Friday, March 27, 2015

Reich Mortmain

Googled “bicycle” 4 years ago and got 83 million results, including Wallace Putnam's imaginative expression [shown]. Today it’s 247 million, nearly 3 times as many. Doesn’t this convince you of its popularity as a transportation alternative? In contrast, googled “car” and got 3.5 billion. Automotive is the 4th Reich. Fortunes are made dealing licenses to lunkheads, ignoring horrendous death toll, preserving privileges of those who abuse them, and squeezing sustainable options off roads. Sick capitalism consumes lives. Near misses, proportional to amount of traffic and lack of shoulders, though fun to gripe about are hardly worth mentioning and probably scare already timid cyclists.

Can you make any sense of conflicting statements in blogs and news? Everything they present has an agenda or backstory you can’t sort out. Wouldn't it be nice if people just said what they actually meant devoid of opinion? Since 99% of it is either deliberate lies or uniformed absurdities, why bother reading at all? You’re still liable for all your decisions - how to spend, what to do, or who to vote for - after seeking whatever evidence you can find, thinking about things with which you don’t agree, and worrying about unknowns. Nation’s policies and society’s rights revolve upon your resolve.

America is neither a democracy nor republic, but an oligarchy. When Moonie conservative broadsheet Washington Times broke this story a year ago, few paid attention, just as Labann’s like assertion over a decade ago. But prestigious professors published academic proof, then story was repeated in BBC, therefore, can you ignore? Nothing has changed much in 4 decades, though the level of propaganda has snowballed. “Rich getting richer” is the root cause of all ills, not just “money” as said since antiquity, since any stagnant mortmain, property owned in perpetuity, impedes cash flow and spreads panic. Currency serves as a uniform tool of exchange when trading goats would prove digitally impossible and extremely inconvenient. Meanwhile, schools close and remain off tax rolls, more costs the middle class must absorb.

Far from debunking economist Robert Reich, Tim Worstall tries to forestall inevitable revolution, the foremost fear of every Forbes reader. Maybe masses should accept an oligarchy assessment, since it’s an unstable form of government bound to collapse on its own. Historically, only constitutional democracies have legs. Humanity must find another way or things will definitely devolve. Vast divergences between have and have not mostly demotivate, whereas narrow gaps cultivate hope and provide incentive.

Many competent folks gave up seeking productive roles and trying to contribute to society, instead muddle along on entitlements, like social security, unemployment and welfare. Rather encourage entrepreneurs to develop industries that meet basic needs well into future, though policies crush such chances for success. For retirees and those who can’t afford the withering costs of car ownership, bicycles decently serve transportation needs. Bicyclists clog up less road space during commute hours, except when they decide to do so in critical mass protests aimed at asking, “Why were we forsaken?” not just on roads but throughout community. Is it any wonder they are tempted to disobey traffic codes?

“Oh, wheel of fortune, I'm hoping somehow if you ever smile on me, please let it be now.”— Kay Starr, Wheel of Fortune (#1 hit in 1952, not about bicycles)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cranking Alkane

Paraffin, an alkane hydrocarbon, has all sorts of uses. Besides lubricating bicycle chains, it’s an important ingredient in candles to brighten nights without electricity and crayons to express yourself creatively, as well as coming into its own as an organic phase change material (PCM) that stores excess energy. Besides its antibiotic and insulative properties, paraffin could multiply the efficiency of heat pumps, hot water heaters, and solar arrays. Someday all residential building codes will include passive energy collectors, since fossil fuels are finite, parrafin can be synthesized, and sun will always be the primary source of energy.

In 1931 compulsive inventor Thomas Edison said, “We should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy: sun, wind and tide... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Good stewards would also explore fusion reactors and other sustainable technologies Edison never imagined. Meanwhile individuals could preserve dwindling oil reserves by bicycling wherever they can, thus extend humanity’s chances to innovate. But is anyone working on alternatives? Does government even promote them? Lately they’re funding research into the brain, not a moment too soon given how poorly it’s usually applied by Congress.

