Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best of 2008

The past couple years I’ve indulged in the narcissistic enterprise of reviewing my postings and choosing favorites which I then highlight in my own modified top ten list so that fans of 327 Words (yes, both of you!) as well as my biographers in years hence (most likely, me, sitting in an rocker at the nursing home) can get a quick snapshot of the previous 365 days in the life of my mind and other not-so-noble regions.

Given the overwhelmingly positive response to this practice (not a single person has complained about it!) (not a single person has said anything about it) and given that, for me, at least, with my abiding penchant for navel-gazing, reviewing some of what I’ve spewed forth during the past 52 weeks is kind of fun, here I go again.

I started off the new year in fine form, with My Hangover Cure, but I also think January’s Family wasn’t bad.

Waffle Ride II wins February, and was also one of my favorite .83 rides of the year, too.

While many of the posting’s associated with the Taco Truck Time Trial had appeal, the story of the event, Represent, takes March’s gold.

Words and Pictures in April, announcing the Tournesol.

Quickly! Just Slow Enough for May.

June: Potato Chip Sandwich, just because.

I’m going with Frog Horses for July, but maybe because I remember the event with such fondness.

Dead Baby Conference Bike wins August, but again, probably because the occasion was such a win.

And who can forget biking on the I-5 Express Lanes, especially with September’s Freedom to remind us?

October’s postings strike me as kind of ordinary, and the month’s pick, Mediocrity seems right in that vein.

Since so many of my 327 words border on wild-eyed rants, I’m going to have to go against type and choose No Complaints for November.

And since ideas are typically at a premium here, we’ll take one with a thought in it, Time is God for December.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


After what seemed like around two weeks—but what was probably closer to about five days—of fighting snow, ice, and slush on our local streets, I rode around today on highways and byways almost completely free of frozen precipitation of one form or another and this thought occurred to me:

I love me some pavement!

It sure is a lot easier, less stressful, and dare I say (mostly) more fun to spin your two-wheeler around on a surface that’s relatively smooth, provides actual traction, and allows one to keep two feet on the pedals at all times without fear of suddenly finding oneself violating the commonly stated maxim of bicycle riding to “keep the rubber side down.”

And it also made me feel, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, far more favorably disposed to automobiles than I sometimes am, as the realization that, were it not for the existence of those gasoline-powered conveyances, all this pavement that serves me so well today would be non-existent, or at least, far less prevelant.

So a shout-out to cars everywhere; thanks for being the impetus behind so many miles of fine-riding concrete, asphalt, and even macadam all over the place.

This isn’t to say that the streets of Seattle are without their quirks; there’s lots of sand left behind from the department of transportation’s efforts to make the roads drivable last week and I’m knocking wood that I don’t get multiple flats in the next few days riding through all the debris left over from the storm, but frankly, I’ll take it.

As gratifying to my ego as it was to be able to continue cycling in the wintry conditions, I much prefer the freedom that relatively clear streets provide. Pedaling all over town today, while not quite the adventure it’s been of late, was a good deal more predictable than it’s been, and way faster, too.

No doubt I’ll soon take pavement for granted, but today, anyway, I celebrate its existence.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Sad Truth

Went away with the family for a couple of days to Kalaloch, Washington, on the coast, the awesome Pacific doing its windswept magnificent thing with Olympic National Park at its doorstep, mighty red cedars crowded right down to the shore. We had a lovely respite from the city, walked in the woods and on the beach, read books by the woodstove in our charming cabin, drank in the daytime, and enjoyed each others’ company, even during the drive there and back.

On arriving home, I think how exciting it will be to log onto the computer after close to three days of non-use; naturally, I’ll have a bunch of interesting emails and loads of fascinating conversations to catch up online.

Not hardly.

Only about half a dozen electronic messages and only one of those from a real person. And not more than two or three points of interest on the whole doggone internetz, and even those, I could have missed without suffering a bit of cultural depravation.

Even my phone messages were boring—both from business calling to remind me I need to do business with them.

I know this sounds like I’m complaining, but actually not; I’m relieved I’m so easily missed, especially over a post-holiday weekend. I’d hate to be one of those people whose Blackberry buzzes them dozens of times an hour, even though, if I were, I’d brag about it while pretending not to.

Some comedian I saw once (might have been Larry Miller) did this riff on how what it means to be grown up is to be glad when your phone machine isn’t blinking when you come home (this was back in the dark ages when everyone had phone machines) and I suppose this is the contemporary equivalent.

The kid, in contrast to me, had something like 24 texts waiting just in the time she was outside service area this afternoon; and she was glad to answer each and every one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eternal Life

This piece in the Times today points out that most theists believe that people from religions other than their own can get into heaven, or as the article puts, achieve eternal life. Even atheists aren’t excluded; nearly half of those polled said godless unbelievers like me can get to live forever in the afterlife.

