Friday, October 30, 2009

My Halloween Costume

Be looking for the Jesus riding a Dinosaur. "We don't know if Jesus ever rode them. But he probably did!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To Brake or Not to Brake

The Sacramento News and Review has a story about a crackdown by the police on the fixie riders who ride without brakes, particularly in the downtown area. I have mixed feelings about this. I know there are some great riders out there that are experts at handling a fixed gear bike and a brake is really redundant for them. The problem is that I rarely see those riders in Reno. I know there are some. But I see too many riders who clearly don't have the good bike handling skills that make it hard to argue that a brake is not needed. In the end is it really such a big deal to have a front brake mounted? You're not required to use it. Perhaps this is a good reason to see if there is support in the community to get a velodrome built in Reno? Or, barring that I was reminded recently by a friend about the Idaho "Rolling" Stops law. Maybe you could make more of a case for riding brakeless if you could treat stops signs as yield signs?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Better Off Dead

Back when Elton was the shit. Captain Fantastic was a great album and this is a wonderful example of Sir Elton and Ray Cooper in their primes.

Scary Bike?

I'm in the mood for something a bit scary given that my favorite holiday is almost upon us. I'm not sure how scary this really is but if Wired Magazine calls it scary it must be right? I guess it might give new meaning to the notion of "cornering" on a bike.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great Bicycle Cities

Ecowordly is doing a great series on great cities around the world for biking with some stellar photos. This is the article on Berlin but there are others for Barcelona, Basel (Switzerland), and Bogota (Columbia).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blumenauer Frustrated

It's hard to read about Earl Blumenauer's frustrations as a Representative in congress. Especially since he has been such a consistent supporter of cycling issues.

Excerpt from the NYTIMES:

The liberal Democrat from Portland, Ore. — known for his bowties, his Trek bicycle and a pragmatic brand of progressivism — embraced Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy early in 2008 and campaigned hard alongside him, steadily gaining confidence that the young senator from Illinois was the ideal liberal remedy to eight years of conservative dominance.Now political reality has set in, testing Mr. Blumenauer’s faith that Mr. Obama’s election and big Democratic majorities in Congress would yield quick advances in the progressive agenda.

More here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Morning Music - Sting

For years now Sting has been painting himself into boring adult contemporary corner and his fans have been paying the price. I suppose it's to be expected. How many once popular and truly great composers don't slide into yawning boresville as they get older? There are a few but certainly they are outnumbered. Any hope that the rather ridiculous Police reunion tour might have provided a kick in the pants to his solo career was apparently misplaced because a quick preview of the tracks on his new album reveals little to get excited about. Yet in his day, Sting was a force to be reckoned with. He still has a great voice and is a fine musician.

I say this with quite a bit of sadness. I still count the concert I saw after the release of Dream of the Blue Turtles as one of the best of my life. Am I kidding? Not at all! Omar Hakim on drums, Branford Marsalis on sax, Kenny Kirkland on keys...that band was extraordinary and the show was amazing. It didn't hurt that the album they were touring on was one of the strongest collections that Sting ever put together.

Case in point, the song Fortress Around Your Heart is unlike most anything he ever wrote or much of anything you would hear on the radio. But that chorus surges every time I hear it and the live version was just stellar. For all the prima donna posing in the video this song still holds up.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

RGJ Sinks Further Into Journalistic Mediocrity

Look closely at the image above and it's hard to not see why many cyclists feel the way they do about automobile traffic. Click on the image to make it bigger.

Somebody over at RGJ decided to pick up this USA Today article on cyclists abusing their rights to the road. Unfortunately, the original article is so full of half-truths and misinformation that it really only illuminates both institutions' lack of credibility when it comes to evaluating transportation issues as they relate to bicyclists. I can only assume that it was meant as bait for what is the inevitable backlash (read web traffic/hits) from cyclists and the crazies out there driving cars with no understanding that streets are not only built for them to go from point A to point B as fast as they want, while texting/eating/applying makeup, everyone else be damned.

The only reasonable paragraphs in the piece:

For a little perspective, Drive On sought out Jeff Peel, a program specialists heading the League of American Bicycle's campaign for Bicycle Friendly Communities. His contention is that the road are "not motorist space. It's people space." Bicyclists are road users too, even if they travel at the fraction of the speed of a car. In fact, he says that's good.

