Tuesday, May 29, 2007

cool music

Two recent YouTube finds, one being music I've heard before, and one not.

The first is a performance on the Tonight Show (Carson era) by the Bulgarian Women's Choir from their amazing 1990 album "Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares". I love the strength in their voices - one could not accuse them of sounding girlie! The time signature for this piece is 7/8, which adds an extra element. This type of "odd" time sig. is common in Eastern Europe (and elsewhere), but rarely heard in most Western music.

(All embedded YouTube clips can be seen directly at their YouTube page by double-clicking on the video.)

Next up is Imogen Heap. I hadn't heard of her before, but saw a link to this clip and found it to be very cool. She sings and accompanies herself live by looping the various vocal and percussive parts on the fly. Watch her sing the first background line, then as it plays back she adds the next one, and so on. Then she fades the backing parts in and out of the mix as she sings the melody. Talk about multi-tasking! She also has a remarkably pure voice, aided by excellent intonation and a very good sense of rhythm. Me likes...

Fan Mail #2

I got another email about a DIY trailer built using the plans at my site. This one is from Jeff in Elmira, Ontario (just north of Kitchener/Waterloo). He wrote (in part):

"I was looking around and found your bike trailer on the web. It inspired me to build one... It's based on your first trailer...the one with the big blue plastic storage box. As I drive a car to get to work, my wife does not have a license/car, and this trailer allows her to head to the grocery store on the bike and bring back a bunch of groceries. I've thought of adding some covers to the spokes/wheels so that a small child could sit in the bin, and not get their fingers in the
spokes. Thanks again for the inspiration."

Thanks Jeff!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

even more trike fun

Yesterday was an almost non-stop day where the trike was needed every step of the way. It was the same schedule as last Tuesday, but with the added attraction of first heading westwards to MEC to pick up their donations to the re-Cycles Co-op. And like last week, once I got to the co-op I had to empty the trike of all the gear and bring it inside, and then put it back in again when leaving (perhaps I should into one of those plastic pick-up bed liners with a locking lid...).

So off to MEC at 2:00pm, then back home to pick up some drums and other gear for the evening's events:

Then to re-Cycles for 3:00, where I spent three hours doing my usual work there. I then grabbed some dinner, and headed off to the 7:00 dance class gig. From there I headed south again to another IJO rehearsal. I took almost the same route as last time, leaving Sandy Hill via Chapel and cycling over the 6-lane Queensway:

Taking the lane of course, because I have no choice! (It's easy to take photos while riding a multitrack vehicle.) Left turn signal is on as I approach the lane to turn into the parking lot of the former Algonquin College campus:

At one end of the parking lot is the bike path bridge over the Rideau River. The space on either side of that bollard is about 5' wide, and the trike is 4'4" wide, so I squeak through:

Then, instead of going straight through like last week and ending up on busy Riverside Drive, I took Loretta's advice and went around the TransitWay station. This added a few minutes and had me doubling back a bit, but it was much more relaxing! I normally do not take the trike on bike paths unless absolutely necessary, simply because it takes up a lot of space (though it just fits one lane width-wise). But I did not encounter a single cyclist on this section:

Just ahead of me is Riverside going across, with the bus lanes on my left with Industrial leading away from them. It was nice to just go straight to get onto Industrial and not get caught up in the busy 3-lane crossover like last week:

I only stay on this road for two blocks before cutting over to Coronation, and while that's a 2-lane it is wide and quiet (all the through traffic seems to stay on Industrial, but perhaps this is a busier route in the daytime). This scene remained the same for the rest of my ride to rehearsal, and I arrived with 5 minutes to spare.

Oh, and the trike's e-assist performed flawlessly (I guess last week it just didn't like getting left out in the rain). I did bring the battery charger along and recharged the pack once, but probably did not need to do so.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

House move by pedal power

Richard and his family are moving to a new house a few kilometres away. They will be using a moving company for the bulk of their stuff, but he wanted to some sort of human power part to it. So the call went out on the HPVOoO list and a small team was assembled.

