Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stuff : 29.05.2008

So far? Arrived back from the UK earlier in the week. Had a wonderful time with family ...

Good stuff:
Bad stuff:
  • Bristol Travelodge - very, very poor ... ugh! Poor decorative order, one lift out of order, the other nerve janglingly erratic, poorly stocked bar and service, tatty room, no mattress cover, cracked toilet bowl ... I expect I'll get a cease and desist order ;-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beryl Cook : 1926 - 2008

Beryl Cook lived in Plymouth, UK, and recorded ordinary, yet extraordinary people living and enjoying themselves in and around Plymouth's Barbican district.

The Dolphin Hotel just happens to be one of my favourite pubs.

Steady, ladies ...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stuff : 22.05.2008

Off to the UK today. I have a little shopping list and hope to bring back some of my stuff.

  • No word from Sangean :-( I hope no-one is looking to this blog for advice on the Sangean WFR-20. I've had other stuff from Sangean and it has been fine ... but Sangean, please get back to me ... or the puppy gets it ... or at least I'll keep posting bulletins on this blog ...
  • Not much in the way of jobs this week.
  • It's been very rainy the last couple of days.
  • No cycling this Wednesday, although I did fancy it. I just didn't want to land on my face the day before we fly off.
  • I have a little project, but I need to learn Joombla. Got the book. Now I have something to do on the plane.
See you next week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bike 06 : MTB - Six Mile Run Reservoir Site

It was a nice morning so I dug out my mountain bike, a black/silver Trek 6000 and headed for the hills.

I've already done a couple of small upgrades on the bike this year; a new, slightly longer, slightly higher stem; and some narrower, straighter and lighter handlebars.

This morning as I set out, the bike still had 1.5" inverted tread road tyres on. I'm fitting 2.2" Continental Mountain Kings in the next couple of weeks.

Did I say head for the hills? Well, not really. Instead I headed for Six Mile Run Reservoir site, a small local open space adjoining the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, the longest, thinnest state park in the USA.

There were only two cars in the car park and a woman returning from a walk with binoculars when I got there. The weather was good at that point although the ground was damp under foot.

I was not very ambitious. I just followed the main path for the most part, the road tyres were frequently losing grip and traction.

The paths are really good and show some signs of local cycling volunteers having reinforced and cleared really good sections for mountain biking. Twice I had to make a serious ford of the river ... okay, it wasn't the Colorado, but it was about a foot deep with no stepping-stones and since I wasn't convinced there weren't gaping potholes in the bed, I sucked it up and waded across. Brrrrrr ...

The trails were good, but the wildlife was really good. Plenty of stuff crawling on the ground; rabbits, groundhogs, some sort of ferrety thing? But bird life was teeming; warblers, finches and larger birds. Best of the day? A hummer - yes, I know it's early and only a flash so unidentified - and a belted kingfisher - Europeans, imagine a giant kingfisher several times the bulk of our common (?) kingfisher.

I'll certainly be back before very long. A set of real dirt tyres will make sure I can enjoy all the little whoopy trails I felt were beyond the road tyres - I know, I'm a wimp. But for sure I'll also be back with hiking boots, binoculars and a notebook. Oh yes, and some Crocs for wading across the river.
* see my Bike Index here

WiFi 03 : Music Server

Despite the disappointment with the Sangean WFR-20 so far, one of the past year's best buys has been the Noxon iRadio.

Apart from its obvious use as an internet radio, it also has a talent for playing music streamed across your wlan and can even act as a music server along with your digitised music collection.

The free server software associated with the iRadio has the rather odd name of TwonkyMedia but is quite easy to set up and doesn't really need any further explanation from me. However, as with streaming, a large percentage of my collection is in .flac format, a codec the iRadio cannot play.

When streaming music across the wlan this problem is dealt with by the ShoutCast server which transcodes all formats into either .mp3 or .aac which the iRadio recognises. However, when using it as a server the raw files are broadcast out and when the iRadio encounters a .flac file ... silence.

There used to be a TwonkyMedia transcoder application, but examining the latest version - 4.4.5 - it's not clear if transcoding works with it, and the files don't seem to be available on the website any more.

However, I'm still using TwonkyMedia 4.4.2 which seems perfectly adequate and the .flac transcoder files are archived here and just need unpacking and placing into your Program Files/TwonkyMedia/cgi-bin folder for the iRadio to be able to play .flac files. HTH.

That still leaves the question of .ogg and .ape formats. There are instances of people getting .ogg to play over the iRadio. As for .ape I'm not so sure. However, I only have very few files in these formats, and it's not really worth the effort at the moment unless a solution falls into my lap.

To be honest, the server navigation on the iRadio is pretty clunky but it does work. Sound is surprisingly good through headphones given a reasonable source file.

When my hifi is permanently set up I intend to move on to something like SqueezeBox to provide a link to my digital collection and leave devices such as the iRadio, and hopefully, the Sangean to provide internet radio facility around the house.

