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May 23, 2005

Big Biker Daddy

A week ago our family went for our first bike ride together: the Tour de Montclair (in Montclair, New Jersey). My wife, who is starting to ride again after a long hiatus, rode her nice new bike. Our one year old son rode in his Topeak Babysitter seat, which is mounted on a rack on the back of my own bike. The ride went very well and the little guy actually fell asleep halfway along. Encouraged by this success we went out again this past weekend on a family ride to a nearby park. We were bringing lunch and various baby necessities. My wife had initially packed these into her backpack but I was a little concerned about the weight on her back throwing off her balance and reducing her overall comfort in the saddle so I transferred the cargo to my own messenger bag. All told I was now hauling an extra forty or fifty pounds on my bike, and this was not as much of a problem as I expected, but the messenger bag was most decidedly not the way to go about it.

I couldn't wear the bag on my back because then it was in my son's face. I tried it on my side but this made balancing much too hard when added to the changed handling characteristics of my loaded bike. The only choice was to wear the bag in front. Now picture this: the messenger bag hangs from a shoulder strap worn around my neck and one arm. I usually carry it hip-high. This strap length caused it to rest on my top tube, teetering left and right. When I attempted to pedal normally my knees would knock the bag from side to side, so I was forced to ride bowlegged to avoid these wobbles. Shortening the strap brought the bag to my chest where it interfered with my arms, an even worse problem. I eventually found a strap position which allowed normal use of my arms and only some bowleggedness, but I couldn't see the pedals. And by the end of the ride I realized just how much the bag had increased my weight on the saddle and the handlebars.

Our outing was fun despite these impediments and we had a good time at the park but I resolved never again to carry things this way. The very next day I went out to a nearby bike store and bought a carrying bag designed to fit on the back of the baby seat, which at least will get the weight off of my body and out of the way (although if I overload it I'll probably be popping wheelies). The bag, made by Topeak, is called the "Ma-Ma-San" bag, and this brings me to the crux of this post: the name Ma-Ma-San is silkscreened on the back of this black bag in striking red letters and for some reason I find this an embarrassing prospect. It's not the most masculine or even paternal badge to wear. My immediate impulse was along the lines of "no problem, I'll just embroider something more macho over it, or on a patch over it." Fortunately I quickly realized the incongruity of this idea. After all, nothing says "manly" like sewing a new logo onto the back of your diaper bag. And what message to add anyway? How do you folks like "Seamster?"

No, I really don't think there's anything inherently unmanly about needle crafts and I'd actually like to learn more about sewing. I modified my son's store-bought Halloween costume last year to make it fit and a needle and thread were involved. I'm just amused that I'm not embarrassed by the prospect of embroidery but I am by the prospect of riding around with a "Ma-Ma-San" sign.

May 21, 2005


A series of evening squalls have taken the pollen out of the air.

On the way home from dinner at a local restaurant we spotted a spectacular rainbow, visible along its entire arc once we found a good vantage point. There was a second, containing bow as well, its spectra ordered opposite to its companion. The brighter inner rainbow had a property I don't remember ever noticing before: at its inner limit (after violet) there were two additional spectra, closely packed and dominated by their own violet components, as if the rainbow has two small children clutching at its hems*.

This was the first rainbow our son has seen. I stopped the car, took him out of his seat, and pointed out the spectacle. I can't say for certain that he spotted the rainbow but he raised his hand alongside mine and pointed with me. He's only one, and everything is new.

As I started writing this the birds in the trees around our home were going bonkers, a sunset ritual this past week. They're calming down again now but I still hear one or two of them wooing for all he's worth.

* Addendum: I've done some research. Read on:

I pulled out my prized copy of Atomospheric Phenomena (W.H. Freeman and Company, 1980), a collection of Scientific American articles from 1949–1980. Chapter 7, "The Theory of the Rainbow," was written by H. Moysés Nussenzveig and originally published in April 1977. It describes the apparaition of the rainbow as follows:

The single bright arc seen after a rain shower or in the spray of a waterfall is the primary rainbow. Certainly its most conspicuous feature is its splash of colors. These vary a good deal in brightness and distinctness, but they always follow the same sequence: violet is innermost, blending gradually with various shades of blue, green, yellow and orange, with red outermost.

Other features of the rainbow are fainter and indeed are not always present. Higher in the sky than the primary bow is the secondary one, in which the colors appear in reverse order, with red innermost and violet outermost. Careful observation reveals that the region between the two bows is considerably darker than the surrounding sky. Even when the secondary bow is not discernable, the primary bow can be seen to have a "lighted side" and a "dark side." The dark region has been given the name Alexander's dark band, after the Greek philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias, who first described it in about A.D. 200.

Another feature that is only sometimes seen is a series of faint bands, usually pink and green alternately, on the inner side of the primary bow. (Even more rarely they may appear on the outer side of the secondary bow.) These "supernumerary arcs" are usually seen most clearly near the top of the bow. They are anything but conspicuous, but they have had a major influence on the development of theories of the rainbow.

[emphasis mine]

I love the name "supernumerary arcs," even if it is perhaps a little unromantic. "Alexander's dark band" is a great name too. I'm happy to have seen the former (and probably the latter as well, although I can't claim to have noticed it).

2nd Addendum: supernumerary arcs can be seen here. I found that link at the Wikipedia, which, no surprise, has excellent information on rainbows, with bibliographics references to the usual suspects: Minnaert, Greener, Livingston, and Lynch, the last of whom wrote the preface to the volume I referred to above.

What Kind of Message Is That?

Seen on a church sign in Bloomfield, New Jersey:

Trust in God
Lock your car

May 02, 2005


My much beloved nine year old computer monitor bit the dust Friday evening, instantly inspiring me to wonder "how am I supposed to shop for a new monitor now?" How the internet has changed us all.