The organ trailer was going to be towed by the tandem trike, and I showed up with my trike, plus we had three regular bikes towing trailers. Richard needed to swap the fridges and stoves between his new and old abodes, and the new place also had a basement beer fridge that needed to be taken to an appliance recycler. For the trip to his new place I carried his stereo equipment, and on the return trip carried the beer fridge. After a stop at his old place for pizza I continued on to the recyclers to get rid of the thing.

Using my little Canon camera in video mode once again I got a few things on "tape", then assembled the various clips into one and put it on YouTube. I also took some photos, as did Richard, and Charles took both video and still shots.

Stereo stuff. Dead innertubes make great tie-downs!

Yes, the fridge would be carried upright (to keep its motor happy) if not destined for scrap. I don't take the tailgate off very often, but am glad it's removable when needed.

Greg (who took part in the moving day fun) accompanied me to the recyclers, and inspects the fridge for bodies before we drop it off.

The guy at the appliance place admitted that he did not get too many large appliances being delivered by pedal power...

Friday, May 18, 2007

e-assist trials and tribulations

So the new assist set-up (see next post below) got a workout on Tuesday. I had to go to the re-Cycles Co-op at 3:00 for some afternoon work, then to a 7:00pm DanceAbility class (I'm the accompanist), and then to a 9:00pm IJO rehearsal way out at St. Laurent and Smythe. So I had a bunch of stuff to haul, and had to make good time between the last two events...

Under that tarp is a bass drum, snare drum, cymbal bag, small synthesizer, folding stand for same, bag of drum hardware, battery box, and knapsack. All of which had to come out at each stop. Joy...

So things went well, and the assist helped greatly. The DanceAbility class for this session is at the Sandy Hill Community Centre, which is handily only about a kilometre from the co-op. But it's a fair bit further to the church basement where the IJO rehearses, and that southeasterly trip includes crossing the Rideau River. Now, if I was traveling by car the main route would be to go south to the Queensway (Hwy. 417) and on from there. The only other crossings of the Rideau are either by Cummings Bridge (Montreal Road) which is to the north of the Community centre, or going south but tracking a bit west to cross via Main Street.

Now, in a car going out of one's way by 5 0r 6 blocks is not a big deal, but when pedaling a cargo trike (even one with assist) one wants to go as direct as possible, especially when timing is tight. So I was not going to back or sidetrack to either bridge, and of course could not use the highway bridge. But I was able to use of a very handy part of our bike path network. I don't take the trike on the paths very often, as it overhangs its lane on the older ones, and just barely fits the new standard of 1.5 metres per lane. But the part I was using is rarely busy, especially on this unseasonaly cool (not to mention drizzly) night.

Back when train tracks covered many parts of Ottawa, there were four bridges over the Rideau at what was known as the "Hurdman Crossing". Three of the bridges were removed in the 1960's to make way for the Queensway, but somebody thankfully used their head and the southmost one was kept and converted into a cycling bridge, and it's a fabulous link. After I crossed over that I followed a side path that led to Riverside Drive - actually, the off-ramp from the highway onto it! So I had to wait until the coast was clear before launching onto that, and any drivers that ended up behind me must have wondered if I really did just come off the highway ahead of them. hehe

The tricky part was that just as I got myself onto the road the light changed and three lanes of cars came up from behind. In one long block I needed to get from the rightmost lane over to the left turn lane to get onto Industrial Blvd., and all this traffic was zooming past, and it was now dark. So I had the turn signal on, and the assist helped me keep a decent speed (it's a slight uphill there), and I got across those hectic lanes OK. Once on Industrial I easily made my way over to Coventry and from there it was an easy ride in very light traffic to the church hall.

The rehearsal let out at 11:00. It was raining lightly, but nothing terrible, and I looked forward to relaxing 7 km ride home. But I was dismayed to find out that the assist had stopped working! The assist only kicks in once a little speed is achieved (a bit of a safety measure that means if you accidently push the trottle when stopped you don't zoom off), and as I got going I pushed the lever and the motor made a little kick then died. I stopped to see if water had gotten in somewhere, but it was raining and I was tired and just wanted to get home. So the motor and heavy battery pack got a free ride while I got a good workout.

