Sunday, April 29, 2007

22 Days in May

The Bike to Work (month) Challenge

In honor of the upcoming Bike to Work Day in May (18th – see website and participating businesses) I’ve decided to challenge myself to commute by bike every day to work in the month of May. As a long-time bike commuter this might not seem like much of a challenge at first glance. In the past 15 years, making an educated guess, I would say that 90% of my commuting has been done by bicycle. This has included my graduate school years in the Louisiana, a couple year stint in the Midwest, and a few years of living in Elko. The last 9 or so years spent in Reno I have been more consistent than ever in my bicycle commute. It didn’t hurt that the distance to my workplace for the majority of that time has only been about 2-3 miles.

But the challenge of bike commuting changed a bit this past January when I took a job 12 miles from my door. I’m no stranger to the challenges involved in commuting that distance. My time living in Elko was 13 miles one-way with a small summit to go over every day (Spring Creek to Elko proper for those who are familiar). The challenge now is two-fold: One, I started this new job in the dead of winter and as any bike commuter knows, prepping for a quick 3 mile ride vs. a 12 mile ride is quite a different animal in terms of proper attire and gear; Two, my new job as a teacher requires a big allocation of time for the grading and planning that goes along with the time in the classroom. Essentially this makes for a job that has me putting in 10+ hour days consistently. Not to rationalize (too much anyway) but for those of you who read this and think “so what, lots of people work long hours” I would ask you to remember that very few jobs require you to be prepared to educate (and entertain) 100+ teenagers a day everyday of the week. They are at school ready for me to teach whether I am prepared or not. I have to be ready for them.

When I was commuting 3 miles one-way it was actually faster by bike than taking a car due to traffic and parking. A 12-mile commute takes me roughly 45-50 minutes, which is double the drive time. The pay off in biking is of course that it is fun, healthy, environmentally better for our community, and perhaps most importantly, keeps me from going completely nuts. Frustrations from the day invariably melt away after a bike ride.

All this has lead me to be the most inconsistent in my bike commuting that I have ever been in the last 15 years. But the buck stops here! In conjunction with the month of May (bike to work month in many states - NV only has a one-day event) I am pledging to commute every working day to my school. Thus the 22 days in May. Tallying up my workdays and knocking off the holiday weekend later in the month is how I came up with the 22. For the next month I will chronicle my commute and all of its challenges along with including information and tips about biking that will hopefully inspire a few other people to give bike commuting a shot, if not multiple times this month, then at least shooting for the official bike to work day (mark your calendars!) May 18th.

Day 1 Starts Tuesday!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Impeach Bush/Cheney rally

Swung by the rally on my way downtown this afternoon. A decent write up in the RGJ is linked. Why only 50 or so protesters? Perhaps the answer is in this quote from Jon Stewart:

"You know, one of the things that I do think government counts on is that people are busy. And it's very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it's over really crucial-- you know, foundational issues. That come to a tipping point.

"But war that hasn't affected us here, in the way that you would imagine a five-year war would affect a country. I think that's why they're so really — here's the disconnect. It's sort of this odd and I've always had this problem with the rationality of it. That the President says, "We are in the fight for a way of life. This is the greatest battle of our generation, and of the generations to come. "And, so what I'm going to do is you know, Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and our children's children all suffer. So, what I'm gonna do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad."

"So, there's a disconnect there between — you're telling me this is fight of our generation, and you're going to increase troops by 10 percent. And that's gonna do it. I'm sure what he would like to do is send 400,000 more troops there, but he can't, because he doesn't have them. And the way to get that would be to institute a draft. And the minute you do that, suddenly the country's not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back, and then the whole thing falls apart. So, they have a really delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we're doing and really examine how it is that they've been waging this."

The End is Nigh?

When the NY Times has a big write-up on fixed gear bikes is that the end of the road? Naaaaah!

There's a nifty audio slideshow that is extra cool!

The Return of Bill Moyers

The welcome return of Bill Moyers Journal occured this week and will continue with more episodes the next few weeks. If you missed his interview with Jon Stewart last night you can go to the pbs site and view it. The transcript is also available and here is a little snippet of one of the better exchanges regarding Alberto Gonzalez:

JON STEWART: And by the way, that was all just — that was a game, and he knew it, and the guys on the committee knew it. And for the President to come out after that and say, "Everything I saw there gave me more confidence in him," that solidified my notion that, "Oh, it's because what he expected of Gonzalez was" it's sort of like, do you remember in GOODFELLAS? When Henry Hill got arrested for the first time and Robert DeNiro met him at the courthouse and Henry Hill was really upset, 'cause he thought Robert DeNiro would be really mad at him. And DeNiro comes up to him and he gives him a $100 and he goes, "You got pinched. We all get pinched, but you did it right, you didn't say nothing."

BILL MOYERS: Gonzales said nothing.

JON STEWART: Right. And "you went up there and said nothing. You gave them no legal recourse against you, and you made yourself a smart man, a self-made man look like an utter pinhead on national television, and you did it for me."

BILL MOYERS: How do you explain that the Washington press corps, by and large, particularly the Sunday shows join the game with them? I mean, you watch those shows

JON STEWART: They don't all, I mean...

BILL MOYERS: No, not all of them do, but there's a kind of wink-wink questioning going on there. You know, I'll ask the devil's advocate...

JON STEWART: Well, it's because it's the Harlem Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals. It's they're the only teams playing, and they know they've got to play each other every week, and they all have sort of assumed their role. And, I mean, at this point, the government is just you know, blowing the doors off the media. And not everywhere, and I think, this is where you know, a lot of those blog reporters and all of those things are bringing a lot of urgency and a lot of momentum to stories that wouldn't normally carry any momentum.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Quote of the Day - Barry Goldwater

"There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, Or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing througout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threates of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism." - Barry Goldwater, Congressional Record, September 16, 1981.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Quote of the Day - From George McGovern

While perusing the latest Rolling Stone that (gasp) actually has some worthwhile reading in it for a change (it's the 40th anniversary issue) I came across this quote when asked about his "unvarnished take, as a historian, on the legacy of George W. Bush":

"He's easily the worst president in American history. I don't think that's exaggeration at all. Nobody has put us into such a god-awful mess as this one. Nobody.

...He's terribly incompetent in managing the ship of state.... I don't think he has a glimmer of reality on the big issues before the country: global warming, the escalating arms race, the war, the environment, education. He's a disaster."

Karl Rove = Poison

Apparently John Edwards is planning to call on the President to fire Karl Rove tomorrow. From the campaign email:

New evidence shows that Rove has been methodically working to twist even the most impartial branches of the federal government—including the Justice Department—to serve the Republican Party at the expense of the American people.

Enough is enough. Impartial justice must be protected. Integrity in government must be defended. Karl Rove must be fired.

Tomorrow, John Edwards is going on national television to take part in the first presidential debate. And that night, he's going to call on George Bush to fire Karl Rove.

Will Bush listen? Not to John alone. Not to you or me alone. But if thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of us speak out together to demand accountability for Karl Rove and end their era of cynical, destructive, partisan government—we cannot be ignored.
I'll believe it when i see it as far as this having any effect on the President but if you'd like to sign the online petition go here:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Welcome Île de la Possession

One of the fun things about having a blog is finding out about some of the places where visitors to my site are located. The wonders of Google Analytics! This morniing I noticed that someone from the Crozet Islands (a place I didn't even know existed) had popped over to the Reno Rambler site. A little searching and I've found out about another interesting place that I need to put on my list of "places to see before I die." I'm a little embarassed since I lived in Sri Lanka for a time and Île de la Possession is in the general area (Southern Indian Ocean). Apparently I'll need to pack my rain gear since it rains about 300 days a year. I suppose I can always brush up on my French if I'm stuck indoors.

So, welcome to all Île de la Possession visitors!

New Bike Mag and Blog

Sign up for the free (for the first year) print edition of the Practical Pedal at the above link. Based out of Montana. The blog is worth checking out as well.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Happy Birthday to James Starley!

Slate has a wonderful photo expose in honor of James Starley, inventor of the "penny-farthing" bicycle, who was born today in 1830. It's all too easy to forget what an extraordinary impact the bicycle has had on the world. I recall the end of the millenium articles that attempted to catalog the most important inventions of the last 1000 years. It was hit or miss whether the bicycle even got a mention by the major media outlets (although the general public in the UK probably got it right:

How many inventions are this elegant, life changing for billions of people, and fun? I grabbed a couple of the Slate photos but pop over to their site to check out the full gallery of images.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're really in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech." -- Noam Chomsky

More cruelty from right-wing crackpots by Joan Walsh

Walsh's response to the "blame the victims" mentality of these right wingers is pretty much dead on.

Others have noted the Michelle Malkin and "Mad John Derbyshire" comments so I won't repeat them here. I will say that they make Don Imus seem like innocuous comic relief in our ongoing public discourse.

Walsh concludes her article with:

So let's sort this out: On a day when people of conscience and common sense are asking what makes a miserable young man turn to guns and violence, conservative provocateurs are insisting the answer is more guns and violence. Over three tragic days, I've found solace in the actions of two Virginia Tech professors: the courageous Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu, who died blocking the door so his students could get away, and English department chair Lucinda Roy, who tutored Cho personally when other students were afraid to be in class with him; who tried to get him counseling, and even went to the police with her concerns about the dangerously depressed student. But Malkin and Steyn are telling me Librescu and Roy are actually part of the problem.

Of course, I'd rather be in the camp where people debate whether it's OK to criticize the president in a time of tragedy than in the camp where people blame the victims of the tragedy. I actually feel sorry for decent conservatives today, having to be soiled by association with such garbage. But if you ever find yourself wondering why liberals are so often out-shouted in the public sphere, even though most Americans agree with their politics, remember this moment. It isn't easy to compete with wingnuts who will say absolutely anything to make their points. When Ann Coulter's cracks about the 9/11 widows start to look tame by comparison, you know standards of public discourse are continuing to erode.

Click on the link for her full commentary.

One final thought. Despite my consternation at these remarks about the victims of the VT massacre. And my revulsion at Don Imus in general, I can't help but be worried about Free Speech in this country. I'm not saying the issue really is about free speech. But the lazy response to dispicale comments like those of Imus, Coulter, Malkin, and Derbyshire, is to limit our freedoms instead of taking the responsibility as individuals of creating a society with more civil discourse.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quote of the Day

I've never been one to look down my nose at younger people with disdain for their tastes in music. I really can't do that as an educator in a high school. I figure that the most vital component of rock and roll is really how derivative it is in the sense that it is all about borrowing and coming up with some new, vital mixture of something that rocks our collective socks off. I've gone out of my way to talk with my students about Woody Guthrie as the "punk rocker" of his time as a way of bridging the musical perceptions of different generations.

That being said I was struck by this quote from Andy Partridge from Magnet Magazine:

“I long for young kids to come up with some stuff that’s really going to upset me. But you know what, nobody does. They all want a little piece of the corporate cake, they’re all too stale, playing it safe and calm. I want a band who make their own instruments out of cardboard, play four-hour songs about urinating. I want stuff that’s really out there, because everything else has been done to death, and then redone, and then recycled and redone, and even recycling redone has been recycled and redone. Is it too much to ask for something new, for God’s sake? It sort of started in a big way in the ’90s, this sort of regurgitating; and now it seems like the circles are getting smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter.”
— from an interview with Andy Partridge, lead singer/songwriter of XTC.

I have to admit I'm starting to feel this way about the state of popular music. Particularly the way that everything is cross-promoted to death so that artists get a bigger "piece of the corporate cake." Even artists who took a stand against hawking products in the 80s/90s now see it as part and parcel of the music industry if you want to sell any records. How many times have I heard that lousy John Mellencamp song not because it's on the radio but because there's always a Chevy commerical on tv? Am I becoming the musical curmudgeon I always hated?

At least Partridge is putting his money where his mouth is with the release of his latest Project, Monstrance. It's a two-disc set of live, overdub- and edit-free music, recorded in two jam sessions. Love it or hate it the album is not quite like anything I've heard before.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What happens when two of my passions collide?

From the NV Appeal:

Creative transportation: Stateline conference to focus on bicycles and schools

Innovative ways to get kids safely to school will be the focus of a two-day conference in Stateline next week.

The Nevada Bicycle and Pedestrian Conference has been held in several cities throughout the Silver State, but will return to Stateline for the third straight time.

"In its sixth year, this conference is truly the state's foremost event for bike and walking enthusiasts, advocates, engineers, administrators, educators and consultants," said Nevada Department of Transportation Bicycle/Pedestrian Program Manager Eric Glick in a press statement. "It's a chance to come together and realize different approaches to improve the needs of the bicycling and walking public."

"Fakengers" of the world unite!!!

I'm so unhip I didn't even realize that there was a word for the messenger wannabees roaming our streets. The official definition from the "urban dictionary":
A bike riding poseur who dresses in messenger gear and rides a fixed gear but is not a messenger. They can be found in most major cities, ie Portland, S.F. That fakenger thinks he's hot shit, but all he does is ride around all day being a jackass. ---See also "posenger"

For more amusement check out the link above from San Francisco weekly for their "ask a track bike" column. What a hoot!

My creeping sense of the irrelevance of blogs....

I've been wondering the last 6 months or so if blogs are really all that and this image came across my desk just when I was wondering what the point was. When you see media corps and politicians coopting them it feels like a stale medium. Oh well, at least I never really held it up as a form of journalism like some folks....

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Quote of the Day

"He should become in tune with the fact that he is President of the United States, not King of the United States," -- Harry Reid.