Monday, February 28, 2011

Ask Dr Wally...

Dear Dr. Wally

I read an article that urged readers to try nude photography. I enjoy both bicycling and photography. Since it was a relatively warm winter day, I stripped off my clothes, rolled the bike out of the garage, and set off for the park to take some photos.

One of my neighbors screamed and fled into her house. Some people are just overwhelmed by artistic freedom.

Some motorists honked and waved, or at least the ones that didn't rear-end the car ahead of them did.

But I do have some questions for you. Have you tried nude cycling and would you have any advice for potential nude cyclists? And can you recommend an attorney?

Incarcerated in Inola

Dear Jailbird

I have to admit that I have little experience with nude cycling. It's only happened once and it involved copious amounts of alcohol, a bachelor party where I met the woman destined to become my third or fourth ex-wife, and an ill-advised bet. I lost. Let's just leave it at that.

But I can recommend the very best attorney in Broken Elbow, and that's Chester Niebelung. He's the town bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, heads the planning and zoning commission, and sits on the school board. Remarkably, he's never been elected to any position. Instead, he's been appointed to them by a succession of public officials who owed him some favors. Chester's brother, Armand, runs the local paving company among other businesses, and it's rumored that the two brothers know where all the bodies are buried. Literally. If you hire Chester as your attorney, be sure to pay your bill on time!

Dr. Wally

Next time: Bicycling blood-sucking monkeys invade West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Old cars

Almost every Sunday morning, Wade and I have breakfast across the street from this used car lot. I'd noticed a few old cars over there, but who wouldn't notice a Jaguar XKE or some vintage Detroit iron?

This morning, however, I decided to take a closer look. There's a whole series of photos over on my Picasa web album, but I've included a few here.

Way back in the Pleistocene, when I was in high school, these were the cars in the parking lot.

This is a Cadillac convertible about the size of an aircraft carrier. I think it would be too big to fit in my garage. And it's a two-fer. Buy this one, and get another hardtop as a parts car! What a deal!

I think some of these will look good in black and white, so I may tinker with them as time permits. Actually, I've been thinking about photographing some old cars as part of the Route 66 theme, and since many of the images on the Tulsa City-County Library website are also black and white, it's fitting.

This is a Lincoln Continental from the mid-60s. I had a 1964 model in dark blue. It could seat 8 people! Notice the 'suicide doors' in the back and what looks like a trunk. It's not. That was actually the hangar deck of the Battlecar Galactica. Gas mileage was a paltry 3 mpg around town, but it soared to 8 on the highway! There's a 490 cubic inch V8 up front. It didn't accelerate fast, but it just kept going faster. I didn't want to find out what the top speed was. I also didn't like driving the car in the mountains when it was raining. It had vacuum wipers, so if you pressed down hard on the accelerator, the wipers all but quit. It's not a good feeling to be hurtling along while blind.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Better railroad crossings

Here are some quick photos of railroad crossings that see large numbers of heavy trucks. They're located over by the gravel quarry southeast of Owasso, and they're what's needed on Mingo Road.

This crossing is on 56th Street North and has been in use only a few months.

I don't know what traffic counts are like along this road, but most of it consists of gravel trucks.

This is the same type of crossing, but it's over on 145th Street. It's been in use for years, and as you can see, it shows very little wear and tear.

Trucks descend this hill fully loaded, only to encounter the tracks at the bottom. Before the crossing was improved, it accounted for a couple of flat tires on my bike - before I learned to jam on the brakes HARD, and slow down to a walking pace to cross those tracks!

Finally, and this is totally unrelated to the railroad photos, here's an Owasso fire truck parked outside Reasors last night. I liked the glowing light from the setting sun, and in all honesty, I have a little kid's fascination with fire trucks!

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Olympus OM-1 with 28mm f3.5 lens

This is the same shot as yesterday, only taken on film for comparison.

All these were taken with the Olympus OM-1 and a Olympus G.ZUIKO 28mm f3.5 lens. The 'G' references the number of elements in the lens.

Many of these older buildings along Route 66 will be gone someday.

I was reading one of those interminable film versus digital threads in a forum, with the usual snide comments about how digital cameras and digital imaging is so superior to film. It provoked some thought as to why I enjoy using film cameras so much.

The thread followed a brief description of an alteration to a Yashica Electro 35 that allowed full manual control of the aperture and shutter speed, rather than the aperture priority of the original camera. If you're unfamiliar with the Electro series, you choose the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed according to the amount of light that hits a sensor on the camera front. It's stepless where the camera hack is in discrete intervals. It's also a kludge, with a rotary switch and a bunch of resistors sitting atop the camera.

