Review: Wittmer Company Peanut Butter Mixer

This is the best thing since, well, sliced bread. It is a dead simple screw on cap that seems to fit all 16oz glass peanut butter jar. You then thread a bent rod through a gasketed hole the cap and then turn turn turn to mix your peanut butter. Or almond butter. Or cashew macadamia butter. Or whatever natural separated butter that you get in a 16oz glass jar.

Why is this good? No mess complete mixing. And as you pull the mixing rod out, it is scraped clean by the gasket in the cap. Then you remove the cap and then rinse it. Et walla! You have beautifully mixed your peanut butter without spilling it all over creation. All that for 10 bucks. I got mine from Amazon as I never have seen it in a store..

It takes a laborious 30 seconds or so of mixing to get it done and about the same to get it clean. It really makes dealing with separated bottles easy. With "fresh ground" almond butter at $8-16 a pound at the whole foods/wild oats, and bottled stuff at $4 a pound at trader joes, well, you do the math...

Musings over a cuppa...

So I am sitting there outside the coffee shop watching the thunderclouds roll in and I become vaguely aware of some guy sitting to my right staring off into space. I look over. Mid-fifties, shorts, Hawaiian shirt, and whats that on his neck? Why its a blue nylon dog collar. Super low budget fetishist?


Some bikes at the whole foods

Some bikes at the santa fe whole foods.

I always am a big fan of the milk crate on the rear rack. This bike probably belongs to an employee at the store as it is always there.

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Nice use of plywood, hinges and hasps to make the milk crate more secure

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This presumably homemade recumbo-car is owned by a frequenter of supermarkets in santa fe. I see the owner every other time I shop in santa fe, so hopefully I will get some better pictures when it is sunny.

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Nice little cockpit view:

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Black Hole wheeled detritus

I spent a bit of time last weekend visiting one of the truly unique places in los alamos, The Black Hole. I was looking for a more sturdy bench vice for the workshop and, while the black hole pretty much has everything, they don't got that. I spoke briefly with the owner, Ed Grothus, and he kindly told me to "do whatever I want" in regards to photographing stuff and putting it on my blog. Afterwards he went back to recycling cat food tins. Thanks Ed!

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The Black Hole is a repository of "nuclear waste" as Ed puts it. He pretty much bought lots and lots and lots of salvage from Los Alamos National Lab, and offers it for resale. It has so much stuff in it, so haphazardly, I can't really get my head around it. I am pretty sure I want to buy lots of stuff from there, but every time I go I get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of crap and come to the realization that I need nothing. Good for me.

In true moscaline fashion I bring you a small fraction of the wheeled detritus available at the mighty black hole. For a less specific overview, see more photos around the interweb at Jsn's boozehound labs and this flkrpage.

It is probably worth clicking all the images for enlargement as it is impossible to display the magnitude of chaos from a small cropped image.

A pile of burnt relics from the cerro grande fire

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Where Exercycles go to die

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a mighty freewheeled flywheel

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Actual bicycles!

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Homwbrew moped wheeled gurney?

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Random wheels on the inside

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July motion update

Ah fickle July. I was enroute to a really good biking month, when an opera induced knee injury laid me to rest. I ended the month with 309 biked and 13 runned, for a total of 1763 biked and 77 run on the year.

I did ride to work daily and, somewhat oddly, the knee injury started a 40 day straight riding streak, which ended just yesterday.

Onto the breakdown. Roadbike had 110, ss mtb had 75, the track bike and the raleigh 20 came in at 40ish each, with the picnica and the breeze at 20ish and 30ish respectively.

Out at the caldera in late june

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More deerses

Los alamos seems to be awash in creatures this month. I have seen more than my fair share of coyotes and mule deer in the canyons and hills around town.

It seems the does and fawns are clustered on the south side of town near the lab and back gate while the males are up in canyons over town and around the perimeter trail. A few nice run ins with fawns skittering across the road in terror as I approach on my bike.

