Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Gym in the Snow

I took a walk down to Tommy Davis park and was surprised to see stations of industrial-strength exercise equipment on the path surrounding the park.  Here is the elliptical trainer.

I hopped on and gave it a try, but then felt so silly that I hopped off again.

The Great Bicycle Build Part 3

Yesterday my younger son and I put all the spokes on the front and back wheels, 32 spokes on each wheel.  The technical term for this process is "lacing the spokes."

Here is the beginning of the process for the back wheel.  My son laced the first 16 spokes (eight spokes on each side of the hub) to get things off on the right foot.  Then we set the wheel in the truing stand for ease of construction with the remaining spokes.  Note the elegant symmetry.  I was reminded of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man sketch. 

Our goal was a 3-cross spoke pattern.  The pattern is beautiful and has the advantage of increased strength from the crossed spokes, which reinforce each other.  I immediately set to the work and laced up a 0-cross pattern, which I was proud of until politely informed that I had gone astray.  All of the spokes I added had to be unlaced.  Such are the pitfalls that await the novice bike builder. 

Finally,  my son and I got all of the spokes where they belonged for the 3-cross pattern.

The spokes haven't been tightened fully, so they are still a bit wiggly.  The spoke tensioning and wheel truing (straightening) process comes next.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Great Bicycle Build Part 2

My younger son and I are tearing down a perfectly good Lemond Zurich bicycle with derailleur and totally rebuilding it as a 3-speed.  I was fond of my old Raleigh 3-speed decades ago, and I suppose that I want to relive my youth.

We are building wheels this Thanksgiving break.  The back wheel will incorporate a Nexus 3-speed hub.  Holding this weighty little hub in the palm of your hand makes you feel like an a real mechanic.  (Real mechanics among my readership may be forgiven if they scoff at my presumption.)

Here is the hub.

Here is the Lemond Zurich before radical surgery.  My living room makes a good bike shop.

After surgery:

 New parts will be added over the coming weeks.

My son is instructing me in the fine points of bicycle mechanic work.  His instruction usually takes the form of presenting me with a task to undertake or a problem to be overcome.  Then, when I consider what needs to be done and am dismayed that some specialized tool appears to be required and consequently am discouraged because I lack this specialized tool, my son will disappear into the garage and return with the tool.  For example, when one wants to break a chain for easy removal, here is the tool (the L-shaped part at the left, that is) needed to push out the rivet that holds chain links together.

Here is the tool needed to remove the crank.  There is no graceful way to remove the crank without this handy tool with its interior and exterior threads.

Despite my usual inhibitions about mechanical things, I am enjoying learning new techniques and tools for bicycle building.

[This is my first blog post after upgrading my 13 year-old Pentium computer to a nifty little Mac mini.  Nobody can accuse me of being an early adopter.]


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ashley Sterne Drummed In

This moderately droll burlesque was republished in The Australian (7 November 1917).

Drummed In

Practically the whole battalion was drawn up on the barrack-square. The only absentees were the sentry, who was engaged in his charitable task of presenting alms at the gate, the guard, who was examining tickets, and the quartermaster, who was swarming up the quarter-mast in order to troop the colours. Even the regimental mascot, Alphonse, the ant-eater, was there, held in leash by two stalwart mascoteers, who alternately fed it with ants to keep it quiet and prevent it from biting the battalion.

Facing the serried ranks of bright, clean faces, with the Adjutant at his side holding the prompt-book, stood the Colonel — a stern, fearless soldier, upon whose breast gleamed the ribbons of the Waterloo Cup, Doggett's Coat and Badge, and the Total Abstinence Pledge. He was obviously distraught, for it might have been observed that he was nervously twiddling the Adjutant's moustache in mistake for his own.

And little wonder he was dispossessed, for it was his duty that day to degrade Captain Carstairs Cathcart Cathcart-Carstairs, the idol of his company, the hero even of his batsman, the most popular figure in the officers' mess, before the whole battalion; to deprive him of the insignia of his rank; to break his sword across his knee and dismiss him from the Service. In short, Captain Carstairs Cathcart Cathcart-Carstairs was to be "drummed out."

