Friday, October 31, 2008


I know it doesn’t matter, and besides, it’s after the fact, old news, water under the bridge, but I’ll be damned if the end of this year’s baseball season didn’t suck eggs, all the way from Tampa Bay to Philadelphia and back again.

A three and half inning game to decide the world championship of baseball? Fuck you, Bud Selig; you are the worst commissioner ever; Kenesaw Mountain Landis would ban your for life and Bartlett Giametti could write a book on how lame you are while simultaneously keeping score and eating a hotdog. But what should we expect from a former used-car salesman who still lets the AL have the DH?

If I were a Rays fan, I’d be pissed, even more if I had tickets to the Wednesday night game scheduled to be played at Tropicana Field.

What I don’t understand is why both teams couldn’t just have gone to Florida, played a full game as scheduled and then, if Tampa Bay won, play game six, and then, if need be, return to Philadelphia for a complete game seven at best, or, if this is the way they wanted to do it, finish out game five as necessary.

I heard some vague rumblings from Selig about a recent change in rules that allowed tied games to be called and then resumed at a later date, but shit! He’s the fuckin’ commish. He can make whatever rules he wants—as evidenced by his equally lamebrained decision to call the All-Star game a few years ago in the twelfth inning and declare it a tie.

Even in ice hockey they settle ties these days with a shootout; couldn’t they at least have settled the Midsummer Classic with a home run derby?

In any case, since I don’t care about either the Rays or the Phils, I can shut up now; had in been the Mariners and Dodgers, this would be volume one of a trilogy, at least.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

That Hill

Almost anytime I leave my house to go somewhere, I have to ride uphill. (The exception is when I head to school, but even though that literally sends me downhill, symbolically, it’s often an uphill slog, especially when I’m facing a morning meeting.)

The hill, nearly every time, is the same hill: the south side of Capital Hill, up Jefferson from 28th Avenue, north past Swedish Hospital, and then to the summit, more or less, at Union and 19th.

This morning, I did it twice before 8:00AM, first, around six o’ clock on my way to yoga class, second, a little before eight on the tandem, taking Mimi to school.

Most of the time, I don’t mind it terribly, especially as the weather gets chillier; usually by the time I’ve crested the hill by T.T. Minor Elementary school, I’m all warm and toasty, which is nice.

However, of late, it’s begun wearing on me a bit, particularly when, as on mornings like today, I’ve been rushing around and haven’t even had my coffee, and the kid, allegedly stoking the tandem is lollygagging about, merely letting her legs spin without really doing much in the way of adding thrust on the ascent.

I know, of course, that Seattle is a city of hills, and by and large, I like them. Riding on flats is boring, and if it weren’t for all the ups and downs in our fair city, there would be way more wannabe cyclists cluttering up the streets (like Portland!) and I wouldn’t get to feel nearly so self-righteous about being a cycle commuter. Still, from time to time, I do wish more of them sloped downward than upwards.

Now, I wouldn’t say that Jefferson Street is my nemesis; it is, however, a constant reminder to me that my legs and lungs aren’t getting any younger; and what’s really weird is how every year, even though you can’t see it, the grade gets a little steeper.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hope and Fear

Everybody knows this but it still bears repeating: this year’s Presidential election is a contest between hope and fear. Obama offers us the promise of how the future might be; his campaign appeals to our best aspirations. McCain paints for us a past the never really existed; he and Palin try to stir up our worst fears.

I just heard an ad on the radio in which the Republicans again attempted to frighten voters with the implied specter of (gasp!) Socialism—that old saw about Obama wanting to “spread the wealth around,” as if to do so would something so awful and, for that matter, inconsistent with policies that both parties have supported for decades.

The only thing that scares me of is that the American people will be sufficiently frightened to fall for this sort of fear-mongering; and since when did we turn into a nation of such short-sighted and selfish fraidycats unwilling to help out our fellow citizens in need?