My morning commute often takes me down a sandy two track. I often see fresh hoofprints and shortly thereafter the owners of the hoofs observing me just off the trail. And just as often, i spy the coyotes who are eagerly awaiting a false move by the mule deer.


Chinese Bike Resources

So, hopefully I have a few new readers from the Chinese bike talk. Welcome!

Here are a few things I talked about that you might want to check out.

First, please see my original Chinese bike of the day posts I posted in March 06 and February 06.

Also see the tag chinese bikes, unfortunately that only shows the last 20 or so things I tagged with that title.

If you want to see how they make giant bamboo baskets like these:

surf on over here for in process pics from giant basket making in Vietnam.

Here are some photos of a Flying Pigeon bikes i borrowed for in 2006. Very nice example of the mighty chinese bicycle:

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If you want to know more about the giant budda (dafo) in leshan pictured here:

Well it is 73m high and it was started in 714AD and it was meant to ensure safe passage for ships at the confluence of rivers. wikipedia has more. Sorry I completely forgot all the numbers during the talk.

If you are looking for more information on the Yangtze River, three rivers gorge or tiger leaping gorge. I sort of recommend the River at the Center of the World by Simon Winchester.

The book has a very interesting history of the river and follows the author Simon Winchester and his stalwart translator as they traverse the river end to end. While large swaths of the book are very interesting, I think the whole book is marred by Winchesters colonialism nostalgia and underlying condescension toward the Chinese. He seems overwhelmingly interested in the history of british in china and not quite as interested in anything else. It left a really poor taste in my mouth that sort of wrecked the rest of the book for me. Others I have talked to did not notice it or were not bothered by it, but it was kind of easy to impress an image of a pith helmeted Winchester being borne on the back by coolies over the otherwise interesting journey. I did enjoy most of Simon Winchesters other books that I have read. All said though, this was the book that inspired me to visit Tiger Leaping gorge and hike it. It is absolutely useless as a guide book as it was written over 10 years ago and things are changing so fast that that a 1 month old Lonely Planet guide to china was woefully out of date, and horrendously inaccurate as far as Tiger Leaping Gorge was concerned. Best advice I can give is get your butt to Lijang and hit the hostels and coffee houses for the up to date dirt.
me at tiger leaping gorge:

Finally there are tons of people who, like me, visit places and take tons of photos of bikes. Rhinos and Lilos has some nice asian bike photos up right now, like thisun from india:

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I also recommend checking out Finland Laurita and the clever cycles blog for bikes in other parts of the world, among others...


Chinese bike talk review

So the talk went great. Maybe 40 people or so, maybe half from the mountaineers club and the other half from various bike clubs and friends in town. Lots of good questions. Lots of experienced travelers in the audience. It was really fun. Big thanks to everyone who came out and to the Los Alamos Mountaineers for hosting me.

Me going blah blah blah

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The talk was in the historic fuller lodge, one of the few buildings still standing from before Los Alamos became the lab.

the heads of formerly living creatures decorating the wall

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It was probably one of the hottest evenings of the year. But despite the heat, I blah blahed along for about an hour. I feel pretty good about it. I answered almost all the questions pretty well. I should have a resources post later this week with some links for people who are interested in the things I talked about.

Blah blah blah redux

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So I have a real smooth 1 hour talk about chinese bikes with some photos and info on hiking tiger leaping gorge. If you want me to come on by and give the talk to your group or club, send me and email "tas :at: Tariksaleh :dot: com" and we can talk about it.


Chinese bike talk, Los Alamos, 8/15/2007 (by me)

I will be giving my chinese bike talk , this wednesday, 8/15/2007, 7:30 pm, mostly presenting things along the lines of the Chinese bike of the day series I posted in March 06 and February 06.

