Will went to L.A. to visit family, back this coming Thursday, so rather than the nice Will email updates this week, you get my Blahg in its place, with all its random irrelevant roughness and time-wasting links.
The thing is, we've had a lousy week and need to refill some divots. This place doesn't work, otherwise. At the END of this, at the bottom, are the usual Will-links to Stuff Back in Stock. You can skip the rest of this, go down to the picture of the bird hopping off the fencepost, and then look at what we have in again after being out of it. It's way down there, at the bottom. Skip over the wheels and cassettes part, Clabber Girl, the Robot made out of junk, and the Bob Dylan stuff. You might want to read the Grocery Guy update, if "Grocery Guy" means anything to you. There's a picture of a blue bird jumping off a fencepost, and the links we hope you click and act on are below that.
The yellow circled derailer part is the most amazing and underappreciated mechanism in bicycle history, with a three-year run, from 1980 to 1983 or so. It was gone by 1984, that's for sure.
SUPER APOLOGETIC GEEKY TECHY DRIVETRAIN SECTION
We are experimenting with cassettes, chains, derailers, shifters, clearances, and discovering things, or at least learning things, that we either didn't know before, or thought we knew but didn't.
One goal, and u-mite-thinkits-stupid, is a 7-speed cassette with all the range and all the gears you'll need, and with improved chain angles and, in some cases, chain-to-tire clearances. Longer wear. Stronger wheels. None of these changes or improvements are gigantic, but cumulatively they make a nice small difference, and in the big picture they're more useful and contributory than just adding another cog in the SRAM-SHIMANO cogs race that, you should know, is going to culminate in an internal drive train that will be the end of the obvious mechanical bicycle in..ten years?
So this is an important time, once you zoom in to the point where you aren't focused on global warming and all it SEEMS to be causing, or politics or COVID or overpopulation and all those other hot topics. Sometimes we here have to, for sanity, focus on the minutia of drive trains. Our rear derailer is still moving along. If that's news to you, you haven't been reading my BLAHG, and that's OK, but I've been talking about drive trains, and it seemed worth a mention here.
Last night I rode an 11x42 7speed cassette that James here put together out of an 8speeder. I/we learned this:
• The Shimano Nexave rear derailer, which I think is rated to 34t, shifts to the 42 perfectly, and with no derailer-extension tab. I would have bet $1,000 that it wouldn't.
• The chain angle in the big x big combo is improved.
• chain-to-superfat tire clearance in the low gear (smallfront, bigrear) increased by 2mm, which seems small, but is far from nothing.
Shifting was the same easy as it was on the 12x36 9sp I took off.
When we GET these 7speed cassettes, I am 90 percent sure they'll work with all chains, 7-sp to at least 10s. There's no reason to use other than a 7-8-9sp chain. We'll have those chains, even the 7speeders.
And here's the gap on with a 7-sp cassette on 9-sp hub:
Here's the standard chain path, big x big combination, on a 9sp system:
Here's the improvement, a 7sp cassette on a 9sp hub, with a spacer between the hub and the cassette:
In the "not neat AND not necessary" department:
Bob Dylan section. Bob singing ...
I like Bob Dylan because he is unaffected by the wrong things. I've been at it, almost exclusively, since 1969. It affects everything I do and everything that reaches me gets filtered through a kind of filter I wouldn't have without it. It makes me not give a sh*t about a lot of things, and it makes me love other things more thoroughly, and that includes certain things about bikes. It's just intense and there's so much of it. You don't have to be so affected by it, and you can't be, but that's the deal here, not that it matters, but I said this BLAHG wouldn't be a long downer like so many are.
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
Well, I've heard that hoot-owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
But nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
Hear the crackin' of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia bloomin'
See the ghost of slavery ships.
I can hear them tribes a-moanin'
Hear that undertaker's bell
But I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
With some fine young handsome man
He’s dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
There's a chain gang on the highway
I can hear them rebels yell
Like Blind Willie McTell
Well, God is in His heaven
And we all want what’s His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I’m gazing out the window
Of that old St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
When Saidullah Karimi walks into the room, Athena’s blue eyes light up. When Mr. Karimi straightens his arm, Athena does, too. When he makes a fist, then uncurls his fingers, Athena does the same.
Athena is not a child or a pet, but a robot.
An Afghan refugee living in Athens, Mr. Karimi built the robot entirely from trash or, as he prefers to say, “recycled objects” he found on the street: discarded plumbing pipes; pieces of an abandoned printer; tiny motors and transmitters he extracted from broken remote control toys.
