Gas station without pumps

2019 January 23

Mediocre experience at the local bike shop

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:24
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My bicycle was in need of some care this past weekend (bald tire, worn brake blocks, worn chain), so I decided it was time for a tune-up.  I usually do all the work on my bike myself, but the closest bike shop to me (now called CycleWorks, previously Sprockets) has changed hands repeatedly in the past few years, and I am a bit worried that they may not last long.  So I decided to spread the wealth a bit and pay for a tune-up.

I called them up to see if they could do a tune-up over the weekend—I wanted the bike for commuting on Tuesday (Monday was a holiday).  They said that they were closed on Monday, but if I brought the bike in on Saturday, they could have it ready by Sunday, unless it needed some part they didn’t have.

I brought the bike in on Saturday shortly after they opened at 9 a.m. and explained what I wanted.  The only unusual request was that I wanted the packing grease removed from a new chain and replaced with a dry lube like White Lightning or T9.

Early in the afternoon on Saturday, they called me and said that the bike was ready.  The promptness of service was quite pleasing, and they did seem to have used dry lube on the new chain.  I ran a few errands on Saturday, and found that the brakes were not well adjusted—the cables were loose enough that I was almost bottoming out the brake levers before the brakes engaged.  I could fix it with the barrel adjusters, but I used up almost the full travel on one barrel (which should be reserved for wear on the brakes, not the initial adjustment).

Tuesday morning, on my way up the hill, I shifted into my lowest gear and the chain came off into the spokes.  It turns out that they had the rear derailleur adjustment off by a full index step and they hadn’t set the stops on the derailleur correctly.  This is the sort of problem I would expect of an amateur or a new trainee, but not from a professional bike mechanic I was paying an $80 labor fee for.

This morning I took half an hour of my time to adjust the brake cables and the rear derailleur correctly, also doing a little truing of the rear wheel to keep the rim from rubbing on the new brake blocks.

I won’t be going back to CycleWorks for a couple of years—time to give them a chance to hire or train competent staff (or go out of business).  I’ll have to try the next closest bike shop, which is 0.2 miles further away.  (Santa Cruz is blessed with an abundance of bike shops, which makes it fairly easy to find one that meets your needs and your tastes and is within walking distance—for years Sprockets was a good match for me, but CycleWorks doesn’t seem to be.)

2019 January 21

More typos than expected

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:53
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When I released my textbook in December, I offered 25¢ for each typo or other mistake found in the book.  I expected, based on how much material was new, to have about 50 typos in the book.

My students have already found 42 errors, and they are only up to about page 200, so I’m having to revise my error estimate upward to about 100 errors.

This year’s class seems to be pretty sharp—they have done much better on the first two quizzes than last year’s class did, and in two weeks they have already found about as many typos as last year’s class did over two quarters.

2019 January 20

Promote Your Book Party!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:59

I am participating in  January Promote Your Book Party! – charles french words reading and writing announced as follows:

With 2019 well underway, I thought it was a good time to have the next Promote Your Book Party!

Go there to see a number of authors announcing their books (with links to buy them). Most of the books are fiction, not textbooks like mine.

Project Baseline claims (falsely) to prioritize sharing info with participants

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:56
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In Blog – Project Baseline: A new era of health data: The vision and challenges of returning individual research results, the Project Baseline staff claim

At Project Baseline, we decided that we will prioritize the exploration of providing health information back to participants. We are well aware of the challenges linked to returning results but, in support of our philosophy that we want to take a patient-centric approach to clinical research, we are continuing to work through them.

Unfortunately, they are still not doing a very good job of sharing.

Some things they do well—for example, after the first visit they sent me the lab report on all the blood and urinalysis lab tests (which had no interesting results—the only anomalies were in the lipid test panel, which was flawed because it was not done fasting, and I already have lipid panels done annually).

Other things that they could provide trivially (like being able to download from the web portal the pulse-rate records that the watch collects) they do not provide at all.

Worst, though, is their practice of sharing only bad news.  For example, my December visit included a stress EKG and stress echocardiogram test, and some anomalies were found in the stress EKG.  Because stress EKG has a fairly high false positive rate, the usual followup is to do a stress echocardiogram, to see whether there is any cause for concern.  Their practice of sharing only bad news meant that they gave me the stress EKG results, but not the stress echocardiogram results (which they told me on the phone showed that the stress EKG is a false positive, but no written or e-mailed message said that).  I’m not even going to bother sharing the stress EKG results with my family physician, even though the letter they sent with the report says “We recommend that you contact your healthcare provider about these results”, because she will have no access to the stress echocardiogram that shows it to be a false positive and would be required to order a repeat of the test.

In a way, I’m glad that the stress EKG came up with the anomalies, because that meant that they let me have a copy of the 50-page EKG results, which they otherwise would not have.  I can show some of the EKG traces to my class, when they are making their own one-channel EKG amplifiers.

Also, the report confirmed my suspicion that we had not gotten anywhere near maximum effort on the stress test—my heart rate was still stepping up linearly with effort at the point the cardiologist ended the test, showing no signs of having plateaued. The cardiologist had convinced me to stop at only 6.8 METs (metabolic equivalents), while I routinely run an 8-minute mile, which is supposedly 11.8 METs [].

If they do a stress echocardiogram at next year’s visit, I’m going ask that the cardiologist not stop me before 13 METs, 190bpm, or 220 mmHg systolic pressure, unless I first cry “hold, enough!”  I’d like to know what my max heart rate really is.  (If Project Baseline let me have access to my pulse-rate logs, I could see what my pulse rate gets up to on my daily bike commute or my jogging, which would at least give me a lower bound on my max heart rate.)

Update 2019 Jan 20:  I forgot to mention that some reports (it isn’t clear which) are available, according to an email message they sent:

Visit the Project Baseline mobile app to see your reports!

Please note that these are only available in the mobile app, not the web portal.

Unfortunately, because I don’t have a cellphone (much less a smartphone), I can’t see what is included in these reports.  I’m fairly certain that they don’t allow downloading the day’s or week’s record from the pulse monitor, though.


Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:24
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Gillette has been getting a lot of publicity for their new ad:

The ad itself is not about shaving, though most of the men in it are clean-shaven, but about the difference between being a jerk and behaving like a decent human being.  It is unusual for a company to use their advertising dollars to say something reasonable (rather than just pushing product)—unusual enough that they are getting far more coverage for their ad than they would have for a similar amount spent on a more conventional ad.

Despite the reasonableness of their ad, I won’t be changing razors, though.  I use the Rolls Razor that my father brought with him from England around 1950—it still works fine and I expect it to continue to do so for rest of my life.

My father’s razor still serves me well. The whetstone and strop in the steel case are still in good shape after about 70 years.  There is even a spare blade, should I get tired of the current one.

At one point I considered giving it to my son, but instead I bought him his own Rolls Razor. Even though they haven’t been made since the 1960s, I found one on eBay that was about the same price as when it was new (in the late 1930s or early 1940s)—which really means it was a tiny fraction of the new price, given the rate of inflation since then.

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