Frankly, I don’t see the appeal.

When I’m dead, I want to be dead and gone; what’s the point of dying if you just wake up and keep on living in some other realm?

I like the idea of having a lasting legacy; and certainly I want to be remembered by friends and loved ones—to that extent, yes, I do want to live on.

But to have the “me” that is me somehow persist after my body is gone—I’m not into that at all.

What would one do with oneself for all eternity anyway? Sitting at the right hand of God sounds cool for a while, but eventually, I think, it would get tedious. Everything that I find enjoyable—riding bikes, hanging out with friends, reading books, watching Steelers football, writing 327 word essays, traveling, studying and teaching philosophy, practicing yoga, overindulging in food, drink, and plant-based intoxicants—is only enjoyable because I have limited time to enjoy them. Were I faced with an eternity to fill up doing these things, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t eventually find them all oppressively boring.

Seems to me that the whole point of dying is to get the hell away from one’s self. Personal identity, while indeed the source of any joy we might experience, is also where any pain we experience comes from. As long as there’s an experiencing “I,” there will necessarily be dissatisfactions and discomfort. Or maybe that’s just me.

I love life; in fact, I love it to death—but only till then. I thank those surveyed theists for including me in their eternity, but I think I’m going to have to pass…forever.

Friday, December 26, 2008

All There

Wherever I go these days, I get to carry around with me my stomach.

It’s not a bad little belly; in fact, more and more, it’s not so little at all. A liberal application of Christmas cookies from my virtuoso cookie-maker sister, along with a steady diet of sitting around on my ass during the holiday season has expanded the horizon between my chin and hips to previously uncharted territory—or at least, that’s how it feels.

It all goes with the time of year: Santa Claus, teddy bears, pro football offensive linemen; and while mine, unlike St. Nick’s, doesn’t actually wiggle like a bowlful of jelly, I can make it shudder like the top of a crème caramel.

Consider it a sign of success, that’s it, a tangible illustration of a full larder, of a lifestyle marked by abundance, of freedom from want at all hours of the day and night, with a midnight snack thrown in for good measure.

Of course, like 99.9% of the population, I’m sure I have post New Year’s plans to shape up and melt off whatever more of me has emerged since Halloween, but I’m also sure that like 99.99% of all people, I’ll find some excuse not to keep at it past MLK Day.

The good news, I guess, is that should the apocalypse ensue and supermarkets disappear, I’ll have a couple extra days of stored energy to tide me over until mana starts raining down from heaven. Plus, I’ll be stimulating the economy as I purchase an entire new wardrobe of trousers to truck my Milwaukee tumor around in.

All in all, I’m not too worried; having a few extra inches around the midsection has never gotten in the way of success, why just look at Jack Black, or John Belushi, or even former President Bill Clinton.

Or how about William Howard Taft? Now there’s guy I could get behind—and maybe even hide the belly if I turned just right.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saltless in Seattle

Boy, is it ever my good fortune to be in decent health and have a bicycle that, with a knobby tire in back and a road tire in front, enables me to get around pretty much anywhere in the city of Seattle, and more importantly, allows me to stay above the fray in the great salt or no-salt debate of 2008.

Lots of folks around town have their knickers in a twist because Seattle Department of Transportation doesn’t salt the snowy roads which leaves many of them in a far less-than-ideal state for driving around on. On many of the major arterials, you get these two troughs on either side of the street churned out by the wheels of cars, but within these indentations, you get lots of gnarly ice chunks affixed to the tarmac that bounce cars around as they try to navigate forward. Presumably, these chunks are what salt would eradicate, allowing cars to zoom around as is their God-given right.

Apparently, the decision not to use salt is, at least in part, an environmental concern: you don’t want a bunch of salty, oily water running off into the Puget Sound, but whatever the reason, you’d think, by the tenor of the discussion emanating from talk radio, opinion pages, and the internetz that the city fathers had decided to deal with the snow by pouring the blood of sacrificed virgins on it or something.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. Sure, it would be nice if the roads were a bit easier to navigate; for me, the hard packed side streets are far superior to the choppy and congested arterials. On the other hand, I’m loving how the snowmaggedon hasn’t stopped me. I rode all over today finishing up my holiday shopping and continued to bask in the looks of amazement from pedestrians and drivers as I bounced around over the snow and only occasionally slid sideways into the salt-free slush.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Reuters reports that oil fell below $39.00 a barrel on the world market today due to the US economic downturn and, as a result, weakening demand for the commodity which only a few months ago was trading in the vicinity of $150.00 a barrel.

