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26 July 2017
Morning Sedition

Mermaid Parade
Tricked-Out Bikes

Tricked Out Bikes - Green Bike

Just about everything at the Mermaid Parade is dressed up, even the bikes.

Tricked Out Bikes - Red Bike

Tricked Out Bikes - Yellow Bike

And this concludes my photos from last year's Mermaid Parade. I'll put up this year's photos when they come back from developing.

Mermaid Parade
Burning Rubber

Muscle Cars - Burning Rubber - Start

This entry continues photos from last year's parade.

I don't know what it is about muscle cars, but the owners feel continually obliged to prove they've got something in their pants, I mean, under the hood, by destroying tires and innundating bystanders with the heady perfume of incinerated petroleum products. Mmmmmm. Burning tire! The official cologne of testosterone and machismo. (Or, as Troma Films so succinctly put it, "Macheesmo: real cheese for real men.") But, in all fairness, it is in keeping with muscle car etiquette. How else can one show off a huge, throbbing, uh, engine.

Muscle Cars - Burning Rubber - Getting There

The Mermaid Parade is, of course, no different. Here's a purple monster proving that, yes, if you stand on the brake, pop the clutch, and floor it that the wheels will, indeed, spin. Once spinning, our friend friction does the rest.

Muscle Cars - Burning Rubber - Heavy

And the crowd is obscured by the proof that $1.87 per gallon gasoline is no barrier to fun. I don't know why Officer Friendly has his hand on his gun, but it may be related to proving that he, too, has a penis substitute.

Muscle Cars - Burning Rubber - Smells Bad

Mermaid Parade
Flexing a Little Muscle

Muscle Cars - Lined Up

You can get to the beach via the subway, but Americans do love their cars. Especially muscle cars. And they were well represented, including just about every gas guzzling, unsafe hunk of Detroit iron designed to go fast and corner like a brick. (Well, I don't know if engineers intended these land yachts to be about as maneuverable as a Mack truck, but that's the way they turned out.)

All lovingly restored, painted, polished, and chromed like a tunnel bunny advertising her wares. These cars were created for one purpose only: to go fast and pick up loose women. These are not cars you drive to the market to pick up a quart of milk. Certainly not at the mileage they get...

Muscle Cars - Lined Up - Closeup

Of course, if this is what the Coney Island Correction Facility is staffed by, it's no wonder people get in trouble at the parade:

Muscle Cars - Correctional Facility

Muscle Cars - Correctional Facility Closeup

"I am not a number! I am a free man!"

Side View

Progress! It's an ironic symbol of progress. The penny farthing bicycle represents a simpler age. We live in an era where science is advancing so quickly, you don't even have time to learn about the latest innovations before something new arises.

Patrick McGoohan, creator and star of The Prisoner, interview, New Video Magazine, 1985

One of the things I like about New York City is the different kinds of bicycles. I'm not just talking about totally tricked-out bikes, either, but the abundance of variety. (Alfred Russel Wallace — the man from whom Darwin stole the theory of evolution — would have loved modern bicycles.) Anyway, there's one type of bicycle I've never seen on the streets of NYC: the "penny farthing."

Axle Assembly

Also known as boneshakers or high-wheels, for obvious reasons, these bikes first appeared in Victorian England in 1870. The reason for the huge front wheel is that these bicycles didn't have gears. That's right, it used a direct-drive system, and the huge circumference multiplied the speed of the rider's pedaling. The height was typically the same as the rider's inseam, which is basically the ankle-to-crotch pants length. Lacking brakes, these bicycles were stopped by backpedalling — pedaling backwards. (A technique familiar to the anyone who watches politics.)