Put another way, I like my STI equipped Giant, a single speed, and even a fixed gear. The latter two are hardly the cutting edge of bicycle technology, but they're surely a lot of fun!

But why would anyone want to use such an old camera? I've written about this before, and I covered the idea of using technology that was out of my reach back in the day. When I was much younger, I had just one 35mm camera, a Ricoh XR-1 that was a full manual machine with a cast brass body. It was as durable - and heavy - as a tank. I never considered a rangefinder camera, preferring the more 'modern' SLR.

The Yashica Electro changed my way of thinking. The biggest reason is that outstanding lens hanging off the front of the camera. According to some very knowledgeable camera guys, it's equal to more expensive 35mm lenses, and it's vastly superior to most point and shoot digital cameras.

The flea market just west of the traffic circle on Admiral.

Besides, if I accidentally dropped it over the side of a canoe, I wouldn't be out much money and it could be replaced easily.

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the prints from this Yashica. That's happened with just two other cameras: that Nikon N6006 I bought from George last year, and the Rolleicord V - a medium format camera I rarely use anymore.

Another photo from the flea market.

If I carry the Nikon in a crowd, people notice the large, black, 'professional' camera. Yet a small digital point and shoot or any 35mm rangefinder doesn't attract as much attention. Some people are openly dismissive of any film camera, probably thinking the user is some abjectly poor person who can't afford digital. That's fine. It it helps me stay under the radar, I'll take it.

They do notice the large chrome cameras like the Electro or the Konica Auto S2, my other favorite rangefinder. They're big, flashy, and as obviously retro as a set of Cadillac tailfins, yet most people ignore them too.

I liked all the color, even if it was an overcast day.

I'm trying to take more 'people' pictures and the smaller cameras seem to help with that. Yesterday, I used a full roll of film in the Olympus OM-1 and some of those photos are posted here. The Olympus is a tiny, jewel-like SLR and with a 28mm lens, I can take some wide angle shots that include people. They don't seem to realize they're in the viewfinder because the lens isn't pointed in their direction.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

And another thing!

I found a 28mm f3.5 lens for this Olympus OM-1 at our local Goodwill Store earlier this week. It's in good condition, so I put it on the camera and went through an entire roll of film earlier today. The prints will be ready tomorrow, and as always, I have a CD coming with them.

New photos tomorrow!


I saw the strangest things...

I've had a stressful week, so what better way to relax than by going out to take photos most of the morning. Sometimes, it gets a little weird. That kid in the middle is my son, Jordan, and those people around him are...well...typical suburbanites. Yeah, that's it, typical. I have no idea why they were doing this and they remained mute. It's just another of life's mysteries.

And I didn't take the picture. Mary took it with Jordan's cellular phone. I did, however, drive around looking for them so I could try to get an interview. No luck.

Who needs Photoshop, Pixia, or Gimp? I did this in plain old MS Paint. If I ever learn how to use those other programs, I'll probably get in trouble.

Here's the bicycle advocacy portion for today. This pothole was forming prior to our two snow storms, but since then it's become deeper and wider. For anyone on two wheels, crossing these railroad tracks is going to be problematic. Sure, wider tires on motorcycles and scooters don't slip sideways as easily as narrow bicycle tires, but the pothole may cause those heavier vehicles to have problems here too.

The railroad crossing is on a slightly built up right of way. This means that as you approach, you cannot really see the roadway between the rails. This slight hump is apparent in the next two photos.

That's a Minolta Autometer IIIF and it's about 6 inches long, nearly as long as the pothole is deep.

Here's a view to the south showing the oblique angle of this crossing. Several cyclists fall here each summer. I've nearly fallen when the rails were wet. The safe way to cross, of course, is at a 90 degree angle, and that's possible provided there isn't much traffic. Motorists don't know or simply don't care that it's illegal to pass within 50 feet of a railroad crossing.

Here's the view looking north.

I'll write something about this for the Examiner, and include a link to the Flickr versions of these photos. They include GPS information.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Panic Week! Day Four

There's a wonderful bit from Chico Marx, one of the Marx brothers, in which he describes how as a famous Italian aviator he managed to fly across the Atlantic. I can't find the dialog, so I'll paraphrase. You'll have to imagine his fake Italian accent:

So the first time we try to cross the Atlantic ocean, we get maybe about halfway and whaddaya know, we run out of gas and have to turn back. The next time we try to fly across the Atlantic, we get maybe a mile away, and we run outta gas and have to turn back.

So how did you get across?

This time, we put the plane onna boat, and THAT'S how we got across the ocean!

Somehow, that seems appropriate.