So, while it’s a terrible shame that people are losing their jobs and retirement accounts, you’ve sort of got to appreciate this silver lining that shows how humans can change their appetites and that maybe, just maybe, there’s hope we’re not doomed to all die in a petroleum-hunger fueled apocalypse sometime in the next few years.

On my ride home from school, I pass a Safeway gas station that displays its current prices on a large digital sign, easily readable from the trail. Prices at their pumps are around two dollars cheaper than they were a few months ago.

Seems like this would be the perfect time to institute that fifty cents a gallon federal gas tax that Thomas Friedman is always going on about. Imagine, as he does, how much money could be generated to fund transportation and energy initiatives with half a dollar collected on every gallon of gas sold in the US—and it’s pretty clear that people would still buy gas (since they did) if it were four bits more expensive.

Naturally, the gas tax strikes me as an especially good idea, given that I’ve bought all of one tankful in the past six months—and that’s only because Jen left the car close to empty the morning that Mimi and I drove to Everett to kill our Thanksgiving turkey.

During our current great “Snowmaggedon 2008,” I’ll bet that lots and lots of gas has been saved in the Seattle area; while there are plenty more cars on the road today than yesterday or the day before, it’s still way less than usual.

However, those that are driving are spinning their wheels a lot, so maybe it evens out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting Testy

What with it being Monday and all and only three more shopping days until Christmas, the natives are starting to get a bit restless in the snow around here.

I rode my bike downtown for an eye doctor appointment and a few holiday gift items and while the roads weren’t all that bad—as long as I could stay in a tire track—people driving (and even walking for that matter) sort of scared me.

Coming up Jackson from Pioneer Square, this guy in an SUV started honking at me from a good two hundred yards away. I think he was afraid that I would slow him down as he climbed the hill. Funny thing is, after I pulled aside to let him pass, I easily caught him by the light at Twelfth, where he had to wait as his fellow drivers crept through the intersection.

Downtown, I saw a guy step out from behind the wheel and plant his foot deep into a slush pile; he started yelling “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” all the way across the street even though he was wearing boots.

Somewhat surprisingly, the sides streets around the neighborhoods are much easier riding than the more well-traveled routes. Around our block, for instance, the roads are packed with soft snow that rides like sand; once you get out on the main drags, though, it’s all huge clumped up chunks of stuff that knock you all about sideways.

I found my own self getting a bit frustrated from time to time, but I’ve yet to start screaming at anyone; that’s partly because I’m so out of breath from plowing up the slippery streets.

It looks like the snow is going to hang around another couple days, at least, so it will be interesting to see how much grouchier people get as time passes; everyone always hopes for a white Christmas, but I’m not sure that, if the snow stays, people’s holiday spirit will last that long.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Update: Rideable

Snow's turned pretty wet this afternoon/evening and is now eminently rideable.

Picture at left worth 309 words.

Can't Win 'Em All

Steelers got trounced 31-14 by the Titans of Tennessee today, but what I took from the contest is assurance that the Black n’ Gold can take the Powder blue, just so long as they don’t make so many mistakes next time around.

Had a fun adventure, anyway, heading out on foot to Fado for the meetup; a pretty good crowd given the snowy weather, which continues to delight.. I walked about halfway downtown, then caught a bus, packed with folks trying to get somewhere or just stay out of the cold. People are moving really slowly, cars either navigate gingerly or spin right out; and snowmen are everywhere.

One lady came into the bar wearing snowshoes, which seemed just a little over-the-top, although it was pretty impressive the way she motored over the sidestreet drifts after the game.

It’s an unusual state-of-affairs when really the best way to get around is on foot; while there were a few spots where I thought I could ridden more quickly than walked, in the end, I was glad not to have a bike I needed to push around. It was bad enough to be all worried about my laptop, which I brought to listen to the radio feed from Pittsburgh, and even though it worked just fine, the nerd quotient was just a little too high to have this be a habit.

Focus on the essentials, that’s the lesson here; I didn’t need to have my computer with me to enjoy the game—in fact, having it was just a little too complicated.

I think the Steelers could have taken this same admonition: seemed like they kept getting away today from what was working: off-tackle stuff and quick passes over-the-middle. They kept playing hard, though, and while it was a shame they lost, I know that by wiping his feet on the Terrible Towel in celebrating the win, that Titan player ensured a Pittsburgh victory in the AFC Championship.


I set out on my usual Sunday morning bike ride and made it all of about four blocks before turning around and (mostly) walking the bike back.

Snow’s just too deep.

I can get some traction riding in paths made by automobile tires, but as soon as I inevitably skid off into the deep stuff, it’s no go.

We’ve got about eight to ten inches of snow on the ground (and in the trees, on top of houses, and covering cars, too, for that matter) atop a nice layer of ice so, for the first time this winter, I’m throwing in the towel for cycling—at least until this stuff softens up and turns to slush.

