Saturday, August 30, 2008

Evil Incarnate, or Goathead Season is Here!

The other night while walking the dog he collapsed in a pile of Tribulus terrestris, or what cyclists commonly know to be Goatheads. There were dozens of the things and they actually drew blood from his poor paws. I had to pick him up and carry him. Luckily he survived but was not too happy. Here's hoping that I can avoid them on my bike commute.

Unhappy dog...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wrapping Up the Week

I survived the first week of school and am not too worse for wear. I couldn't help but be anxious for the Neko Case show but also hoped that there wouldn't be an opening act. I'm trying to readjust to teacher hours after all (up at 5, in bed by 9). But what a nice surprise to discover Crooked Fingers was opening. They had a great set and I'm looking forward to picking up their new album coming out in October.

My favorite song from Neko's show the other night. So Beautiful. They closed the set with Hold On Hold On (pre encore).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Beck and (who else) Neko Case

It has been quite a summer of music for me that culminates this next week with the Neko Case show at Bartley Ranch [subliminal message: why haven't you bought tickets yet?] I didn't write up anything after the Beck show this week because I was a bit busy and because what were the chances that it wouldn't be outstanding? In honor of the Beck show here is an unofficial video of Timebomb from the latest album that a friend was super excited to hear live. And below, another nod to the upcoming Neko [subliminal message: why haven't you bought tickets yet?] Case show. Something fun from the New Pornographers.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Don't Forget Today's Beer Crawl! Proceeds to Benefit Reno Cycling!

I wouldn't normally post a whole press release but, well, I'm feeling a bit lazy since I've got enough to do for the upcoming school year that starts Monday! I'm still going to carve out some time to sample a couple beers though.

Monthly beer tasting held the fourth Saturday of every month

(Reno, Nev.) – The third Reno Beer Crawl is set for Saturday, August 23rd from 2 - 6pm, and will include 18 diverse, locally owned taverns in downtown Reno. Glasses, maps, and raffle tickets for the four-hour, fourth Saturday beer tradition are available for $5 at Amendment 21 (425 S. Virginia St.), Foxy Olive (220 Mill Street), and The Waterfall (134 W. Second St.).

Each tavern will pour approximately 6 ounces of specialty beer, or the equivalent of half a can of beer, for $1. The tour spans five blocks from California Avenue to the north end of the Riverwalk District. The tavern list includes Amendment 21 Grill & Sports Bar, Ceol Irish Pub, Club Cal Neva, Divine, Doc Holliday’s, 5 Star Saloon, Foxy Olive, Imperial Bar & Lounge, Jungle Vino, Red Martini, Sapphire at Harrah’s, Satellite, Se7en, Sierra Tap House, Silver Peak Grill & Taproom, Strega, 3rd Street and The Waterfall. A free Reno Beer Crawl shuttle will circulate along the route providing rides and information.

Beers featured on August 23 include international offerings from Krusovice, Widmer and Guinness and popular domestics from Buckbean, Deschutes, Mammoth, New Belgium and Silver Peak. The raffle grand prize is a booklet of $25 gift certificates for all 18 taverns, a $450 value.

The Reno Beer Crawl will feature one locally owned business and one local non-profit each month. The downtown business featured for the August 23rd event is the Reno Bike Project, a full service, self-service community bike shop. If you need a special ride for Burning Man, an easier way to get around downtown, or are simply tired of visiting the gas station, the Reno Bike Project may have the right machine for you. Details of the company and links to its blog are available on its website at

The featured non-profit beneficiary this month is the Reno Wheelmen, a cycling club founded locally in 1896 for racers and recreational riders. Racing and ride schedules and details of how to get involved with the club are on their website at Proceeds from glass, map, and raffle ticket sales for the first 100 people who show up to the crawl at Amendment 21 on a bicycle or who spend a little more to enter the special Reno Wheelmen raffle will be given to the club.