The FAA inspection team was in the building today, but they didn't enter my area. Most of us finish up at 2:30, so by 2PM, we thought it was all over. A few minutes after the hour, an inspector walked in with a supervisor in tow. He looked carefully at a list of employees, then said he wanted to see so-and-so. They went across the hall to find the employee, with both crew chiefs and a union observer.

The rest of us alternately eyed the clock and the door. Our acting crew chief returned to tell us that the inspector had concluded his business over there, and he left the building.

Tomorrow, they'll do an out-brief and be gone. We will all be relieved. Understand me, though, because there isn't anything we do that's substantially different when the FAA isn't around. Their job is to see that we adhere both to federal regulations and the company's own rules and guidelines. What makes me nervous is the complexity of all that. I try to stay on top of the paperwork, training, parts sorting, etc.,but there's always a nagging fear that I'll miss something and it will come back to haunt me. Complex regulations have that effect, and as a prime example, take the tax code. Please.

The FAA can always make an unannounced inspection. That probably happens a couple times each year. I could be caught with (gasp!) a coffee cup on my benchtop, or more likely a laptop computer.

So I'll go in to work tomorrow and it will be a little less stressful. I like that. We're already scheduled for overtime on Saturday, but what I've really been thinking about is riding my bike. My knee still hurts, as well as my hip and shoulder, but I'm very, very tempted to ride anyway. When you consider that a bit over a week ago, it was nearly 100 degrees colder here, you can understand the desire to get outside on a bike.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Panic Week! Day Three

Hoo boy! After the last two days of fun and games, today was actually pleasant.

One of yesterday's questions involved electro-static discharge. It's a serious problem in electronics because static electricity can degrade or destroy components. It's become more serious as devices become smaller. Those memory chips in your cellular phone have more capacity than most early desktop computers, for instance, and a static discharge into one leaves a microscopic crater behind. When the active components are only a few molecules thick, this can kill the device.

So repair areas are designed to minimize any static electricity and allow it to dissipate. Surfaces are mildly conductive to let any charge bleed off.

One problem revolves around having electronic devices like cellular phones, radios, or laptops on the bench. Their plastic cases can produce ESD. I use a netbook to track information on the units I work. I won't mention the name, but they used to have a tagline in their ads, "Dude! You're going to Hell!" Or something like that.

Now, if I were the engineer designing a laptop, I'd see that the case was slightly conductive so that any static charge could go through it to ground rather than through the internal circuitry.

I went to the manufacturer's website to see if any technical information was available. No dice. I tried tech support via an on-line chat with 'Peggy.' It wasn't very helpful. Then I tried calling tech support from the telephone in the shop. Not surprisingly, 'Peggy' answered. I described the problem and the information I needed, and Peggy said he'd get back to me.

That was 12 hours ago. I'm patient, but I'm beginning to suspect that Peggy lied. Hell, indeed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Panic Week! Day Two

It started out as a slow day. I arrived at work a little before 6AM. We heard that the FAA inspection team arrived at 6:45. No slackers, them.

Modified stationary panic is actually infectious. Our planner/acting supervisor was wandering around seemingly at random. The ESD/chemicals guy was practically vibrating. And the target for the day seemed to be air pressure.

Yes, air pressure. You know, we use compressed air to blow dust out of electronic units. And some of the manuals specify limits on the pressure. This may seem to be a minor deal, but when the feds come looking, it's important to see that our shop tools conform to manufacturers specs.

I went looking through the manuals for the ground prox warning computer. It didn't have a spec for the air pressure, but I found this gem in the modifications section:

"A microcircuit with a specific die version from a specific manufacturer can possibly have a
single event latchup when hit by a neutron. This modification gives the instructions to
examine and replace these microcircuits as necessary."

That explains so much! I had a computer that started singing "Danke Shoen" over and over. It probably took a hit from a Wayne Neutron, but regardless, it's out in Vegas now doing a lounge act. It left a trail of sequins leading out the door.

(Gosh, that was a long way to go for a joke! Still, it was a better than the zombie jokes.)

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Panic Week! Day One

"Scream" by Jason Prini on Flickr

The FAA is inspecting the base this week, and as is always the case, there's a tiny bit of panic in the air. I think Patrick McManus called this a "modified stationary panic" and if I remember right, it's the kind of panic that induces an overwhelming desire to run while simultaneously causing complete muscle rigidity. Mostly, the victim just vibrates without going anywhere.

