Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ah, Youth!

My 21 year-old nephew and three of his friends from art school stopped over last night for a place to crash on their cross-country road trip from Milwaukee to San Francisco, photographing Americana and each other, almost all on film and mainly with large-format manual cameras.

We had a lovely time chatting and drinking beer and I got to, in the time-honored role of friendly uncle, buy the kids dinner and then, at the urging of Jen, who tends to be a much better host than me, make them all a big home-cooked breakfast, potatoes and eggs and lots of coffee, before bidding them fond farewell and happy trails on the remainder of their journey.

Sweet, funny, and kind young people, one and all, and now I’m feeling a twinge of nostalgia for those times in my own life where I might have been inclined to crisscross the nation with my buddies on a creative project just to see what was out there and what might happen if we looked.

I found their exuberance quite heartwarming, too. The world, as a whole, may be going to hell in a handbasket, but at least some of the generation along for that ride are trying out whatever they can to make it interesting.

I know this, of course, from the students I work with, but something about seeing it in my own house, rather than the classroom, and with a young man who shares my genetic blueprint, made it more obvious, or at least touching.

And my feelings are probably also informed by the fact that yesterday marked the 21st anniversary of my wedding day; as I never tired of saying all day long, if my marriage to Jen were a person, it would now be old enough to drink!

But I’m resolved not to let that make me feel decrepit; heck, if our marriage was an art student, it would be perfect time for a road trip!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Go Find God

Last night, I undertook the homework project I’ve given to students in the philosophy of religion class: Go Find God.

I looked in Nature, with Friends, among Strangers, and at Home, first with family and eventually by myself.

After leaving school safely on my bike, I observed the interconnectedness among all things and also the mysterious complexity and great visuals before us every day; there was a flowering azalea covered with bees that illustrated how it all works together ever so perfectly, and which convinced me that what I was observing was certainly worthy of awe and worship, but which still failed to provide me with evidence that something could possibly be responsible for all this besides itself.

Moreover, the idea that the universe has any special interest in what happens to me seemed untenable; perhaps I can take some normative guideance about how I ought to act from nature, but then all I get is an amorphous “contribute to the pattern,” or something equally vague.

Thus, any perspective that requires a specific mode of worship is, to me, immediately disqualified. Any God who expects me to behave in a certain way without providing clearer directions doesn’t get my vote.

As I pedaled through the slough behind Husky Stadium and marveled at everything from the gravel to the sky, I experienced a moment where all that was flowed through me in a manner which convinced me of how we are all one, but even then, the simpler, more reasonable explanation emanates from within, not something out there, invisible.

Consequently, in the end, I didn't find God, unless, by “God” we mean Nature. I remain convinced that nothing's out there other than what is out there; maybe I’m missing something not to perceive the thing that making this thing possible.

But even if I am, then that thing stands in need of an explanation, and so on and so forth, so I may as well stop right here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sometimes a Great Notion

In my nascent effort to read and or re-read a number of books that I’ve always wanted to, (can War and Peace be far off?) and some I think I already should have, I’ve cracked the pages of Ken Kesey’s sprawling epic, Sometimes a Great Notion, and although I’m only about 100 pages into it so far, I’m definitely hooked, and while I can’t say I’m proceeding through the novel with all the tenaciousness of the story’s patriarchal figure, Henry Stamper, (whose motto is “Never Give an Inch!”) I am making steady, if slow progress, just like the Wakonda river as it eats away at its banks beneath the Stamper family home.

The novel’s structure is rather disorienting, especially at first; you get all these voices coming at you, in first person, at different times, in different places. I couldn’t tell at first who was narrating or where he or she was. Eventually, though, I’ve gotten used to it and now feel as if I know what’s going on most of the time, even if it sometimes requires me to read back a few pages to catch up where I am when I start anew.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a work of fiction that takes this much work; even some “serious” novels I’ve read of late, like Lolita, or The Collector, had much more traditional narrative structures. Sometimes a Great Notion, though, takes it out of you; in order to have it reveal its charms, you’ve got to dig in and persevere—but I’m finding it, for the most part, well worth it.

