Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wall Street Bailout - ChaChing!

I've always thought that Economics was actually a "Voodoo" Science. Having studied and taught both Adam Smith and Karl Marx the best I can say about them is that Marx's criticisms of our hyper capitalist system seem extraordinarily prescient given our hyper-consumption society. No matter what you might think of his "solution" to capitalism. Anyway...a subject for a different time.

This is the best response yet to the proposed bailout of Wall Street...I copped this via Hollywood Elsewhere but that's not the original source (I couldn't find it-sorry). For anyone who has looked closely at the credit card industry, this letter is sadly, painfully, funny.

"Dear Wall Street,

"I'm speaking on behalf of a group called The Taxpayers of the United States. Now that we've rejected the first bailout plan, I'm sure that in the spirit of tough, free market capitalism and spirited negotiations, you'll consider our second offer. Here are some terms that we trust you'll find reasonable:

"(1) We are willing to loan you money at a very low, introductory rate of 8.9%. If you are even one nanosecond late on your payment, your rate will go from 8.9% to 32.9% -- instantly. You will have no right to appeal this. The interest rate increase will be retroactive. And none of this 'but I mailed it out Friday' stuff. We must get it, and the check must clear, for your payment to count. Reminder: transactions that occur after 2pm are not credited until the next business day, so be sure to make your payments before then.

"(2) If you are late on any of your other payments to your other creditors, your rate will also be spiked to 32.9%. I know it has nothing to do with us, but if you are late paying someone else, then obviously you are a bigger credit risk to us.

"(3) We will send you onerous terms and conditions in 6 point font. Of course, those terms can change on a whim, at any time, so we'll be sending you hourly updates to the contract, which we expect you to read and keep up with. Sorry -- we will be the only ones that can amend the contract; you cannot.

"(4) You will have a predetermined credit line, and if you go over it by even $1, your interest rate will spike to 54.9%. Sorry, it's in the contract on page 109,209,392.

"(5) The bankruptcy laws have now changed. If you get into a bind, I'm afraid you won't find much sympathy. No more silly excuses will be accepted. We are going to have the titles to all of your buildings and physical assets put in our name, so when the inevitable time comes and you trip up, we'll simply take everything from you. There will be no court hearing.

"(6) We'll be conducting a background check, driving records check, drug test, and disease risk check of all of the top executives of your firm. After all, you're a riskier loan if you have any of those afflictions, aren't you? Well, if we find anything wrong, your interest rate will skyrocket, and without notice.

"(7) If your business is located in a bad neighborhood, a poor city, a hurricane zone or terrorist targeted city, as defined by us, we can raise your interest rates at any time, to any rate we choose.

"For the last quarter century or so, you've imposed these terms, or some variation of them, upon us when loaning us money or insuring us, arguing every single time that it's 'necessary' and that these sorts of changes 'will result in more profitable companies that will pass the savings along to consumers.' Well, now that we're in the role of lender, and you're in the role of borrower, we're sure that you'll find these same terms fair.

"Wall Street, prove the cynics wrong and accept our new plan. Prove to everyone that you're not the hypocrites that everyone thinks you are.


"Wallace Mangold, Attorney-at-Law, representing the Taxpayers of the U.S.A."

Mayberry Bike Lanes

I've been a bit remiss in talking about the newly redone bike lanes on Mayberry in West Reno. Especially since I'm on the RTC's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee that made the recommendation to the city council to go ahead with the new lanes. Most of my bike miles of late have been focused on trips to and from work so I hadn't had a chance until yesterday to get out and ride out that way. Until yesterday. The lanes are pretty much everything I'd hoped. Auto traffic even seems to be a moving at the actual speed limit instead of pushing it the whole way. Nice!

The interesting thing was that this is the first time I've noticed the new bicyclist markings on the road that include "helmets"! Are these biker illustrations showing up around town in other places because I haven't noticed them.

It seems that it also doesn't matter how much you separate auto and bicycle traffic with lanes and signage, there will always be someone who continues to ignore the lanes and rides on the sidewalk.