It’s also struck me how different the two candidates’ leadership styles are: Obama is all about inclusiveness and reflection; he seems to listen, deliberate, and then make decisions coolly and objectively; McCain is much more old school—he’s the boss, turning a deaf ear to advice and unilaterally deciding on his own. I think people who are drawn to Obama prefer to be involved in the process, even if it’s difficult and yes, sometimes scary; those to whom McCain appeals just want big daddy to make it all right for them.

All this is mere conjecture, of course, based on observing the public faces they put forth; what do I know, anyway—other than that I can hardly wait for this final week of the campaign to be over and done with. It’s hard to remain hopeful in light of the frightening tone the Republicans have adopted of late, but as scary as a McCain victory would be, my hope that Obama will win still prevails.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oh Well

Once a year, at least, I get to hang out inside a dark bar on a sunny day and watch a football game and today was that day.

The bar wasn’t even that dark; I could watch people stroll by on First Avenue all afternoon at Fado and, at halftime, when the Steelers were still ahead, I had a lovely stroll around the block on what might have been the most beautiful fall day I’ve ever experienced in Seattle.

So, even though the Black n’ Gold fell 21-14 to the New York Giants at home, I didn’t feel so bad; after all, I still have my loving family to return home to in that vibrant October light, and quite frankly, who wouldn’t prefer to trade a loss by some sports team you’re rooting for in exchange for such abundant good fortune in areas of life where it really matters?

I blame Santonio Holmes for today’s defeat, but even more, my complaint is with the hypocrisy that has him suspended for today’s game while any player caught with bottles of booze in his car would be allowed to suit up.

And maybe it’s my fault, because at halftime, in honor of the Pittsburgh wide receiver, I took a saunter around the block at halftime and it did seem that in quarters three and four, Pittsburgh played with a certain lack of focus and intensity that could be attributed to certain indulgences, approved by the League or not.

It was fun, though, being among several dozen fans of my hometown team; when I walked into the bar right after kickoff, I had to smile at all the replica jerseys with names like “Roethslisberger,” “Ward,” and “Polamalu.” Granted, it’s fairly lame to pass up the opportunity to enjoy the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer in terms of autumn weather just to watch sports on TV , but had the Steelers prevailed, I wouldn’t have any remorse whatsoever.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Useless Piece of Crap

I use this little radio I bought from Radio Shack about 10 years ago to listen to news and sports, usually while I’m doing the dishes or cleaning the house. It’s been falling apart for about the last five years; the spring that holds the battery in is all unsprung and so if the thing tips, you lose transmission; also, for some reason, it doesn’t really play in stereo, which isn’t that big a deal since I usually only listen through one earbud, anyway.

In any case, I’ve been wanting to replace it with something more reliable, so a couple days ago, I sprung for a new model at—since Radio Shack no longer makes something similar—Bartell’s drugs, where they had a decent selection of small transistor radios, all priced at $9.99, all made by a company from China called Coby, whose graphics and design are obvious;y meant to confuse customers into thinking they are purchasing a Japanese Sony.

The first one I got, though, had a tuning dial so tiny that the space between stations was so small you could never manage to lock in any one program; while I was trying to listen to the World Series, some oldies show called “The Music of Your Life” kept bleeding through.

So today, I took the piece of crap back to the drugstore and exchanged it for one whose dial was bigger.

I took it outside and tried to tune in today’s Washington Huskies game; same problem, even though the station I was going for powerful and local. So I took that piece of junk back, too, and exchanged it for one with a digital tuner; clearly I’ve become one of these grouchy old people who obsess over a ten dollar item.

Thing is, this new radio works no better, but I was too embarrassed to return it to the store a third time.

On Monday, though, I’ll go to a different branch and get my money back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lost on Familiar Streets

My favorite part of that unexpectedly early evening last night was splitting off from the taco bus and riding around on streets in Mount Baker, most of which I know not quite like the back of my hand, but which I’ve been on plenty of times before, yet which looked—under the influence of a perfectly dry and cool fall night—delightfully unfamiliar, so much so that it took me way longer than expected to circle around from El Asadero, north by magnificent-looking Franklin High, then east, I guess, up the hill which it occurred to me must be what the neighborhood takes its name from before finally wending my merry way through streets of nice houses to downhill and the Rainier Safeway where I bought batteries for my tired light, then pedaled back to meet up with the ride just as it was leaving the food stop.

