Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Not The Bike

I had a chance to read Lance Armstrong's book It's Not The Bike the other day. It's a short read, not very long.
So, what do I think?
If you are into cycling, you know that opinions on Armstrong are polarized to say the least.
Suspicions that he doped run rampant although he has never tested positive.
Some don't like him because of his alpha type personality.
Some just don't like him.
Well, I sort of like him.
I mean I'm no fanboy or anything, but I respect his accomplishments both personal and cycling.
Really now, I don't think there's anyway you can cheat seven times and not get caught.
Well okay, maybe he's got some top secret CIA program behind him to subvert the French and destabilize their country.
I mean it's possible.
Anything's possible. Right?
So what about the book?
From the tone of the book, we see how Armstrong is right away: an alpha dog type that takes no prisoners and does something that at the time he was arguably the best in the world at. We also see how he was affected by the discovery of cancer.
Remarkable that he had a testicle removed and brain surgery.
Parts of the book were quite touching; almost brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. Especially when he talks about his mother and how she fought through it with him.
I don't think any parent needs to see their child in a hospital bed no matter what the affliction let alone cancer.
Armstrong comes off as sincere, at least to me. While not overly deep or insightful, he does give the reader of sketch of who he is and how he became the seven time winner of le Tour.
After reading all the interwebs banter about Armstrong, I remained sort of neutral toward him personally. Again, I respected his accomplishments and his work with the Livestrong stuff, but I never really drank the Kool-Aid.
After reading this book, I have a different sort of opinion of him.
I sort of like him better.
Or maybe I just feel like I understand where he's coming from.
Let's face it, he's not the nicest guy in the world, but nice guys finish last and boy, I don't think finishing last is on his agenda. He does have a very large chip on his shoulder.
I'm sure if I was scrutinized by the world press every public moment of my life I might be a penis too.
Mostly though, my respect for him has grown because I believe that his motivations for his foundation are sincere. After reading about his surgeries and treatments, it's hard not to believe.
So I take the side of all the people who understand that love him or hate him, the work he does for cancer research cannot be faulted.
Does he exploit it for all it is worth?
Sure, but isn't it worth it?
Is it okay that he gets rich while he's doing it?
Why not? I mean it's not like he's making weapons or exploiting third world countries.
If you know anything about Lance Armstrong, the book will give you brief look at another side of him.
If you know nothing about him, you will come away with an opinion of him good or bad.
That's what I liked about it; it didn't read like some carefully planned public relations ploy.
It read like the truth, and that's about all I can ask for.
It's about Lance Armstrong so it's very difficult to come away feeling neutral.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

le Connaisseur de la Musique

The meilleur Led Zeppelin song is The Rain Song.
There, it has been spoken from my lips so il est vrai!
Ne laisser pas others tell you different, for it is certainly so.
Et how did le Connaissure de la Musique come to such a bold conclusion?
Avec mes oreilles!
I will go so far as to say that the whole album, the Houses of the Holy is le plus grand Led Zeppelin Album of All Time(LPGLZAOAT)!

There is not one, how do you say, feeble song on the record.
Of course, je ne reconnaitre pas The Grunge.
Je ne sais pas where that song came from.
Perhaps it was to go on Presence?
Or maybe they were saving it for Coda?
Of course there are many many Led Zeppelin records to consider for this high honor.
Do you not think?
Led Zeppelin IV?
In Through the Out Door?
Physical Graffiti perhaps?
Mais non!
There can be only one plus grand Led Zeppelin record and Houses of the Holy has been declared the winner!
Only one record is able to porter le maillot jeune!
Il est le plus grand Led Zeppelin Album of All Time(LPGLZAOAT)!
Do not argue avec moi.
It is so.
The bijou of the record is The Rain Song.
There is beaucoup vrai in the words "upon us all a little rain must fall."
M. Page and M. Plant were visited by the gods of chanson when they wrote the composition.
Qu'est-ce que c'est?
Tu voudrais argumenter?
Non, it is not allowed.
What le Connaisseur de la Musique says, it withstands the test of all time!
The Houses of the Holy is informidable!

Next on le Connaisseur de la Musique: Why Aha's Take on Me is the Greatest Pop Song of All Time(GPSOAT).

