Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hitchhiker...It's the end of the world as we know it

Most cyclists are used to a few tagalong friends while riding. Cool fall evenings or mornings I usually find an alarming amount of gnats on my jersey when I get home from a ride. The other day I picked up a ladybug friend out in Verdi who got transported a couple of miles before disappearing. It hopped on somewhere close to this place. Maybe it was trying to escape the whack job neighbor. At least they are reusing their McCain Palin sign.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Firefighter Shoots Cyclist in Head!

Remarkably, the firefighter shot him because he was mad at the cyclist for riding with his child on a busy street. Apparently it didn't occur to the fireman that that actually might put the child in greater danger. Anybody want to take bets as to whether the shooter actually serves jail time? One more reason to wear a helmet I suppose. If a helmet can protect your head from a bullet that seems like a selling point to me.

Excerpt:
A driver, now identified as an Asheville firefighter, shot a bicycle rider because he was angry the man was riding with his child on a busy road, Asheville police said.

The shooting happened Sunday morning on Tunnel Road.

Officers said the victim was riding with his wife and had his 3-year-old son in a child seat attached to his bicycle when a driver approached him.

Police said the driver, Charles Diez, claimed he was upset that the victim was bike riding with his child on the heavily traveled Tunnel Road.

Diez pulled a gun and opened fire, hitting the victim in his bicycle helmet, according to police.

They said the bullet penetrated the outer lining of the helmet but did not actually hit the victim's head.

Police arrested Diez and charged him with attempted first degree murder.

His bond was set at $500,000.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Petrarch, Mont Ventoux, and the Tour de France


Every time that the Tour de France heads up the infamous Mont Ventoux I'm reminded of teaching Petrarch's essay, The Ascent of Mount Ventoux, an early rumination on humanism equating man's desire to climb mountains with our thirst for knowledge. Nevermind that it is quite unlikely that Petrarch actually climbed the mountain and wrote the piece as he says. But in my experience there is generally more "truth" in works of fiction anyway.

It's well-known that Tom Simpson died while ascending Ventoux in the Tour de France some 40 years ago. I don't know if it's true but reportedly his last words as he was lying on the side of the road were, "put me back on my bike." It's a nice story even if it's not true. Of course, between the amphetamines in his blood and the heat exhaustion and the length and grade of the climb...it's hard not to imagine dropping dead on this climb.

Remarkably, even though Petrarch's essay is often held up as an early writing focusing on the values of the Rennaissance, the reason the top of the mountain looks like something as exposed as a moonscape is because the forest was completely stripped during the middle ages. Perhaps that's a message in and of itself. That despite our best and reasoned intentions as humans, we don't have the foresight to see the consequences of our actions.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

City Council Gets Proactive For Bicyclists

This is how you ride in a bike lane

In case you missed it the RGJ has an article about the City Council's efforts to make Reno a more bike-friendly city. Kudos to them for showing some leadership on creating more bike lanes and creating Reno's first Bicycle Boulevard. Too bad some cyclists can't seem to keep themselves in the bicycle lane mentioned that was recently created on Mayberry.

Excerpt:
After a pilot project on Mayberry Drive last year to help encourage drivers to share the road with bicycles, the Reno City Council wants to take on another round of bike-friendly projects, starting immediately with the designation of Riverside Dive as a bike boulevard.

Councilman Dan Gustin sought the projects for Reno after seeing what other cities do.

"I see cars and bicycles trying to use the same space and asked how we can go about this to make it safer," Gustin said. "It also enhances our lifestyle."

While supporting the effort, Mayor Bob Cashell said bike riders also need to show more respect. He said he sees bicyclists riding three to four abreast on Mayberry Drive, bleeding over from the bike lane striped last year into the motor vehicle lane.

"Some people are being rude about it," he said. "They are hurting their cause."

Riverside would become the city's first marked bike boulevard. In other cities, these boulevards are signed so motorists know bicycles are on the street, contain a bike lane if possible and a lower speed limit to discourage traffic.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Milwaukee Bike Gets a Facelift


It seems I can't help but get the bike buying bug every so often and the best remedy (besides dropping a bunch of cash on a new bike) is to reconfigure a current bike in my stable into a slightly different type of bike. This usually involves at least switching bars and/or tires. My usual goto bike for this kind of facelift has been my Rivendell Allrounder which has gone from skinny tired road bike, to cruiser, to cyclocross, to adventure tourer. It's a marvelously versatile bike. But lately my current bike of choice for this kind of project has been my Milwaukee "Orange One" Bike. It was originally built to be a fixed gear gear road machine with insanely big tire clearances. Lately it has been going through various beer bike/coffee shop cruiser configurations. This time I decided to switch out the Albatross Bars for a Nitto "flatish" bar and I couldn't be more pleased. Good hand position (albeit only one) but who needs more when the extent of my riding on this bike is grabbing coffee at Bibo Coffee Co. or heading downtown to enjoy the many summer events that have been going on. Saturday my wife and I rode down to the West Street Wine Bar to have a wonderful Pinot Gris on a hot summer night.


The bike bell is not optional

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Argument from Personal Experience - Dancing with God

video

I adore this video if only because it calls out the lazy intellectualism that is the argument from personal experience for the existence of god. I say this not only as an atheist but as someone who has a minor in religious studies and studied Buddhism during my Fulbright. In other words, I'm an atheist, but not necessarily an anti-theist.

