*  Big Electronic Human Energized Machine, Only Too Heavy

I was wandering around the yard with the dogs this morning, messing around with my phone: taking some pix, catching a Pokémon or 2, texting my dóttir, when I had a sudden contrast-and-compare flashback. I’m taking a few devices with me on the big bike ride, primarily for convenience’s sake, but if I wanted to go minimal, I could manage with one gadget – that selfsame phone. It’s got 2 ways to connect to the internet, GPS, 2 cameras that will do stills and video, a bucket of storage, etc., etc. The flash I had in the yard took me back to a bike project from Olden Tymes: Steven K. Roberts’ Winnebiko, Winnebiko II and BEHEMOTH. All three were (successful) attempts to stay connected while pedaling around in the 1980s. My guess is that I first encountered Mr. Roberts’ project in the pages of Whole Earth Review, a publication that bridged what I’ve come to think of as the paper hippie internet, The Whole Earth Catalog, and the the real capital I Internet. The ’80’s were full of transitional critters – the WER in print and Compuserve. GEnie, AOL, and bulletin board systems in the on-line world (for those of us – the vast majority – who did not have access to the Internet). Steven’s technomadic hallucigenia bikes fit perfectly into the Cambrian-explosion 1980’s networking stew.

via here

Unsurprisingly, the connected bike idea was catnip to yours truly and I kept an eye on the projects as best I could. It really was a different world – doing a search and pulling up all the info I would need for a post like this, let alone the ability to blog as I’m doing now, were years down the pike.

So we come to BEHEMOTH. a second system effect instantiated in a 3rd system.  Five hundred and eighty pounds, three laptops, a heads-up display and handlebar mounted keypad. I suddenly feel a lot better about the size and weight of Molly Fin plus Lotte, fishing rods, cameras, kite, and other toys.

via here

It’s now on display at the Computer History Museum.

As far as I can tell, BEHEMOTH didn’t cover a ton of miles – just too big and heavy. Then the Internet and cell phone things happened and I can hold all that capability and more in the palm of my hand. For now, anyway *wry grin*.

Deli bal

I was sure I’d posted on this topic before, but a search is yielding no joy, so here goes nuthin’.  I first ran across ‘mad honey;’, aka deli bal in Turkey, while reading about Apis dorsata laboriosa – the Himalayan giant honeybee. A few years ago Andrew Newey’s photographs of Gurung honey hunters were everywhere on the internet.

Below is a video from NatGeo of folks from a different group, the Kulung, harvesting honey. I especially like this for two reasons: it’s a 360 degree shot and it breaks the outdoor videographer’s 4th wall – there is a photographer in frame, roped up. I encourage you to watch it full screen and pan liberally.

Many of the posts on the photos noted that springtime honey is psychoactive. It’s because the bees are visiting rhododendrons, and rhododendrons produce grayanotoxins.

Physical symptoms from grayanotoxin poisoning appear after a dose-dependent latent period of several minutes to approximately three hours. The most common clinical symptoms include various cardiovascular effects, nausea and vomiting, and a change in consciousness. The cardiovascular effects may include hypotension (low blood pressure) and various cardiac rhythm disorders such as sinus bradycardia (slow regular heart rhythm), bradyarrhythmia (slow irregular heart rhythm) and partial or complete atrioventricular block.*

Note the mention of low blood pressure. One of mad honey’s uses, at least in Turkey, is to enhance sexual performance. Oh, yes. Turkey… Nepal is one place with rhododendron forests

Rhododendron Forest

and the Black Sea coast of Turkey, where Rhododendron ponticum grows, is another. There’s also a very interesting falconry tradition in that area, but that’s for another day.

Why a mad honey post now? I’m re-reading Gore Vidal’s Creation and his narrator, Cyrus Spitama (grandson of Zoroaster), tosses off an offhand comment referencing it.

Mr. Vidal is way more well-read than I, but this reference isn’t a deep dive; there are many classical accounts of mad honey poisoning. My favorite is Xenophon, because it is from the Anabasis, a rippin’ yarn in its own right and the story that The Warriors is based on.

