Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tom Waits, Neko Case, and popsicles in Summer...

I'm clearly living a blessed life. Not only did I snatch opening night tickets for Tom's upcoming tour starting in Phoenix but now comes word that Neko Case is COMING TO RENO this summer! While I love her work with the New Pornographers her solo stuff allows her to show off her great pipes (more) and exquisite songwriting. Her 2002 album, Blacklisted, is so clearly a masterpiece it is humbling to listen to it. For more on her tour and her go here.

A haunting performance from ACL:

Changing Lifestyles to Save Gas (and money)

This article is pretty extraordinary if only for the statement below:

Janaki Purushe, a 22-year-old genetic researcher living in Rockville, Maryland, bikes just about everywhere she goes. "When I had the opportunity to finally plan my own life after I graduated college," Purushe explains, "I took into consideration where I was going to shop, where my friends live, where my boyfriend lives, and I definitely tried to plan the location of my home around where I was going."

Why does it seem so remarkable that a person would take into consideration where they work, shop, hangout, when deciding where they want to live? Why don't more of us look at these factors so that bike commuting becomes a more viable option? It's not just bad urban planning. People do need to take responsibility for the choices they make regarding lifestyle to make alternative forms of transportation a reality.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Jamiroquai

I used to be annoyed by how much they wanted to sound like Stevie Wonder. But this song is too good to be denied. Put on your dancing shoes...

A Paradigm Shift - Gas Prices and Our Transportation System

I love ideas that challenge and push us to see the world we live in in different ways. Such is the case with this article from Bicycle Fixation. Sometimes we need a collective cultural slap in the face when it comes to our ideas about transportation. It seems so obvious yet we often don't see the obvious absurdity in front of our noses.

An excerpt:

I was stuck in rush-hour traffic in Interstate 5 in Seattle. It was a blistering summer day, hot and so bright it almost hurt your eyes. I was sweating in six lanes of stop and go traffic (mostly stop), and suddenly I had an external viewpoint on this most mundane of American experiences....

Here I was, sitting in several thousand dollars worth of industrial machinery that had been extracted, manufactured, transported, and purchased at great expense--monetary and environmental--every step along the way. I was sitting in this machine, burning fossil hydrocarbons that had also been extracted, transported, processed, and purchased at great expense--monetary and environmental--every step of the way. I was on this federal highway system, the materials for which had likewise been extracted, transported, constructed, and purchased at great expense--monetary and environmental--every step of the way.

And I was going nowhere. The only thing I was accomplishing was polluting the air and losing my patience.

Worse, I was surrounded by tens of thousands of others who were in similar machinery, burning the same expensive, irreplaceable fossil hydrocarbons, polluting the same air, and also going nowhere.

And I thought, if some alien intelligence were to look in on this spectacle, which for us is normal daily life, they would consider us mad.

You'd be hard put to design a system more wasteful of money, natural resources, time and human mental well-being. To add insult to injury, it often even fails to deliver its basic stated purpose: convenient transportation of goods and people from one place to another.

Yet, this scene--played out every day in cities across the nation--is totally normal, "common sense." This is "reality."

And those of us who see the insanity of this way of doing things--we who ride our bikes to work, who don't own cars, who walk to the grocery store to do our shopping, etc.--are perceived as oddballs, or as quaint eccentrics, or maybe as pathetically deluded fanatics. In certain more progressive quarters of the nation, we may even be seen as well-intentioned idealists, people doing the kind of things "normal" people wished they could do but "can't," for a variety of perfectly plausible reasons.

What we're not seen as is realists, pragmatically doing what is most sensible, most sane.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rain Riding and a Bike to Work Challenge Update

Note: This is not me!

I saw it coming for miles. Half way into my commute home as I got closer to the mountains, the mist hit my long sleeve wool jersey, and within 50 more yards I was in a full on deluge. Not quite what I expected but riding in the rain can be fun when you have the right clothes for it. Wool tights and jersey will keep you warm through most anything. Still, I was glad to get home 6 miles later. The last few days have almost felt like we're living in the Pacific NW.