Another way to look at it is to remember Shakespeare's title "Much Ado About Nothing." Inevitably, the focus of attention will be on the wrong things. Some of it is almost comical. One guy used the cleanup, commotion, and panic as a means to get out of his cubicle and into a proper office - all under the guise of the 5S program. (This is the latest management fad. Don't make me go into it or I may hurt you.)

We didn't see any FAA inspectors today, despite much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. They'll probably appear tomorrow, and then the fun starts for real!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

A bit of fun!

I went out east of town this morning to take some photos in a lovely valley that reminds me of Pennsylvania. Any other time of the year, there's enough foliage to hide the houses all around this spot, and believe me, the houses in these gated additions are huge.

These shots above were taken with the Kodak Z1285. Those below were taken with a Canon 590IS. I couldn't resist shooting some film too. It's still in the Nikon N6006. Just for fun, there's a jpeg from the Nikon taken in the aftermath of our latest snow storm.

I didn't see any deer this time, but the wind was still and I could hear all the birds calling. It's not the same as the dawn chorus that comes later in the year when they're singing their hearts out trying to attract mates. The stillness was exceptional. I could hear traffic a couple of miles away as well as the occasional jet engine as commercial aircraft came and went from Tulsa International.

As you can see, I love that stone bridge. And I love the backlight along that stream early in the morning. I'm planning to go out there again in the spring when all the trees bud out. Everything will be bright green, not the deeper, darker green of mid summer. It should look very nice when backlit.

For comparison, here are two shots from the fall at the same location.

I'm not entirely certain, of course, but I think this is how you go ice fishing in Oklahoma.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Snowpocalypse: Part dos

I had to force the door open due to the snow drift.

Here I was thinking that civilization would end as we were buried under a horde of ravenous zombies. Instead, we're going to be buried under a glacier here in Oklahoma. We all may become Canadians, eh.

Taken early Wednesday morning as snow continued.

I spent three hours shoveling snow from the driveway, the front porch, the patio, and a pathway to the bird feeders in the redbud tree. Those birds sure eat a lot. I'd be happier if they had jobs and didn't hang around here all day. When we were checking out from Atwoods with sixty dollars worth of bird feed, I said, "Gosh! Those birds are eating better than me!" It brought a chuckle from the cashier and a withering glare from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.

Heavy snow fall is more appealing in poetry than in reality.

One nice thing - since the temperature is in the teens this snow is very light making it easy to shovel. That also makes for rapid accumulation of drifts if the wind comes up. Fortunately, high pressure will make the wind drop off tonight, but it will also allow temperatures to drop below zero. I may consider hiding under the blankets until spring arrives.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Dear Doctor Wally...

This is Wally's column from the Red Dirt Pedalers "Wheel Issues."

Dear Dr. Wally


I was riding home from school a few days ago when a car ran a stop sign and almost hit me. The driver never even looked my way since he was holding a cell phone to his ear. What can we do to protect ourselves from distracted drivers?

Shaken in Choteau

Dear Shakey

I'll forgo the usual snark and give it to you straight - short of staying off the public roads, there's little we can do to protect ourselves from distracted drivers. Obviously, we need to stay alert and be aware of our surroundings in all directions. A rear view mirror is a good long-range warning device, but in close we need to both look and listen.

Traveling on the public way involves a kind of social compact. We each exercise due care, that is, we look out for ourselves and others, and we assume that all other road users are doing the same. When they do not, as in the case of your self-absorbed driver and his cell phone, we're angry and frustrated because that person is being irresponsible.

Sadly, however, when the injured party is a cyclist, there's a tendency to blame the victim. "He should have known that cycling is dangerous! He shouldn't have been on that busy road, even if he was on the shoulder." Police, prosecutors, and judges exhibit this anti-cycling bias far too frequently.

But there is some good news, and that's the simple fact that road cycling isn't particularly dangerous when we follow the rules of the road. That means obeying traffic control devices, riding with traffic, and using lights and reflectors if we ride at night. All of this stacks the odds in our favor. It can't eliminate risk, but it goes a long way toward minimizing it.

Dr. Wally

Next month: A cyclist's guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

'Separated' bike lanes

This is my column from the Red Dirt Pedalers "Wheel Issues".

I've been reading about various ideas to separate bicyclists from motor traffic using different types of 'protected' bike lanes, but I came away wondering, protected from whom?

Cycle tracks are popular with the let's-turn-our-cities-into-Copenhagen crowd, but absent the density of European cities, enormous taxes on motor vehicles, and exorbitant fuel prices, it'll never happen unless we tear down our cities and start over. In all honesty, some urban planners would be happy to do so, substituting high density housing for suburbs and sprawl. My grandparents arrived here from Europe and lived in high density multi-family housing for a time. They called it a slum. We still do. The planners overlook the problems that cycle tracks introduce, mainly increased numbers of collisions at intersections and between cyclists and pedestrians. Shouldn't we learn from other's mistakes rather than try to emulate them?

