Saturday, June 30, 2007


It's like something from a low-budget horror movie. After 17 (or is it 18?) days of rain, the ground is saturated. Imagine that. It has so much water the earthworms are looking for higher ground! That means they crawl up onto the porch and come in under the patio door, the garage door, and the front door.

Cats do not eat earthworms, but they'll play with them until the worm dies. Dead earthworms smell very bad. Also, the cats have to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning slime out of their paws and fur.

Women do not like to be in the same room with numerous worms, though to their credit, the two women in this house will capture earthworms and put them back outside. They do the same for spiders. The rescued worms make an immediate u-turn and head back into the house.

It is unpleasant to step on a large nightcrawler with your bare feet. When I get up at 5AM, all the lights go on. If I find one in my bed or on my pillow, I will probably freak out. Keep an eye out for a news story: "Oklahoma man claims worms induced psychotic episode! Film at eleven!"

Bicycle tires make unpleasant snapping noises as they roll over earthworms on wet pavement. Sorry little guys.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Do they watch game shows in Hell?...Part Three

The first two parts of this were posted in May, so I've included links to them. My apologies for taking so long to complete it. Besides the usual level of procrastination, I've been up against those pesky obligations of work and family, but once I was able to remember my children's names again, family life settled down. The piece is long at 2500 words.

You didn't think I would leave Wally wandering in the desert, did you?

(Link to Part One)

(Link to Part Two)

Do they watch game shows in Hell? Part Three.

The Revelations of Wally of Arabia

Months passed. Wally disappeared after making his escape from jail. Various law enforcement agencies stopped by my house, trying to find any leads to his whereabouts, but the visits eventually tapered off. A steady stream of young women called or dropped by as well, but they were less frequent as the weeks and months passed. Some of them were far more persistent than the cops. I wondered about their motives, but was afraid to ask.

Winter changed to a pleasant spring, and spring gave way to summer's heat. The cicadas buzzed incessantly from every direction. Between the heat and the whining, I was about to go barking mad. Sleep was almost nonexistent. My kids just turned up their music to drown out the bugs. It's quite possible I was going deaf from all the noise.

Just after dusk one evening, the doorbell rang. There was a short pause and it rang again. I wandered out to the living room to answer it. Apparently no one else in the house could hear the bell over all the tribal music. They could hear a telephone ring at 200 meters, but not a doorbell. I've often wondered why they don't have teenagers doing the track and field events in the Olympics. An average teen could out-sprint any professional athlete if it meant answering a telephone before the third ring.

A Bedouin stood on my doorstep. But on second glance, I realized Bedouins probably don't wear colorful fitted sheets. This one more closely resembled a drunk Shriner on a tight budget.

He stood there blinking into the lights, a thin, hard-looking man who looked vaguely like Wally. His eyes appeared to be sunken into his cheeks and he had the deepest tan I'd ever seen. But he grinned hugely and said, “It's good to be home again! I mostly hitch-hiked but the further I got from California, the fewer rides I received. I walked most of the way across Oklahoma.” Had I seen him walking down the road dressed like that, I wouldn't have picked him up either.

It really was Wally! I looked up and down the street to see in any cops were parked nearby.

Where have you been?” I asked. “The police have been here looking for you. So have a bunch of women. Are you OK?” I hustled him inside.

I'm fine now,” he said. “I was living in a kind of commune out in the desert. We got up in the morning and worked in the fields until it got too hot. My job was to haul water from the well. Then we spent the middle of the day in what they called spiritual learning. It was all about self-reliance and being resolute in the face of adversity. I swear they got all that stuff off the Lifetime Network and daytime television. We lived on rice, lentils, and tea. If I never see another lentil, I'll be a happy man.”

He went on describing his time in the commune. It sounded like a hard way of life, scratching food out of desert soil. But while he made light of the labor and mocked the attitudes of some of the people, I could see that the time had a profound effect on my friend. He learned self-denial by living with people who had no more than him. Wally liked to indulge in good food and drink, but in the desert there was none to be had. For the first time in his adult life, he'd fallen on hard times and it had an undeniable impact. Some people would have become angry and bitter, but not Wally. He actually engaged in some introspection for once, and he'd developed a self-deprecating style of humor. His stay in the desert wasn't a loss.

He started talking about the jail break. “So after I dumped the catering truck, I walked for a couple of miles, but walking makes you look instantly suspicious in California. I found some kid's mountain bike laying in the yard, swiped his Mom's laundry from the line, and lashed it all to the bike. I took a straw hat from a trash can, too, just so people would think I was an immigrant riding off to do laundry. I figured I could cross the desert by riding at night and hiding out during the day. I used one of the stolen sheets as an awning. I made this outfit from the other. It's good protection from the sun, but it looks kinda funny.”

I couldn't agree more.

Wally said, “I rode that mountain bike just off one of the highways, out of sight of the headlights. It was a good plan until I wandered a bit too far from the road and got lost. You remember all that stuff about surviving in the desert that I said I'd learned from movies? It's all bunk. I thought I was gonna die until I blundered into that commune.”

They welcomed me like a long-lost brother. The group consisted of 5 men and 8 women who've been living in the desert for years. They're tough, savvy folks. They're deeply religious but oddly reluctant to talk about it. I wasn't too concerned, at first, because I needed a place to hide out. Besides, they, um, adapted to hot days and cold nights by changing their clothes a couple of times during the day. At mid-day when the heat was most intense, they stripped down to almost nothing.”

I could well understand the appeal this had for Wally, especially in light of the male-to-female ratio.

He went on. “They were very friendly and open, for the most part. One of the women had that lean and hungry look. You know the one. Such women are dangerous and should be watched.” Wally was attracted to dangerous women and he'd watch them as closely as possible. Sometimes this led to restraining orders. At others it had led to marriage.

