New Bike Update

OK, so I've put 30 miles or so on the new $80 bike, enough to have a semi-informed opinion.

Took it out for its first 10-mile-plus ride this morning. I'm still thinking it felt like a lot of bike for 80 bucks. Enough bike that I'm not going to feel bad when I have to pop a little for new tires, etc. over time. I still need to futz with the fitting just a little (maybe another half inch up on the seat height), but it's pretty comfortable.

Keeping a reasonable pace (breaking a sweat and feeling some burn in the quads most of the way, but not all-out heavy-breathing stitch-in-side cardio), my speed averaged 10 miles an hour.

Last time I got serious about cycling, I had a burr under my fur about distance (I worked up to, and tried to keep at, 100+ miles per week). This time around, it's about time spent keeping the muscles moving (I've been at 40 minutes and change each morning and am now working up toward an hour).

That is, I don't really care much how far I go; I just plan on riding 25-30 minutes away from home, then turning around and coming back. But knowing that the turnaround point at the Archer end of the Archer-Braid trail is almost exactly 30 minutes away is nice for not having to keep an eye on the clock.

On my walking days (once I get tired of walking and biking every day I'll start alternating), I do care about distance and speed: I plan to work up to three miles and then stay at that distance but start increasing speed, until I'm running the three miles (5 kilometers).

My best running time ever for 5k is 20 minutes 25 seconds. I want to eventually beat it. Granted, when I did that last time, I was 18 years old and in pretty good shape, about 2/3 of the way through boot camp. Then again, although I didn't know it until one of my knees made a sound like a rifle going off just as I crossed the finish line and started to slow down, I did it with two broken kneecaps. So I guess it kind of evens out. And frankly I'll be reasonably happy once I'm running the three miles in maximum passing time for the old Marine Corps physical fitness test (28 minutes). Better than 20:25 is just my motivational goal.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 97: The Wreck of the Old

This episode of The KN@PP Stir Podcast is brought to you by Darryl W. Perry:

In this episode:

Congratulations to my sponsor, Darryl W. Perry -- he's the new chair of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, and LAVA Flow Podcast host Rodger Paxton is the new vice-chair!

The (New Bike) Saga Begins

This whole thing kept threatening to go sideways and turn into yet another one of those "I can't believe I fell for the old 'order something online from Wal-Mart and everything goes wrong' routine again" posts ... but everything seems to have worked out.

So I saw the bike on sale for $79.xx, online only and couldn't resist, even though this is Wal-Mart and even though something seems to go wrong every time I order online from them. It looks like a lot of bike for $80 -- and since it would probably cost $100-$150 to do the things I'd need to do to get the Trek 7000 back in operating shape, that's a good deal. Hey, if nothing else I will end up with a new set of brakes (needed for the Trek) and a new set of tires (probably needed for the Trek), right?

Order placed. For once, the order actually seems to proceed apace instead getting stuck at the "processing" stage and ending with a refund instead of the arrival of what I ordered. Site-to-store, available for pickup on Wednesday.

First hitch: Wal-Mart advertises that when you buy an unassembled bike from them, you can have it assembled, free, at the store. So I call the store to find out about that. Yes, I can have it assembled. No, I can't just ask to have it assembled. I have to show up to claim it when it arrives and ask then. Kinda silly. But anyway, Tamara drops by when it arrives, asks for assembly, gives them my name for pickup (it was ordered on her Wal-Mart account), and is told no problem, it should be pretty quick, they'll call.

So I plan to ride into town with Tamara on Friday morning, have her drop me off on her way to work, pick up the bike, and ride it home before the heat of the day (daytime temperatures are running 90 degrees fahrenheit this week).

But on Friday morning, there's still been no "your bike is ready" phone call. About midday, I call the store to ask when the bike will be ready. Oh, the bike is ready, they just forgot to call. So I plan to get into town in the evening, pick it up and ride it home as things are cooling down but before it gets dark.

We arrive at the store. I do look briefly at bicycle lights, but there's a good hour of daylight left, I have some crap at home that will probably work as a stopgap, and I prefer to order little doodads like that from China for a buck or two a pop instead of paying ten times as much here. So I head for the pickup desk, which is unattended, but the people at the function next door say they'll get the guy. I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The guy finally shows up, unlocks the storeroom and brings out a bicycle.

Here's the bike I ordered:

Here's the bike I got:

They're not the same bike. At least they don't look like the same bike to me. The advertised one is light blue with light blue tires. This is dark blue with black tires. On a lookover, my impression is that they're giving me a better bike than I paid for, and I say so. But the guy checks the order number, etc. and says no, that's the right bike. OK, fine.

