Guns, guns, guns.

Here’s what I want in America.  I am a citizen, so I get a voice.

I want the semi-automatic guns out of civilian hands.  All semi-automatic guns.  No valid reason exists for a civilian to own one, of any kind.  Oh, not just semi-automatic weapons, but also repeating weapons of all types.  Lever action, pump action, bolt action, etc.

How will this happen?  Simple.  Taxes.

I propose an annual tax on owning firearms.  A rapidly and steeply escalating tax based on rate of fire and magazine capacity or potential magazine capacity.  No loophole for a Mini-14 with a five round magazine in a slot that will happily accept a thirty round magazine.

For example, no tax at all on single shot muzzle loaders.  Very little tax on modern single shot rifles, pistols, or shotguns.  Ahh, but add the ability to repeat, and I want some serious tax.

A revolver?  Oh, yeah.  That’s going to cost you, a little less for a muzzle loading revolver, a little more for a single action revolver, and a lot more for a double action revolver.

A bolt, lever, or pump action repeating firearm will get increasingly expensive based on it’s magazine size.

Semi-automatic firearms of any type?  Massively expensive.  Thousands of dollars annually.  So much so as to make ownership of them a ridiculous proposition.

Fully automatic?  Forbidden for civilian ownership.  Period.

What happens if you fail to pay?  No problem, the government puts a tax lien on your property.  Just like they can with any other delinquent tax.  These mechanisms are already in place.

If you are found to own an unregistered weapon?  You lose it.  Forever.  You can ponder its loss from jail for a couple years.  You further lose the privilege of ever owning another one.

But wait, there’s more!  I want storage requirements to be ironclad.  Physically.  Approved gun safes that are attached to the building in which they are installed.  Annual unscheduled inspections of weapons storage at the gun owner’s expense, of course.  Noncompliance equals impound and destruction of improperly stored firearms for the first failure.  Subsequent noncompliance can involve increasingly harsh penalties.

Goddammit, that’s quite enough dead kids, thanks.

You gun owners are incapable of dealing with this yourselves, as you continually demonstrate.  The rest of us in civilized society will now deal with it for you.

Sure, sure.  We’ve all heard the mantra how it’s not guns that are the problem, but crime, or poverty, or mental illness, blah, blah, blah.  Here’s a fucking newsflash, assholes:  All those things have always existed and always will exist.  Mix any of that with guns and, well, we know how that turns out, don’t we?  Those things are all part of the landscape of humanity.  What doesn’t need to be a part of that landscape is all these fucking weapons lying about.

I want this to end.

Stop being so goddamned afraid, my countrymen.  Show some backbone and stop hiding behind your guns to solve your problems for you.

There exists more evidence for Thor than for Jesus


Our gifts from Liam

Our Christmas Dinner

More bread, increased hydration

Here’s the details. I refined my last recipe.

My previous recipe hydrated the dough to 72%. I did a quick look on the Internet and it seems a higher hydration is recommended, up to 88%. I tried a compromise and increased my water to 720 ml, which brought the hydration up to 80% of the flour weight of 900g. I also inadvertently left out the potato flakes in the water. Didn’t seem to matter to the yeast. I got a great rise from this loaf.

This was a two loaf formula, that I baked in a single boule inside my covered aluminum casserole at 230 C for 30 minutes, then another ten minutes uncovered to brown the top crust, until the inside of the loaf was 95 C.

How I make whole wheat bread

Using nothing but whole wheat flour, yeast, potato water*, salt, and a bit of honey, here is how I made a pretty decent whole wheat bread today:

Here are the numbers:

  • 900 grams of whole wheat flour
  • 10 grams salt
  • 650 ml potato water, warm (* or, 650 ml warm water with 15 grams of potato flakes)
  • 21 grams (half a cake, here) fresh yeast
  • 20 grams honey

I proofed the yeast for about twenty minutes.  The yeast makes plenty of bubbles and foam.  More is better, I think.

Mix the ingredients together, and do the first fold and stretch.  Put the dough into a covered bowl and wait for 45 minutes.

Do another stretch and fold, then return the dough to the big bowl.  Wait another 45 minutes.

Here’s what it looks like when I stretch it out:

I fold it in thirds along it’s length, then in thirds again to make the ball.  Return it to the bowl and wait another 45 minutes.

Then, after another 45 minute rest, here it is, ready to form:

I probably should have rolled it flat, then done some type of roll forming.  Instead, I just formed it into a long worm, then cut it up into individual rolls and put them on the baking sheet to rise for the last time before I baked them.

I let them rise for 45 more minutes, then baked them at 200C for twenty minutes, until the internal temperature of the bread was 95C.