I haven't updated my mileage for my 1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge recently so here ya go. 156 miles yet to go - 844 down since last April. I keep plugging along. 7 days left until the school year is over so I'm well on track at 25 miles a day. Some of my students are keeping pretty close tabs on my riding.

I'd appreciate a break in the rain though. At least for the next week.

Biketown USA Sites Chosen

Alas, Reno was not one of the selections. My old stomping grounds of Lincoln, NE, did get picked which is a welcome development for a city that has struggled to embrace its cycling strengths. I think it's a pretty good biking town. Bicycling Magazine's BikeTown program is pretty cool. To read more about it go here. It's interesting to me that the other towns (Columbus, Ohio; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle) are all much bigger than the Star city. And, at least SF, Portland, and Seattle, are all considered big bike cities.

Maybe it will be Reno's turn next year? The publicity alone is worth it to push a community along in embracing bicycling as a viable form of transportation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why cyclists bike?

A fascinating article about bicycling from Walrus Magazine. Long and worth the read. Why do urban cyclists choose the cycling life? This article offers one of the best explanations I've ever come across.


Bikes don’t fit into society’s grand scheme of civility. They are everywhere and nowhere, attach themselves to fences and posts, don’t pay taxes or obey the rules of the road. To ride is to transcend quotidian reality, but also to manage the fear of getting hit. On this, the rider’s life depends.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Life on Mars?

In honor of the NASA attempt to land Phoenix later today on mars (actually 10 hours and counting). Clearly one of the best Bowie songs ever and off of my favorite of his albums, Hunky Dory. Here's hoping that the landing is as smooth as this song.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Death of the SUV?

I'm sorry but I have little sympathy for the folks who can't sell their behemoth SUVs because nobody wants of buy gas guzzlers right now. How long have we been hearing predictions about gas prices rising? CNN has a whole series of stories and video here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

"Bicycling Helped Emancipate Women"...duh. For people fascinated by biking this is truly old news but the article is worth reading anyway for a few of the details about women's fashion and the effect the first bicycle boom had on the lives of women during the 1880s.


In order for women to take part in the new craze without becoming entangled in the bike’s chain, they needed to wear shorter skirts or even (gasp!) bifurcated garments called bloomers. It was also necessary that they leave the house and exert themselves physically—all activities previously considered unladylike.

The severity of the outcry against women participating in these activities is proof of their effectiveness. The brave women who donned rational dress were criticized, denied access to public places and widely mocked in the media. A satirical poem in one U.S. paper, for instance, suggested bloomers were a sort of “gateway garment,” the wearers of which might go on to participate in such dastardly pursuits as business or reading.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Art of Consumption

As someone who is interested in art AND consumerism and the environmental impact of the way we live in the Western world (and increasingly the entire planet) I can't help but be fascinated by Chris Jordan's work. I'll let him speak for himself (see below for his Artist statement). Making art out of 200,000 packs of cigarettes, 2 Million plastic water bottles, and 426,000 cell phones: Brilliant.

Running the Numbers
An American Self-Portrait

Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

~chris jordan, Seattle, 2007

"Stranded in Suburbia"

An interesting op-ed piece from the New York Times. Specifically, economist Paul Krugman on our rather pathetic idea of urban design in this country.

An excerpt:

Any serious reduction in American driving will require more than this — it will mean changing how and where many of us live.

To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.

It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.

And in the face of rising oil prices, which have left many Americans stranded in suburbia — utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas — it’s starting to look as if Berlin had the better idea.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Paolo Conte

These past few years I've come to appreciate Conte more and more. His since of melody is so lovely. The "Best of" album from a few years ago is a good place to start if you have never listened to him but frankly, his more recent reworking of older material on the album, Reveries, is simply not to be missed. It's beautiful, haunting, and sad in a way that makes it the best sort of album to listen to with a cocktail late at night.