But Athena is more than the product of a talented hobbyist. Mr. Karimi, an orthopedic technician, built her to stand as a symbol of what refugees can accomplish and contribute to their new societies — if given the chance. At a time when thousands of Afghans are fleeing their country with little more than the contents of a suitcase, Mr. Karimi’s story is particularly relevant.
“I wanted to show my capacity and the capacity of refugees,” Mr. Karimi said. He is a neat, trim man, slightly balding, with a reserved demeanor and usually wears black trousers and a T-shirt.
Athena is an astonishing tribute to his resourcefulness. The robot’s fingers were fashioned from the blue handles of Gillette razors, molded over the kitchen stove. “I tried toothbrushes but the razor handles worked best,” he said.
He made the feet and limbs from plastic bottles he baked in his oven to strengthen. He used suitcase wheels for the ankle joints and reinforced the knees with metal cut from a CD player. “I also purchased wireless devices and tiny microelectronics from the bazaar and robotics shop,” he said.
Mr. Karimi, 52, finished his robot this past spring but has kept it under wraps until now. He named it Athena after the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and protector of his newly adopted city. She now guards his workshop, a small windowless room in his family’s apartment near Platia Victoria.
Mr. Karimi’s extraordinary engineering talents were developed over two decades in Afghanistan, designing, building and fitting artificial limbs and orthotic supports like braces and splints. He arrived in Athens in 2017 after a treacherous flight with his family across three countries, a snowy mountain pass and the Aegean Sea only to face the formidable and often demeaning hurdle of finding work.
“I applied to three orthopedic workshops,” he said. “They told me: ‘You are coming from Afghanistan. Here is Europe.’” He felt the men at the workshops were laughing at him.
He took along a C.V. and the educational and professional certificates he had earned in Afghanistan and Pakistan but the workshop bosses simply handed them back to him. “They told me: ‘The European technology is much different. You are not familiar with the machines.’”
In fact, the machines Mr. Karimi had used in Afghanistan all came from Germany, and because of the long Afghan war, Mr. Karimi had extensive experience with complex injuries. “There is a lot of demand for prosthetics in my country due to gunshot wounds, mines and bombs,” he said. “And lots of complicated cases like poliomyelitis, which you don’t find in Greece.”
Without work, Mr. Karimi found himself staying home. So he started wandering the streets and sitting in parks.
“It was a difficult time for me,” he said. “You can imagine. I worked 21 years in my country. Then I lost my job, my house. I came to Greece without any work or language.”
His response was both inventive and defiant. He set himself to build an entire body.
“I started to make something to show them,” he said.
“One day I was drinking from a two-liter Coca-Cola bottle and thought, ‘I could use this bottle for a thigh, and I could use a one-liter bottle for the shin.’ I thought I could make a robot using recycled things. It’s very cheap. It’s suitable.”
In building Athena, Mr. Karimi also had in mind using her to help disabled children adapt to orthotic devices and exercises.
“I wanted to make a robot and fix sensors in the orthotics so that when the child moves his knee, the robot knee moves too,” he said. “I wanted the robot to copy the gait, hand movements, everything.” Beyond that, he added, a robot can makes an injured child happy.
Mr. Karimi was born in 1970, the seventh of eight children, and grew up in the Afghan cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul. His father was a director in the customs office.
“I always intended to work as an electrical engineer,” he said. “I love electric work.”
But in the mid-1980s, his eldest sister, a doctor, convinced him to study nursing as a way to keep off the front lines. This was the time of the mujahedeen resistance to the Russian occupation. At age 18, Mr. Karimi was drafted by the government and assigned to hospital duty.
The Russians left in 1989, and the American-backed mujahedeen overthrew the Communist puppet government in 1992. Mr. Karimi hid for months. “As a government soldier, I would have been killed,” he said. Eventually he set up a small medical shop in Mazar-i-Sharif.
A year later, he started work for the U.N.’s Comprehensive Disabled Afghan Project, a program that helped more than 100,000 land mine victims. By the time he fled Mazar-i-Sharif in 2016, he was supervising a team of 14, including seven technicians, in a workshop run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.
But the fighting that made his work so essential eventually forced his own family to flee. Mr. Karimi does not relish talking about politics. Violence in Afghanistan then “was everywhere and everyday,” he said dejectedly, “and it is getting worse.”
“Nowadays I’m very sad,” he said. “But what can we do? We just pray for those people in bad situations. Everyone is worried because we had a lot of bad experiences.”
Mr. Karimi was personally threatened by unknown assailants when he and his wife, Shaista, married in 1996. He is Sunni and she is Shia, a mixed marriage that might have offended extremists. After 2011, when Mazar-i-Sharif was reeling once again from attacks and suicide bombings, he became increasingly worried that his family was not safe.