Free parking (bike and car) is available at the Amendment 21 surface lot located at 425 S. Virginia, the 50 West Liberty parking structure at 440 S. Sierra, the new Washoe County lot on Court and Virginia Streets, and the City of Reno lot at 2nd and Virginia Streets. For more information, please visit, e-mail or call 775-996-1811.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Burning Man, Walmart, and the American Dream

I've said more than I probably need to in past years about burning man. At this point I'd be willing to just wish the "Burners" well, tip my hat, and ask them to make sure to not junk their department store bikes after their week of play ends.

Yet I was a bit troubled the other day when I heard from someone who works at Walmart that the two biggest events on their work calendar are Christmas and Burning Man. Now on the one hand this makes perfect sense. This year's Burning Man theme is the American Dream after all and what could be more American than buying a bunch of crap made in China that will just be thrown away after the event. It's not as if the organizers aren't aware of this irony I'm sure. The official site has an article considering a number of these point regarding the theme of the American Dream:

Today, Americans appear to live amid the tarnished squalor of a second
Gilded Age. By nearly every measure, America has become a more unequal society.
A mere one percent of the population now controls a third of the nation's
wealth. Education, health care and home ownership – these now escape the reach
of those who thought they were the middle class. Forty years of heedless
mass-consumption have turned dreams into delusions. America's awash in debt.
Embroiled in a wayward war, its citizens are told to shop.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Have I Become a Bicycle Fascist?

Sometimes I feel like I'm turning into something of fascist when it comes to bicycling. Where do I get off saying that "bicycling could save the world from itself" on my Facebook page? As if everybody getting out of cars would solve all of our global problems. Isn’t there something a bit fascist about vehemently shouting that cycling can save the world and demanding that people bike for at least some of their trips?

Yet when people complain about gas prices, being out of shape, parking, health care, global warming, poverty, hunger etc. part of me finds it a bit hard to have much sympathy. If we truly believe that the world is an interconnected place and our societal and environmental problems are intertwined then how can we not see that a mass move towards more environmental modes of transportation won’t be the “magic” bullet that saves us. But of course, it’s not magic. It’s a simple invention made of metal and rubber and plastic that transports a person more efficiently than any other mode of transport on the planet. As a recent commenter on this blog noted, using a 3000 pound metal, smog spewing contraption to transport you and your lunch to work is liking using a sledgehammer to push a tack in the wall. It makes no sense.

Indeed, it seems to me that what is truly fascist is our blind acceptance of a culture that values cars over people. All you need to do is look at urban and suburban design as they have evolved over the last 50 years in this country to see what I mean. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

This quote from a recent article on bike commuting strikes me as getting at the heart of the problem:

"I'm just trying to change my way of thinking not automatically getting in a car and going places vs. walking or bicycling,"

We do need to change our way of thinking about transportation in this country. For me the issue of bike vs. car culture goes beyond the enviro/social/political agenda that is touted by so many cycling advocates. Their reasoning is valid but for me it comes down to quality of life. Look at any neighborhood that has put limitations on car transport vs. one that embraces auto culture. Which one would you rather live in?

This video is something I blogged about before but it's worth noting again if only because John Pucher makes a great case that more advanced societies in Western Europe are favoring people over cars and that one key element of the urban design transportation revolution in Europe that has occurred in the last 20-30 years is that the transportation system should be safe for all bicyclists from age 4 to age 94.

The key point that Pucher makes is that people don’t bike more in Europe because they always have. They bike more because the citizens of countries like Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands demanded that transportation plans favor the use of bicycles and pedestrian walkways over the use of automobiles. We would do well to copy their renewed emphasis on bicycle friendly urban design. Not doing so and desperately grasping onto our car-centric culture here in the USA makes us the fascists in light of the problems we are facing on the planet.

