The Bicycle Is the Product Of Pure Reason Applied To Motion

“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?”
― Angela Carter

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park,
Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park,
Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park,
Dallas, Texas

Picatinny Rail – DIY Bicycle Light

Bicycle lights can be pretty expensive, at least for the good ones. But battery powered lights aren’t what I remember from my childhood – where you had a big D-Cell light that would work for an hour or so and then go yellow and dim. The LED has revolutionized flashlights and, by extension, bike lights.

I have a couple handlebar-mounted lights – decent ones, if not top of the line. I usually set them to blink – they are lights that are designed for me to be seen, not for me to see with. On an urban road at night, that’s the most important thing. The streetlights are bright enough for a cyclist to see where he is going – but you want the cars to know you are there. Bright blinking is the best for that… plus batteries last forever.

But riding on trails at night is a different story. I needed something so that I can see – a steady white light facing forward. For example, one night coming home from Critical Mass along the White Rock Creek Trail (actually, it was the Cottonwood Trail, the wooded section just south of the Forest Lane DART station – my destination) at a little after midnight I came upon a group of homeless people sleeping on the trail. Luckily, I saw them with my light. Hitting someone sleeping on the bike trail would not be good for anyone.

Again – the dedicated bike lights cost a pretty penny – but small LED flashlights are powerful and very cheap. They sell them by the containerloads – they take three AAAs – most are adjustable. Very useful lights.

The problem is how to mount them on a bike. I actually want to mount them as low as possible. It would seem that a helmet mount would be the best – but if they are at close to eye level they don’t cast visible shadows. It’s the shadows that help you see objects in the path ahead. A low mounted flashlight will throw long shadows – easy to see.

I tried a number of solutions – velcro straps worked pretty well – but nothing was both strong, reliable, and still removable.

Until I discovered the world of Picatinny (and Weaver) rails. These is a whole host of accessories designed to mount on pistols, rifles, shotguns, or paintball guns. Laser sights, scopes, cameras… and, especially tactical flashlights. This seemed like a perfect thing to mount on a bike.

It didn’t take much searching until I found this Weaver/Picatinny rail mount with flashlight holder on Amazon – shipped from China for less than five dollars. I ordered a couple of them (for spares and different bikes) and after a patient wait, the package arrived from halfway around the world.

Now that I am outfitting my new Xootr Swift for city riding and commuting I decided to add a small front rack. I’ve found these to be indispensable for urban riding. For bike riding in the city, it’s not always about cargo capacity, it’s about organization and a front rack helps me keep organized.

I bought the cheap rack, and then mounted the rail on the bottom of the rack. Here’s how.

The Picatinny/Weaver rail flashlight mount as it arrived.

The Picatinny/Weaver rail flashlight mount as it arrived.

Four mounting holes go into the small front rack. Do this with some care - or the flashlight won't shine straight ahead.

Four mounting holes go into the small front rack. Do this with some care – or the flashlight won’t shine straight ahead.

I could have mounted the rail with the bolts that come with the assembly, but I decided to use aluminum pop rivets for weight, strength, and neatness.

I could have mounted the rail with the bolts that come with the assembly, but I decided to use aluminum pop rivets for weight, strength, and neatness.

The rail mounted on the rack and the flashlight in the holder. My flashlight was a little too big, so I simply used the longer bolts that come with the unit - the ones that are intended to go around a barrel.

The rail mounted on the rack and the flashlight in the holder. My flashlight was a little too big, so I simply used the longer bolts that come with the unit – the ones that are intended to go around a barrel.

This is how it mounts on the rack. Strong and neat.

This is how it mounts on the rack. Strong and neat.

The rack and flashlight on the bike, along with a small pump (maybe I'll post how I hold that to the rack) and a little plastic box from Office Depot, held on with nylon bolts and wingnuts in holes drilled through the box and rack. It looks sort of stupid, but is very useful to hold my wallet, phone, keys, lock... that sort of stuff.

The rack and flashlight on the bike, along with a small pump (maybe I’ll post how I hold that to the rack) and a little plastic box from Office Depot, held on with nylon bolts and wingnuts in holes drilled through the box and rack. It looks sort of stupid, but is very useful to hold my wallet, phone, keys, lock… that sort of stuff.

Take some care in mounting the rack so that it is level. If the rack points up or down very much, you would have to shim the holder to get the light horizontal.

The flashlight is held on securely, yet it comes off easily for battery replacement. I ordered an extra set so I even have a spare flashlight to stick in if needed.

Yee Haaa.