After the third month, they allowed me into the inner sanctuary. All that time I'd thought they were some sort of Buddhists or one of the other eastern religions, though they were awfully tight lipped about it. Most cults are downright chatty about trying to convert us unbelievers, but not that bunch. When they finally took me inside, it wasn't a statue of a fat, smiling Buddha. It was a fat, smiling Dick Cheney! That's when I knew I had to escape. I'd fallen into the clutches of some weird Republican cult! I took off as soon as it got dark.”

He talked about spiritual learning, higher powers, and the mystic possibilities inherent in spending a night under the desert stars. During a long soliloquy on the cultivation and preparation of lentils, I must have drifted off until Wally said, “But she left me when I dove into a cheeseburger with everything. I'll miss her. You got anything to eat?” We went out to the kitchen for some sandwiches. Mary wandered in, saw Wally and exclaimed, “Wally! You're home!” in that happy tone that women use, but in an instant it turned to that other, far more accusatory one that I hear all too often. “Just where have you been?” He had to explain himself all over again.

I offered Wally a bed at our house for the night. His apartment had already been leased to new tenants when the landlord hadn't heard from him, and the rent hadn't been paid. Most of Wally's possessions were piled up on the curb, where I rescued what I could from his marauding horde of neighbors. At least I saved all his bicycles, tools, and parts. His collection of exotic, wildly colorful boxer shorts sat on the curb for weeks.

He tried to report back to work at the University of Northeastern Oklahoma extension campus in Broken Elbow. But when he showed up, they immediately fired him. He was told to report to the human resources department. Maurice Brinton Steelgrave III, the HR weenie, said Wally had “besmirched the august reputation of the extension campus and defiled its image far and wide”. He went on like that for nearly an hour while the faculty assembled outside his office. Now, the Broken Elbow extension campus is completely unknown over in the next county, so the 'far and wide' nonsense was nothing more than hyperbole. Maurice the Weenie was a big fish in a small pond and he relished the role. He had wanted to fire Wally for a long time, and the extended absence offered the perfect opportunity. Of course, this may have had something to do with Wally dating Ivana, the former Mrs. Steelgrave and the weenie's ex-wife, but her name was never mentioned. Eventually, he got around to saying that Wally was to be “summarily dismissed with extreme prejudice” which is ivory-tower-speak for a ceremony in which the assembled tenured professors removed Wally's mortarboard and ritually broke each of its corners before placing it back atop his head. They cut his tassel in half. As he was frog-marched out of the building, the professors symbolically turned their backs, then lifted their gowns and mooned him. If you've ever wondered what they wear under those caps and gowns, in all honesty, you're better off not knowing. I'm told this is far from a universal collegiate drumming-out ceremony, but it's how things are done here in Broken Elbow.

Three days later, Steelgrave complained of an overpowering stench in his office. He found a couple of raw chicken wings decomposing under his desk. But the stink didn't go away. That afternoon, university maintenance workers discovered a rotting chicken cleverly hidden inside the air conditioning duct. Wally was the prime suspect, though nothing could be proved. The maintenance guys bought him several rounds of drinks down at Larry's Cafe. They didn't like the weenie, either.

That Saturday evening, we went out for a walk along my street. An occasional car passed by. Wally had his bobbed tassel dangling from a finger. He eyed it morosely. “I really liked that job,” he said. “I got to hang around in the library without getting yelled at. I did research into all manner of interesting things, and I had a lovely office in the old faculty building. It had bookshelves and leaded glass windows. It was a place with character, not some anonymous cubicle in a building that resembles a Velveeta cheese box!”

As we reached the corner, I tried to distract him. “What happened with the American Idolatry show? You never did tell me about that.” Wally didn't even look up. He continued staring at the remains of his tassel as he stepped off the curb.

That's when the car hit him. Wally flew across the sidewalk and landed unconscious in Mr. Presley's favorite topiary, a finely sculpted hedge that looked like a thorny, green hound dog. (Yes, THAT Mr. Presley, but it's a story for another time.)

The Neidermeier twins, Jenny and Bambi, were out for a cruise in Bambi's new hybrid. Absorbed as we were in our conversation, we never heard it coming down the street. Wally simply stepped right in front of the car and I would have joined him if I hadn't been half a step slower. The twins, lusty in body and vacuous in thought, bunted him a good 20 feet. The doors flew open and they leaped out of the car. As usual, they were dressed provocatively in a way that would make Daisy Duke blush.

Is he dead?-Does he need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?-Do you know first aid?-Who is he?-What about my car?-Is he bleeding?-Is he dead?-Why did he step in front of me?-Where did he get that tan?” The twins fired off a continuous string of questions, observations, and off-the-wall comments. They were slightly hysterical, but only slightly. Their normal demeanor was nearly so, anyway. Jenny completed Bambi's sentences. Bambi asked questions that Jenny repeated seconds later. As a rule, they avoided Wally and his friends, but since I was married and therefore a little bit more respectable, they'd talk with me in that polite but distant way women reserve for harmless old men. But Wally's reputation preceded him and they point blank refused to talk to him.

It's Wally Crankset”, I said. “He's been away for a while on a kind of, um, spiritual pilgrimage in the desert.” It was difficult to talk with either of the twins and keep looking at their eyes. They tended to wiggle unnervingly as they talked. Sure, I may have been an old man to their way of thinking, but I wasn't dead yet.

Spiritual?-I thought he looked different.-Is he dead?-Is there a desert around here?-Is he hurt badly?-Should we call 911?” My eyes hurt from bouncing back and forth between their identical blue ones.

But that last question got my attention. If they called for an ambulance, the Broken Elbow Police were bound to show up and investigate. I didn't know if Wally was still a fugitive from California justice, and it didn't seem to be a good time to find out. I was pretty sure Chief Fred wouldn't care, but Deputy Ethel would hand Wally over to the California authorities if he had any chance.