Except that when he rolls it out and I feel the tires, there's very little air in them. Can I get those aired up, or is there a place to do so? They're aired up, the guy explains. Their machines have an auto-shutoff -- if the tires were aired up any more they would explode. Yes, he really says that. OK, fine.

So I finally get out of the store with the bike and instead of an hour of daylight remaining it is getting dark. I carefully (because I don't want to ruin tires and wheels) ride the bike two blocks to a Dollar Tree, where I do luck out -- a buck apiece for 1) a strap-on rear light actually intended for bikes; and 2) a clip-on-your-hat light that should do in a pinch (fortunately I had resisted the temptation to remove the plastic bill from my bike helmet).

Then I gingerly ride the bike another two blocks to the nearest gas station where I pay $1.50 for air (air is getting very expensive these days). Those tires that would explode if they were aired up any more? One is at 24psi, the other at 14psi. The tires are rated for 50psi.

Then I ride the 5 1/2 miles home in the dark. The hat-clip light isn't ideal, but everything works out, no unfortunate encounters with animals, automobiles, invisible potholes, etc. A very pleasant ride even though I haven't gone through the process of fitting the bike to my height, etc. yet. By the time I get home, I'm more convinced than ever that I somehow got handed a better bike than they charged me for.

So my near future exercise plan involves walking one day, biking the next instead of walking every day. Glad to be back on wheels.

Presidents Who Couldn't Get Elected These Days

The press seems to obsess over presidential candidates' health these days (perhaps they wouldn't, or at least not quite so much, if some of those candidates weren't secretive and dishonest about it). From Wikipedia:

On September 24, 1955, while vacationing in Colorado, [Dwight D. Eisenhower] had a serious heart attack that required six weeks' hospitalization .... As a consequence of his heart attack, Eisenhower developed a left ventricular aneurysm, which was in turn the cause of a mild stroke on November 25, 1957. This incident occurred during a cabinet meeting when Eisenhower suddenly found himself unable to speak or move his right hand. The stroke had caused an aphasia. The president also suffered from Crohn's disease, chronic inflammatory condition of the intestine, which necessitated surgery for a bowel obstruction on June 9, 1956.

Fortunately for his political aspirations, this stuff occurred after he was elected. But even after the heart attack and intestinal surgery (but before the stroke), he was re-elected in a landslide.

I Used to Love Groupon

I've purchased a number of Groupons proper -- essentially discount certificates for restaurants, attractions, events, etc. -- without incident. The Groupons always worked and I was always satisfied.

Memory dims over time, but I'm pretty sure I've ordered a thing or three from "Groupon Goods" over the years. These are actual physical objects, offered for a nice price and shipped direct. I don't go to the site to shop on my own -- normally my first online stop for things I want is eBay, followed by Amazon for some things, NewEgg for others, etc.) -- but if I see something "on special" via email and it's something I want, I'll click thru.

So this morning I got the second or third in a series of Groupon emails:


I clicked thru, and among the things advertised on the landing page were "Groupon Goods" type physical things (clothing, jewelry, electronics, etc.).

There's something I've been planning to buy for Tamara -- she's been wanting a "fitness tracker" bracelet for some time now -- so I searched on the term "fitness tracker," selected one for $16.99, clicked "buy," entered the coupon code ...

"Sorry, this coupon cannot be applied, check the code rules." There's no link from the email to any "code rules."

So I think to myself, maybe this deal is for a limited set of things. Instead of searching, I'll go back to the email, click through to the landing page, and click on the links Groupon actually shows me to see if those things include any fitness trackers.

So I end up at a fitness tracker that way, and the good news is it includes the same desired features AND is $10 cheaper -- just $6.99. Which, with $10 off, no minimum, sounds like "free." Heck, I might just buy two, that would be only four bucks out of pocket, right?

Except that there's no way to tell it I want two. Click "buy" and it goes straight to payment.

And except that, again, "Sorry, this coupon cannot be applied, check the code rules."

And except that it's $6.99 + $5.95 shipping, so now we're talking $12.94.

But what the hey. I have been meaning to buy something like this for someone I care about, and $13 is a very nice price for a bluetooth fitness tracker that includes sleep analysis and such. Click. Buy. Done.

Oh, except during the payment phase, it keeps insisting that my address isn't one they can ship to. Turns out their "cartographer" thinks my street address ends in "Lanes" rather than "Lane."

And except when the receipt email arrives it turns out that there's $1.29  in sales tax that wasn't mentioned on the payment screen. So now it's $14.23. Which is still a pretty good price.

But it's also the sixth ass-chapping little problem in a single transaction. First the code doesn't work for what I select. Then I go back and jump through hoops to find something the code works on and it still doesn't. Then it won't let me buy two of something I'm willing to pay full price for. Then it wants nearly six bucks in shipping on a seven dollar purchase that couldn't possible cost more than one dollar to ship. Then it basically tells me that I don't know my own address and it does. Then it charges me an extra $1.29 without telling me first.

