May 31, 2008

Bike Basket

I rode my restored racing bike to the store this afternoon. When I came out with the groceries a distinguished man wearing spectacles said that he had been admiring my bike. He particularly liked the basket and asked me where I bought it. Now I know some of you think real men don't put baskets on their bikes but I'd take a basket over a pannier any day-- backpack and groceries fit, and it doesn't get ripped, frayed, faded or dirty. I take three big bags of groceries back with me-- one in the basket and two tied together with twine, hanging one on each side of the basket like saddle bags. Just listen to that word pannier, French for basket! Foof.


'I live in a world of infinite money'

This figure shows that as countries get richer, they almost always use more energy.

I invited a speaker for the institute seminar series to give a talk about energy; yesterday was the big day. The speaker is the chief scientist at the world's second largest independent oil company and is responsible for their research programs, and advises their executives. He started his lecture by saying that he wasn't going to talk about the world they way he would like it to be but rather how it is and where it is going. It was sobering.

--Oil production is tremendously profitable. In the middle east it costs $5 to $7 per barrel to pump out of the ground, and can be sold for around $125. There is lots of oil out there, including deep ocean deposits, tar sands and so on. He pointed out that 'as the ice cap thins for whatever reason', it will become possible to drill for oil in the Arctic ocean.

--He discussed controlling atmospheric CO2 levels, 'an enormous, complex challenge', in part because energy is at the heart of economic activity (unlike the CFCs).

--There will be a doubling in the demand for energy by the end of the century and at the same time we must have a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions to stabilize the atmospheric concentration, requiring an improvement in efficiency by a factor of four.

--CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time, roughly a thousand years, which is an infinite time from our perspective. The atmosphere integrates all emissions. This means that if you would like to say pump CO2 into old oil fields or salt domes you have to monitor it and keep it out of the atmosphere for at least a thousand years. Who is going to be responsible? The companies and political institutions we have today most likely won't be around that long. The only global institution with that kind of lifetime is the Vatican.

--The developing world is developing, rapidly, and a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions in the industrialised world is counteracted by 4 years of growth in the developing world.

--It should be possible to produce 10 to 15% of electricity worldwide using windmills, but this represents only a 4 year delay in reaching the CO2 concentration in a world without wind power.

--It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuels is equivalent to a diminished consumption. -William Stanley Jevons, 1865. Jevons was concerned that the world might run out of coal. There are many examples where improving efficiency increases consumption. 1) Refrigerators today use about 1/4 the energy they did in 1970. People have responded by buying more and larger refrigerators. Many homes in the U.S. have several. 2) Cars today produce more power using less fuel, a 23% improvement from 1990 to 2000. People responded by buying really big powerful vehicles.

--History has shown that the surest way to induce conservation is through price or policy; both are politically difficult.

--If car ownership in China went from today's 1% to 10%, this would be about the same number of cars as America has.

--In the US there are 250 million cars, and about half a million hybrids. It will take time to change the vehicle fleet to more efficient models.

--Liquid hydrocarbons can't be beat as fuels for transportation because they carry a lot of energy using a small mass. The best batteries today have only 2% of the energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

--He recommended that the world make a concerted effort to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations using a combination of conservation and decarbonation of the energy supply, but even so, 'safe' levels may be exceeded, and the CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for centuries. Therefore we need a plan B, a response beyond conservation and decarbonization. There are two parts to the response, the first is adaptation: Hardening of infrastructure (insulation, dams, seawalls, aqueducts), shifts in agriculture and population, etc. The second is geoengineering. If the planet's reflectivity could be changed from 30% to 31%, it would counteract the greenhouse gases. This change could be affected in space (orbiting nanomirrors), in the atmosphere (stratospheric aerosol shield) or at the surface (paint buildings white).

--It is rare that I have heard a talk this good.

--I said the university would be happy to pay for any expenses, his flights, taxi, food and so on and he politely declined. It is my job to talk to people, he said, and I live in a world of infinite money.

