Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Morning Music - Fiona Apple

It's too bad she's so pretty. Maybe she wouldn't be dismissed so easily as a musical artist by some folks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some Inspiration I Can Understand

It's a good sign when the Eels are looking back to Souljacker as a touchstone for their upcoming album, Hombre Lobo. Of course, being inspired by your massive beard is a pretty good start as well. From Billboard:

Eels Ready Beard-Inspired Album

May 21, 2009 10:01 AM ET
Gary Graff, Detroit
The Eels' E says his beard inspired the wolf-man style character that voices his songs on the group's new "Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire," which comes out June 2.

"I had been working on some other music and was brushing my teeth one morning and looked in the mirror and saw this werewolf looking back at me," E (ne Mark Oliver Everett) tells "I said, 'Y'know, the music I'm working on doesn't suit this beard.' I was about to cut it off, and then I said, 'Why don't I work on some music that suits the beard, and I'll keep it.

"So I'm now at the point where facial hair inspires my music. You've got to start somewhere..."

Continued here...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Flying Scotsman Rises From The Ashes

If you haven't heard of Graeme Obree shame on you. He famously set the world hour record using parts that included bits from his washing machine. He also had the governing body for cycling ban the type of bikes he used when he broke the record (twice). Now he is attempting the record again. You've gotta love the tenacity. And look at the size of that chainring!

If you want to know more about Obree a good place to start is the Flying Scotsman, the film based on his book that chronicles his challenges to the world hour record but also captures his battle with depression that have plagued him throughout his life. It's not just a good bicycling film it's a good film period.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Illogical George Will

I've wondered for years how George Will gets away with some of the absurd and illogical arguments he has made over the years. It's as if he gets a free pass because he wears a bow-tie and can cite baseball stats from a century ago. His recent screed about Ray LaHood, smart-growth, Portland, etc. in Newsweek caught the attention of a lot of cyclists and people who understand that the modern American suburban landscape is not just an eyesore but profoundly "petrogluttonous." I've been putting off writing a post about it and now I've gone and waited too long. Richard Risenberg of The New Colonist has done a much better job of poking at Will's inane logic so I'll suggest you go visit his response here.

A couple of choice excerpts:
Never mind that a ton of concrete releases a ton of CO2 just in its manufacture and transport (how many tons do you see in the picture?); no matter that those idling cars are using oil and emitting fumes for nothing; no matter the hours of life being wasted on that road: just think of how much that road cost, and how much watershed it replaced, of how many tax-paying and happy homes could be on that land, or tax-paying and productive business, or schools, or libraries, or parks, or....

George, you're not only just plain wrong, you aren't very conservative either: the suburbs are anti-family and anti-community; Portland style development nurtures both, and uses tax money more efficiently, especially in making it easier for people to move freely about.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Morning Music - Violent Femmes

I still can't help but think of the Violent Femmes as little more than a lark of a band. But they put on one of the best shows I've ever seen back in the 80s.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bike to Work Day - Wrapup

The Sparks-Tribune has a nice story about Bike to Work Day and featured a photo of several teacher colleagues of mine meeting for our free coffee at Moxie Java. Here is a quick excerpt with a quote form the RTCs, Carol Perry, providing some good insight into the benefits of cycling.
“So often though, psychological hurdles are the biggest part (to overcome when commuting on bike).” Perry said. “You don’t have to ride your bicycle every day. It’s not going to fit into everybody’s schedule. We just want people to start trying it out.”

For “simply trying” it out, the numbers are staggering.

According to RTC’s online calorie, monetary and carbon monoxide emission calculator, if all of this year’s 862 registered bicyclists averaged a 10-mile round trip commute, more than 400 pounds of carbon monoxide would be reduced there would be a collective savings of $9,326 that otherwise would have been spent on gas.

“It’s a win, win, win for the community,” Perry said. “We’re helping to reduce global warming … and in this down economy, building new roads is very expensive. If we can change travel habits where we don’t have to keep building new roads … we’re going to save a lot for the community.”

Employers also benefit from more bike-inclined lifestyles from their employees, Perry said, explaining that employees are typically more productive and focus better after biking to work.

“Your mood is elevated,” Perry said, who regularly bikes to work. “You have a sense of accomplishment, you’re ready to focus, ready to get in and gear into projects. It’s a great advantage to employers.”
I didn't see anything on the RGJ site this morning about BTW Day (which seems pretty pathetic) but I'm hoping I just missed it and they have a story in the print edition. There were tons of cyclists out with the great weather.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Bike To Work Day!

Signs of hope! When the new Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke in NYC yesterday morning there was a hint of some changes in the direction transportation policy. This is a welcome change from prior administrations. Let's hope they back it up with more than words.
"What we’re trying to do is take some of the resources we have on the
transit side and connect them with what HUD Secretary Donovan wants to
do. We want to create livable communities. Portland is really the
model for it. We want to create housing opportunities so that people
can walk out their front doors and go wherever they want to go without
getting into an automobile. That’s really the goal."
Here are a few tips for bike to work day courtesy of Wired.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Most Beautiful Music I've Ever Heard - #11

If you haven't seen, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, the film that chronicles the turmoil behind the making of Wilco's, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, rent it now. There are arguably dozens of finer sonic moments on the album but this alternate version of the title track for the film has always stuck with me. Yankee has to be on the short list of the best albums of the decade for me to take a person's musical taste seriously.

