Red Echo

May 30, 2014

I’ve made lots of jackets, vests, pants, and random fluffy things over the years, but I rarely sew my own shirts. There’s no point making your own T-shirt, since a perfectly-finished shirt from some factory in the Far East costs less than the raw materials you’d buy here. Anyway, what’s the point? If I’m going to spend my time making a garment, there had better be something unusual about it.

Button-up dress shirts, on the other hand, are full of fiddly little details, way more complicated than they’re worth. I might make one once, just to prove I can, but it’ll never be as finely tailored as a factory model, and again: if I’m going to make it, there had better be something unique in the design that justifies the time.

But. I had the idea, a couple weeks ago, to draft up a pattern for the simple four-panel half-collared vest I keep including in my dancing ensembles, so I don’t have to re-design it every Saturday afternoon before a big costume party. Get the fit right once, eh? Once I got going, I realized I could easily make it a modular pattern, with optional sleeves, and hey presto – now I have a unique design for a practical shirt.

I’m wearing the first prototype to work today. Five buttons, short sleeves, funky grey print. It’s more casual than a traditional business shirt, but sharper-looking than a T-shirt or a polo. Construction is very simple – I went down a lot of blind alleys with this particular shirt, but now it’s done I could knock out another one in two or three hours. Sewing on the buttons is the most tedious part. It’s a foundation, really, on which I can improvise – just like that flared jeans pattern I got all dialed in a few years ago and which has become the starting point for almost every pair of pants I make.

May 27, 2014

I just ordered a new motorcycle helmet. It looks exactly like my old one, except it is BRIGHT SILVER instead of black. The old spiky beast was getting pretty tired anyway, but it’s definitely retirement time now that I’ve crashed it. I think a silver helmet will still look plenty cool but it will be shinier and thus more visible, so that’s a good thing. And if I ever sew up the custom riding jacket and pants I’ve been fantasizing about for years, it’ll be blue-and-silver Mars riding a red-and-black bike, and that will be super cool.

May 22, 2014

I rode my motorcycle to work this morning, for the first time since October, and OH WOW does it feel good. The bike still looks a bit ugly, but it starts up instantly, runs perfectly, and handles as well as ever. I had forgotten, a little, just how light and free I feel on two wheels. It was a beautiful morning for a ride, too; clear, warm, just a little overcast, and not too hot.

I have felt a bit like a slacker for waiting so long to fix my bike and start riding again, but I’m certain now that it was the right decision. It’s been six months since the crash, but bones heal slowly, pushing on the bars puts a lot of pressure on my thumb, and it’s already aching after just a dozen miles of riding. It’s not so bad that it feels like this morning’s ride re-injured me, but I clearly won’t be taking any long trips for a while.

Even if I don’t get to do any recreational riding this summer, though, being able to commute on my bike again will make for a substantial improvement in my quality of life. The Rover is a great big beast of off-road hauling power, but it is a terrible choice for a commuter car. I’ve been really glad to have it – oh, man, would it have sucked to take the bus every day for the last six months! – but I’m ready to park it and return it to its former role as an adventuremobile.

May 19, 2014

May 18, 2014

The last two replacement parts necessary to get my motorcycle going again arrived yesterday, while I was out camping. It’s too late to get going on the repair work tonight – there’s a potluck dinner I’m already late for – but oh, man, am I ever tempted to blow my friends off and go turn a wrench. There were lots of riders out on the highway today and I kept wishing I were among them: sunny, warm, but not too sunny or too warm. I can’t wait to get riding again.

May 12, 2014

I spent some time working on my motorcycle yesterday. I’m still clumsier and weaker than I should be, but I can do the mechanical work without significant pain, and that’s the marker I’ve been waiting for. After stripping off the busted parts, the bike is in better shape than I realized. There are a lot of bangs and scrapes, and it’ll never look pretty again, but the list of replacements came out surprisingly short.

Is it time to go rat-style? Maybe I’ll embrace the bike’s newfound inadvertent rattiness and black it all out. I was thinking of adding some auxiliary driving lights anyway – maybe I’ll bolt on the ol’ ammo-can saddlebags while I’m at it.

Next weekend I’ll be away on a Floodland site scouting trip, but the weekend after that I should be able to get up on two wheels. The weather has been increasingly beautiful and it’s a shame to be lumbering around in my big ol’ gas-hog of a Range Rover when I could be on a bike instead.

May 9, 2014

Bicycle helmet laws are a bad idea

Analysis of statistics from Australia, before and after the introduction of mandatory bicycle helmet laws in Victoria and New South Wales, shows that bicycle helmet laws reduce the number of head injuries experienced while bicycling, but they do it largely by convincing people to stop riding bicycles. From an overall public health perspective, then, they accomplish more harm than good.

This suggests the greatest effect of the helmet law was not to encourage cyclists to wear helmets, but to discourage cycling. In contrast, despite increases to at least 75% helmet wearing, the proportion of head injuries in cyclists admitted or treated at hospital declined by an average of only 13%.

Helmets for motor vehicle occupants are now being marketed and a mandatory helmet law for these road users has the potential to save 17 times as many people from death by head injury as a helmet law for cyclists without the adverse effects of discouraging a healthy and pollution free mode of transport.

Getting started with the LPC1114FN28: a 32-bit ARM microcontroller with 32K flash and 4K RAM which has a built-in clock crystal and a TTL serial-port bootloader in ROM. What’s really unusual is that it’s available in DIP format. You can literally just plug it into a breadboard, hook up your USB to TTL serial adapter, apply power, and run.

May 1, 2014

Ruste Protection is a service which turns ordinary jeans into Kevlar-lined motorcycle jeans, with hidden internal pockets for hip and knee armor. Send ’em your favorite jeans and they will send them right back transformed into sturdy, protective bike gear.