Monday, September 29, 2008

How Obama Might Take Nevada in November

An interesting piece from Salon on Obama Campaign strategy in Nevada. I keep wondering just how much money is flooding into the community because Nevada is a key battleground state? How much ad money are the local tv stations pulling in?

My Own Private Black Rock Desert

The elusive man eating bear dog of the Black Rock before he attacked

How refreshing to enjoy the Black Rock Desert this past weekend without all of the hoopla of Burning Man. It's such a magical place and I never tire of gazing at the stars which are so vivid at night. Also nice to try out the new desert rat chimenea. Perfect for cooking on and the fire is safely enclosed. The drive back coincided with the Rocketeers shooting off some amazing rockets on Saturday. Check out the video for more on that.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Street Vibrations - Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

Which of these modes of transportation are most efficient?"A cyclist can ride three-and-a-half miles on the calories found in an ear of corn. Bicycles consumer less energy per passenger mile than any other form of transport, including walking. A ten-mile commute by bicycle requires 350 calories of energy, the amount in one bowl of rice. The same trip in the average American car uses 18,600 calories, or more than half a gallon of gasoline."
Marcia D. Lowe, The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reno at Night by Bike

A couple of shots from my ride home from the RTC Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee on Wednesday.

The Only Criteria That Matters in Picking a Vice President

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska." - Sarah Palin

The prevailing wisdom is that people don't vote for Vice President when in the voting booth. The only measure of a vp pick really is whether you feel some sense of comfort that the entire government won't collapse if something happened to the President. It's the whole "heartbeat away" argument. I think Biden is a smart, competent, if not necessarily inspired choice. If the last week of hearing Palin actually respond to (mostly softball) questions is any indication, her being in control of the United States scares the crap out of me!

Bike Photo and Quote of the Day

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."

-Iris Murdoch

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Can Something Be Super Cool and Super Uncool at the Same Time?

I think this video qualifies.

Amazing bike handling
Fast Speeds
Fixed Gears
Lance Armstrong

Stupid in traffic stunts
Angry motorists
No Helmets
Lance Armstrong?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama Technology Panel Tonight

A quick post about the panel. There's a story here with details. I'm looking forward to hearing more from the Obama camp on this subject. The money quote from this article:

U.S. Sen. John McCain spokesman Rick Gorka guffawed at the suggestion Obama's campaign is more technologically savvy or that Obama is better qualified to produce a technology-based economy.
"Guffawed"!? Really!? Did he twirl his mustache too and talk about the "internets"?

The Need For Speed(Vest)

I'm trying to figure out if a bicycling vest that tells drivers what your speed is is actually a good thing or not. On the one hand, yes, drivers often underestimate how fast a bicycle can go and don't anticipate where a passed cyclist might be on the road. On the other hand, do I want to announce to the world that I'm speeding at times on my commute? I'd be far more curious about comparing average speeds of cars and bikes from home to work when you factor in stop signs, lights, and parking, from door to door. My old commute up to UNR was far faster than driving if only because I never had to worry about parking and walking to my office.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How Do We Become Less Auto Dependent?

This is a pretty fascinating article from the Sacramento Bee on the challenges we will face in the future in trying to become less auto dependent. Some choice excepts:

For years we've tried to limit sprawl and promote transit, bicycling and walking – first in the name of conservation and quality of life, more recently to fight global warming. Today peak oil (the looming high point of global oil production) and the end of cheap oil make it more urgent than ever to reduce our dependence on cars.

There's a problem, though. We're stuck with the landscape we've built over the past 60 years, much of which is literally uninhabitable without a car. Trying to make our communities less car-dependent simply by adding more buses, streetcars and light rail is like trying to make a bowl of chicken soup vegan simply by picking the chicken out. It's just not that simple: like the chicken broth in my chicken soup, car dependence is an inherent property of nearly every city, town and suburb in this country and especially so in car-loving California.