Wally moaned. “Oh you poor man!” one of them exclaimed. Before I could stop them, they lifted him out of the hedge and bundled him into the car. Frankly, I was surprised because under all the curves and assorted wiggles, both women were very strong and perfectly capable of lifting his weight. They sped off toward the emergency room. I gave up trying to understand women a very long time ago, eventually coming around to the idea that I'm the only sane person on the planet. Everyone else is stark, raving mad. While it's not strictly true, of course, it's an idea that has greatly simplified my life.

I ran home, got in the car, and drove to the hospital. The doc said Wally had a mild concussion. He was conscious, but they decided to keep him overnight for observation. The twins hovered in his room, plumping his pillow, holding his hand, and even spoon feeding him. They glared at any nurses with the effrontery to enter the room. Wally just took it all in stride, because the effects of the concussion had given him the emotional depth of a Steven Segall movie, which is a polite way of saying his mind was an especially shallow pond at the moment. I checked to see that he was OK while the twin lionesses stared holes into my back, then made my exit.

A week later, I found Wally in the public library researching information on polygamous marriages. I wanted to shout – are you out of your mind? But what good would it do?


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Australian road safety ad...

I got a big kick out of this one, and you can be sure I'll use this gesture, if only to confuse some of the motoring wankers on our roads!

RTA defends controversial gesture in anti-speeding ad


Posted Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:49am AEST

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) in New South Wales has described the use of a belittling gesture in its latest road safety campaign as a clever way to utilise peer pressure against young drivers who speed.

The ad campaign called 'Speeding, no one thinks big of you', depicts people using a finger gesture implying a driver has a small penis when he drives dangerously.

It has been scheduled to run in the week leading up to tougher restrictions coming into force for P-plate and learner drivers.

(Link to the video)

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I gotta foot fascist!

...or maybe it's a foot fetish? Nah, that ain't it.

I've had minor pain in my right foot for a couple of months. It was worst when I got out of bed in the morning, sometimes so bad I could hardly walk. But after a few minutes, it eased off.

A week ago, it started to feel exactly like a vibrating cell phone inside my foot. I made an appointment to see the doctor. I HATE going to the doctor!

Long story short - I have plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tendon that goes under the arch. I had it on the left side a couple of years ago, and the pain was directly under the arch. Anti-inflammatories and stretching took care of it. This time, it's the attachment at the heel that's inflamed. The solution: naproxen and one of those squishy gel inserts. Oh, and more stretching.

But yesterday's good news is this - my blood pressure is down and I don't need meds for it anymore! Clean living has some benefits! I had a beer to celebrate.

The other good news - foot fascists don't interfere with cycling. I may not be able to walk for more than half an hour or so, but I can still ride.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Holiday rant...(OT)

I've been sitting on this piece since last month, undecided about posting it. This morning, I saw yet another of the “airline customer service sucks” articles in the business section, and I got mad all over again. Last week, the pilots tossed their union president out of office. He wanted a 30% wage increase in order to bring the pilots back to their previous salaries. The pilots said that wasn't enough and they ousted him. There's an enormous reservoir of anger among all unionized employee groups, and the pilots actions are merely the opening salvo in what will be a nasty labor conflict.

Memorial Day 2007

It's a holiday for most people. A long weekend for barbecue, a trip to the lake, or maybe a visit with relatives and friends.

For many, it's just another day on the job. Someone has to work at the gas station. Someone has to flip burgers and wait on tables. And for many of us in the airline industry, it's a workday like any other workday. But it wasn't always like this.

I won't go over the problems the carriers have faced since 9/11/2001. That's pretty much common knowledge. And it's widely known that most of us have taken deep cuts to our wages, benefits, and retirements since then. I lost vacation days, sick days, holidays, and took a 20% pay cut. That hurt. It still hurts. And I'm one of the lucky ones. Other airline workers lost much more. These steps were deemed necessary at the time, but since then various airline management groups have rewarded themselves for turning their companies around toward profitability. Our upper management awarded themselves millions while those of us who made greater sacrifices were given nothing.

And that pisses me off.

It especially rankles when the news trots out the obligatory story about the decline in airline service. Sure, passengers get upset when a flight is delayed or canceled. They get upset about lost baggage, airport congestion, and even the absence of a free bag of peanuts. Pardon me for being blunt, but why should we give a rat's ass?

Look, you want luxury service for Wal-Mart prices. If you don't get the lowest seat price from one airline, you'll get it from another one. The seat is a commodity not unlike that bottle of shampoo in the grocery store, and you want to buy it as cheaply as possible. That's fine and it's totally understandable. But you don't expect the clerk – pardon me, sales associate – at Wallie World to give you the same personalized service that you'd get from an expensive hair salon down the street. It's no different in the airline business. You can get luxury seats and high-quality service if you're willing to pay for them. But since the carriers seem to be locked into a race to the bottom, pursuing market share with cheap seats and holding costs down by squeezing their own employees, don't expect much from us.

So if you get bumped from a flight or if it's delayed, go ahead and bitch about the airlines and their employees. Just realize that they don't really give a shit whether you make it home or not. You got a cheap seat so get in line with the rest of the cattle.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The European Model

Frankly, I'm tired of the stories about Amsterdam and other European cities as bicycling models we should emulate. They're comparing apples and oranges.

European cities predate the automobile. They were built to pedestrian scale with narrow streets, and as we all know, motorists do not like narrow streets. Convenient parking is difficult or non-existent. Gasoline is far more expensive than Americans would tolerate, and VAT taxes increase the price of motor vehicles as well.

In short, owning a car and driving it in a European city is a PITA. Is it any wonder people use bicycles for short trips? It simply costs less and it's less hassle.

