Friday, March 31, 2006

March Madness of Cycling

The next three weeks or so is Spring Classics season -- the March Madness of cycling. The classics are the races for the strongmen, who duke it out in groups of threes and fours in the schizophrenic spring weather and bleak northern european countryside.

The first Sunday of April means Ronde Van Vlaandren. It's trademark are short steep climbs, and it all plays out like a chess game moving down the road at 30 mph.

There's still a core of aficionados who know it is the most beautiful sport, but cycling will never have the social importance it had in post-war Europe. It was the show case of working-class suffering and heroics, and who can relate to that now ? Everyone works in an office and behind a desk or in the service of others.

Running a Deficit

I've gotten in solid rides five days in a row,and in basically one week I've lost almost all the weight I put on in the winter, even though I have two donuts for breakfast everyday.

Hard riding burns 700-1000 Calories and hour, so after some pedal-pushin you can easily double or even triple your food requirement.

This means I'm starving all the time though and it seemed like I was putting on a show at All-u-can-Eat Sushi last night, but I still wake up with a hollow paintful stomach.

I'm also still a fattie by cycling standards though.

Assbike Deal of the Week

Raleigh Glider 3-speed, $160.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ed Tufte

One guy who does some neat work is Ed Tufte. He is an expert on the presentation and display of data. At school we have to sit through all kinds of talks and presenations, with all kinds of data, often presented in some unorginal way which hasn't been carefully chosen for the message it's intended to convey. Ed Tufte shows how data can be displayed in ways that can be enlightening, or designed to emphasize a certain point.

He is also the author of an essay titled "The Cognitive Style of Power Point",

which is a critique of the authoritarian and "sales pitch" nature which slide presentations tend to.

One of his cool inventions are "sparklines". Dense, sparse, concise graphics which present a lot of information at a glance and don't overload the reader with information. Sparklines break a lot of the rules that we're told about graphs. No axes labels, abcissa, ordinate, scale. They are designed to be "wordlike" so that they can be embebbed inline with text. I don't know if I could pull off something like that in my thesis, but maybe in a talk, but there are other display hints I have gotten from Ed Tufte.

Like for instance the simple matter of choosing the aspect ratio. In the past it is not something I put a lot of thought into, but the simple choice of aspect ratio can make data look like it's pretty good or look like a pine forest. A poorly chosen aspect ratio can mislead the reader into placing importance on the wrong features or can be misused to make two different datasets look very similar.

Many of the ideas and display techniques on Tufte' website are well suited for ensemble studies or comparison studies. Studies where a lot of data is collected under differing conditions.

I just wish that the data from my research was more suited to using some of the more clever display techniques that are out there. The phase plots are perhaps my favorite:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Buying an Assbike

The first warm weekend of the year was a couple weeks ago

...and that always brings out the patio trash.

It's also that time of year when letters start pouring into the Assbike Magazine offices asking "How do I buy my very own Assbike?".

By and large used bikes fall into two categories, abused and neglected. Abused bikes have usually sat out in the rain and snow. Sometimes a quality bike that's been abused can be a good fixer-upper, but with the price of bike parts what they are it's almost never worth it unless they have some special charm.

The other type of bike is a neglected bike. There's always people who buy bikes but they never ride 'em. This is a assbike bargoon hunter's Loch Ness Monster. If you're lucky you'll find an awesome new bike a few years old that the owner desperately wants to get rid of.

Dept. store bike.

These are the bikes sold at places like Cdn tire for around $100. They are always heavy and are built to low tolerances. They usually have gears and sometimes even shocks and other trendy features, but because they are so ass they never work well. There's a limitless supply of these and every suburban garage has at least one. Don't pay more than $30 for one of these if you pay at all.

Well-used quality bike.

Sometimes someone sells a decently used quality bike at a fair price. It's a quality bike, but you're getting a discount because it's old and used. These can be a good find if they don't look like they'll need a lotta new parts, but sometimes the sellers think they can sell a 10 yr old bike for almost as much as they paid for it way back when. Tell 'em to beat it.

Stylin' bike.

Demand is high for stylin' cruiser bikes, the types with fenders and hipster colours. Even if they don't have the latest bike technology you're going to be paying more for cruiser type bikes at the mo'. The downfall is that a lot of them are heavy (like the Swedish Kronans) and slow. You have to suffer for your style.

Assbike song's had a bit of a break while I go crazy, but this week it's back in a double dose. Two covers: El Vez: Power to the People and Eddie Spaghetti: I Dont' Want to Grow Up.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So Ass day

So I have to give a talk in my dept this Friday. I know this day's been coming for months, so I hoped I'd have some results by the time the day rolled around, but I'm a dumbass -- and the day just got here too fast. I have a pretty good idea of where my problems lie, but...but so far I've been unable to solve them. So I'm going to make an ass of myself .... but I'm prepared to deal with that, as long as the big picture works out.