And what, you ask, had he done to merit this cruel degradation? Ah, gentle and constant reader (who, I trust, have manifested that constancy by placing a standing order with your newsagent), living in happy ignorance of military procedure, scarcely will you understand the enormity of Captain Carstairs Cathc— — you know whom I mean; I won't swot through it all again — 's offence. Briefly, some days before this incident opens, he had had the temerity to call "six no trumps" over his partner, the Colonel, who, holding the whole thirteen hearts in his hand, had called seven of that suit. The consequences were all too obvious. Captain Carst— — . etc., was at once placed in open arrest; a courtmartial assembled in due course, and sentence was promulgated as already mentioned. The climax was reached this day when, as I have previously explained, the whole battalion was stood up in rows upon the barrack- square, waiting for the revels to commence.

"All present, sir, except the absentees," said the Sergeant-Major, coming briskly to attention and bringing the right hand smartly, with a circular motion, to the head, palm to the front, fingers extended and close together point of the forefinger in f—— (In fact, see Infantry Training. — Ed.)

"The absentees are absent, I suppose?" queried the Colonel, showing that profound knowledge of battalion drill for which all Colonels are justly celebrated.

"At present they're absent, sir," replied the. Sergeant-Major, coming briskly to attention and bringing the right hand smartly, with a circular motion, to the head, palm to the — — (Quite so. We know all that. Get on. — Ed.)

"Then bring in Captain Cathbert Staircase," said the Colonel, who, partly through emotion and partly through the influence of the gin-and-bitters he had taken to steady his nerves, had muddled his words.

A hushed hush pervaded the barrack-square. The chattering in the ranks stopped as if by magic. Even the N.C.O.'s threw away their unfinished cigarettes .and craned their necks in the direction from which Captain Cathcart-Carstairs was expected. Presently he came, manacled and fettered, clanking like a home-made railway engine. Advancing with his burden of ironmongery to the centre of the square, he halted, placed his heels together and in line, feet turned out at an angle of about 45 degrees, knees straight, body erect, and carried evenly over the thighs, with the shoulders — — (In other words he "shunned." —Ed. "L.O.")

Over the scene that followed it were best to draw a veil. Suffice it to say that the hushed hushness remained silent, but for the tink, tink of the buttons and badges as they fell at regular intervals, under the rapidly moving scissors plied by the regimental barber, and the sharp metallic clang that came when the Colonel deftly snapped the captain's sword in two at the spot where it had been neatly sawn almost through (to avoid all risks) earlier in the day.

Then at last was borne on the air the bump-bump-bumpety-bump of the drums, as the Drum-Major gave the signal for the drums to make the noise I said. With downcast head and hands forced tightly into the small of his back (for, in his misguided zeal, the barber had snipped off all the brace buttons), Captain Carstairs Cathcart Cathcart-Carstairs slowly staggered across the barrack-square.

"Brace those knees!" shouted the Sergeant-Major as the forlorn, drooping figure passed him.

"Swing those arms!" bawled the Physical Drill Instructor as the stooping, shrunken form went by.

" 'Old that blinkin' 'ead up!" yelled the Sergeant-Major of the ex-Captain's own company, as with broken, faltering footsteps the unhappy man stumbled along. Only the mascot, Alphonse, the ant-eater, showed any signs of pity for the degraded officer. As he passed it extended a long, curly, sticky tongue and in token of mute sympathy deposited a partially-masticated ant on his knuckles. Then from the street beyond the barrack walls came the shrill cry of a newsboy — "Heligo land declares war on the Isle of Wight." (Another large instalment will appear in a few minutes when I've thought out how to go on.)


"Name?" said the Recruiting Sergeant.

"Cathcart Carstairs Carstairs-Cathcart," replied the smart, soldierly-looking man.

"Don't make that nasty clicking noise in here," snapped the Sergeant.

"That's my name," explained ex-Captain Carstairs Cathcart Cathcart-Carstairs (for it was he), blushing to think of the hideous deception he was practising in thus giving a false name.

"Sounds more like an attack of hiccups," remarked the Sergeant, with that pungent wit that is invariably associated with the possession of the third stripe. "Age?"


"Trade or profession?"

"Dutch cheese stainer," replied the other, wincing as he uttered this second falsehood.

Then for an hour he stood idly by while the Sergeant painstakingly and laboriously filled in Army Forms Q1973 and X4509 in quadruplicate, just as if there wasn't any war on. At length he finished, and dabbed the papers with a piece of Army blotting-paper, which immediately rendered them totally illegible.

"You will report at once," he said, "at Crippleton Barracks. The 14th Umpshires need one man to fill up a hole in the draft that leaves for the Front next week."