Today would be the day to have a Pugsley; I think that if you could float over the top of the crusty drifts you might be able to keep going. And maybe studded tires would help, although I think the studs wouldn’t really have anything to bite into, so maybe not.

It gives me a little bit of cabin fever to be bikeless; I was sort of thinking about riding down to the local Steelers bar and catching today’s game; it’s usually a ten-minute ride; I’m guessing it’s an hour at least, to walk.

Thank the technology gods for streaming internet radio broadcasts, at least.

I’m hoping the Black n’ Gold pull it out today against Tennessee to earn AFC bragging rights and (probably) home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but if there’s any correlation between my efforts and theirs (not causation; I’m not that crazy), then it’s likely they’ll come home with their tails between their legs, too.

Truth be told, I don’t really feel bad about my defeat at the hands of nature today; it’s refreshing, in a way, to discover what the limit of my two-wheel transportation options are; so what if I can’t ride a regular bike in this stuff; maybe the tallbike; at least falling wouldn’t hurt.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ye Olde Village of Seattle

One of the things I’m really liking about this winter’s great ice and snow-in, (besides that fact that it gives one an excuse to have a midday snort of brown liquor as a way to warm up) is how it has, to an extent (and more Thursday night and Friday than today), kicked our little town into a kind of post-petroleum world, one where not too many cars are out on the roads and in which lots of people are doing their errands on foot, that is, if they’re doing them at all and not just staying home, cocooned after those aforementioned midday libations.

Walking (or biking) around at night, it especially feels like you’re living in a quaint little village somewhere. Jen and I, with Mimi and the neighbor kids, walked over the Madrona Alehouse around 8:00 last evening and only one car passed us the whole time. The kids got a thrill out of dancing the Macarena in snowy intersections, with nary an automobile in sight.

Today, more people, some clearly suffering from cabin fever, are venturing out in their automobiles, and the sound of tire chains clattering on the ice fills the air; even so, my little trip to the coop for a few essentials felt almost like the way over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house; that’s how essentially rustic it seemed.

I’m still getting the look of amazement and the occasional thumbs-up from people shocked to see a person out on two wheels; I’m still certain, though, that I’m safer and less likely to end up upside-down in a ditch than anybody behind the wheel of a car.

In any case, there’s room for all kinds in our happy little village; today, for example, is the annual Santarchy event in which some dozens of drunks in Santa suits careen around town; I may try to catch the festivities later, but first, for sure, it’s time for my midday warmup.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter XO-1-Wonderland

I sometimes forget what a badass the XO-1 is.

It spends a lot of time in the warm basement, up on the workstand, where I ogle it between bouts of writing, studying, grading, and the occasional trip to the subterranean vaporizer alcove.

And so, because, rightly or wrongly, I treat it more as a collector’s item than a bike to be ridden regularly (and, in my defense, it is just a tad small), it rarely gets a chance to really strut its stuff. Jen rides it as much as I do, usually on special trips like to Filmed by Bike in Portland, or I saddle it up to use with the bike blender for an event like the Seattle Bike-In.

I suppose this is sad in a way—or at least sort of a shame for such a sweet-riding rig—but at least it’s loved, albeit not in the way you might expect for a bike so specifically designed to be an all-rounder/go-anywhere/do-anything two-wheeler.

So, it’s been a special delight these last few days to have it be my main snow rider. With 2.25” knobbies in the back and 1.25 road tires in front, it rides like a virtual snowplow. I’ve been able to crank pretty steadily up even the iciest of hills and have been able to slowly easy my way down all but the scariest of descents.

Its awesomeness is, I think, part of the reason why my practical joke of winning the December Greenlake Race succeeded; even I look fast on it.

Now, all this bragging will no doubt result in a glorious wreck, but so far, the only damage I’ve sustained is melted front brake shoes from slowing so hard, but I’ve replaced the old Dia-comps with some sweet new old-school Scotty’s that not only grip the rims just as well as my broomball shoes do the ice, but also look pretty swell, form and function being the operative theme with my badass Bridgestone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Greenlake Race of Champions 2008

You'd of had to be crazy to be out in a car this Thursday night on Seattle’s icy streets; on a bike, you just had to be determined.

In spite of the weather—or maybe because of it—the Greenlake Race of Champions was declared ON this afternoon and so anybody with an ounce of self-respect wouldn’t have missed it—and me neither.

The scariest part of the evening was just making it down the back alley from my house; once I was out on the streets, I felt progressively safer and safer as the evening wore on, an emotion only partly to be explained by the usual; additionally, as fewer and fewer automobiles attempted to navigate the roads, the real danger out there diminished. While there were a couple times during the evening when I skidded out, the only really frightening scenarios involved cars.

