I was having trouble getting posting to this thing, so I’ve upgraded to a newer version of WordPress. It was surprisingly painless. If it worked, you should see this along with article I tried to post on Thursday.

Bike To Work Month 2009

I’ve been meaning to post about my experiences since I started regularly biking to or from work about a year ago, but haven’t gotten around to it. But since tomorrow marks the start of May, which is National Bike Month (Bike to Work Day is May 14, 2009), I thought I’d post about some of my recent thoughts. I still play to write up and post some of my past stories (like having three bikes stolen in the span of six months last year), but that will wait until later.

This summer marks the opening of a remarkable number of bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects (trails, bridges, etc.) in the Bay Area. The two that most impact my commute opened this week: On Sunday, the Stevens Creek Trail opened the new segment to Sleeper Avenue, and today, the Mary Avenue Footbridge opened, connecting Cupertino and Sunnyvale with a cable-stayed steel pedestrian and bicycle bridge across Interstate 280. I went with a group of people from work and attended the dedication this afternoon. It was fun; the Homestead High School band played, there were speeches by mayors, city council members, bicycle advocates, VTA and engineering firm leaders, and they cut a ribbon with oversize novelty scissors. I got to chat with an employee of the engineering firm that designed the bridge, and learned the secret to why they were able to design a steel bridge to fit the city’s budget after the bids for a traditional concrete bridge all came back about $10 million too high; the materials actually cost more, but they were able to make a design that could be built simply and quickly (twenty nights of closing single lanes of 280), saving time and labor.

I’ve been biking home from work almost every day for a year, and I had settled on a route home I liked (and then again after we moved last fall), but the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with different routes to try to find faster or better ways to get to and from work. These new projects definitely help. My door-to-door times had been around 45-50 minutes; this week I’ve been taking the Stevens Creek Trail home all the way from the new Sleeper trailhead, and yesterday I got home in 39 minutes. Today, using the Mary Ave bridge I made it home in 36 minutes. So that’s a big improvement; if I biked both directions (which I haven’t been doing, but might start again), this saves me 20 minutes a day.

One thing I find interesting when comparing routes is that speed and distance have only marginal correlation. The route I took home today is almost a mile longer than the one I took home a week ago, but it got me here ten minutes faster. And the route I took today is about a quarter-mile longer than the one I took yesterday, but was almost five minutes shorter. Bicycles do best when they are moving, and finding straight flat routes with minimal stops, sharp turns and obstacles is more important than pure distance, although that does matter. I also avoid some routes that might be faster, because they either seem unsafe (automotive traffic) or boring. I find certain streets very tedious (Grant Road, for example) and can’t bring myself to include them in a regular commute.

Another approach I’ve been trying the past few days is collecting GPS data about my commute. I downloaded an iPhone app called Trailguru that captures the GPS information and uploads it to their Web site where you can view it in Google Maps or download it. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good way to analyze the data yet; the Trailguru Web site shows you the route, but doesn’t attach speed information to it in a way that I can use. Their app is very well done, but the analytics aren’t very good. The best thing I’ve found so far is to export the data from the Web site in GPX format and import it into an Mac OS X app I found called TrailRunner, which at least lets me select a segment of the route graphically and shows the distance and speed for that segment. I’d like to find something better, though—without paying Garmin a lot of money, which seems to be the traditional solution.

Since this is my first post in quite a while, I’d better include this as well: I’ve tried most of the M&M’s Premiums flavors; they’re not really real M&M’s, but they are okay. For Easter this year, they did the usual pastel-colored M&M’s, but they printed Easter-themed pictures, like rabbits and eggs, which was cute.

Speaking of rabbits, I’m really enjoying the new Annie’s Organic Snack Mix Bunnies, which I found at Whole Foods last week. I hope they make the pretzels available separately.

Penzeys Spices coming to the Bay Area!

Penzeys Spices is opening a store in Menlo Park, according to a postcard that arrived in the mail today. I’m very excited; I liked shopping at Penzeys when we lived in St. Louis, and while we’ve taken advantage of their mail-order business now and again since moving back to the Bay Area, the cost and time required to have things shipped have meant that more often than not, replacement spices have been purchased locally. I’m looking forward to being able to run to Penzeys to buy spices, seasonings, herbs and extracts that I’ve discovered a sudden and urgent need for.I don’t know when the store opens, but it will be at 771 Santa Cruz Ave. According to the postcard, they are “opening SOON!!”, and they are hiring now.

RaZZberry M&M’s

What is it about Limited Edition M&M’s this spring? This is the third one I’ve come across. I found RaZZberry M&M’s today at the Rite Aid at San Antonio Shopping Center (along with single-serving bags of Mint Crisp M&M’s on sale for 50¢ each!). These are enlarged milk chocolate M&M’s with a fruit flavor somewhat reminiscent of raspberry. Actually, they remind me a lot of the Wildly Cherry (aka Cherry Cordial) M&M’s, except the fruit flavor is milder and more tart. I like the cherry ones better, but these aren’t bad.

Yes, I am aware that five of my past seven posts have been about M&M’s.

