bicycle commuting to work, the last time I did this regularly was during the MTA bus strike since I typically use the Red Line to get to work. I was wondering if sometime you could blog about your set-up for bicycle commuting since you have been at it for quite a while now. How do you carry stuff between work and home, do you have to change clothes at work, etc? That may be boring to write about but I just thought I would ask since I have been getting tired of having a sweaty back and heavy backback on my daily commute (I bring my lunch and water) and my rear is getting used to being a bit saddle sore. The MTA strike lasted long enough that I did finally get the legs and butt adjusted to the daily roundtrip ride. Anyhow, I’m interested in the details of your daily trek and if you wouldn’t mind sharing that sometime it would be appreciated.

Absolutely Eduardo! Even as a regular commuter It’s easy to for me to forget all the planning that goes into a bike commute. For example, few people realize that office-bound bike commuters change clothes at least four times a day: At the beginning of the day into their bike clothes, then into their work clothes, and at the end of the day out of their work clothes and back into their bike clothes. That alone can be a bit of a logistical dilemma for those of us on two wheels but without the keys to any executive washrooms.

Certainly there’s a fair percentage of cyclists who don’t get too concerned with all the minutae involved, but I’m one who operates as over-prepared as possible. So let’s take a look at what I keep at work, what I carry in my backpack, and what I carry on my bike.

At work: Basically all that I keep at the office is a pair of black work shoes, a towel and some toiletries. Since the dress code where I work is “business casual,” my commutes don’t have to get loaded down with jackets and ties. Slacks and a button-up shirt are all I need to worry about bringing with me and I don’t fret if any wrinkles develop in transit. If my office had a stricter lean toward business attire I’d leave a sportcoat that could be worn with black or khaki slacks and bring a tie in with me. The black belt I wear on the bike I transfer to my work pants when I change after cooling off later that morning.

On my back: I’ve yet to convert to a messenger bag, or even something more dedicated like a rack and panniers, but I have to admit I’ve been considering one or both options. My commutes to date have been with a good old daypack and while I’m not so bothered by how sweaty I get on the ride home, there are times I roll into work with a soaked back and shoulders from the pack and its straps and it’s a tad embarrassing. But the fact is it’s just unavoidable with a 15-mile commute done in about an hour. But it could be alleviated with another cargo choice that could leave me not creating a sauna between my back and the pack.

But until I go in a different luggage direction, in the largest section of my pack goes:

  • slacks and button-up shirt
  • maybe a spare pair of socks
  • newspaper
  • book or magazines (occasionally)
  • food for breakfast and lunch (a yogurt, diet soft drink, Luna bar, banana, and frozen entree)
  • windbreaker (in case there’s any chance of inclement weather

In the remaining various outer pockets of my backpack I carry:

  • wallet
  • cellphone
  • cable lock
  • bike multi-tool
  • regular sunglasses
  • outgoing personal mail/documents
  • first aid pouch with various bandages antiseptic wipes and antibiotic ointment
  • packet of wet-wipes
  • keys
  • pen
  • business cards
  • 5/16″ hex wrench (in case the crank bolts need tightening)
  • spare spokes
  • MTA bus/rail tokens
  • spare camera batteries
  • spare camera memory card
  • mini camera tripod
  • lip balm
  • equipment chargers (occasionally)

In my saddle pack you’ll find:

  • two spare innertubes
  • patch kit
  • spoke wrench
  • pedal wrench
  • adjustable wrench
  • spare chain masterlink
  • spare crankbolt
  • spare chainring bolt
  • 15mm wrench for wheel bolts
  • tire levers
  • electrical tape
  • Swiss Army knife
  • $5

On my person I bear:

  • helmet
  • camera in case on belt
  • gloves
  • headband
  • biking glasses
  • iPod and earphones (occasionally)
  • bandana

Mounted on the bike is:

  • Water bottle
  • tire pump
  • pepper spray
  • headlights
  • tail light
  • bell
  • GPS device (occasionally)
  • my good luck mojo (in this case a plastic skull mounted above the front brake; every bike should have a mojo)

That list may be considered excessively over-preprared to some (spare spokes?) but I’m the type of rider that takes comfort in operating from a “better to have it and not need it” approach. I hope this info is helpful Eduardo and thanks for reading and writing!

