Recently in fun Category

Extremely off-topic: cold-weather bike gear, part 3

January will mark my fourth anniversary as a year-round biker in Minneapolis, and since we have recently skipped from Halloween to mid-January, weather-wise, I'm reflecting on my wintry experiences, again.

After last year's polar vortex, I have a new record low riding temp: -16 °F/-26.7°C. It is just -tiring- to ride in that (though surprisingly, it doesn't require a whole lot of new gear.) So I took the light rail to work quite a bit last winter (I bought a house last fall, and my very short list of requirements included "less than 0.5 miles from a light rail station".)

Most of my observations from previous years stand. Wool is wonderful and I feel very very sorry for people who are allergic.

Ski goggles are still awesome, but over-the-glasses is still a pain in the patootie. At warmer cold temps, the heat from your skin fogs the glasses as soon as you stop moving. At colder cold temps, the fog freezes on your glasses lenses. Honestly, winter/bad-weather biking may be the thing that -finally- convinces me to get contacts.

Additional thoughts:


One in front and one behind is really not enough, and I see many folks with only one (front -or- rear) or no lights at all.

Really, really - people can't see bikes in the dark. They just can't - pedestrians, other bikers, -and- drivers. Even if you have reflectors, those only work when lights are being pointed at you. Active lighting matters.

I use a -lot- of stuff from Night Ize - mostly from REI, including the Spokelit:
I have SpokeLits in green, blue, and "Disc-o", on two different bikes. I also use their Helmet Marker, and lots of their small carabiner lights.

My headlight is a PlanetBike Blaze - and wow, they are on super-sale right now at REI, so if you're looking for one... I have had trouble mounting that on the handlebars of my hybrid that I use in the winter, but a little Sugru applied to the mounting rig fixed that right up for me.

My taillights are nothing to write home about; I think one is Planet Bike and one is something else.

I also really like the LightWeights stick-on reflectors - have applied them to some clothing that has been repeatedly laundered, and they're still stuck on tight. Also have some on various bags, and my helmet. My jacket has reflectors built in.

2. Waterproofing/snowpants

I still like the Novara Stratos pants I got a couple years back, but also frequently use a pair of old men's wool pants I bought at a thrift store instead of them. The wool breathes better, and keeps my regular pants about equally clean.

I waterproof leather stuff (boots and mittens, primarily) with Sno-Seal. Good stuff, cheap, really works, have used on hiking boots for years. Don't use on suede unless you want it to turn shiny.

3. Mitten liners

Finally wore big holes through the custom wool liners my friend Amy made for me a few years back; luckily my friend Jo is a professional knitter/felter who is whipping up a new pair for me as I write. Still a huge fan of my leather chopper mittens, just not the nasty liners they come with.

4. Boots

The camping/hunting toe-warmers are not as helpful at ultra-low temperatures as I thought they were the first year I tried them. I bought some insulated boots last year, and those helped some on the really cold days.

I cannot imagine that $350-winter-biking boots -really- keep feet warm in a way regular boots can't, but maybe someone who has money to burn can enlighten me on that subject.

I also can't imagine wearing -any- shoe with a bike cleat in the winter, or even toe cages. I use my feet for balance/speed control way more in the winter, cannot -imagine- wanting them attached to the bike.

5. Riding surfaces

You're actually better off when it's colder, because solidly frozen surfaces are pretty easy to ride on (with studded tires. Incidentally, I got three full winters of use out of that first set; I need to replace them, but I'm waiting for a big sale next month.)

Solidly frozen stuff does lend itself to skidding, even with studs, when you go around corners. And if you slam on your brakes hard, you tend to fishtail. It happens. There is a lot more slipping and sliding when riding in the winter, no matter what the surface - you just have to stay relaxed, don't let a little slip or bump scare you too much, and you'll be surprised how much you -don't- fall!  (Also, even if you fall on ice, which sounds kind of scary and hard, it is usually less rough than asphalt, and you're wearing more clothes, so less road rash than in warm-weather falls.)

Salt is NOT YOUR FRIEND. Yes, it's corrosive, but that's not really it. Salt creates soft patches. The softer a surface is, the harder it is to ride on, and the more you slide around. Worse, salt facilitates the creation of ruts, and if it freezes afterwards, ARGH.

Elevation changes that run parallel to your wheels (ruts, or the edges of where a plow went, or the edge of a patch of thick ice) are dangerous, especially when there are cars next to you. Ruts, etc, can make you move up to a whole foot sideways without your control; if people are driving too close to you, pull over to let them pass, you do NOT want to get stuck in a rutted area with cars close by.

Elevation changes that run -perpendicular- to your wheels are FUN. Well, no, not potholes and stuff. But ridges of snow leftover from plows, or berms at the edge of a sidewalk are actually great fun to ride over. If they're soft, they are also way easier to get through than a long skinny patch of soft snow parallel to the wheels.

6. Lube & cleaning

Last winter is the first time my -brakes- froze solid while riding. This was mostly from grit & stuff freezing in the cables of the pull. Blowing on them thawed them out enough for a momentary fix, but I started carrying super-thick winter bike lube in my bag for slightly longer fixes.