My journey through it so far has been helped, at least on one occasion, by cannabis; it’s not unlikely that the author was in a similar state when he wrote certain parts, so under the influence, I absolutely marveled at Kesey’s prose and with the sheer exuberance of his writing. He seems willing to take any chance, even if he fails.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cargo Bike Ride Memorial Day 2008

And “what is a cargo bike?”

That’s the first question and why I fumbled a bit at the beginning trying to decide which bike it was, but after the cooler didn’t fit in the front basket of the 420 Bike and following the part where I realized that one thing a person can offer is capacity, it became obvious to me that Haulin’ Colin #3 was the one I wanted to bring along today on the Cargo Bike Ride and I’m awfully glad I did.

Today’s answer included a bunch of Xtracycles, including a pair Big Dummies, but also a bunch of bikes with racks and many with even less.

What I liked best was hanging out at the Pig and the relaxed cruise over to West Seattle and the part where an endless bounty of picnic goodies kept unfolding before our very eyes; I got to ride a couple different bikes and I talked to several people I always wanted to and several more who I usually want to talk more to and by about 4:45 in the afternoon we were on our way back downtown so I could be at home in time for a couple more episodes of “Flight of the Conchords” and an adequate amount of shut-eye before school tomorrow.

Haulin’ Colin trailer #3 performed marvelously, and tie-wearing Joseph had number Five with his cool doghouse stereo system; the weather got progressively warmer until the nicest thing to do was stand in the shade, merely bathing one’s forearms in the sunlight.

I ate a sauerkraut sandwich and drank a handful of cans of Rolling Rock and eventually a group of us rode up the hill from Lincoln Park and across the bridge; I’m sure Jackson Street was reasonably crowded and certainly more so than the I-5 express lanes will be when we eventually fulfill Lee’s plan to do an after hours time trial from Lake City to downtown, but not today.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Feature story today in the Times Magazine is by Emily Gould, a young woman who got semi-famous for writing a blog about herself and then had second thoughts over all the personal information she was revealing and later came to be freaked out and hurt by all the comments she received—that she knew she ought not read, but couldn’t help herself—and so, of course, she had to write a 5000 word article for the paper of record about all this, which—to her credit—she recognizes is rather ironic, but which didn’t stop her from doing so, anyway, eager for attention as she is, and many of us—yours truly, I guess—are, too.

Fortunately, I’m limited in my tendency to (what Miss Gould calls) “overshare” by my self-imposed daily limit of 327 words. So, just at the time point when I might be ready to spill the beans about some deep and troubled aspect of my psyche or some fatal error I made in my interpersonal relationships, I’m saved by the fact that I’m out of room to tell the tale.

Additionally, since my life moves much more slowly than an ambitious 26 year-old living in Brooklyn, it’s extremely unlikely that I would have the sort of beans to spill that would lead me to regret doing so as did Miss Gould.

The best I could do in the navel-gazing department would be to talk about how I cut my finger slicing a lime last night for that one more Marguerita I probably didn’t need but had anyway. Then I could go on about how the family sat around and watched an episode of “Flight of the Conchords” and laughed and laughed—at least Jen and I did. Finally, I could thrill my readership with reports of how I spent the afternoon shellacing the cloth bar-tape on my Tournesol.

I’m sure there are people all over the world just dying to hear more, but alas, my oversharing limit is reached.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Baseball: I got no one to root for anymore.

Maybe if the Mariners continue their free-fall, I can come to see them like the 1962 Mets—lovable losers, whose ineptitude is, all by itself, entertaining. I still feel a bit of affection for the Dodgers, but ever since the O’Malleys sold the team, it hasn’t been the same. I can still get behind the Pirates, but they’re bad enough that for them to finish .500 for the year would be considered a triumph. Honestly, I think I might be a San Francisco Giants fan this year given my affection for Tim Lincecum, but they’re going nowhere either, so basically I’ve already written off the rest of the season.

Basketball: Honestly, I could care less. Maybe if it turns out Lakers-Celtics in the finals, I’ll tune in, but oddly, I may find myself rooting for the Bostonians, hopeful that Garnett and Allen finally get their rings.

Football: too early still; that last thing I want to do is turn into one of those guys who gets all excited about draft day.

Soccer: Sure, once the European championship starts in June; especially if I’m afforded the chance to get up early in the morning to hit a bar and watch Holland play.

Golf: Um, no.