Modern American cities are built around the idea of private motor vehicle use. Some bicycling advocates hate the resulting sprawl and the wide-spread nature of our towns because it increases cycling distances and encourages greater use of motor vehicles. They hold up those European cities as ideal examples of a cycling utopia, yet they ignore the factors that produced them.

Every time we see gasoline prices spike, we see more bicycle riders on the streets. They're responding to an economic stimulus just as the Europeans have done. When fuel prices decline, they climb back into their cars. Absent those economic conditions, we are not going to see a large modal shift in transportation choices, despite the presence or absence of bicycle facilities.

According to the census, about 0.4% of all commuters are cyclists. That's 4 people out of 1000, folks, and it hasn't changed since 1990 despite all the money we've thrown into bicycle facilities. Emulating the Euro-cycling model would require far more money, but if we're not seeing results from a ten-fold increase in expenditures, why should we continue on this course? Don't misunderstand me, I'm in favor of building linear parks and bicycle recreational facilities, but I'm under no illusions that they'll lure motorists out from behind the wheel and onto their bikes for daily transportation. And it's disingenuous of so-called bicycle advocates when they insist otherwise.

If we want to decrease the number of motor vehicles on our roads and make a truly meaningful change in the number of traffic fatalities, reduce air pollution and congestion, and make our cities less stressful places to live, we need a better approach than simply copying the Europeans.


Friday, June 22, 2007

A bit of fun...

Here's a little novelty - a site that rates your blog similarly to the MPAA ratings. Sadly, CycleDog rates only a PG because I used the word 'dick' twice and 'hurts' once. Gosh, I could have said "dick hurts"! Would that be one instance or two? And what if I complained, as many cyclists do, that my ass hurts from time to time? I mean, it's my ass and it's my pain, so how does that impact a potentially thin-skinned reader, presumably one who's never experienced nasty saddle sore that make his ass hurt so badly he has to sleep on his side? I ass you!

One word of warning - don't copy their code into your template. It appears to contain a link to some sort of dating site. And I know that loyal readers of CycleDog are too busy riding their bikes, doing bike maintenance, and eating every leftover in the refrigerator, and can't spare the time for dating.

Oh, and since I used the word "ass" four times as well as 'dick' and 'hurts', lets see if my MPAA rating changes! Yee haw! I love this!

(later...sure enough, it went to an R rating! Now that's more like it! After all, if we cyclists are the center of sedition and fornication, CycleDog should get a stiffer rating than that measly PG!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jesus loves neo-con lunatics too...

Every now and then, I stumble across something so appalling, so awful, so utterly devoid of any semblance of logic or humor that I have to think it's a miserably failed attempt at satire. The first time I saw Dr. Gene Scott, for instance, I thought he was a terrible comedian. But he wasn't doing comedy. He was for real. And he was a loon.

So when I first read this piece (LINK) I thought it was a hoot! It's so off-the-wall nutty I almost regretted not coming up with it myself. It's full of wild generalizations and logical flaws, almost like having a conversation with my best friend, Dr. Wally Crankset. In fact, I have to wonder if Wally actually wrote this thing when he was deep in his cups. And given Wally's propensity for, um, borrowing pieces he likes, I wouldn't be surprised to find something similar from him.

Here are some excerpts. I gave up trying to count the misspellings:

You can tell a lot about a man by the kind of car he drives; What does the fact that I drive a hummer say about me?” That you're a dick? That's probably as much as I really need to know, but he insists on continuing.

Anybody who rides a cycle has already given in to the terrorists...If you cycle to work then the terrorists have already won. We need to deny them their victory, when you drive a truck you are sending a message to the terrorists that they can never defeat us. You show me a cyclist and I will show you a traitor.” Bicyclists use less gasoline, gasoline that has to be purchased from people who hate Americans and want to kill them. So if you're buying gas, you're indirectly providing money for terrorism. Remember those people who flew aircraft into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? They were mostly Saudis. We buy lots of oil form the Saudis and our money props up their monarchy.

Mountain bikers are famous for their abuse of pot, amphetamines and other banned hallucinogens. Very few mountain bikers survive past the age of 30 because of the extreme hazards of downhill cycling, and the toll taken by a diet of drugs and alcohol.” I just may have to take up mountain biking! Oh wait! There was a time in my life when I WAS a mountain biker! I just didn't have a mountain bike.

It seems obvious to me, that everywhere you find sedition, anti-American behaviour and fornication you will also find cyclists.” Tristan seems to believe that everyone on two wheels is a leftist. I know quite a few cyclists who would disagree. Kiril the Mad Macedonian and I had a discussion along these lines. My point of view is that riding a bicycle is hardly indicative of someone's politics. But then, I'm a reasonable, rational kinda guy.

The other type of cycling is called “Road Racing” a preposterous sport which is mainly popular amongst the homosexual community. Most Americans do not regard this as a true sport, because the chief objective is to pose in the absurd skin-tight ‘fashions’. This probably explains why road-cycling is the most popular sport in France... Are cyclists pedalling the road to hell?” This astounding bit of news would come as quite a shock to my wife and kids. Here I was thinking all these years that I'm solidly in the hetero camp, yet Tristan tells me otherwise. Maybe I'm just a lesbian trapped in man's body. This is SO confusing!

As I was driving home from our weekly prayer meeting, a cyclist slammed into my left side, badly scratching the paintwork and leaving bloodstains on one of the mirrors. The dumb cyclist colapsed into a twisted wreck by the road-side. At first I figured I would drive on, after all liberals are better off as road-kill…” and a few paragraphs later, “He kept shouting something about not signaling at a left turn, and crying for his wrecked bike. I explained to him that if he had not been there on his stupid bicycle he’d never have got in my way and never been injured...It’s just typical of cyclists to blame other road-users for their own failings.” There's a big flaw here, unless maybe his Hummer was traveling sideways. It's that or Tristan is engaging in a bit of mendacity. That would make him a hypocrite AND a liar, hardly Christian virtues. It really sounds as if he pulled out in front of a cyclist.

