PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

August 18th, 2006

Music Video Madness

I’m going on vacation! I’m going on vacation!

We leave tomorrow to spend a week on the ocean. I don’t care if it’s gray and cloudy and 60 degrees all week, because at least I will be able to hear the waves crashing.

So, in honor of my impending sanity maintenance session, I give you this week’s Music Video Madness:

Toad the Wet Sprocket - Walk On The Ocean

The Honeydrippers - Sea of Love

The Beach Boys - Kokomo

The Go-Go’s - Vacation

August 16th, 2006

Today’s Commute

I commuted by bike today, and it felt pretty good. I don’t know whether it was the enforced hiatus since I broke a spoke last week, the effect of the new rear wheel, or simply that I used my inhaler before I started out, but I felt strong and fast.

In stark contrast to the abuse I often get when riding, I actually had positive interactions today.

First, I had a person on Barbur Blvd. yell out his window “How much does a bike like that cost?” I told him he could get a bike like mine for under $1,000. He then explained that he had a neck injury that made it painful to ride a conventional bike. I said “This is absolutely the way to go.” and directed him to Coventry Cycle. I hope he’s able to get back on the road.

Then, two different people said “Cool bike!” And they were adults, which is even more unusual. If anyone is going to tell you your recumbent looks awesome, it’s generally a child. Children are generally enthusiastic about recumbents, and will run alongside you, telling you how cool it looks. It’s usually adults that make the snide comments. I find that oddly significant.

There was a little incident on the way home that kind of pissed me off. After grinding up and out of downtown on Barbur Blvd., I really, really enjoy the downhill run down Multnomah. There’s a nice wide bike lane, and I can really set a scorching pace from Multnomah Village into Garden Home. I was stopped at the light at 45th, and when the light turned green, before I could even get moving, this guy on an upright bike ducked around and got in front of me.

I just want to take a moment to try and explain the situation to you upright jockeys out there: Recumbents, especially recumbents driven by fat old guys like me, don’t climb hills quickly. We generally have to drop to a low gear and just grind it out. By all means, pass us on those uphill stretches. I, for one, will try to move over and make room for you if I see you coming up behind me.

But don’t be fooled by our performance uphill into thinking we’re universally slow. Recumbents in general go downhill like a bat out of hell. We have aerodynamics on our side. And remember, I have a fairing on my bike. So, after this guy got in front of me, I was keeping up with him by coasting, while he was pedalling like mad. In fact, I had to brake once or twice.

Have I mentioned that this downhill stretch is the highlight of my commute home? Yeah.

So, I honestly don’t bear this guy any ill will. I wasn’t bent out of shape, but I really enjoy that downhill run. It’s the payoff for the long grind up out of town. So, it was a bit petty of me, but after coasting behind him nearly all the way down Multnomah, I waited for traffic to clear then swung out and passed him. I had the bike in the highest gear and I wound it out. I was probably going 30 when I hit Garden Home, and there was no sign of him in my rear view mirror. It. Felt. Good.

And here’s another thing for you drivers to bear in mind: if I’m in a left turn lane, and I’ve pulled up as far forward and to the right as I can, that’s a signal for you to go ahead and pull up next to me. DON’T hang back a car length or two to be polite. I appreciate the thought, but if you do that then NOBODY is going to trigger the #@*$%^#!! left arrow, and we will all sit there through a couple of light cycles until somebody puts a sufficiently large mass of ferrous metal over the loop sensor in the pavement.

And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

August 16th, 2006


Yesterday we discussed pressure differentials. Today we will be discussing relativity. Relativity tends to get lumped into discussions about the speed of light, Lorentz transformations, time dilation and other fun things. But really, relativity just means that what you observe happening depends upon your frame of reference.

For example, when you are diving in a small plane, the objects in the plane with you will begin to fall freely toward the earth. From the frame of reference of the ground, they are plummeting earthward. But from the frame of reference of the plane, you suddenly have a flying dog.

August 15th, 2006

Pressure Differential

This is one of my favorite clips.

Everyone has heard horror stories about getting sucked out of an airplane window. More accurately, the unlucky passenger is ‘pushed’ out through some tiny aperture, because the internal pressure in the plane has nothing to oppose it.

But the biggest pressure differential you can have in an airplane is 1 atmosphere — from sea level to vacuum. That’s the max.

What if you go the other direction?

This video was taken in 6,000 feet of water, during maintenance on an undersea pipeline. A remote-operated robot is sawing a 3 mm wide slit (that’s only 1/10th of an inch) in the pipeline. The pressure inside the pipeline is 0 psi, while the pressure outside is 2,700 psi, or 1.3 tons per square inch. That’s nearly 184 atmospheres. So when some poor unlucky crab comes along….

Three. Millimeters. Wide. Ain’t physics fun?