That leaves hockey and thankfully, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the finals of the Stanley Cup. I’ve been halfway following their progress through the playoffs and have found myself getting into it. I’m loving the skills of the young Pens: Sidney Crosby especially.

I’m reminded when I was in 8th or 9th grade and used to have my mom drop me off at the Civic Arena to watch the then-new expansion team play; there would be maybe 4,000 people in the whole place and I could sneak right up the seats by the glass.

Now, I’m at my neighbors watching the game on CBUT; the view isn’t as good, but the team sure is better.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why the Mariners Suck

At 18-30, the Seattle Mariners have the worst record in the American League, and they’re even lousier than that. They can’t hit; their fielding is spotty, at best; starting pitching has been inconsistent to put it mildly; middle relief, atrocious; and even last year’s phenom, the unfortunately-named J.J. Putz, has, due in part to injury, played like the body part his surname describes; and yeah, manager John “Ho-Hum” McLaren seems to be no better at pulling strings behind the scenes than a drunken puppeteer without any arms.

But none of this, really, is why the team is so odiferously stinking up the league; nope, the simple explanation for that lies at the foot of the front office, specifically with whomever it was who failed the year before last in the college draft, invoking the curse that inevitably follows when you don’t pick the local boy made good when you’ve got the chance.

I don’t mean to be coy here, so I’ll say it right out: The reason the Mariners suck worse right now than a toothless whore is because they didn’t fucking draft Tim Lincecum when they had the chance!

Bellevue, Washington bred, University of Washington star, available right before their fucking eyes and when it came time to pick, they chose Brandon fucking Morrow—not a bad middle reliever, but not the Hall-of-Fame-second-coming-of-Greg-goddamned-Maddox that little Timmy is.

Management claimed Lincecum is too small, that he’ll wear his arm out, but they shoulda watched the kid pitch! Smooth as silk windup, then boom! His fastball explodes to the plate with more movement on it than a bunch of toddlers playing musical chairs.

All Lincecum has done this year is to go out ten consecutive times and throw a quality start; no more then 3 earned runs in any game, he’s 6 and 1 and could easily be 8 and 0 for a Giants team that’s almost as bad as Seattle.

And we coulda had him.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Something, Anything

I can write 327 words about anything; that’s easy. What’s far more challenging is to bang out 327 words about nothing—(intentionally, anyway; I end up with meaningless essays all the time without meaning to.)

On my ride home last night, I pondered a number of possible topics.

I thought I might write about how privileged I feel to have a life that affords me the opportunity to get in a couple hours of cycling a day, even if during those times, I’m often dodging cars, avoiding raindrops, and wishing I was home already and off the bike.

Next, it occurred to me that I should write a piece about my emerging interest in bird songs. Of late, our backyard features a cacophony every morning of song and calls—I’m pretty sure the list of avian musicians includes finches, warblers, chickadees, wrens, and swallows; my abilities as an identifier, though, stops at pigeon and crow. I’d like, in the name of being more attentive to my world, to become a better “twitcher,” I think they call it: someone who knows his birds, by sight and sound.

Later, I imagined that the perfect subject for the day’s essay would be some reflections upon the philosophy of religion class, in which I have assigned students the final project to “Go Find God.” They’ve got to spend a few hours looking for the divine and write about what they did and how successful their efforts turned out to be. One student asked me if she could take a bunch of peyote and sit in the desert; I explained to her that while I couldn’t assign her that task, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy, as long as she backed it up with research and cited her sources.

I considered politics, too, but how many ways can a fellow say, “Enough already, Hillary?”

Ultimately, I just had to admit I had nothing to write about. But that didn’t stop me, no way.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boring, Boring Internetz

Seems to me that the Internet—the once-proud savior-to-be of all humanity—has fallen into a rut.

Used to be that you could count on something thrilling coming out of the Interwebby-thing almost every day: a fast-breaking story of government corruption and scandal, an hilarious video featuring a cat and a vacuum cleaner, a powerful database that allowed you to get the names and addresses of anyone who’s ever voted in a state election anywhere in the US during the last two decades. And, of course, Simpsonize Me!