Tristan is just another right-wing nutcase living in a world free of logic or reason. He uses his faith as justification for indulging in bigotry and hate, not unlike those terrorists he despises, who use religion for similar ends.



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Are we having fun yet? (OT)

I'm having a wonderful Father's Day! Let's see...the kids took me out for breakfast and then we went shopping at Home Depot. Dunno what we bought - they were being very secretive. I was permitted to read the Sunday paper uninterrupted when we got home.

I set up Jordan's email account and a copy of Thunderbird on the home PC. And I managed to configure it for file sharing with Lyndsay's laptop. Mine won't play nice. I think Vista is performing some of Bill's background magic, preventing it from sharing. But it connects to the wireless router just fine. I sent an email off to the tech support for help.

Lyndsay should be home from work soon. I'll get a quick shower and set out my things for the morning commute. There's nothing baking in the oven, but Mary insisted that we get some ice cream at the grocery. She knows I'm easily persuaded when it comes to ice cream. I suspect some high-caloric-value desserts are in store. Or maybe I'm just hoping!

Friday, June 15, 2007

A teachable moment...

I was riding home last night, thinking about stopping at the car wash to clean the Bianchi. It's grungy from being ridden in the rain. I really need to put some fenders mudguards on that bike. Cleaning a bike with a pressure washer is easy, provided the spray isn't directly into the hubs or bottom bracket.

But as I was grinding my way up 129th, a few cars stacked up behind me due to oncoming traffic. One of them decided to lay on the horn. Two teenage kids were in a beat up old Ford Ranchero a couple of cars back. When traffic thinned, they came up alongside and the passenger yelled the traditional, “Get up on the sidewalk!” They jetted off.

But God in His infinite mercy, decided to make the traffic light at 86th turn red. OK, maybe it wasn't God. Maybe it was the Public Works department, or it could have been someone in Public Works who only thinks he's God, a fairly common occurrence. This would mean we live in a polytheistic universe ruled by bureaucrats in cheap suits. I don't want to think about that. On the other hand, we could be living in a universe where every detail of our lives is predetermined by an arbitrary god. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Anyway, the light turned red. The Ranchero stopped. I grinned as I rode up alongside it. This makes people uneasy for some reason. I suppose they expect that a cyclist will be pissed off and angry, but when a 220 pound guy shows up with a huge smile, they get a little nervous. It's like getting into a minor fender bender and discovering a grinning Tony Soprano getting out of the other car.

I rolled up next to the passenger door. The kid looked shocked that a mere cyclist would have the effrontery to engage in a confrontation. But he rolled the window down. I switched to 'pedantic mode' and did my best Brian Potter impression.

Fellas,” I said, “it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk.”

Whaaaa?” he replied. He stared up in slack-jawed wonder at a big, middle-aged guy leaning down from a bicycle.

It's illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Besides, it's about three times more dangerous than riding on the street.” I held up three fingers for emphasis.

It's illegal?” Obviously, not the sharpest tool in the shed. Maybe he had to take his time counting all those fingers.

Yeah, that's why I don't do that.” The light changed. Both the driver and passenger were staring at me. “It's green. Go-go-go!”

They went. No gestures, no shouts, no honking horn. I'd like to think they were just a little bit better informed about cyclists and that the brief encounter served an educational purpose. Or, on the other hand, maybe they thought they'd just met Tony Soprano on a Bianchi.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

A brief question...

I rode in the rain last night and again this morning. Sure, I've written before about riding in the rain, being careful about cornering and braking, and undoubtedly some other blather.

But today, it's something completely different.

There's an odd effect I've experienced nearly every time I've been out on a wet ride. There's no delicate way to put this, so I won't beat around the bush. Every time I ride in the rain, I have to pee. It feels like there's a fully-inflated football somewhere in my lower abdomen. The harder the rain, the fuller it feels. It's absolutely maddening!

Am I the only one who gets this?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday Musette

A brief word about links...

You'll notice there isn't a long list of links in the sidebar here at CycleDog. Those I've included have been notable in some way, whether it's the quality of the writing, the timeliness of the information, or wealth of knowledge to be gained. These are not the only blog posts I read. Far from it, in fact.

I use Bloglines to aggregate posts from a wide variety of cyclists, journalists, and businesses. The big advantage for me is that I don't have to fiddle with the code on the CycleDog template, and I can add or remove sources very easily. Bloglines has an “Add via Bloglines” button that goes on the toolbar, making the addition of new blogs a simple affair. Trust me, I like simple. There's less for me to screw up! One other benefit of Bloglines is that it's easy to see if there's any new content without having to click on a bunch of links.

So if you don't see your blog listed on the CycleDog sidebar, please go look in Bloglines.

Training opportunity...

My supervisor came by earlier today to tell me that I may be going to Florida for training on some new test equipment. Most likely this will happen in a few months. I haven't been to Florida since I was 10, so I'm kinda looking forward to it. But the training may be for as much as 2 weeks, and since I'm a homebody at heart, I'm not too keen on that. More as this develops.

Tulsa Tough Do-Betters...

Mike Schooling is compiling a list of do-betters for next year's Tulsa Tough. I've developed a short list of items, but I'm sure there are many more. In fact, if anyone has something they'd like to see done better on a big charity ride or a tour, feel free to add to my list in the comments.

Teach how to hand off water bottles. Volunteers at the the Sunday rest stop opened water bottles and removed the caps. Many bottles were dropped during the hand-offs, and we were lucky that no one fell by running over one. Also, if at all possible, rest stops should be located on uphills or the tops of hills where riders will be going slowly.

