Gas station without pumps

2013 January 3

Plumbing karma

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:42
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A couple of days ago in Is coding for everyone?, I wrote

Atwood makes an analogy to everyone learning to do plumbing, as if that were a ridiculous idea.  Personally, I think that everyone should learn a little plumbing: enough to clear a toilet or sink trap, or replace a faucet washer, and to know when to call in a professional plumber.

So, naturally, yesterday the kitchen faucet started dripping for the first time in about 15 years.  I figured I knew how to change a faucet washer, and that it would just take a few minutes today. Ha!

The first problem was that the faucet had not been opened up in so long that the threads had seized, so it took two people to get it apart: one under the sink holding onto the valve body with channel-lock pliers, the other using a lot of leverage with an 8″ adjustable wrench.  Even that wasn’t enough, so I had to go down to the hardware store for some penetrating oil and let it soak in for a while.

The Grohe faucet cartridge from the kitchen faucet.

The Grohe faucet cartridge from the kitchen faucet.

Eventually, the threads eased up and the the faucet came apart.  But there was no washer to replace.  Instead what I had was a Grohe washerless faucet cartridge.  The Grohe cartridges are pretty good (which is why I hadn’t had to do anything with the kitchen faucet in so long), but when they fail, there’s not much you can do but replace the cartridge.

I tried smearing everything with vaseline and replacing the cartridge, just in case the problem was with the rubber gaskets, but the drip continued as before.

Unfortunately, the local hardware store does not carry Grohe parts (too upscale for Ace Hardware), so I had to bicycle 3.7 miles across town to Bay Plumbing, the closest place I could find that stocked the part.  I was pleased that their prices were essentially the same as I would have paid online (cheaper than some of the online places), and I could get the part immediately, rather than waiting 3–5 business days for delivery.

I was not so pleased that Bay Plumbing had no bike parking, so I told them about the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission bike parking program.   Unfortunately, I found out when I got home that SCCRTC no longer has the Bike Secure parking program.  That’s a shame, because there are still a lot of businesses that need bike parking!

In other news, the Arduino Leonardo that I had ordered arrived today. I ordered the Leonardo to test whether the data logger code worked with the Leonardo’s different way of handling the serial interface and different pin mapping.  But I goofed—despite my admonitions to the students in the circuits class to make sure that they got the right USB cable to go with the Arduino board they bought, I had not checked to see if we had a micro-B USB cable in the house.  We had so many USB cables sitting around, that I was sure one of them was a micro-B.  It turns out that they were all either B or mini-B, not micro B, so we were unable to test the data logger code on the Leonardo until I got a new cable.  (Actually, we had one micro-B cable, but it was a power-only cable for recharging my son’s bicycle headlight.)

I ordered a couple of the cables online earlier in the day, but they won’t come until next week, so after buying the faucet cartridge at Bay Plumbing, I stopped in next door at Santa Cruz Electronics to pick up a cable. Unlike Bay Plumbing, their prices were about three times what the online price would have been, so the only reason to buy there was to get the cable immediately. I’ll report on the status of the data logger software later, when I get an update from my son on the code he’s been adding today and when we’ve had a chance to test the Leonardo.

2011 August 1

LEED Rating public comments

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:51
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The US Green Building Council has a public comment period on their draft for the 2012 green building rating system:LEED 2012. The comment period ends 14 Sept 2011.

You have to register on their site in order to look at the drafts, and I have not done that yet.  I notice that they do have a section on “Location and Transportation” and it would be good to look at what they have to say about bicycling and bicycle infrastructure (like bike parking).  Perhaps when I’m feeling more willing to register a password on yet another website, I’ll take a look at their drafts.

2011 June 11

Bicycles as advertising prop

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:02
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Marketplace from American Public Media did a short radio segment on bicycles yesterday.  Not bicycles as a commodity or as a vehicle, but as a marketing prop:

Advertising the Fornarnino Urban Beauty show. Image by designwallah: http://www.flickr.com/photos/designwallah/2505901071/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Bicycles become trendy marketing tool.

In addition to Marketplace’s own slide show, There is a nice set of photos illustrating the trend by David Gartner (who has reserved all rights, so I did not copy them into this blog).

Now some people would think that I’d find it pleasing that bikes are so fashionable—after all, bikes have been my main transportation for 40 years, so attention from the fashion-makers should be a positive thing, right?

 

Bikes have come to connote coolness, urbanity, and romance, according to Sheron Davis. She’s a senior executive at the advertising firm BBDO. Even, she says, in places were bike lanes have faced criticism, everyone still loves bikes.

Davis says advertisers are trying to transfer the halo effect of biking to their own products. But she says all that marketing can also end up promoting biking, not just shoes or sofas.

Most of the shots in both photo collections are static bikes parked in shop windows.  The one that shows bikes being ridden is an ad that shows the riders helmetless, not watching where they are going, on a very wide sidewalk that has no pedestrians or other traffic.  So what they are promoting is not bicycling as transportation, but as sculpture.  Something to look at, not to use.

One sort of "bike sculpture" I approve of: bicycle parking post from the front of "The Bicycle Trip," one of the better bike shops in Santa Cruz.

Will this trend make any difference to bicycling as transportation? Maybe briefly, but not in a lasting way:

… next year, the retailers we spoke with said they’ll be off bikes, and on to the next big thing.

My hope is that the recent rise in bicycles for transportation and exercise is more lasting, and that cities don’t let the bike lanes and bike parking fall into decay.

2010 July 20

Bike parking

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:34
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In today’s SF Chronicle, John King laments the ugliness of the new bike parking in San Francisco.  The accompanying photo shows a rather generic U-rack:

U-rack from SF Chronicle

I’ve been a long-time bicycle commuter—it’s been my main form of transportation for the past 40 years, and I’ve never had a driver’s license—so I have some strong opinions about bike parking.  I’ve even been collecting photos of different styles of bike parking for the past few years, with the intent of someday producing a lecture that I can give to urban planners and architects.

As bike parking goes, the simple upside-down U is one of the most practical designs available.  As the Chronicle picture shows, it allows locking both wheels, and it supports the bike at multiple points high up on the frame, so that the bike won’t fall over and get damaged if someone bumps it. If you don’t bother to lock both wheels, you can lose them, as this student did at the University of Minnesota:

U's only protect your wheels if you lock them to the U.

Of course, one can get the same positive features with better-looking designs.  Consider the bike parking at the ScienCenter in Los Angeles:

Bike parking at ScienCenter

Or these from the University of Minnesota:

Sculptural bike parking at the University of Minnesota

A second-best design is a single post with “ears” to lock to, which provides adequate high support, but can make locking both wheels tougher, and sometimes allows the bike to fall by rotating around the post. Here is a good example from Boston:

Bike parking post near ICA in Boston.

Even an adequate design can be spoiled by bad installation.  If a post is too close to a wall, no one can use it:

Too close to the wall to get a bike in.

If you allow cars nearby, you have to protect the posts:

Cars and trucks can easily damage bike parking posts.

What you want to avoid at all costs are “wheelbreakers” that hold the bottom of the wheels, so that if the bike is knocked over, the wheel is damaged.  The MIT campus provides an example of one of the worst such designs:

Wheelbreaker on MIT campus

This has only been a small sample of my bike parking pictures.  I’ll do more in some subsequent post.

Some other sources for pictures of artistic bike racks: bikeparkingonline, DavidByrne, Ann Arbor, Portland, Solar Bike Tree

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