Nowadays though, it’s pretty much the same old thing over and over: fashion news about washed-up celebrities, little Flash-based games that keep 10 year-olds from getting dressed and ready for school when they should, and more Youtube videos featuring cats and vacuum cleaners. And, of course,

Me, I visit that same half-dozen or so sites and that’s about it: check the New York Times, read three or four blogs by people I know, occasionally, if half-heartedly, look at some random bike parts on Ebay, and visit the .83 forum to read posts from a few folks while studiously avoiding those from others.

I remember thinking, a couple years ago, that it was only a matter of time before the Internet was nothing more than a great big huge J. Crew catalogue; it’s clear to me know that I underestimated the web’s awesome power somewhat, for it’s way more than just that: it’s also a great big Yellow Pages, a massive stack of old videotapes, and the game arcade of a divey bar circa 1983. And, of course, my diary.

One thing that’s become painfully obvious: even though the Internet may be a force for social change and expanded freedom in repressive totalitarian states around the world, here in the industrialized West, it’s mainly a distraction—on the order of People Magazine, WWF Wrestling, American Idol—from stuff that really matters.

And, of course, 327 Words.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

World War Z

I realize I’m behind the cultural curve on this one, the book well-known to even casual readers and already out in paperback, but be that as it may—or perhaps, owing to the sensible admonition never to read a novel less than a year old, because of that—I’m totally enjoying Max Brooks’ darkly humorous and deeply chilling World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

It’s sort of Studs Terkel meets Stephen King, a compendium of transcripts from interviews with survivors of the “greatest conflict in human history,” an all-out war that almost extinguished human life on planet earth and forever changed society around the world as billions died (many of whom then rose from the dead to prey upon the living) in the approximately ten year armagedon between the living and the undead in the not-so-distant future.

I love how the story unfolds, with scattered accounts of zombie infection (at first called “African Rabies”) followed by official denials, governmental ineptitude, media misinformation, all of which inevitably contributed to the crisis increasing in magnitude. (One can’t help see analogies here to how, on a smaller scale, the AIDS epidemic unfolded, and certainly Brooks is aware of that and plays with it, as he does with other geopolitical situations, from the Israeli occupation of Palestine to the US embargo of Cuba.)

And, although I’m troubled by the implications, I also can’t help being compelled by the dropped hints about how in many ways, the post-Zombie War world seems to be thriving, with a resurgent US economy, free universal health care, ships that are fueled by sea-water, skyscrapers that power themselves with solar panels, and Cuba emerging as a bastion of economic freedom and democracy.

I haven’t quite finished the book, so I’m not sure how it all turns out and I still don’t know how the infection originally got started, but I’m reading slowly now, trying to savor it—while still making sure I finish before dark.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heat Wave

It’s pretty hot today—like 88 degrees Fahrenheit—the sun is out and everyone is kind of dragging their asses around all complaining like it’s too darn hot even though just last week, many would have given their left nut or ovary for a day like today, so I’m not complaining even if, by noting the fact of the matter, it might seem like I am.

I stood out on a sun-drenched pitching mound today, lobbing softballs at people who swung bats at them, but the good news is, a sufficient number of those hit back were caught by my team members and so, wonder of wonders, the Chuggers and Sluggers of Bill’s Off-Broadway managed to sweep a double-header, even though the first of our two stirring victories was by forfeit. But we’ll take it.

Meanwhile, you would think that, given how the media is reporting the weather, that we were being overwhelmed by a plague of locust or at least a tornado; which reminds me: I saw a guy walking down the street yesterday wearing a track jacket from Abercrombie and Fitch or something similar with the script name “Cyclones” across the front of it. And I thought that, given the recent tragedy in Myanmar, that to wear the thing smacked of cultural insensitivity if not just downright cluelessness, or both. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it, but it was hard to ignore the word, given how prominent it has been in the reporting of the terrible, terrible, events in the country we used to call Burma.

By contrast, I’m down in my cool basement now, a place that for most of the year inclines me to wear fingerless wool gloves just so I call feel my digits on the keyboard; now, though, it’s my favorite place in the house: quiet, soothing, and moist—and when I’m ready for it, the Vaporizer just a few steps away.