As you can see, I got some more good rising, but it would’ve been better if I had rolled out that last ball of dough, then formed the rolls.  Knocking the dough down deflates the bubbles, and puts the yeast into contact with more food to make even more bubbles.

I used this formula yesterday to make a couple of sandwich loaves, and I am very pleased with how they turned out:

This worked out well, I think.  Now that I have this formula measured out by weight, I can adjust and experiment with various bits and reproduce the results with accuracy.

Our stable

2011 Gazelle NY Cab

Trek 7200

Gazelle Miss Grace

BTwin 3 Original

We each have two bikes.  Mine is the Gazelle New York Cab Edition, and K has the Miss Grace.  I also have a 2000 Trek 7200, and my wife has the very basic BTwin 3 Original.

My Trek has been the backup bike, but I also use it for running into work on my days off.  Most days, I use the Gazelle to commute to and from work.  It’s just so much easier to use.   My wife rarely uses her Gazelle, as it’s slightly too large for her.  She takes the BTwin into Mons for French classes three days a week.  If someone steals her BTwin, I’m not out much.  We’ll probably sell her Gazelle next spring, since she so rarely uses it.  Pity.

How to shift speeds on a bicycle without gears.

What are you riding?  Who uses gears any more?

I bought this bike last January:

2010 Gazelle NY Cab

2010 Gazelle NY Cab

It’s the New York Cab model from Gazelle, in the Netherlands.  As pictured here, it comes with a Shimano Nexus Inter 3 three speed  internal hub transmission.  Smooth to operate, but not enough range between the low gear and the high gear.  As built, the sprocket ratio between the front and rear sprockets gives a nice top gear, but the low gear isn’t low enough to take this heavy bicycle up much of a hill.  As it turns out, I have a fairly significant 500 meter long hill just before I get to work.  So, the gearing on this thing just wasn’t up to it.  My legs got strong enough to push it up that hill, but not without considerable body heat build up.  Not how I want to start my work day, since I ride in my work clothes.

A colleague told me about the Nuvinci transmission.  I don’t know where he learned of it.  It’s the Nuvinci model N360, from Fallbrook Technologies.  It has a 350% difference between it’s lowest and highest input/output ratios.  No gears.  It’s a continuously variable planetary transmission that uses steel balls instead of different sized gears:

As you can see, by changing the angle of the balls’ axles, it changes the size of the track on which the input and output discs ride.  It’s continuously variable between its highest and lowest ratios.  To the rider, this means you can dial up the precise gear ratio you want for a particular load to stay at the exact tempo you desire.  You always have the right “gear” available to you.

My first task was to get the Shimano OEM hub transmission replaced by the N360.  I didn’t attempt this myself.  I’d read tons about bicycle wheel building online.  But, I’ve never built one from scratch.  Realizing my limits, I brought my wheel to my local bike shop, along with the N360 in its box, to have their wheel builder do his magic.  A couple weeks and EUR 50 later, I had my wheel with the N360 laced into it, ready to install.

You’d think it would be easy from this point.  You’d think.  The nineteen tooth cog the mechanic at the bike shop gave me had the wrong spline pattern, and it was the wrong thickness.  So, I ordered a twenty tooth Surly single speed cog from the internet.  This was when I also realized the cog on my three speed Shimano transmission was for 1/8″ chain.  The N360 requires 3/32″ chain.  I needed a new chain.  I also thought I’d need to change the front chain ring.  But, on inspection, it turned out that Gazelle has installed a chain ring for 3/32″ chain, and was running 1/8″ chain on it to use that Shimano transmission.  Result!  I didn’t have to change the front chain ring!

Removing the old 1/8″ chain with the chain tool that came with a patch kit I bought many years ago showed me why that chain tool was included in a cheap patch kit.  It was nearly worthless.  It worked once, to remove the old chain.  I bought a new Park Tools CT-5 Mini Chain Brute chain tool.  You want to get yourself one of these.  Very nice.  Compact.  Worked perfectly.

While waiting for internet delivery of those parts, I had time to route the Bowden cable housings through the bike’s frame and mount the controller on the handlebar.  Fishing the cable housing from the down tube opening at the bottom bracket housing took some fiddling, but I got that job done in a couple hours.

Nuvinci N360 controller

Nuvinci N360 controller

Since there are no discrete gears to select on this transmission, it didn’t make sense to use a numerical selector, I’m guessing.  Instead, the guys at Nuvinci developed this little controller, that shows a little bicycle on a ribbon that flexes up to a steep hill (underdrive), or straightens out to a flat road for the little bike to ride on (overdrive).  In actual use, I don’t really pay much attention to the indicator on the controller.  I just adjust it by feel.

