Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bicyclo Decane

Having studied organic chemistry and recollecting bicyclic molecules, up to now resisted mentioning their nominal similarity to term “bicycle”, only in lame but long continuation of post names that rhyme with Bike&Chain. Yet, derived from methane, bridged ring molecules do smack of a frame combining a pair of hexagonal wheels. Bicyclists sometimes use alkane, aka paraffin, to lubricate chains. Other linear alkanes include familiar butane, ethane, octane, and propane, as well as over a dozen other hydrocarbon chain names and hundred of isomers that also rhyme but won’t be referenced. Cyclohexane makes nylon-6 for bike bags and jackets. The fact that brainy sapiens can whip molecules into meeting mankind’s needs is nothing short of amazing given general population’s usual incompetency, yet mistakes have been made because things that were possible weren’t simply let go. Remember chlorofluorocarbons? Nearly destroyed protective ozone layer.

Organizing humans to achieve a goal is fraught with misgiving. Emotion and intuition, not logic, drive most decision making. For math and science to make sense, society needs to make an enormous commitment to them, not just as a haven for antisocial nerds, semi-autistic geeks, and sociopathic philomaths. All this is beyond what the supposedly ruling majority understands. Not everyone is capable of comprehending complex idea systems or their practical applications, not even those who do grasp industrial, pharmaceutical, and transportational uses of bicyclo decane (structural skeleton shown). Labann has no clue, but respects those who do, as long as they properly label and store bottled gases, buckets of toxins, and slimy solids oozed out of decay.

America has yet again engaged in a presidential election cycle. George Washington, independent candidate and only unanimous electoral vote winner ever (twice), cautioned Americans not to replace a king with a tyrant when he declined a third term, thus establishing a precedent that’s now law. His oppressor, Mad King George III, called him “the greatest character of the age”. Current candidates for POTUS recycle cartoon characters. Having to pick among an Alaskan bimbo, billionaire buffoon, Bluto bully, conservative bigots, damaged celebrities, Doctor Evil bent on world domination, feces flinging simians, foreign interloper, goose-stepping nazis, immigrant despisers, Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags, Mussolini impersonator, older sibling, Olive Oil CEO, partisan stooge, Popeye populist, or Wimpy governors insults your intelligence. At least Bachmann and Romney wised up before wasting everybody’s time again. Congress creates policy, runs agencies, sets budgets, and writes laws. Chief executive serves as nothing more than a scapegoat for all of society’s ills. Really, who'd want the job except for a masochist or sociopath? Blame Dubya; ever since this dumb as a doorpost dolt snuck in on history’s slimmest margin, everyone thinks they can easily divide loyalties and grab power. Also blame GOP, who've ushered in this revulsion of governance by political gridlock and threats to close down agencies and entitlements. All debate so far excludes everything but name calling, pushing buttons, reveling in issues, and using unrest as a bully pulpit to secure privileges for the few. Cries against elitism merely betray their lack of discernment or leadership. But caucuses and primaries will thin herd from a dozen wannabes to a few possibilities that you’ll have to hold your nose over while voting.

Beyond cynical rhetoric lie innovative ways to resolve issues. Campaign process ought to address cures for real problems, such as drugs, guns, immigration, innovation, jobs, murders, shrinking middle class, unfunded liabilities, wacko enemies bent on apocalypse (al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, and those who thrive on candidates' lies about Western weakness), and waste. Merely recognizing issues doesn't cut it. Candidates ought to plainly state where they stand on them, but then those stuck on splinter issues pick whoever supports theirs and remain blind to entire platform. Economy would be much better if politicians didn’t stuff pockets with tax revenue or write self-serving policies for entire planet through thoughtless endowments of your dollars. Sensible talk and statistical analyses draw big yawns and blank expressions. Citizens don’t much care how government is run as long as it is. They grant a license to steal, which is how America became an oligarchy despite elections. Chapter “Millennium Bug”, written 15 years ago, already suggested alternatives to recycling quadrennially the same names, ostensibly done to avoid corruption that typically accompanies long spells in office by old men. Note nation’s youngest president was its most innovative. After a decade of Congress countermanding your every initiative, anyone would lose hope and react in fear or out of spite, not in country’s best interests. But constant change can only be a mixed blessing at best. Wouldn’t a 5 year term, possibly doubled (decane), provide more time to force through good legislation? At only 4 years, senators just await an administration’s conclusion to get what they want, some newcomer to hoodwink or hose.