At tax time filers get a glimpse into the lame deductions they allow home owners for reducing resource depletion. A few hundred is hardly incentive for installing a high efficiency water boiler or heater. You only get one chance to save taxes in your lifetime for converting to cleaner fuel or insulating your home, though half of Americans move every 5 years according to the US Census Bureau. This lukewarm support for energy conservation comes as a result of Big Oil bending Congress to its will. Under enlightened governments, energy policy is considered too important to be left to private enterprise. In the United States, however, corporate manipulation and federal deregulation rule. Consequently, basic utilities of cable, electric, gas, gasoline, heating fuel, and phone often cost collectively as much as income and property taxes which you falsely believe you’re paying to keep those other costs low. Bizarrely, most taxpayers and voters are well aware, yet continue to tolerate, since revolting against would require organizing, something averted by conquer-by-dividing rhetoric routinely spewed by conservative media, who “bypass skeptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion... cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.”

Lately have been pondering Juvenal’s rara avis, metaphor of black swans, and Taleb’s Silent Risk. Have yet to think it all through, maybe never will. Ideas and inventions can become game changers, unpredicted events that upset best laid plans worse than a slipped disc. For example, new e-commerce sites provide myriad services without equipping vehicular fleets or stocking any shelves, though quality may suffer and randomness likely mount. Emerging uses for something as basic as paraffin suggests that humans haven’t fully comprehended all that nature provides, have squandered all sorts of opportunities, and ought to reevaluate benefits of old methods, like bicycling. Even a blog that attempts to demystify complexities could become a beautiful swan (Saint-Saens played on a bicycle pump) grown from an ugly duckling (The Bicycle Thief Bob Forrest). Bikes do make life better (light mural at Pershing Square, Los Angeles in 2011), if only to sort issues by priorities to avoid waste, ensure future, and secure rights.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Key Biscayne

Don’t remember which of the recently discovered bicycling songs had the whimsical lyrics, “Hail to the metatarsal, doesn’t need fuel from a fossil... We could all beat obesity by throwing away that car key,” but therein lies a lot of truth. According to World Health Organization, air pollution from burning fossil fuels annually/globally kills >7 million people, more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. That doesn’t even account for cardiovascular diseases and harder to detect carcinogens directly related to petroleum use. It’s many times worse than tobacco. Oil’s scourge may be dinosaurs’ revenge, but like them will motorists also go extinct? Can’t sustain $1 trillion every decade for roadwork anyway. Don’t need more motorists on crowded roads, but at least some trips could be by bike, while planes and trains would welcome more passengers.

From car/home cabin fever [25 cubic yard snowbank in yard shown] to first thaw and furtive spins, notions arise of best rides ever. Bike blogger Aaron Teasdale enjoyed his hilly ride in Switzerland, though cycling North Vietnam must have been some rarified pleasure for him. Susan Greenwood suggested World’s Top 10 in the Guardian. More recently, Andrew Bain touted his own 12. Do your requisite training and get your passport in order. Bicycling magazine lists 50 light on details, but personally experienced bone rattling similar to #1 Flanders pavĂ© on local New England cobble, though these granite setts are slowly disappearing. One buddy cited among his favorites tackling Tour de France stages: brutal D’alp Huez and windy Mount Ventoux. Could only counter with B&C's story of Heritage Trail Century in Northwest Massachusetts and Southeast Vermont with its 10,000 feet of climbing by countless flowery meadows and rowdy waterfalls with its 11 mile stretch of coasting before the leg back to Deerfield.

Seems self indulgent to waste fuel just to vary venues, but cyclists do grow weary of same old scenery. It’s possible to ride across entire continents, but it costs too much and takes lots of time. Managed 10,000 hours in the saddle without leaving New England. In these shaky economic times, majority has become reluctant to wage lives on sketchy trips, though simply spending cash might end recession.

What appeals right now to flabby, winter weary cyclists are reports of 90° fun and sun in Southern Florida. Chicagoan Chuck explored Rickenbacker Trail from Miami to Key Biscayne, a 5 mile palm studded sand island in the Atlantic favored by Cher and Nixon, reached by a causeway. It’s not much of a challenge with highest elevation only 5 feet above sea level and less than 20 miles of loop road, but Mangrove Cycles stands ready to rent beach bikes to visitors if they want to cruise this tropical paradise.