Road Rage Strikes Again

I'll be curious to see how this Doctor's trial turns out. You'd think multiple incidents of attempts to hurt bicyclists ought to be enough to get the guy some jail time...maybe?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - My Ever Changing Moods

I never was much of a fan of the Jam despite their emergence in one of the most fertile periods of British music. I was mostly obsessed with XTC and a couple other bands like the Clash. Yet I feel like I've never given them, and Paul Weller, an honest chance. Maybe one of these days I'll backtrack and pick up some early Jam/Weller stuff. Any suggestions?

Despite being labeled the ugly stepchild of the Jam, I've always thought this Style Council song has a wonderful and playful groove. And, of course, the video has the Retro Bike Chic thing going for it complete with cool wool jerseys. I love the fake biking (i.e. I can ride 20 mph without pedaling or any side to side movements) shots. Apparently it was too hard to lipsynch and ride a bike at the same time. Strange because I know for a fact you can sing on a bike because I've done it many times while climbing mountains just to amuse myself. Anyway...Enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Living In A Bicyclist (and Vegetarian) Economy

This interesting article on the economic benefits of bicycling (and going meatless) plopped in my mailbox recently. I'd never thought about it quite this way before. I used to be a vegan but now eat the occasional meat product. Nevertheless it does make a good point about reducing the more "energy-intensive" consumer goods we consume. Maybe I should go back to a vegan diet.

An excerpt:

We have had a bicyclist’s economy for two years. Pedal power came free at a time when the price of fuel-driven energy was rising so fast that you had to be running one of the remaining successful hedge funds for your earnings to keep up.

Now it is best to be a vegetarian, too – and not the half-hearted sort of veggie, who says chicken doesn’t count.

The cost of fresh chicken rose by 35 per cent in the year to July. It was the biggest single item driving up the cost of meat by 16.3 per cent.

Bicycling vegans have done better still, escaping a 19 per cent jump in the price of milk, cheese and eggs. Provided they don’t go in for oil-fired central heating – fuel oil up 93 per cent – they live in a world of “core” inflation, which leaves out all the volatile near-essentials of life and many of its pleasures, starting with food and fuel.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bicyclists Are Suspicious Characters!

Especially if they're in China as detailed in this story apparently. Of course, I probably shouldn't be so sarcastic since the use of bicycles by resistance fighters during WWII became so common that the overturned bicycle became symbolically synonymous with the resistance and was used in art and literature to represent the willingness to fight oppression. Note the above film poster was from the original film of the Assault, based on Harry Mulisch's masterpiece of literature.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bicycle/Pedestrian Boulevards - If NYC Can Do It Why Can't Reno?

[Which Street Would You Rather Live On? Hint: It's the same street...Park Ave.]

New York City recently launched this experiment called "Summer Streets." In a sense Reno already does this with the massive amount of events that come to the city that force the closure of small sections of Virginia Street downtown. But this experiment in NYC is different because it includes an almost 7 miles stretch of road. People far smarter than myself have been suggesting similar things over the years for Reno. Ultimately these ideas are usually shot down by naysayers who think it will hurt businesses (in the long term this has been shown to not be true) and people who can't get their heads around the idea that it isn't their god-given right to drive solo encased in 2 tons of metal and park in front of any destination they happen to choose. Fortunately it appears the NYC model has some serious "legs" behind it, or underneath it.

For me the best argument for Bike Boulevards has almost nothing to do with being green. It's all about establishing a better quality of life for residents of cities. Obviously environmentalism, health, and transportation are all intertwined. But if you compare the three pictures of the same street above I think it illustrates my point. [courtesy of No Impact Man] Below is an excerpt from the article on the New York City experiment:

For six hours Saturday in New York, it was called Summer Streets: Nearly seven miles of Manhattan that were stripped of traffic, creating a weekend playground for bikers, walkers and loungers.