Not saying I am, but a nap sounds good.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Almost Too Nice

Here’s a reasonable criterion of success in bicycle-combined mood adjustment: you’re outside in a humorously lovely Hobbit-land of a city park, so charming even angry 9-toed hippies admit they love the place; the waxing gibbous moon bathes the lawn in silver through fingers of pine while a couple dozen cyclists tell lies to each other between slugs of beer; you take a fancy hot dog bun from its bag, slather it in squeeze-bottle mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and ketchup, then crunch up some Harvest Cheddar potato chips on top as substitute for one of the meaty-meat sausages sizzling over the nearby grill’s charcoal-bag flame, but then here’s the thing:

It tastes fucking awesome!

You scarf it up, making that “num-num” sound, sharing just one bite with a friend, who himself, even without having imbibed your own particular combination of flavor enhancers earlier in the evening, has to admit it’s not bad.

If all’s not right with the world at that point, it never will be.

It was almost too nice on last night’s .83 ride, the kind of perfect weather with the dangerous potential of spoiling folks so that they never again want to ride bikes in the far more typical gloom and wet of Seattle, so fortunately, there was Derrick, on his Stinky McStinkster Huffalicious Stinkbike perfuming the air all around as he loudly escorted us on our path—except when we were ON paths—from downtown, through Interlachen, the back way around Husky stadium to University Village for supplies, then up to Ravenna and the aforementioned sylvan glade, before eschewing the Knarr in favor of the College Inn Pub where the Evil Mike and I had one beer each, just the thing to prepare for mashing up the hill to Louisa Boren Park and one final safety meeting of the night, admiring the view across Lake Washington to the east, on this, a night of cycling almost too nice to be believed, much less lived.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Elephant in the Room

Last night, I saw a pretty good panel discussion at the UW called “Elephants Among Us.” It featured a director of research or something from the Woodland Park Zoo, a head organizer for the animal welfare organization, PAWS, an ethical philosopher from the University of Texas, and an expert in elephant behavior from the department of biology (or some such) at the University of Washington, all talking about various ethical issues related to the care, conservation, and management of pachyderms.

Each speaker brought something interesting to the discussion; the guy from the zoo was very practical and humble; the PAWS person passionate and committed; the philosopher did a good job of developing a philosophical conception of why elephants deserve our moral consideration; but the biologist blew everyone away with hard scientific data and real-world examples of elephant behavior in the wild, including fascinating information about how he can determine the animals’ stress levels by analyzing the chemical components of their dung.

And it made me wonder, as such experiences often do, whether my career choice—such as it was—to go into a field where arguments, rather than data, are the means by which points are made was the right decision.

As a kid, I loved biology class; had I not had such a lousy science education in high school, maybe I’d have ended up a botanist; but somewhere along the line, I got more interested in manipulating words than test tubes, and next thing you know, there I was, spending all day in a chair reading Hegel rather than wandering about in the woods clipping ferns.

I don’t regret it, but sometimes, philosophy does seem like such a luxury, and that’s when I fantasize about starting a bicycle-based small package delivery service or investing in a fleet of pedicabs or even going back to school to get a degree in forestry or something, something that would obviously make the world a better place for people, and elephants, too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Live Like That?

The other day—last Thursday, I guess—I rode from school to downtown for the .83 ride prefunk at the Whiskey Bar in Belltown. It was a lovely afternoon—mid sixties, partly sunny, and all was right with the world as I pedaled from Bothell, through Kenmore, along the Burke-Gilman trail past the UW and then over the University Bridge to Eastlake, arriving on the south side of the ship canal near Furhman and Eastlake Boulevard right around 5:30.

Usuallly, I can predict it taking about twenty to twenty five minutes from there to downtown and last Thursday was no exception—at least on two wheels. Had I been in car, I’m almost sure it would have been more like an hour, if I managed to make it that far without pulling over, getting out of my vehicle, and setting it on fire.

There was pretty much a solid line of traffic from the end of the bridge all the way to my destination downtown. Cars were backed up bumper to bumper as I passed the familiar landmarks of the Eastlake Zoo, Hooters in South Lake Union, the Buca di Bepo near Dexter, and then all along that street and up Second Avenue to the bar.

I slid by on the right as automobiles inched along, their drivers looking bored, frustrated, and helpless, trapped as they were in their metal cages. Any time the least little space opened up—crossing intersections for instance—they would gun their engines and shoot across, relieved to have even a moment’s movement.