That said, it's not impossible to quickly scale up transportation alternatives in our communities. High and medium-density urban areas can boost their transit and bicycle systems in just a few years with targeted funding and policy. Lower-density areas will have a harder time, but can still act quickly with targeted programs supporting modern car-sharing, hybrid "smart jitneys" and, where possible, mixed-use and higher density development.

Moving away from the car doesn't mean reducing our quality of life, either. Cities and suburbs throughout Western Europe have proven for decades that people will choose walking, bicycling and public transit over personal cars if the price is right and the trip is pleasant. For transit, that means headways well under 15 minutes, and a rider experience that is safe, reliable, fast and clean. For bicycling that means extensive networks of dedicated, wide, uninterrupted paths with minimal stops and secure, covered parking at destinations.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Every Day Should Be A Holiday!

In honor of the new Dandy Warhols album it seems like a good time to pull out some old music from Courtney Taylor Taylor and company. Every Day Should Be A Holiday...hmmm, I could watch that woman dance all day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Team Bobzien Conquers the Journal Jog!

A few members of Team Bobzien with Maggie the mascot!

A group of David Bobzien supporters came out to promote his 2008 campaign today at the Reno Gazette Journal's, Journal Jog. A beautiful day and fun run for all. This is a great community event and even though I have good intentions I never seem to go into the run with the best preparation. It doesn't really matter with whole families running, a polka band, and supporters lining the streets. It's always a good time!

Friday, September 19, 2008

All That Jazz!

One of the downsides to being a teacher is the weekday schedule you have to keep and feeling like you should be tucked into bed by 9:00 and resting for the next day. It takes a lot of energy to keep up with 150 to 200 teenagers every day. Inevitably this leaves me a bit grumpy when I feel forced into going out out on a weeknight and being social. Such was the case last night when I went to see Matt Wilson and his quartet up at UNR. Luckily for the me the show was outstanding. I've seen some jazz greats over the years and I don't know that I've seen better musicianship than I saw last night. Wilson's a great drummer and complimented well by the rest of the band. Click on the link to find out more about Wilson and his band.

And here's a clip of a song they performed last night.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - XTC

Something fun from XTC as I am currently at school for parent night. Last year I had maybe 20% of the parents show up. Actually, I think that might be being generous. Is that sad or what?! Don't parents know that the support, encouragement, and motivation they give to their sons and daughters is likely the most important factor in ensuring their success? Maybe, like so many families, they are under such economic stress from having to work more than one job, work extra hours, etc. I hear the stories from my students. Is that a fair excuse? Ok, off my soapbox...

The other day I spent 2 hours listening to this recent and amazing interview with XTC member, Andy Partridge. Partridge is the mad, dorky, genius behind most of their great body of work. It's sad to hear that Partridge is no longer in contact with Colin Moulding except through management as they disentangle their financial stakes in the band. I guess I should just feel lucky that they have so much music to enjoy plus the amount of material on youtube is amazing considering they stopped touring in the mid 80s.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bike Photo of the Day

People who use their opposable thumbs are elitist!

I’m always struck by how people seem so opposed to acknowledging the merits of improving their intelligence. As if education is a bad thing. Whether you believe that God gave us brains or it was the long, slow, path of evolution, why would we not want to develop the marvelous creation that is the human brain? To me this is like a saying, I’m not going to use my opposable thumb because only elitist intellectuals use thumbs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about intelligence lately. Perhaps because I’m teaching Flowers for Algernon to my 8th graders or perhaps because I’m teaching a Psychology in Literature class to Juniors and Seniors. Or, perhaps because I’ve been so perplexed by the reactions in the media and the culture at large in the aftermath of the GOP convention.

A ridiculous amount of ink has been spilled in reflecting on the Sarah Palin effect and even more has been wasted on the tired culture war strategies that the Republicans continue to employ. I suppose they are not so “tired” if they keep working. But why do they keep working? I was revisiting George Lakoff’s work on the GOPs use of the strong father figure as protector rhetoric and conversely the Dems continued use of “nurturing” rhetoric. Obviously the more dangerous and scary the world is PERCEIVED to be the more we gravitate towards wanting a protector in office as opposed to a nurturer. Karl Rove and his cronies have been exploiting this for years and it seems to be working again.