A good dozen-plus congregated at Westlake and spanned the gamut from Chase on his fixed gear with skinny tires to Lee on his Pugsley bedecked in Christmas lights which Featherhead, test-riding, wheelied on the bricks.

We had a sort of shakedown cruise along Westlake and Eastlake to the Zoo for warmth and prize pick-up then proceeded apace to Greenlake where we were welcomed by a reasonably impressive Roman candle display which may or may not have been for us, but sure seemed like it.

I raced in the preliminary December race and pulled a total Rosie Ruiz. Dropping back from the pack, I circled around behind the grandstand to the trail and hid, until I could just see the racers approaching.

Then, I hopped on my bike, and panting furiously, sprinted the last 50 yards or so of the course, arriving to amazement and cheers.

It was all I could do release the dream and come clean, but it sure was fun while it lasted.

The thing is, I probably could have pulled it off, and then even “beaten” two-time champ, Padraig, in the main event.

More Like It

Kids awoke this morning to a good five or six inches of snow on the ground, no school, and sledding in the park before Dad had even finished his coffee. This is what a snow day is supposed to be like, by God.

I took a few laps around the neighborhood on the Schwinn Hollywood; this may be the perfect blizzard bike, especially since your feet can touch the ground when you’re in the saddle, and if you fall, you haven’t got far to go. Coaster brake only, though, so that’s a bit of a problem.

I’m putting knobbies on the XO-1 for an alternative ride; in a bit, gonna go out in a bit and see how it handles in these conditions.

Here’s how you can brag without bragging: simply ride a bike somewhere when it’s below freezing. Last night, I pedaled over to West Seattle in the clear and cold to go bowling and you’d have thought I circumnavigated the globe in my very own handmade kayak or something. My fellow keglers were all like, “Whoa! You rode your bike here?! That’s hard core.”

Frankly, I think it’s way more bad ass to down a handful of Rolling Rocks over the course of a couple hours at the lanes and then get in your car; I’d be far more nervous to drive across the West Seattle bridge with a buzz on than I ever am poking along on two wheels after a few cold ones.

It’s hard to get motivated to do anything productive; that, too, seems like a mark of a bona fide snow day. Coffee seems to help, but it’s effect may be somewhat compromised by that lunchtime shot of Beam I had to warm up before walking to the video store for Christmas movies.

Best of all, my LL Bean guide pants just showed up in the mail: let’s see how well they perform this real live snow day on the Bridgestone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Forecast Day

Call me old school (heck, call me old, that’d be true, too), but I must say I’m a bit taken aback that Mimi’s school—and mine, too, although classes are on Winter break—has been cancelled today, not because of snow, but because it’s in the forecast.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m all for suspending institutional education in the name of safety, security, and faculty or staff exhaustion; I haven’t gotten cranky enough yet to be opposed, on principle, to snow days (but give me time, I’m sure I’ll be standing on my porch screaming for you kids to get offa my lawn any day now), but I do think it seems kind of wimpy to close down the old school house just because it’s supposed to start snowing later in the day.

Currently, the roads are all smooth and dry; sure, there’s a little bit of ice here and there, but it was actually worse yesterday and the day before when students reported as usual and while I suppose it would be a huge hassle and potentially dangerous to try to get everyone home safely should a blizzard kick in later today, the whole cancellation thing strikes me as something of an overreaction.

I think this is, at least in part, a function of the tyranny of the internetz, with its on-all-the-time/up-to-the-minute information on this or that, including the weather. Now, all these administrators can sit in their offices looking at radar weather and get all nervous about what’s on the horizon instead of just looking out the fawking window or opening the door and noticing that it doesn’t even feel like it’s below freezing, anyway!

Of course, what would be truly ironic is if the snow holds off until tonight and then dumps big so that tomorrow, school really needs to be closed. But at least then, there'll be enough snow for the kids to make snowmen, instead of just poking around in today’s slush.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


While in the Bay Area on Sunday, I met up with my old pal Larry Livermore for coffee and a chat. We revisited an old Berkeley haunt, the Café Mediterraneum and talked about all sorts of things, from the demise of the Key System of public transportation that once served San Francisco and the East Bay, to the lack of interior insulation in California homes, to whether or not Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Middlesex sticks sufficiently close to the facts of the Detroit riots in 1968 1967 not to undermine its narrative impact.

We also got onto the subject of writing and weblogs and Larry allowed that he thought 327 Words has, of late, taken on a bit of a Bukowski flavor, which I took to be a compliment at first—not that I’m a huge fan of the old drunk, but I do think that Ham on Rye is one of the funniest books ever written—but then was a bit taken aback when he elaborated that it seemed like I was spending an inordinate amount of time in print recently bragging about how fucked up I was getting as I lurched around one place to another.