"Cristina" does a good job of exposing the broader implications of the argument form personal experience. She really gets rolling in the 2nd minute of the video but the whole thing is worth watching. Ultimately what I resent most about christianity and many of its believers is that at some point there is a disturbing willingness to check their rationalism at the door. In effect, the argument for the existence of god is that "Science can't explain everything" and therefore that space between what science can't explain and our existence in this world is where god exists. To me this is lazy precisely because whether you believe we were plopped here by a deity or evolved over millions of years, to deny the human need to question our experience and existence is to deny the most compelling ability that we as humans possess. Why would we have this brain if we were not meant to use it?

This is precisely why I love this passage from a book called, The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. It's a speech at the service for someone who has recently died. All of the characters being addressed have varying states of belief (or disbelief) but what I love is the way the priest's consideration of these beliefs begins with the understanding that we are meant to question god, and perhaps even "defeat" god in argument. It is the act of doing this that is part of the process of achieving transcendence, whether you believe that transcendence to be an evolutionary process or a spiritual one.

At this point in the book, a member of a party of travelers has just died unexpectedly and apparently without obvious cause, just as they have arrived at their destination. This is a brief speech from the priest presiding at the funeral of the deceased.

I've edited only for clarity:

"The voyage was not without reward for Alan [the deceased]...but we are left with the question, why would God bring him all this way, only to die now?"

"The Jewish sages tell us that the whole of the Torah, the entirety of the first five books of the Bible, is the name of God. With such a name, they ask, how much more is God? The Fathers of the Church tell us that God is Mystery and unknowable. God Himself, in Scripture, tells us, 'My ways are not your ways and My thoughts are not your thoughts'."

"It is the human condition to ask questions and to receive not plain answers. Perhaps this is because we can't understand the answers, because we are incapable of knowing God's ways and God's thoughts. We are, after all, only very clever tailless primates, doing the best we can, but limited. Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the unknowable."

The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when His children defeat Him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions are worth asking. To ask them is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

I have mixed feelings about blind patriotism figuring it is a double-edged sword (read "my country right or wrong") but this scene always gets me. It has to be on the short list of greatest cinematic moments. It's probably not fair to call this an example of "blind" patriotism given the context. If you know the film Casablanca it's hard to not get caught up in the passion displayed here. If you haven't seen Casablanca...pause...are there really people who haven't seen Casablanca?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Verdi Descent

I finally got my "action mount" for my flip video camera so this a test vid from my ride in Verdi this past weekend.

video

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Morning Music

From one of the greatest bicycle films of all time. It is simply impossible not to smile while listening to this song.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stuck in Traffic


A new report from the Texas Transportation Institute finds that in 2007 Americans wasted an average of 36.1 hours stuck in traffic, down from the 2005 peak of 37.4 hours.

Collectively, the numbers are still large, of course. TTI figures congestion cost the economy $87 billion and was responsible for our squandering 3 billion gallons of gas and 4 billion hours of our time. The latter figure works out to 500,000 years.

Los Angeles came out worst among cities, with congestion costing drivers there an average of 72 hours a year. Washington DC was second (62 hours), followed by Atlanta (57), Houston (56) and San Francisco (55). Continue article....

While I suppose this stat is moving in the right direction it doesn't seem like we have much to be thankful for. When it comes to these kinds of unpleasant statistics associated with modern living I can't help but envision my tombstone adorned with numbers a personal tally of how I spent my life:

He spent 4,000 hours of his life idling in traffic
He spent 47,000 hours watching television
He spent 12,000 hours playing video games
He spent 18,000 hours taking quizzes on Facebook

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away...


Yesterday I decided to revisit my commute from the last year and added a few miles with an offroad detour on my Gunnar Crosshairs. I'd always known that there was a family of wild horses near the main route to get to school. I frequently spotted them in the mornings (or spotted their "landmines"). I was a bit shocked while riding to find not a family, but a full herd of what must have been 50ish mustangs. Magnificent animals!


More images to look at on my flickr page (see link to the left).

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Bicycle Benefits Program For Nevada?


A quick visit to Salt Lake City reminded me what a great bicycling city, and great city in general, it is. While visiting the ever popular 9th and 9th district I noted a couple of nice bicycle friendly features. Notably the bicycle benefits program that some storefronts were touting. The Bicycle Benefits program (in case you weren’t aware):

"is a progressive bicycling program designed to reward individuals and businesses for their commitment to cleaner air, personal health, and the use of pedaling energy in order to create a more sustainable community. The program's continual growth decreases parking demand, increases helmet use, and improves cyclists' safety and health by putting more people on bikes."


I’m wondering why Nevada hasn’t become one of the states that has embraced this program that links bicycling with the economic infrastructure of its cities?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bikes as Cockroaches


An interesting piece from the New York Times equating bicycles/bicyclists with econmic cockroaches...but in a good way. From the ruins of our increasingly lame car culture might rise a more humane and user-friendly transportation system. The article focuses mostly on Detroit.

Excerpts:

While bike enthusiasts in most urban areas continue to have to fight for their place on the streets, Detroit has the potential to become a new bicycle utopia. It’s a town just waiting to be taken. With well less than half its peak population, and free of anything resembling a hill, the city and its miles and miles of streets lie open and empty, beckoning. And lately, whether it’s because of the economy or the price of gas or just because it’s a nice thing to do, there are a lot more bikers out riding.

This budding culture brings some commerce with it. Down on the waterfront, and just three hundred yards or so from the headquarters of General Motors, my friends Kelli and Karen are in their second year running the Wheelhouse bike shop. One might think, given the economy, that starting a business in the D makes as much sense as stepping on a nail, but Kelli and Karen’s shop is thriving; their profits in May were double what they were a year ago.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Morning Music - Fountains of Wayne

I'm not sure anyone has a more encyclopedic knowledge of pop cliches than Fountains of Wayne. I mean that in a good way. All that I know is that they always sound like summer to me.