But, perhaps it’s just more primal than that. Perhaps it really does play into the whole Hobbesian, human nature is about self-interests and little else.

Yet, if I had to put money on it, I think this strategy might fall flat this election cycle. The Palin hail mary seems like a strategy that is paying off now but I can’t help but think that in a month the sheen will have worn off a bit. A little research reveals that she is actually a scary religious right-wing nut. This will always play with a certain percentage of the population but I’m not sure I buy that in the end that moving our democracy even more towards and anti rational thought theocracy is where the country wants to go.

The culture wars are even continuing to play with the recent press given to the new McDonald’s coffee/anti-intellectualism campaign. According to this view we are put on this planet to watch football (not soccer) and drink beer (as long as it’s domestic) and have babies and go to work (with no healthcare and no retirement benefits) and not ask too many questions of our government. Why else would most Republican education policies seek to undermine public education?

Perhaps this attitude or strategy is finally playing itself out. In the last week I’ve seen more supposed “elitist intellectuals” (read here, here, and here) raise their fists proudly and tout their intellectualism and mock the stupidity of the anti-intellectual GOP machine. Judging from the way the so called elite “liberal media” has been cowed into not actually asking any tough questions of McCain and Palin (with one striking exception) perhaps this is a fool's hope.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Kate Bush

I'm generally of the opinion that Kate Bush's, Wuthering Heights is one of the greatest songs ever written. But as the video(s) are (almost) unwatchable I'm going to defer to one of her other (of many) great songs, Running Up That Hill.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bicycle Safety in Numbers

An interesting piece from Scientific America:

There's a new prescription for communities that want to make their streets safer for bike riders: just add more bikes. A team of international researchers looked at cities from Australia to Denmark to California, and found that more riders meant fewer run-ins with cars. The researchers presented their findings to a cycling safety seminar on September 5 in Sydney, Australia.

What's surprising, the researchers say, is that biker safety doesn't seem to correspond to a city's efforts to cut down on accidents. Run-ins between bikes and cars had little to do with miles of bike lanes or lower speed limits. But if the number of bike riders in a city doubled, the rate of bike-car accidents dropped by a third.

Apparently, motorists learn to share the road better when they have to deal with more bikes on their daily commute. Also, more cyclists means more drivers who also bike, which makes them better aware of fellow bikers. The researchers call it a virtuous cycle—run-ins with cars drop with more bikes on the road. And safer cycling means more people strap on a helmet and join the revolution.

—Adam Hinterthuer

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Lost in the Shuffle

Lost in the news that Lance Armstrong is making a comeback to the sport of professional road cycling is the news that some time Reno resident, Bobby Julich has decided to call it quits from the same sport after a not too shabby career of his own. Hopefully we'll see more of Mr. Julich riding around the Truckee Meadows. Thanks for the memories Bobby!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lance Comeback?

Arguably one of the best commercials ever.

I'm not sure what to make of the recent report of Lance's return to professional road cycling. On the one hand I was as in awe of Armstrong's 7 Tour de France wins as anybody. I was delighted to be able to see him race in his closest win in 2003. His ascent up Luz Ardiden after crashing was one for the ages (see below - If you knew where to pause the video you could actually see me on the side of the road). I also saw him ride in the San Francisco GP in the early 2000s as well. On the other hand I really wished he would have stuck around a couple of more years and gone after some of the Spring Classic races that are oh so important to cycling fans instead of bailing at the top of his game.

Of course I can see the appeal of leaving after a major win and not looking back. But here we are 3 years later and now he wants to revisit his old glory days. The bright side is that he brings tons of exposure to the sport that goes beyond the legshaving roadies and gets the general population excited about cycling. Maybe his second coming will be more about promoting cycling and less about his own palmares.

