Saturday, December 13, 2014

Aboard Blame Train

In B&C, “blame” gets 80 mentions, too many. Through commission, omission, or tacit permission of evil transgression, humans are plainly blameworthy, including, though unintentionally, Jesus, in whose name crusaders murdered legions and religious bigots rationalize wrongs. Prefer to remember innocent baby, sole survivor of a genocide aimed at killing him specifically. Today, police shoot unarmed civilians. Soldiers in your behalf resort to sleep depriving and water boarding prisoners. Spent too much time trying to identify who's guilty for today's rage when the real enemies are fear, greed, ignorance, lack of concern for others, and lust for power, as if anyone can really be controlled. Lives are consumed in attempts to establish rules and rectify wrongs, blood feud necklaces strung from one generations to the next, or digging dual graves for vengeance's sake. Why bother recapitulating? Resent feeling fear, so say whatever comes to mind, even if it invites trouble.

Terrorists Labann fears most drive erratically and rudely in huge surrounding vehicles. Filthy, scummy trucks carrying milk or produce turn your stomach. They beg a pair of questions, 1. “How safe is our food and water supplies?” and 2. “Why am I buying these popular brands?” Motoring accidents are the nation’s 3rd worst cause of death, 3 times gun violence or infectious diseases. Plus driving contributes to petroleum carcinogens, sedentary ways, and substance abuse, which are responsible for the top 2: cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Sad state of the roads further leads to erratic behavior by disappointed users. Countless collisions occur from swerving to avoid gaping holes; DOTs don't want to know, because that makes them culpable. Everyone wants to be downtown simultaneously. Work days are already staggered: 5:00 to 9:00 AM starts and 3:00 to 7:00 PM closes. Yet highways range from busy to bumper-to-bumper at all hours, defying logic. With alternative bike commuting up 64% nationwide, bicycling fatalities have risen 16%, though still few compared to motoring, also up 1%, almost as many as bicycling in total. Sobering input deters riding during dangerous December, when revelers and shoppers race around distractedly and drunkenly. Rode 20 miles in drizzle to mail holidays cards that brought hope to honored recipients. Nature dies every Winter Solstice after planting seeds for renewal in Spring. Acutely aware, didn’t need signs in gutter to contemplate mortality.

While facts aggravate, befuddle, and corrupt, truth drives humans straight over the edge. Writing will always be an irrational random activity that only the hopelessly deluded believe can be moderated. Epistemologists and scientists with 200+ IQs struggle with the inherent flaws in all communication and literature. The closer you study something, the further away you find yourself from it. You must become the creature or object to comprehend what influences and moves it. Only then can you comment with authority or evaluate such expressions, but often not so anyone else appreciates.

The Library of Congress holds 135 million titles. No group, nation or people will ever read them all. If writers were further funded and motivated, there might be billions. Injustice silences and turns lives into a march of getting, going, spending and sleeping. Surely no such story holds the least interest; only heroes living through extraordinary trials ever present tales one wants retold. Had an interesting eavesdrop at Zurich airport behind a bunch of reporters returning from war ravaged Middle East. Yet writers are usually bystanders who repeat false accounts of what happened, not participants in events readers need to know about. What makes any author think he/she is contributing anything that hasn't already been said? Unless you're creating a future, you’re merely repeating, spinning wheels. Amusing how hacks mimic any book that gains traction. Pulp trash makes good starters for wood burning stoves. Seinfeld quipped, "Why do people keep books like trophies after they read them?" Surely they can be passed around afterwards, so how can publishers anticipate significant sales? Society has gotten so splintered, printing on demand has become popular.

To get a book deal an author needs to gain notoriety and settle into some niche. Publishers dangle carrots for all sorts of donkeys with the hope one plods along in the direction they're headed and therefore shoulders their load. That thousands fail doesn't concern them, only that some succeed who they can exploit. You can't ever be sure how readers will react. A book may take years to produce; nobody has any idea what will sell in 5 or 10 years hence. Can't base a story on what's now popular and carve out a following among those who are looking to be taken somewhere they've never gone before. Can only hope yours resonates with readers at the end of your journey.