Views expressed by le Connaisseur de la Music do not in any way reflect the opinions of The Flat Tire or its staff.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Big Mo pt.II

If you decide to tackle the Missouri on your own, get a map of the ship.
The ship is huge and you will get lost.
There the aforementioned arrows to help you along, but even with them pointing me in the right direction it is very easy to get turned around.
Let me just show you some things that I found on the upper decks.
This is what I guess is the wheelhouse:

You can see where I suppose the Captain sits. Where's the wheel?
Well, it seems the wheel is behind a GAGILLION feet of armor plating:

You can see the slots above the wheel where you can see forward. In front of those slots are what I can only describe as blast shields. They can be rolled up or down and are made from thick glass(bullet proof I assume).
I thought this was pretty cool; a bubble gauge that displays list:

Also on that deck was the chart room.
There is no full access to the ship. Many doors and passages are blocked off to deter people from wandering around. There are set paths you take to get to where you are going.
This was pretty neat:

I believe this is the Combat Information Center(not really sure as I was not guided). I overheard one of the staff mention that it was where the missiles were fired from. You can still see the chart of the Persian Gulf in front.
Other than the Captain's cabin, the rest of the tour involves normal stuff. I didn't get images of the Captain's cabin for there was a group there and I forgot to go back. Let me just say it was bigger than my living room!
Here's a typical officers quarters:

For the most part, bigger than the cabin I had on my Carnival Cruise.
The cabins are set up realistically; you can see a uniform hanging up there. Books were on the shelves, shoes on the floor etc., after a bit it became sort of eerie.
I mean I was by myself and seeing some of these rooms that looked liked someone was still living there gave me the willies.
You sort of expected someone to come around the corner and ask you what the hell you were doing there.
Here's the crew's mess:

About the size of the cafeteria of the commmunity college I went to. I guess it has to be for 2,700 men served on board.
Compared to the officers quarters, the enlisted men could have been on a submarine:

Crew quarters were all over the ship.
The Misssouri is so big it has it's own zip code:

Okay, not really, but it might as well have one. I mean the ship has everything else. It truly is like a floating city.
I'll post up the rest of the images on Picasa and turn on the link when I'm done.
Visiting the ship gives you a fairly good idea of what it was like to live on board.
My impression was that it was like a dorm with huge guns.
What amazed me was the disparity between the living quarters of the officers and petty officers compared the crew. On the Bowfin, it seems everyone sort of suffered together. On the Missouri, if you wore "scambled eggs," life was not so bad.
I was on the "Surrender Deck" where the Japanese surrendered but I could not find the marker where it actually took place. There was a case showing some documents, but again there was a crowd there and I forgot to go back.
Another reason to take the guided tour.
The advertised walk wasn't so bad for everywhere you go there's something interesting to see.
I'd recommend it just so that you can say you were on a battleship since there aren't too many out there left.
I don't think any of them are in service.
Visiting the ship makes me want to take advantage of any Navy "open house" days that come up. I'd like to visit a newer combat vessel and see what it is like.
Besides being a piece of history, the Missouri gives you an idea of what our service men go through when they are deployed at sea.
I, for one, appreciate what they go through.

See more here.

Big Mo

The USS Missouri is located on Ford Island and you aren't allowed to swim, so the way to get there is to catch the shuttle.
Along with the price of admission is a ride on a bus that leaves every fifteen minutes from the Bowfin Museum. The same shuttle also goes to the Pacific Air Museum which is located right around the corner from the Missouri.
The bus ride is less than ten minutes going over the new bridge to Ford Island:

The bridge is a military bridge; meaning the lowest section is on pontoons and if need be, is sunk and retracted to let large ships pass through.
There is a bike lane on the bridge, but I would think that it's only accessible to military personnel.
Big Mo:

Something really lame happens at the front gate. You are not supposed to pass until you get your picture taken by some company that preys on tourists.
No, you don't have to buy the picture, but they say that you are required to take one before boarding. They were adamant about that, but one couple got out of line without pictures.
Honestly, I'm no so sure it's some Homeland Security thing disguised as a tourist operation.
Anyways, once you get past that, you can roam around the pier:

The Arizona Memorial is right next door:

As you can see, the Missouri is a pretty large ship. There are several ways to experience your visit.
There are guided tours. I'm not sure how they are organized, I'm sure you can ask.
There is an audio tour also. I believe it's free or at minimal cost.
You can play FIT(free independent tourist) like I did and grab a map. There are signs with arrows on them you help you navigate.
Then there is the deluxe package called the Battle Stations Tour which costs $25.
Like I said, the battleship is big. The guided tour lasts 35 minutes, the audio tour is listed at 60-90 minutes and the Battle Stations Tour is listed at 90 minutes.
There is a sign on the bathrooms that say "last bathroom for 1.5 miles" as I believe that is how far you actually walk on the full tour. I was there for about two hours so that sounds about right.
If I do it again and I probably will, I'll take the guided tour so that I can learn more about the history of the ship as the guides sounded like they had cool stories to tell.
Here is the guide map:

The colored sections show the decks you can visit. As you can see, it is sort of limited, but remember, the Missouri is run by a non profit and it takes money to restore things. Also, the ship is so humongous, it would take a legion of people to staff it.
Overall, the ship is in great shape; it recently came out of dry dock. You climb these stairs to get on deck:

The first thing I noticed were the guns. They are fricken huge! I don't know if pictures can capture the ginormity of those things:

The shells they had on deck were about four or five feet tall and I think I heard them say that they weight in at around two thousand pounds. Range is 23 miles.
The guns had these painted on, from service in Persian Gulf I would say:

Amazingly, walking toward the bow of the ship is like walking uphill. You can sort of see the upward curve of the deck here:

I believe usually you have full run of this deck, but that day, there was some kind of military ceremony held on the stern. I didn't want to take any pictures of that lest I get arrested or something.
After walking the deck I decided to head on up.
And up.
And up.