But I also liked pacing along Lake Washington Boulevard even though a trio of cars found it necessary to flash their high beams at us in what I couldn’t tell whether was a friendly gesture to light our way or an angry message that we should get the hell out of the road—at least until at the first opportunity which presented itself, each one roared by, which seemed sort of silly given that, if they were driving anywhere near the posted speed of 25, couldn’t have earned them more than five miles an hour, and maybe even less, given how we were (at least it seemed to me) flying.

And I was riding the Tournesol, which I haven’t been taking out the much of late, so that even final goodbye hill up Madrona Boulevard unspooled strangely gentle, and so unfamiliar that I failed to recognize my own street the first time past it and had to circle around the block to return to a place I see every day but which rarely ever get to be so sweetly lost in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


All my life I’ve wanted to be really good at something, and apart from being widely-recognized as the world’s foremost expert in the 327-word essay, about the best I’ve ever managed is to make it to finals a couple years ago in the Great American Think-Off, thus earning the unofficial title of “America’s Tied-For-Third Greatest Thinker.”

And so it’s occurred to me that really, the only thing I unequivocally excel at is being mediocre; in other words, when it comes to being average, I’m excellent.

An adequate writer, teacher, and philosopher, I’m also nothing to write home about in the parent or spouse department; I’m a decent-but-not-great citizen, activist, and neighbor; I could be far more (or less) adept as a yogi, cyclist, or friend; I’ll never win a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal, but by the same token, it’s unlikely I’ll ever end up on Death Row or Guantanamo Bay prison.

I’ll just muddle through the rest of my life not making a particularly big splash in either the very big pond or my own little one; people will recall me with some fondness, but their memories of me will fade as no national day of celebration will mark my birth or international outpouring of grief commemorate my demise.

Time was when this would really have bothered me, but now I say, to quote the poet, “Meh.”

My new strategy will be to cultivate a general, overall sense of “good enough is good enough.” Instead of striving to be number one, I’ll take it as adequate to simply be a number. Rather than hoping to one day be rich and famous, I’ll be completely satisfied to merely have enough money to pay the mortgage and enough notoriety that the barista at my local coffeeshop recognizes me with a smile, even if she doesn’t necessarily remember my usual drink.

I’ve decided that it’s not so bad being not so bad; after all, I could be way worse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rays vs. Phils

You know that television executives from coast to coast were crying into their paschima scarves and silk ties when the Dodgers fell to the Phils in the National League and the Bosox dropped the seventh game of the American League Championship, setting up this year’s World Series between perennial doormats the Tampa Bay “Don’t Call Me Devil” Rays and the only team in professional sports to lose 10,000 games in their history, the Philadelphia “Pass Me Another Cheesesteak” Phillies.

No doubt a Boston-Los Angeles Fall Classic offered the potential for much more entertaining broadcast drama, with Manny Ramirez returning to Fenway and Tommy Lasorda popping up out of the stands at Chavez Ravine whenever the home team staged a rally, but, as a matter of fact, based on their performances in the playoffs, it’s pretty clear that Tampa Bay and Philadelphia had the superior teams.

So good on them.

I find it hard to get very excited about either team; as a Western Pennsylvanian by birth, I’ve always despised the Pittsburgh Pirate’s cross-state rivals and that animus was only exacerbated during the 1980s, when, as a die-hard Dodgers fan, I had to weather defeat in 1983 to a team that included the hated Mike Schmidt and his annoying sidekick Pete Rose.

And as for Tampa Bay, who dey?

Still, I’m going to rooting for the Florida team; I’ve enjoyed following the successes of their young players and I like that their manager, Joe Maddon, wears black hornrimmed glasses.

Plus, any team that eliminates the insufferable Red Sox and their equally annoying fans from the show gets my vote.