Being left on wayside to die when no longer contributing to society makes you acutely aware of pensions and reserves. You'll claw your way to stay ahead. It’s why so few buy art unless convinced it'll increase in value, or freely share their good fortune. Most will never be happy in their chosen career, living through decades in quiet desperation while looking for something they’ll never find. Cannot blame how things are; without taking risks, rewards won't come. Do not regret a stolen decade to pen and publish a book and companion blog nobody reads. What else was there to do? Redouble household projects or take on extra jobs? Sleep or watch more television? Did enough of all to secure some balance, start a train of thought, and stay above board. Can you forgive yourself?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Auf Wiedersehen

In each generation volunteers step up to record observations, test hypotheses, and verify findings. Tons of tiresome details confirm obvious truths, which distill many facts. When people say they express TRUTH, they lay some religious or speculative opinions on you, not useful and verifiable notions nobody wants to consider. Only forensic investigators care about facts and then only because they get paid to. Researchers constantly revise history and science by discovering evidence and exposing lies. Government treats foresight and thrift as dangerously radical. Anyone who displays a refined sense of paradoxes will be dismissed as autistic, savant or trainspotter. Radio stations pay dunces millions to spout conservative nonsense. Words themselves possess hidden meanings. Unless easy profit or satisfied hormones are blatantly promoted, forget about holding anyone's attention.

You can join a ranting cult, or religion condemning cults, or stay skeptically solo. You not only need not agree with absolutes and ultimatums, you ought to exercise choices lest they disappear. How else can you nurture your own advancement, breakthroughs, uniqueness? Despair for humans. They don't discuss ideas. Conversations end in character assassinations and personal attacks, especially when respondents don't appreciate or grasp ideas you bring. Bullies and trolls abound on-line.

With billions of planetary inhabitants, the day of heroes and icons has passed. One of life's most perplexing and persistent problems is how to make a name for yourself. Fame resembles bacon, lots of sizzling fat under fire. Anonymity and ignominy suggest inertia, mold, obscurity or rot. But you have to guard against such metaphors that make no sense and provoke futile actions. Celebrity status carries as many hassles as rewards. It's just a way to amplify intensity and make time fly. Before you know it, you're as broke and unknown as before. Great silent film vamp Lulu, beloved by moviegoers on 2 continents, wound up as Mary Louise Brooks, a Sachs Fifth Avenue retail clerk before turning tricks. She was lucky compared to countless catastrophes suffered by others who found fleeting fame. Terrorists simply dissolve into events, like those nameless criminals who crashed into World Trade Towers. Nobody knows them or wants to. Radicals get metaphors stuck their mind and fret over them. Unibomber couldn’t quell his fear of communism though he didn’t at all grasp what it meant. Why all this rage? Thousands of discontents form the greatest threat to mankind, who’d use biological, nuclear, and other weapons of mass destruction to impose some bizarre ideal not even they comprehend. Not as though there’s nothing to fear. You can’t safeguard civilization. You can behave decently and kindly, defy evil, hope others follow your example.

Suggest everyone blow off some steam, sharpen axe, value distractions, and wonder why entertainment exists when they aren’t busy inhibiting stupidity and waste, innovating, and inventing. Can rethink BPA free water bottles that carry more, nicely fit into racks, and weigh less by sandwiching shock insulator between glass liner and titanium shell; carbon crack carrier saddle specially designed for street dealers to carry crack where cops won’t look; writing device that resembles a twirled bike with ergonomic grip around fingers. You could be imagining many a thing while riding: Bike with continuously variable transmissions, crankshafts, integral rechargeable batteries, regenerative disk brakes, seat post or steering head adjustors, and still weigh so little you’d never notice, but would you be able to remove rear wheel for flat fixes? Moreover, cyclists need somewhere to ride safely. Motorists don’t nicely share roads. Painted lanes could make street cycling more popular, though spacious shoulders decrease all accidents and provide a safety valve. Environmentalist and former Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa would put, “Bikeways in every single street. Bikeways are not a cute architectural detail, bikeways are a right.”