Directed at bicyclists, none who could make any difference would read this blog and restore balance. Still believe that notions must be incanted and made available lest they disappear or perish. If you don’t water plants, they die. Words water relationships. Maybe those clinging to outmoded ways can’t emotionally process or don’t want to face another winter of discontent that demands more. They can barely stand slogans that flatter, molify and pander. Any intelligent coalition consisting of 10% of population could apply its knowledge to form a new party and take over governance permanently. If theocrats can, why not progressives? Instead, people you perceive as really smart bicker among themselves instead of bridge cooperative rings. Aren’t elections about chemistry? Without question, those who produce hydrocarbons get a free ride: corporate welfare, tax breaks, and unprecedented profits all at the same time. You’ve got to vote for whoever Big Oil doesn’t support, though that doesn’t simplify choices, since almost everyone running kowtows to them, GOP unanimously. Where did you think their limitless campaign funds come from?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Distaff Refrain

Perhaps fallout from Women’s Year, 2013, this oblation of assertive books published in the last few months by women bicyclists, having eclipsed spinning classes and met incredible challenges, truly impresses. They evidence gender equality that suffragettes over a century ago would have gratefully cheered.

Anna Brones, The Culinary Cyclist, 2nd Edition, Illustrated by Johanna Kindvall, Microcosm Publishing, 2015 (96 pp). Speaks to caffeine capers and vegan lifestyles. Brones will also release Hello, Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life, Ten Speed Press, (192 pp) in late Spring.

Anika Ledlow and Elly Blue, Cycletherapy: Grief and Healing on Two Wheels (Journal of Bicycle Feminism), Elly Blue Publishing, 2016 (128 pp). Sociologist Ledlow teams with Portland, Oregon activist Blue for an inspiring series of self help essays. Focusing on nonfiction, Blue adds to her past titles, Bikenomics and Everyday Bicycling, and publishes other feminists.

Emilie Bahr, Urban Revolutions: A Woman's Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation, Microcosm Publishing, 2016 (192 pp). Activist and urban planner in New Orleans shares joys of getting around by bike.

Helen Lloyd, A Siberian Winter's Tale: Cycling to the Edge of Insanity and the End of the World, Take On Creative, 2015 (262 pp). If you ever wondered what it takes to ride frozen wastes at -50°F, ask Helen. Imagine chains would freeze solid, so bikes must be belt driven.

Juliana Buhring, This Road I Ride: Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything to Find Yourself, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016 (208 pp). Buhring shares her story of setting the Guinness World Record for fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle, 18,000 miles in 152 days.

Kasia Szewczyk, The Ride to Read, self published, 2015, (180 pp). Memories of a charity ride that was aimed at raising literacy awareness.

Lucy Roberts, Bicycle Odyssey - Around the World in 800 Days, self, 2015 (308 pp). Intrepid vegan author begins a group bicycling adventure and ends alone after 30,000 miles.

Marie Madigan, A Slow Tour Through France: From Avignon to Saint-Malo by Bicycle (Mostly), Wood Sorrel Books, 2015 (242 pp). Author survives misadventures across French countryside.

RĂ©anne Hemingway-Douglass, Two Women Against the Wind: A Tierra del Fuego Bicycling Adventure, Cave Art Press, 2015 (121 pp). Trek with the only women ever to bike the 300 miles across one of planet's least known and most dramatic landscapes.

Sarah Hallenbeck, Claiming the Bicycle: Women, Rhetoric, and Technology in Nineteenth-Century America, 2015, Southern Illinois University Press (240 pp). Scholarly discourse examines historic gender struggles.

Selene Yeager and Stacy Sims, ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life, Rodale Books, 2016 (256 pp). Coming out this summer, title says it all.

Suze Clemitson, Ride the Revolution: The Inside Stories from Women in Cycling, Bloomsbury Sport, 2015, (320 pp). Voices of women who’ve triumphed riding bikes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chartreuse Sea-sane