All this said, I probably won’t be following the Series very closely; certainly not as I’ve done in the past, like in 1979, when the Pirates won it all and I parked myself at this dive bar off Castro Street in San Francisco for every game, managing to make it sober to the end of two or three.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Capital Punishment

This week, in the applied ethics class, we’re talking about the morality of the death penalty. Here is one of those times when my responsibilities as an educator run up against my instincts as an activist.

I believe it’s incumbent upon me to present an even-handed rendering of the arguments on either side of the discussion; however, I feel pretty strongly that capital punishment is unjust, arguably in theory, but without a doubt as it is practiced in the contemporary world, notably here in the good old US of A, especially in the Lone Star state, Texas.

We’ll examine the standard retributivist arguments in favor of capital punishment, the ones which argue that individuals who commit heinous crimes deserve to be—or even are required on grounds of human dignity to be—punished, and explore the so-called common-sense deterrence position, the one that says even if the death penalty doesn’t stop other criminals from committing murders, it at least prevents the person who’s put to death from ever doing anything bad again and I’ll do my best to represent the views of “retentionists” as fairly as I can.

But at the same time, I’ll not be able to refrain from thinking about how arbitrarily and unjustly the death penalty has historically—and continues to be—applied and how, as far as I can tell, neither justice nor deontology implies that a country’s capital punishment needs to be death.

We’ll look at some particular cases that may open some eyes; granted, some of the recent executions of murderers in the US have been for pretty awful crimes, but at the same times, there are cases like this one in Georgia that seem contentious enough to raise serious questions about whether or not our government ought to be in the business of killing people.

If I weren’t a teacher and reasonably concerned about even-handedness, I’d get on a soapbox and speak my mind; for now, though, I’ll just try to open students’.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Two nights out in a row!

Jen and I went to see our old friends Stereolab last night.

I think it was way more successful an experience that is arguably about exploring the past than was the night before.

At least I can’t remember any moments where the only thing keeping me connected was the past.

And we even danced. At any rate, some of the people around us seemed to be responding to the same vibrations.

This is how it unfolded: first, I drove to West Seattle to pick up the child from her first junior high school dance. Then, she was dropped off at the neighbors.

A little bit later, Jen and I rode the endless bus ride downtown and, after buying tickets on the street from this guy, there we were, and before you knew it, the band was on stage, singing their greatest hit, I thought—until I just spent twenty minutes surfing around and was reminded of lots of others, but anyway—and people were swaying around, which isn’t so bad for Seattle, when you come to think about it.

Eventually, I came to feel that, in some ways, they were repeating their successes, and sometimes, even others, like when they played this song that sounded so much like the French version of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” that I thought it was a funny joke to call it “Pierre Homard” to Andrew, even though it was too loud to hear anything even the remotest bit subtle to its source.

All in all, though, I liked it, especially when we ran across our friends, which then led us to a shared adventure as we came upon a reggae DJ/self-proclaimed “glass artist” and his acquaintances in Post Alley, ultimately finding ourselves at a table in the Alibi Room, where I couldn’t understand why we were ordering food, but then, when it came, tasted really good, despite the fact that it was undeniably excess.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Laurie Anderson

I hope I don’t lose my sense of humor when I get old(er).

Now, I’m not saying that Ms. Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, now 61 years of age, who Jen, Mimi, and I went to see last night, has had a full-on sense-of-humor-ectomy, but I would say that she came off as a lot more earnest than she ever did any other time I’d seen or heard from her in the last couple decades.

And who’d a thunk it? Apparently, Ms. Anderson sees herself primarily a musician these days, rather than the multi-media performance artist we came to know and love in the 1980s, because last night’s show featured nothing more visually striking than the (admittedly, quite lovely) flickering of some hundreds of votive candles surrounding her and her band on stage.

And while there were moments of drama and beauty in the audio pieces, I really did think that the music itself wasn’t nearly interesting enough to carry the show; the only times I felt fully engaged and connected to what she was doing was when her lyrics were audible, and even then, I thought that some of what she had to say was just a bit too obvious, or even—hard as it is to believe with an artist for whom, I’ve always thought, subtlety was paramount—heavy-handed, like the part of the show where she did an amusing song whose chorus made fun of our society’s penchant for deferring to “experts” on all matters of medical and geopolitical import, but whose verses got increasingly dogmatic in their (admittedly justified) attacks on the Bush administration; I did feel at times like if she wanted to send a message, use Western Union, you know?

