Tasty bits and pieces from the internet, mixed with opinions and canned.

Excitement Level: RED ALERT

San Diego Comic Con has happened and there was so much Star Trek news, I'm still giddy and grinning. To me, the most exciting thing was the new trailer for Star Trek: Picard.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was the series I grew up with. One of my English teachers introduced our class to it as a listening comprehension exercise and I fell for the series and the universe fast and hard. Even now TNG holds a special place in my heart and the old lady NCC-1701-D is still my favourite ship — closely followed by the Defiant, the Prometheus, and the Timeship Relativity, thank you for asking.

There's also a very, very selfish reason why I'm looking forward to the series:
It might give me a chance to meet Patrick Stewart in person at a future Star Trek convention, something I've wanted for more than two decades. There are only a handful of actors I admire as much as him and even fewer that I feel the irrational desire to meet.

The few hints dropped about Star Trek: Discovery are few and far and I'm really hoping they continue with the ambitious way of storytelling they begun in the first two seasons. I wasn't sceptical at all going into Discovery but I also had no expectations and I came out of both seasons positively surprised, which is always a good thing. Then there's going to be the Short Treks focusing on the crew of the Enterprise led by Captain Pike and to this I can only say: Stop screwing with my emotions and give me a series with this crew, already!

Last but definitely not least is the announcement of Star Trek: Lower Decks. The Lower Decks episode in TNG was great and having an animated series about the lower ranked crew members of a Federation starship, maybe with some zaniness reminiscent of John Scalzi's Redshirts thrown in, can only be a good thing.

I can't wait for all of this to arrive on my TV.

Kommentierter Thread einer Diskussion mit einem Nahrungsergänzungsmittel-Quacksalber

Diese Episode ist schon einige Zeit her aber unbedingt umpfehlenswert. Die Autorin Mela Eckenfels ist in eine Diskussion mit einem Arzt und Produzenten/Profiteur von Nahrungsergänzungsmitteln geraten und hat alles zusammengefasst und kommentiert.
Ich finde diese Unterhaltung gibt einen guten Einblick in die Diskussionstaktiken und die, aus meiner Sicht, fast kriminelle Bereitschaft Menschen in gesundheitlicher Not über den Tisch zu ziehen, und immer mit Hilfe von Angst und Versprechungen von einfachen Lösungen für komplexe Probleme.

Tips for climbing on gravel

A few days ago I posted a video by Gravel Cyclist and my own little tip for descending on gravel. Well today GCN published a video about climbing on gravel with the absolute cyclecross legend Jeremy Powers.

Personally, I think the tip regarding proper gearing choice is the most helpful. I wouldn't be able to climb a lot of the local paths with gearing as high as Powers's in the video.
Too high a lowest gear equals too much torque on the tyre equals a bigger chance of the back wheel losing traction and spinning out under the rider. The more loose/wet the ground, the more crucial it is not to lose traction in order to maintain a consistent cadence and conserve momentum while going uphill.

My local forests feature many a nice climb with gradients between 9%–20%. I run a 2× setup with 36/46 chainrings up front and an 11-speed 11–40 cassette in the back. This gives me a nice easy smallest gear with a gear ratio of 0.9 which has helped me get up all but the steepest inclinces on loose forest ground with my 700×40c tyres.

Photos August 2017

July has been very slow in terms of photography, among other things because I spent a couple of days in the hospital for an appendectomy and then some more days recuperating.
In August, on the other hand, I spent as much time outside and with my camera as possible.

For one there was the annual "Schueberfouer" fair in Luxembourg city and I got this nice snapshot out of it.

Brightly lit funfair ride shot against the night sky

I went hiking a lot and especially enjoyed the various patterns and structures nature creates.

Large number of small mushroom on a tree stump

Timder fungus on a tree

Rough tree bark in the sunset

Of course, I always had our dogs with us and this led to me shooting some of my favourite pictures of Bijou. The first two because they're just pretty portraits of this amazing dog, the third one because she looks wonderfully derpy in it.

Headshot of Bijou in a field of wild flowers

Portrait of Bijou walking along a log, half of her face hidden in shadow from the light of a setting sun

Portrait of Bijou sitting on a log awkwardly and looking like Goofy

The problem with preaching personal responsibility to save the environment

One of the things that bug me the most about the frankly amazing increase in environmental awareness and the pressure put on governments, is the focus on "personal responsibility", meaning the contribution each one of us can make to save our planet.

