surly world troller build

I recently acquired, after Surly’s many, many delays, a Surly World Troller frame set. Finally getting the chance to build it up is very exciting, in part because of the anticipation I have of bikepacking trips to come.

To document the build, I’m going to start this post. It will be a work in progress. First up, the basics I’ve worked out so far.

Frame and Contact Points:  

  • Surly World Troller frame and fork, size M (18″) in Milque Toast White
  • Seatpost: Ritchey aluminum
  • Saddle: Brooks B17
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS OS, 100mm
  • Bars: Jones Loop Bar
  • Grips:
  • Pedals: Performance Bike 10-pin Platform

Drivetrain and Brakes:  

  • Crankset: Shimano Deore 2×10 (40-28T)
  • Front Mech: Shimano XT
  • Rear Mech: Shimano XT
  • Chain: SRAM 10-speed
  • Cassette: Shimano XT 11-36T
  • Shifters: Microshift Thumb
  • Levers: Avid Speed 7
  • Brakest: Avid BB7 MTB mechanical discs, 160mm rotors


  • Rear: Shimano XT hub, 36-hole, Velocity Cliffhanger rim
  • Front regular: Shimano Deore hub, 32-hole, Sun-Ringle Rhynolite rim
  • Front dyno: SP PD8 disc dyno hub, 36-hole, Velocity Cliffhanger rim
  • Tires: Vitorria GEAX Saguaro 26×2.2


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the university of iowa board of regents’ contempt

The Board of Regents of the University of Iowa has hired a new president. The process appears to have been less than transparent, and resulted in the one wholly unqualified candidate in the field emerging victorious. This has resulted in the faculty at UI taking a vote of no confidence in the Board. It’s little more than a symbolic gesture in the University of Tomorrowland, where notions of shared governance and the critical educational mission of the university no longer exist.

The President of the Board of Regents released this statement in response to the faculty’s vote. Interestingly, I found the original version that the BoR wrote before sending it through the PR washing machine, which I reproduce for you here in full.


Contact: Josh Lameman


Statement from Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on University of Iowa Faculty Senate Vote of No Confidence

We are changing landscape of higher education so as to make the current ways of operating unsustainable. The Board of Regents brought three highly qualified candidates and one ringer to campus during the search process and humored them by feigning a discussion their abilities to help lead the University of Iowa through the changes that we are foisting upon higher education.

Throughout this process, Board members heard repeatedly from non-university monied and political interests from a small segment Iowan society about the type of ‘university’ they want, and the ways they can use it to transfer public goods into private hands.

After listening to the governor, his friends, and many other non-academic interests, as well as having frank conversations with each of the candidates about their willingness to implement our transformative vision of higher ed disruption, the Board unanimously thought Bruce Harreld’s experience running a fast food chicken chain twenty years ago, and his vision and willingness to disregard faculty and staff still involved in actual teaching and research, would ultimately provide the destructive disruption we know they need.

We are pissed that faculty have decided to their follow their commitment to maintaining the public good that the University of Iowa has long been over opportunities to endorse their own dismantling, as well as the end of that institution they love, and to focus their efforts on stopping us instead of accepting our unquestionable authority to fuck them over like a pig on a one way trip to Sioux City.

So there you have it.  I’d say it’s a good thing they have editors working hard to soften the edges of Board of Regents’ press releases.

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a gitit front end for multiple research repositories

I switched a long time ago now to keeping all of my research, course notes, general reading notes, brainstorming notes, etc. in plain text files. I write them using the pandoc variant of markdown. And, I use Mercurial or Git to keep the repositories synced to Bitbucket. These are private repositories, but following on Caleb McDaniel’s open history experiement, I’ve been experimenting with using Gitit locally as a front end for one of my projects. It is based on pandoc, and essentially provides a wiki interface to a set of text files that are written in pandoc.

The most recent release of Gitit allows users to specify the default filetype of pages to be converted in the wiki. Originally, this was set to .page. This was fine for a new project, but I had tons of older repositories with lots of .txt files I didn’t want to change. So, I was excited to get the ability to specify the file type, which means I can use the front end on pre-existing projects filled with many folders and files.

What is more, I can use Gitit’s configuration file to simply spin up a wiki on any of my repos whenever I need or want the kind of search and display features that a wiki provides. I now have a folder named projects that includes all of my various research, teaching, and brainstorming repositories. Each of those repositories is source controlled with Git of Mercurial, and synced using source control to a repo on bitbucket:


and so forth.

In the conf folder, I have all the files needed for Gitit, including configuration files for each of the repos:


Using the configuration files, I can point Gitit to one set of static files and templates, one log file, and the appropriate repository of files for whatever I’m looking for. To do that, I change the default configuration file to search for the project folder, instead of the default wikidata folder Gitit usually uses. Then, at any point when I need to search for things have a different front end that the terminal window, I’ll spin up a wiki from the Projects folder with this command:

gitit -f conf/repoName.conf

I like this very much, because I’m not tied to Gitit’s default folder or filetype structure, I can work in my repositories the way I’m accustomed to, and still get the benefit of a wiki whenever I want it. Easy to do. Works like a charm.

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the meaning of de-tenure is typo

The University of Tennessee System has retracted the term “de-tenure” from the press release describing President DiPietro’s plan for cost cutting and revenue enhancement. The amended press release now begins with the following:

NOTE: A correction has been made to this press release regarding the review of the University’s tenure and post-tenure review process by deleting the inadvertent and incorrect reference to “de-tenure” under the sixth bullet of the president’s action plan noted below.

The new language in the sixth bullet point is:

Tenure and post-tenure review process: The UT System Administration, with involvement by the Faculty Council, will conduct a comprehensive review of the University’s established tenure and post-tenure review process.

While I think this retraction is a small victory, it strains credulity that a press release describing the plan presented to, and approved by the Board of Trustees would include such a toxic and alarming term as “de-tenure” by mistake. As a typo. I believe that the individuals who wrote, read, and approved the original language for release were transcribing the intent of the proposal to review P&T procedures at UT.

The System has had a procedure for post-tenure review, and even removal, since 2003. Cumulative Performance Review (CPR) is currently triggered after two consecutive years in the preceding five of an overall rating of 1 on a scale of 1-5 in the Annual Review process. Or, CPR can be triggered with three years in the preceding five of a combination rating of 1s or 2s. This is followed by a process of review by a specially-appointed committee of a faculty member’s performance.

Chancellor Cheek and DiPietro describe this process as ponderous or confusing or some such, and say that it is in need of change. And, this is brought up in the context of a plan for cost cutting. I see de-tenuring and firing-with-tenure as a distinction without a difference.

The larger context for the connection between the budget and seeking a path to dismissing tenured professors is Tennessee’s turn towards “Outcome Based Budgeting” which ties remittances to the University by the state to performance measures. This kind of fiscal discipline really has no place in public universities, who exist as a service to the citizens of the state. I can say with full confidence that the University of Tennessee Knoxville is more productive than it’s ever been by all kinds of rational measures. Our faculty are much more productive in research than in generations past. We graduate more students as a university, and have bigger incoming classes than ever before. We do so with demonstrably fewer resources. In fact, the College of Arts and Sciences would need close to 40 lines to get us back to the same level of FTE positions as we had in the mid-1990s. Additionally, quality education is an inherently inefficient process by the measures of capital. We give our most advanced and valued students (grad students) courses in a format that is most efficient at teaching them the values, methods, and content of historical practice. We do that in small seminars, not because they measure well on institutional efficiency, but because the seminar room in the most efficient means of teaching deep thinking, research, analysis, and the like.

This talk of productivity shows that the failed business model under operation here is the model of treating university education like a business. Neither Cheek nor DiPietro agree.

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On the meaning of de-tenure

Update: UT changes the press release I quote below to remove the word de-tenure.

President Joe DiPietro and the UT Board of Trustees voted yesterday to make the tenure process, tenured compensation, and de-tenuring a key element of its plan to cut costs and expand revenues in the wake of reduced state support for higher education.

The Board of Trustees held its winter meeting on February 25-26 in Memphis. In recent meetings, the System President DiPietro has been talking up plans to deal with the University’s “failed business model.” This model, according to DiPietro, is based on replacing state dollars with tuition dollars. I’ll start off here by saying that that is not a “business model,” but rather a response to a “political problem.” The governor and state legislature, over the course of the last 10 years, have failed to fully fund the state’s own formula that determines its contributions to the university system.

At the June meeting, DiPietro forecast a $155M shortfall over the next ten years due to falling state contributions to the system. That forecast shortfall at the winter meeting has grown to $377M, a convenience in the context of the President’s presentation of a plan to cut costs and increase revenues. For most of the last year, I believed that DiPietro was playing a shame game with the legislature and governor (whose family name adorns myriad buildings and programs at UTK), prodding them to fully fund the state’s own formula.

Until today.

The plan DiPietro presented, and that the Board approved, centers on six points to address tuition shortfalls, forecasted salary gaps, and decaying infrastructure in the system:

  1. Program realignment and consolidation: campuses will address low-performing programs to fund program reinvestment and perform a feasibility analysis and develop a plan for program consolidations to save costs.
  2. Allocation and reallocation plans: set aside 3 percent of base year’s total unrestricted E&G expenditures to address strategic initiatives, address deferred maintenance and identify cost savings from voluntary retirement and other workforce development options.
  3. Unfunded mandates for tuition waivers and discounts: the UT System Administration will study these discounts, estimated to be $7.4 million annually System-wide.
  4. Tuition structure review: Options include expanding differential tuition, increase enrollment of out-of-state students and the 15-4 tuition plan.
  5. Non-formula fee structure: Non-formula units (Health Science Center, Institute for Public Service and Institute of Agriculture) will review whether outreach efforts are capturing actual cost of delivery and determine whether fees should be charged.
  6. Tenure and post-tenure review process: To be conducted by UT System Administration and with involvement by the Faculty Council, to look at awarding of tenure, post-tenure compensation and enacting of a de-tenure process.

The first five points read like standard responses to fiscal cuts– realignment and consolidation of programs (read, cutting departments?), fee structures (raising student costs without raising “tuition”), moving money around, etc. The last one caught my attention.

What in the world is a “de-tenure process”, and what place does tenure, a bulwark of academic freedom and security for the risks of academic training and employment, have in a conversation on cutting costs and increasing revenues?

To understand more, I watched DiPietro’s presentation of the plan to the Board of Trustees. The President noted to the board that from now on, in response to this manufactured economic crisis, all actions by the System must either cut costs or increase revenue. Here is a transcription of DiPietro’s comments on point six, which begin at 24:01 in the linked video:

The last item on the list which will be led by the System is to take a look at tenure and post-tenure review process and it will be conducted by us at the System level. This will be a review and make recommendations on needed revisions regarding post-tenure review. I would like it to include adjustments for compensation for high performers in that post-review time frame and also to look at policy for termination based on unsatisfactory performance. I will do this in concert with the Faculty Council and a group of people. We will keep them tuned in. But the reality is the post-tenure review processes that we currently have from the standpoint of the CPR program is not very effective.

So, here we have it. In a move that I don’t know any faculty were forewarned of, DiPietro has opened the door for the Board of Trustees to undo the protections of tenure at the University of Tennessee.

I tweeted that transcription, which immediately elicited a harsh response from the academics I know over there because they see it for what it is… a blatant attack on tenure in the name of cutting costs. DiPietro responded to @historianess on twitter, who called “de-tenure process” what it plainly is, an attack on tenure, with this:

@historianess I fully believe in the concept of tenure.
2/27/15, 5:55 PM

I’ve asked him to clarify how that is, on twitter, but you know, he hasn’t answered yet:

@utpresidentjoe @historianess Could you explain, then, how a tenure and a de-tenure process has any place in a convo on cost-cutting?
2/27/15, 5:59 PM

This is in direct conflict with the Knoxville campus’s push towards being a  Top 25 public university, our current campaign to improve UTK. It’s in direct conflict with many of the most cherished values of the academy and higher education. And, I’d love to provide DiPietro’s explanation for how his belief in the concept of tenure squares with having a “de-tenure process” that is not connected to disciplinary issues. If he provides one, I will post it immediately here, or provide a forum for him to do so directly. I’d really like to know, in the context of budget discussions, what the meaning of “de-tenure” actually is.

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What contribute…

What contributes to this misconception (that the Internet is chaotic rather than highly controlled), I suggest, is that protocol is based on a contradiction between two opposing machines: One machine radically distributes control into autonomous locales, the other machine focuses control into rigidly defined hierarchies. The tension between these two machines—a dialectical tension—creates a hospitable climate for protocological control.

Alexander Galloway, Protocol (MIT: 2004): p.8.

I like this quote very much, because it articulates the structure of control not just of the distributed network of the internets but also of the early modern Spanish empire. Which is to say, Spain’s empire exercised long term control over its territories in the Americas (and Asia) without a standing army through the mediation of the judicial protocol. Judicial protocols mediated contending claims to centralization and decentralization, of the king’s authority and local custom; of jurisdictional hierarchy and jurisdictional flexibility/conflict; of legal predation and legal protection. The ambiguities of this judicial mediation likewise created “a hospitable climate for protocological control.”

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getting started with github and

This is a cross-posted piece from the blog for my Digital History seminar. While I wrote it specifically for my students in that class, I figure it might have slightly larger appeal to other professors out there considering using GitHub with a digital history or digital humanities class. It covers how to get up and running with the combination of github and as the framework for a collaborative course blog.

Up and running

As we discussed during our first meeting, participation on the class blog will be a key component of our learning process. It will extend our discussions before and after class, and provide a platform for much of the important writing and critique that we will do together. In this post, I will provide the promised mini-tutorial on getting up and running on the class blog. But, I would also like to write a bit about the systems that form the foundation for the site. So, first up will be a step-by-step guide for getting GitHub and up and running, followed by some further discussion of jekyll, git, and HTML and Internet technologies.


Our course site this semester is built on a set of free and open source technologies that evolved in response to the culture of open source software development over the course of the past few years. First and foremost among these is GitHub. As the company explains of itself,

GitHub is the best place to share code with friends, co-workers, classmates, and complete strangers.

We won’t exactly be sharing code (though I hope by the end of the semester, a few of you will be). Instead, we’ll be sharing our explorations of digital histories. Github still works really well for this, because our entire course site is built using GitHub Pages.

Each of you will need a GitHub account in order to access the front end for writing our blog posts. This is as simple as signing up for any other web service.

Step 1.

Sign up for a GitHub account. There, that was simple.


Ok, it’s only slightly more complicated than that. Two things to think about– what do you want your github identity to be and what do we do about passwords? You may make your ID whatever you’d like as long as your classmates know who you are. The ID name is important, because it is what you will use for the author info on your posts. Passwords are more difficult. If you use a password that is robust (ie, long and made up of a variety of types of characters, ie alphanumerics and symbols), it will be hard to remember. If you use a password that is easy to remember it likely won’t be very robust. Might I suggest you consider using a password manager to generate passwords for you? If not, then at the very least do not use the same password for all of your accounts– email, bank, gmail, github, etc. Doing that makes you more vulnerable. Onwrad, though.

Step 2.

Email me your GitHub username, so that I can add it as a collaborator on the course site repo. That’s even easier, assuming you have my email address. You do, don’t you? It’s up top over there.

Once you have been added as a collaborator to the course repo, it will show up as one of your own repositories on your Github home page. With that, you could clone the repository onto your local machine, write your posts there, and push them back to the repository. I’m guessing that you didn’t understand pretty much anything that I just wrote there, though. So, to make all of this easier on you, we are going to use a web editing interface provided through a service called To use prose, do the following.

Step 1:

Make sure that you are logged in to your github account.

Step 2:

Navigate your browser to On the landing page, click on the “Authorize on Github” button.


Step 3

Once you’ve authenticated, you will see a list of repos on your account. Unless you’ve gone ahead and created your own repos, the only one will be Click on the repo, and you’ll find yourself in the _posts folder, with access to all the previous posts written for the site and the ability to create new ones.

prose folder

Click on the green button to create a new post.

Writing with Markdown was created by the web development team behind the government’s new site, which provides a portal to resources and the exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act. It is intended to be a web editor that provides an easy place to write text snippets that will be inserted into web page templates. Thankfully, it does not require you to write raw HTML, but rather uses a simple language syntax known as Markdown. Markdown was created by John Gruber with the intention of making it easier to write content for the web, and it has been an almost unbelievable success. There are now many favors of Markdown in the wild, but all of them share some basic syntax originally defined by Gruber. This syntax allows you to write in plain text, but signal to a processor how the text should be transformed into more semantically rich HTML. The syntax is not complicated, but does require a little bit of a learning curve. With it, you will be able to make links, embed images, write footnotes, use block quotes, produce ordered and unordered lists, and clearly define code snippets.

You can find Gruber’s original documentation on Markdown here.

I’m also writing a complete list of options for our version of Markdown here. Once it’s done, you can simply print it out as a cheat sheet.

There is also help from within by clicking on the ?.

Back to creation

After clicking on the new button, you may enter your markdown-flavored text into the editor directly, or paste it in from a plain text file you wrote on your computer. If you go this route, it’s important to use a text editor and not Word.

Note too that you can click on Edit to revisit a post, or the trash can to delete it.

In any case, there are three last steps to publishing your post.

  • Enter a title. Click on the lightly-shaded word Untitled and give your post a title. It should be descriptive of the content. Please don’t go the lazy route of naming your post something like “Post 1” or “Print Proposal”.

  • Click on the metadata button on the right side of the screen. This will bring up a dialogue box. Fill your github username in as the author of the post. This is the name that will show up on our homepage listing of new posts, and also on the post itself.

meta button

meta box

There are other metadata possibilities for that can be entered in the box, but we can leave that discussion till later.

  • Save your changes. Really, what you’re doing in saving is committing your changes to the repository, which is tracking every change made to the files on which the site is built. Each commit produces a new state. Make sure to enter a short message into the commit box documenting the changes that you made. If you don’t enter anything, provides some boilerplate that will be recorded.

commit dialogue

Note that the metadata that I’ve set to automatically generate, along with the metadata that you’ve entered, shows up appended to the top of your post between a set of triple dashes.

layout: post
published: true
title: your title
author: your name

That information helps jekyll create the site by setting important variables and choosing the appropriate template to put the new html into.

How it works

I was going to end this post with a bit on the architecture of this site, and how it works so that you understand how our site is made. Instead, I think I’ll encourage you to do two things:

  1. Right click on this page and choose ‘View Source’ and take some time to look at the html. Where did the content I wrote for this post get inserted? Where did the rest of the information come from? What does it do?

  2. Take some time to poke around the files on the course site repo, available to you through github, and see if you can intuit/figure out what each of them are doing. What do the various folders do? See what you can figure out. The jekyll documentation might be a good source.

Looking forward to your own first posts.

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.

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