Monday, October 29, 2007


Crude oil prices set another record yesterday at $93.80 per barrel. Of course, this is the highest dollar amount, but not an all-time record when you adjust for inflation. That's been made clear in practically every news article written since oil began to rise in earnest in 2003. For example:

Despite the gains, the price of oil is still below inflation-adjusted highs hit in early 1980.

That phrase, or one like it, has been repeated ad nauseum for the last three years in the business section of any paper worth its salt. For the last couple of years, the record was quoted at something like $92 per barrel. Now we've come to parsing exactly what the record price was back then. CBC News:

While Wednesday's price level does amount to a new all-time high, analysts point out that when inflation is taken into account, it falls short of record ground.

During the oil supply shock that followed the Iranian revolution in 1979, inflation-adjusted oil prices rose to about $100 US a barrel level in 2007 dollars.

Reuters really gets into it, with a table comparing historical annual averages, adjusted for inflation:

The following table from the BP Statistical Review picks out key moments in oil market history. It gives average annual dollar-denominated oil prices in money of the day and the equivalent price in 2006 money. Prices are in dollars a barrel.

(I'm too lazy to reproduce the table here—you'll have to click over.)

I'm not sure what difference it makes. Whatever the record, we're in the neighborhood of it right now and that should be telling us something. Unlike in the past, where one could cite a specific event like the the Arab embargo in 1973 or the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the current increase seems to have crept up on us over the course of several years.

What does that mean?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some Snaps

Did I mention that I make some artsy photos from time to time? I've started posting some of the older ones over on Flickr. Pretty soon I'll get around to posting some of the things I've been working on lately.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Before Photos

Whatever this Chimayo Backwoods (Backwoods Chimayo?) bike is, it seems pretty decent. The frame is lugged Tange double-butted CroMoly and it's got LX throughout. Sorta cuss-ugly as-is though. Maybe we can help it out with a better saddle and maybe some moustache bars.

It's got a combination of things I like, such as semi-horizontal dropouts (I have a Nexus 4-speed hub laced to a 700c rim I might try on), full rack and fender braze-ons, lowrider braze-ons, longish chainstays and gobs of tire and fender clearance.

The only catch is that it measures 61 cm and has rather little bb drop. This gives me a standover height just above hanging a nut on either side of the top tube, which is strange given that the Trucker is a 60cm and gives me plenty of clearance. We'll see how that works out.

King of the Road

Clearly, I am a man of means by no means. Two 25-pound bags of spent grounds from the local coffee house for my compost piles, some buckets coming back from the community garden plot and my newly-rebuilt wheel for the Tucker coming back from the shop. C'mon, let's all whistle the Sanford and Son theme song...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Name That Bike

Sorta like Name That Tune, but with less to go on:

It's a 700c lugged hybrid or touring frame with a unicrown fork, cantilever studs, semi-horizontal dropouts and an early Shimano LX silver drivetrain. That dark blue band on the top tube is its original medium blue.

Any idea who made it? Where it came from? Chimayo Backroads or Backroads Chimayo? I asked the Google and came up dry. More pics to come...

Hacking the Torch

A need came up on short notice a couple of weeks back to go someplace about an hour before sunup with the Trucker. Since most of the route was not lit, I decided this would be a good job for the dynamo wheel and Inoled 2 watt LED lamp from my Cross Check. Easy enough to move the wheel over, since they share the same rim diameter and width. I didn't really feel like using the Inofix mount to put it on the stem, and the Nitto front rack has an eyelet for a light anyway. The question was, how to attach the Inoled bracket?

There it was, right there in the parts bin. An extra downtube stop. (Not this one, one just like it.)

Turns out the adjuster threads are M5, just like the eyelet on the rack. Had to washer it out a bit to get the angle correct.

Then another M5 cap screw through from the back...

and a Nyloc nut on the front.

Then it was off to the races the next morning with the Inoled and a Planet Bike Beamer blinkie out front and two PB blinkies on the back. Madison is pretty quiet at 5:45 a.m. and dark too. I'd say the light was adequate for everything but fast descents. I rode through the Arboretum, which is pitch black, and it enabled me to see the deer in the road in plenty of time not to hit them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Autumning Apart

In the final days of 2006, I set an arbitrary goal of riding a total of 3650 miles this year. So here we are on day 290 of 2007, and I'm 2950 miles into it, with November and December still to come. The math here dictates an average of 300 miles per month for both, which has not happened before. I find myself awkwardly rooting for global warming.