The winter beater I was riding last winter was just really bad on a lot of dimensions, but at one point, my freewheel gummed up completely. I was able to fix it by mostly taking apart the back wheel, and dripping a lot of lightweight oil through it for several days, but that was another contributor to the light-rail usage. It's possible the freewheel wouldn't have gotten so bad if I'd been more careful cleaning the bike. Weekly cleanings of the drivetrain (somewhere indoors with heat) is pretty essential in the winter.

In conclusion: winter riding is not for everyone. I am still not an evangelist. But if you think you might want to try it, you may find it as fun as I do!  (If you're a local, let me know, and we can go riding some time!)
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Joys of the Public Domain/Creative Commons - Aluminum!

For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I went out & found some neat-o public domain and open licensed pictures of aluminum, particularly related to its chemical/physical properties, and its use in food preparation!


Black and white photo of several aluminum pots and pans
Display of aluminum pots and pans.
Date probably is around 1910- 20. Troy photo.(Cornell University Library)

Printed catalog image of large array of aluminum pots and pans.jpg
Wear-Ever Aluminum cookware, from "Hardware merchandising August-October 1912"
(Internet Archive Book Images collection)

printed catalog image of multi-layer cooking pot with grill inserts
Round grill with aluminum pans, "Journal of Electricity", 1917.
(Internet Archive Book Images collection)

Refreshments on the ocean cruise to Broken Bay, South Steyne, December 1953
/ Australian Women's Weekly photograph. (State Library of New South Wales.)

single aluminum pot full of cooked bread leaning against a log
Spotted dog bread in the bush.
CC BY-NC-ND Camelia TWU.

aluminum solar oven with mushrooms cooking on aluminum foil
Solar Mushrooms.
CC BY antonio prud'hommmmme,

close image of jagged edges of aluminum ravioli press
ravioli press.
CC BY Robert S. Donovan

Large stacks of aluminum cookware in display outside of a shop
Aluminum containers.
CC BY-NC-SA Choo Yut Shing

Two men chopping tofu on wooden table and dropping small diced pieces into large aluminum bowls
Two Tibetan cooks diceing tofu...
CC BY Wonderlane


old black and white microscope image
old black and white microscope image
old black and white microscope image
"Some tests of light aluminium casting alloys--The effect of heat treatment .." 1919. (Internet Archive Book Images collection) (click individual pictures to reach originals.)

modern color micrographic image of aluminum structure showing fine wide layers of crystals
The grain structure of extruded aluminium.
CC BY-NC-SA CORE Materials/DoITPoMS, University of Cambridge.

modern color micrograph of aluminum showing semi-rounded crystals
As-cast wrought-grade aluminium alloy (Al-Mg-Fe-Si containing <1wt.% of each solute).
CC BY-NC-SA CORE Materials/DoITPoMS, University of Cambridge.

modern micrograph showing crystal structures
Channelling contrast TEM image of subgrains of extruded aluminium.
CC BY-NC-SA CORE Materials/DoITPoMS, University of Cambridge.

Modern micrograph showing cell structure of aluminum foam
Open-celled aluminium foam.
CC BY-NC-SA CORE Materials/DoITPoMS, University of Cambridge.

photo of aluminum metal in unworked form
Porous aluminium.
CC BY-NC-SA Taran Rampersad.

amorphous blob of metal in someone's hand
Aluminium frying pan - fried.
CC BY-NC Michael.
(Side note: notes suggest this is the result of ridiculous experimentation with thermite. Cool! Terrifying!)

metal bar bent to a curve sitting on a piece of paper indicating the measurements of the curve
Aluminium bend.
CC BY-NC-ND Barnshaws Metal Bending, Ltd.

close up on welded seam between a pipe and a rounded flat plate
Aluminum Weld.
CC BY-NC-SA Chris Yarzab.

These last two are just 'cuz I thought they were too cool to skip:

three women stand and crouch inside an airplane fuselage installing parts
Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17 bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant
, Long Beach, Calif. Circa 1939. Photog: Alfred T. Palmer.
(Library of Congress collection; transfer from Office of War Information.)

A woman poses in a scrapyard wearing jewelry made of scrap aluminum
Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company
, Long Beach, Calif. Oct, 1942. (Library of Congress collection; transfer from Office of War Information.)

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Joys of the Public Domain: Beating Summer Heat

It's not terribly hot (or sunny at all) here today, but I found an old photo of my brother and I having a water fight recently, so I've been thinking about ways people stay cool in summer!
(Edited to fix links; clicking on any picture should now take you to the full size version of record!)

In (or near) fountains:

toddler wearing bikini in park fountain
Little swimmer. Photo: Gerald R. Massie. Ca. 1955. Missouri State Archives.