Enlist the cooperation of law enforcement. Rumors of mass ticketing followed the event. Did this actually happen? Regardless, riders need to be briefed that all traffic laws are to be followed. Additionally, by asking for law enforcement assistance at some tricky turns or crossings, we reduce the likelihood of over-zealous enforcement of the law by some of our less informed law enforcement professionals, or even the Tulsa County Sheriffs Office.

Test radio and cellular communications from rest stops prior to event. Amateur radio contact was difficult from Ochelata, and cellular telephone was spotty, depending on the service provider.

Develop a webpage to aggregate links that mention Tulsa Tough. I'm using a search function on Bloglines that looks for “Tulsa Tough” in any blog posts. This may be of limited use for participants, but it would centralize the information for media and any other interested parties. Would live blogging offer any PR benefits?

List emergency numbers for each rest stop by responding agency/police/fire/ambulance. Have GPS coordinates for rest stops. Air ambulance services use GPS to locate landing zones. In Ochelata, for instance, emergency response depends on local volunteer firemen and paramedics. We could shorten response time by alerting them in advance of the ride dates and approximate times, as well as having local contact numbers.

Could a course map developed from GPS data provide an elevation profile? One of the bloggers, a Colorado cyclist formerly from Oklahoma, noted with some astonishment that the Tulsa Tough routes included 4000 feet of climbing. Including statistics developed from GPS route information may bring in more cyclists, and in some cases, will discourage those who aren't fit enough. It may be possible to include this information via Google maps, but I'm not proficient in their use.

And finally....

Don't think I've forgotten about my best friend Wally Crankset, wandering alone (maybe) across the Mojave Desert. The story is in outline form. All I need is one day of over-caffeinated inspiration to finish it.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Musette

The Joy of Jalapenos

I didn't ride today. During the night, I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof. At first, I thought it was the ceiling fan, but as I laid there in the bed listening, I could hear the metallic patter of rain hitting the neighbor's air conditioning unit. Still, I planned to ride, but most likely I'd ride the Centurion with its fenders.

When I got up – roughly a minute before the alarm went off – it was raining harder. The radar showed it would be moving off to the east very quickly, yet the rain continued as I had breakfast and checked the news. Shortly before I reached the 'decision time' of 5:30 AM, the skies opened up and it rained very hard for a few minutes. I checked the radar again. It looked like successive waves of heavy rainfall were forming just over Tulsa, then moving off to the northeast, directly toward me.

I put work clothes on and resigned myself to driving. It's probably for the best. I've been aching and miserable all morning.

The one bright spot was at lunch. I made hot wings yesterday, along with fresh-baked bread in the machine, and I made a LOT! That meant I'd have hot wings for lunch today, too. Let's just say I was heavy-handed with the hot sauce. My lips are burning. Also, I nicked my finger this morning. Applying hot sauce to an open wound, even a small one, is not recommended.

I seem to recall reading that spicy food causes our bodies to release endorphins, those same chemicals that are released during exercise. When we can't get our regular exercise 'fix', we get moody and depressed. Maybe eating hot, spicy food is a good substitute on those days we can't ride. One thing's certain – after eating all those hot wings I'm definitely feeling better. This may require some investigation. Let's see, locally there's Mexican, Thai, Korean, and Indian food to experiment with, though there's probably more. I better stock up on Tums.

While I'm thinking about it...

And since I drove today, I could indulge in one of my co-workers favorite pastimes, bitching about all the other idiot motorists out there on a Monday morning. Now, I'm a boring old fudd, set in his ways, an ironclad creature of habit. Even when I drive to work, I follow the same route as I do on a bicycle. It's the low-stress, low-traffic alternative to the highway. This morning, cars were spaced out along the road traveling at the speed limit. But there was one motorist who was obviously late already. I watched as he (or she – I couldn't tell through the heavily tinted glass) passed each car behind me, then rode my bumper until we reached a passing zone. He passed me and a few more cars, only to reach the light at 46th Street. God decreed that it remain red. Speed Racer sat there as all those he'd passed caught up and stopped too. When the light changed, he rabbited off to the next light where the process was repeated.

This is a minor annoyance in the greater scheme of things. I know that driver was already late to work, because he works here at the maintenance base. But driving aggressively doesn't really result in saving much time, only seconds at best. My life is stressful enough already. Taking chances on the road and driving like a complete dick are too far down the list to contemplate.

My only concern is that people who drive fast and aggressively are a greater menace when I'm on the bike. Several times, the Speed Racer types have hurtled by me at far over the speed limit. I'm not talking about 5 or 10 over. It's more like 30 or 40. They overdrive their headlights, and I know there's very little reaction time to avoid a slow-moving cyclist at that speed. Fortunately, these fools are comparatively rare. This morning's fool, however, is a regular, though thankfully I'm usually on that section of road half an hour after he's late for work.

Tour de Owasso

I met Wade for coffee on Saturday morning, then rode around to various garage sales. So far, I haven't stumbled across a vintage Mercian, a pristine Masi, or a concours Paramount, but I did score three usable paint brushes. I'll take whatever good luck I can find. And I really did need the paint brushes.

The surprising part is the people. I heard, “Oh, I know you! I pass you on my way to work every morning!” Or, “You're the guy who rode his bike to the elementary school a couple of years ago.” Or, “I see you in the parking lot at work every day.” It's good to be recognized, but frankly I'd feel better about it if there were scads more commuter cyclists on the road and I was just another guy going to work.

One of my goals in life is to become the village eccentric. But a co-worker pointed out that 'eccentric' is usually reserved for odd people who have a lot of money. He went on to say that with my income, the best I could hope for was “local nutcase”.

And finally...

From the Accra Daily Mail in Ghana:

A. R......A little bicycle story

| Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Hohoe Magistrates’ court on Friday sentenced 12 recalcitrant bicycle riders to a fine of one million cedis each for violating motor traffic regulations.

They pleaded guilty to careless cycling and riding without headlights.