"The idea is you are slowing traffic which may be frustrating to some motorists but making the road safer for everyone," Peel says. "Creating safer roadays and right-of-ways for all users sometimes requires taking space away from automobiles."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Little Blog That Could: 1000 Posts and Counting

Photo taken by Mike Henderson

It's been just over 3 years since I started the Reno Rambler and I'm about to hit the 1000 post mark. While I've gone through good and bad stretches as far as my enthusiasm for this form of communication, ultimately it's a good thing that I keep doing this (and asking myself why I do this). It's not because I expect to get a book deal (a la Stuff White People Like) and it's not for the notoriety (I'm always surprised when people I run into ask me if I'm the RR). I've never been interested in lobbying friends to vote for me as "best local blogger" in the RnR. It's certainly not because it generates any income. Surely I could use the time to put in more miles on my bike but for some reason I feel compelled to spend too many hours reading and writing about things that interest me.

Is it community service? Maybe. I'm proud to focus mainly on bicycling issues as they relate to our community and the world. But it's not really journalism. Or, at least, I don't aspire to be a journalist. I tend to have a fairly low opinion of 95% of folks who would self-identify in that field (there are notable exceptions of course). And I don't want to do what Myrna over at RenoDiscontent or DowntownMakeover do so well.

The genesis for this blog actually came from a graduate seminar on Rhetoric and Discourse that I helped pull together several summers ago up at UNR. Originally the theme was supposed to center around the "American Dream" or what I felt was wrong with it. But I very quickly realized that I couldn't sustain any long-term interest in maintaining the blog if all it focused on was that subject (even though it is wildly broad in scope). It wasn't long after that initial launch of the Reno Rambler (a name I took from a pre Reno Wheelmen bicycle club) that I was interviewed for a piece in the Reno News and Review and claimed:
“The first rule of blogging (for me) is to make it about what I’m interested in and not about what I think others might be interested in reading. If somebody finds my blog and likes it, that’s fine, but it’s not what inspires me to write,” says the Reno Rambler. “My blog is just a personal vent space that focuses on my own interests as a politically active educator, bicyclist, and Reno resident.”
It still holds true. Since then I've "come out" with my identity if only because I feel more confident about my work situation (it's nice to be "tenured"). I've also allowed myself the freedom to blog about whatever cultural, political, or religious issue that seems to be inspiring my interest at the moment.

So for now as I approach the big 1000 mark, I'm content to continue as the Reno Rambler and hope, (and feel a bit humbled) that so many people do visit my blog, send me notes, or comment on posts. I'm still having fun so here's to the next thousand posts and to the people that have touched base over the last 3 years. Thanks to all of you who keep visiting. And a special thanks to the cyclists out there who continue to help make Reno one of the best places to ride.

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Tremendous Dynamite

E in stripped down mode. Considering how raw the latest album already is I'm pleasantly surprised at how good this song sounds solo.

Disabled: GO HERE.

Teaching "Art"

Every year I get to pretend I'm an art teacher for a little while. A few products from the Flowers for Algernon unit. What do you see?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Road Rage Case Hits the Courts

A quick update on an infamous road rage case between a California doctor who tried to take down a couple of cyclists. The trial just began.

Dr. Christopher T. Thompson allegedly braked suddenly in front of Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr after he and Peterson exchanged words as they descended Mandeville Canyon Road on July 4, 2008.

The road, a two-lane, dead-end street in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, is a popular destination for local cyclists who want a climb with relatively little traffic.

Peterson and Stoehr had taken part in a Fourth of July group ride and were descending behind the rest of the group after assisting another cyclist who had fallen and waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Thompson, an ER physician and owner of a medical-records company who lives on Mandeville Canyon Road, is said to have approached the duo at speed in a late-model burgundy Infiniti sedan and honked at them before pulling alongside and telling them to ride single file. After a brief exchange of words, the cyclists say, Thompson pulled ahead of them and then stopped short.

Stoehr hit the back of the car and vaulted into the oncoming traffic lane. His injuries included a grade-three shoulder separation and road rash. Peterson went through the rear window of the car; the impact broke his nose, nearly severing it from his face, and shattered several of his teeth. More than 90 stitches were required to reattach his nose.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Radiohead

Vatican Celebrates Science and Galileo

In a world where Fundamentalist Christians deny the validity of science it's nice to be reminded that the Catholic church embraces a more modern view of scientific thought and investigation of the natural world. I'm always struck by the in-laws/relatives in my own family that are so adamantly anti-science, anti-higher education, and anti-rational thought all the while being so eager to love their electronic toys, video games, cars, cell-phones.