I'm guessing I won't be clicking on extra-super-special Groupon deal emails in the future. Even writing off all the ADDITIONAL problems, the FIRST problem made the price of my purchase $10 more than it was advertised as.

About Experimenting on the Troops

Transcribed from the last few minutes of last night's episode of Free Talk Live (I think I'm attributing the quotes to the correct hosts):

Cody: If you're going to be punished for not wanting to have a shot put in you where you don't entirely know what is being put into your bloodstream ...

Ian: You can better believe they're experimenting on members of the military, I mean, there's a long history of them experimenting with things that are not even available to the mainstream ...

That's the kind of statement that tends to get certain people yelling "conspiracy theory! Put on your tinfoil hat, got a conspiracy theory here!"

So by way of supporting the show hosts, I want to relate a real-life, first-person account of something that probably isn't quite "experimenting on members of the military" as such, but pretty damn close.

In early 1991 at Camp Five in the vicinity of al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, members of my unit were rousted out to receive a vaccination.

Specifically, the first dose of what was supposedly a two-dose anthrax vaccination.

From boxes of syringes clearly (visible/legible from several feet away) marked EXPERIMENTAL -- DO NOT USE ON HUMANS.

I never got the second dose and it never occurred to me to ask others from my unit whether or not they did (there was a point at which I left my permanent unit on temporary assignment to a provisional outfit). If they didn't, I can think of a few possible reasons why:

  1. The war started and ended pretty quickly -- maybe it was over before they got around to administering the second dose.
  2. Units were moving around a lot in a very chaotic situation -- maybe the second dose didn't catch up with our medical people before the unit went home.
  3. Maybe there were enough and bad enough negative reactions to the vaccine that the powers that be decided it was more trouble than its possible utility (if Saddam used anthrax) was worth, and they canceled its deployment.
Or maybe some other reason. All I know is that when I attempted to exercise what I thought was a US-recognized right to refuse medical treatment, I was told "take the vaccine or take a court martial." I decided the former was preferable to the latter.

When I say it probably wasn't experimenting on the troops as such, what I mean is that the purpose of administering the vaccine appears to have been actual use versus a perceived possibility of exposure to anthrax on the battlefield, as opposed to someone just saying "hey, let's inject a bunch of troops with this and see what happens!" But of course appearances can be deceiving. Maybe the war was just an excuse for doing exactly that.

Now It's Just Getting Stupid

One of the Libertarian National Committee's quadrennial priorities is getting the party's presidential campaign to sign a contract covering things like sharing of data (e.g. the LNC letting the campaign mail to its list of members; the campaign letting the LNC mail to its list of donors, etc.).

It's enough of a priority that at this year's national convention, a bylaws amendment was proposed that would have required candidates for the presidential nomination to sign such contracts to be eligible for the nomination. That amendment was rejected for the perfectly good reason that it would have empowered the LNC to game the nomination by offering contracts that some candidates could or would not sign.

So anyway, ever since the nomination, there's been a bunch of back and forth between the LNC and the Johnson campaign regarding a contract.

As of yesterday, the LNC's chair (who was given authority by the LNC to negotiate and execute the contract) had signed a contract.

What's in the contract? Apparently the only people who know are the chair, the LNC's lawyer, and the Johnson/Weld campaign's negotiators.

And apparently there's a clause in the contract requiring secrecy as to its terms -- forever. Even LNC members have to sign non-disclosure agreements just to see a contract that binds the committee and the party to whatever secret stuff is in it. Regular old party members and donors? Don't bother asking, you don't rate.

Thanks to Region 1 representative Caryn Ann Harlos for fighting like hell against this bullshit.

In other news, Johnson/Weld campaign promise: "No hypocrisy; full transparency."

Somehow, I'm just not feeling it.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 96: Chastity and Continence, But Not Yet

This episode of The KN@PP Stir Podcast is brought to you by Darryl W. Perry:

In this episode:

  • Thanks For Asking! (The Social Question, Dave Barry Hearts Sheldon Richman, Election Systems, Johnson/Weld Heresies);
  • Three things about the Johnson/Weld campaign.
Sorry this one ran late, folks -- it was recorded on Sunday but the program I use to join segments was acting up and I couldn't get that done until this morning.

Yes, There is a New Episode of The KN@PP Stir Podcast

I think it's even a pretty good episode.

But you can't hear it yet, because Audio Joiner is running like molasses and doesn't seem to want to finish the part where the various segments, intro music, stingers, and ads get melded into a single MP3.

I'll keep working on the problem, but I'm not sure the episode will be available tonight.