July 15, 2010
Meeting Rooms

There is reason that most construction in office buildings is done at night, when office workers are not around. It has nothing to do with noise or cleanliness. It has to do with doorways to meeting rooms.

In the doorways of most company meeting rooms are coils of copper wire, wrapped in wool yarn, installed via a simple ritual involving a small amount of blood and dried avian bones. Workers walk through these coils as they pass into the meeting room. As they walk through the doorway, the coils absorb a small amount of their lifeforce, their third eye chakra to be exact.

Early attempts at energy collection were met with large scale side effects due to over harvesting, resulting in a depleted and uncreative workforce. This side effect, first seen in the Great Depression of the United States, were only resolved by the use of far stronger magic in World War II by the Allied and Axis powers. Modern collection techniques are subtle enough to allow sufficient individual restoration of energy over time, but with frequently harvested meeting goers, the effect on health and thought can be debilitating.

Modern chakra lifeforce removal systems route collected energy to the nearest living entity, most commonly a plant where it is stored for removal later. There is no sane reason that plants should be living in office buildings, yet they are found on every floor of every building. Gardeners visit the plants weekly and appear to be dusting off the leaves. In actuality the beeswax coated dusting cloths remove the energy from the plants, and the used cloths deposited into metal cans with concealed Leyden Jars as collection points.

The purpose of all this lifeforce energy collection is enable the performance of the Scalzi-Hunter Ritual of Success, first developed by Professors Scalzi and Hunter of Miskatonic University in 1925. Rite requires huge amounts energy to perform correctly, but does allow for the somewhat accurate prediction of the answer to a specific question spoken aloud at the height of the Ritual.

Corporate performers of the Scalzi-Hunter Ritual of Success typically ask specific questions about the marketplace or products. There is some risk involved, as that the Rite has been empirically found to give the correct answer only ~90% of the time. For many purposes this is an acceptable risk, but in obvious cases such as the Edsel, New Coke, and the Second Gulf War, the failures are spectacular in nature.

The only known countermeasure to the collection system is known as the Sculpin Defense in which a knowing person can take advantage of the direct sunlight to replenish their energy reserves directly. To avoid this possibility, many meeting rooms are designed without windows or with blinds to limit the amount of natural light entering the room.

Posted by michael at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)
July 11, 2010
2010 Tour de France Teams & Sponsors

Last year, I posted a list of teams in the Tour de France and their sponsors. Again, as we watch, we wonder about some of the sponsors. Here's the list of cycling teams and their sponsors.

2010 Tour de France Teams & Sponsors

AG2R-LaMondiale- French team sponsored by Ag2r Group, a French retirement fund, and LaMondiale, a French insurance firm

Astana - Kazak team, sponsored by the Astana Group, a group of Astana government run companies

Bbox Bouygues Télécom - French team, sponsored by Bouygues Télécom, a French mobile phone company

BMC - American team, sponsored by BMC, a Swiss bicycle maker

Caisse d'Epargne - Spanish team, sponsored by Caisse d'Epargne, a French bank

Cervélo Test Team - Swiss Team, sponsored by Cervélo, a Canadian maker of bicycle frames

Cofidis - French team, sponsored by Cofidis, a French consumer lending company

Euskaltel-Euskadi - Basque Spanish team, sponsored by Euskaltel, a Basque telecom company

Footon-Servetto-Fuji - Spanish team, sponsored by Footon, a shoe insole maker, Servetto, a maker of wardrobe lifts, and Fuji, an American bicycle maker

Française des Jeux - French team, sponsored by Française des Jeux, the French National Lottery

HTC-Columbia - American team, sponsored by Columbia Sportswear, an American maker of sportwear, and HTC, a Taiwanese maker of mobile phones

Garmin-Transitions - American team, sponsored by Garmin, an American maker of global positioning devices and Transitions, an American maker of glasses

Lampre - Italian team, sponsored by Lampre Group, an Italian maker of pre-coated steel

Liquigas - Italian team, sponsored by Liquigas, an Italian provider of liquified gas products

Quick Step - Belgian team, sponsored by Quick Step, a maker of laminate flooring

Rabobank - Dutch team, sponsored by Rabobank, a Dutch bank

Radio Shack - American team, sponsored by Radio Shack, and American electronics retailer

Silence-Lotto - Belgian team, sponsored by Lotto, the Dutch National Lottery, and Omega Pharma, a Belgian pharmaceutical company

Team Katusha - Russian team, sponsored by Russian Global Cycling Project, a foundation funded by Gazprom,
Itera and Rostechnologii

Team Milram - German team, sponsored by Milram, a German maker of cheese and dairy products

Team Saxo Bank - Danish team, sponsored by Saxo Bank, a Danish investment bank

Team Sky - British team, sponsored by Sky, a British television and media company

Missing from last year: Agritubel, Skil-Shimano
New this year: BMC, Footon-Servetto-Fuji, Radio Shack, Sky

Posted by michael at 12:17 PM | Comments (1)
July 05, 2010
Aircaddy for Bike Travel

Back in March, I used an Aircaddy to take my road bike with me to Austin for SxSW. I've been meaning to write it up for a while.