Bad Boy Bad Boy Whatcha Gonna Do…?

Below is a tail feather from a Cooper’s hawk that I found laying in the roadway while biking from work yesterday evening on 4th Street through Hancock Park.

I stopped, picked it up, put it in my backpack and went on my way. In doing so, I violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which provides:

That it is unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture or kill; attempt to take, capture or kill; possess, offer to or sell, barter, purchase, deliver or cause to be shipped, exported, imported, transported, carried or receive any migratory bird, part, nest, egg or product, manufactured or not.

No I did not hunt, capture or kill — nor attempt to. No I do not plan to offer, sell, barter, purchase, deliver, ship, or export. But I did take the feather. And I do possess the feather. And given my familiarity with the Act from a past life working at the L.A. Zoo means I knowingly committed a misdemeanor, punishable by: a fine of up to $500, and up to six months in jail.

How Much Did You Say?

I’m giving up my plan because of the ridiculous pricetag. See this piece of outdoor furniture below?

 lounge.jpg

The wood bits are in need of a sand down and maybe a refinish and a sealing along with some new seat slats, but it’s a unique kinda ranchtastic piece that deserves some TLC, which is what I’d been wanting to do for Susan’s birthday later this week, finished off some new cushions.

The cushions as they appear seemed like a good lowcost solution some three years or so ago when we purchased them, but obviously the elements have not been kind to the light-colored floral pattern, and if one wants to stretch out across them it’s not all that comfortable.

In putting off visiting Diamond Foam & Fabric on La Brea until this past Saturday I knew there was no way in hell I could deliver the finished project by next Friday, so with an eye towards our anniversary in June I biked over with the measurements for single seat and back cushions at 74 x 28 x 3 inches and 74 x 12 x 3 inches, respectively. After picking out a nice brick-red Sunbrela-brand outdoor fabric to work with our patio umbrella and chair cushions, I approached the guy behind the counter, who worked up an estimate for me. From the moment I told him the dimensions he took one look at me in my bike helmet and backpack and started shaking his head, which is an odd sales technique to say the least. I wasn’t sure why at first, but I soon found out.

See, from my untrained eye I’d been thinking the ballpark cost for the upholstered foam would be somewhere between $200 – $300. After all, it’s two pieces of foam and two pieces of fabric, plus whatever labor was involved.

Silly me.

When all was said and done and all calculations had been calculated, the grand total for those two pieces of foam, two pieces of fabric and whatever labor was involved putting the latter around the former was going to be…?

Eight hundred and fifty dollars!

My eyebrows arched so high they physically left my head and  I repeated the number back with extra incredulity and dared to ask why.

The estimator just shook his head some more and said “Because it’s custom work, that’s why.”

I didn’t physically run from the store but I certainly beat a retreat out of there hopefully towards a more reasonable and ready-made solution.

The Morning After

xmastree2007.jpg

Walking to the kitchen to get the coffee started and begin contemplating my resolutions for the new year this early Christmas-Plus-One Day I found our stately tree framed in the foyer and couldn’t resist setting up this one-last-shot in the dark, a six-second exposure (click to quadruplify).

The Hillz Are Alive

The good folks at RIDE-Arc have been so kind as to scare the crap out of less-seasoned enthusiasts send to the recipients of their maillist graphic proof that tomorrow night’s ride will have ups and downs. That, or it’s a seismograph readout; or maybe a 20-year commodities chart plotting the price fluctuation of porkbellies (click to doublify):

oct07.jpg

The graph illustrates another important point. The beginning of the 20-mile ride is around 300 feet above sea level, whereas the end is somewhere around 225, which could be interpreted as not finishing where it starts, and that means a bit more mileage getting home.

Certainly I’m not averse to more mileage (as yesterday’s 43.5-mile work commute + river ride can attest), but when you factor in all that climbing and then the potential extra distance required to get home (probably at something like two o’clock in the morning… I’m pretty sure that means I’ll be leaving The Phoenix home that night and bringing my Giant OCR-3 roadie and its 24 gears out of suspended animation and along for the ride.