I also promised myself I wouldn't compare my mileage total with others', but Doug is over 6K, and Tex is at just under 2K. Guess that would put me somewhere in the middle if this were a representative sample, but I think I may just go back to not comparing.

On another, far more bizarre note, I saw my first three-wheeled, plug-in electric car on my way home tonight:

In general, I think electric cars are an okay idea, but I'm still not sure quite what to make of it. I'm leaning toward Bike Snob NYC's claim that cars this size should occupy a spot exactly one notch below bikes in the vehicular pecking order:

It is small. It is inexpensive. It gets excellent gas mileage. [volt mileage, or whatever] We’re supposed to admire it for these qualities. I don’t. As cyclists we’ve been bossed around by cars for too long. And like the Yorkshire terrier at the dog run who after constantly being terrorized by Rottweilers finally gets a chance to hump a Chihuahua, here at long last is a car we can intimidate and dominate. This car has a shorter wheelbase than a recumbent, the same passenger capacity as a tandem, and a curb weight lower than most people’s Rivendells.

This one is from Zapworld, which, as far as I can tell, is a toy company. I can hardly wait.

Monday, October 08, 2007


When I was a kid, my dad was a part-time antique dealer, so I ended up at a lot of auctions, including farm auctions. They were part treasure hunt, part social event and part occupation and I very much like going to auctions to this day. Funny that I never spent a lot of time thinking about who the sellers were.

Another thing I did as a kid was go to my aunt and uncle's dairy farm out in the Driftless (roughly 42°38'38.72"N, 89°53'36.99"W for you cartographic geeks.) I got to spend a week or two there each of a couple three consecutive summers, went along quite a few times with my dad when he'd go bowhunting on my uncle's land and of course spent a few Christmases and 4ths there too. I even did an overnight ride to the farm in the summer of 2005. It was a place that gave me an appreciation for what rural life, and family farming in particular, were about.

Well, the two crossed paths last Saturday.

The farm was originally settled in the late 19th century by my uncle's family, and he and his sister inherited it when their parents died in the 1990s. Both my uncle and my aunt (my dad's sister) worked the farm from the time they were married in 1968 until they stopped milking back in the late 90's. My uncle's knees and heart wouldn't tolerate the long hours and the stooping any more. They kept beef cattle and rented out land until a couple of months ago when my uncle's sister, as allowed by a provision in their parents' will, prompted them to either buy her share or sell. They couldn't afford to buy her half.

Their children—my cousins—all have regular jobs and live in urban areas, and none of them were much interested in taking over the farming operation or buying the place. This is not an indictment of my cousins. I think all of them have been able to read, as well or better than most of us, the writing on the wall with regard to what's happened to the family farm as an institution. To inherit one is to commit slow-motion financial suicide. The joke among small-time farmers goes like this:

Q: "How long do you plan to keep farming?"
A: "Oh, I suppose, until the money runs out."

I could comment on how or why this has been allowed to happen, but I think Wendell Berry has done it better in his books The Unsettling of America and What Are People For?, both of which I recommend. I could also comment on how we should be aware of where our food comes from, but there are also lots of localists and foodies, especially around here, that could do so more eloquently.

What was most interesting for me was seeing the auction process from the seller's side. All day I found myself hoping for higher prices instead of more bargains. All day I wondered where all the work, all the knowledge, all time and all the worry that went into that family farm were off to as it's implements were paid for and loaded onto conveyances headed in all different directions. I wonder, sometimes, how we've allowed the tradition and practice of something so basic as growing food to be so easily handed over to entropy.

The number of Americans engaged in the occupation of farming is at about 2 percent of our total population, and continues to decline. We continue to allow agriculture to be taken over by smaller and smaller numbers of larger and larger operations, whereupon it becomes agribusiness. Those large operations are dependant on fossil fuel inputs and a vast fossil-fuel-powered transportation network, all of which is very sensitive to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices. Maybe I'm just in a sour mood, but the trend in prices at the grocery store suggest that we may be headed in a direction we will sooner or later regret.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bike the Barns Ride Reports

Apparently I wasn't the only one to go on blog this ride. More can be found at Newsomi, happy stuff and cardano. MACSAC's page has more too, including links to some local newspaper coverage.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

10-4, Good Buddy!

I've been meaning to write a little about my most-used bicycle, a 2004 Surly Long Haul Trucker. This is their full-on touring bike, and I was one of the first kids on my block to have one when it was introduced. Mine is a 60cm, which is the second-largest made. I have yet to do any overnight tours on it, but have used it for quite a few long day rides (like this one and this one) and a whole lot of commuting. It probably has about 5000 miles on it by now. More photos over in a Flickr set.

This is the second Surly I've bought as a frameset and built up as a mutt. It's got Specialized Dirt Drop bars (which I suspect are Nittos, but don't know for sure) and bar-end shifters, older Shimano medium-profile cantis, a forged XT crankset (salvaged from a bike my neighbor pulled out of Starkweather Creek), and the wheels from my 2001 Bianchi Volpe. That's a Brooks B17 standard from the days when Nashbar was closing them out at $50.

The racks are a couple of Nittos: an M12 on the front and a Campee (pictured without its lowriders) on the back. I also have a couple of Blackburn braze-on lowriders for the front, but I don't use them unless I'm carrying front panniers. I must confess that the M12 is mostly for decoration so far. Lately I've been using a Nitto uplift and Carradice longflap for commuting. Kind of a nice change from panniers.

This is one of my all-time favorite bikes. Surly got a lot of stuff right, even if some of it is borrowed from the design of the Rivendell Atlantis. It's a plush ride, noticeably slower steering than the Cross Check, rides great no-handed and bombs downhill like it's on rails. All the braze-ons a person could want plus the spare spoke holder. It's a little clunkier than my sport-touring Trek and it's prone to stiking pedals on the pavement in tight turns, but those are things one might well expect from a tourer.

Hoping to do a sub-24-hour-overnight or similar camping trip later this month. I'm thinking maybe Blue Mound or New Glarus Woods. I've got the itch.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Q3 2007 Report

Here we go again with the Quarterly: July 1 to September 30. (More sense can be made of this whole thing by checking out Q1 and Q2 first.)

2750 year to date, which makes it 1138 for this quarter. This is about as much as I have ever ridden in a 90-day period. Did four rides of more than sixty miles, blogged three of them here, here, and here. The other was the Wall of Death ride up to Roxbury tavern for blueberry pancakes on September 22 or so:

And on the return trip, the peloton could sense that I was gaining...

but never did let me catch them.

At the end of August there was also the 40-miler when I found the chain, the only other memorable moment of which was riding through this flooded parking lot to get onto a trail (click for big):

I also brought some lumber home from the lumberyard to build a shelf in the basement, but hey, seen one picture of an Xtracycle with lumber on it, you've seen 'em all.

Still trying to sell my albatross too, so if you know anybody who's looking.

And Trek held some international convention of dealers at the Monona Terrace here in Madison, for which they brought in a whole lotta bikes:

A whole lotta, lotta bikes. Those are all Trek Limes, the ones with the Shimano Coasting group. After these photos were taken, the dealers were invited to ride them a few blocks over to a kickball game. Or something. The whole thing might have had something to do with the new One World, Two Wheels thing that Trek started recently, though for this event the Trekkies were wearing t-shirts that had "Project ยต" logos on them. Google is ominously silent on this one, so go figure.

No idea what ultimately happened to all those bikes.


This was more difficult. A long dry spell in July (the Drought) was followed by a long wet spell in August (the Monsoon Season), which made gardening rather more difficult than the earlier part of the season. I'll also be losing my current community garden plot to a municipal construction project next season and starting over in a new location. This does not do wonders for one's motivation.

On the bright side, I am nearly done with the volunteer hours for my Master Gardener certification. I'm particularly taken with Arboriculture, which is a shame because I don't like to climb trees like our arborist did when he came in early September to trim up our 60-foot tall Catalpa tree. I found this to be really interesting, but not my cup of tea.

I planted lots of sneezy stuff like borage to benefit our ailing bee friends.

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation.Insulating the last third of the outside of the foundation is well underway. Should be finished by the end of the month. Insulating the inside should happen over the winter. Hopefully will have time to insulate the attic a little more, and I think we'll caulk its hatch shut with removable caulk for this winter.

The CF bulbs and the new refrigerator have cut our electricity consumption from an average of just under 300 KWH per month to just over 200 KWH per month. Our new front-load washer and dryer should cut that further and save us a whole lot of water. We'll know more by Q4.

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption.We upped our average monthly mileage, but we will still fall short of 5 digits for the year. The missus has been sticking pretty well to the cycling for all trips under 4 miles. As a family, it's not that unusual for us to be the only ones to show up for events on bikes, but that will change.

I'd like to comment on more, but I'm really tired of typing right now. The next post should return us to our regularly scheduled bikegeekery.