The penny farthing essentially vanished when the "safety bicycle" — what we know as the modern bicycle with front and rear tires of the same size — was invented around 1890. The only place you're likely to have seen on is on The Prisoner. (Ahhhh, now the entry's title makes sense!) The only place I've seen them is in history books and on HBO's Deadwood. Well, TallBike.com has taken steps to remedy this disappearance, making what appear to be faithful reproductions of the original for $500:

We are now having many parts cast in SS and the black fork head shown in photos will be replaced by a polished SS one on the bikes sold. Bike has a 50" wheel in front and 16" in rear. The weight is a bit high at 46 lbs. The front wheel with tire, cranks and pedals is 20 lbs and the backbone with front end and rear tire attached is 26 lbs.

Our Bikes - R2 Repro Penny Farthing Bicycle - Tall Bike Rudge Reproduction

What impresses me most is the extensive security feature designed to stand up to tough environments like NYC. Just imagine the sheer frustration of a bike thief faced with this security system:

Bike Security

It's even tougher to remove than the legendary Kryptonite lock. (Which proved that the pen is mightier than the lock.)

Not that I was ever a huge Prisoner fan, but Patrick McGoohan's comment about the penny farthing as a symbol of progress really does work.

"Where am I?"
"...In the Village."
"What do you want?"
"Information."
"Whose side are you on?"
"...That would be telling... we want information... information...information"
"You won't get it!"
"By hook or by crook, we will."
"Who are you?"
"The new number two."
"Who is number one?"
"You are number six."
"I am not a number! I am a free man!"

The Prisoner, 1969

Down Hill Derby
Who Among Us Remembers
What Happened Here Today?

Best in Show Heading Home, Into the Sunset

Best in Show Heading Home, Into the Sunset

Unwrapped Bubblewrap; Funny How Much Bigger the Roll is When in a Heap

Unwrapped Bubblewrap; Funny How Much Bigger the Roll is When in a Heap

Down Hill Derby
And So It Ends

This Costume and Vehicle Won Best In Show

This Headpiece and Vehicle Won Best In Show

Participants After the Race

Participants After the Race

Down Hill Derby
Can I Put this on my Resume?

Vehicles at Finish Line

Vehicles at Finish Line

Awarding Best In Show

Awarding Best In Show

Down Hill Derby
Lucky Men Who Made the Grade

Best in Show Crossing Finish Line

Best in Show Crossing Finish Line

Ohhhhh, That's Gotta Hurt!

Ohhhhh, That's Gotta Hurt!

Anything that Does Not Kill Me Only Serves to Make Me Stronger

Anything that Does Not Kill Me Only Serves to Make Me Stronger

Behold, the Conquering Hero!

Behold, the Conquering Hero! (Except he came in second)

Down Hill Derby
Spirit Is Something No One Destroys

My Vehicle is Dead, But I Saw Cool Runnings

My Vehicle is Dead, But I Saw Cool Runnings

The Journey of Lugging a Dead Derby Car a Thousand Miles to the Finish Line Begins With A Single Step

The Journey of Lugging a Dead Derby Car a Thousand Miles to the Finish Line Begins With A Single Step

What Matters is Crossing the Finish Line, Not How You Get There

What Matters is Crossing the Finish Line, Not How You Get There

Down Hill Derby
Disaster Strikes!

My Vehicle Is Wounded, But I Shall Repair It

My Vehicle Is Wounded, But I Shall Repair It

Closeup of Broken Vehicle Being Fixed With Hose Clamps

Closeup of Broken Vehicle Being Fixed With Hose Clamps

Pesky Pneumatics! Solid Tires Might Have Been A Better Choice

Pesky Pneumatics! Solid Tires Might Have Been A Better Choice

Down Hill Derby
Remember, Aim Here

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 1)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 1)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 2)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 2)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 3)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 3)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 4)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 5)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 5)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 6)

Finish Line Unfurling (Stage 6)

Down Hill Derby
And So It Begins

Setting Up At Starting Line

Setting Up At Starting Line

Last Minute Discussions for Starting Flag

Last Minute Discussions for Starting Flag

And They're Off!

And They're Off!