--During lunch he told a story. 'I went to dinner at Buckingham Palace last Tuesday and Prince Philip asked me a question. The Prince likes gardening, and he said, if I increase the thinkness of the glass in my greenhouse, it doesn't get any warmer. How can it be that more CO2 in the atmosphere makes the planet warmer?'


May 25, 2008

Mother's Day

Today was Mother's Day in Sweden. Kid #1 helped me make dinner, and I helped kid #2 made his Mom a card. This morning we took Mom to the open house at the agricultural university to look at the plants.

It's dry here which is good cuz we can dry laundry on the line but bad because the lawn is turning brown.

Finished! (Almost)

This afternoon I got the chain rings reassembled and the crank arms remounted, and this evening I cleaned the front deraillleur, oiled the cables and put the wheels on.

Here are some 'before' pictures. I just got back from the first ride, and a very good ride it was. The bike is light and fast, straight and silent, everything I was hoping it would be.

I need to adjust the rear brake and replace the chain-- the new gears are arguing with the old stretched chain. And finish touch up paint. And true the rear wheel a tad-- need to read up on that.


May 24, 2008


I take the train to work and usually I use the time to read or write on my computer, and one or two days a week I sit with my buddy Anders. He thought this photo of the new freewheel/gear cluster looked like an Escher drawing.

So I was griping about all the things I have to do and Anders says, you should really just schedule a meeting with yourself, then you could get some work done. And if someone asks to meet you, you can wisely check your calendar and say you have a meeting, or you can say, well, I'll have to move this other meeting. So I booked a meeting with myself Friday morning and actually got a lot done.

The cycle rebuild is going pretty well-- maybe it'll be done inside of a week. I managed to scrub the chain rings in the kitchen sink this morning without getting caught.

The pedal crank arms are held in place by 15 mm bolts recessed inside a threaded hole with a 21 mm diameter. Normal 15 mm socket wrench heads have an outer diameter of 22 mm, so they won't fit, and you can't get enough purchase on the bolt trying to squeeze in a crescent wrench straight on. I asked in a bike shop and they said they could special order a tool for me for a small fortune. No thanks I said. So this morning I took a millimeter off the outside diameter of the socket head with a grinding wheel, took it into the workshop and got the crank arms off in no time.

Left to do: Clean and repack pedal bearings and headset, finish touch up painting, remount wheels, clean chain, rewrap handlebars, road test.


May 18, 2008

Bike rebuild update

Rebuilding this bike gives me 100% relaxation.

Upon inspection, everything looks to be in terrible condition. I am amazed the bike worked. It will be equally amazing if it works when I am finished rebuilding because I haven't done this sort of thing before. I am learning as I go. Your advice is welcome.

Something gnarly happened to the hub. A section of the inner freewheel seems to have cracked off in an apocalyptic event leaving deep craters in the axle spacer. If you look at the picture you'll see that the inner wheel where the pin spanner should mount is cracked. I didn't see any future for this freewheel and decided to simply cut it off. A hacksaw got me nowhere so I got out the angle grinder. If you're using an angle grinder and not having fun then you have stepped off the golden path, my friend.

I could look at old parts like this all day. If I fixed bikes for a living I probably wouldn't feel like this.

The old grease was a mixture of Mississippi mud, grit and goose crap. Cleaned it out. Here are the bearings sitting in new grease, like plums in a Christmas pudding.

2008 distance totals:
Bike: 2180 km
Car: 1979 km



Here's some of older son's schoolwork that he left lying on the counter. It's an English vocabulary list, 4th grade, Swedish public school. He has it easy in that class since he speaks English at home every day, but he does need to work on his spelling.

May 14, 2008

Siamese Pike

Eric Holland sent me this photo of a siamese pike caught at Cooney Dam, 30 miles SW of Billings.