*See my hifi index here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stuff : 16.05.2008

It's been a funny old week. Okay, not really:
  • Still heard nothing from Sangean. I know the radio got there okay. US consumers have a way to go ... I'm calling later today to express my outrage.
  • No badminton ... 4th grade party in the gym or something. And none next week either. Yes, I'm not here but even so ...
  • Speaking of which, back to Blighty next week. I'm busy compiling our shopping list; Taylor's Yorkshire Gold, Plymouth Navy Gin, Maplin's. Do you know? Before I got here I thought Radio Shack was going to be like Maplin's. No chance!
  • Depressingly, still looking for a job. In about 20 or so applications I've received one response and that started, "We regret ... " I'm ready, I'm willing, I'm able ... Gimme a job!!!
Otherwise, that's it for now ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bike 05 : Princeton FreeWheelers - Wednesday Evening Ride

Many years ago I joined the Cyclists' Touring Club. I managed two rides with them.

It must have been like that riding with the Clarion Cycle Club in Victorian times ... military style, discipline, follow-your-leader.

I don't suppose either organisation is like that now. But it was with some trepidation I set out on my first ride with Princeton FreeWheelers. I mean, the logo for a start, bears a startling resemblance to the CTC's ... and the ride gradings and rules???

The club magazine listed a large number of rides for the month of May. While I had some confidence from the NY event, I didn't fancy the prospect of cycling inline with a peloton of shaven-legged Tour de France wanabees, nor go gathering Nuts In May.

And so it was that I turned up in Lambertville's CVS car park at 5.30 for 6.00. Lambertville is a nice old town situated on the banks of the Delaware river opposite New Hope, PA.

Shortly, other riders turned up, mostly by car; Mike, Agnes, Marilyn, Steve ... everyone seemed friendly enough, and no shaved legs ... well, except for the women. This was a combined club ride. There were several riders from the Central Bucks Bicycle Club too.

Michael was leading the ride and made sure we signed our disclaimers. This is America after all ... And after the ride was pronounced as equaling the club record attendance for a Wednesday evening ride - 23 - we set off.

It was a nicely mixed group; maybe a half dozen women, another half dozen around my age. And really it was quite informal. No riding in files. Riders diligently pointed out potholes, glass, car up, car down, etc. Stronger riders encouraged weaker riders up hills and supervised road junctions. People were fascinated by my accent. It was all jolly friendly.

The back lanes around Lambertville are beautiful; secluded valleys with babbling brooks, covered bridges and picturesque farms. The actual lie of the land reminded me very much of my native Devon.

The route was just right, hilly, but not too extreme. I was glad to get to the top of each one of them, but still had enough in reserves to tackle the next. The sky threatened rain, but did not deliver although it was darkening quickly by the time we got back to the cars.

Stats: T: 1:39:00 | D: 38.10km | A: 23.1kmh

* see my Bike Index here

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fir Cone Pattern Lace Shawl

For the past couple of weeks, I've watched while a skein of rather beautiful fine wool was transformed into an even more beautiful shawl.

On occasions I had to do some maths to estimate if the amount of fibre left was enough to complete the shawl - it was ... by 5 grammes. But mostly, all I had to do was watch Linda skillfully knit together this rather fine garment.

I didn't know that when you knit lace the finished article looks like a wrinkled dishcloth. The final stage is called blocking and pulls the fabric into the required size and shape.

And here it is.

Nice, isn't it?

Read more on Linda's blogs; here and here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bike 04 : More About Punctures ... or not

Well, so far so good. From the point of despair; ie: a puncture every twenty miles or so, I've now pedalled well over 100 miles without incident.

Undoubtedly this is down to two things:
  1. Continental GP4000 tyres - cool website ...
  2. Sludge tyre sealant - hmmmm ...
Anyway, cool websites or not, these are two products which do exactly as they say on the can.

Firstly, the Contis.

These are very nice tyres indeed. Handmade in Germany and an obscene price here in the States, fortunately they're available from the UK at a much more sensible price, which my LBS tells me he can't even match here in the US at wholesale.

The first big plus is that tyres can be pumped up to 120psi, but despite that feel much smoother and more comfortable than my old tyres pumped up to 100psi.

Further, the shell fabric, called Vectran, is employed as a breaker belt, which I assume resists punctures, also combines with the high pressure to make for a tyre with a very low rolling resistance. It was noticeable in the 5 Boro Bike Tour how I would just drop away on even the slightest descent leaving the people without hand made, German tyres in my wake.

Next, Sludge. What an inspiring name. Okay, so it's as good a name as Slime, the local bicycle tyre sealant. And of course, who knows if it works or not, because if it is working, you'll never really know ... However, I enjoy the sense of security it gives me, and that's a good thing. 50gms isn't a lot to add the weight of your bike for that sort of confidence. Besides the Contis are probably 50gms lighter anyway. And you really can pour it in through a presta valve. thus using any inner tube you like, even those very fine latex racing inners.

As I said, as to whether this combination works in the long term remains to be seen. But I'm pleased so far.
* see my Bike Index here

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bike 03 : 5 Boro Bike Tour : images

Well, did manage to take some pictures of me during the tour. In fact, I think I'm looking pretty purposeful though I say so myself.