After accomplishing the ascent the Greeks took up quarters in numerous villages, which contained provisions in abundance. Now for the most part there was nothing here which they really found strange; but the swarms of bees in the neighbourhood were numerous, and the soldiers who ate of the honey all went off their heads, and suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea, and not one of them could stand up, but those who had eaten a little were like people exceedingly drunk, while those who had eaten a great deal seemed like crazy, or even, in some cases, dying men. So they lay there in great numbers as though the army had suffered a defeat, and great despondency prevailed. On the next day, however, no one had died, and at approximately the same hour as they had eaten the honey they began to come to their senses; and on the third or fourth day they got up, as if from a drugging. *

I’ll end with a picture of a walk I took with friends almost exactly a year ago from Van Cortland Park to Coney Island, hitting many of the shooting locations that the movie iteration of The Warriors used.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by John P (@drhypercube) on

Thálatta! Thálatta!

Weimar Berlin

The proximate cause of this post is friend K’s recent re-instagram of Drawn & Quarterly’s book announcement.

Initially I figured that it was a combined re-issue of books 1 & 2: Berlin: City of Stones and Berlin: City of Smoke. Turns out it’s more than that – the third book in the series, Berlin: City of Light comes out tomorrow as does Berlin (referenced in the instagram) which collects all 3. Even though I should not be buying any additional books *Snake from the Simpsons voice* YOINK! Maybe the Berlin trilogy will live at the Scriptorium for a while… All three books (the 3rd, sight unseen, obv) get my highest possible recommendation.

There are a couple reasons Weimar Germany has been front and center for me. The first and critically important reason is the current political. moment. If a Washingtonian can reassure a federal government employee that a dinner party will be judenfrei… Do I have to diagram it for you? A less world-historically awful reason is a fantastic show – Babylon Berlin on Netflix. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Politics! Drugs! Crime! Sex! Subtitles! Watch it!


Babylon Berlin‘s creators have said that part of the appeal of setting a narrative in that particular era is to be able to show that the Nazis didn’t appear in a vacuum. There were forces at work in society that Adolf Hitler effectively tapped into to propel his own vision forward, and show is a good framework in which to let them play out. In fact, you’ll only hear the name Hitler once throughout the 16-episode run (the equivalent of two seasons), but his shadow looms large, namely through a number of language cues that indicate a growing nationalistic base.*

Triple bonus points for a paternoster, by the way. I think I’ll read Lutes’ Berlin trilogy and re-stream Babylon Berlin. And while I’m on the subject, I’ll take the opportunity to post a couple pieces by George Grosz:

Methusalem. Costume design for the play Methusalem


Daum marries her pedantic automaton George in May 1920, John Heartfield is very glad of it

*  I removed a link to The New Yorker. As I hit ‘publish’ on this post word came in about an event they’re sponsoring featuring Steve Bannon. Nope. Always. Be. Punching. Nazis.

Indy punches a nazi.




The Rivermen

During my visit to the Waterfront Museum a few weeks ago, David Sharps and I chatted about a range of things, but of course the topic of New York (City mainly, but Erie Canal, too) history was a biggie. I mentioned that I was reading Up in the Old Hotel and he immediately pointed out a painting of shad fisher’s barges in Edgewater, NJ as mentioned by Joseph Mitchell.

Jos. Mitchell reference

I haven’t been devouring books as quickly as I once did; I blame media hyper-saturation  – just too much to absorb – but last night, in Mitchell’s The Rivermen chapter, I finally encountered the old barges.

edgewater barges

I’m thinking rivers may be the most interesting form of water. Bold statement, I know. I need to ponder it.

[Side note: I can’t see Edgewater without thinking of the hotel in Seattle.]


