New Bike, The Specialized Sirrus

My old bike was stolen a while ago when I went to the bank one day. I was very busy for a while so I didn't have the time to purchase a replacement until now. (I welcomed the delay as it gives me time to do some market research.)

The old bike that got stolen was a toy store mountain bike I bought a long time ago. The bike was starting to rust and the ride quality wasn't satisfying at all. Simply put, it's more like a toy than a dependable bike.

This time, I decided to purchase a "real" bike from a local bike shop, as I planned to do some serious commuting on it. After doing some research on the internet, I settled on the Specialized Sirrus. It was designed with commuters in mind with a lighter weight aluminum frame that has a more upright riding position, steel fork, bigger 700×32 tires, and 21-speed Shimano branded drivetrain.

After riding it for a few days, I found it very different from the bike I used to ride. The lighter weight, of course, makes it easier to pedal but also makes the handling more sensitive and the bike has better weight distribution. The aluminum frame is stiffer than a full-suspension mountain bike, further improve handling. Together, they increase cornering speed and make the bike feels faster. One down side riding on a bike without suspension is that you will feel every road vibration. This is especially troubling when your local government doesn't do a good job at maintaining the roads. But I rather have speed instead of a more comfortable ride.

The biggest compliant I have with the old bike is that my back always hurt when I ride with my backpack. The Sirrus has a more upright riding position. Backpacks are no longer a concern. Also not having to bend over, I can ride on the Sirrus a longer distance and still feel comfortable.

The Sirrus is not without flaw. It uses "Body Geometry" grips that are supposed to fit the hands better. Trouble is, the grips assume you can always hold them at the optimized position but that is never possible. First the grips themselves don't want to stay in one fixed angle. They will rotate slightly forward or backward as you ride. Second, your body will move around as you are riding. It's hard to stay in one fixed location. When holding the grips not optimally, they will cause discomfort or even minor pain during long rides. The size of the grips are also smaller than I would like.

This is a relatively easy one to fix. I just need to change the grips to a more traditional cylindrical one with a larger diameter.

Here are some pictures for you:

Birthday Wish

Today, June 19, 2011, is my twenty third birthday.

I am always interested in vegetarianism. Eating no meat, for me, just seems impossible and in my twenty three years of living I have never once considered becoming a vegetarian.

However, I've set myself up for a challenge this birthday: I will endeavor to be a vegetarian for a period of time and see how it feels. Right now, my goal is a week without meat. If all went well, I would try a month or even more.

As with any challenge, rules must be set. This challenge will only have one simple rule: vegetarian means ovo-lacto vegetarian, i.e. eggs, milk, and dairy products are acceptable. I will be eating my normal caliber, anytime and anywhere as long as the food that goes into my mouth doesn't violate the rule above.

One important note is that I am only interested in experiencing vegetarianism. I am not trying to loose weight, although many think I should. That said, body weight will be one of the telemetry I monitor.

Check back after a week for a summary report.

Cooler in New York City

The temperature in New York City is cooler today. The weather forecast said it will remain so until the rest of the week, a very welcome news. 

It was very hot the past few days here. So hot that nothing could be done during the afternoon hours. (Every time I move, I started to melt.) Cooler temperature is very good news. Cooler body and less sweat make the body and the mind more comfortable, which translate to higher productivity. There is just no way one can concentrate when overheating. 

Staying cool is so important in summer. Don't let the heat stop you from doing things, would you?

Happy 10th Birthday Wikipedia!

I am not sure what the exact date is, but Wikipedia is celebrating its tenth birthday this week. Being a student, Wikipedia did saved me a lot of time on a few occasion, but I do have to say I have never quoted directly from Wikipedia during my undergraduate study, and I don't think it will be any useful for my graduate study.

Quoting from Wikipedia is not as much as an academic crime as plagiarizing, but I think it is an academic etiquette. Some professional scholars are so afraid of the idea that anyone can edit and insert information that they completely reject the idea of an open source encyclopedia. My opinion is more moderate toward this debate. While I believe that no professional writing should quote directly from Wikipedia, it is a excellent place to start a research.

WNYC did a segment on Wikipedia turning ten a few days ago. In that segment, it said there was a study that shows, on average, science entries on Wikipedia have four errors, while the Britannica has three. I don't know how the study was conducted, but if the result were true, the Britannica seems like a waste of money. Paying money to buy a volume of books written by the so-called experts can only improve the quality of the information one is getting from the volume by one error. Keeping in mind that the Britannica is not a small sum of money, it seems like a very bad investment, specially when the alternative, Wikipedia, is totally free.

I am not trying to defend the credibility of Wikipedia here, I still think no one should quote directly from Wikipedia because the idea that anyone could insert false information at will just frightens me. The point I am making here is that Wikipedia does have its merits, people just have to know when is the right time to use it.

Handwriting

A recent article on the Wall Street Journal website, "How Handwriting Trains the Brain" by Gwendolyn Bounds, pointed out that writing by hand will help the brain learn better. 

Anyone who has some knowledge on math can confirm that. Writing out the symbols, equations and formulae helps understanding the concepts. 

But enough about handwriting is beneficial to the brain, and it is, isn't it a basic skill? Being able to write seems to be the only thing that separates human from animals. (Science tells us that animals are quite intelligent; they can communicate with one another, with humans; they have good memories; and, sometimes, they are simply better than human at performing some specific tasks.) I've been complaining about people having bad handwritings for a while now, and by bad I mean incomprehensible. I don't have good handwriting myself, but at least my handwriting is comprehensible by others. Some people I know just beat me hollow when it comes to bad handwriting. They make me feel like I am looking at a Picasso. What is the point of writing if nobody can decipher it? People, come on, improve your penmanships!