I felt smug, of course, but even more, just terribly sorry for all those drivers and I wondered why they had to live like that. How many saw themselves as having no other transportation option? How many believed they needed to drive? How many were as trapped by the automobile paradigm as they were by traffic?

I pondered these questions as I spun merrily by and then some more over beers at the Whiskey.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pick Me, Pick Me!

One of the only things I remember from my days as an aspiring actor is this idea that in every human interaction, everyone involved is trying to get something from someone else. The lesson we were coached in was to try and figure out what the character you were playing wanted from the other people in the scene; that way, you would have some kind of intrinsic motivation which would enable you play your part with authenticity and verve, positioning you well for what all actors inevitably want: a chance to direct (or so I’m told.)

Anyway, whether this principle is really true in all human exchanges is probably debatable; I can’t see Mother Theresa, for example, as being so calculating as she administered to the starving children of Calcutta, but there’s certainly an element of truth to it and sometimes, like this morning, as I rode around town on my Sunday errands, it seemed particularly apropos, as at every turn (and straightaway for that matter), it seemed as if another person or organization was reaching out towards me, trying to get me to buy from or give something to them, if not both.

It started with the guy spare-changing me outside the QFC, then the woman who wanted me to buy her last newspaper, followed by the kid who tried to sell me a probably stolen DVD of some Jackie Chan film; but then, it just began to seem like everything, from the advertisements on the side of the bus, to the “Prices Reduced” signs in the grocery store windows, to the “For Sale” notice on a parked car, to posters for upcoming shows stapled to telephone poles, handbills for dance parties lying in the gutter, a guy ranting into his hands-free cellphone making me think he was a nut talking to himself, all of it, all of them just reaching out at me, the “helots” as Walter Brennan called them in Meet John Doe, yikes!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Aurelia's Oratorio

Thanks to a tip from Gurldogg, I bought tickets for last night’s performance of Aurelia’s Oratorio at the Seattle Rep Theater. Jen, Mimi, kid’s best friend, Ani, and I took the bus down to Seattle Center and after wandering around to all the other venues in the complex (I couldn’t recall which building the show was at), we eventually made our way inside with plenty of time to spare for the start of the show.

Good thing, too, because the performance was marvelous: magical, whimsical, acrobatic, funny, sexy, goofy, amazing, and above all, an authentic work of art. As someone for whom these days, entertainment is as likely as not, eating dinner with the family in front of the TV set when American Idol is on, it was indescribably refreshing to see the artistry of true professionals, performers steeped in a tradition that goes back generations in their own families, centuries in the domain of theater they work in.

The show was made up of a series of short vignettes, linked thematically by movement, stage design, sound, and props; there was never a dull moment in the entire 80 minutes or so; even with just essentially two performers, something interesting was always happening on stage.

One of my favorite pieces was the opening bit with a dresser from whose drawers arms and legs emerged, preparing, it seemed, for an evening out.

I also loved one where Aurelia stood behind curtain of lace that settled slowly down like snow, knitting; a puppet dog monster with huge teeth appeared suddenly and bit into her leg, unraveling it all the way up to the hip joint; our star then had to frantically knit her limb back together, which she did, finishing her toe with a flourish.

Other charming pieces featured wrestling coats, musical alarm clocks, upside-down worlds, endless scarves, surrealistic tableaus, embodied reflections, and finally, an electric train that ran round and round, right through the belly of Aurelia herself.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hasty Generalization

One of the more common errors in reasoning and argument that people make is what philosophers call a “hasty generalization” or the “small sample fallacy.” That’s where you base your conclusion about something on insufficient evidence, or more typically, on just a single data point: your own personal experience.

So, for instance, just because you—or make that I—gag at the sound of Kenny G’s saxophone playing, I come to the conclusion that everybody should hate Kenny G (not in itself an unreasonable thing to conclude; point being simple that it’s fallacious to draw that conclusion based purely on my own reaction.)

Or, perhaps more commonly, just because when I do something—say have a couple beers and ride my bike—something else follows—say, I’m still able to ride without hardly being a menace to society or even myself—it’s illegitimate to conclude that others will behave in the same way, and even less legitimate to base decisions about public policy on that data.

But see, I’m doing the very same thing I’m complaining about right here: just because my experience of using my own experience to draw conclusions about other people tends to yield errors, doesn’t mean that’s the case for other people. Maybe most folks are more like most folks so that their experiences more closely mirror the norm.