I will be speaking at the Los Alamos Mountaineers monthly meeting here in Los Alamos at Fuller Lodge. Unbeknownst to me, the Mountaineers seem to be a real, functioning mountaineering club here in Los Alamos. Real mountains scare the crap out of me. I will be happy to stay below 14,000 feet, thank you. But check out their website. Real expeditions and stuff.


ubikequitous 3

So there it is: grace, alcohol, violence, music, sex , death, bohemianism, melancholy, strange ritual. I had a po'boy that day too, and I rode my black bike across the Marigny and the Bywater in the bottom of night. I admired the glow that bent over the levee from the unseen river. I wondered at the speed of the clouds. The wheels of my bicycle crunched over the remnants of all the old slate roofs now powdered and chipped and lying in the street. I thought I saw buds on the tulip magnolia outside my room when I got home. Darkness, clouds, flowers, fertility.

Duncan Murrell, In the year of the storm:
The topography of resurrection in New Orleans
, Harpers Magazine, July 2007.

A terrible and fascinating exploration of post-Katrina New Orleans, often by bicycle.


Hauling odd things in Northern New Mexico

On Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe

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No need to clutter up the car with your racket, Los Alamos, 6/07

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Rolling about santa fe, yet again...

Spent some time this weekend tooling around Santa Fe on the picnica, even more photos. Enjoy...


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Oh!, Derail!

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Some young and green goatheads hardening up for another rough fall:

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I will go and append those images on my popular post on goatheads

Now with 50% more dog!

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Sky and wires at the corner of Chama and cerillos

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watching a caboose on the Santa Fe spur from Ohori's

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Trail find of the Day

I was sneaking in a quick rocky trail run friday evening before dark. I had just crossed over a big trail junction and I was scouting for a place to nitrogen fix some native vegetation, when I saw a penny there on the ground. It was clearly not just any penny, it had some gravitas. I picked it up and was delighted to find the following:

I would like to think that it had been buried underneath the trail for the last 50 odd years, only recently uncovered by the strong thunderstorms we have been having. More likely it was someone's lucky penny that they dropped during whatever event they were running on the perimeter trail that evening.

It was not really my lucky penny as a short mile later I bit it hard running down the trail, I rolled well and saved myslef from major contusions, but did throw my hip out of joint. It is better now. I did not drop the penny though, despite rolling over and ending up on my back with my head pointed down trail. Take that unlucky penny.

This is the third wheatback that Elena and I have found in the last month, the other two in returned change...


ubikequitous 2

The inventor Frank Bowden, who founded the Raleigh Bicycle Company in 1888, took the arrangement to the next step. While playing around with alternatives to backpedalling as a means of slowing down, he devised hand brakes that transmitted force to the wheel rims through a set of stainless-steel wires sheathed in hollow tubes. These Bowden cables, as they are called today, offered the advantage of graduated feedback, affording riders greater control over their speed. Bowden cables were subsequently used in early airplanes, for controlling wing flaps, where such feedback is crucial. After the Second World War, Northrop Corporation, the aviation pioneer, put its aeronautical engineers to work on prosthetics and became an early builder of cable-operated arm systems. Cables replaced leather straps, and could be used reasonably well to manipulate spilt hooks, which provide a crude sort of opposable thumb.
Ben McGrath, Muscle Memory, the New Yorker, July 30, 2007.

Bowden Cables, eh? I had no idea.


haffa race report, 2007 Tour de los Alamos

So the local road race was July 8th, 2007, I decided that I had not been riding enough, so I probably should just jump in. I am currently a cat 4 road racer in the ACA (the lowest catagory, USCF cat 4/5 equivalent, sort of). The race for cat 4s was a brisk 2 lap event totaling in at 54 miles and 4000 feet climbing.

The race profile looks like this, ranging from 6400-7800 feet:

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This is the only loop ride you can do from Los Alamos that is less than 50 (possibly more) miles... I blogged it here, for some more info

I am a pretty good climber for a big guy, but at 195 or so on race day, I was a bit nervous being surrounded by suspiciously tiny thin jockey like cyclists. But whatever, I could forgo beer and chocolate and ride more, but I usually do not, so fairs fair.