Still, overall, it was an entertaining, if less than thrilling, evening in theater, and I love the fact that Ms. Anderson, even in her 7th decade, is still doing her thing, true to her own artistic sensibilities.

Nothing funny about that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Couldn't Bear It

Usually, on my commute home, I prefer listening to the sounds of nature (or traffic) as I make my way from Bothell back to my neighborhood—technically Leschi, but which real-estate agents call Madrona, and if I’m trying to maximize my street cred, I’d say the Central District—but occasionally, like when the Steelers are on Monday night football, I like to listen to this little radio I bought at Radio Shack something like 10 years ago and which, amazingly, still works.

I typically plug just one ear bud as I pedal so I can still hear if somebody comes up behind me, and more importantly, can still feel smug when I see some Spandex-coated wannabe cruising past with his iPod cranked up, which was my strategy this evening for catching two radio events I wanted to catch: first, the 5th game of the National League Championship Series featuring the hated Phillies versus my onetime favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers (on the 20th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s unforgettable game-winning homerun against the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series), and second, the final Presidential debate between McCain and Obama in this year’s campaign season.

As it turned out, though, I couldn’t stomach (or is that “ear?”) either one; the very first batter that Dodgers pitcher, Chad Billingsley faced, Jimmy Rollins, hit a home run, putting Los Angeles in a hole from which they showed no signs of recovering, so I switched over the debate, but couldn’t make it past the part where McCain started talking about “Joe the Plumber.”

So I flipped back to the game, only to hear Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal make two errors on one play and then a third on another in the same inning, leading to two unearned runs and a 5-0 deficit for the home team.

At that point, there was no question that the sounds of nature (or traffic) offered much better listening, so away went the radio.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Easily Not

Today is the full moon day so, following the Ashtanga tradition, I didn’t have to practice yoga this morning—or anytime all day for that matter.

I could get really used to this, and wonder if I’ll manage to get out of bed early enough tomorrow to get back in the swing of things, stretching that is.

Plus, I rode the bus out to school today and it was all I could do not to put the bike on the bus for the way home; I could get used to being a lazy napping sleeper both ways, too.

In fact, it’s probably only a matter of time before I’m content with not even writing 327 words in a day, but only a mere 127.

Or fewer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dawg Daze

I wish people—sports fans here in the Seattle area—would stop picking on the University of Washington Huskies football team and their beleaguered coach, Ty Willingham.

I mean, they totally suck and all, and Willingham, in spite of apparently being a pretty class act, couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag, but is this really something to get all exercised about? After all, the economy is tanking, the environment is decaying, and even worse, Celine Dion continues to rack up huge concert grosses wherever she goes, so who cares if a college football team goes through the season without winning a game?

On my ride home this evening, I passed by Husky Stadium, and in the practice facility, the marching band was belting out a rousing rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Steppin Out With My Baby,” and it seemed to me this was a much better example of what’s important in college athletics than whether the team wins or not.

Of course, I’m not one to talk; in my decade and a half as a student and alumnus of our local research 1 university, I’ve never been to a Husky football game at all and the only athletic event I ever attended was a baseball game a couple years ago to see the phenomenal Tim Lincecum mow down visiting Oregon State batters. (I have, though, been to a football game at Husky Stadium, but that was about a decade ago when the Kingdome was being repaired and the Steelers were playing the Seahawks at the Montlake facility.)

In any event, you’d think—from listening to sports talk radio—that the University of Washington was failing in its overall mission as an educational institution just because the Dawgs are currently 0 and 4 with no real prospects for victory anytime soon. I say “so what, my alma mater is home to half a dozen Nobel laureates.”

