Gas station without pumps

2016 July 14

Quax

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 00:02
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I just ran across a new word: “quax”.

According to Wikipedia’s entry:

Dick Quax tweeted[6] in January 2015 about his disbelief that anyone in the Western world would go shopping by means of a train or bicycle (or by bus, ferry, etc., presumably). Twitter users responded by creating the #quaxing hashtag, defined below.[7]

The Public Address website voted quaxing as its word of the year 2015, followed by Red Peak and Twitterati.[8]
Quax, [verb; past: quaxed, present: quaxing] — to shop, in the western world, by means of walking, cycling or public transit. #quaxing
— Non-motorist (@ByTheMotorway)
26 April 2015[9]

I’ve been quaxing for decades now and expect to do so for decades more.

2016 July 4

Bike Parking in Montreal

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:00
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I have a collection of photographs of different types of bike parking, and I added two more types in my June 2016 trip to Montreal:

There are parking posts like this one all over Montreal, numbering the parking spaces for payment, but only a few of them have the extra ring for locking bicycles to the post.

There are parking posts like this one all over Montreal, numbering the parking spaces for payment, but only a few of them have the extra ring for locking bicycles to the post.

This 8-bike rack was spotted on the McGill college campus, in front of their natural history museum. It makes a nice sculptural statement, and is moderately compact, but looks a little difficult to use with tandems, recumbents, children's bikes, and others that don't fit the rather narrow idea of what the dimensions of an adult bike are.

This 8-bike rack was spotted on the McGill college campus, in front of their natural history museum. It makes a nice sculptural statement, and is moderately compact, but looks a little difficult to use with tandems, recumbents, children’s bikes, and others that don’t fit the rather narrow idea of what the dimensions of an adult bike are.

2016 May 12

Sprockets closed again

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:43
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I reported in 2012 that one of my favorite bike shops (Sprockets on Mission Street in Santa Cruz) had closed without any fanfare, and a couple of months later that they had reopened under new ownership.

Unfortunately, they seem to have gone out of business again—my wife went there on Monday to get a new floor pump for the soda-bottle rockets, and they weren’t there. I don’t know the reason, but I suspect that they were not moving enough product to make their payroll—bike shops are a tough business, and there are two others within 0.7 miles on Mission Street, as well as one downtown (about a mile away).  That doesn’t count the two (or is it three) on the Eastside, just a mile further away, nor the one near the beach, about a mile away.

The City of Santa Cruz can support 7 or 8 bike shops, but only marginally—it is more a labor of love than a profitable business enterprise.  (Note: one bike shop per 7,000–8,000 residents is a high concentration for the US. There were supposedly only 3790 specialty bike shops in the USA in 2015 [http://www.statista.com/statistics/215249/number-of-speciality-bicycle-retail-locations-in-the-us/], which is a ratio of one shop per 84,000 people. So Santa Cruz is still doing at least 10 times better than the US as a whole.

It will be annoying to have to walk 0.6 miles instead of 0.4 miles to the nearest bike shop, but not a major hardship. I just hope that the circumstances are not as dire as the previous closure of Sprockets (one of the co-owners died and the other decided not to continue the shop without her).

2016 May 3

Revised pressure sensor lab went very well

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:20
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Today I ran a revised version of the pressure sensor lab (see
Pressure-sensor lab went well, Class-D lab revision didn’t work, Blood pressure monitor, Blood pressure lab, and Blood pressure lab part 2 for descriptions of the old labs).

The revised lab included both blood pressure cuffs and breath pressure using the simplified breath pressure apparatus of Simplified breath pressure apparatus:

The ½" elbow is small enough that I can put my lips around the opening, which would have been a bit difficult with the 1" tee.

The ½” elbow is small enough that I can put my lips around the opening, which would have been a bit difficult with the 1″ tee.

To make the apparatus, the students had to drill 2mm holes in PVC elbows, so I packed up my drill press last night and hauled up the hill in my bike trailer this morning.  For those unfamiliar with Santa Cruz, that is a 3-mile ride with a fairly steady 4% slope, resulting in a climb of about 715′ (218m).  Needless to say, I went slower than usual uphill!  There is a drill press only about 150′ from the lab the students were working in, but the bureaucracy for getting the students access to the drill press is incredible (I tried, and failed, to get a dozen students access last quarter). So it was easier for me to haul my own drill press up the hill on my bike than to deal with the dysfunctional bureaucracy at UCSC to use the drill press supposedly there for student use.

I explained to each pair of students how to use a drill press, including basic safety precautions, and had them drill a 2mm diameter hole in their PVC elbows.  There were no problems with this, and I plan to do the same for the lab in future.