Blue bike lanes and magic paint. The theory here seems to be if the application of a magic white paint stripe improves a cyclist's lot, applying even more paint will make things even more better. More paint equates with more magic, apparently. Blue seems to be the accepted color, but one has to wonder if some other colors may offer enhanced magical properties. I vote for chartreuse, or since I ride a Bianchi, the more traditional celeste green.

Protected bike lanes between parked cars and the sidewalk. I saw a video of one of these from New York in which an experienced cyclist was horrified at the risks. Pedestrians came from both sides, some of them obscured by vehicles. Car doors opened, taking up several feet of the lane. Deliverymen pushed carts and people walked their dogs. Wrong-way cyclists wobbled along, oblivious to everyone else. In an emergency, there's nowhere to go. If a pedestrian steps out in front of a cyclist, his choices are to hit the curb, hit a parked car, or hit the pedestrian.

Washington, DC just opened a protected bike lane down the center of a street, apparently in reaction to the obvious defects when such lanes are located between cars and the curb. It may be a better idea, at least until you have to leave the lane in order to make a turn.

Vertical separation devices. A few cities have installed plastic bollards between their bike lanes and motor vehicle lanes. At first, this may seem to be an improvement over the traditional magic paint stripes, but in practice it's worse. The bollards are made from thin plastic tubing attached to an adhesive base. They're about three feet high, perfect for getting caught in spokes if a cyclist has to maneuver quickly. They also make inviting targets for some motorists who mow them down frequently. Pittsburgh used these for lane dividers in construction zones and truckers delighted in running over them. Believe me, you do not want to get one of these under your front tire!

As cyclists and taxpayers, we shouldn't be happy with whatever second rate facility the local planners devise. We should demand genuine safety rather than the mere illusion of safety. We shouldn't have to discover what works through trial and error.

Blizzard photos

Here's the link to my Picasa album of blizzard photos. It's so cold outside that it hurts to remove my gloves in order to operate a camera. And the camera itself isn't working well in these temperatures. The motors are very slow, so I keep it inside my parka. Still, with only a minute or two in the wind, my fingers hurt, then went numb. That's a very bad sign of impending frostbite. I didn't spend much time outside, though I still have to shovel the driveway today.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The blizzard of '11

The view from our front window.

First, my apologies for the photos. It's so stinking cold, I don't want to go outside. All of these were taken through windows. Once the snow stops, I might go wander the neighborhood - on foot. Nothing is moving on the street. Any additional photos will go on my web album and I'll provide a link to it here.

The forecasters have been talking about this storm for a few days. I've learned to sort of pay attention, but in all honesty, they often have a hard time getting it right more than a day or two ahead of time.

They were spot on with this one.

I awoke at the usual time, a little after 4AM. I'd talked with my crew chief and supervisor yesterday about taking a vacation day if the weather was atrocious. Outside my bedroom window there's a 4 foot deep snowdrift lying between the houses. I made the call and went back to bed.

I was up again around dawn. While I dressed, it seemed cooler than normal in the house. Sure enough, the hall thermostat said it was 55F. The furnace wasn't on and the thermostat was dead. It's a Honeywell programmable unit. I said a silent prayer hoping it didn't require AAA batteries. Luckily, it takes double As and I have lots of those. With fresh ones installed, the heater came on in a few minutes.

The dog wanted to go out. I tried to open the front door but a snowdrift across the porch prevented it opening more than a few inches. So I was off to the garage for the snow shovel. Duchess pranced. She really had to go.

The view to the south. This is the best visibility.

I carefully forced the door open about 18 inches. Duchess and I squeezed out. I shoveled while she quickly found a spot to anoint. The temperature is in the low teens with a strong north wind making the windchill well below zero. Despite the gloves, my fingers lost feeling within a couple of minutes.

Birds mobbing the feeders outside the patio door.

Bird fans lined up at the patio door.

I'm watching the local television storm coverage. The Red Cross is taking in stranded motorists. Owasso's emergency services are having problems with the roads. Even the plows are getting stuck because they can't see the sides of the road and keep driving into ditches. Let's hope there aren't any fire or ambulance calls today. We've been lucky in that regard so far.

The heater is working and I have a fresh pot of coffee brewing. It's a good morning for pancakes or waffles. I haven't made waffles for quite a while, so that may be my entertainment today. Today is also Lyndsay's birthday. She was born during an ice storm, so perhaps a blizzard is appropriate.

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