Archive for May, 2013

Working with Constraints

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Wow. Here’s an entertaining video that I stumbled upon quite accidentally.  It’s some guy covering a fun (and dance-inducing) tune from Daft Punk:

A song this good, made with the constraint of one solitary musician’s talent, makes me think of how oftentimes constraints can actually foster creativity.

When the video above is over, hear The White Stripes succinctly express that sentiment with this song:

Sometimes we need to keep our rooms small and our ideas big (and not get distracted with superfluous options).

Constraints, in whatever we do, can force us to use our limited resources, whatever they may be, to focus on what’s important. Would Picasso’s Guernica be better with some colors? Would A Farewell to Arms be better with more adjectives?

Ok, there’s certainly a limit to how far one can take this “constraint appreciation,” as I agree that “nothing destroys the spirit like poverty.”**

Thanks for abiding my poorly-articulated quasi-philosophical ramblings.

Oh, and should you be compelled to leave a comment (I do like getting comments), please comment here; not on Facebook. I no longer read Facebook because, well…

“… if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”*

I think it was starting to make me more stupider.


*It sounds better in German: “Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.” –Nietzsche

**Oh snap, did I just quote Jane Austen? Yep, I’ve definitely gotten more stupider.


Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Lately, I have been frequently commuting to work and back by a combination of train, river ferry, and bicycle. It’s pretty fun.

Instead of succumbing to my oft recurring illness “shiny metal syndrome” and buying a brand new bike (to which I gave a lot of thought, btw), I decided to make a few upgrades and tune up my 10-year-old Trek 800 Sport. I figured that since I use my bike like a minivan, with all the loading of kids’ seats, trailers, Trailgators, groceries, Nacho, etc., I should hold off on getting anything new and cool and just convert the old Trek into an all-rounder. Plus, it has a fantastic anti-theft feature– it’s a 10-year-old, heavy as heck, bottom of the line Trek– no one wants it! Oh, and I call it the Wienercycle because I bought it in Vienna. Not the cool Vienna in Austria, the Vienna in West (by-God) Virginia. That makes the bike even sadder, dunnit?

Ah well, here she is in all her *ahem* glory.

Here it is on the Thule racks with the Trailgator (for Nina) attached:

Cati bought me the Brooks Saddle for Xmas. I bought and installed some SKS fenders. I bought the Topeak office bag last time I was in the U.S. It conveniently clicks into the MTX rack we have for the child seat, and I must say, it’s nice. I also swapped the tires out for Schwalbe Hurricanes. Although 90% of my riding is on paved roads and bike paths, I am really glad to have the edge-tread for that rare but important 10% of the time I need it. It has kept me from having to get off and walk through mud and muck a few times, and it has also prevented me from wiping out completely on mud covered asphalt. I also put on some cheap toe clips for use with any shoes, a little rear-view mirror, some battery powered front and rear lights (required here in DE), bought a cheap bike computer to track my speed, and that’s pretty much it. Like I said, the bike is an all-rounder that’s good for every kind of riding, and thus, great for none.

Here’s me just illin’ in my tracksuit.

The morning view to my right:

Straight ahead:

and then I get to the ferry to cross the Rhein. It costs 0,50 € to cross with my bahn card. Cool, eh?

A fellow masterfully sculpted cyclist-body shown above.  :)

It’s interesting that on my ecologically-conscious bicycle commute to work, I get to watch the power company unload and transport literal tons of coal for the production of electricity.

Then, at the end of my hour-long bike ride, I have a shower and get to work.

For the ride home I take a train for part of the way and cycle home the rest of the way. It’s a nice commute too.

Crossing back over the Rhein; this time by bridge.

The view of the town we live in from the bridge.

So, I’m pretty down with cycling culture. Not so much the body-shaving, blood-doping, car-driver hating, racing bike scene (yet?), but more the trekking and commuting scene. It’s a hobby that includes elements of fitness, tinkering, DIY, practical engineering, frugality, and ecology. Plus, it’s fun for the kids. I can dig that.

Until next time.