And besides, I’m sure they’ll beat the Cougars in this year’s Apple Cup.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nothing, Really

When the chronicle of the 21st century is written, weekends like this will be lost to history’s canon, because—at least insofar as my own life is representative of the larger world—nothing really happened.

And yet, these are the times that perhaps most clearly define what the quotidian reality is really like.

So, what were the features of the last 48 hours one might consider memorable or worthy of note?

What have we done, in other words? A little work around the house, some mowing of the lawn, a few meals cooked, bike maintenance here and there.

Jen and I drank some beer and rode the tandem to a nightclub last night while Mimi had a sleepover. We hung around and watched a band that was appreciated much more by nearly everyone there than us—although the group was sweet, I couldn’t help feeling from time to time that I was watching the high school talent show. Later, we went to an art gallery that was also a bar; it made more sense for us to be drinking cocktails and perching on stools than quaffing beer and standing on our tiptoes trying to see the stage, but even then, after twenty minutes or so, you’d pretty much gotten a sense of what it was going to like, so we drank up and rode home.

Today, Mimi and I took the dog for a walk, hung around, and then went to her soccer game. In a marked departure from any of the other local teams, the 12-and-under Mt. Baker Supremes continue to tear up the league, remaining undefeated after 5 games this season. Woo-hoo.

And now, it’s a typical Sunday night: we’ll eat dinner, watch the Simpsons, and argue about homework that needs to be done.

When future historians look back on these days, they’ll see the era’s great events: stock market crashes, watershed elections, nanotechnology emerging. Meanwhile, most of us will simply have carried on our lives, constant, invisible.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What It's Like

I wrote: "I’ve had all sorts of interpretations of experience tonight already and it’s only 8:20, which is in some ways the message of the evening, or maybe of the last several days, which seemed to remind me that although the most memorable stuff happens after you’ve gone to bed, the learning takes place before you are fully awake and have formed an opinion on the subject.


I went, in the early part of the evening, to a talk about Aristotle’s conception of the good life, what I took from it is a question over the nature of the good life, but now, I’m having doubts about that. Here’s the central question as I understand it: How should someone who knows what the good life is live? Like, I’ve already seen the answers, what is the question?

Honestly, I kept falling asleep during the talk; that’s messed up; how does one create the classroom experience right off?

I’m lucky; I know how to help emerge that experience among students of a certain type. Meawhile, it doesn’t really matter what I say so much as how I say it.

But at that level, an education simply becomes a way to reaffirm the extant power structures. While it serves me to endorse those structures, I’m not sure that they promulgate values I aspire to.

Meanwhile, I am feeling the effects of sharing two pitchers of pumpkin beer over dinner such as it was. Plus, my experience is somewhat augmented by the cookie I consumed the moment I left the lecture hall at the UW. I’m not at all convinced this gives me any insight into the arcana of all existence, but at least it keeps me from obsessing over the wild and whacky week on Wall Street."

Now, though, in the bright light of an autumn morning, it all seems fine; sunshine is streaming in through the windows, and I’ve got a whole fresh pot of coffee for company.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Now What?

Last night was the first night I literally lay awake worrying about my family’s financial future. I guess when the entire country of Iceland goes under, it’s time to start losing sleep.

But oh.

George fucking Bush is going on TV tomorrow to reassure the American people that the economy is a-ok, so I guess I’ve really got nothing to worry about.


The good news is that most of the things I really like to do—spend time with my family, ride my bike, read and talk about philosophy, to name a few—are pretty cheap, all things considered. Too bad I like best when I’m hanging out with my wife and daughter in exotic foreign locales, riding high-end custom-built bicycles, and philosophizing with copious amounts of expensive libations.


Funny thing is, the main reason I no longer like gambling in Vegas is that my appetite for losing money isn’t powerful enough. It got to the point where I just didn’t have the stomach for the kind of self-loathing that’s necessary for standing around a craps table seeing a couple hundred dollars go down the drain over the course of an evening. It made it so even when I won, it wasn’t fun, because I always kept thinking about all the other things I could have done with the money I lost, including traveling with my family, buying bike stuff, and stocking up on philosophical tomes and good booze.

