Saturday, November 19, 2005


Saw my first cyclo-cross race this weekend. I had never heard of the sport until this year, but it turns out Sacramento has an active XC community. A couple of guys in the bike club at work had mentioned it, and on Jmac’s recommendation, I headed out to watch the final races of the season on Sunday.

Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve been able to piece together as far as what cyclo-cross is. Back in the day, roadies wanted something to do and to stay in shape for after the regular road bike racing season ended. The fall season would be colder, and rainier, with worse weather overall. The idea came that instead of running from the conditions, embrace them. Since you can’t know what the road conditions are going to be, why go on the road at all? Keep in mind that this was before the legendary Specialized Rock Hopper hit the market spurning the mountain biking craze of today. Instead, you simply took the road tires off your bike, and put on knobby tires slightly wider than road tires. Then take off your front derailleur, and switch out your chainring for a single smaller chainring (something closer to what you’d see on a track or mountain bike). There you have it, a simple cyclcross bike. A modern cross bike will also have a higher bottom bracket, but in these races you see everything form cross bikes, to modified road bikes, to mountain bikes. Disc brakes and forward pointing bar extensions are illegal though.

Now that you have a bike, all you need to do is set up a small circuit court going through parks, and what not. A good track will have sections of mud, dirt, hills, stairs and lots of obstacles. Here’s the thing though. A bike like this still isn’t going to be able handle the abuse that a modern day mountain bike takes, so what do you do to handle obstacles in your way? The forefathers had quite the idea, get off and carry your bike, hence the “cross” nature of the sport originated. This isn’t an optional aspect either. Even if you think you could handle going over a log, the rules require you to port your bike across certain sections. This brings a completely different element to it, requiring different muscles, and different types of breathing to go from sprinting, to taking a hair pin corner in the dirt, to dismounting and sprinting up stairs, to getting back on your bike.
I saw three such scenarios in this weekend’s race. The first involved running up a set of at least twenty stairs, and then later dismounting to jump over an obstacle and push your bike up a single track hill. The last one was to pick your bike to run/jump across a series of logs laid across the path. Super fun stuff.

The races went from registration at 8:00 to numerous divisional races spaced roughly 1 hour apart. I had biked the 23 miles out to the course mid Sunday morning, but had only planned on staying for short bit, just to check it out. The course was set up much better for spectating than I had anticipated, though, and after running into some friendly faces, I decided to stick around till the A race, and watch Jmac.

For information, and cool pics, check out : Velocommunity
Not only is this home to Sacramento’s Cyclo –Cross, but it’s also the home of the greater Sacramento cycling commuting. “A blog not just for me, but for everyone,” as the webmaster envisions it. Hopefully that vision will come to be.

Friday, November 18, 2005

WALMART: The High Cost of Low Cost

This week is(was) the national debut of Walmart: The High Cost of Low Cost. First off, I have to say that this movie was fantastic. Although I’ve been looking forward to it for a couple of weeks, I was still expecting a totally one sided biased story that would discredit itself. (Michael Moore like) I wrong on my assumptions. It was done very well, and a conscience effort was made to extend across political borders. They made it a point to let us know that many of the people interviewed were actually gun toting, truck driving republicans. The highlights were numerous interviews with ex-high level managers from the giant corporation. They were able to spread insight into how many of the problems do in fact come from the top.

They also did a neat way of promoting the movie, essentially letting anyone across the country host their own screening of the movie. All you had to do was purchase a DVD, and invite a bunch of people over. They’d even advertise your screening with them. I chose to see it at the local classic theater, The Crest, where one of the independent free newspapers was sponsoring a showing, along with some good comedy skits before the movie. This is somewhat fitting because A) There is an open air mall located a few blocks away, and the owners wanted to install a Walmart as part of a “downtown revitalization>” I won’t even comment on that one. Luckily the city council decisively said no to that one, insisting they draw smaller shops into the building. B) That same city council, however, was toying with the idea of giving Century theaters a 10 million dollar subsidy to build an arts theater directly across from the Crest, as a way of drawing people to the area. The street is dead, and the only, and I mean only, thing drawing people there are the Crest and Pyramid Brewing, most of the rest of the buildings are empty. Let’s see, there’s brewery, and a theater, there already, hmm, lets add a theater!!! Ok, I’m off subject.

Anyway, see the movie. I’ll save my Walmart rants for later; I have a couple fun Walmart projects lined up for Spring.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fall Bike Ride

I took what will probably be my last full bike commute of the year. I wanted to go one more time to check out the leaves, and Veteran’s Day provided the perfect opportunity. I decided to take pictures along the way to show just how nice of a ride it is. Although I took most of the pics while moving, I did stop quite a bit. My legs aren’t in nearly as good as shape as they were earlier in the season either, so I ended up taking over 1:45 minutes for the 25 mile ride. It was a good day.

Keep in mind that this entire trail is going straight through the suburban sprawl that is the greater Sacramento area, yet you see very little signs of it along the trail, and the traffic is even out of earshot most of the way.

Leaving the city. The Sac State Bridge: Some say it was modeled after the Golden Gate. I say, well, its a suspension bridge. It allows students to walk over from the apartment buildings across the river to the school. I do wonder how much pull the land owners on the other side of the river had in the decision to have it built.

Nimbus Dam, Lake Natomas, and back to reality

Highlight of the trip, running into this guy towing his canoe with his bike.

He had a couple of suggestions for me when I mentioned that I'm building a similar setup for my kayak. He really goes all out though, biking upstream with a folding bike, so he can take it on his canoe with him, paddling downstream back to town.

Veteran's Day Train

Sac Light Rail was very ambiguous about its schedule on Veteran’s Day. Signs posted on the train said the day would be a holiday. The website listed two categories of holidays, major holidays that were holidays, and certain ones that would follow the holiday schedule, which wasn’t posted on the site. The paper schedules didn’t list what days were holidays but did list some routes as having an “H” next to them, which wouldn’t run on holidays. The “H” routes were every other route before 10:00am, which coincidently coincided with every train that actually ran to Folsom, insinuating that it was impossible to get to the city via train on holidays. Retarded. Although I assumed that the schedule was messed up in some way, none of the regular downtown to Intel train ‘n bike commuters were going to risk it. Later that evening rumors circulated of seeing trains labeled “Folsom” running in the morning. Regardless, I took the opportunity to bike to work that morning, the last time for the season. With the time change, it would be possible to start biking to work in the morning, but I’m pressed for time these days, and biking takes at least and extra ½ hour, probably a little more, plus the added packing of clothes, ect. I did want to ride one more time though, and get a chance to see the fall leaves on the trail.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Feeding the Mob

Had an update at work on the new product line I’ll we working on next year. It turns out the only market presently identified for this particular chip is Japanese slot machines (Pachinko machines). Yup, just slot machines, with 450 million dollars of potential market a year for us. They also mentioned that working with this customer is a little different than others; it’s harder to get set specs in the usual timeframe. This didn't suprise many though, since the entire industry is apparently owned and operated by the Japanese mafia.

As long as you’re making a difference in the world; that’s what matters. The current product I'm working on mainly goes into cell phones. I suppose its not much different either way, working on a product that helps people engage in addictive, unnecessary, money gobbling activities that can cause them to ignore the people around them, or helping them gamble.