Down Hill Derby
Getting Ready

This Costume Won Best In Show

This Costume Won Best In Show

Racetrack is All Clear

Racetrack is All Clear

The Goal

The Goal

Down Hill Derby
Just Wrap It!

Wrapping the Finish Line With Bubble Wrap

Wrapping the Finish Line With Bubble Wrap

Is this a Manufacturer-Approved Use of Bubblewrap?

Is this a Manufacturer-Approved Use of Bubblewrap?

First Complete Circuit of Finish Line With Bubble Wrap

First Complete Circuit of Finish Line With Bubble Wrap

Down Hill Derby
Getting Screwed

Last Minute Prep; Don't Need No Screws Falling Out

Last Minute Prep; Don't Need No Screws Falling Out

Last Minute Prep; Yeah, They're Really Tight

Last Minute Prep; Yeah, They're Really Tight

The Down Hill Derby

Intersection at Finish Line

The Down Hill Derby was held on Saturday, the 14th of May, at 3pm. The rules were simple: build a vehicle with least three wheels; beyond that, anything goes. Trophies were to be awarded for best car and best failure.

Map of Columbia and Fulton Street

The race ran from Columbia Heights and Cranberry to Old Fulton street in Brooklyn. Those of you unfamiliar with the finer points of Brooklyn geography — you were likely unaware that Columbia Heights is Brooklyn's steepest hill. (Such as it is, of course. It doesn't hold a candle to some of the hilly parts around the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park, or Fort George Hill.) But back to the derby.

Closeup of Map of Columbia and Fulton Street

Anyway, I decided to drag myself off to Brooklyn, and it wasn't an auspicious start. (Next time I consult some entrails.) The problem came because I was helping a friend seal a hole where the roaches got in and kept her mind from wandering. (Seeing roaches the size of poodles will do that. You have to get them before they colonize, like chitinous squatters the courts are powerless to evict.) We went out for a quick bite to eat before picking up some polyurethane sealant to pack the hole tighter than something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Well, she managed to lock her keys inside her apartment, and it delayed me over an hour which meant the clock was creeping up on the start time. So I grabbed a cab instead of taking the (cheap) subway.

I was prepared with detailed maps from Google Maps so I knew exactly where to go. The cabbie, however, didn't quite understand the concept of directions — he arrogantly told me he knew how to get to Brooklyn — and proceeded to get lost. I finally got him to listen to me. After he'd made a turn in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Ahhh, but this isn't a problem because we were in New York City. The cabbie solved the problem by backing up about three blocks on a busy street with angry honking cars and dropped me where I needed to go. I was, on the one hand, white-knuckled from the ride, but, on the other, very impressed with his technique: suicidally efficient. Turns out I had plenty of time to spare.

The race was sparsely attended, both by participants and voyeurs, which was a shame. I went because Jeff Stark had endorsed it and I mistakenly thought it was a Madagascar Institute event; those are always worth going to. But it wasn't, so the publicity was bad and last minute, which meant that only the organizers and a very small circule knew about it in advance. It would have been lots better if more carts had been entered, especially by the types who entered the Idiotarod. Anyway, it was still fun to watch, even if there weren't a lot of entries.

So here, without further commentary, are some of the photographs I took.

The Face of Erectile Dysfunction?

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

I was watching some male bicyclists rubbing their nether regions after a ride and thought two things: (1) cycling is turning into baseball, and (2) someday a lot of lawyers are going to make a pile of money off this problem. No, not the public self-fondling issue, silly. The perineal numbness and erectile dysfunction issue inherent in the defective design of bicycle seats. (I can also see the Viagara/Cialis ads featuring Lance Armstrong: this is the face of erectile dysfunction.) Anyway, here's a concise statement of the problem:

Bicycling and the Male Anatomy

Before we discuss the findings of the MMAS, a brief anatomy review should help explain how bicycling can contribute to or cause sexual dysfunction. When humans sit, they bear their weight on the ischial tuberosities, or what we have come to refer to as the "sit bones." The ischial tuberosities have no organs attached to them and no nerves or arteries; they are surrounded by the fat and muscle of the buttocks. This area is very well vascularized and allows humans to sit comfortably and safely for hours.