"Bellissimo!" declared Antonio de Lucia, a tourist from Caserta, Italy, who read about the event and decided to walk about three miles from his Chinatown hotel to a friend's Times Square restaurant — with more than 90 pounds of luggage. An hour into his hike, he was smiling as he sauntered up a stretch of Park Avenue awash in cyclists, pedestrians and in-line skaters. One man on a bicycle swooped down a sloped section of the avenue yelling "whee!" at full voice.

"It's a moment of truth for this city. People are participating — New Yorkers are united with their city," said de Lucia, a 29-year-old business consultant.

Bike-loving celebrities Lance Armstrong and David Byrne are helping Mayor Michael Bloomberg launch the experiment. It emulates similar initiatives in cities around the world in aiming to create a livable, ecologically gentle urban environment.

The 6.9-mile, car-free route started at the Brooklyn Bridge and ended to the north at East 72nd Street, with links to Central Park and other open spaces. It included stretches of Park and Lexington avenues and is set to be repeated for the next two Saturdays, starting at 7 a.m.

The idea is simple, in the words of the city's official Web site: "Play. Run. Walk. Bike. Breathe."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - More Travis?

During a conversation this week over coffee with a colleague I couldn’t help but reflect on the propensity that humans have to lose their sense of creativity and joy in their lives. My colleague is a creative writing teacher and very concerned about the creative process. How do we lose it? How do we get it back? I was reminded of a book I have been reading recently by Lynda Barry called, “What It Is.” The essence of the book is about tapping into our creativity by addressing the way we approach the question of our experiences. There is one passage in particular that struck me as particularly powerful:

“By the 6th grade I stopped doing ordinary things in front of people. It had been ordinary to sing, kids are singing all the time when they are little, but then something happens.

“It’s not that we stop singing. I still sang. I just made sure I was alone when I did it, and I made sure I never did it accidentally. That thing we call “bursting into song.”

“I believe this happens to most of us. We are still singing, but secretly and all alone.

“I also stopped dancing around or dancing in any way. This wasn’t a decision. I couldn’t dance in front of people if I wanted to. My body just froze up. My only feeling was embarrassment.

I quit my hula dancing lessons. People always laugh when I tell them I took the hula very seriously as a child. But I did. I went to lessons twice a week for six years….I danced to ancient hawai’ian chants and songs every Tuesday and Thursday after school like it was the most ordinary thing in the world.”

Shouldn’t these acts of creativity be the most ordinary of things in the world? What else makes us human and our lives meaningful? Unfortunately, I suspect that too many of us are caught in the same trap. Not allowing ourselves to express the joys that came so easily to us as children.

So, if you'll indulge me for posting two Travis songs in one week, this all reminded be of their song simply titled, "Sing." Foodfight!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hot August Bikes - A few photos and comments

The most interesting thing about attending the Hot August Bikes was that between the bicyclists, the cars that had to wait for us, and the motorcycle police escort, clearly the most uptight group were the police. It seemed that a couple of them were so anxious and were expecting complete bedlam to break out at any moment that they couldn't stop themselves from honking and yelling at us. I suppose it's their job to be uptight so I'll leave it at that. I didn't get an actual headcount but the group was pretty large and diverse. From 5 year olds to people pushing their 60s, 70s? I want to say there were over a 100 of us easily but I'm just not sure. Anybody else get a headcount? Here are a few photos and I'll try to pump a few up to my flickr account soon. Thanks to City Councilmen Dave Aiazzi for "blessing" the event with a few words before we departed. As per usual, click on the images to get a much larger version.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Hot August Bikes Tonight!

A reminder that Hot August Bikes is happening tonight at 6 pm between 1st and 2nd streets on West st. On the one hand this seems like a wonderful time to gather and celebrate bicycling. The flip side of this event is some of the rhetoric that can turn something like this ugly fast. Note the flyer I received for the event contains some pokes at our dominant car culture. While I don't disagree in spirit, I don't feel this is the time to make insults. Especially since the past few months have seen the increased commitment of public officials through the reformation of the RTC Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, a huge increase in bicycle commuters on the road because of rising gas prices, and particularly the very real possibility that one of the most popular unofficial bicycle routes in town is likely going to be converted from a 4 late road to a 2 lane road with marked bike lanes.