A grim smile stole over the ex-Captain's features. The 14th Umpshires was his old regiment! But little did he fear detection. His hair had turned piebald on the night of the day he had been drummed out, and in the mean time he had shaved off his moustache and eyebrows. It. would have needed a sharp man indeed to recognise in the new recruit who later that same day reported at Crippleton Barracks the one-time popular officer commanding "Z" Company.


(Owing to the paper shortage I regret to say that this section has had to be omitted. Briefly, it deals with C.C.'s heroic rescue of Anzora, the Colonel's daughter, from being gored to death by Alphonse, the ant-eater, who went suddenly mad from hunger in consequence of the ant shortage. A delightfully romantic attachment between the two — Anzora and C.C. I mean, not Anzora and Alphonse — kindly sprang up, in order to make the plot more interesting.)


The shell burst within a yard of the Colonel. Simultaneously a hand shot out of the dense smoke, while the Colonel staggered, turned round three times, took away the number he first thought of, and would have fallen heavily to the ground had not a strong arm encircled and caught him ere he collapsed. A faint odour of gin-and-bitters made him rally sufficiently to take the bottle that his supporter held to his lips, and drain the contents.

"What has happened?" he gasped, faintly, looking up gratefully at his rescuer.

"Regardless of your rank a shrapnel shell had the impertinence to burst within a yard of you, sir," was the reply.

"Then I am wounded," said the Colonel, peevishly. "See that my photograph is sent at once to the 'Daily M—"

"You are unhurt, sir," interposed the other. "I — I — caught the bullets in my hand."

As he spoke he placed about a stone of neat lead in the Colonel's lap. A great wave of emotion spread over the latter's face as he realised the man's devotion. A tear stood in his eye. Then it lay down and meandered all over his cheek.

"I owe you my life," he said, huskily. "What is your name?"

"Corporal Cathcart Carstairs Carstairs-Cathcart!"

A dim flicker of recognition dimly flickered over the Colonel's dim-flickering organs.

"The noise you made sounds somewhat familiar to me," he observed, scrutinising the other closely, "I once had a captain —"

"I am ex-Captain Carstairs Cathcart Cathcart-Carstairs!"


For the space of a minute the two gazed at each other. Then they got sick of it and gazed elsewhere.

"Corporal Broadstairs Cardcase," said the Colonel, at length, "you have saved my life. Just how valuable that life is to the Army I may not tell you. It's a Military Secret. In return for that inestimable service to your country I shall at once recommend that you be reinstated in your former rank. Hand me Army Pencil Mark IV."

From his pocket the Colonel drew a bundle of Army Forms, mostly those for claiming allowances, the monthly filling up of which is the thoroughly efficient officer's first and most important duty. Eventually he found, the one he required — A.F.B. (x2 x y2)/(2xy). He filled it in.

* * *

A week later a brand-new three-star officer turned in the direction of Oxford Street and caught sight of a familiar female figure approaching. It was carrying a sack of coal in one hand and a pound of sugar in the other. The officer's heart beat quickly. Rapidly they drew into alignment. In another moment the air was thick with Derby Brights and Demerara, and two arms encircled the officer's neck. In accordance with A.C.I. 9097 of 1916 which prohibits officers from being embraced in public, he cut away her arms smartly to the side.

"Carstairs!" she whispered, the love-light shining in her eyes.

"Zenoh — I mean Anzora!" he rewhispered, the same mixture gleaming in his own.

And as they both guessed right, I really don't see that any purpose will be served by my unduly prolonging the record of these events. — (By Ashley Sterne in "London Opinion.")

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Great Bicycle Build Part 1

My younger son is teaching me how to build a bicycle.  We are starting with the front wheel.  The kitchen table makes a handy workbench.

The spoke slips through a hole in the hub and is held by a hook at its end.  It matters whether the face of the hook is on the interior or the exterior of the hub.  We used a front wheel from another bicycle as our guide.

My son told me that the emblem on the hub needs to face the label on the rim.  Otherwise, professional wheel builders will snicker at you.

It's tricky (for me, that is, not for my son) to tell which particular hole in the hub corresponds to where the spoke is attached to the rim.  I made a few false starts.

The spoke is fixed to the rim by a little aluminum nipple that is slipped through a hole in the rim and then screwed onto the spoke's threaded end.  In other words, the spoke, with its last few threads lightly lubricated with green bicycle grease, plays the part of a bolt and the nipple is the nut. 

Seeing the tiny threads on the end of the spoke (undetectable in the fuzzy photo below) tested the limits of my bifocals.