Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Radical Thinking

Corporations and politicians are fond of telling us that “Children are the Future.” They’re not: they’re the present. (Look down, or check in front of the TV.) The future is a little bit more abstract than that. It will be populated by our children’s grandchildren and their children and grandchildren and very few people are asking us to think about them, least of all politicians and corporations.

One organization that actually is dedicated to this sort of long-term thinking is the Long Now Foundation, described here by Michael Chabon. Although trying to project an arc for the next 10,000 years is probably a bit heady for most, it’s good to know that someone’s doing it. For me, just getting people to think a couple of generations ahead is radical enough.

This sign measures about twelve feet across and was placed over the eastbound lanes of the Santa Monica Freeway between La Brea and Crenshaw at 1:00 p.m. yesterday and was still up four hours later. Let me know if you see it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Elicit Thought Project

The Elicit Thought Project is a startup group that's done installations in San Antonio TX, Duluth MN and Superior WI and is looking for volunteers to help with music, webwork and making people think using the time honored tradition of putting words in front of eyeballs. By using plywood, chains and padlocks, however, they've run afoul of local ordinances, which tend to be fairly specific about the manner in which speech can be affixed.

In time they'll discover, as I did, that it's not so much how the sign is attached, but where it's attached that keeps it up. (and keeps the law off your back...) And while plywood is nice and sturdy and good for a couple of signs, it's cardboard that will truly set you free...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Making a Sail for Recumbent Bicycles (Easy)

What You’ll Need:
1 Backpack Frame
2 2” Spring Clamps
Duct Tape/Scissors
Some vinyl or plastic sheeting

1. Cut vinyl to fit inside backpack frame, attach with duct tape.
2. Attach sail behind backrest with spring clamps like so:

A standard 2" spring clamp costs about a dollar and fits perfectly around the seat strut and sail frame. (Use duct tape to reinforce the seat so as not to tear up the webbing.) You can use tape or a bungee cord to make a third anchorpoint on the crossbars, but the springclamps hold so well it's not necessary.

I used a standard Bike E recumbent extended with a 2” x 3” hammered directly into the frame (the fit is so perfect it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t designed that way). My son and I road-tested this along with a touring bike from Monterey to San Luis Obispo through the Salinas Valley, approximately 200 miles of relatively flat, straight backcountry roads paralleling the 101. Winds are generally light or non-existent in the mornings, but as the valley floor begins to heat up the air rises and starts pulling in the cooler air from the coast, so by 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon the entire valley turns into a wind tunnel heading south.

With its lower profile and center of gravity, the recumbent was able to keep up fairly well in low wind conditions, but once the wind kicked in and we put the sail up, the recumbent was definitely faster. Particularly going uphill, which is something recumbents aren't supposed to be.