More images here. My report here.

* see my Bike Index here

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Stuff : 07.05.2008

Another day in Paradise:
More Stuff soon.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bike 02 : 5 Boro Bike Tour : 04.05.2008

I did it.

Of course, so did thousands of others, from kiddies on fairy-cycles to guys on unicycles.

The morning started grey and threatening. I emerged from MiL's brownstone on Upper West Side and wondered if I really had to do it. It was cold, it was mizzling, had I put enough miles in? Was that puncture stuff really any good?

Well, I was committed now, so I pumped up the tyres hard and headed for the 1 & 9 subway station at 86th. New York really is the city that never sleeps - or was that Chicago? Anyway, the trains were packed. No chance of getting a bike on one.

I emerged onto Broadway and spotted a few cyclists in event bibs and started to follow them down towards Battery Park. It was actually very easy that time in the morning. New York's finest waved cyclists through red lights and there was very little traffic so I ended up nice and warm, yet still behind thousands of other cyclists at the start line on Church Street ... or rather about half a mile from the start line ... with thousands more lined up behind me.

The event pushed off at about 8.20, so it meant we had spent at least an hour standing around in the cold and damp. It wasn't even possible to see the top of the taller buildings in the fog, so as I clicked my feet into the pedals my hands and feet were freezing.

It takes a mass of 30,000 cyclists a few false starts to get going, but after a few minutes we were heading up The Avenue of the Americas at walking pace, which meant there were a lot of wobbles and a few crashes, but nothing too serious.

Unfortunately, by the time I was starting to get some warmth back into my feet and hands, we were pulled up just short of Central Park, so that cross-town traffic could pass. It took about forty minutes to go the last two blocks into the park, so once again, cold feet, cold hands ...

Many of the joggers in Central Park were clearly not aware there was a bike event going on. Some seemed intent on jogging against the flow no matter how hazardous ... oh well.

There was a brief excursion into The Bronx via Harlem, then a twenty minute wait to get on the Queensborough Bridge into Queens because of riders having to push up the ramp onto the bridge. Naturally pushers spread themselves all over the road, so everyone had to get off and join in.

We then did a circuit up to the first rest station at Astoria Park, just under half way around the course. I had possibly the finest bananas in the world in that park, possibly because they were the best bananas in the world, or maybe 20 miles of bike riding had sharpened my appetite for bananas. However, they were really good.

Then it was south, back down through Queens and into Brooklyn, often through areas which were charming, although terribly run down, but full of potential if people used their imaginations.

From Brooklyn we went up the ramp onto the Brooklyn Expressway, a motorway type road which was closed for the day, for the leg down to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. There were a couple of bad tumbles here, probably because riders were getting tired. This caused a wait of about 20 minutes before we could get going again.

Everybody has probably driven or ridden in a car over a big bridge and not realised that from a bicycle point of view it's like a climb over an Alpine col. And the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a BIG bridge; the biggest in the world at the time it was built. So it was a 228ft climb from sea level to the centre of the span. Once again there was a lot of pushing, but I managed to thread my way through and then enjoy the drop into Wadsworth Fort National Park for the Expo and a well-deserved drink and a sandwich.

While I was waiting for Linda to pick me up, I pedaled down to the Staten Island Ferry. I had considered going across just to truly close the loop, but there was a 40 minute wait at that point so I rode back up to Fort Wadsworth and waited for my lift home.

All in all it was a great day, a real chance to enjoy New York and some of its not so well known corners on motor traffic free streets.

How some of the riders got around on their big old wrecks of clunkers I'll never know. And the number of children who managed on their toy bikes was amazing. There were a few sights; a really small guy with the most perfect, serious, miniature Italian racing bike I've ever seen; a family on a 2.5 triplet towing a kiddy half-bike, towing an infant's trailer; guys on big-wheel unicycles.

A great day - I really enjoyed it.

My number : 38495
Read the tour guide here.
5 Boro Bike Tour.

* see my Bike Index here

Friday, May 02, 2008

Stuff : 02.05.2008

Okay; some odds and ends:
  • 5 Boro Bike Tour: I haven't got in as much riding as I would have liked, but I have managed a 30 mile medium pace ride and a fairly hard 20 mile hilly ride. I managed the hill on Zion-Dutchtown Road, partly because my feet were fixed in the clips and I couldn't get them out, so it was better to keep going than fall over. My knees are a little wobbly, possibly because ...
  • ... the floor at badminton is just vinyl over concrete. Anyway, we move back to the middle school gym for the rest of the season ... nice sprung floor. That should help.
  • I'm still hunting for a job ... any reasonable offer considered.
  • Back to the UK for a lightning visit soon.
  • Nursed ORB's internet connection back to life. Every single setting had to be sorted manually. It works okay now tho'. At least for the last twenty minutes or so ...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

One Thousand!!!

Yes, phonostage has just clocked up its 1000th visitor.

So, thank you visitor from The Bronx, New York, NY. I hope you found it interesting ...