Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Doing Crunches

Or: "“The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam
often comes first and then the lesson.”

My older daughter was in town recently. She stayed with Kathy and me. On a clear, warm Sunday, I drove Rebecca in my wife's car the few miles over to her sister's apartment. A block from Nora's place, on Spaulding Avenue, I had to squeeze our vehicle between a car stopped in the street on my left, and parked cars on my right.

Suddenly my concentration was broken by my daughter's warning.

"Dad, you're too close!"

Clearly she was wrong. I've finessed my way through tight spots like this one innumerable times and this time was no different. I remember feeling slightly annoyed, I remember thinking, "I'm not too close," as I continued on.

My confidence was destroyed in an instant, as our car's passenger side mirror hit the drivers' side mirror on the other car with a loud crunching sound. As I slowed, to pull over and access the damage, I hit another drivers' side mirror!

It was a humbling moment. It was a frightening moment. All the experience as a driver I'd earned over the years was rendered worthless. The implication was that I was worthless as a driver. Literally, I felt myself shrink in my seat, I literally felt older, as my daughter stepped out of the car to survey the wreckage.

Luckily, the second hit didn't hurt the other vehicle. However, the mirror on the first car I'd struck was seriously damaged. As I waited in our car, feeling myself shrink ever smaller, Rebecca left a note under the windshield wiper on the other car, leaving my name, email address and phone number, and she made some photographs with her cell phone's camera. I got out of the car and retrieved our shattered mirror, still glued into its plastic base, that had popped out of the mirror housing.

"Dad, what happened?" Rebecca asked when we got back in the car. "Is it your glasses?"

My new glasses? My four-day old glasses, with the progressive lenses that allow me to wear the glasses all the time, giving me sharp vision at all distances? Those glasses?

I drove home without wearing the glasses (my distance vision is good). A little experimentation – sitting safely at home – demonstrated that, depending on how my head was tilted, objects at the edge of my peripheral vision out around arm's length looked about two inches farther away and lower than they actually were. That difference was enough to let me mistake the distance I had to safely pass between parked cars.

Or as the authoritative Wikipedia puts it: "Because of the narrow vertical range of undistorted vision, there is an inherent loss of peripheral vision with progressive lenses."

That was an expensive pair of glasses and an expensive driving lesson.

Meanwhile, my wife's car has zero peripheral vision as we await a replacement mirror.

Photographing my Fixed Gear Bike

Rather than ride my bike yesterday, I spent way too much time working on upcoming trips, surfing the web, exchanging emails about esoteric subjects, and running errands around town in my wife's partially blinded car.

When it was obvious I wasn't going to ride, I pulled out the Simple Green and a chain lubricant and went to work cleaning the road grime from my fixed gear bike. After cleaning the bike and washing the road grime from my hands, I pulled out my camera, to photograph my polished aluminum bike that sat – forlornly without a rider – in the shade on the side of my home.

This is the bike I like to ride with the young guys and gals on the occasional Monday night, cycling from Mike's Bike shop down to the Marina del Rey, at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Except for the photograph, above, I used a 35mm lens with an f/2 aperture. With the lens opened to f/2, the area of focus (depth of field or DOF) is extremely shallow. The large aperture is nice for low light situations. Here, though, I used f/2 as an attempt to come up with a more artistic image, rather than a straight rendering like the photograph, above. (I won't say it's akin to what the world looks like through my new glasses.)

That saddle doesn't look particularly comfortable, does it? It's not; none of them are, especially as the miles on a ride pile up.

The bike sports a retro-looking, French-styled water bottle holder; rather than purchase a plastic water bottle, I opted for something more classy, and went retro with the cap, too.

A fixed gear bike uses one gear, and there's no coasting. A cyclist is either pedaling or at a standstill. This works well enough in the flatter portions of the Los Angeles basin, where I live, and not so well in the more vertical areas in the city. The earliest geared bikes were fixed gear bikes; riding a fixie is a technological throwback.

As Lance Armstrong might say, sometimes it's not about about the bike. Sometimes – I say – it's about the accessories.

Below: my bike pump.

This weekend, I'm off to photograph along Route 66, out in the high desert east of Los Angeles. After making these photographs, I'm going to make more experiments with my wide-aperture lenses and I'll report back my findings.

Warning: Video Below Not Recommended for those over 30
or those with poor peripheral vision

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