Chief Inspector Emmanuel Kpodo told the court, presided over by Ms Janet Awo Bakudie that the 12 were arrested after a police clampdown exercise at various locations in the Hohoe Township between 1830 and 2130 hours.

The court after sentencing each one million cedis further ordered the accused persons to fix their headlights before they receive their bicycles.

Ms Bakudie warned other riders to correct the defects on their bicycles since the law would be applied sternly on subsequent offenders.”

That's a little over $100 USD. For comparison's sake, a cyclist riding without lights in Oklahoma can be fined $25 plus court costs. Apparently the authorities in Ghana take riding without lights far more seriously than we do. My only question is – how do you fix the headlight BEFORE you receive the bicycle?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

From "A Quiet Revolution"

I wrote a short response to a thought provoking piece on Spinopsys.

Recently I read a prediction of gasoline reaching $20/gallon (USD) within 10 years. That may occur because oil production cannot increase, yet demand surely will. While it would be painful, it would force the development of new technologies. The convergence of peak oil, emerging environmental awareness, and sustainable growth may be the 'perfect storm' that sweeps away our reliance on private motor vehicles.

Such high fuel prices would be the death-knell for the airline business, of course, and I'd likely be out of a job. It could be a race between increasing fuel prices and an earlier-than-anticipated retirement. I'm eligible for full retirement in less than 5 years. Technically, that makes me an old fart, but despite that, I'm still willing to try to out-sprint any of you young kids!

(One patented characteristic of us out-of-touch old farts is the triumph of ego over common sense. While I'm perfectly willing to try a maximum effort sprint on a moment's notice, I'm fully aware that it will likely hurt very badly. That wouldn't stop me. I never claimed to be smart.)

Fuel prices ripple through the economy, and cyclists are not immune. It costs more money to deliver groceries to the local store. It costs more for bus service or any other service that relies on a fleet of vehicles. Some police departments are switching to electric patrol cars now in an effort to save funds. The trend will continue.

If oil prices increase drastically, expect other forms of fuel to increase as well. Pressure from upwardly spiraling oil costs will cause similar increases in natural gas. Honestly, I don't see methanol as a viable alternative, unless we re-plant the entire Midwest in corn, and even then there's a huge problem getting it to markets because ethanol is corrosive and can't be piped. Solar and wind power are limited too.

That leaves nuclear (or nuke-u-lar) as the swaggering Texan puts it) and I'd rather not think about that.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Powerball Anyone? (OT)

I've had a good week. It's been exhausting and emotionally draining, but on reflection I have to call it a good one. The Tulsa Tough and the Tough Kids events went well. I worked my butt off since last Wednesday, and it was actually a relief to go back to work! It offers an opportunity for some rest.

But I'm not writing about the Tough events again today. No, instead I want to talk about some other good things.

In aircraft electronics, we have some units rotate in and out of the shop far too often. These are chronic or 'dog' units that have low reliability. Until recently, I had seven of them sitting on the shelf. I'd tinker with one when I had some time, but by and large, they were parked for months or even years. That is, until this last week.

Last Wednesday, I fixed one of the dogs before leaving for the weekend. It was the beginning of an upswing.

I wrote about working with the 'varsity', the professional bike shop mechanics, at the Tough Kids bike build. Honestly, that was a big morale booster. It may go far to explain my attitude when I walked into the avionics shop yesterday morning. I pulled one of the dogs off the shelf, a unit that had frustrated me in previous attempts, and had it working again in a few hours.

And I did it again today. All three computers had different problems. I found a new way to use some test software in one instance, and used other methods to isolate the problems in the other two. One of them had microscopic cracks in some solder joints. The other had a failed part that I had never seen fail before.

So things have gone very, very well this last week, so well in fact, that I think I should buy some Powerball tickets! If I win enough money, I'll sponsor the Tour de CycleDog!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tulsa Tough: 3JUN2007

This may be my final post about the Tulsa Tough event, though I may provide some links to other related stories over the next few days. Since I didn't attend the kick-off this morning, I missed seeing all those kids on their new bikes. Mike Schooling said it was a very emotional moment, and in some ways I'm sorry I missed it.

Jordan accompanied me on today's trip to a crossroad northwest of Sapulpa, near a bridge crossing Lake Sahoma. We provided mechanical support at rest stop 4, roughly 41 miles into both the metric century and the full century. It's a lovely rural corner of Oklahoma, deceptively close to the city. I don't expect it will stay that way much longer. I sat in my chair, watching a heron wading in the shallows and listening to a couple of hawks. I could hear cars coming from a long way off. It was luxuriously quiet, and I would have fallen asleep quite easily if there hadn't been bike business. Of course, if I HAD fallen asleep, the tiger mosquitoes would have carried me off. Tigers are day active mosquitoes, and they're very aggressive. Jordan and I were sticky with bug spray.

Here's Jordan in the "Chair of Pink". He jumped out of it every time I pointed a camera in his direction.

The lead group came through at about 9:35 AM. Most grabbed water bottles. None of them stopped. Many bottles were dropped in the exchange and we were simply lucky that no one fell. One guy fumbled 3 bottles one after the other. A water bottle lying on the road can put a rider down very easily.

Repairs today were simple and easy. I didn't have to inflate any tires, so the pump sat unused most of the day, though 2 little boys had a good time playing with it. I adjusted a few saddles, tightened some derailleur cables, lubricated chains and pedals, and tightened one bottle cage. Bidness was slow.

After the initial rush, Jordan was bored. He helped to hand out water bottles for most of the time, and I asked him to walk along the road to retrieve discarded ones. “I get to be the trash man!” he complained, though he wasn't serious about it. I told him to walk across the bridge just to see what's there. When he returned, he said, “There's a HUGE snake under the bridge! It saw me and splashed into the water.” I didn't mention water moccasins. I don't think it would have helped.

