Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snaps of the Commute

Here are misc photos from the last two weeks:
* Amtrak crossing Cornwallis Rd
* Detritus on the American Tobacco Trail
* Autumn colors

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The question

"Are you Andy?"

The question totally surprised me. I was biking to work in the dark before sunrise a few weeks ago. I was riding through an industrial neighborhood with warehouses, parked trucks, few streetlights, and the occasional ne'er-do-well. I vaguely noticed an SUV parked on the other side of the street in a place where cars rarely park. I didn't think much about it at first.

But then the driver's window went down. And a head popped out. He quickly had my full attention.

And then he asked "Are you Andy?" Ahem, choke, relax. "Why, yes, I am. Who are you?"

Turns out he is also a bike commuter. He was out stargazing with his daughter. He knew this was a dark spot with a good view of the sky since he regularly bikes through the neighborhood.

And he knew it was me because he reads this blog.

The phenomenon

How cool, I thought, this blog has readers. As I rode the rest of the way to work, all sorts of thoughts and implications swirled through my mind.

A few years ago, I sent a note to a rollerblade skater in California who wrote a blog. She was surprised that a stranger in North Carolina had found her blog, and even more surprised that I found it interesting enough to visit regularly.

And now I just read a post from popular bicycle blogger Kent Peterson. He coined the phrase 'blog-famous' to describe himself, and touched briefly on what it's like to regularly have total strangers recognize him in public, greet him by name, and know things about him.

This must not be such an unusual phenomenon.

The effects

Kent also mentioned the 'Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle', a concept in quantum physics which says that learning something about a particle changes something else about the particle.

This is much akin to a tongue-in-cheek phrase I coined to describe timing-related problems in software. I call them 'Heisenbugs' because anything you do to investigate the problem will automatically disrupt the original timing of the program, and thus subvert debugging.

Along the same lines, I wonder if some 'Heisenblog' principle will bubble up here. Will I write differently, now that I know someone is reading? Will I write more words, or reveal more, or make better jokes? Or the reverse? Why am I writing this anyway? Watch this space. See if anything changes.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading. I'm heading out to shop for a white suit and grey ascot...

(Brad Pitt photo cribbed from

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Buffalo Tooth on the Tar Heel 200

At least that's what six randonneurs pretended we were looking at...

Today was an absolutely glorious day to ride the RUSA Tar Heel 200 in eastern North Carolina, with overcast skies, mild temperatures, low humidity, light winds, few dogs, and low traffic. Late last week, route owner Dean posted an invitation to ride, and six of us turned out for the 7am start in Benson. The group consisted of two accomplished randonneurs, Dean and Gary, two experienced racers who have just joined RUSA, Maria and John, along with Jayjay and myself.

The group rode at a graciously social pace all the way to the turnaround point in Tar Heel. This allowed Jayjay and I to keep up with the group. Jayjay and I usually ride slow and race through the checkpoints, so it was interesting today to ride a bit faster and linger at the checkpoints.

The group seemed to enjoy passing several billboards advertising the Jambbas Ranch, a 'natural zoo' with buffalo, elk, and other animals. A few signs had drawings of big buffaloes in the foreground, with baby buffaloes in the distance. These prompted lots of witty comments, and kept buffaloes on our minds throughout the rest of the ride.

After the turnaround in Tar Heel, Jayjay and I relaxed our pace, watched the fast guys go, and settled into finishing the ride by ourselves. But alas, a thorn made its way into John's rear tire as the group was leaving the next-to-last checkpoint in Erwin, and they were still there when Jayjay and I cruised in. As we watched them finish fixing the tire, someone suggested the thorn looked like a baby buffalo tooth. Now I have never seen a baby buffalo tooth, but given our preoccupation with the Jambbas Ranch today, I agreed it looked like one. If nothing else, it made for a cute story.

Congratulations to Maria and John on their first RUSA 200K, and best wishes for many more.

Many thanks to Dean for inviting us to ride and shepherding us throughout.

Lots of captioned photos here... Photos

Cross-post to Dean's ride report...