May 16, 2013

Cycling survivability

In the past, I've gone through various phases of what I carry on the bike and how: I've went through fanny packs, saddle post bags, whatever, and have carried lots of useless crap in the past...

Today, my optimized scheme is good for day-long sufficiency in group and solo rides and consists of a waterproof pouch that fits in a single jersey center pocket.  (If you're going to go the saddle bag route, I suggest the sugoi minibago or bigobago if you can find it for sale)

In there I fit two road tubes (I keep them in their box packaging, helps make it fit) two co2 cartridges along with a mini inflator a super thin multi-tool which includes a chain tool, a couple 10-speed missing links (make sure these match the chain you're using - brand and speeds) and a thin leatherman pliers multi-tool and also a very thin and small spoke wrench for 3 kinds of spokes. In there I also have a couple tire patches, some alcohol pads for cleaning, and a folded $20 bill for emergencies.

Outside the pouch I pack - two snap-in yellow pedro's tire levers (the best) and in a plastic sandwich bag my phone keys and money/cards/id moneyclip. If its a big group ride, I get two more tubes in the side pockets. The most bulk are the tubes and co2s, the tools I've selected the very thinnest possible ones so they fit in nicely, and everything else is paper thin.  (I've tried many portable pumps (currently I have a full sized frame pump) and they are all incredibly tedious to use which is why co2 is my first choice. As far as I'm concerned, co2 will last you a day's ride, but as soon as you get home you definitely want to deflate and reinflate with air, because overnight the co2 will lose pressure. My road tires are at 120psi before every ride (you can check on the side wall what yours are rated are) and the CO2 gets it up to about 100psi.)

On the road I have encountered four basic mechanicals that are catastrophic enough to stop you from continuing to a bike shop (this is why I don't carry replacement cables, for example - if you pop a cable you can still relax the brake, or just not shift on that particular side, but still get to a bike shop hopefully)

1) The flat tire. This is what the tubes, co2, and tire levers are for (and I have a backup frame pump, I got tired of the little ones) I also use the pliers to get embedded wire snippets/metal shavings and whatnot out of the tire that caused the flat in the first place. (I always inflate before a big ride so I don't get pinch flats) (What is this gel inside the inner tube? I've never used any gel for flats, except the sealant for tubeless clincher tires, but I got tired of that shit and went back to good ole inner tubes. Oh yeah - the outer tires I have are kevlar puncture-proof, these kind of tires weigh more but they're worth it, I've had drill bits get embedded in the outer tire but not puncture the inner tube!)

2) The popped spoke. This is what the spoke wrench is for. (I really would like to find a tool that has the multi tool, chain tool, pliers, and spoke wrench all in one and is thin enough...) Basically a popped spoke de-trues your wheel enough that even if you relax the brakes all the way, it will still be rubbing enough to slow you down and possibly pop the tire by friction. (The long term solution is to lose weight and/or get a higher quality wheelset.) What you do is use the spoke wrench to relax (undo half a turn or so) the two spokes that are next to the popped spoke, and that's a poor man's truing solution until you can get to a bike shop and replace the spoke.

3) The broken chain. This is what the missing links and chain tool is for. While I've seen people repair chains without missing links, the missing links are small enough and useful enough that I prefer them instead. (Once a chain breaks on you, you need a new chain, and I suggest researching chain life and getting a new chain well before that.)

4) Everything else (severly bent wheel, cracked frame, etc) this is what the phone and money is for to call for transportation.

Of course this is probably overkill for a 20 miler, but all of this has been a life saver to me when you're out in the middle of nowhere, 4 cycling hours from home.

Feb 12, 2013

Youtube and adblock

I make videos and upload them to youtube for two main reasons:
  1. To promote something that I like
  2. To create entertainment
I have good friends who do this for the same reasons as well, but they also have a third reason which I don't share:
  1. To earn money
Two seemingly unrelated things to note right off the bat: first, youtube is not their primary means of earning (or at least I hope it isn't) and second, they spend a lot more time making a lot more videos per week than I do (that's just in the interest of full disclosure.)

What adblock is (to me)

This whole topic came up some months ago when I mentioned that I use adblock so that I don't have to sit through or click through the various advertisements that youtube has.  On the face of it, it is undeniable that my use of adblock has infringed on ad revenue for my friends.  My response was simple: I'm sorry I won't watch ads, but if lost ad revenue causes you to stop making as many awesome videos, I'll gladly pay a subscription fee to your channel instead.

Now, I think ads generate revenue at the dear cost of societal health, and that is something I don't feel like supporting; however, I hope the above stance is not construed to be "I'm sorry, I won't watch ads and I have no problem going into your pocket and stealing dollar bills."  If you think that's what is really going on here, please keep reading:

What adblock is not

Someone I know wrote an article after we discussed adblock.  Let's consider my full position in light of it:
  1. I will continue to use adblock (which is only the tip of the iceberg of tools and habits available) to avoid consumerism.
  2. If me using adblock is going to prevent my friends from making their awsome videos, I will subscribe in whatever way possible to continue giving them that extra incentive to make these videos; I will participate personally in sharing feedback and positive experiences about their videos; I will cherish them dearly for making great content; but I will not stop using adblock and similar habits and will remain unconvinced by strawman arguments.
When I say strawman arguments I mean starting your article with stuff like: "rip the system, down with the man, kill your parents and hang the bankers..."  I'm not an anarchist, I just try my best to ignore the tasteless aspects of popular culture that we live in, marketing and advertising being a prime example along with stuff like reality tv, etc.  Nor am I an activist with a sign, laying down in front of traffic in demonstration, and I highly doubt most adblock users are any of that either.

Actually, it should be really easy to see that blocking ads while supporting the creator in other ways (even if they are not monetary, but if monetary is what you need, so be it) is at the very least not stifling their abilities.  Especially if you consider the fact that, after the initial investment in tools which is not covered by advertisement, content value is created out of thin air.  When you write a book, you are not spending anything material except ink, what you really are spending is creative talent - you are spending your time.  From antiquity till now, comission and subscription has put the price on time along with advertisement, and you'll just have to call me old fashioned once you recognize how I eschew the latter.

I can most obvioulsy be wrong here if ad revenue is indeed the primary mover for someone's youtube channel; If that's the case I can see it to be yet another tragedy of consumerism.  Either way, by blocking ads I have become no more a thief then when I have come to the movie theatre after the previews and ads have finished playing and the actual movie I paid 40 bux for starts (20 minutes late, I might add) and no more a stifler of creativity than when I do the same thing and every single creative person who worked on that movie - before it even ever got released to the theatre - doesn't notice.

Understand: I'm part of a group (could it really be 60% overall?) of people who have long ago replaced television with $8/mo netflix, radio with $4/mo pandora, who do not read newspapres, who do not watch news shows, who have over the years developed an automatic reflex that closes any sort of popup without thinking, etc., etc., etc.  Adblock is simply yet another tool in this long list of tools and habits.  To be sure, advertisements don't work in generating revenue like they should, and the solution isn't to force them to work through guilt trips, the solution is to understand why they don't work anymore.

And please don't forget the primal urges for creative expression by thinking too hard about lost ad revenue.

Perspective from 2007.