Ironically, as the market continues to tank, and somewhat more of my nest egg is at stake, I seem paralyzed to get out of the game. Playing craps, I knew all about the futility of throwing good money after bad; as a small-time investor, I can’t bring myself to cut my losses when that’s all they are.

My paranoid conjecture is this: the stock market collapse has all been orchestrated by the current administration to save social security because now, nobody can afford to retire, anyway.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oh Yeah

Last night’s ride home was the first real wet and rainy commute of the season.

It was already coming down steadily—if not that hard—when I left campus and from about Kenmore to around the U-District, the shower was constant, enough that my rain pants got pretty saturated and eventually, a fairly constant stream ran from my cuffs into any openings in my shoe covers, drenching my ankles and making for a somewhat unpleasant squishiness in my shoes.

The new Showers Pass jacket performed pretty well, though; I stayed dry from the outside, but even with the pit zips opened all the way, I got pretty wet from the sweat inside, especially coming up the last few hills from Montlake to home.

Nevertheless, I was reminded that even in a steady downpour, it’s not so bad to be on a bike, as long as you’ve got gear that works well enough. In fact, I’d rather, in some ways, find myself coming home in weather like yesterday, that allowed me to keep pedaling and not have to change clothes every few miles, than the kind of on-again/off-again showers that bedeviled me over the weekend.

On the other hand, the prospect of eight more months of rides like yesterday’s is not all that enticing. While I often say to folks who remark at my willingness to ride in the rain, “Well, if you don’t ride your bike in the rain in Seattle, you’re not going to ride your bike in Seattle very much,” it’s not as if I prefer the sodden commute to one where I can saddle up in shirtsleeves and still make it home comfortably.

But what can you do? (Aside from complain to people, both in person and virtually, like this. And sadly, no amount of pissing and moaning is going to make any difference to the weather.)

My strategy will be to look on the bright side: I got no flats and arrived home before dark.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Like lot of people, I’ve had a bad month or two financially, and things aren’t really looking up anytime soon. Additionally, I keep getting older and achey-er—a trend which will only accelerate as time goes on. Plus, I’m worried about the upcoming election and am nervous that even if the American people overall get it right and elect Obama, there’s still a really good chance that my fellow citizens in the state of Washington will screw up and choose the pro-life/anti-education governor, Dino Rossi over the adequate-but-not-great Christine Gregoire.

But even with all that, I’m in a good mood today and it has nothing to do with the fact that the so-called “Cubbies” got swept out of the National League playoffs in three games by the Dodgers, although that’s a nice bonus.

No, the reason I feel pleased today is nearly entirely a result of how well my loveliest bicycle, the Tournesol, is riding after a quick fix by Colin over at 2020 following my own abortive attempts to get it working the way it’s supposed to.

Starting a couple weeks ago, I started feeling a little “notchy” sensation when my non drive-side crank was at about 1:00. At first, I thought maybe the crankarm was loose, but that proved not to be the case.

Next, I swapped out the pedals, but that didn’t work either.

At this point, I figured it had to be the bottom bracket, so I pulled off the cranks and spun the spindle slowly round and round; still, I felt nothing.

Stumped, I took the bike over to 2020, where Colin took it for a test ride and surmised that the bottom bracket itself was loose. A quick tightening of the drive-side retaining cup and voila! No more notchiness.

Riding around today was pure joy, especially after I’d all but resolved to live with the annoyance.

Who cares if I’m broke, old, and disenfranchised; my bike rides like a dream.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Like This

It really does work like this: when the rain starts and you stop riding to put on your gear, as soon as you get it all on, the rain lets up. Then, if after a few blocks, you stop a gain to take everything off, just about the time you’re back in the saddle, it starts raining again.

This was my experience most of the way home from Renton this afternoon, where’d I’d gone in the morning for a community college teacher’s union president’s meeting; eventually, after dressing and undressing twice, I just gave it up and got soaked the last few miles.