Silhouette

From Aurora Dallas 2013

“Actually, I do happen to resemble a hallucination. Kindly note my silhouette in the moonlight.” The cat climbed into the shaft of moonlight and wanted to keep talking but was asked to be quiet. “Very well, I shall be silent,” he replied, “I shall be a silent hallucination.”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

From Aurora Dallas

From Aurora Dallas

From Aurora Dallas (click to enlarge)

From Aurora Dallas
(click to enlarge)

The Scene – Waiting for a Train

The Bank of America Plaza Building (the giant green thing) reflected in the mirrored sides of the Dallas Hyatt Regency. Taken from the Union Station DART platform while I was waiting on a train home from the Tweed Ride.

Bank of America Tower reflected in the Hyatt Regency, Dallas, Texas

Bank of America Tower reflected in the Hyatt Regency, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Expanded Couple

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Now that I’ve figured out how to carry my tripod on my bike, I’ve been experimenting with long exposures at night. Here’s a shot of a couple watching the Expanded Cinema show on the Omni Hotel in Downtown Dallas.

Couple watching the show. Dallas, Texas. Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the background.

Couple watching the show. Dallas, Texas. The Calatrava designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the background.
(click to enlarge)

“May I kiss you then? On this miserable paper? I might as well open the window and kiss the night air.”
― Franz Kafka

It’s a long exposure – look at the long, red lines that represent cars driving by in the parking lot. The bright white bar across the center of the photo are the headlights on Interstate Highway 35.

This is what it looked like live.

expanded_couple1

“When the Deep Purple falls,
Over sleepy garden walls,
And the stars begin to flicker in the sky,
Thru the mist of a memory
You wander back to me,
Breathing my name with a sigh.

In the still of the night,
Once again I hold you tight,
Tho’ you’re gone, your love lives on
When moonlight beams.

And as long as my heart will beat
Lover, we’ll always meet
Here in my Deep Purple dreams.”

—-Parish Mitchell, Deep Purple

Looking At Her Phone in the Dark

“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
—- Albert Einstein

There is something special about standing around in the middle of the night and talking with a bunch of your best friends. To stand around with them in front of a beautiful art museum is extra special.

So special, in fact, that it is something that you would have to text to a bunch of people… people that aren’t there.

“This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature. – Murray (WN 285)”
—- Don DeLillo, White Noise Critical: Text and Criticism

A group of friends in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, night, long exposure

A group of friends in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, night, long exposure

“This was before voice mail, recorded phone messages you can’t escape. Life was easier then. You just didn’t pick up the phone.”
― Joyce Carol Oates, Beasts

I used to work a little closer to where I lived. Sometimes, I would go home for lunch… but not very often. One day, while I was home, the phone rang. This was before caller ID – back in the days when people would actually answer their phones. It was, however, after the invention and installation of the answering machine….

…do you remember when these had little tapes in them? Once, I left for a long business trip and when I returned I had a large collection of very interesting phone messages left from a number of my friends and even a couple of cool ones from strangers. I liked these so much I replaced the tape with a fresh one and carried the old one around with me for a year or so. Sometimes I’d listen to it for fun. I know that sounds stupid – but I wish I had that tape now, thirty years later. I’d love to hear it again.

…at any rate, back to the story. I was home, the phone rang, I picked it up. It was a friend. She said, “Oh, I didn’t think anyone would be home. I called to leave a message.”

“I’m home making a sandwich. But it’s ok,” I said. “I’ll hang up and you can call back and leave a message.”

So I did. And she did.

When the phone rang my hand quivered over the receiver. I was torn on whether I should pick it up (as a joke, you know) or to let it ring and let her leave her message. I decided the joke was too stupid (strange, I know – I don’t usually pass up an opportunity for a stupid joke). As the machine picked up, I walked out the door, left for work, and let her leave her message in private.

I never listened to it.

Arrow to Nasher

“Sure, everything is ending,” Jules said, “but not yet.”
― Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Time Exposure, Night, Downtown Dallas, Ross and Olive

Time Exposure, Night, Downtown Dallas, Ross and Olive

“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

A familiar bit of street, smeared out in time, like a fuzzy memory. All the remembrances of that place are layered upon each other. Some are stronger than others – surprisingly, the strongest are often the oldest.

Because the oldest are the first. When everything is new and fresh.

I remember the first time I walked along – crossed at a light – Ross avenue. The big city was fresh in my young mind. I remember when I first turned off Ross to get to the Nasher Sculpture Center – it was many years later and I wasn’t that young any more (though I was a lot younger than I am now – but I didn’t know that then) but the Nasher was fresh and new. I’ve been back.