Well, the goodies arrived from the internet, and here are the few pictures I took of my installation.

Here is the N360 installed, with the chain, but without the chain case or the control cables:

Nuvinci N360 installed, bare

Nuvinci N360 installed, bare

It took me a couple hours of whittling and adjusting of mounts to get that chain case to fit without rubbing on either the hub or the chain itself.  But, I was able to fit it.  Just.

Nuvinci N360 installed, with chain case, sans cables

Nuvinci N360 installed, with chain case, sans cables

I think I cut a little more clearance for the hub interface than I may have needed.  But, it wasn’t easy to guess how much clearance I’d need.  I’m pleased with the results.  Notice the control cables still not cut to length or secured.  You can bet I paid very, very close attention indeed to the installations instructions when it came to cutting those control cables to length and attaching the cable ends.  I measured three, four, five times.  Then did it again.  Made sure I was measuring the correct cable (under drive or overdrive cable).  I used a drinking straw that I had split lengthwise and cut to the correct lengths to set the cable ends properly.  All that measuring paid off.  Cutting off the excess cable is when you commit.  It was perfect.

Here it is, installation complete:

Nuvinci N360 installed, complete

Nuvinci N360 installed, complete

The only two minor problems I had to resolve after a few test drives was to tighten the spokes on that wheel a quarter turn on each spoke.  They weren’t quite tight enough, and there was some spoke noise when I put my son’s seat on the back and took him for a ride.  I also needed to turn the overdrive cable adjuster on the controller out two turns to take up the slack with the controller to allow me to select full overdrive.

After two weeks use, I did find that the spring tab on one of the cable ends at the hub interface was just close enough to the chain to rub on the chain rivets if I put pressure on the controller in the overdrive direction.  I fixed it by grinding off about a millimeter of steel from the side of that spring tab that was close to the chain.  Noise gone during upshifts.

I find that this hub does not really allow upshifting under full load.  It does allow downshifting under load, though.  It is possible to shift it up while under load, but since there are no gears, what I find it does is work it’s way up to higher ratios in between power pulses while pedaling as long as I am putting pressure on the controller to shift in that direction.  Very, very smooth.  Just like everyone says.

That hill just before work is now trivial.  In fact, I may have erred on the side of too low of a ratio with my twenty tooth rear cog selection.  The front chain ring is 38 teeth, the OEM cog on that Shimano transmission was a seventeen tooth.  I wanted to be sure my lowest gear would make that hill simple.  I achieved that.  I could probably do with an eighteen tooth rear cog.  But, as it is a heavy bicycle, and I have cargo racks front and rear, there will be days when I have quite a load on it.  That nice low gear is very useful for these times.

Since I’ve been riding my bike to work, 17 kilometers each day, I’ve lost twenty pounds of fat.  So, the extra pound of weight from the N360 is more than compensated for.  Even so, the extra weight of that hub amounted to less than one percent of my rolling weight (the bike, plus me, plus cargo).  Insignificant.

If you don’t have one of these, I recommend one highly.  Very highly.

How to almost get ripped off by eBay itself, instead of a seller…

Well, I got nowhere with the seller on that card file in my previous post.  I offered to accept a partial, if significant, refund of the purchase price.  I said I’d accept a rebate of $145 out of the original $195 purchase price.  I’d use the rest to repair the card file, and buy either custom cut cards, or find a source of A7 size cards to use in it.  But, no dice.  So, I escalated the case to the eBay resolution center.  Including a link to my previous post, of course.  That allowed me to say whatever I wanted, add photos, with no character count limit.  I was going to get nothing from the seller, but I had a pretty good chance (at least a non-zero chance) of getting satisfaction by escalating it.

I won the escalation.  eBay emailed me a link to print a return shipping label, and instructed me to return the card file to the seller for a complete refund.  So I did just that.  I packaged it so well it can be kicked out of the airplane and be just fine.  Things were looking up.  I posted that thing back on Monday.

Then, on Tuesday, I got another “Final decision” from eBay in an email telling me the case was closed in the seller’s favor.  After they told me otherwise, and instructed me to return the item, which I did.  You can bet I was fucking hot. I sent a “What the fuck?” email to their resolution center.  Not satisfied with that, I wanted to chew someone’s ass on the phone.  After finally finding a damned phone number to call them, I got them on the line.

They wanted to re-review the entire case, which I interrupted with “Why are we doing this?  You already made a “final decision”, and I have followed your instructions to return the item.  Any details of the issue between the seller and me are now irrelevant.  This problem is now owned by eBay.”  Well, the woman on the phone wasn’t too pleased with that, and insisted we once more plow through the case.  After being on hold for a couple minutes, she came back to tell me that my appeal had been granted.