Mike asked us to take our stock of tires, tubes, and cables down to the next rest stop after we closed number 4. Jordan and I loaded up the equipment and set off a little after noon. The roads are pretty out there, and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. We dropped off the stores with Tina, then went off in search of lunch.

It was a lovely morning and the mechanic's work was easy. I had a good time and I won't hesitate to do it again next year. There's this little voice nagging at me, though, whispering again and again. “Wouldn't you like to RIDE one of these centuries rather than work?” I have to give that question some careful consideration.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tulsa Tough: Another Perspective

I gave up racing long ago, so I haven't covered any of the racing events at the Tulsa Tough. However, SydSpinnin does, and her account of Friday's slippery course is tense enough to make my palms sweat! It's a good read.


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Tulsa Tough: 2JUN2007

More Dummy Me...

I went through my tool list last night, double checking to be certain I had everything I'd need to provide mechanical services at a rest stop on the Tulsa Tough today. Yesterday morning, I spent a few hours working on bikes for the Community Development office. So I wanted to be sure I had all my tools together.

Early this morning, after meeting Wade for coffee, I returned home to load everything into the car and head off to Ochelata. It's a very small town up toward Bartlesville. The rest stop was next to the volunteer fire company and we had the use of their restrooms.

Mike Schooling came by to deliver the box of supplies (tubes, a tire, spare cables, etc.) and gave me a pair of spoke wrenches. I'd asked him to pick up a Park 0.125” (black) spoke wrench as I couldn't find mine. I don't think I ever used it, and it's quite possible I gave it away. Likewise, by circular 'fits-all' spoke wrench was on the missing list, too. Mike gave me one of each from Tom's. I owe somebody for this, but I don't know who.

I wasn't prepared when the first wave of riders came through in a pack of 30 or so. I didn't get any photos. They were rolling at about 20-25 miles per hour, grabbing water bottles on the fly. Only two of them stopped, probably because they were bonked.

As other riders arrived, my mechanic business remained slow. I adjusted a saddle and a pair of aero bars, and tightened one derailleur cable. Then a guy stopped because he needed air. “No problem”, I said. “I'll get the pump.” But the pump was nowhere to be found. Some big dummy who looks much like me had walked right by it this morning, leaving it sitting out in the open in the garage. I'd put it in the middle so I wouldn't forget it. I apologized profusely to the rider, acutely embarrassed for being such a bonehead.

Tina Birch stopped to talk. She was a roving mechanic today. I call her a “wrench wench” because she's been to the Barnett's school, and she probably knows more about fixing bikes than I do. Another rider came in needing air in his rear tire. Tina pulled out her floor pump and took care of the problem. She also took some time to make fun of my ultra-pink recliner chair and the wrenches festooned from my repair stand. On second thought, she decided that hanging bunches of combination wrenches with mini-carabiners was actually a good idea.

There was a crash just west of us that took 2 riders out of the tour. One fell heavily, doing a face plant that cut him badly and took out some teeth, according to the nurse at our station. His buddy scraped up his knee and elbow. I think the first rider was transported by ambulance to a hospital, but I didn't see him go.

Just after noon, the last rider went through and we shut down. I put everything back in the trunk, then hung my 5-gallon trash bucket over the rear carrier. I drove west following the tour route to pick up any discarded water bottles or other cyclist-related trash. Note to self: Tomorrow take TWO five gallon buckets for trash!

I followed the route further toward Barnsdall, encountering only two cyclists. The first was a guy about my age riding a bike that squeaked horrendously. I asked if he was alright and commented on the squeaking. “Do you have any WD-40?” he asked. “I think it's my front wheel.” Tom Brown warned us mechanics that riders will very often diagnose precisely what's wrong with their bikes, and their diagnosis will very often be precisely wrong. I stopped the car, and when I got out I asked if the noise was at wheel speed or pedal speed. He gave me a dumbfounded look, then said he'd carried the bike on his car through the rain yesterday. I spun both wheels and they were okay, but when I turned the crank a horrible squeal came from the chain. It sounded as if it hadn't been lubricated since the Nixon administration, a presidential era well known for it's lubrication. I applied a liberal coating of magical MPHD – an Amzoil product that's a wax-based chain lube – and the infernal squeaking went away.

I saw only one other rider, a woman having difficulty on the hills east of SH11. She seemed pretty well cooked, and I doubted she'd be able to finish the century ride. I didn't offer to drive her to the next rest stop since I know how demoralizing that can be. She soldiered on.

I turned south on SH11 and my cell phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing. My cellular service is...shall we say...sketchy way out in the sticks, so every time I answered the call was dropped. When I neared Skiatook, the phone worked again. I called home to find that my son was worried that I wouldn't be home in time to drive him to work, so he called me every couple of minutes. He's going along to help me tomorrow, so I can't be too hard on him.

All in all, it was a good day, but rest assured that the big dummy who looks just like me will be sure to put that floor pump in the car for tomorrow's ride!


Friday, June 01, 2007

Tough Kids: Part 5

This may be the last of the Tough Kids photos, unless I attend the Sunday morning kick-off. However, since I'm wrenching on the Tulsa Tough both Saturday and Sunday, I'll probably have some photos from out on the road. I'm working the Super Rest Stop Number 4 on both days, each of them on the century routes. Saturday's is in Ochelata, and Sunday's is in Sahoma. I don't think I've ever been to either town, so here's hoping I don't get lost.

A few of us got together last night to go over the bikes once again. Mostly we re-tensioned chains and fixed flat tires.

The warehouse has no electricity, so we worked near some windows until the sun went down.

I'd estimate that we covered no more than a quarter of the bikes, maybe as much as a third. Adam Vanderburg will be there again today working at getting them ready for the pickup tomorrow. I won't be able to help because I have another project to complete.

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