Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

...Give your ID card to the border guard,

(now, your alias says you're Captian Jean-Luc Picard, of the United Federation of Planets, but she won't speak English anyway.)

Last "weekend" for me was Wednesday and Thursday, and following our shocking bit of summer-in-October weather, I decided to make a run for the border. No, the other border, eh?

I learned a few things about Canadians. First of all, they really do say "Eh," even in British Columbia, though not as often as I'm told they do in Alberta. Second, the post-September 11th world, or whatever you want to call it, has changed the way that they deal with Americans at the border. Quite a lot.

This was my first time into Canada in, I guess, about seven years? I've only been there three times, I think, and in all of them they simply asked if I was an American citizen, if I had any animals or vegetables, fireworks or explosives, and how long I was staying. Then they waved me through.

This time, I got a polite, but severe, questioning from three seperate customs officials in sequence, all of whom seemed to belong to exactly the same Clone Army, with graying hair cut a few inches long and spiked with some kinda product. Not the GI buzz cut, but still.

Maybe the fact that I was a lone, twenty-something guy with little baggage, who said he was travelling up for only one evening? They searched through my one bag, which contained only bike clothes and some toiletries, and asked about what I was doing there.

Where do you live?
Where do you work?
Why aren't you working today?
When are you expected back at work?
Who are you going to see?
No, what is your friend's name?
Is he a Canadian Citizen?
What does he do for work?
Where did you meet him?
How did you meet, specifically?
Is your relationship with this "Alan" an intimate one? (I actually chuckled there.)
What are you going to be doing in Canada?
On a pedal-bike?
In ONE day?

Each of the three officials asked essentially the same string of questions, so I'm pretty sure it's SOP these days, although only one inquired about the intimacy of my friendship with Mister Iceman. YQQ --> YVR, I guess.

There was no physical search, but they did have me lift my pant legs, take off my sweatshirt, lift my t-shirt, turn around, and the like, to make sure I wasn't running some drugs. To, ya know, Canada.

Well, that took about 20 minutes, but they let me on by, so I guess it's not too bad, eh?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Well crap, Stoked is right. It's been over a week, eh? And I've got a big enough backlog of stuff to post ABOUT, but, haven't had time and energy to get is up.

It's 3:40 am, and I've got to head to work.

This ain't the shift I'm used to! But I think it'll be good. Off at 12:30 or so, then time to suit up, get some training in, home by 5:00, eat, shower, eat, and sleep some more.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Things Said, part two:

At the Downtown Tacoma post office, there's no APC, so I had to wait in line to send a number of items I'd sold on eBay. I hopped off my fender-and-rack equipped bike, and hauled it up the stairs where I locked it to a railing. Clicked off my VauDe panniers, held the door open for an older gentleman, and promptly waited in line where a guy who clearly needed more friends spent ten minutes talking with the cashier about which sheet of stamps he'd buy.

While waiting for this, probably looking as impatient as I felt (okay, I tried not to be!), the man I held the door for decided to talk to me about my days as a bike messenger. I'm not, and he didn't tell me that he'd sorted it out that I was, either, so it was a little confusing. He just asked, "Getting blown off the road out there?" It was a seriously windy day.

"Yeah, trying not to," I laughed, flicking out my ipod earbuds.

"Busy day?"

"Um, it's a little hectic, not too bad." Yeah, I still didn't figure out what he
was getting at. I thought the guy was just being friendly!

"So, do you only do the downtown area?"

"Down ..." Oh. Now I get it. I didn't really have the heart to correct him, and he hadn't really said anything specific, so, I just said something about a little bit of everywhere.

After that, I tooled on down to Old Town, where I tried unsucessfully to harass The Kid at his new job at OTB. A cruise down the Ruston Waterfront, through the weird little town of the same name, and to the beach at Point Defiance.

No, I didn't take a digicam with me, but I should've. It's a sweet ride.

On the way down the waterfront, a carload of teenage boys shouts the typical "Nice ass!" comment. I am not really sure why you think this is funny. If you realized how painfully unoriginal that was, that a dozen dudes every bit as "cool" as you says this to me weekly, would you still bother? I don't actually care, though if you slowed down enough you'd get a lapful of water or Gatorade, just on principle.