More later.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dive! pt.II

I can't imagine anyone saying that serving on a WWII submarine was fun.
If you are claustrophobic, take a deep breath and follow me:

Here's the superstructure I was telling you about. The deck and sides of the boat are just welded to a cylindrical chamber. You must pass through the superstructure in order to enter the boat:

Forward torpedo room. Notice the bunks above the torpedoes. I forget how much the torpedoes weighed, but they were loaded by block and tackle:

Now I don't know how it is on those newfangled submarines, but if you ever visit a WWII submarine, don't go when it's crowded. Everywhere you go, it feels like you are moving around in a closet.
A real small closet.
Here's the head:

Sailors "hot racked" meaning they slept in the same bunks. As one shift got off, they would get into the same bunk the other shift had been sleeping in.
Sleeping space is a premium:

Officers didn't get much better:

Hard to believe eighty men served on board at the same time.
Here's the control room:

Galley and mess.
I can't even imagine:

And finally the engine room and the rear torpedo room:

The Bowfin had four supercharged diesels that put out 6,400 horsepower. I wonder what kind of gas mileage it got.
More later.

Here's a link to more pics.

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Rain was in the forecast today, so I decided to go out and head on over to Pearl Harbor and see what's new.
I went to the Arizona Memorial last year, so I skipped that although the visitors center is all new.
More on that later.
My goal was the USS Bowfin Museum and the USS Missouri.
The new visitors center great. Now, the center is open air and spacious.
You have a choice to a number of ticket packages since the Arizona, Missouri, Bowfin and the Pacific Air Museum are all located in the same area.
Sort of.
The Arizona Memorial is free since it's actually a National Park. The others charge admission. Lucky for me, there is a resident discount.
I was going to do the full Monty, but decided I didn't want to rush, so I left the Pacific Air Museum for later.
You are greeted at the Bowfin Museum by two nuclear missiles:

The one on the left I think was a Trident missile(edit:probably not), and the other one is a Poseidon or Polaris missile. Kind of cool even though the Bowfin was not a ballistic missile sub.
The museum is more for show than education. I mean there are interesting displays, but most are personal and collected objects rather than educational material. I took the audio tour, which was okay(and free).
There are old photos and uniforms showing what it was like early in the submarine service. The rest of the displays cover the development of the submarine fleet.
I thought the battle flags were great seeing as how they were created mostly by sailors on the boat:

There are cool scale models of the different types of submarines that went into service. There is a large cutaway model of the Bowfin, a WWII Balao class submarine:

It's interesting to note that early submarines were basically diving chambers with a superstructure attached to it. Almost everything you see on the outside is a facade.
Moving on through the museum I came across this:

It's an old missile control board from a ballistic missile sub. I couldn't find the FIRE buttons or anything, but it sort of gave me the willies standing in front of it. Images of the movie Crimson Tide came to mind, and it's hard to imagine the amount of destructive power that console once held.
Spooky, Cold War stuff.
Here's an old dive suit:

How'd you like these shoes?

Now never say I don't do anything for you because yes, sports fans, the main event, the moment you've all been waiting for:

That's right! A freakin Poseidon missile!
Okay, actually a test missile, but it's still a missile! I put the lady in there for scale.
This is the business end, I think the place where the warheads go:

Fourteen thermonuclear warheads I believe the audio tour said. I don't think I'd be too happy having one of those in the trunk of my car.
The most interesting thing was the body; it was made out of some sort of composite:

Probably something Morton Thiokol dreamed up. I wonder if it would make a good bike frame?
Well, I took tons of pictures so you might be seeing more of them.
Next up:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

HMC, Slow Foot, Rap

Yesterday I sent off my entry form for the Haleiwa Metric Century Ride that takes place next month on the twenty fifth.
I was going to do this ride last year, but I chickened out. It's a sort of far drive out to Haleiwa from where I am, and I didn't want to do it alone.
This year though, I have the Evil Hoku signed up, and my brother turned his form in also.
I'm pretty stoked.
I haven't been to the North Shore for years, so there's probably a lot that's changed. Then again, it's the North Shore, and not much really changes there.
That's why it's cool.
I got my Cateye V2 computer the other day:

I'm sort of regretting it.
I mean, I really didn't need another computer to tell me how slow I am.
The cadence feature is what I wanted though.
Well, I got what I wished for and now I know exactly how slow my cadence is.
I think I liked it better when I was guessing.
At least before, I could lie.
The Cateye is pretty nice though. It has all kinds of useless stuff like a lap timer and a mileage countdown thingy, and of course the cursed average cadence.
Which I will not get into at this time.
The sensor mountings are nice and clean:

Everything attaches to the non drive side chainstay. The only thing is the cadence sensor sort of sticks out and it makes me a bit nervous.
It's a little too close to the heel for comfort.
The readout mount is simple too:

It can be mounted both on the stem or the handlebars. When it's mounted on the stem though, there's no attitude adjustment. There may be a problem with glare during the day.
The display is also smaller than what I'm used to. It is back lighted so that's good if you ride at night.
Set up is easy. Follow the directions and you will have no problems.
Oh wait. I do have one problem with the odometer. It's not accumulating the mileage like it's supposed to. I think it's user error though.
I think I have to reset it and see.
The thing is, now that I have all this high tech stuff, I suppose I should get faster.
Or thinner.
Or something.
I have to admit, riding my bicycle has taken on a whole new purpose. It was always about my health, and it was also about getting off the couch and getting outside.
Now it's about increasing my performance, and it was never supposed to be about that.
I guess I should start worrying if I start looking at PowerTaps or SRMs.
It's all good.
As long as I'm on a bike.
Now, about Rap.
So anyways, I was on YouTube the other day looking at music videos by Swing Out Sister.
No, not rap music.
Rap Replinger was a local comedian who elevated pidgin and local culture. Sadly, he is no longer with us, but his brilliance lives on.
Your lesson in talkin da kine pidgin can be found here. Also check out "Room Service," and "Fate Yanagi."
The clips are part of television production called Rap's Hawaii.
Soon, you too can talk like a local.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fooled by Your Eyes

I'm trying to learn more about color.
Okay, while my degree is in art, I just never had the time to take that class on color. I mean one whole semester on color?
Well, now I wish I had.
Let me get back to this.
Seems there is more to it than meets the eye, so to speak.
In fact, what your eyes see, is not always what is actually there.
I was in Borders the other day and came across this book:

I purchased it mostly because I'm interested in patterns that I can use in my ceramics. Here's a sample of what I was doing when I graduated:

Geometric at the same time random. There is no set pattern there.
So anyways, I am always on the look out for something different to try.
So let's go back to color for a bit.
Color is interpreted.
You, the reader, and I see color differently. My blue is not your blue like my red is not your red.
If you know what I mean.
The eyes also seem to have a mind of their own.
Being interested in color, I bought this book:

Josef Albers was one of the instructors at the Bauhaus. His work in color is sort of considered definitive, I guess along with Johannes Itten, also from the Bauhaus.
Color is one of the things that can fool the eye.
Here is an example out of Alber's book:

The two blue X's are of the same color, except when viewed adjacent another color, it seems to change.
I was fascinated by this strange phenomena.
I mean, what the hell is going on?
Surely this is some form of witchcraft?
For sure this is making my evil list.
Well hold on to your hats folks, it gets better.
Or more evil, depending.
As to how the eye interprets visual signals, there's, well more than meets the eye.
Seems certain things are "burned" into our brains.
Especially when it comes to patterns.
Meaning that even if we see something, the brain still interprets it as something else(on the book cover above, the horizontal lines are parallel).
Now some of these effects don't work in the space I have, so I'll send you to some sites I found that demonstrate the effects.
Notice how there is a demon in demonstrate?
Also, everyone is affected by these illusions differently. Some worked on me, some didn't so don't worry if some don't.
First off is the Herman Grid Illusion.
Basically seeing things that aren't there.
Did you see the grey dots?
The Scintillating Grid.
Not seeing stuff that's there.
Did the dots seem to disappear?
And finally, the most evil of them all:
Peripheral Drift.
Scroll down for the real evil stuff.
Peripheral Drift is the one that most interests me for it causes the brain to sense motion.
When motion is not there.
How evil is that?
Now to swing on back, it seems this illusion is caused by the way the brain wants to follow colors from light to dark.
Or dark to light.
Or something.
Seems we just can't turn some things off, so the study of optical illusions is also related to psychology.
No kidding.
This has to make me wonder what else is "hard wired" to my brain. I mean what other instincts are there that are "burned" into my subconscious?
What am I seeing and what am I not seeing?
Interesting stuff.
There are more of these vexing illusions and if you want to find out more about them, there are tons of books out there.
Some of which are on their way to my door.
I just can't believe my eyes anymore.
Especially when I see my paycheck.
That's another story.
Oh, and the Breaking Bad season starts tonight.