Still, it was a pleasant ride, especially on the way back when a gusty tailwind allowed me to feel like I was a much stronger rider than I really am. Mashing up from Columbia City, I made great time, imagining that somehow, overnight, I’d gone from my usual slow and steady slog to something almost approaching not quite so slow and steady, but whenever I turned west, I was reminded that it was mother nature doing the pushing, not me.

I’m sure, of course, that my belief in the rain-inducing powers of gear-less riding, as well as my contention that wearing plastic makes the rain go away is, at least in part, a product of confirmation bias: since I already believe that’s what happens, I only notice the instances where it does. Today, though, was too freakily consistent with my pre-set expectations to completely write off the experience.

Near the airport in Renton, it began to pour; I pulled over, pulled on my rain pants, booties, and swapped my wool vest for the Gore-tex shell. And honest to God, by the time I’d gone a quarter mile fully-protected, the shower had completely stopped.

So, it did nothing to dissuade me from what I already believed when I took off all my stuff near Rainier Beach and it started pouring again by Seward Park.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Life is full of surprises, which is why the predictable can be such a comfort.

Even before I arrived at the Little Red Hen, after watching the all-but-scripted Vice-Presidential debate, and following a route from school could practically do in my sleep, I knew that the night would include more drinking than pedaling, somebody starting up “Livin’ on a Prayer" while riding and others joining in on the chorus , at least one instance where wrestlers would be pulled apart from each other, and eventually, a fire that at some point would get jumped over and/or into.

And events did not disappoint.

Were I, like Spealunker Sean, only in town for a brief period before heading out for who-knows-what-might-happen, nothing would make me feel better than to see how the wheels and cranks keep turning with some regularity and that the Thursday night checklist gets checked off, including, but not limited to: pretty much taking over some divey tavern with beer-swilling cyclists, arriving en masse at some mini-mart to load up on PBR cans, inviting some random stranger—this one, who of all things, played the saw—to join us in our revels, and as another long-time-no-see familiar face, the speedy Jillita points out, some banked-upon opportunity for Henry to be down to his skivvies before the night is out.

Much is made, of course, of novelty and indeed, the new and different is to be cultivated as we grow, but, still, there’s something to be said for knowing more or less how things will transpire, the unspooling of events like pages in a flip book animation which, when recalled with a few gaps the next morning, nevertheless has scenes one has seen and enjoyed before.

Which isn’t to say that all of it was old hat: for instance, I’d never witnessed anybody in .83 slow-dance to Patsy Cline before and I can never recall a Thursday night in early October being so warm and dry, ever.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My Prediction

I predict that tonight’s “debate” between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden will be surprisingly boring, incredibly anti-climactic, and way less entertaining than anyone who’s been looking forward to it has been looking forward to.

Now, setting aside the philosophical question of whether one can expect to be surprised—because after all, if you expect it, are you surprised?—I still contend that the fireworks many of us have been hoping for won’t transpire; the whole affair will be duller than a high school graduation exercise (except Buffy’s graduation) and will do little to change anyone’s mind about how they’ll be voting in the Presidential election next month.

I hope I’m wrong, though.

I hope it’s like a heavyweight fight—a good one, like between Ali and Foreman, not something out of Mike Tyson’s later oeuvre—with both candidates landing shots right and left and the moderator having to ask everyone in the audience to stop cheering and booing so the event can continue.

Biden’s probably in a “no-win” situation, though. If he presses too hard, he comes off as a bully and a know-it-all; if he plays too nice, he comes off as, at best, kinda wimpy, at worst, a sexist who doesn’t treat a female candidate as a worthy foe.

Palin, I predict, will be at her snarky best, tossing Biden’s words back in his face and—even though some of them, like the quote about taxes being patriotic seems, in my estimation, a perfectly reasonable claim—scoring points and “energizing the base” with the usual out-of-context references to positions taken in the past.

My hope is to go to a bar with some friends and drink beer and try to get tipsy enough to find the whole spectacle entertaining; one thing I have learned over the years is that the proper application of alcoholic beverages can go a long way towards making even the predictable and boring kinda fun.

Have a shot and re-read this.