Mint Crisp M&Ms

Tonight at Walgreens, I ran into a stack of Mint Crisp M&M’s bags. A tie-in with the upcoming Indiana Jones movie, these green-and-white M&Ms are mint-flavored like the holiday mint M&M
s and crispy like the now-defunct crispy M&M’s. I’ve missed crispy M&Ms ever since they were discontinued, and I always look forward to mint M&Ms during the holiday season, so I was very excited to try these out. On the balance, though, I’m somewhat disappointed. The rice crisps seem to clash with the mint flavor rather than blend with it, and I think the two work better separately. Still, for those who miss the crispy M&M, it’s better than nothing. I think these are a limited-time special and will probably be gone once Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is out of theaters.

M&M’s Wildly Cherry

I discovered a bag of “Wildly Cherry” M&M’s at Target today. They are, as near as I can tell, exactly the same as the “Cherry Cordial” M&M’s that I enjoyedd this past Christmas. The same size, color, taste, everything except the packaging.

I’m not sure if this means that the cherry M&M’s were so successful as a holiday special that they decided to sell it at other times of year, or if they were such a failure that they had enough candy left over to try and repackage it and sell out the remaining inventory.

The M&M’s Web site calls this a “limited edition” candy, so chocolate-cherry fans should stock up now!

These have been the voyages…

Since May 2005, I have watched…

  • 6 series…
  • 30 seasons (and 10 movies)…
  • 224 DVDs…
  • 726 episodes (and 10 movies)…
  • 33539 minutes (i.e., 23 days, 6 hours and 59 minutes)…

…of Star Trek. Whew.

I finished the last episode of Enterprise last night. Not quite sure what to watch now.

Found: Mint M&Ms

I mentioned in my previous post that I had been looking for mint M&M’s; they’re available only during the holiday season, and I hadn’t happened to find any at any of the stores I had looked in the last few weeks. After Christmas, I happened to be in a bunch of supermarkets and drug stores, and I did a pretty thorough search of the holiday clearance section of local stores with no success. But I happened to be in the new Longs in downtown Mountain View this evening, and they had a whole pile of them, so I was able to get some finally. Yay mint M&Ms! If anyone else is looking, try the Longs Drugs at 850 California Street. As of a few hours ago, they had a fair amount left; at 75% off, they’re only 87¢ per bag.

M&M’s Cherry Cordial

Was at Target the other day looking for mint M&M’s (normally available only during the holiday season), and while I didn’t find any, I did run across M&M’s Cherry Cordial, oversized dark chocolate M&M’s “with a hint of cherry flavor.” They turn out to be quite good; I recommend them.

Is it a drama or a comedy?

Great quote from Aaron Sorkin from the documentary In Depth: The Evolution of Studio 60, one of the special features on the DVD set that came out last week.:

I have a theater background, and in theater nobody ever asks is it a drama or a comedy, just is it a musical or a non-musical. This is a non-musical.

If Sorkin wrote a musical, I’d go see it.

Enterprise: Season One

Just finished watching the first season of Enterprise. If nothing else, this show is a lot of fun to watch. I started watching Star Trek DVDs back when Enterprise was first on the air; the theory was that if I watched all seven hundred-odd epiosodes of Trek back-to-back, I’d be able to keep it all fresh in my mind and compare how the show has changed over forty years. It hasn’t worked, really. By the time I got to the end of The Next Generation, I’d pretty much forgotten the original series, and now it’s been over two and a half years since I first started watching DVDs. I just finished watching twenty-six episodes of Enterprise that I saw when they first aired back in 2001, but I have only a vague recollection of them. Oh well.

As I feared, the Enterprise DVDs aren’t any better than the other series’. You still have to wait through several minutes of opening warnings, credits and a video sequence before you can pick an episode. Actually, I think the Enterprise DVDs are a little worse than the other series in term of usability. Each disc has four episodes, and this is what the episode selection menu looks like (this is actually from season two since it’s what I have on-hand; season one is the same):

Although English does usually obey the rule of left-to-right before top-to-bottom, the visual divider between the left and right groups makes it look for all the world like two columns of selections, so that the correct episode order would be 028, 029, 027, 031 instead of the correct 028, 027, 029, 031 (the out-of-order episode numbers don’t help). But it is nice that the episodes are presented in widescreen, so my DVD player’s entire screen is filled. Also, unlike the previous series (but like the animated series), there are commentaries and deleted scenes for a few episodes.

Mistaken iden-maki

I picked up some sushi at Whole Foods earlier, and I got a little concerned when I took a bite of my cucumber roll and discovered a soft texture when I was expecting crunchy. Turns out I picked up a package of avocado rolls instead of cucumber. Oops. Darn green vegetables all look alike. Oh well; it could have been worse. They could have actually been cucumber rolls.

Public service announcement: keep those bike tires inflated

For only the second or third time in recent memory, I have remembered to inflate the tires on my bicycle before they’ve gone completely flat, and without damaging the tire or bike in the process. So therefore I wish to remind my fellow cyclists to check your tires and keep them inflated. I find that a properly inflated tire gives a much easier ride, and helps avoid costly trips to the bike shop.

I think the experts say to check your tire pressure every time you ride the bike, or at any rate more frequently than I do. I always seem to remember it when I’m at the other end of my commute from my bike pump, and by the time I’ve gotten home, I’ve forgotten. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been (a few months at least), but I normally inflate the tires to 65 PSI, and they were around 20, so that’s not great.