Then, at the beach, a family was getting ready for what looked like a very nice picnic. They had a couple of young boys, one of whom looked at me rolling up and exlaimed "wow, it's a bike guy!" Yep, that's me.

"Yeah! How you doing?" I asked the kid.

"...gOOD." he decides. Then he waits a few moments, furrows his eyebrows, and asks back, "how YOU doin?"

Thanks, kid. That made the ride.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Gettin' groceries in style. That's 1973 style, son.

This bike is neat. I have other bikes that are fast, or light, or practical. This one is just neat. It's almost 10 years older than yours truly, and everything on it is made of steel. Steel cranks. Steel rims. Steel fenders. They don't make 'em like this any more.

You don't see bikes like this in the US any more, but I guess they used to be more common. I posted this photo from the Köln Hauptbahnhof in Germany, before. The "city bike" is everywhere over there, and they should be.

The upright seating, simple controls, chainguard, and full metal fenders means you don't need to do much other than pedal. And, you don't work very hard. That's the point. I'll write a whole sappy piece tomorrow about how cool it is to commute on this bike, in the early pre-dawn hours, but the point is this: I cross over the interstate at one point. Traffic is already snarled down there. I win.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Apple, go suck an egg.

How is it that the iPod is world's most popular, least reliable device?

Check for software updates: Yeah, there are some updates available for your ipod.
Okay, install them : Sorry! An unknown error (1413) occured. Cannot do it.
Check for updates to iTunes: Yeah, there is a new version of Itunes
Okay, install it : Actually, I think I will just sit and do nothing.

Help menu -- iTunes service and support : Error! That URL could not be opened.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Silly Things Said to Me While on a Bike:

One of the things that I would not have expected before becoming a cyclist is the number of people who decide to say something to me while riding, usually from their cars. Now, because these cars are typically moving at different speeds than me, they don't seem to realize that the doppler effect means I won't hear anything except something that sounds like, "heeeEE-EE-YYyyy..." Unless that IS what they mean to say, and, if so, that's not terribly creative. Neither is, "get off the road, fag!" and other such clever insults. We'll leave those be, too. But just this week I've had a handful of really funny ones. I'm going to see if I can't remember any more.

SCUBA bike:

I had on full cold-weather rain gear: tights, booties, and a balaclava. That last one's a hood. I had had laid my bike over, and was getting my pump out to change a spare tire, when a 30-something lady pulls out of the parking lot I'm in. It's to an office building. She slows and asks "what kind of suit is that?"
"Um, suit?"
"Yeah," she gestures to me, "what kind of suit are you wearing? Is it like, SCUBA?"

I hope so, too:

Today, at a stoplight, the Cadillac that I'd stayed ahead of during the descent I'd just come down pulls alongside me. It's black, tinted windows, big chrome wheels, some gold pinstripes, four younger passengers. The back window rolls down, and the guy says, "Hey, man! I hope you make it to the Tour de France!"
"Thanks!" I reply, though I can never quite tell if these types are mocking me.
"How many miles you ride?" asks the guy.
"Um, this week, I guess three hundred and some."
"Day-amn. Keep ridin'!"

Professional Bike-Guy:

This week, I go to get some groceries at Safeway. I'm wearing my team jersey, plain shorts, and I've got my Chrome messenger bag. I lock my cyclocross bike to the grocery-cart rack . It's not as though a supermarket in Milton, Washington has a bike rack! I shop, my cleated mountain bike shoes make a bit of extra noise, but nothing like the road-pedal duckwalk. If this were back in downtown Portland, I think I would look decidedly ordinary. But this is Milton, and my getup is enough to make the cashier, a fairly pretty young lady, ask, "Wow, are you like, a professional ... um. Bike ... guy? What do they call that?"

A cyclist? I think I'm going to stick with Bike-guy. I like that better.

The Money:

I'm chugging along up the (newly-paved) McMurray last week, in the pouring rain. I've got about 40 pounds of stuff in my panniers, mostly because I've just set these things up and I want to see what it's like to climb with them. It's slow going, in fact. A driver in an older Honda passes me midway up the climb. When I get to the top, he's pulled over to the side of the road, reading a map. He rolls down his window as he sees me coming -- middle aged, shaved head, big glasses, a bigger smile.