I happened upon this nifty little self-test to determine whether or not you are a Fundamentalist Christian:

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by
other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people
evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical
claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a
Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed
to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah
slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the
elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women,
children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about
gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the
Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got
killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in
the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you
find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen
sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the
exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in
all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering.
And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have
failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor
speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove"

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered
prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you
think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do
about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call
yourself a Christian.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

What's Education For?

“I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” - Lily Tomlin

I've been trying to answer this question (what's education for?) for the last decade and am becoming increasingly convinced that the answer doesn't lie within the school, the district, or in some graduate level class at a university. It's certainly not in some politician's platitudes about creating jobs for the 21st century.

Of course, there is no one right answer to this question. But for me, it boils down to developing minds that have the bullshit detectors needed to cut through the crap in our society at the same time that we recognize that standing on the sidelines anymore and criticizing the status quo without getting involved is not an option. It's time to put up or shut up. There are various ways to do this. A colleague's BetheCause poetry sessions every month down at West Street Market are a good example. Getting involved with community organizations and causes a la Rainshadow Charter school is another good example. There are a lot better minds than myself that have been trying to deal with this question for years (read Derrick Jensen, Peter Elbow, Paolo Freire to name a few).

Alright, so all this is to say that I'm increasingly unsettled with what I'm doing in the four walls of my classroom with one hand tied behind my back because I'm expected to be surrogate parent, counselor, personal hygiene specialist, disciplinarian, entertainer, and now statistician (according to our new mandate apparently coming down from the district office). Is this what we as educators signed up for? I make OK money with my education level but I have to wonder about the poor teacher coming out of school with a BA and their credential that can barely afford an apartment in Reno.

But I is a great example of what I want my students to feel powerful enough to do when they walk out of my classroom:

Third-grader successfully makes the case for a safe Mullan Road bike and pedestrian pathway

Sunday Morning Music -Velvet Underground

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Of Montreal

Bicycle Fashion Photography - Part 3

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Women Want? Safe Bicycling Infrastructure!

A friend forwarded this article from Scientific American to me about strategies for increasing the number of bicyclists on the roads. Apparently, factoring in what women want, i.e. "safe infrastructure for bicycling," is a primary way of getting more cyclists on the road. It reminded me of this video from John Pucher, professor of planning and public policy, at Rutgers University, where he notes that one of the primary indicators of the vitality of cycling in major European cities is the fact that the range of cyclists isn't limited to the young, but includes children and the elderly who feel safe in a bicycle friendly environment.


“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

“Despite our hope that gender roles don’t exist, they still do,” says Jennifer Dill, a transportation and planning researcher at Portland State University. Addressing women’s concerns about safety and utility “will go a long way” toward increasing the number of people on two wheels, Dill explains.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bicycle Fashion Photography

Over the years I've seen many uses of the bicycle as a prop in fashion shoots so I thought I'd highlight a few this week.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Morning Music - Peggy Lee

Since I got nailed by the flu I can't help but think about kicking this fever. Unfortunately, the type of fever I have is not what Peggy Lee is singing about here. But it's still one of the best songs ever.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Bicycles: A Great Healthcare Benefit

I wonder if the Washoe County School District has the funds to support a program like this? Probably wishful thinking. But programs like these might be one small step towards thinking about our health proactively rather than waiting until we're ill and then expecting our health care system to be able to step in with quality low cost care.
Increasingly, private companies are looking for ways to reduce their parking expenses and mitigate clean-air compliance problems by offering employees cheap or even free bikes. Now, once committed motorists are riding their bikes to work at an increasing rate. On September 30, the US Census Bureau released the latest figures on who is biking to work. The survey results show that within most of the bicycle friendly cities, the bicycling mode share increased significantly since 2000. In Portland, Oregon, bike commuters total around 6 percent of the commuting population, making it number one amongst the 30 largest cities in the country. Minneapolis came in number two with 4.3 percent of its commuters using bikes and Seattle and San Francisco were at 2.9 and 2.7 percent respectively....

“Companies spend thousands per employee on health care, why not spend $300 on a bike?” asks Alex Amartico. The bike program is only the tip of the iceberg for the budding brewery’s commitment to sustainability. Their plan includes four basic activities they believe in: reducing, reusing, recycling and returning as well as water and energy conservation, waste management and pollution prevention.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fall is Here! Can't Wait for Summer.

From last summer's bike tour across Nevada

I absolutely love fall bike riding weather. The dusting of snow in the sierras yesterday morning when I was riding to work certainly brought a smile to my face. But I'm already feeling antsy for my next bike tour. Looks like I'll be doing a Red Rock tour down in southern Utah next spring. I'm ready to hit the road.