A young woman and two children sit with their feet in a park fountain while the woman dips a baby in the water
Cooling Off In One Of The Fountains Around The Philadelphia Museum Of Art, August 1973. Photo: Dick Swanson for Project DOCUMERICA. US National Archives.

a young man in a suit jacket runs his head under a drinking fountain in a park with two grinning friends looking on
Cooling his head - N.Y. on hot day. Photog unknown; Bain News Service. ca 1910-1915. Library of Congress.

young man in denim shirt and trousers sitting beside a fountain with a large transistor radio on the ground next to him and a headphone in one ear
At the Tyler Davidson Fountain, in Fountain Square Downtown Cincinnati's Popular Public Plaza, a Young Man Listens to the Radio with One Ear, Play of the Water with the Other 08/1973. Photo: Tom Hubbard for Project DOCUMERICA. US National Archives.

With ice:

old silver-tone print showing crowd of children and teens surrounding a wooden cart with a large thick box full of ice on top
Halfpenny Ices. From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith. LSE Library.

crowd of men and boys before a storefront watch a vendor chipping ice from a large block
Scraped Ice Seller on Hot Day. Photog unknown; Bain News Service. ca. 1910-1915. Library of Congress.

several boys bend at the waist to lick large blocks of ice in the street before a storefront
Licking Blocks of Ice on Hot Day. Photog unknown; Bain News Service. ca. 1910-1915. Library of Congress.

several women sitting outdoors smile for the camera as they hold palm-size chunks of ice to their mouths
Cooling down with an ice block under summer skies in New Zealand. George Silk. June, 1942. Collection of the Australian War Memorial.

And with lots of other water sources:

two young girls with their dresses tucked up wade in a deep pond to reach a toy sailboat
Two young girls reaching for a toy sailboat, Seattle, Washington. Vern C. Gorst. ca. 1929-1932. University of Washington Libraries. Digital Collections .

three young girls in white dresses under large trees that are flooded with water.  One of the girls sits on a swing while another pushes her over the water
Blue gums. Photog unknown. Ca. 1900. Powerhouse Museum Collection.

Several children  stand atop a concrete play structure while others below splash them with water
Public Playground on the Charles River, near Soldiers Field Road 06/1973. Ernst Halberstadt for Project DOCUMERICA. US National Archives.

a toddler in crisp white dress holds a running hose in a  garden
Toddler playing with a hose in a garden. Fassifern, Queensland, Australia. Ca. 1912. Photog unknown; State Library of Queensland.

young woman wearing large sunglasses and rolled up pants sits atop a metal culvert dipping her feet in the river running through it
Leakey Resident Cooling Her Feet in the Rio Frio, 07/1972. Marc St. Gil for Project DOCUMERICA. US National Archives.

And my favorite, just for how much fun they're having:

two girls in shorts and shirts carry two other girls piggyback as they all smile in front of a fire hydrant flooding the street
Youngsters Cool Off With Fire Hydrant Water On Chicago's South Side In The Woodlawn Community, 06/1973. John H. White for Project DOCUMERICA. US National Archives.

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How does copyright make you feel?

I recorded this like two years ago, and then forgot I made it. Very smart of me.

In this short video I explore one source of a lot of copyright conflicts between individuals - what each of the individuals feels about the works they create.

I sincerely apologize for the lack of a transcript. I have no idea where the original files are, or even if I had a script I was working on. Will try to transcribe soon.

"How do you feel?" video CC BY-NC 3.0, Nancy Sims.

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Spring Flowers! (JoPD/CC)

I haven't done a Joys of the Public Domain/Creative Commons post in a while! Today, some fleurs.

Cherry blossoms are kinda the archetypical spring flower.

black and white photo of Japanese men and women in front of a temple gate with cherry trees overhead
The Sheba Temple (likely what's now known as Zōjō-ji), by Herbert Ponting, c. 1907. The National Archives UK

hand-tinted photo of a park in Washington DC, view of the back of a man seated on a park bench, painting
Artist painting cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin. E.B. Thompson collection, DC Public Library.

Much earlier in the spring (at least in my part of the world) there are pussywillows and forsythia

Bright yellow forsythia against dark out-of-focus background
Untitled image CC by-nc-nd yamaken

small felt dolls with pussywillow and forsythia branches embroidered on their clothes
Pussywillow and Forsythia Jan10 CC by-nc-nd Alkelda

And you really know things are warming up when the bulbs start appearing!

Lily of the valley
lily of the valley plant: white bell-shaped flowers with broad flat green leaves
lily of the valley CC by liz west

blueflowers CC by Nancy Sims

Snowdrop or spring snowflake:
snowdrop or spring snowflake - white flower with small greenish-yellow spots around rim of bell.
Close-up view of flowers at Maclay Gardens State Park: Tallahassee, Florida. State Library and Archives of Florida.

Irises (and foxglove?):
hand-tinted photo of well groomed garden with small pond, sweep of lawn, and a large number of purple and yellow irises, and purple foxglove
Sunnie-Holme. Smithsonian Institution

Diary: 22nd of March 2011 CC by-nc-nd Paul Morris

And last but certainly not least, the gorgeous tulips of the University of Minnesota's own Minnesota Landscape Arboretum!
foreground is the stems and flower heads of well-open yellow tulips, in background there are less clear dark red-purple tulips
Technicolor Tulips CC by-nd Rhonda Fleming Hayes

Happy Spring!

(I know, I know, it's already getting on toward summer. But it was snowing three weeks ago...)

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I'm Nancy Sims, the Copyright Program Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

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