I should've been done this degree ages ago, but because I'm in the constant pressure cooker situation for the last four years I can't ever compose myself enough and work through these problems.

But, anyways, check out these tattoos on Eila Rigetto :

Also here's an Assbike deal of the week:

Ad here $300.

I did make a sale this week though. I sold the Rare Groove Ride for $320. I rode it only twice and really liked it, so after I listed it I managed to convice every potential buyer out of buying it, because I didn't think they were worthy -- like Enid in Ghost World, when she's trying to sell her stuff, but doesn't want to part with it. But eventually I sold it to a hipster who wanted a fixed gear bike (they're all the rage now you know), and he seemed cool enough, and he really wanted it too.

I kinda puked in my mouth when I heard my fave girl Zooey Deschanel was in a new movie with Matthew McConaughey, that smarmy juice bag. Ewwww, the thought of him putting his slimy steroid hands all over crazycool Zooey, but luckily it's Sarah Jessica Parker who's the smarmy one's love interest and Zooey is the quirkycool roomate. Talking about which -- this is how I felt when I saw Franz Ferdinand (jokey fun dance band) was touring with Death Cab for Cutie (humourless emo douchebags). Go AWAY humourless emo douchebags!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Spring Training

(okay I'm back -- I was locked out of making new postings for almost a week because blogger's anti-spam robots thought this might be a spam blog)

Saturday, a bunch of us did a 120 km-ish ride to the Holland Marsh. It's a completely flat agricultural area, the marsh where stuff grows is sunken below road level and the roads criss-cross across it -- imagine a giant waffle.

Here's another pic of the marsh from my buddy Derek.

So, I have a new system for doing laundry. A take my clean clothes out of the dryer and put them in a pile, the cats roll around in it and then I wear the clothes to school.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Duchamp Edition

That's my "artistic" pic, Neil Young; Rockin the Free World on a Sat. Night.

I spent most of this weeknd at the Bike Show. It's like a conference for bike peeps. I no longer go for the deals since I have pretty much everything I need, I'm there to do bidnass -- go to meetings, promote our events and make connections with peeps that can help me out this season. It's also a chance to see a lot of yr ole buddies you haven't seen over the winter.

I coulda taken pics of the shiny new 2006 bikes and stuff, but really I don't give a rat's about this year's five or ten thousand dollar bikes. Some of the non-racing type stuff is actually more novel these days -- like this dude doing some flatland BMX stuff :

Way bigger than the racing scene is the BMX/X-games type stuff. Even though we're both part of the same show -- really this stuff is a universe apart. There's this huge majority of BMX bandit kids that don't give crap about Tom Boonen or the Tour de France.

The most interesting thing about the BMX is the demographic -- check out this pic of the hoodies'n'cargo pants crowd :

I don't know what you call these kinda dudes; so I'll call'em skids (as in skidmarks) these doughy white dudes that are all kinda grubby, with facial hair and HATS (gotta be hatted). They're prolly nice guys ... but they don't look like they'd smell too good or sumthin. Or maybe it's just that teens are ugly.

Nigella Writes! I spotted this in a window, you can actually it see behind the rare groove ride, the night I picked it up.

Guilty pleasures! Nigella is the chick all the girls hate. Too bad haters -- there's nothing like chillen out on Saturday nite while the shapely Nigella whips up some of her bland and fatty sensations -- tonight -- baking up chicken skin and bacon --> Yee haw! spaghetti sauce!

Ice Cream! ............ For Breakfast !!

I love modern art. Like how anything that's weird or subversive is art. If this reasoning applied to everything else I would be Brad Pitt and living in the Taj Mahal. It's so stupid and clever. Marcel Duchamp was the grandfather.

But the best piece of modern art is the Manzoni from the Tate's Gallery's permanent collection :

Mr. Piero Manzoni canned his crap and sold it for the same price as gold.

Also excellent are the Goldpills from sometime U of T student Tobias Wong:


On sale at CITIZEN:Citizen. There's more of Tobi Wong's cool inventions on his Web Page, like his Smoking Mittens.

Even Toronto writer Margaret Atwood is an inventor now. She's the inventor of the Long Pen :

This lets writers sign their books remotely, but (i guess) it would also let anyone else write something from across the world. A simple but cool idea.

I haven't thought of anything that cool, but this might be the most interesting thing in my house. The Gusano Rojo ("Red Worm") Mezcal (it's something like Tequila) that Ian gave me.

That's the gusano.