And it gave me a bit of pause, I guess, and caused me to look back over recent posts and while there’s only really this one of late where I go all Baudelaire, Larry probably had a point, although I do think the concern that students might link a teacher’s ramblings to their Facebook pages and potentially cause problems for his or her career is a bit over-the-top.

The thing is, it’s mostly a matter of content, which in the simple life of a community college instructor, can be hard to come by. In my ongoing effort to occasionally write about something rather than nothing, it’s only natural that my extra-curricular adventures feature prominently. And to the extent that deranged consciousness figures prominently in those, what else is there to write about?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Never in Doubt

Cousin Seth said that I was the only one among the twenty or so Steelers fans who had congregated today at the Phoenix in San Francisco’s Mission District who never doubted that the Steelers would beat the hated Ravens in this afternoon’s American Football Conference North Division showdown in Baltimore and maybe he was exaggerating, but it’s certain I was one of the more vocal in professing my assurance that the Black and Gold would prevail—which they did in stirring fashion, Roethlisberger and Company mounting a late fourth quarter touchdown drive which put Pittsburgh up for good 13-9 with under a minute remaining.

I kept saying all along that we had ‘em right where we wanted ‘em, even though the Steelers trailed 6-3 at halftime and then, following a Santonio Holmes fumble deep in Pittsburgh territory which led to a Baltimore field goal, by six points (a number which loomed large in the taught defensive struggle) with under fifteen minutes left to play.

But, as a matter of fact, it was the Raven’s inability to put the visitors away with a touchdown at this juncture that assured me that Pittsburgh would win. As long as the defense kept it to a one score game, I had no doubt that the offense would eventually come through, a sentiment that few around me seemed to share, especially one loudmouthed guy who kept going on and on about how Big Ben was having an awful year and never got rid of the ball quick enough, that is, until I went off on him, reminding Mr. Pessimistic Blabbermouth Hater that all Roethlisberger had done this season was lead his team to a 10-3 record so, basically, “Shuttup,” I explained.

But I guess there are fans and there are fans and some enjoy the game by going negative; not me, though, I’m a glass half full kind of guy, even, now, after lifting it happily to the new AFC North champs!

Friday, December 12, 2008


In Dan Savage’s homage to the seven deadly sins, Skipping Towards Gomorrah, he talks, in the chapter on greed, I think, about losing a bunch of money gambling and how it makes him feel just totally flayed, but absolutely alive, and in that moment, he comes to understand the appeal of playing blackjack, even though it’s ultimately a losing proposition for whomever sits down at the table to face the cards.

And while I’m not in that situation now, I do have a little taste of it, as we’ve come to San Francisco to spend a bunch of money eating, drinking, and carrying on, even though those are funds better invested in college savings plans, mortgage payments, or heaven knows, bicycle parts, which—even if expensive—would at least be lasting.

But I get it, I really do. Here we are, purchasing experiences instead of things, and despite the fact that what we’re getting is fleeting and ephemeral, it does give us a few moments here and there of being fully alive, even if self-recrimination follows on its heels.

Today, we’ve wandered the streets and looked at art and then I took a bus through once-familiar streets to the Haight-Ashbury which, it seems, has become something like a theme-park/shopping mall version of the dream it aspired to some forty-plus years ago.

And, what followed, as I then spent more on a single Anchor Steam beer than I typically expend for an entire six pack of my usual, then wasted even more money on non-essentials strolling about, could only be understood as an expression of that same impulse to which Mr. Savage was referring in his book: I’m sure that there is some sort of connection between liveliness and bank accounts, and no doubt there’s something strangely liberating about making choices that one comes to regret; still, if I didn’t currently feel so fully alive, I’d look forward to imagining it were just a dream to eventually awake from.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oprah's 327 Word Diet

That’s too bad for Oprah losing control of her weight again, but major props for being so forthright and all about her struggles. Part of me—and probably part of her (including some of those parts around the hips and thighs)—is just like, “So what, girl, just be who you are and you look hot no matter what,” but on the other hand, if it’s bumming her out to be heavier than she wishes she were (and we’ve all been there, or at least I have—and am, basically), then I have some tips.

Not that I myself follow them, but tips, nonetheless.

Above all, fuck diets. No way you can cut back on food and expect to not eventually gain back whatever you lost by starving yourself.

The only way to really lose weight isn’t to change what you eat; you have to change your habits. Diet changes don’t work; only lifestyle changes do.

You’ve got to do different things than the things that make you fatter than you want to be and so some of the behavior changes that might work include:

First thing: get outta your car. I’m sure this will be a tough one for arguably the most famous television celebrity in the world, but Oprah, honey, you’ve got to start walking (and biking if you can) more. And try taking the bus sometimes, too. That one change will make more of a difference than anything else you might undertake.

