Tuesday, October 12, 2021

End of an Transportation Era

PURR MORE the Green as envisioned by the MINI web site

I became a member of Zipcar (the hourly car rental company) on July 23rd, 2005.  As I recall, I mostly signed up in order to rent a MINI Cooper for an extended test drive of the brand. We liked it, and we purchased what became our 2006 MINI Cooper S, PURR MORE the Green. 

That car took us round-trip coast-to-coast and set our record for length of vehicle ownership, so clearly we choose well.

I know the date because (for the first time in years) today I logged in, and I glanced at my account as I cancelled my membership.

Zipcar has been free for me for years as a (former) Google employee, but that's getting to be a long time ago — now they are moving my account to their $70 standard annual plan and retiring my previous membership plan.  (Which makes me wonder if current Googlers are being moved as well, but not enough to ask.) 

It was occasionally useful me when it was free, but it wasn't worth paying for. Likewise, it could be useful for Katherine when she still traveled extensively for work and took day trips down into the Silicon Valley.  Even before the pandemic, her travel dropped off over the years to where she didn't even go to the last SEMICON West before the pandemic. (That broke a streak of ~25 years.)

Ah well, Zipcar taught us MINI Coopers are fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Power Hit Catalogue (No expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

    The tools you need for a longer power hit has appeared in the Wirecutter by the NY Times. 

    While PSE has greatly improved our system reliability since we moved here, one should be prepared. Thus I took inventory based on their list: 
    • Portable generator (none)
    • Surge protector (3)
    • Uninterruptible power supply
      • Small/medium (5)
      • Large (3) 
    • Small Power bank (3)
    • Portable power station (see UPS, above)
    • Power inverter (none)
    • LED lantern 
      • Small (2)
      • Large (2)
    • Flashlight
    • Headlamp (left behind by a contractor, actually …)
    • Entertainment
      • Board Game (several)
      • Card decks (several)
      • Music 
        • 9200 tracks on iPhones 
        • BT Speaker 

    We don't have a generator, portable power station, or power inverter.  With three 1500 VA UPS units, we do have basic power reserves, and have never really felt the need for more.

    We also have things other devices which don't need A/C that the Wirecutter didn't mention:

    • Natural Gas 
      • Water Heater
      • Stove
      • Fireplace
    • Radio
    • Small refrigerator (12 VDC)
    Katherine notes our freezer is good for keeping things frozen for 24+ hours without power.

    In case of a Zombie Apocalypse or lesser event (the Pacific Northwest is earthquake country), we also have Go bags and cat carriers for bugging out. The inventory of those bags is not included above. We really need to update all the perishables in those bags.

    Friday, August 6, 2021

    An Accommodation

    I rode on my usual schedule of every other morning; due to minor distractions, today wasn't quite as far as Wednesday. Given I did get reasonable mileage in, and that my legs had trouble holding me up after I slid off the bicycle, I guess I did a decent amount of work.

    As they say in Weight Watchers, "Progress, not Perfection".

    I really detected that  my legs were wobbly when I crouched to swap my water bottle for a post-ride Cherry Coke Zero in my tiny office refrigerator (loaded only yesterday).

    The new refrigerator is both a reward for my riding regularly, and an accommodation of my knees not wanting to do the stairs too often (and not wanting to bother Katherine, either). It also makes a refrigerated prescription that I take weekly more accessible.

    My now riding regularly was highlighted in two small ways this morning:
    • I asked Katherine to bring up breakfast so I could save my knees, and I noted to her, "We know I'm riding this morning".  I realized it just wasn't a question to me. It doesn't happen until it happens, but I had A Plan, and I meant to follow it (and did).
    • Mid-ride, I realized that I could and wanted to ride harder, and I picked up the pace a bit.
    I have long way to go, including fitness not related to the bike and making other accommodations as needed, but . . . progress.