Each pair of students designed an instrumentation amplifier with an INA126P chip as a first stage and an op-amp as a second stage, wired it up on breadboards, checked the calibration, and recorded both breath pressure and blood cuff pressure.  A few students used extra time to play around with some toys I brought in: a hand vacuum pump, a Lego pneumatics pump, and an aquarium air pump.  One group even tried using the pressure sensor as a microphone, using a loudspeaker with a 300Hz sine wave for input (the pressure sensor could detect the 300Hz input without problems, though I suspect that it was not registering the full pressure fluctuation, as I think that the sensor has about a 200Hz bandwidth).

Most groups were done with this week’s lab in the 3 hours of today’s lab, so Thursday’s lab will consist mostly of students doing make-up work to redo old labs, with a few finishing up this week’s lab.  I expect to spend most of Thursday’s lab time grading design reports (I’m about 2 days behind—I got the design reports that were turned in a week ago done and returned yesterday, and I got the prelabs turned in yesterday done and returned today, but I haven’t started yet on the reports turned in last Friday, nor the stack of redone work turned in last week).

The instrumentation-amp lab went surprisingly well this year, despite adding the drill press.  I think that the big advantages over previous years are that they did not have to solder the inst amps this year and that they had already done a multi-stage amplifier for the microphone amp.

I think that I should rewrite the book to introduce multi-stage amplifiers as the default design (since every amplifier they do in the course is now multi-stage), and talk about how to choose the gain for each stage in general, before getting into individual labs.

One minor problem in lab today—students didn’t have the short pieces of tubing to connect up their breath-pressure apparatus.  This turned out to be my fault—I hadn’t included them on the parts list for this year!  Luckily the BELS staff had some pieces leftover from last year, and I had about 20 feet of my own tubing in the box of stuff I’d packed for the lab, so we had enough for everyone to get 6″.

 

2015 August 26

Few Santa Cruz businesses on bike league list

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:23
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Every year the League of American Bicyclists publishes a list of “bicycle-friendly businesses”, which employers (including governments and non-profits) can apply to be on.

I was surprised at how few Santa Cruz employers were on the list:

  • Ecology Action (silver)
  • County of Santa Cruz (bronze)
  • Santa Cruz Seaside Company (bronze)

The League also has listings for communities, universities, and states.  The City of Santa Cruz has a silver listing, as does UCSC. UCD is platinum; UCSB is gold; UCB and UCI are also silver; UCLA and UCSD are bronze.  UCSB and UCD are also listed as businesses (their bike-friendliness towards employees, rather than towards students), with the same ratings.

UCSC does do a fair amount for bicycle commuters. I know of free showers in at least 4 buildings on Science Hill, and there are probably others. Most buildings allow people with offices to bring their bikes into their offices and there are card-operated bike lockers next to some of the more popular buildings.  Bike posts and other low-security bike parking are provided in adequate quantity (though the quality is not aways the best).  There are free tool stands at several places on campus and an on-campus bike shop (the Bike Co-op, which is not a full-service bike shop).  All the campus buses and the SCMTD buses that serve campus have racks for 3 bikes, and UCSC runs an uphill-only shuttle with a trailer for a dozen bikes from the Westside several times an hour.

Having seen what UCSB does, it looks like the main differences in bike friendliness come from UCSB’s campus being flat and compact, while UCSC’s is sloped at 4% and spread out.  The ravines and hills on the UCSC campus make it very expensive to provide additional roads and bike paths, and the 4% climb for a mile from the entrance to campus to Science Hill is daunting for many beginning bicyclists.

UCSC could do more to promote bicycling to campus, but there is a point where even large investments result in only small increases in bicycling—UCSC has invested much more heavily in transit options than in bicycling, as they expect that to make larger changes in student and employee behavior.  (And it seems to be working—UCSC has tripled in size in the last 30 years, with only modest increases in motor vehicle traffic.)

I don’t know whether Santa Cruz has been slipping as a bike-friendly place, whether other places have overtaken Santa Cruz, or whether businesses and governments in Santa Cruz simply can’t be bothered with the bureaucratic process of the League’s classification scheme.

What is the return to the community if more businesses were listed as bike friendly, or the community rating were higher? The listing is primarily a marketing tool—from a bicyclist perspective, what matters is what the infrastructure and policies are, not whether the LAB knows about them. And marketing is not that valuable to the community right now. It isn’t as if Santa Cruz were trying to lure more people to move here—we already have a serious housing crunch, particularly for the rental market. (Prices are high also: studio apartments are about $1600 a month, 2-bedroom about $2200 a month, I think.)  I do think that Santa Cruz would benefit from more ecotourism marketing—getting tourists to bicycle around town rather than clog the streets with their bad driving would be an improvement.

What Santa Cruz is trying to do is to lure more tech companies to Santa Cruz, to take advantage of the highly educated people already here and reduce the long-distance commuting to high-paying jobs in Silicon Valley. It is not clear whether getting a better bike-friendly community rating would help with that effort or not, though one of the big attractions for tech workers in Santa Cruz is not having to do the Highway 17 commute.  Being able to bike to work is a big attractor for engineers, particularly in software businesses (it is often our only source of exercise).  Whether it is an attractor for tech companies is a somewhat different question.

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