May 13, 2008

'Japanese Racer'

So, I decided that I needed a bike to fix up, to go along with my Glenn's New Complete Bicycle Manual. Nothing against internal gears, I use them every day, but my new bike needed to have derailleur gears (and fenders, and drop handlebars and a package rack). I found an add on the internet advertising a 'Japanese Racer', went to have a look and ended up with this bike:

The story is that one of Sweden's leading decathalonists rode the bike from Italy to Stockholm. Shortly thereafter he went to a competition in Brazil and passed away. Then the bike sat in a garage for 30 years. Do you believe it? I did.

The bike has a Sun Tour alpha 3000 derailleur. I just finished cleaning the dirt out of the pulleys-- this dirt took me back to my childhood, except back then I didn't clean it out.

It's an 18-speed.

I removed the 70s-era generator and lamps since I believe in batteries. The full renovation will include new tubes and tires, a new seat and handlebar tape, and a full tune-up and lube.


May 11, 2008

Bike repairs

My commuting bike has hard gears. The bike has a 4-speed Shimano hub, fenders, straight handlebars, rack and basket on the back. I would always be in first gear, and only sometimes make it to second. Never third or fourth. And then I read Sheldon Brown's essay on gear shifting. I couldn't write it better than he does, so I won't try. This article inspired me to change the gear on the rear wheel from an 18 tooth to a 20 tooth gear. This change turned out to be pretty simple and it makes all the difference-- I am now using all four speeds and zipping up hills and against the wind, basket filled with books, papers and a computer. The twenty tooth gear cost less than a gallon of gas.

Buoyed by this experience I decided to take on the three speed hub (Shimano Inter 3) on F's bike. He's been complaining about the resistance, and the coasting click sound was really loud. He said it felt like the brake was always on-- poor guy bikes 2.5 km to school every morning. If you lifted the rear of the bike and spun the wheel it would go around once, maybe twice. So, I took the hub apart, laying the nuts and retaining rings on a paper towel in sequential order, and rinsed out everything I could find using chain cleaner. The grease in the hub was amazingly dirty. Re-greased everything inside and out and put it together again. It is a minor miracle that the hub still worked after this, and better than before.

Today I will take apart the headset on my Copenhagen bike.


May 04, 2008

Beak Pike

Yesterday we fished for the wiley beak pike Belone belone and the beaks did not disappoint.

These fish were called 'gar' by the British, based on an Old English word for 'spear'. When they got to North America they used the same word for the North American freshwater gars, but those are different fish. In Swedish they are called beak pike, in Danish horn fish and in south Swedish, horn pike.

There was a handful of guys out on the breakwater fishing, some dads, some young guys drinking beer. One kid didn't seem attached to anyone and he started asking me how to cast. I gave him a quick lesson and then after a minute he was in the middle of a huge tangle of string. I cut him loose and retied his leader.

These fish live in the North Atlantic and swim up the coast and into the Baltic in the spring. They spear their prey with their beaks which makes for fun fishing. They are fast, they fight, and they jump out of the water and dance on their tails, flashing silver in the sun.

Here is F holding one of the fish, in front of a WWII bunker guarding the coast. We caught 4 of them in about an hour, 2 apiece.

They have beautiful skin.

Here you can see an amazing thing about these fish: they have green bones. Note the vertebrae. The meat is like pikes', white with a few black nerves, and tastes just a shade richer.

Heavens they're tasty.


May 01, 2008

Rain and taxes

Today worked out to be a double holiday in Sweden-- Ascension Day and International Worker's Day. Something for all tastes and something perhaps uniquely Swedish, having a publicly sanctioned combination religious/socialist day. We celebrated by doing the laundry and dishes and buying food, and I worked out my taxes. In Sweden it works like this: the state sends you a form with all the information filled in, like your salary, interest and mortgage information, taxes paid and so on. Everything on my form was correct, so I sent a text message back to the state. About 5 seconds later I got a message back acknowledging receipt of my tax return and stating that they will transfer my refund into my bank account. It's been raining today and after taxes I went for a nice half-hour bike ride in the rain and saw lots of trees blooming and some rabbits and hares.

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