Forget such insane seasonal traditions as The Vigil of Seven Fishes. Darkest days of winter are prime time for citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables. Grapefruits and oranges blast bowel fat, fight cancer with flavonoids, impart Vitamin C, and lead a list that includes clementines, kumquats, lemons, limes, mandarines (cuties, halos), minneolas (tangelos), pomelos, and tangerines. For greens, kale appeals, but arugula, chard, collards, lettuce, mustard greens, rabe, and spinach are also loaded with antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins that fight cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Parsley is nature’s highest source of Vitamin A, though other fresh herbs offer attendant benefits. Iceberg lettuce commonly plopped on burgers probably isn’t worth including; however, it does, like better greens, contain Vitamin K, which avoids artery hardening, helps clot blood, and protects brain and heart. Those who take blood thinners or worry about kidney stones may want to minimize eating oxalates in chard and spinach and Vitamin K. But such late-season sources of nutrients as broccoli and cabbage are rare and welcome, though they cause gas, which, if distressing, is mostly harmless. Whether shades of chartreuse, mindaro or nyanza, fruits and veggies are good eats as long as other nutritional needs are met.

For some people it can be a recreational pharmaceutical, but to say yes to food is to embrace life. Spices have been used as medicines for millennia. Surely, moderate intake is a must, moreover potable water. Focus ought to be on what sustains, such as whole grains, rather than empty calories from processed items, sugar, and white flour. While humans, omnivores by genetic necessity, can survive on them, various diseases directly stem from malnutrition and monotonous diets: anemia, beriberi, diabetes, goiter, gout, hypothyroidism, osteomalacia, pellagra, rickets, scurvy and whatnot. But only a person knows what agrees with her/his constitution. Carcinogenic additives, diarrheic fats, insecticides, parasites, preservatives, prions, protein bacteria, putrid meats, and tainted oils will turn anyone off beef, chicken, condiments, fish (particularly escolar and sardines), lamb or pork. Athletes and bicyclists are well aware, since they suffer demonstrably when deprived or infected. Out of touch with their bodies, couch potatoes stuffing themselves with chips and slop seldom notice until too late.

Why are sports so compelling, anyway? There are a dozen things wrong with them few want to discuss. Broadcasters and spectators wantonly waste fuel, for one. Any NFL team is worth $2 billion, the Dallas Cowboys $4 billion according to Forbes; such a huge investment neither cures diseases nor produces durable goods, though it provides minimum wage temporary jobs and several thousand overpaid positions as one of the nation’s most exclusive employers, thus spreading the gap between poor and rich. Scheduled match-ups and tournaments are totally arbitrary. League executives encourage intensity, ignore consequent concussions, and punish winning with inquests over ill written and trivial rules. Sports mine xenophobia, fear of strangers, and promote hate crimes and them-us dichotomies sometimes triggering riots. At least $100 million is spent on advertising during each televised game, which is charged directly to consumers in inflated prices. Consequently, 1 hour of play takes 4 hours of viewing, so hundreds of millions who've tuned in sit unproductively for 3 hours while subjected to harmful brainwashing and operant conditioning, so they’ll value things like beer and toys which inflict illness and limit participation in sports. Time would be better spent bicycling around or preparing fresh food from scratch; instead, pizzas are ordered and provided by motorized delivery. A huge amount of attention and emotion gets invested into lost causes, while outcomes could be rigged, for all viewers know. In the end, there are legions of abject losers and depressed fans. Lose or win, productivity suffers and profits flag.

All such shortcomings are routinely forgiven for their entertainment boon. Vicarious thrill of victory will inevitably inveigle. Watching athletes dance on ballfields, courts, gridirons and rinks surpasses ballet and other performing arts. Remarkable accomplishments only result from endless repetition and ensuing muscle memory. Devotion and effort garner praise, unlike what usually occurs, and increase a sense of community, service, and teamwork, as if some morality play. Most compelling is nail biting surprise and suspense, not knowing outcome until it’s finally over; that’s hard to fake though billions of dollars have been made and spent on films that feebly simulate this effect.

Everything on this plane of existence is imbued with agony and ecstasy, color and gray, dark and light, gain and loss, good and evil, joy and pain, polar opposites pitted against each other. For every bureaucrat, general, governor, judge, legislator, martinet, priest and terrorist, more than scores of kind and supportive neighbors offset the suffering those who grasp at power impose. Clerics can try to put a burka on Pollyanna, but a female in denial will fight back by frustrating puerile desires, the sport that underlies all life’s struggles. One must accept that mankind both competes for comfort and seeks social approval, a campaign forever fraught with conflict and failure. Accumulating and chiseling have habitual, harmful, hateful consequences, though individuals can altruistically and sanely choose to transcend them through sacrifice and self control exemplified by teamwork. After Superbowl 50, can green rebirth of spring and renewed season for bicycling be far behind?