"Atta way!" He cheers. "That's how you do it! Right on the money!" He flashes a thumbs up. Thanks, man.

Do you have any to share? Any insights on why people feel like exclaiming stuff at people on bikes?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Awestruck: William Faulkner's Nobel Acceptance Speech

Up until recently, I had never read anything Wm. Faulkner had written, save from a few excerpts from The Sound and the Fury in "honors" English class, because I guess they thought it was, honorable? Dense, at least.

Just recently, I found this : (pictured to be added.)
It is a piece of notebook paper, writeen by Yours Truly in either Freshman or Sophomore year of high school. That also makes me feel old, since I realze that was a decade ago. Here's the backstory: we had these required humanities courses in HS, and their curriculum was fairly vague. It was my first period class, and so essentially my mission was to sleep. Listen, you cannot expect 15-year-old boys to get up at 5:30 am for school, and be functional.

But the teacher read us this, and it woke me up. I sat, awestruck, through the entire thing. Then, after class, in the 15-minute break that followed, I borrowed the copy from the teacher and wrote it down verbatim. Then, of course, I promptly put it in a notebook and forgot about it for a few days.

I had made a fatal error: I didn't remember to write down who had written the thing, or anything of the context of it. Since it woke me up, I missed the teacher introducing the piece.

Anyhow, I read it again at the end of high school and was again impressed by its beauty, but I still did not remember who had written it, and I was too embarassed to think of going back to the teacher and show him the handwritten sheet, and ask what it was! I then lost it in my stack of papers.

I found it again, just this week. This time, the information age didn't let me down. I just googled a line from it, and it popped up on several webpages. Now, I'd like to share it with you, if you would. I'm going to get a little cheezy and ask you not to skim it. If you don't have time, that is fine, save it for later. Still here? Get a cup of tea, and begin. Read it aloud, if you like, or at least mouth the words.

"Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."

Wm Faulkner, Stockholm, 10 December 1950

One more thing: I was impressed by my penmanship, or lack thereof, in high school. I won't tell too many tales of it, but I was the kind of student that made teachers ecstatic that they could require typewritten drafts of essays, now that every school in the district had full computer labs. I write, by hand, quite a lot these days, and my penmanship has changed to reflect it. It's still illegible to many, I think, but it works for me. It is at least consistent. It's notable because at that point in high school, I had a fountain pen. Because of the physics of being left-handed, these are the only writing implements that I can really manage, besides sharpies. I'll explain why later, if you care. Anyway, featured below are the 1997, and 2007, versions of the same thing. ((IN A MOMENT, ONCE I TAKE THE PHOTOS))

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Aw, crap. What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I think Kman doesn't like my blog anymore because I don't talk about bikes enough.

Well, I gota lotta stuff to talk about.

Don't you worry.

But not right now.

I am going to say, in response to the last question, that the economist in question worked in South America, and not Africa, of that much I am sure -- but I do not remember the countries specifically. I think it may be more of an issue of ecnomic exploitation than one of ecology, at least from the research that I could find. See, I wondered if peanut farming didn't damage the soil in some way, but it seems that, like other legumes (Peanuts are legumes -- beans, essentially -- and not nuts at all), they are nitrogen-fixing, not nitrogen-depleting. That is to say, they fertilize the ground they are grown in.

A brief side point: it's one of the other pro-vegetarian arguments that many beef eatin' types nod about, but in the end don't care: cattle farming is more environmentally devastating than you may realize. In addition to the methane emissions -- and, yes, cows contribute significantly to "climate change," as they now call it -- cattle deplete soil's nutrients a whole lot. Bad times if you needed to grow stuff there.

Compare that to a veggie source of protein, like soya. See the properties above.

But, anyway. I still don't know why the Mexican didn't like peanuts.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Request: I strongly recall one particular Mexican economist talking to me about the harmful consequences of MNC's use of FDI in emerging markets to support agriculture that would be harmful in the host nation. Among the examples provided were cattle and ground-nuts (e.g., peanuts). My notes from this conversation are somewhere buried. Can anyone link me to or provide me with a decent article about this?