Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ask Dr. Wally

Dear Wally

I was on a group ride where the leader insisted on riding well out into the traffic lane. At times, he was directly in the center or even left of center. Isn't that dangerous? I'm afraid it will anger motorists and they'll take it out on the next cyclist they see. Too many of them are maniacs already.

Rita in Hayward

Lovely Rita,

You wouldn't be a meter maid perchance?

You'll be happy to know that very few motorists are sociopaths. For the most part, they're just normal people who'd rather not hit you for fear of getting in trouble with the law. Some are no doubt worried about scratches and dents in their cars, too. Sociopaths are few and far between, though they're usually not deterred by societal mores. I speak from experience because Doris, my second ex-wife, was a sociopathic nut job without regard for restraining orders, barbed wire, or locked doors. A friend loaned me his Doberman to guard the house. The dog was a carbide-tipped eating machine named Fritz, and Doris developed a great deal of respect for him - along with a pronounced limp when the cops took her away. She had that for a couple of weeks, I'm told. That dog may have developed a taste for human flesh as I caught him eyeballing my legs when he was hungry. After that, I made a point of feeding him every couple of hours.

But, like I said, car-driving sociopaths are very rare. We're more at risk from a driver doing something stupid, like a right hook, a left hook, or the oh-my-god-I-never-saw-him-Officer as they pull out from a side street. These are the most common car/bike collisions. (In case you were unaware, a right hook is when a motorist passes a cyclist, and then makes an immediate right turn across his front wheel. A left hook motorist is making a left turn in front of a bicyclist, and the guy pulling out from a side street is looking well past the cyclist for fast moving traffic.) In all three cases, the best means of preventing one of these maneuvers is to ride further to the left in the lane. That may seem counter-intuitive because you may think it puts you at greater risk. On the contrary, it puts you where motorists are more likely to see you, and even if they don't, you're in a better position to avoid them by turning right or left using the so-called instant turn, or you can brake very hard and still have room to maneuver.

Sadly, Doris has a parole hearing coming up soon, so it's likely there will be one more actual maniac on the road. The up side is that she won't be focused on anyone but me. I wonder if Fritz can learn to ride a tandem?

Dr. Wally

Next time: Practical magic for superstitious cyclists - too few knew what voodoo could do.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Now with added chickens!

As a service to long-time readers, I'm pleased to announce that CycleDog will be upgraded from that tired money-for-positive-reviews format. In keeping with the latest, cutting-edge thinking emanating from Sue Lowden, who is challenging Harry Reid for his seat in the United States Senate, I've decided to take bribes incentive pay in the form of poultry from now on. Yes, who needs quaint, old fashioned money or PayPal when you can have live chickens running around in the house?

From now on, if a manufacturer wants a glowing review of their latest over-priced, under-engineered bicycling contraption, it's chicken on the barrel head, baby.

Partly, this is due to my medical condition. I'm not supposed to have beef, cheese, red wine, or beer. The proteins found in these foods causes my joints to swell up and become extremely painful. So I've been eating mostly chicken and fish. Who knew that I'd like fish tacos? But I've had so much chicken, I may sprout feathers any minute now. Still, I figure having them around the house may be better for me. If I want to eat, I'll have to chase them down first, and as anyone who's had to chase chickens knows, this is a high-calorie, aerobic exercise all by itself.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Konica C35 update

The Konica C35 has gone to the big shelf in the sky. I wrote that it had extensive internal corrosion, and that I'd tried to clean it up. But the battery compartment tabs had enough surface contamination to prevent any solder from adhering, so there was no chance to attach new wiring. The battery box is separate from the camera body, which should be a good thing. It's a plastic case meant for 2 button cells. But the worst news was that exposure mechanism is inoperative. I tried attaching a power supply to it and pointed a powerful flashlight into the photocell, but nothing worked. Now, it could be either the photocell or the exposure mechanism, there's no way of knowing.

I've been lucky so far with the old cameras I've picked up. This is the first one that's seriously gorfed. I put in a bid on another C35 on the shopgoodwill.com website. I was outbid, but I also received an email from the seller stating that the battery compartment could not be opened. Chances are, it's badly corroded too.

I like these small 35mm rangefinders. They'd make very nice pocket cameras, though I have to say that the Olympus XA is certainly an outstanding one. Still, I bought this C35 for five dollars at a flea market, so I'm not out much cash and I've learned quite a bit.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm confused...

Blogger will no longer support FTP after May first, so all content has to be migrated to their new system. However, when I tried to migrate CycleDog, nothing happens.

I don't recall doing this earlier, so I'm a little confused about what's going on. Hopefully, this will be resolved in advance of the cut off date. In truth, I've considered dropping this blog entirely in favor of the Examiner page. There's just so much time in a day, after all.

But there's a strong emotional attachment to CycleDog. Wally Crankset made his first appearance here and I've met a bunch of good people. I don't want that to go away. Besides, I don't think the Examiner is big enough to contain Wally's ego.

I'll try the migration process again, but if anyone hears screams coming from the Tulsa area around the first of May, that'll be me.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ralph Waldo Crankset, RIP

Ralph Waldo Crankset (standing) and Gene Leroy Jetson (kneeling) preparing their home-built rocket powered bicycle for its first test ride. Photograph 1931 courtesy of NACA.....(Notation on the back of the above photo)

We were on our usual barstools in the back of Larry's Cafe. Wally was showing a dog-eared photograph to Paulie, Larry's new barmaid.