Unfortunately, most bicyclists bear their body weight on a bicycle seat that is not wide enough to support the ischial tuberosities. As a result, they wind up straddling the bike and, in effect, sitting on the internal part of their genitals.

"Erectile Dysfunction and Bicycling" by Irwin Goldstein, MD, Boston University Medical Campus

Cast of Pelvis on Bicycle Seat

This makes sense when you consider how the pelvis fit with a bicycle seat. But not to worry — engineering comes to the rescue!

BACKGROUND: Perineal numbness and erectile dysfunction are emerging as health concerns among bicyclists. Three studies indicate that between 7% and 21% of male cyclists experience genital area numbness after prolonged riding.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of an experimental seat design on perineal numbness.

DESIGN: Fifteen experienced male cyclists exercised for 1 hour on a stationary spin cycle using either an experimental or standard bicycle seat. Several days later they repeated the trial using the other seat type. Before and after each 1-hour exercise session, perineal sensation was tested using the Weinstein Enhanced Sensory Testing (WEST)-hand esthesiometer. Cyclists were also asked to report their perception of numbness after each exercise bout.

RESULTS: Cyclists reported more numbness with the standard seat than with the experimental seat (79% vs 14%; P=0.009). Similarly, sensory testing at all perineal sites yielded greater hypoesthesia with the standard seat than with the experimental seat (P=0.05). This difference was most marked at the dorsal penis (P=0.04).

CONCLUSION: The experimental bicycle seat produced significantly less subjective and objective numbness than the standard cycle seat in 1 hour of stationary cycling. Bicycle seat design and innovation may decrease or eliminate perineal numbness.

"Using an Experimental Bicycle Seat to Reduce Perineal Numbness" by Kenneth S. Taylor, MD; Allen Richburg, MD; David Wallis, MD; Mark Bracker, MD, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, V30, No. 5, May 2002

Not surprisingly, it turns out that the effects of putting pressure on the region is a long-standing, no pun intended, problem:

As for the Scythians, however, who identified horseback riding as a possible cause of male impotence in the ninth century BCE, the relationship between bicycle riding and ED has become a matter of concern.

"Erectile Dysfunction and Bicycling" by Irwin Goldstein, MD, Boston University Medical Campus

So, for all the male cyclists who read this, get yourself a sensible seat before you're hanging out with the Bob Dole crowd.

Sources and Further Reading

  1. "Using an Experimental Bicycle Seat to Reduce Perineal Numbness" by Kenneth S. Taylor, MD; Allen Richburg, MD; David Wallis, MD; Mark Bracker, MD, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, V30, No. 5, May 2002
  2. "Erectile Dysfunction and Bicycling" by Irwin Goldstein, MD, Boston University Medical Campus
  3. Spongy Wonder (anti-compression seat)
  4. Hobson Seats (anti-compression seat)
  5. Specialized Saddles (anti-compression seat)
  6. Aero Saddle (anti-compression seat)
  7. Cheeko90 (anti-compression seat)

Whatever Turns Your Crank

Schwinn Paramount Chainwheel

Schwinn Paramount Chainwheel

Virtually all bicycles use a chain and wheel combination to transfer power from the pedal crank to the wheel. There are alternative mechanisms to transfer power, of course, but these are not widely used. The chainwheel, also called a chainring, is a type of sprocket, or toothed wheel. (Remember Spacely Sprockets from the Jetsons?) I see all sorts of bicycles as I go walkabout in the city and many are highly customized. (Few, however, approach what the Black Label Bike Club and the other NYC bicycle clubs do. If you've seen the tall bikes around, you know what I mean.)