Fulfilling a Life-Long Dream

After years of missing the rare opportunity to catch Tom Waits live I'm the proud owner of tickets for opening night of his upcoming tour starting in Phoenix next month. IMHO, Waits is arguably the greatest living American songwriter so the chance to see him live, especially considering his limited touring schedule, truly is a life-long dream.

A great performance of Chocolate Jesus from Letterman.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tour de Nez 2008 info

The new Tour de Nez site is up and pretty stylin'. Check it out for more info on this great event. Yes, it's too bad that Reno events are falling on a Wednesday. But it's still a great way to kick off the event. I'll be there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Gallery of Photos from Bike to Work Day

Not something you see every day. Especially if you're in a car.


On the road....

Rise and shine!

Virginia Lake at sunrise.

What happened to my bike route?

Fill 'er up! Something I haven't had to do as much lately.

Self portrait.

My free cup of coffee from Moxie Java.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Talk Talk

I think it speaks to the strength of a song when even Gwen Stefani and No Doubt can't manage to ruin it. Dig the great bass line! Something ND buried in their version.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bike Photo of the Day

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - 10,000 Maniacs

Yet another gorgeous melody to help me through the week.

Bike to Work Day, Week, Month?

It seems everyday my email is full of Bike to Work articles spanning the nation. I know I ought to be posting about them...passing them along...saving them. But I just haven't been that into it this year. Perhaps I'll share an exciting project that has been consuming a lot of my time recently in a later post.

Right now I'm just quietly riding to work, doing my own thing, racking up my miles for my own Bike to Work Challenge. Yet I thought I should at least mention the Reno Bike Project Pancake Feed this Friday. I won't be making it. It's not early enough and it's out of my way anyway. However, I will be enjoying an early free coffee from Moxie Java as I head in to work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Summer is almost here

A new flower from my garden taken with my new camera. Ahh...three weeks until the semester is over.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Johnny Dowd

I own three of Johnny Dowd's albums and it's something of a mystery why I don't own more because each of them is a fantastic listen. When an artist is described like this you know something interesting is going on:

"Willie Nelson turned into Mr. Hyde, he'd be Johnny Dowd. Backwoods Gothic tales of love, death, and a perverse God arrive with a twang and a junkyard clatter, reaching for laughs that grow uneasy."
—Jon Pareles-NY Times

Here is a live clip of Johnny in action. I wish I could find a clip of my favorite of his albums, Picture's from Life's Other Side.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bike to Work Challenge - Update

I officially broke the 500 mile barrier yesterday. I'm sitting at 507 miles. A lot of miles left but I'm still on pace to hit 1000. Here's hoping I don't get the cold that's going around school and the weather stays decent.

Instead of another lame biking self-portrait here's a photo of a much more pleasing looking cyclist.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Lou Reed

Actually, I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a "pick me up" given the context. But it's such a pretty song...

Monday, May 05, 2008

20 Days in May - 1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge

Sometimes a picture says it all. This is from my daily bike commute.

I suppose I knew it would come to this. It looks like I'm going to have to ride nearly every day this month to reach my goal. Over the last month or so I've been fairly consistent in commuting by bike (the official kickoff of my 1000 mile bike to work challenge was here). That's not to say I wasn't riding to school earlier in the year. Just not as consistently. So far I'm over 400 miles toward my goal of 1000 miles of bike commuting before the end of the school year. Alas, that leaves me with 20 days in May plus a few days in early June to knock out the rest of these miles.

No small task but I'm confident I can do it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - XTC

Three periods of one of my favorite bands ever. In a just world XTC would be a household name held up as rock and roll gods. They (or somebody) had an unfortunate habit of picking their less interesting songs for singles. Below are a couple of notable exceptions.

Making Plans For Nigel...

...Dear God...

...and a rare studio version of Dear Madam Barnum!