August 14th, 2006

No Horse Deserves This

Next week the PAgent clan will be spending our second annual week at the ocean. This is a family tradition that I can truly get behind. As I’ve said previously, there is a special brand of serenity and relaxation that is available within earshot of crashing surf that I just can’t find anywhere else.

Of course, since we have children, we have to plan on finding things for them to do, in the interest of maintaining family sanity. My wife, organizational maven that she is, has already been exploring the possibilities. Because my daughter is a freak for the horses, she’s looking into a horseback ride on the beach. And because my son hates being left behind, she’s trying to make it a family activity.

She contacted a stable near where we will be staying, and inquired as to whether they could accommodate us. When I looked at the email she had sent, I noticed that she had indicated to them that I was “comfortable” riding a horse.

Say what, now? I can’t for the life of me understand where she got that impression, because in the 19 years she has known me, she has never seen me on a horse. This is because the last time I was on a horse was when I was about twelve. I remember it well, because the little thing panicked at being left behind by a group of other horses and took off, with me clinging to the saddle and shrieking, until he could be brought under control. At that point I opted out of the horsey ride.

And the most recent time before that was when I was about nine, and was riding bareback on a neighbor’s old mare, when the mare decided to have a meaningful conversation with the horse in the adjacent pasture. Much rearing and neighing ensued, during which I made a less-than-graceful dismount. So, I have a rather spotty history with the equestrian arts.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think they are great animals. I like rubbing their fuzzy noses. I like patting their muscular necks. I like feeding them handfuls of fresh-plucked grass. Through a barbed wire fence, preferably.

I mean, have you ever been next to an adult horse? They’re huge. I think human beings should have enough sense not to put themselves in close proximity to anything that could kill them simply by sitting on them. Of course, I think the horse would take one look at me and decide the same rule applies to them: “I’m supposed to carry that around for two hours?!? Holy crap, I’m dog food for sure!”

Nevertheless, if the family is going horseback riding on the beach, I should try to make the best of it. I will simply request the most docile, most accommodating, and most lethargic horse they have, hope that it just ignores whatever directions I give it, and just goes where it usually goes. I’m sure everything will work out fine.

Maybe I should get a cowboy hat for the occasion…

August 13th, 2006

You have been warned

PAgent may explode without warning



August 12th, 2006

Dogs are Funny


August 12th, 2006

Robin Williams plays Spore

I have been waiting with barely-contained enthusiasm for the release of the game “Spore”. It looks like the ultimate evolution of the sim genre, with the player creating tiny lifeforms, evolving them into animals, and then guiding them into a civilization.

At a demonstration of the game, the speaker called for a volunteer from the audience to show how intuitive the creature creation interface is. A volunteer named Robin Williams.

The results are hilarious.

It’s Robin Williams, so adult language warning.

August 12th, 2006

Visiting the Air Museum

We took my dad to the Evergreen Aviation Museum today in McMinnville, Oregon. It was a beautiful, beautiful day, and the museum is an impressive facility. Lots of planes that have been lovingly restored, lots of information, and of course, the big star of the show: The Spruce Goose.


The Spruce Goose is large. Very large. Impressively large. It’s hard to even get the scale of the thing until you’re standing next to it, and even then your eye keeps fooling you with the perspective.

And there were several of my favorite aircraft, including the Navy Corsair, the P-38 Lightning

P-38 Lightning

and one of the coolest planes ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird:

SR-71 Blackbird

The kids had a good time. The entire facility is immaculate, with volunteers roaming around to answer questions and deliver lectures. It’s quite a resource for aviation lovers in the Portland area.


When I got home, I took my rear wheel in to my friendly neighborhood bike shop to have the spoke fixed. I was gratified to see them working on a BikeE recumbent in the shop. I told the young woman behind the counter that I had a broken spoke, and she assumed a rather pained expression.

“How long have you had it?”

“Uh…two years.”

“What were you doing when it broke?”

“Nothing. Just commuting.”

She went on to explain that breaking a spoke usually meant that other spokes would be breaking soon. Particularly if the wheel wasn’t an especially high-quality wheel to begin with. Well, one of the attractions of the Koosah was the low price, and THAT was due to the lower-end components on the bike. So, rather than pay to have spokes replaced one at a time, I should just put the money toward a better wheel.

This was actually a good idea. I had always intended to upgrade components as I went along. Besides, I am not a light guy, and so I know I was putting a lot of stress on the rear wheel. Besides, replacing a spoke would take three days. Replacing the wheel would take 15 minutes. I decided to go for it.

So, now I have a beefy new rear wheel. And a Pearl Izumi vest to wear on these nippy morning commutes, which was on clearance and actually fits. I’m tired of getting to work soaked with sweat, and a long-sleeved shirt with this vest should be a perfect combination for September.

August 11th, 2006

People Are Still Stupid

He’s an X-TREEM!! idiot.