Granted, it makes sense for every single person to do everything they possibly can to put less strain on the environment, and personally I'm trying to do my part as well. For example by not using my car for grocery shopping anymore.
I also don't doubt the concept of social proof, to show others that living a comfortable life without being destructive is possible.

Still, I find it concerning that "personal responsibility" is what a lot of media organisations and governments present as the best possible way to reduce CO2 emissions and help the environment. These increasingly feel like attempts to place the blame for environmental deterioration on the shoulders of consumers, when the big polluters are a few large corporations. The following comic by Alex Norris encapsulates the issue brilliantly:

Comic by Alex Norris (@dorrismccomics on Twitter)

I recently saw a tweet that I sadly cannot find anymore which neatly juxtaposed two articles in the Guardian about helping the environment. Luckily I remembered the headlines:

19 Jan 2017, Chris Goodall:
How to reduce your carbon footprint

10 July 2017, Tess Riley:
Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says

Climate change and the catastrophies it's going to bring with it is a given and we're feeling the effects already (although not as much as people in developing countries). Doing one's part to reduce carbon emissions, waste, and other factors of driving our planet over the cliff, is undeniably important and a good thing to do.
What mustn't happen, though, is big corporations directing focus towards personal responsibility when they practice none and continue destroying the planet. We have hold the polluters and the institutions enabling them accountable.

Arzneimittelhersteller Hevert droht Journalist per Anwaltschreiben

Gefunden durch den Tweet von Mela Eckenfels:

Es ist wirklich lohnenswert diesen Artikel im Journalist Magazin zu lesen: Arzneimittelhersteller schickt Anwaltsschreiben zum konstruktiven Austausch

Ich muss echt sagen, dass ich bei sowas zu viel bekomme. Es ist völlig klar, dass Homöopathie nicht über den Placebo-Effekt hinaus wirkt und nicht erst seit dem schönen Video von NEO MAGAZIN ROYALE.
Es geht dieser Industrie der Betrüger und Quacksalber jetzt scheinbar Stück für Stück an den Kragen, wie die Entscheidung von Frankreichs Regierung vor einigen Tagen schön zeigt und bei den Profiteuren dieser Menschenverarsche läuten natürlich die Alarmglocken. Deswegen wird fleißig mit den Methoden rechter Trolle und eben auch mit der Anwaltskeule auf jeden eingeprügelt, der das Weltbild von Homöopatisten in Frage stellt oder die Gewinne in Gefahr bringt, die mit falschen Versprechungen erlogen werden.

Es macht mich sehr traurig, dass meine Krankenkasse, die Techniker Krankenkasse, diesen Blödsinn finanziert. Ich würde am liebsten meinen Mitgliedsbeitrag um den prozentualen Anteil reduzieren, den die TK jährlich für Homöopathie und verbundene Dinge ausgibt, mit der passenden Begründung.

"Weaponised discomfort"

I don't often share TED Talks. I have only seen a few in recent years that weren't self-congratulatory or stating the obvious. This one is different.
Baratunde Thurston deconstructs headlines about incidents of racism to drive home a point about the way racist white people are weaponising the police against people of colour simply for existing.

Absolutely worth your time.

Tips for descending on gravel

This popped up in my YouTube feed earlier today and I found it quite useful. I'd add one tip of my own: gloves.

Whether it's descending on a hot day where your palms are already sweaty and you're sliding around on your drop bars or a hard ascent in the rain, having good and tight-fitting cycling gloves that wick away moisture and help you grip your bars confidently, is going to be useful.

I slipped off the drops and the hoods of my gravel bike more than once on a fast and tricky descent and it's luck that I didn't crash hard at times. Gloves made all the difference for me.

One important thing to look out for when buying gloves is that they don't have seams in places that will cause pressure spots or chafing when using drop bars. Many gloves are made with mountain biking and flat bars in mind. Try them on, hop on a drop bar bike, and get into the various positions you're riding in most frequently.

Bike re-build project, part 3

The bike is done and I‘m very happy with the way it turned out.