Car Free in America?

Following up on another article in the NY Times this discussion from urban planning experts casts an interesting light on how we can make our neighborhoods more livable, walkable, healthier, and prettier. It's a pretty interesting range of experts. One day I'd like to be car free but my location and profession are serious road blocks to that goal. Maybe when I retire and move to Paris.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rachel McAdams: Open Mouth, Insert Foot!

I'm getting lots of bicycling articles flooding my in box with bike to work week under way. Way too many to comment on all of them. But this little story about actress Rachel McAdams giving up bicycling was just too much.
McAdams Learned To Drive After Bike Accident

Actress Rachel McAdams gave up her beloved bicycle and learned to drive after she was nearly killed in a traffic collision.

The Mean Girls star, 30, was determined to never buy a car and was happy riding around her home town of Toronto, Canada on two wheels until she came close to being hit by a bus.

She says, "I almost got killed. I was trying to ride my bike around everywhere but I went the wrong way down a one-way street and I got pulled over by the police and I almost got knocked down by a bus, so I decided I value my life too much."
Now let me first say that McAdams is a fine actress. But there are a number of things wrong with this story. First, why is this even news? Second, how many of us have had serious close calls while driving a car? More than I can personally count and way more than I have ever had on a bicycle. How many of us have given up driving after a close call in a car?

Finally (and I'm sure you caught this on the first read through) she says, "I went the wrong way down a one-way street...." Need I say more?

Here's hoping that Rachel learns the rules of the road and gets back on the road. She looks good on her cute bicycle.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My New Rapha Bicycle Jersey

I've gotten a little tired of the plastic short-sleeved jerseys that are in my wardrobe so I decided to take the plunge with the Rapha Club Jersey. I haven't decided if it is a good or bad thing that the jersey plus arm warmers may actually be the single most expensive piece of clothing I own. But one thing is for's beautifully made with lots of amazing detail work. If it holds up it will certainly be money well spent. Here's hoping it holds up.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bicycle Commute Challenge 2009 Update

I crossed the 2,000 mile barrier this week so here are a few photos from my morning commute to celebrate. Beautiful weather and beautiful light at this time of the day.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Experience Europe By Bike!

From the NYTIMES (excerpt):

WHILE on vacation in Barcelona with her mother last month, Laura Caddick had seen a lot of people tooling around on red-and-white bicycles. But the bikes that she saw everywhere — part of the city’s bicycle-sharing program — were for use by local residents only.

Fortunately, Ms. Caddick’s hotel, ME Barcelona, had several bicycles for guests. “We rode down to the beach, then to the port and up to the Ramblas, stopping for drinks and lunch along the way,” said Ms. Caddick, a sportswear merchandiser from Liverpool, England. She and her mother each paid 20 euros, or $26.40 at $1.32 to the euro, to rent the bikes for four hours and felt they saw more of Barcelona than they would had they taken the Metro from their hotel. “We felt we were experiencing the city from a more local point of view.”

In recent years, from Paris to Rome, new urban cycling lanes and public bike-sharing programs have been gaining popularity. And while some travelers are not able to tap into all the cycling opportunities — in Paris, for instance, the check-out meters for the VĂ©lib’, a public bicycle-rental program, will not accept most American credit cards (they lack a crucial microchip) — there are several hotels that offer guests use of bikes for a small fee or no cost at all.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Here's a 4% Reduction in your budget.

Nothing like a de facto disproportionate tax leveled at school districts, and by extension... teachers, to show us how much we're appreciated.

The Bicycle is a Masterpiece of Physics!

As we are getting closer to Bike to Work Day I was reminded of one of my favorite articles about bicycling. This has to be one of the best paragraphs ever written on the subject:
THE BICYCLE IS A MASTERPIECE of physics. It harnesses human muscle power directly to that old-time marvel--the wheel--and yields a vehicle more energy efficient than any other devised, ever, by anyone. A human on a bicycle is more efficient (in calories expended per pound and per mile) than a train, truck, airplane, boat, automobile, motorcycle, skateboard, canoe, or jet pack. Cycling is more efficient than walking, which takes three times as many calories per mile. Pound for pound, a person riding a bike can go farther on a calorie of food than a gazelle can running, a salmon swimming, or an eagle flying.
More here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Morning Music - Eels

Who knows what the new Eels album (out June 2nd) is going to sound like. E is something of a chameleon. But if this song is any indication it feels more like Souljacker than Shootenanny.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Most Important Thing President Obama Said Thursday Night in His 100 Day Speech and Press Conference

I got home just in time to catch Obama's speech the other night. Still in my bike gear I was wandering around the house, listening to him talk, and getting dinner ready, when I heard the following response to a question from a reporter. Emphasis mine...this is not so much of a slam against our past President (he that I will not name) as it is delight in hearing these words come out of the leader of the "free world."

Obama: What I've said -- and I will repeat -- is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices.

I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do, not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.

I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.

And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.

Is it just sad that I find the fact that our President talks about reading so exciting? Is it just because I'm an English teacher?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Classic Lightweight UK Bicycles

A friend sent me a link to this site. I don't know how I've missed this over the years of scouring the web for great classic bicycle resources. My favorite is the gallery of bikes! BLING! Great classic images of riders as well.