Colnago Chainwheel

Colnago Chainwheel

What I find so interesting is the artistic creativity shown in the numerous chainwheel and chainring variations. There is, of course, a whole continuum of design tradeoffs, including weight, strength, cost, and safety. My interest, however, is simply in the elegance of design and mechanical items as art. Having seen these collections I find myself sated. For some, however, interest changes into, well, a borderline obsession.

Joel Metz's chainwheel tattoos

Joel Metz just can't get enough of chainwheels, whether they are the silhouettes he collects on paper or on his very skin:

i havent yet decided what the plan is once my arm is entirely filled with as many black chainwheel silhouettes as it can hold without overlap. granted, this is a good ways off, but... i have considered a background of some kind - perhaps a second layer of silhouettes, in deep red, "underneath" the black ones... or i may come up with something else, or even just leave it as is. a lot will depend on how the sleeve looks once its all filled, and theres no more room for further chainwheels in black - i doubt ill be able to decide what to do next until that point.

Joel Metz's Chainwheel Tattoo Project

Last Exit for Number of the Beast

Route 666 Sign

Sign for US Route 666

Speaking of highway naming conventions, I was reminded how the Book of Revelations led to the removal of this highway number for U.S. 666 in summer of 2003; it is now known by the catchy name of U.S. 491. (Bar codes will clearly be next. I think I'll write that up next.) The Federal Highway Commission — your tax dollars at work — has a page devoted to U.S. 666: Beast of a Highway?. (I couldn't make this nonsense up if I tried.)

Running through the southeastern corner of Utah, US 666 is nothing more than a spur off US 66 running from Arizona to Monticello, Utah; like all spurs, it takes a number based on main highway. The big problem with the number was twofold: religious fanatics and theft. The fanatics, both Christian and Native American, mostly just wrote letters and telephoned; the thieves removed the signs from the highway where they had to be replaced. (It is possible the thefts were by those who thought the signs were evil, and not just cool; we'll likely never know.) Arizona's Department of Transportation routinely replaced missing signs, but the problem was getting out of hand. Since US 66 had been removed from the system in the late eighties, Arizona chose US 191 as the new name for the state's portion of the spur between I-10 and I-40.

Map of Route 666 in New Mexico

Map of US 666 in New Mexico

Three other states — New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah — left the US 666 number alone until Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, made it an issue on religious grounds. (He claimed that the highway signs were somehow preventing development in the area.) He had enough clout to get Colorado and Utah to join together with New Mexico in a joint resolution:

WHEREAS, people living near the road already live under the cloud of opprobrium created by having a road that many believe is cursed running near their homes and through their homeland; and

WHEREAS, the number "666" carries the stigma of being the mark of the beast, the mark of the devil, which was described in the book of revelations in the Bible; and

HEREAS, there are people who refuse to travel the road, not because of the issue of safety, but because of the fear that the devil controls events along United States route 666; and

WHEREAS, the economy in the area is greatly depressed when compared with many parts of the United States, and the infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road will only make development in the area more difficult.

U.S. 666: Beast of a Highway?

This convinced the right people in the federal government to change the name, and the final chapter on US 666 was written:

They chose 393, which was not in use in any of the three States. The problem was that the number implied that the highway was a branch of U.S. 93 (Port of Roosville, Montana, to Wickenburg, Arizona) even though neither U.S. 666 nor U.S. 191 intersected U.S. 93. Moreover, U.S. 93 did not have any branches; if AASHTO were to number branches of U.S. 93 in sequence, the first would be U.S. 193, not 393.

At the suggestion of AASHTO, the States agreed to renumber the route as a spur of U.S. 191, with "491" chosen to avoid duplicating State route numbers. After AASHTO's Standing Committee on Highways approved the change, it became official on Saturday, May 31.

As S. U. Mahesh of the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department told the Albuquerque Journal, which number ended up on the highway was not important. "As long as it's not 666 and it's nothing satanic, that's OK."

U.S. 666: Beast of a Highway?

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