“I also thought terrorists might kidnap me to use my knowledge of microelectronics for remote control weapons,” he said. When he spotted strange men in a car watching his house, he knew it was time to leave. “That was a bad time, really a very bad time,” he said. “We lost a lot of money, our passports, our papers and our dignity.” he said of their journey to Greece.
The couple arrived in Athens early in 2017, and moved into an apartment paid for by the Catholic charity Caritas. Their four children — Said Azim, then aged 18; Said Rahim, 16; Said Hakim, 8; and Sadaf, their only daughter, 5 — started school. Mrs. Karimi, a trained physiotherapist, found work for an N.G.O., helping new mothers. They were safe, and the family was almost a model of immigration success.
Except that Mr. Karimi could not find work, and the asylum process was slow and torturous. To make matters worse, gearing up to talk to immigration officials triggered past trauma. “Every time I talked with the lawyer, I cried,” Mr. Karimi said.
At his wife’s prompting, he sought counseling, also through Caritas, which he said was very helpful. “Building Athena was also helping me,” he said. “It’s good for me to busy myself. It helped me avoid psychological problems.”
While working on Athena, Mr. Karimi studied English and Greek, and eventually passed a European qualifying examination. He is now recognized as an orthopedic technician. In 2018, the Karimis were finally accepted as refugees and granted Greek resident permits. And, in 2019, they received refugee travel documents in lieu of passports.
These days, he’s setting his sights on a license to make soft shoe soles and inserts. “This would allow me to treat refugees with minor disabilities, flat feet or hallux valgus toes, or people with diabetes who need soft soles,” he said.
As for the machines he’ll need for that, Mr. Karimi is already at work building his own 3-D printer from scrap. ------
This next item won't make sense unless you've been reading the BLAHG, sorry. The Grocery Guy got his money on the evening of Sept 7. He got $14,000 on top of the earlier $1,000. Somebody send $1,000 cash, and we gave that to him in the same envelope, and he was sooo happy, and then we gave him a $13,000 check. It's for his house downpayment, and thank you all for the fund-unit and Peace-Wheel T-shirt purchases that make it happen. It's neat to be able to do that for somebody, and you made it happen, and this is the best day ever here for that. We've donated $250 to $1,000 here and there to assorted small BIPOC-type organizations—usually but not always bike-related; some official charities and some not——and about a quarter of the time they acknowledge it. And yes, we've donated to non-BIPOC needy people or organizations, too. We don't do it FOR the acknowledgement, and we've done multiples to groups who never say thanks, and that's fine, and we will again. But this guy, holy moses, he was so happy and thankful, and he was especially moved that so many of you contributed to it. "People who don't even know me?" he asked. "Nobody's ever given me anything," he added.
Should be a good happy thing all around. I hope nobody's mad about it. I can assure you that I'll get a note about how this was a lousy way to spend money. Thanks in advance for the financial advice.
Below the bird there links to what's back in stock, and some other things you might want to look at. Thanks, and we'll all be glad when Will's back, right?
If I were that bird I'd spread out my wings for a softer landing. I mean, this is just stupid, I don't care who this bird is, I could teach him a thing or two, and I'm not even a bird.
Dan took the picture. A scrub jay? Apologies to all you birders. I'm just a birdwatcher. I try to know a few names. I am really good at ducks, quail/s, pheasants, and doves.
Newly back in stock:
It's the smallest lightest high-securit lock we're aware of.
Blue rim tape, new
Good for any rims, but necessary for tubeless.
My Atlantis saddle. Should have bag loops and doesn't, but still--super saddle for upright riders.
On any drop bar bike, I'd rather have this. Fits road levers, bar-end shifters. Not for STI levers. They'll work, just...kind of weird.
Leah Peterson's favorite bar. Lots of hand space.
My favorite comfy-trail bar. Although others are so close.
My Cheviot has this bar, and it's super.
I made my own in the late 1970s and sent a sample to our current maker, asked them to make them. They're the best angle reflectors ever. Snip off the mfr's label because it blocks some of the shiny stuff.
The new big Triangle now fits even bigger waists. It's all good.
Twofish stuff, wherever possible, is assemble by developmentally challenged people. You might as well be aware. It's not a warning, but a groovy fact.
If you need to hold a monster bottle and your bike isn't built for it. Pretty handy.
If you have your own flashlight. I don't understand them, but here they are.
These are astoundingly, beffudlingly popular. I'm getting one next week, to cushion the basket bottom for when I carry a camera there.