Second: never eat while doing anything else, like working, talking on the phone, or watching TV (unless you’re taking a real meal, with others, and watching something together.)

Third: do your own dishes. And don’t use a dishwasher.

Fourth: never eat standing up (except if you’re doing the dishes and snagging a leftover something-or-other.)

And finally: walk around your house naked as much as possible, checking yourself out in the mirror from all angles—and leave the webcam turned on all day, you hot hottie.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Shouldn't Oughta Do This

It’s amazing how dizzy a person can be and still manage to stay upright on a bike.

Now, kids, I’m not promoting this, I’m just saying, in my own words, “I don’t see myself as an advocate for drug use, just an illustration of it,” but here’s the thing: after the Steelers game on Sunday—which I watched at a bar, initially pacing my alcohol consumption quite reasonably (just a couple Guinesses during the first half; oh, and a bloody mary, too), but then picking up the pace a bit as the Black n’ Gold staged their thrilling fourth quarter comeback (the decision to slam an “Irish car bomb” probably indicates how fast I was moving)—I got on my bike and pedaled towards home, no doubt in a state in which merely walking might have been something of a challenge.

But my rule for many years has been that as long as I can unlock my bike, I’m allowed to ride it. (Only once, in grad school, did I fail this requirement, and had to take the bus back downtown the next day to retrieve my wheels.) And since I have a combination lock whose numbers keep getting tinier and tinier every year, this rule actually sets the sobriety bar well above the blackout stage. So, I was probably reasonably safe as I wiggled and weaved up Pine Street.

As I was passing the Elysian, though, I decided one more celebratory beer was in order, so at the bar, I bought a pitcher and shared it around with some fellow cyclists; that I recall pretty well, but what gets kind of hazy, is the ride home from there, which resulted, as I discovered Monday morning, in the back of my jacket being covered with mud, and a rear tire flat as the proverbial pancake, something I couldn’t possibly have ridden on, even were I not the least little bit tipsy, which admittedly, I admit that I was.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Roanoke to Roanoke

I love me a theme for a ride and I’ve had in mind for a while this one: Roanoke to Roanoke, by which I mean, east across the I-90 bridge to Mercer Island and the Roanoke Inn, a charming (almost too charming) little pub I had never, much to my amazement, been to in a decade and a half of living in Seattle, then back west, along the lake for a bit, then through Interlaken to the Roanoke Tavern, on 10th Avenue, just a few blocks from where Jen and I lived when we first moved here, but which I’ve also tended to overlook, having been in there fewer than a handful of times, even though, it was once, and for almost five years, the closest watering hole to my home.

So, on Friday, after I finished up most of the rest of my end-of-quarter grading, I set out, under fair skies, on this little excursion and it didn’t disappoint. Heading east along the I-90 trail, I had to fight a bit of a headwind, but as I was in no particular hurry, I didn’t very much mind.

I was impressed with how lively the Roanoke (east) was at around 3:00 on a Friday afternoon: a couple tables full of business types, making deals, some retirees enjoying a leisurely afternoon meal, and even some spandexed bikers finishing up their training ride with a cold one. I had an IPA at the bar and found out from the bartender that the picturesque front porch is usually available in the evenings, information that may be useful for some upcoming .83 ride.

Thereafter, I made my way west across the bridge, then wound around north along Lake Washington before ascending through Seattle’s oldest bike path (I’m told), the Interlachen trail to the Roanoke Tavern on 10th. It was closed, though, so I wasn’t able to complete the beer cycle, not until I rode over to the Elysian, anyway.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Time is God

I had this idea the other day and I wasn’t even stoned when I thought of it: and that’s that time is god, or, I guess, vice-versa.

One of the reasons this claim could make sense is that, like the classical Judeo-Christian conception of the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator of the universe, time is everywhere and, one might say, everlasting—that is, it has no end. (Or, you might imagine that time exists outside of time; in that sense, it would be eternal.)

Another piece of supporting evidence would be that, for some intents and purposes, anyway, time created the Universe. That is, before there was time (in the time before time?), nothing existed. It wasn’t until the Big Bang, when the singularity exploded, that the Universe came into being. So, at the very least, time is coextensive with creation, but with just a little bit of fiddling, one can see it was prior to it, or, at least a necessary condition for creation to come into being.

And then, in a certain sense, time is all-knowing, and all-powerful, too. In support of the latter, time certainly can and will defeat everything. Existence (at least as we can understand it) depends on time and should time stop, so would everything else.

The support for omniscience is a bit tougher to make (up), but given that, from the perspective of general relativity (at least according to my armchair physics perspective), linear time is an illusion and everything that ever has or will happen already, in some sense exists, so, to that extent, time does know all and see all.