As if they were doing me some big fucking favor or something.  Bullshit.  They fucked up.  In fact, she admitted that the person who sent that last “final decision” made the error.  They actually refunded my purchase price immediately, without waiting for the seller to receive the item.  “Your appeal is granted.”  Fuck that.  I was going to win this one way or the other.  The easy way, or the really easy way.  If I’d have had to, I’d have disputed the charge and put a stop to it at the payment source.

I had a few things in my favor.  The facts.  The email traffic.  A bad fucking attitude.

So, to their credit, eBay fucked up.  Then, they fixed it.  This, while dealing with me, a really pissed off asshole on the other end of a telephone.  They did OK.

How to get ripped off on eBay…

Card file, fitness for purpose demonstration

Card file, fitness for purpose demonstration

First, here’s what the seller said about this piece in their eBay listing:

This is a beautiful antique card file cabinet. It is made of quarter-sawn oak with a gorgeous tiger stripe grain. There are 4 drawers, each with the brass label slot/pull on the front. There are 4 brass button feet on the bottom. This dates from the early 1900’s. It is made with sturdy dovetail construction and is in PRISTINE condition. The finish is like new! A few very faint scratches that are difficult to see. Bottom has a couple of scratches, but they aren’t normally seen. It is 12.5″w x 13″d x 9″h, and weighs a very heavy 17lbs. A beautiful addition to your home or work office, or could be used as a sewing box, phone number/address box, recipe box, or even for jewelry or crafts. Wonderful display piece, looks good from all sides — even back.

That pretty much says it all.  The only size standard card sold in North America anywhere near the standard index card is the standard index card.  3 inches by 5 inches.  Well, we can see here how the rebuilt drawer sides are too thick to allow this card file to hold 3×5 cards.  The seller asserted that “Many of the older file boxes do not fit 3×5 cards. I did not state in my auction that this file drawer would hold 3×5 cards.”  Well, true enough, the seller didn’t actually say it would hold 3×5 cards.  But, the seller did sell a card file without saying it WOULDN’T hold  index cards!

How about this little tidbit from MIT’s Technology Review, 2005:

…In 1876, Melvil Dewey, inventor of decimal classification, helped organize a company called the Library Bureau, which sold both cards and wooden cases. An academic entrepreneur, Dewey was a perfectionist supplier. His cards were made to last, made from linen recycled from the shirt factories of Troy, NY. His card cabinets were so sturdy that I have found at least one set still in use, in excellent order. Dewey also standardized the dimension of the catalogue card, at three inches by five inches, or rather 75 millimeters by 125 millimeters. (He was a tireless advocate of the metric system.)

Let’s not try and bullshit each other that this American made card file was made for any other size of index card.

Here’s my favorite bit:  “…could be used as a sewing box, phone number/address box, recipe box…”

How?  Using what card stock, Mr. Wizard?

Card File, bottom right corner

Card File, bottom right corner

Here’s the half-assed repair job on a crack on the front of the bottom right joint where the side panel meets the bottom.  Note the glue in the crack from being repaired without clamping, now keeping that crack open.

Card file, front top left joint

Card file, front top left joint

Notice how easily the top lifts off from the left side panel?  It’s no longer glued there.

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Note how the horizontal drawer separator is not flush with the front edges of the side panels.  Why would this be?

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Oh!  Here’s why!  It’s also not glued in any longer.

Card file, drawer corner detail

Card file, drawer corner detail

Well, the seller thought those dovetail joints were a sure-fire indicator of antiquity.  Yeah.  No one making a piece with modern components would ever think of using dovetail joints.  Here’s the fun bit about these two photos:  Note the Phillips head screws.  Then, remember that the seller said this item dates to the “early 1900s”.  Phillips head screws were not in use until 1937, when Cadillac started using them in all their cars.  They weren’t widely available to the public until 1939, when some 85% of the world’s screw manufacturers were licensed to manufacture them.  Source:  Phillips Screw Company.

That took me all of ten minutes to find out on the internet.

So much for this claim of authentic antique construction from the early 1900s.  I don’t think we need to hear that “1937 IS in the early 1900s”, either.  If the seller wanted to say “the 1930s”, they could have done so, but did not.

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Oh, I just thought I’d show some more of those “early 1900s” time-machine Phillips head screws.


This was sold as an antique, making no mention of the much more modern drawer rebuilds.  It was also sold as “pristine”.  The loose and poorly repaired joints show it to be otherwise.  It was also sold as a card file.  One that could be used for recipes, or perhaps a phone number/address box.  But, the seller never bothered to see that an actual index card would fit into it.  A standard that has existed since Dewey invented it for, wait for it, card files.