Anyhow, the race started off with a neutral parade to the start of the climb and then boom, we were off. The first nasty mile was a bit hard. I kept thinking I was mid pack and then noticed that I was second or third to last wheel. I think everyone made it up the first climb together. Then there were some tough rollers that spit out a few guys, never to be seen again. I was happy that I was having a relatively easy time so far, although one psuedo-attack left me thinking, f$*& this is hard.

Then there was a 8 mile gradual descent to the top of ancho canyon. The race at this point was pretty smooth and easy. I was legitimately mid pack here, watching a few guys up front keeping the pace high for their teammates. I was pedaling though to keep in contact. So it was not all rest. A guy from the sports outdoors team from albuquerque came alongside, turns out he was an ex Santa Cruzieno, and we talked about Kelly bikes and riding surf city cross and some other stuff for a bit. Parts of this stretch were pretty frustrating as the yellow line rule was being strictly enforced and the road is pretty narrow. There were a few guys who were sort of splitting the difference between riders ahead and it made it difficult to move up without riding the yellow line or the gutter. I need some more pack riding practice, my skills were a bit rusty.

The descent into Ancho canyon was a neutral descent as it is narrow twisty and fast. This did not prevent gaps from opening up though as the guys in front were tucking and the rest of us were not, and once we started down we could not pass those who were, without risking DQ. When we hit the bottom, I sprinted up to the front of the race for the climb.

The climb out of ancho was pretty hard. Guys were pushing it well and I was once again thinking I was in the middle of the pack, and then looked back to see I was at the end of the dwindling bunch. I made it through the last steep part of the climb with the group. But then, on the less steep part there were some accelerations and I got popped off, then caught back on, then popped off for good.

I chased solo for a while through some rollers before joining forces with Polar chain tension power meter guy. Then we team time trialed for EIGHT miles to try to catch back up. About when we hit White rock i realized that there was no way in hell I would be able to stick on the big climb when (if) we caught up. So I decided to go all hincapie and try to pull the other dude up to the pack afore I blew completely.

random bandalier loop photo from 2006

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I started taking monster pulls and we just about caught up right at the base of the Truck route climb. At this point I completely popped, the elastic snapped, my suitcase of courage? empty. Polar chain tension power meter guy sprinted by me and may have caught the pack, I however did not. I shuterdown and softpedaled up the truck route. About half way up a group of three guys caught me and blew by me. Despite trying, I was unable to get to their wheels, let alone work with them.

Right at the top of the climb another big guy caught me. Turns out he was visiting from San Diego and only ever did crits. Poor fella, I am pretty sure the altitude must have be killing him. We rode the rest of the lap together and he kept going, while I pulled off, dipped through the canyon and went on home content to trade a nap for another 27 miles of pointless solo suffering.

lessons for next road race:
1. Start doing little sprintervals. I think I probably could have gone with the accelerations at the top of ancho if I had any burst speed.
2. Pick a flatter road race.
3. Do a group road ride more than once a year.

Who knows though, I probably won't do a road race again this year, with the possible exception of the Santa fe Ski hill climb, which is effectively a time trial with people around you.


Giant cannibalistic carnivorous squid-bats

If you have been paying attention to squids, you probably noticed the mighty humbolt squid has invaded california. The NYT and AP had high profile stories on it of late.
This weeks nature-news online had a nice little article on the squid here (I guess it is subscribers only, dammit), which had little new to note except this stunning video of the squids in action. I love the completely chaotic squid disco at the end of the video.

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These are photogenic little buggers, with creepy photos from the AP

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and the NYT:

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Also a boring video linked through the nytimes here and a much better one with the humbolt squid masticating/crushulating its kill here

Great stuff, go squids, may you start eating surfers soon so squid panic strikes the land and there is a large resurgence in squid horror films.

Sweedsley low riding!

My arctic north correspondent, Laurita, has blogged some nice photos from stockholm, including this photo of the european trend of the month, the ad emblazoned free rental bikes:

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Nice sweedish lowriders, eh?