Bicycling companion

One of the sub-projects that I have had on *simmer* for a while is rigging a crate or basket for my cycling companion – Lotte the Wonder Teckel. I like mulling over projects for a while; though I’m not averse to trying an approach, failing, and trying a different tack, too many iterations frustrate me. But – it’s time to get Lotte on the bike. I  did a little shopping for crates – her crate is just too heavy – no joy.I have a coroplast tote that I’d been eyeing as a potential dog basket; I strapped it to the rack and went for a test ride. It was obvious off the bat that my first guess on orientation – long axis of the tote parallel with the long axis of the bike – wouldn’t do, so mid-ride I adjusted it to ride cross-ways. To keep it from nudging my butt, I moved it back a bit and tried loading the tent in front of the basket and the much lighter sleeping pad behind. Success! The rack has 6 tapped holes so one can bolt stuff to the deck. I used 1 pair and added 4 re-usable zipties.

I put a U-bolt in. centered in the basket, and cut up some closed cell foam to pad the bottom. Time for a test ride with a gallon of water filling in for Lotte. I am going to be the anti-shred on this ride: I don’t want to deal with busting myself up and I certainly do not want to make L uncomfortable, let alone put her in harm’s way. I figured if I could keep the gallon jug upright and in place (not sliding around), I’d be in good shape. It did fall over twice, but both times were during mount/dismount efforts. Acceptable.

View this post on Instagram

Partial load w/ erzatz doggo.

A post shared by John P (@drhypercube) on

On the doggo side a harness was needed. Lotte will be leashed into the basket and a collar will not do. I wanted a harness with attachment points both top (walking on leash) and bottom (secured in basket) and couldn’t find anything that would suit locally. Off to the internet! While we waited for delivery, we did a few ‘sit in the basket/get plied with treats/ear skritches’ sessions. Time well spent.

The harness came today. I fitted it to her and let her wander around the house – NBD. So we went for a walk. She didn’t care.

Moment of truth! I got a pocket full of treats and put Molly Fin in a shady spot, scooped up Lotte and leashed her into the basket, fed her a couple treats and took the bike off her kickstand.

[side note/a bit of my dog training philosophy: quit while you are succeeding! Too often, the two-legger gets all “I want one more repetition!” and keeps going until the dog stops cooperating (out of boredom or fatigue or sheer cussedness) and then one is faced with ending on failure or pushing through and forcing the issue. Neither is as good as, “Yes! Excellent job pup! We’re done now, let’s goof around!!” So I was ready to pull the ripcord at the first sign of Lotte not having fun from this point on.]

I pushed the bike down the road a couple hundred feet, watching Lotte like a hawk the whole time, until I got to the back entrance to the elementary school next door. She was still happy and curious. I threw a leg over the bike, looked back at her (still fine) and started pedaling. Woohoo! We spent 10 minutes or so in parking lots and on paved paths, then I did pull the plug. Back home – and I acted like this was something we’d always done, even though, internally, I was over the moon. Now, we just need to take it slow and keep it fun…

View this post on Instagram

*heaves a sigh of relief* 🚀🐕🚲💨

A post shared by John P (@drhypercube) on

Salt marsh vacation

I spent a couple days on a south-of-Boston salt marsh. I’ll let some photos do the talking…

Random commentary:

  • On the ride down I listened to a couple Outside/In (strong recommendation!!) episodes. One, Molto Moleche, was esp relevant. While out fishing (pronounced ‘getting blown around on unfamiliar water, but having fun anyway’), young D and I saw a ton of green crabs.
  • There is such a thing as the Maritime and Irish Mossing Museum. I would like to be in the area some Sunday afternoon – I’d love to take a look at the harvesting history of Chondrus crispus.
  • The birdwatching was great. I can’t imagine how fantastic it is in the fall as birds stream south,

Thanks, host and friends. ‘Twas a wikkid awesome time!


Molly Fin 5 – doodads

I noted in the frame and wheels post that a hub dynamo was an important element of the build. Having reliable lights makes cycling in low light conditions way safer; battery powered lights have the annoying Murphy’s Law habit of being fully discharged when you need them most. A dynamo can also charge a phone, a GPS cyclocomputer, battery packs, etc. I’d already purchased a Busch+Müller Eyc (rhymes with ‘bike’ I’m told) headlight and a tiny but powerful (love that LED technology!) taillight for the blue bike – they got redeployed on to Molly Fin. I wired in a Sinewave Revolution to take care of USB charging duties.