Nevertheless, I think it’s pretty certain that it’s difficult to draw conclusions about how other people ought to act simply from investigating one’s own actions, or lack thereof.

That said, I still think it’s way past high time for Hillary to withdraw from the Democratic presidential nomination race. And not simply because if I were her, I would have done so long ago. (But of course if I were her, I wouldn’t have, because then I would be her, not me.)

In the end, all these counterfactuals make me very confused; but if they weren’t counterfactual, then, if I wasn’t confused, what would I have to write about?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Just Slow Enough

In the latest issue of the Rivendell Reader, there’s an article about how high-intensity training—what people do for events like the Ironman Triathalon—where you try to go as long as you can at as high a heart-rate as possible, probably isn’t really all that good for you in the long run. The author bases his claim, in part, on an appeal to evolution; he notes that human beings were adapted, as a result of our hunter-gathering lifestyle, to two kinds of activity: long, steady walks across the savannah while hunting, gathering, and migrating during seasonal changes, and quick bursts of speed to avoid tigers and other predators. To buttress his case, he notes a whole slew of world-class marathoners and triathletes who have suffered heart disease, kidney failure, and other ills in the wake of their high-performance careers

His point is that we weren’t designed to go fast for long stretches and to do so requires us to burn way too much glucose (or something like that) and fuel up on far too many carbohydrates to do so, something our bodies weren’t intended for at all.

Makes sense to me, even without the questionable appeal to human nature; I feel like it’s obvious, every time I ride my bike that my body, at least, wasn’t meant to push beyond its limits—or even anywhere all that close to them.

I try to ride just below the speed of sweat, at a pace that I can maintain more or less indefinitely. Any time I find myself breathing very hard—except when I’m climbing—I reckon I’m going too fast.

Yesterday, coming home along the Burke-Gilman at dusk on the Tournesol, it was all I could do to rein in the bike; it kept wanting me to go just a tad more quickly than I wanted; balancing on that fine line between too fast and not fast enough was just right, though; I got home pretty quickly, but could have ridden all night, easy.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tax Holidaze

Hilary Clinton and John McCain (now there’s a dinner-party duo you probably wouldn’t want to be seated between) have apparently proposed a federal gas tax “holiday” this summer so drivers can save the much-needed one dollar and eighty cents or so per fill-up, just enough to keep your average citizen from teetering off the brink of financial danger into outright economic collapse.

Cooler heads have pointed out the folly of this idea, which would eviscerate the already underfunded federal budget for road and transportation infrastructure repair, and Thomas Friedman, whose praises I generally don’t sing, has continued to beat his sensible drum for raising gas taxes, not lowering them, but by-and-large, and I guess not all that surprisingly, people are actually taking the gas-tax “holiday” proposal seriously, even though, to me, it sounds like something out of a late-night comedy talk show host’s opening monologue.

Presumably, if the plan really takes hold, we’ll be apt to see other such holidays, also strategically scheduled for maximum effectiveness in pandering to the basest and most-self-interested impulses of voters across the nation.

No doubt we’ll see a “sales-tax” holiday during the Christmas season, so people can save a few pennies at the mall while stocking up on plastic and Styrofoam from China for their families’ gifts; and we’ll probably get a “sin tax holiday” at New Year’s so smokers and drinkers can have a few extra pennies to spend on noisemakers for the big day; and certainly, we can look forward to an “income tax holiday” so that as April 15th rolls around, folks can turn their instant refund checks from the check-cashing places into much-needed commodities like fortified wine and department-store bicycles that much more quickly.

And why should we stop there? Why not just have holiday tax holidays? On Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, and Halloween, nobody pays any taxes! On Presidents’ Day, though, we do; pandering to them the way candidates for the job do all year long.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Derby Day

Today is Derby day and the field looks wide open.

The unbeaten colt, Big Brown, is the morning line favorite, but people have their doubts since the last time a horse with so little experience won the Derby, Grover Cleveland (or somebody like that) was in the White House.

Me, being the father of a 10 year-old, can’t possibly bring myself to put money on an animal named Big Brown, so I’m looking elsewhere.

A child of Western Pennyslvania, I was drawn to Cool Coal Man, but his last time out, he finished 9th, and I’m skeptical he’ll do well in such a large field and at this distance.