    New Refrigerator Between the Cat Tower and the Wastebasket 

    Monday, August 2, 2021

    Plan BT

    I mentioned that I needed to adjust the music for my exercise bike now that it is in my office. This had multiple failed iterations:

    • The main speakers in the office stereo are oriented for my desk, not the window that my bike is under.
    • The secondary zone for the office stereo has a UX which was clearly an afterthought.  (I suspect drink was involved, too.)
    • My spare set of cheap computer speakers weren't nearly up to the task of music.
    • The computer (iMac) speakers were good in a pinch, but don't fill my ears from across the room. (On an absolute scale, they may be higher quality than what I'm actually using.)

    But now, success!

    The exercise bike console has a field expedient solution — a battery powered stereo BlueTooth speaker which my phone talks to. (I also used the phone as the music source is riding downstairs.) The speakers required no cash outlay; credit card reward points were my friend.

    The field expedient part is the impromptu harness that keeps the speaker balanced on the console.  The strength part of the harness is a quartet of 12" gear ties; I am not sure they would be up to holding the unit on a road bike, but are fine here.  Two long rubber bands act as a secondary suspension to reduce wobble.

    It occurs to me that the no longer mobile speaker will require recharging; I'll either dig out our longest USB cable or use one of the battery packs that live in our various briefcases.

    Most importantly, I am now using the bike (and the speaker); I have had eight rides since it moved upstairs.

    (Formerly) Portable BT Speaker Secured to My Exercise Bicycle.


    Sunday, August 1, 2021

    Riding in the Rain

    Well, THAT parade got rained on.

    I don't think road bicycles are for me any more. In particular, while I might still have the power in my legs, I don't have the flexibility and balance for the mount/dismount.  

    However a semi-recumbent tricycle may be good idea, say next season after I get better conditioned. Or one that seemed a good idea I found out that they run ~ $4500. Given how little used my current bikes have been used over the last 20 years, I can't see the ROI on that expensive a toy. 

    Back to the semi-recumbent exercise bike.

    Friday, July 30, 2021

    Simple Joys for Simple Hobbits

    I've had flaky knees for years, and this year they got worse. This especially impacts me on the stairs. We have considered complicated accessibility options, but deferred them for now not because of cost, but because they would be a pain to implement. So we're doing simpler things.

    We had a railing all the up way on the inner edge of the stairwell. Not so on the outer edge.

    New railings were installed this morning by WeHoneyDo on the outer edge of the stairwell, covering the top half and where the bottom half meets the landing.

    They still need a coat or two of clear finish to smooth and protect the surface, but are quite usable.

    Hobbit tested, they do ease my navigating the stairs.

    Railing Extension From Lower Stairs to Landing

    Railing on Outer (Left) Side of Upper Stairs

    Saturday, July 17, 2021

    Back in the Saddle Again

    The exercise bike is now up in my office.  No stairs to navigate to use it!

    After riding Thursday, I rode the exercise bike again today.  I even got Coach Penwiper to join me for his traditional snuggle.

    I actually feel that today over all I did too much with my legs (I'm wobbly), but not horribly so.

    Since my MS relapse in April (which I seem mostly recovered from), I've let the conditioning of my legs go. This (and perhaps the MS) affects my balance, which in turn discourages using them, which in turn ...

    The bike is not a pure be-all-end-all of conditioning, but it is certainly a good start.

    After 16 years, I know the bike is easy to use, I just have to get on it. The bike moving upstairs is specifically helps that; while the bike is out of my way, it's in my face everytime I walk into the office -- a good thing.  And my office has AC, which allows a ride even in the warmth of the afternoon (good for when I am disorganized, like today).  

    My biggest problem is the bike is directly under the left stereo speaker (stereo separation, what's that?).   THAT is a first world problem, and I can name four solutions (cheap even!) off the top of my head. My first try will be connecting a cheap pair of speakers run off the secondary zone of the stereo with a cable which has been in storage since Massachusetts and a small adapter which should show up Monday.  (If it doesn't show up on time, I've got plans C and H on tap with toys on hand -- my next ride WILL happen on schedule.)