The hub and headlight. The silver thing is a pump.


Yes, I’m all about weird little grace notes.

The wee taillight got a significant upgrade courtesy of my son. He has *proud father voice* an collection of 3d scans of skulls. and scanned my taillight as well. Result? Skull taillight cover! Pure awesome.

View this post on Instagram

Wiring up the bike.

A post shared by John P (@drhypercube) on


“Real” bicyclists look down their noses at kickstands, but for cargo bikes, they are a very useful addition. The Blackborow frame has a kickstand plate – good move, Salsa – with the mount point off-center, optimized for a 1-leg kickstand. The kickstand Salsa recommends seemed a little light-duty for me. I ended up going with a hella-stout Pletscher Optima Flex.


I think that’s about all I want to say about the build – it’s the riding that’s the reason for all this and Strava tells me I’ve put 300 miles on Molly Fin so far. I’ve been switching back and forth between her and the blue bike because I want to give my body time to get used to the different ergonomics.



A visit to the city

I’m interrupting the bike/big adventure stream briefly with a automobile/shantyboat (and, yes there was a child’s bike in the mix too) small adventure. I’d planned on heading Brooklyn-ward last Friday to visit my son, L, and my friend, K. Via John and Kate Young, a show in Manhattan at Whitebox was on my priority list: photos from Wes Modes’ Secret History of American River People project. I’ve been clued in to Wes and the Secret History for a while (also via John and Kate a while ago) and a chance to see some of the project in the flesh was not to be missed. But, hark! Turns out Wes was scheduled to speak Thursday night at the Waterfront Museum, moored in Red Hook – very close to K. Plans were adjusted and off I went. A great evening; both Wes and David Sharps, Prez of the Museum, are interesting, funny, friendly and thought-provoking. Some photos from the evening:

Clouds Lady Liberty Glitch

Wes ponders

Secret History of American River People

Lehigh Valley No. 79

The rest of the visit was similarly excellent. Dinner and beer with L, and dog-walks & bike shopping with K. Not K’s dog – just a hilarious pupper at a dog park.

View this post on Instagram

Mud dawg.

A post shared by John P (@drhypercube) on

I told you there was a bike in the mix!

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by John P (@drhypercube) on

Next mini adventure is a trip to a salt marsh south of Boston. Seaside Dragonlets, ahoy!


Molly Fin 4 – drivetrain

I went with a 2×10 drivetrain: 2 chainwheels in front, 10 cogs in back. One-by drivetrains are all the rage right now, and may stay the default choice for mountain/gravel/fat bikes, but I am a retro-grouch and like the additional range the two-by front end gives me. That the 10 speed chain is slightly more robust than its 11 or 12 speed relatives was also a big consideration – I would have gone for an 8 speed rear and an even beefier chain, but didn’t want to be too out of the mainstream.

I do most of my riding on the big (well 36T isn’t exactly big, but) chainwheel and have a nicely spaced 9 cog range to zoom along in. In the woods on more demanding routes, I’ve dropped down to that lovely stainless steel 24T chainwheel – ideal. Derailleurs are Shimano in back and SRAM in front as specc’ed by Mike at Maine Bike Works.

One little detail that I’m pretty proud of is pedal choice. I’m a big fan of MKS Lambda pedals; I have them on the blue bike and my winter commuter. They would have gone on Molly Fin, too, but I had an idea. Rinko bikes are full sized rides that can be easily disassembled for train travel and such. One of their features are pedals that come on and off without tools. I’m betting sooner or later I will end up pushing my bike (google ‘great divide route fleecer ridge’ – .3 miles of 38% grade!!) and I always always always manage to bark my shins on the pedals. It struck me that Rinko pedals would allow me to take the pedals off before a long stretch of bike-walking. Mike did a little looking around and presto! one of the distributors MBW uses imports the MKS Lambda Ezy (Rinko-ized) pedals. Groovy:

One more post about the build – electrical system and various bits & bobs – upcoming, then I’ll be on to other things….