My Curves are Not Mad - Richard Serra, 2004

Lee inside My Curves are Not Mad – Richard Serra, 2004

Richard Serra - My Curves are Not Mad

Lee inside the same sculpture by Richard Serra – My Curves are Not Mad in 2011. Lee is not the only thing that has grown – look how much larger the trees are.

“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you”
― Paul Simon

Lee sitting by Night, 2004

Lee sitting by Night, 2004

Night (La Nuit)

Night (La Nuit) – 2011 (they had moved the sculpture)

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Eve, by Rodin, 2004

Eve, by Rodin, 2004

Eve, by Rodin

Eve, by Rodin

“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity and principals of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we
imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment. That each point of intersection, each encounter, suggest a new potential direction. Proposition, I have fallen in love with Luisa Rey. Is this possible? I just met her and yet, I feel like something important has happened to me.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

LED

I was walking home from somewhere the other night – late at night. Pitch dark. There was this big field – never mind exactly where – but the important thing is that it was between where I was and where I needed to be. So I walked across it, diagonally… which is the straight line, the shortest distance between the two points – where I was and where I needed to be.

It’s odd that there is a field like this, this big, this empty, in the middle of a city. Land is expensive, after all… and there is only so much of it. But if you look closely, there are a lot more of these expanses of empty space, of ragged grass, of nothingness, than you think.

But you don’t look closely. Nobody does. There is nothing so hidden, so mysterious, as a big empty field in the middle of a city.

It is so hidden and mysterious that it feels odd to walk across it in the pitch dark. Very odd.

In the middle of the field, when I was a long way from the nearest streetlight, when the only light was provided by the half-moon overhead, I saw something where I didn’t expect something to be. There was a small but bright red light hovering in space, not too far away.

As I approached, it began to change, and then it was blue. Then it was green. Then it was red again. Interested and confused, I walked toward the little light.

It turns out there was a small, ragged tree there, all alone, separated from the rest of the world of trees. You would really never notice that tree otherwise – it wasn’t much of a tree… more like a big shrub – though of a tree shape. And somebody had put something in the tree.

There was enough moonlight for me to make it out. Someone had firmly planted a solar-powered LED lit plastic butterfly in the tree. They had attached its metal pole to a branch and left it to run. It would hide there all day, soaking up the sun, so that its constantly changing light would stream out all night.

Here… I think this is it. Not too expensive, but not free, either. They did a good job of mounting it in the tree, with some padding to protect the branch and large, thick zip ties.

Who did this? And why?

It is impossible to see this from the street. It is only by sheer accident that I walked near enough to the thing in the night to notice the light. Even in the day, you would never see the thing unless you happened to walk right next to it then look up. I have never seen anyone in that field… ever.

So it’s a little secret between me and the person that put it up. I sort of like that. Don’t tell anybody about it… OK?

I walked back during the day to take a picture of the Solar Powered LED Butterfly in the tree.

I walked back during the day to take a picture of the Solar Powered LED Butterfly in the tree.

Blur in the Intersection

“The long triangular grooves on the car had been formed within the death of an unknown creature, its vanished identity abstracted in terms of the geometry of this vehicle. How much more mysterious would be our own deaths, and those of the famous and powerful?”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash

Time Exposure, Night, Downtown Dallas, Ross and Pearl

Time Exposure, Night, Downtown Dallas, Ross and Pearl
(Click to Enlarge)

Sometimes the world is hidden in the nooks and crannies of the cable television spectrum – especially in the middle of the night.

There are these shows when some bunch of celebrity grease monkeys steal some poor victim’s car and then rebuild it – adding subwoofers that can shatter glass eardrums, lights visible from other planets, and an aquarium in the rear deck— things like that. Hopefully, they also shove in an engine that starts and brakes that stop.

At the climax – the reveal – the dupe is shown his new pimped-out chariot and he cries. He says, always, “Thank you. My life is changed.” The show ends with the impression that everything will be all right now.

I like that part. I am a sucker for redemption. I like to bask in the feeling that it is even possible that everything will be all right (although I know that it is not true).

Think about it. They are talking about a car. A hunk of metal and rubber – a capsule of steel and glass – a rolling coffin propelled by the burning ghosts of ancient jungles.

But maybe they are right. A car is freedom. A car is the ability to change your location at will. A car is sex… and a nice car is good sex.

When I was young, I went to a lake with a friend of mine and we were swimming in the green water, constantly being slightly bitten by tiny fish, and listening to some women talking to each other while they sunned on a worn wooden dock. One asked another if it was OK if she went out and had her hair cut the same way as the other. Then one asked another about her boyfriend.

“I don’t know,” she answered, “I don’t really like the guy, he doesn’t treat me that well, but he has that really nice sports car.”

“After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash