Monday, March 31, 2008

Local Bike News Roundup

The Human Powered Vehicle Challenge will be hosted in Reno April 18-20. More information here.

Nice to see an article on the Procrastinating Pedalers Bike Club in The Reno Gazette Journal.

The RTC’s Regional Bicycle Committee has been reformed. Yours truly has been named a member. I'm sure I'll write more about this when there is something to report.

1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge Update:
120 Miles down.
880 To go.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - She and Him

Like many people I was rather smitten in 2003 when watching the film Elf and noticed Zooey Deschanel’s singing voice as she belted out, ”Baby, it’s Cold Outside.” Yeah, it didn’t hurt that the scene was in the shower. But that voice, her inflection, a cross between Rosemary Clooney and Doris Day was mesmerizing. The question was, when was she going to put out an album (either from her cabaret side project or in some other capacity?

Well, that time arrived last week in the form of the album, She and Him, vol. 1, a collaboration with alterna guru, M. Ward. And while the obvious reaction is to look down one’s nose at an actress trying to play a singer, one listen tells you that she is the real deal. All but two of the songs were written by Deschanel and there are a number of strong tracks but the most obvious “hit” is the song, Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? For better or worse the song has been picked up for an ad for Urban Outfitters. I guess that’s the world we live in. Here’s a snippet of the song via the commercial and below a performance from this year’s sxsw festival. Look for She and Him to appear at the San Francisco Oyster Festival on May 18th.

Friday, March 28, 2008

1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge - Day 4

96 miles down in the first week of this year's bike to work challenge. Only 904 to go. I may be riding in tomorrow (Saturday) to do some work before the end of the school quarter so I may get to pad that number.

In other cycling news picked up the following story about the "Stupidest Bike Lane" from Click here to see the video. Readers of this blog will note that they are incorrect. I already covered the dumbest bike lane right here in Reno.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up

I was never much of a Smiths fan but this song is so clearly one the greatest songs ever that I have to put it on every once in awhile just to lift my spirits. If you have an "11" on your volume that's where it belongs when listening to this song.

1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge - Day 3

I'm becoming convinced that these are some of the best commuting clincher tires available. They ride and roll well but more importantly I managed to not remember that on my commute home the night before I saw a terrible car accident that left glass all over the road at Plumb and Watt Streets. This morning I ended up riding through the field of sticky, sharp glass left on the road since it was to dark to see it coming. I thought for sure I would be fixing a flat before I'd biked another block. Not a chance. Best. Tire. Ever. (if a little heavy)

I was surprised to see on my ride up Windy Hill this morning that part of my normal route would be "under construction" for a couple of weeks in April. Looks like I'll be adding a little bit of mileage to my daily commute in finding an alternate route.

Another windy day but no big deal.

72 miles down.
928 to go!

I'm taking a day off the bike tomorrow to resupply myself with clothes and run a few errands.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge - Day 2

As part of my Bike to Work challenge I'll try and highlight some cool resources for people interested in or currently bike commuting. The first example, the site

An uneventful if windy day today on the bike.

Total mileage: 48
952 miles to go.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The 1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge

This year’s Bike to Work Challenge is to reach the 1000 commuting mile mark before the school year ends! That’s 53 workdays including finals week. Multiply that by 24 miles a day and I have 1272 potential biking miles until the end of the year. Essentially that means I have 11 “off the bike” days to work with for switching clothes, weather issues (see last year’s snow day in May) or illness. Not bad. I need to ride approximately 4 out of 5 days a week! I can do that.

Last year’s 22 Days in May bike challenge where I pledged to commute by bike to my job was a big personal success for me. After a bad winter of not riding much in 2007 it was a good way to shake the dust off and get myself motivated to ride to work again. It didn’t hurt that I ended up riding over 500 miles for my commute alone and saving who knows how much gas, money, and even doing my little part for the planet.

This year I want to up the ante while allowing myself a bit more flexibility. During the 22 Days that I rode last year I felt a little hemmed in by the challenge. Because my commute is 24 miles round trip it was necessary to pack up work clothes to change into when I arrived at school. I’m lucky enough to have a locker to put clothes in at work and a safe place to store my bike. Yet in reality I should have taken a day off and driven to replenish my clean clothes supply, allow myself one rest day, and not necessarily felt guilty about it. But I made that pledge to ride every workday so I ended up driving in one Saturday to switch the clean for the dirty clothes. Kind of silly.

Considering the current cost of oil (and the way it keeps rising) who knows how much money I’ll save during this year’s challenge.

Anybody up for taking the challenge with me?

Today’s Mileage: 24
Total: 24

Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives wins Royal Television Society Award

It has also been nominated for a BAFTA as well! Excerpt on the RTS award:

Weaving together an emotional odyssey with an exploration of some of the most challenging front-line science was an audacious idea, but this film pulled it off magnificently.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - What's to be done with R.E.M.?

Here's a band that is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, changed the musical landscape influencing hundreds (thousands?) of bands over the course of the last (almost) three decades (gasp!) and yet here we are and I'm not sure how excited to be about their soon to be released new album. Murmer may have been the critical darling but I always thought the more melodic Reckoning was the better early album because of the range they started to show. My favorite "mid" career album is the sprawling masterwork, New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Unfortunately it seems to be the overlooked album from that era next to Automatic and Monster. The album includes everything great about the band without a bad track on it.

Unfortunately, the later albums have been spotty at best. Yet for every 2 duds they seem to produce something magnificent. Case in point, the track Walk Unafraid. Here it is along side the new video for Living Well is the Best Revenge. You be the judge:

How far they've come (First TV Performance on Letterman):

And finally, their best song (no wonder it is Stipe's favorite):

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Are Bicyclists More Politically Active?

This article seems to suggest a connection. It has certainly been true for me. The more I've become immersed in bicycling the more I've been engaged in political acts. Of course, by its very nature I would suggest that bicycling is a political act at this points. At least if you are doing it for transportation.

Eccentric Englishmen Rock!

Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge are apparently collaborating on an album. I'm sure they would chafe at being called eccentric. Well, maybe not. I've followed Partridge for years but haven't followed Hitchcock's work very closely since the 90s when I saw him in concert at Tipitina's in New Orleans. A great intimate show. Wish I could see Partridge perform live but probably not much hope of that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Freakiest Thing I've Seen In A Long Time

Creepy robots ARE going to take over the planet some day. This video proves it. Ugh! Make sure to watch enough of this to see the Robot "save" itself.

More on the robot here.

Thanks to the ibob list for this. I think?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Teaching Anne Frank and the Holocaust

Perhaps it is because I am just wrapping up my unit on Anne Frank with my 8th grade students, but I can’t help but be hyper-sensitive at the moment to accounts like this one of Anti-Semitism being on the rise. Whenever my students express disinterest in this subject, acting as if it is just ancient history, it is nice (if repugnant and sad) that I can point to an article like this, or one of the videos I’ve shown them on genocide in Darfur, and make it clear that we must be ever watchful for these types of injustice.

Speaking of which, don’t miss the current issue of the New Yorker’s article detailing one of only two photo albums that have been discovered documenting Auschwitz. The online photo gallery is particularly amazing. It’s nice to be able to show that it was real live humans, and not just two-dimensional Nazi monsters as depicted in Hollywood films, that did these terrible things. It makes the holocaust no less monstrous, but it is always helpful to remind our selves that it was actual humans perpetrating these inhumane acts.

The article in the New Yorker also talks about the death marches that occurred as Jews were marched from work camps to death camps. This is something I tried to give my own students a glimmer of by having them go on their own faux “death march” at school. After reading first person accounts from survivors of the marches, we wandered outside the building on a cold, blustery day a few weeks ago, while I paused every block or so to implement “random eliminations” based on whatever criteria I felt like at a given moment (one student wittily called me “bracist” for eliminating all students who wore braces). I merely replied that I needed the metal from their mouths to manufacture more bullets.

By the end of the march the students had “lost” most everything dear to them. Family, possessions, friends, homes, pets, were gone. Most lost their lives in our little exercise. The few remaining were given the honor of being “worked to death.” The written reflections I received after this exercise will be something I never forget. Hopefully the experience brought home to my students how extraordinary the atrocities of the holocaust were.

Click here to see a gallery of the images from the new Auschwitz photo album.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Bob Dylan, The Cult, Velvet Underground (and Earlimart)

I promised myself that this week's Sunday Morning Music selection would be something more current after weeks of musical reminiscing. But after watching Factory Girl, last year's biopic on the late Edie Sedgwick, last night I feel like I have to represent one of the crucial missing pieces in the film: music. Factory Girl portrays the rise and fall of Edie and it's a good enough film with some very good performances. Particularly Sienna Miller in the lead and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol (why is Pearce not in more films?!). There was mixed reaction to the film and I know a number of struggles with various cuts/versions. No doubt it was also hampered by the Bob Dylan lawsuit against the film for portraying the "Bob Dylan like character who isn't really Bob Dylan" as not the most honest of individuals who associates with Edie.

Clearly though, the big piece missing in retelling the story of the mid-60s, The Factory, and the influence of Edie on fashion and culture, was the underlying music of the era. I'm glad the film didn't turn into a glorified music video but we're talking about a pretty exciting time in music and to not use Dylan, Velvet Underground, etc. as touchstones to capture that seems a shame. So here goes:

The supposedly inspired by Sedgwick, Velvet Underground song, Femme Fatale:

Dylan's song that he admits was partially inspired by Sedgwick (Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat):

The Cheesy Power Ballad from The Cult about Edie (that I love anyway)

To see a far better use of The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary in a film check out Layer Cake.

And just because I promised myself something more current musically here is Earlimart's (who also like to pay homage to someone who died too young, Elliott Smith) Happy Alone.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Missing Paris (not Hilton)

I’ve been missing the streets of Paris a lot the last week or so as I’ve been slowly reading and savoring Hemingway’s, A Moveable Feast. Something about wandering the streets of Paris is so magical. It’s a fun city to get lost in and discover cafés, galleries, and the Parisians themselves. Since the dollar is so weak right now I don’t expect to be heading over to France any time soon. It’s a small consolation but I recently found this Paris daily photo blog and it takes a bit of the sting out of not being there.

Hemingway speaks of Paris life in a way that I can appreciate. Taking pleasure in the simple things that urban life offers. Long interesting walks, street vendors, cafes, etc.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Will the Real Reno Rambler please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?

How interesting to find that someone has coopted my "handle" for their myspace page. Definitely not me in the pic. Too hairy and no thanks on the skunky Heineken!

Bicycle Awareness

This driver awareness video has been making the rounds. It is a pretty amazing illustration how we see what we expect to see. At first I thought it wasn't real.

E and the President are best buddies

Going one step further after inviting the Queen of England to an Eels gig, E has now sent a letter to the George W. Bush and the First Lady inviting them to the upcoming D.C. gig.

Apparently he is trying to mend fences after the 2000 Bush campaign held one of their albums up as an example of pop music corrupting our youth.

"You may recall using our album 'Daisies of the Galaxy' as an example during your campaign for the presidency in 2000," Everett wrote in his invitation. "The album was supposed to be a bad example for the kids of America," he continued, referring to the statement the Bush camp issued when they found out DreamWorks reps were giving out promotional copies of the album at that year's Democratic National Convention. "Mr. President, I know that you're a Christian, and Christ taught forgiveness. So in the spirit of forgiveness and fence-mending, I'd like to let bygones be bygones..."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The New Pornographers Don't Bring Me Down

I was thrilled to see the release of a new live collection of New Pornographers on iTunes this past week. It features a number of great tracks from last years wonderful Challengers. But without a doubt one of the highlights has to be their cover of ELO's, Don't Bring Me Down. ELO may never be considered cool but this song rocks plain and simple.

I happen to love the NP's overall aesthetic. I think I remember an interview with A.C. Newman championing the merits of Wings, Paul McCartney's wonder group from the 70s. They may not have been critical darlings but Wings knew how to fashion great pop songs. I've got a stack of Wings on vinyl that are a testament to the power of good melodies. I'm not saying Macca is the greatest lyricist. But who cares when see the range of songs on London Town or Wings at the Speed of Sound. Actually, I think Wings has undergone a bit of a critical reassessment in the last few years which has been long overdue.

But I digress. Here's a NP performance of the aforementioned ELO classic.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Della Santa Bike Photos

I had numerous requests from my fellow iBobs to post some photos of my Della Santa. This is an earlier incarnation without the 2007 Chorus groups with its many carbon fiber parts. The bike rides like a dream and all told, weighs in at 17 lbs. The current bike also has Time pedals instead of these old Look pedals. A huge weight savings comes from the American Classic wheels which have held up for over 5 years now. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another set. I have also lowered the bars since I first purchased the bike.

As I said in my original post about the bike, even if I'm in terrible shape, when I throw my leg over this bike I feel like Paolo Bettini. It makes my worst days on the bike sheer bliss.

Tom Waits to Tour?

Rumors are flying about a Summer tour from Mr. Waits. If this is true I'll be the one jumping for joy.

Thanks to my comrade (Mr. B) for spreading this rumor my way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Finally - "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives" is mine!

At long last I was able to get a copy of this documentary from the BBC via various online resources. I may even be able to use it as part of a creative writing assignment for my students.

Speaking of Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, the documentary has been nominated for a much deserved Royal Television Society Award.

In other eels news, their are some bootleg copies of the new tour popping up online. The show may be worth it for the Good Times, Bad Times Zeppelin cover alone. Wow!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bicyclist Hit and Killed by California Highway Patrol

It's bad enough we have to be careful of the general population behind the wheel of an automobile. Now this. Tragic any way you look at it.

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- The California Highway Patrol has launched an investigation into what caused a rookie Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department deputy to veer his patrol car into a group of cyclists on a training ride, killing two of them and seriously injuring a third.

Witnesses have told police they overheard the deputy admit to possibly falling asleep at the wheel shortly before the 10:25 a.m. Sunday crash. However, authorities were refusing to speculate what may have caused the accident.

"It's going to be a drawn-out comprehensive investigation," said Don Morrissey, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department. "It's just a tragic incident. Obviously, it's going to have deep impacts on everybody involved, from the deputy to the victim's family, next of kin, family, friends, everybody like that."

The third bicyclist was taken to Stanford Medical Center with critical injuries, but has since been listed in stable condition, according to Morrissey.

Friends have identified the dead as 30-year-old Kristy Gough of Oakland and Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco. Gough competed professionally as a triathlete and only recently had begun to concentrate on cycling.

Peterson, member of the San Francisco-based Roaring Mouse Cycles racing team, had recently won a road racing event in downtown Merced.

Authorities said that at approximately 10:25 A.M., a Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff was patrolling the Stevens Canyon area in Cupertino. The deputy was traveling northbound on Stevens Canyon Road near Montebello Road when his vehicle accidentally crossed over the centerline of the roadway. The deputy’s vehicle struck three bicyclists who were on a training ride and were traveling southbound on Stevens Canyon Road.

The deputy immediately exited his vehicle, began to render aid and requested emergency medical assistance. Tragically, one of the bicyclists died at the scene. A second bicyclist was transported via Life Flight to Stanford Medical Center for treatment and died there.

Paris, Hemingway, and Urban Cycling

Love this little excerpt from A Moveable Feast, courtesy of this site. For a more up to date write-up about cycling in Paris check out this issue of enRoute. Some interesting thoughts about the great velo experiment going on in Paris right now.

Speaking of cycling history, this book on Major Taylor looks like a good read.

Don't forget to check out the latest issue of Urban Velo. An interesting read.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Something Old, Something Newish, Something Borrowed, Something Bluish

I don't know if I can fully express how influential and beloved bauhaus were in my youth amongst a certain group of friends that I came of age with. Nevermind that to the casual observer they seemed a bit silly and like they wanted to be Bowie a bit too much. Hindsight is 20/20 I suppose so more power to them. Who hasn't wanted to be Bowie at some point?

Here's a glimpse of them in their heyday:

Bauhaus have returned with a final, and pretty well-received collection of songs, Go Away White, following their big Coachella performance and tour. How do you sing Bela Lugosi's Dead for 10 minutes while hanging upside down? You'd think Peter Murphy's head would have exploded. The full video of this performance comes with the itunes version of their new album.

Now for something borrowed. Bowie reportedly said that their version of Ziggy was how he wished he had recorded it.

And finally, Peter Murphy's "hit" from his solo years which was actually better than much of the post Bauhaus output from band members.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bike Bondage!

I suppose this goes right along with my bike/gun mount. A good cyclist is always prepared, even when you need a good set of "cuffs." The reviews are so-so for these as a bike lock, but what lock can't be broken? None. Still, I'm sure they would scare off any ex-cons turned bike thieves. It's a nice touch that the company's name, "Master", is emblazoned so proudly on them.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Barack Obama Bikes?

Ok, maybe he isn't a bicyclist. Word has it he runs 3 miles a day. However, Obama's National Transportation Plan Includes Bicycling and Walking. I don't know what self-respecting Democrat wouldn't include bicycling in a transportation plan.


Democratic front runner Barack Obama just released a campaign "Fact Sheet" entitled, "Strengthening America's Transportation Infrastructure" (download it). While Hillary Clinton has put forward some outstanding and heavily transit-oriented plans of her own, Obama appears to be the first major party presidential candidate to outline a national transportation platform that explicitly seeks to "create policies that incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of sidewalks and roads" (if anyone knows differently, let us know in the comments section). Whatever the case, it's a significant step up from the 2004 campaign featuring George W. Bush's mountain bike fitness regimen and John Kerry, spandex-clad on an $8,000 Serotta.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Elastica

Yeah, yeah, Justine Frischmann and company wanted to be Wire or the Stranglers a bit too much. I'm not sure that's such a bad thing. Who knows how many lawsuits were filed against the band for copping from other bands. But there is no denying the power of some of those gems from their self-titled album. It's one of those little pop masterpieces that has been swept under the rug a bit since the band faltered so quickly. This is a perfect example of a sharply written song from the band and my personal favorite. A perfect get up and start moving song for Sunday Morning.

Trivia: Ricky Gervais of The Office and Extras fame managed Frischmann's previous band, Suede, for a brief period.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Eels in Concert

Reports keep coming in from concert goers who have seen the first parts of the latest Eels tour. None more gushing than this 5 star review from the Guardian [see excerpt below]. It's a busy time for E with the Parallel World's Documentary (that is apparently opening the shows), a new memoir, two collections of past material, reports of 1 or 2 albums of new material that may be hitting stores later this year, and the current tour. Judging from this clip of one of the best songs off of "Blinking Lights," this tour is not to be missed. You can find tour dates here.

Guardian concert review:

"Mark Oscar Everett," booms a disembodied voice portentously, "this is your life." It is one of many daft gags Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett has concocted to punctuate his fourth appearance at the Festival Hall. Moments before, the arrival of a small, glittering woman in the royal box had been heralded by a buzzing rendition of God Save the Queen. Later, in an engaging parody of rock-star egomania, Everett reads excerpts from his supposedly fawning fan mail, in which one Perth resident demands, "Why are you such a cunt?", as well as reviews of his "classic psychedelic funk-rock" that make Everett wonder if they are describing his own shows.

These wry set pieces are appreciated because Everett's life - which over the course of the evening he documents in song, readings from his recent autobiography and a screening of his BBC4 film about his physicist father - has been the stuff of tragedy. His father died of a heart attack just as his work was being recognised, his sister committed suicide, his mother died of cancer two years later. When Everett sings of his family, it is with the flat, dispassionate interest of a mortician. There is nothing mawkish about Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor, but the matter-of-factness in Everett's gruff voice and the haunted simplicity of his guitar-playing render this tribute to his sister emotionally unbearable.

At times Everett feels too distanced from his material, creating the niggling impression that he is now so good at what he does, he no longer knows how to push himself. His set is arranged with theatrical flair, opening with a series of country-tinged ballads, whose tenderness is sundered by the jagged howls of Souljacker Pt 1. One moment he is softly affecting, as in the lovely, lovelorn Jeannie's Diary and I Want to Protect You, the next fierce and furious, Bus Stop Boxer precisely capturing the dreadful adrenaline of youth.

Everett has just one accompanist, introduced as The Chet, whose nonchalant facility on drums, keyboards, musical saw, harmonium, lapsteel and more is breathtaking. Theirs is the symbiotic partnership of every musician's dreams, and it culminates in a startling party trick. Halfway through Flyswatter, Everett leaves the piano and, without missing a beat, takes the drumsticks from Chet, who picks up at the piano where Everett left off. A few minutes later, they swap back. No drama, no swagger. Just Everett's restrained way of showing he can still reach new heights.