"Yep, that's Waldo, my grandfather," Wally said. "I never met him. In fact, he disappeared just after my dad was born. Grandma talked about him a lot, though, and she kind of alternated between kind words and some other ones. That woman could cuss like a sailor, especially if she'd been drinking."

Wally held the photo in his hands, staring at it intently. He told me that one of his students found it in the university archives. It would have returned to that obscure folder if not for the handwritten note on the back.

"The way she told it, Granddad was a schemer. He always had an angle, a get-rich-quick idea, or something slightly shady going on. Oddly enough, he stayed away from the oil business here in Oklahoma, though he was certainly attracted to all the money it generated. Once, he set up a gambling operation that used some cleverly disguised electromagnets to slightly bend the laws of chance. It worked pretty well too, until a power surge caused the roulette table to burst into flames. He got out of town just ahead of a mob."

I kept my mouth shut, but I was thinking that Granddad's DNA had reasserted itself after skipping a generation.

Wally went on talking. "Lots of people blamed Gene for what happened. They built the rocket bike and used the old board track outside Broken Elbow. The first test run that Waldo piloted went very well. Each rocket lit up in sequence, and the bike accelerated up to about 65 miles per hour. It must have been one hell of a ride on that banked track! Gene was the pilot on the second run and Waldo set up the rocket pack. Gene only reached about 50 miles per hour and he blamed Waldo for it. Waldo said the brakes were burnt out and that Gene must have been riding them because he was scared. They had a bitter row in front of a bunch of witnesses, but eventually settled down to make a third attempt with the last of their rockets. Waldo was aboard the bike once again."

He paused to stare at the photo cupped in his hands and took a sip from his beer.

"It went wrong almost immediately. The first rocket fizzled and sputtered. Waldo turned to look at it, when all the rest of them went off at once! He shot down the track swerving wildly from side to side. He was screaming, "Gene! Stop this crazy thing!" when one of the rockets exploded, showering sparks and flaming debris onto the track. Waldo was still accelerating and by some miracle, still on the bike. It shot up the banking and climbed to a couple of hundred feet, finally passing out of sight out toward the swamp at the end of the lake. Waldo was screaming the whole time. Meanwhile, the board track was on fire and the small crowd of onlookers tried in vain to put it out. The track burned to the ground before the fire department arrived."

Paulie looked horrified.

"Gene slipped away in all the confusion," Wally said. "They didn't have insurance and there was no way he could pay for the loss of the track. He disappeared. They never found Waldo's body, so he's still out there in the swamp somewhere. Folks say that on a quiet, moonless night like this one, you can hear him moan."

"Why did you have to tell me that!" Paulie yelped. "I live down by the end of the lake and I have to walk home tonight! Now I'm going to be scared every step of the way."

"I can walk you home if you like," Wally said. His head tilted down as if he were looking deep into his beer glass. The tiniest of smiles played across his lips.

Whack! A sopping wet bar towel hit the back of his head! Larry was behind us. "Put the picture back in it's frame, Wally. And don't write on any of my photos again or I'll ban you from the bar!"

"What?" Paulie gasped, "It was all a fake? You just made all of it up?" She bounced away as the other barflies snickered.

But at the end of the evening, Wally still walked her home. I'll never understand women.


Monday, April 05, 2010

In the Navy...

Meet Senior Recruit Edward Jordan Wagner.

Yep, that's my kid. He signed his enlistment papers and was sworn in earlier today. Come November, he's off to the Great Lakes training center. I suspect it will be cold and windy.

I'm very proud of him.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Olympus AutoEye

Yep, I bought another old camera. This one is an Olympus Auto Eye from around 1960. I haven't nailed down a definitive model yet. Olympus built several models with this name. The more 'modern' AutoEye II offered both manual and automatic exposure control, but the one I have is auto-only. It's a shutter priority system.

This old Olympus has one nice feature that I'd like to see in more modern cameras. It doesn't require batteries. There's a selenium cell that powers the metering mechanism. For an excellent discussion of replacing a dead selenium cell in an AutoEye II, see this site.

I don't buy collectible quality cameras. I buy them to use, so a few scratches and dents are OK. This one has a small dent in one end of the top cover. There's no denying that this camera seems to be durable. It's heavy, for one thing, but the lens mechanism shows no wear after 50 years. It operates smoothly without any of the looseness that seems typical of later rangefinders like the Canonet and Yashica Electro.

A couple of quirks are apparent. First, the self-timer works, but it sets the aperture to a smaller one that it does in automatic operation. That may have something to do with flash guide numbers, but I'm not sure. Second, the rangefinder assembly is incredibly dirty! It's so bad I couldn't find the yellowish rangefinder patch unless I looked toward a very strong light source. There's enough crud to plant grass in there. Finally, the camera doesn't appear to have any light seals. It doesn't look like it ever had them. Oh, there's a small seal on the hinge end, but that's it.

I removed the bottom cover to look for corrosion, and found what appears to be some fine sand. It wasn't loose as is was stuck to the case and cover. It could result from a visit to the beach long ago, and if it's confined to only the bottom I won't worry about it. I'll take the top off this weekend.

One of my co-workers looked at this camera and asked, "Where's the SD card go?" Gosh, it's just as funny now as it's been the last fifty times I've heard it.