The GOP Convention - When a Picture Truly Is Worth A Thousand Words

Thanks to Gold Star for Roboy Boy!

Reno - What a Great City!

Do you see the raccoon?

Between the balloon races, riding my bike downtown for dinner at Beaujolais Bistro (I have no idea why BB isn't filled every night...the food, wine and service are wonderful) walking out of the restaurant to a gorgeous evening, finding an Irish Dance performance of Phantom of the Opera at Wingfield, and running into two raccoon friends on the bike ride home...I'll be damned if Reno isn't one of the best places to live. I've lived all over the place and we're lucky that more people don't realize what a gem this city is. Not to mention the climate, scenery, and bike friendliness of our fair city (yes, I said bike friendliness).

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Great Reno Balloon Race - A Few Photos

Sunday Morning Music - Midnight Oil

A snippet of some of the more politically earnest music that came out of the 80s. Love them or hate them Midnight Oil were one of best at doing this in their heyday. Apparently their catalog is now available on itunes.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Cyclocross...the dumbest sport in the world?

Ok, it's not the dumbest sport in the world. But you have to wonder about the sanity of bicycle racing that purposely makes you jump on and off a bike. That said, maybe I'm just feeling inspired by my new Gunnar Crosshairs which I purchased mostly for a fun commute bike, but I'm seriously considering trying my hand (or legs) at cross racing this Fall. I mean, I'm already training for the Journal Jog and I ride to work consistently. Why not torture myself some more by combining the two in one festival of suffering. The local dates for Reno Wheelmen races have been released:

Oct. 11th. Hidden Valley
Oct. 25th. Genoa
Nov. 8th Hidden Valley
Dec. 13th. Dorothy McLinden Park in Stead.

Click here for more on the history of cyclocross. Judging from the gallery of images I found, it really could be considered the coolest AND dumbest sport invented.

John McCain Drinking Game!

Every time he says, "my friends," take a drink. I think the tally was 22 drinks last night. Good luck with that hangover.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Few Thoughts About the Republican Convention

1. I was watching the coverage of Sarah Palin's speech and struck by how white the crowd was. I counted 3 black people that the network cut away for a reaction shot to and 1 person of Asian descent. What does it say about a major political party whose leadership is so lily white? Let's face it, if they're not attracting a more multiracial group into the leadership of the party, one that looks like the demographics of our country, what does that say about their policies? The Democrats may look like a motley and wild bunch of folks at their convention but the Repubs just look like rich white people. It just doesn't seem to represent the country I know.

2. When Mike Huckabee says "he is so tired of hearing about how Palin is inexperienced when Joe Biden got less votes in his Presidential run than she got in her run for Governor" [I'm paraphrasing]...well, explain to me how the number of votes equals actual political experience?

3. I don't care if Palin's daughter is 13 and having kangaroo babies, I don't want to hear about it. It's just not relevant.

4. Eight years ago who would have thought Joe Lieberman was the Republican's favorite Senator.

5. Will the myth of the "liberal media" please just die now?! Give me a break.

6. Overall, I'm struck by how little substance there is at the convention. It just seems like desperation oozing from each speech given. That, and name calling. I suppose when you hardly have anything to tout as successes over the last eight years what else do you have but name calling and mockery?

Don LaFontaine...The Voice of a Thousand Trailers

DL was the voice everyone who ever went to the movies knew. My absolute favorite use of his voice in a trailer was the pomo trailer conceived for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Absolutely brilliant! Catch his voice at about the 1 minute mark.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bicycle Fascism Part 2

Just when I thought I was getting carried away with my belief that people bicycling more would cure all of our societal ills this story comes along touting the benefits of tandem cycling for people that suffer from Parkinson's disease. Is there anything that bicycling can't help?

Monday, September 01, 2008

In Lieu of Pushing Daisies

Since Pushing Daisies won't be returning until October 1st here is a little something to hold those fans over. Something about this seems very Nevada...only, you know,without the singing Kristen Chenoweth.

See more Kristin Chenoweth videos at Funny or Die