If you are coming to the Hot August Bikes event (and I encourage you to do so) I hope everyone will keep the event positive and friendly to all of the users of the road.

It seems to me that the best case we can make as cyclists for our chosen mode of transportation comes from hitting people with hard statistics. Here are a few to throw out if you ever get a conversation going about why you use a bike for transportation:

-The U.S. could save 462 million gallons of gasoline a year by increasing cycling from 1% to 1.5% of all trips.
-Each U.S. rush-hour auto commuter spends an average of 50 hours a year stuck in traffic.
-In 2003, cars stalled in traffic wasted 5 billion gallons of fuel.
-Choosing to ride a bike for trips of less than 2 miles has sweeping effects:
60% of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively.
25% of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40% of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50% of the working population commutes five miles or less to work.
-The average person loses 13 lbs. their first year of commuting by bike.
-Just three hours of bicycling per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%
-A 140 pound cyclist burns over 500 calories while pedalling 14 miles in an hour
-In 1964, 50% of kids rode to school and the obesity rate was 2004, 3% rode to school and the obesity rate was 45%
-Between 1960 and today the average weight of a 6-11 year old has increased 11 pounds.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Photos of My Hummingbird Friends

One of the best things about this time of year are the hummingbirds that show up to harvest the trumpet vines that grow over the fence in the backyard. They are just too quick! You may have to click on the images to pick them up in the photos.

At work:

At rest:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wednesday Pick Me Up - Travis

I'm partial to gorgeous melodies and I don't know if they come much better than this. The harmonies on the chorus of "Writing to Reach You" are too perfect. Travis continues to put out sublime pop records but doesn't seem to make as much of a dent in the states these days. Hopefully their new record coming out this fall will remedy that. Love the homage to Hitchcock's, North by Northwest, in this video.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

David Byrne Does Bike Racks!

Byrne is a long-time cyclist and resident of NYC. The video shows some pretty nice designs that he has been working on.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Beach Bike

I've made more trips up to Tahoe this summer than I can recall doing since moving to the Reno area. Sometimes it can be too easy to take the Sierras for granted. Dumb. Anyway, I was reminded by this photo of how fun it can be to try and ride on sandy beaches. Maybe this will be my next bike?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

You Are Crazy If You Miss Neko Case

After catching the great band, Calexico at the Hawkins Amphitheater with a less than packed crowd I am making it my mission to champion the upcoming Neko Case show. I have no idea how many tix are sold for her show but it would be simply beyond comprehension to not see this great artist, in such a great, intimate venue. Do not miss this chance! I'll let the music speak for itself.

Neko solo

And a clip of the great track, Go Places, off of the last New Pornographers album.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"5 ways riding a bicycle makes life better"

I could probably think of dozens of ways that bicycling makes life better but this article isn't a bad start.

1. It gives us a booster shot of self-esteem. Mastering something new, be it changing a tire or upgrading to clipless pedals, makes us feel better about ourselves. True, flubbing something makes us feel worse, which is all the more reason to try again tomorrow.

2. It puts us in control. Why are we stressed out? We think we have no control over our situations. But cyclists do, at least more than drivers stuck in traffic. This may explain why a British study equates the anxiety level of automobile commuters to those of fighter pilots or riot police.

3. It links us with Mother Nature. Being outdoors, exposed to plants and other forms of nature, feels good. It’s been linked to, among other positives, reduced aggression and anxiety in urban residents.

4. It is repetitive. We know this from experience, but experts agree: Repetition pedal, pedal, pedal helps distract us from stressful thoughts. And although we’re working hard, it can lead to relaxation.

5. It lifts our mood. Exercise increases our body’s production of mood-lifting endorphins.