Naturally, all this raises deeper questions about the nature of time itself; I do, think, though, that there’s a way in which all that time is is the motion of particles, which would make God, if you will, change; and while I’m not at all sure that’s what I would worship, I sure am in awe of it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Auto Bailout

I make no claim to an understanding of high (or even low) finance, but I don’t think that’s why I can’t quite make sense of the proposed bailout of the big three automobile companies.

They’re businesses, right? And they’re not profitable, right? So why should they be propped up to the tune of some 25 billion dollars?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just give the money directly to people who are apt to be put out of work? And give those people something to do that really needs to be done apart from manufacturing another vehicle that nobody wants to buy?

To me, the best argument for giving Ford, GM, and Chrysler all the dough they’re asking for is that big financial firms have already bellied up to the trough and frankly, it does seem more reasonable somehow to fork over our wallets to companies that actually make something rather than ones that just manipulate numbers on computerized spreadsheets.

But, like Mom always said, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” (except, I guess, when it comes to drunken threesomes), so just because those cake-eaters from AIG and Lehman Brothers got to have their asses covered, doesn’t mean we ought to ensure that the makers of the Ford Explorer, Chevy Suburban, and Dodge Durango get a free pass.

I’d be okay with ponying up some significant part of my tax dollars if the car companies would commit to using their technological and manufacturing prowess to produce commercially-viable human-powered dirigibles or even if they did a better job of making cars that didn’t rely on the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine.

And how about setting aside a couple million of the billions and billions to buy bicycles for anybody who needs one? Plus, I’d be a lot more amenable to their requests if the CEOs arrived at their meetings in Washington on two wheels rather than four.

And if they fixed their own flats, so much the better.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Maybe it’s the light, or I could just be getting old(er); (in any case, I’m pretty sure it’s not the “day-after-the-day-after” cannabis hangover I’ve observed ever since I was in 10th grade and trying to get out of bed and off to homeroom period at Central District Catholic High School in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA, since, after all, I’ve not indulged that appetite of mine since “Black Friday,” aka “Buy Nothing Day”), or, maybe there’s no other explanation than just I’m a lazy post-Thanksgiving bum, but whatever the cause, I sure have been a sleepyhead today, so much so that I almost gave it up on the ride home and took the bus—and I would have were it in sight—but even though I did pedal all the way from Bothell, I turned the cranks slower and slower and could have lain my head down on my handlebars and snoozed were they more padded or had I a pillow.

The good news, if you can call it that, was that the bus ride out to school this morning was a virtual dreamland for me; I’m reading the Robert Pinsky translation of Dante’s Inferno, and after finishing the seventh canto that describes the torments of spenders and hoarders (“Each pushes a weight against his chest, and howls/At his opponent each time that they clash”), I dozed off, and with visions of Washington Mutual executives and CEOs of international mortgage insurance companies squaring off against one another in Hell dancing in my head, I soon found myself just several blocks from school and had to rise up and stretch my arms overhead and slap my cheeks to wake myself up in time for my stop.

Clearly though, and although I managed to be perky in the classroom, I never really have woken up completely today and am only trying to get through the next few hours before I can lay my head down and start over tomorrow.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Now That Was a Game

With the economy tanking, the environment collapsing, and Christmas carols polluting the air, one looks for bright spots wherever he or she can find them.

And yesterday, I located my happy place at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where the Pittsburgh Steelers crushed the hated New England Patriots led by their vile and fashioned-challenged coach, Bill Belichick, 33-10, ending a streak of way too many losses in a row, including, I’m pretty sure, an AFC Championship game in there somewhere.

I managed to cajole Mimi into coming with me to the local Steelers meet-up spot, the Irish bar, Fado, downtown near Pioneer Square, on the condition that we would leave by halftime. As we pulled up on the bike, I was listening to the game on the radio and almost decided to turn around back towards home as Roesthlisberger, on something like the third play from scrimmage, threw an interception that led to the Patriots scoring first and going up 7-zip.

But, we persevered, and after finding seats inside thanks to a nice fellow from Butler, PA who offered to share his table with us, settled down with some food and drink while the Black and Gold eventually got back into the game, tying the score 10-10 by the end of the second quarter.

Keeping my end of the bargain, we then left Fado, stopping for a caramel apple that the kid said I now owed her for her patience. My generosity as a dad must have paid off, because right about the time she bit into her treat, the Steelers began an impressive run where they absolutely shut down the Patriots’ offense, forcing turnovers, while running off 23 unanswered points to seal the victory.

The game wasn’t on TV, but I could listen to the radio broadcast as we pedaled, and at home, tune into the internet feed from Pittsburgh; so, too bad about the stock market, but at least the Steelers are 9 and 3.