Part 1: intial thoughts and considerations
Part 2: ordering components, beginning assembly, a few discoveries

For comparison‘s sake, this is what the bike looked like as a CX/gravel bike, before I bought my Litespeed T5 Gravel frame set, and this is what it looks like now.

CX bike after a very muddy and fun ride

Finished CX bike to city bike conversion

I have to give a big „Thank you!“ to the folks at Fahrrad Heidemann for being so quick with fitting the DUB PressFit bottom bracket, shortening the brake hoses, and bleeding the brakes. These were three tasks that I wouldn‘t have been able to accomplish without buying a lot more equipment, which would‘ve increased the overall cost of the project. Not to mention the fact that I‘m not experienced in doing these things (yet).

The remaining build-up was pretty standard and enjoyable.

The Continental tyres were very cooperative and easy to fit with inner tubes. I also have to give it to Shimano with their Center Lock system: both disc brake rotors and the cassette were easily mounted and everything fits precisely.
Just like on my other bike, I applied Flectr 360 rim reflectors. I find them to be very effective, highly visible, and they look very good on the DT Swiss rims.
I‘ve had the fenders for quite some time but rarely used them while using the bike off road because they reduced the tyre clearance. They are a pair of SKS fenders that have been custom fitted by the fine folks at Fahrrad Heidemann in early 2018.

DT Swiss rim, Continental tyres, Flectr reflector

The cockpit setup was a bit fiddly, because the SRAM shifter and the Shimano XT brake levers aren‘t exactly meant to live next to each other and finding the right order, position, and angle took some time. I also found that while I enjoy using this Canyon MTB handlebar, it‘s wiiide, so wide in fact that I shortened it from 720 mm to 680 mm after a first test ride revealed that I felt too spread out and bent over.
I opted for Ergon MTB grips that sadly might be replaced with a different model because the ridges in the grips dig into my palms too much right now. I suspect that the grips are meant to be used with gloves but I‘m not going to do that with this bike.
There wasn‘t even a question which bike bell to use. I bought another Spurcycle Bell. These are very loud, sound great, are well made and robust, and user-servicable.

Front of the bicycle and the cockpit

The Spurcycle Bell in all its glory

Saddle setup was fine but I‘m not entirely sure this new Ergon SM Comp MTB saddle is all their advertising promises. We‘ll see. My butt has gotten so used to my Fabric Scoop Pro Shallow perch, maybe it just needs time to accept the Ergon and the more upright sitting position.

Ergon SM Comp saddle

My Abus Bordo lock now has a permanent spot on the seat tube of the bike and I hope that it‘s going to continue to offer enough protection when I have to leave the bike alone in places.
There are few bottle cages that fit a Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle properly (especially not Klean Kanteen‘s own offering) but the Iris King Cage seems to do the trick. The bottle sits in there securely even over rougher terrain and without rattling. There‘s a matter of the bottle being scratched up but personally, I don‘t mind.

Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus and Klean Kanteen Reflect in an Iris King Cage

Last but not least, I‘m very happy that the chainline worked out, using the full SRAM NX Eagle groupset on my CX bicycle frame set. I‘ve documented everything in detail in English here and in German here.
In short, SRAM dissuades customers from using their MTB groupsets on anything but MTBs, recommending their road bike- and gravel-specific components instead. Nowhere did I find any hint that with the right spacer rings everything would work out just fine.

Even the 32-tooth chainring up front, which I feared might be overkill combined with the 11–50-tooth cassette, was a good choice. In the 32+50 gearing it provides a ratio of 0.64 allowing me to almost effortlessly get up the hills we have here. Well now, that‘s a lie: pedaling uphill on an 18% incline is still a pain but much less so than with the lowest gear ratio of 0.9 on my gravel bike.

The bike has also already proven to fulfil its second purpose: being a shopping bike.
I did two weekly shopping trips with it already and even going up a hill and some short but steep inclines with a trailer filled with a week‘s worth of groceries and some beer was much less daunting/taxing/sweaty than expected.

All in all, this project seems to have been a success and I now have two really great and versatile bicycles at my disposal. I‘m particularly happy about this because I was also told in no uncertain terms by my partner that n+1 = s-1 = 2 in my case, so this is where it‘s at. 😉