You’ve got to like the filly, Eight Belles, unbeaten in four starts this year, but I wonder if she’s outclassed in this field; I put five bucks on her to win, anyway.

My pick is Smooth Air; granted he’s not bred for this distance, but no other horse in the race with this much experience is so accustomed to finishing in the money. At 20-1 as of this writing, I’m taking him across the board for 5 bucks. Even if he just shows, I may break even.

As for exotics, I’ve boxed a 2 dollar exacta with Smooth Air, Big Brown, and Pyro and another one with Pyro, Eight Belles, and Colonel John. If either of those hits, I think I’ll be buying dinner for the family.

So far this season, I haven’t had much luck at the online track, but for me, the horse racing season never really starts until after my annual Father’s Day bike ride out to Emerald Downs. This first Saturday in May thing is just for fun; pari-mutual betting in earnest doesn’t really take hold until those long days of summer when I’m out of school and in front of the computer with way too much time on my hands and way too many virtual tracks to make just one little bet at.

Friday, May 02, 2008


The word “amateur” has at least two connotations for someone to which it refers: being a lover and being someone who recognizes his status as a doer of things in a manner that pales in comparison to those who do those things with professional expertise; I felt both meanings last evening as I adored the skill with which the Church of the Bicycle Jesus put together with their May Day event, Dead Baby Presents, a film festival/speakeasy that set the bar for bicycle/movie/drinking extravaganzas and, for me, effectively kicked off the season’s pedal-powered festivities in grand style.

Held in Belltown’s underground clubhouse that is also home to the Punk Rock Flea Market, Dead Baby Presents attracted many of the usual suspects and more; it’s always a delight to cycle up to a place where dozens upon dozens of bikes cover a chain link fence like English ivy; inside lots of familiar faces: Alex from 2020, working sound, Messman, fully-recovered from the messenger smackdown, Reverend Phil, holding forth on matters aesthetic, Cara of BCClettes fame, down from Vancouver, all the while Dead Baby Terry and his mates kept proceedings moving smartly along while simultaneously fostering the requisite sense that all could be careening towards disaster at any moment to make for a spectacularly fine time.

I also got to meet Josh of Gurldogg blog, as whipsmart in person as he is online and to conjecture with him the ethics of liberating abandoned bicycles, in particular, this noble Centurion Super Tour I’ve had my eye on all year long as it sits rusting outside Condon Hall at the UW, progressively losing first its front and recently, its rear wheel, too.

And oh, the films were uniformly excellent and curated superbly; I especially enjoyed the bike dance troupe mockumentary, the Trike Messenger, and clever parodies of the Columbia Pictures logo and the Film Rating slide, DB13, for “Bike, Cussing, Drinking, and General Carrying On.”

Last night had all that and I loved it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

All By Myself

This morning, because the car has been acting funny and because in one of the only traditionally gender-specific activities around our house, I’m usually the one to take it in, (another might be flower-arranging; Jen does that), I put my bike on the back of the Focus and drove it to the Ford dealership for some overpriced (but probably necessary) service.

I’m pretty sure this was the first time so far in 2008 that I’ve taken the car for what will be a round-trip all by myself. Every other time I’ve been alone in it, at least one of the legs of the drive has been to pick up Mimi or Jen and even those are a small minority of my times behind the wheel; on most of the occasions I’m in the car, I’m with at least one member of my family, if not both.

I say this only in part to brag—and to some extent, I’m not even sure it’s brag-worthy. Mainly, I propose it as an aspiration of sorts: think of what a difference it would make to our country’s consumption of fossil fuels if lots of us tried to do this. Consider of all the one-person car trips that are taken and how different our roads, environment, and pocketbooks would look if we really tried to minimize them.

Now granted, I’m incredibly lucky: almost everywhere I go—especially when I’m going there myself—I can get to by bike or through a combination of bike and bus. And because I have a racks, panniers, bags, and if I’m dealing with bigger stuff, a trailer, to haul stuff around, I can run nearly all my errands on two wheels.

But I’m not the only one, either; I have a couple other friends—one of whom has three kids—who are also trying not to drive unless they’re driving their families.

None of us always succeed at this goal, but we’re not alone trying.