Oh well. At least it worked when it had to, getting me from the Centre to the church in good time, and for the ride home who cared how long it took? :P Testing the system the next day and again today showed the problem still exists, so Juergen is going to make a housecall and we'll sort it out (since my electrical decipering skills rate at about 2 out of 10). I'm hoping it's just something dopey and easily fixed, and not a cooked 36V controller that got zapped by more juice running through than it could handle...

UPDATE: Juergen came over on Friday and of course everything worked just fine, so it was simply a matter of water getting somewhere. Most times when I know the weather is going to be really crappy I borrow a friend's car just for the weather protection (both me and the cargo), so the trike's e-assist has not spent much time getting wet. I rode in on Tuesday even with the iffy forecast just to test it out on a busy day of moving things to different locations. Next time rain is forecast I'll just bring some bags along to cover things like the throttle and hope it doesn't shut down again...

The trike gets another boost

Last July the trike received an electric assist motor courtesy of my friend (and trike co-builder) Juergen. The power came from three 12 volt, 7 amp-hour batteries, a standard kit used for e-assist bicycles. It certainly helped with the hills and bridges, along with helping me clear intersections more quickly (and safely), as getting going from a dead stop with a full load was always an effort. But the power band was very narrow, since of course the kit was designed to help a 30 or so pound bicycle, not a 100 lb. cargo trike. So the motor helped, but not a lot...

A few months ago Juergen suggested adding a 6-volt to the set-up, or even a fourth 12-volt. The controller is only rated for 36-volt, so if I went right to 48V I was cautioned against using full throttle on a regular basis. Juergen also said get a 12 amp-hour battery, because if I decide to stay at 48V then batteries of larger capacity would be even more helpful, and he could get another 3-pack of that size. So that's what I did, and for a little while I had a larger 12V (bought at Alexander Battery here in Ottawa) added to the existing 36V pack. The only hassle was that I only had the 36V charger, so each time I used the assist had to join the batteries together, then when it came time for recharging them I had to separate the 12V and put it on its own charger (same 6V-12V charger I use for the trike's 12V lighting system). This got a little tedious, and I was concerned that the constant plugging and unplugging might wear out the connectors (I've been using the trike a lot since I got hit by that taxi, as my cargo trailer was destroyed in the collision and I have not yet built its replacement, so anything that needs to be moved requires the trike).

So the decision was made to go to a more permanent 48V set-up, and last Saturday I acquired a Soneil 48V charger from Darryl at Econogics. Then on Monday Juergen and I got together and he supplied a new 36V 12 amp-hour pack and wired my 12V into it, fitting it all into an old metal toolbox for now.

The results are great, with a noticeable boost being given. With the cargo box empty the trike boots along nicely (if I'm feeing lazy). But mainly I'm using it to get up to speed more quickly, and not slow down so much when climbing. There's at least enough power now that when I'm at cruising speed I can boost that a bit more (the old set-up did not add to my top speed), but I don't usually do so unless in a hurry. The next step is to figure out how to mount a battery box under the cargo box so I can leave it there, and not take the pack inside each time I park the thing. The assist has become an integral part of the trike's functionality, making it much more pleasant when hauling any kind of weight around, not to mention showing up for those dress-up gigs with a little less sweat...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Summer jazz

The quartet returns again this season to the Metropolitan Restaurant's plaza for Sunday Brunch (11:00 til 2:00). We'll be kicking things off this coming Sunday, and while the weather is forecasted to cool down a bit from the recent above-average temps, it should be sunny and hopefully folks will want to eat their food outside! See this previous post for a view of the place.

Also, we will also be playing Thursdays at the same venue from 5:oopm 'til 8:00pm. That was to have started yesterday, but was called off due to the storm warnings, so hopefully next week will see us there.

Oh, and next week also gets busy with IJO rehearsals for three different shows in June! We have about 60 pieces of music to learn from three different eras in jazz. Check the IJO website for complete details.