The Aircaddy is a reusable box for shipping bikes in, suitable for taking along on plane rides. When you order it, it comes all folded up and you need to put it together. It's not hard, but it takes a little time to do everything. I didn't get any pictures of me putting the box together, just of repacking it in my hotel room

I had no trouble checking it in at the airport with Southwest. Southwest charges $50 for the bike on each flight. Not too bad for moving such a big box. I ordered the optional wheels and it was of huge benefit. The wheels made it easy to carry both my luggage and the bike through the airport.

This is the box. A large triangular cardboard box. To prepare the bike, you remove the front wheel, the seat post/saddle, and loosen the handlebars.

On the bottom of the box, it the mounting plate for the front fork.

You need to be sure to mark your seat post and your handlebars. Not removing the handlebars or loosening the steerer tube makes this much better than other methods. You don't even have to remove your pedals.

The front fork locks into the mount on the bottom of the box. This is the primary anchor for the bike. The design is good and it worked well.

Here you can see where the seat post is removed. There are two cardboard wedges that go on each side of the rear wheel. There are straps that tie the rear wheel and frame to the box to keep everything stable.

Here you can see the entire bike in the box. The road bike fits perfect. If I was using a mountain bike, I would have to have removed the handlebars, but for roadies, it's simplicity.

There's plenty of room for the front wheel and even bags of your cycling gear. I put a bunch of stuff in bags and hung them off the frame to lighten the rest of the load of my luggage.

Here's a shot of the wheels. Again, I highly recommend them. They made moving the box in and out of the airport and hotel easy.

The only drawback is needing a hatchback or SUV to carry the Aircaddy in. It fit easily into my Prius and the rental RAV4 I used in Austin.

Needless to say, I had an overwhelmingly positive experience with Aircaddy. I recommend using one if you want to take your bike on a plane flight. The more traditional bike cases are smaller, but you still pay the same to fly with them and have to do a lot more assembly/disassembly. The Aircaddy is reusable and at under $200 for the box & wheelset, it a good deal compared to some of the hard bike cases out there.

The guys that run Aircaddy also run Lickbike.com and were super helpful on the order and making sure I knew what to do.

Posted by michael at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)
Cruft Labs: Starbucks Via Iced Coffee

In the lobby at work, there is a Starbucks that I walk by multiple times a day. Last week I saw the sky blue color of the new instant iced coffee that they are hawking and decided to take a look. Long time Cruft readers know I like a good iced coffee, usually the Japanese style, canned iced coffee.

At least it's not an iced tea mix. I'm starting to believe that people who drink restaurant iced tea simply have given up on tasty beverages. I understand a good southern style sweet tea, but the tannin rich, bland crap they server most places is horrid made worse by dumping Sweet 'n Low into it creating some sort of chemical festival of inorganic compounds. Heaven forbid they get the raspberry or passionfruit 'flavored' iced tea than smells like someone poured the crappy iced tea through a bowl of potpourri that's been sitting on grandma's coffee table for a few years. Yet, time after time, I go to lunch with folks and they order iced teas. They never never smile about it. They kinda look they they just ordered some cod liver oil or other foul medicine.

But I digress. Back to instant iced coffee. What the heck, it's summer, I'll give it a try.

The coffee comes in a little package to mix with 16 ounces of water. I got out a trusty pint glass and prepared for some iced coffee after my bike ride this afternoon.

The package describes the mix as "instant & microground coffee with sugar" which is exactly what it looks like in a ramekin. In fact, those are the only ingredients. Nothing but coffee and sugar. Tasting the powder, you can feel the 'microground' coffee as it has a little grit that doesn't melt away.

I tossed the mix into cold water and stirred for about 30 seconds. Most everything dissolved. I expect that the undissolved bits are the actually grounds of coffee. I tossed in a few ice cubes and gave it a sip. Not bad. Not to strong or bitter. Actually it was much better than the iced coffee you get if you order it from a barista at Starbucks. The brewed coffee there is always to much of a dark roast for my taste and bitter.

There's 100 calories in a packet, so it's actually not that bad compared to a can of soda or any of the other mocha-frappa-latte type drinks at Starbucks. At a little over a buck a packet ($1.25 per packet) it's cheaper than most of the other drinks these days.

Overall, I think it's a good thing, better than the regular Via instant coffee. Go forth and feel free to keep a couple in your desk for those times when you need a quick pick me up but don't have time for a proper coffee.

Posted by michael at 03:08 PM | Comments (3)