But every Halloween bicyclists disappear for season and wait for Spring to resume their struggle for equality. Arguments get renewed and repeated ad nauseam. As the final rhyming title means, “Until we meet again,” this will be the last Bike&Chain blog entry for awhile. Don’t expect any updates, replies to comments, or sage advice. Instead, get some miles in while you can.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Capital Gain

One thing Bike&Chain has never been about: Profit. Did, on occasion, accept trades for bicycling services, for example, leading newbies on twilight rides. Mostly broke even in needed parts and repairs or someone else’s books or recordings. Labann would never deluge your inbox with ads for anything (Be smart. Buy mine!), appeals for alms (This is no sales call...), cannabis vapes for e-cigs (No Tar, Pure Poison!), herbal remedies (Dubious cures without a prescription), or such plugs for unwanted spam. In fact, only ever promoted alert attention to what’s happening without weighing its benefits. That’s practically heresy in a society that rates everything on a top ten list, as if there were only 10 of anything to compare. Reveals how insular those who judge are.

Always warm to those who volunteer a confession when you share an observation. It isn’t mandatory. Conversations can be started on flimsy premises. B&C was originally intended to welcome dialogue, though fear the opposite occurred, smothered connection with obscure inquiries and zen mediation. Most people see cycling as the social darwinism of race competition, not the celebration of vitality and privilege of deceleration that it is.

Last long ride seemed continually uphill. Even its only downhill had a dozen sharp upticks. Was thinking throughout, “Is this good for me?” Brevets (50, 100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 600, or 1200 km) basically beat the bejabbers out of you. Their health improvement and mood boost come at a painful price. But what your body expends earns credits. All work supposedly garners compensation. Projects completed increase holdings. Science supports it. In thermodynamics, every system degenerates towards entropy, its state of lowest integration, without periodic inputs of energy. Pedaling builds fitness, burns fat, and buys time by improving body. Bicycling contrasts with other forms of exercise in that it’s also reliable transportation. It can be as easy or hard as you like. You can choose to climb hills or sometimes go around them. You can feel exhausted afterward or later revived. Whatever occurs, you own it. Yet it’s strange how you earn the right to ride farther by holding a job to pay for equipment and wasting ever more time through pedaling instead of motoring.

Self preservation calls for cardio workouts, daily effort, environmental awareness, food choices, intelligent approach, job performance, money savvy, safe motility, sensible risks, and social contract. You neglect any one at your peril. Increasing survival odds sounds as difficult as it is in fact. Doctors recommend, in order: 1. Quit smoking and taking drugs, though they push pharmaceuticals rather than put up with your bellyaching over trivial issues. 2. Maintain nominal body mass index through diet and exercise. 3. Listen to nutritionists, who urge you to balance carbs, lean proteins, and raw veggies. 4. Hydrate religiously. 5. Sleep same amount, same time every day. 6. Stay out of infected crowds. 7. Wash frequently. 8. Operate machinery responsibly. 9. Slow down and spend sensibly. 10. Avoid stress, though worry about achieving all 10 might increase it.

Easier to pedal than stay employed. Insanity drags down business: Bosses apply generic systems to do particular work, committees impose all sorts of rules, and coworkers dodge duties you must assume. Such arrangements collect losers and drive stalwarts away. Eventually, all you have are lunatics and pirates. Same principle applies with lawyers making statutes that maximize litigation, thus profits. This causes dual evils: 1. Good rules disappear under a pile of crazy nonsense. 2. People waste a lot of time, so important work never gets done. Battle lines are drawn by those who justify their decisions. You are stuck with tools that make producing impractical. Confusing metaphor or useful mnemonic, neither promotes understanding better than simplicity. Complexity exists because someone wants to control or grasp societies or systems with lots of components acting independently. You seldom really need to do this. It can happen without your intervention. Complexity extends employment for office drones far beyond their useful contributions. Safe to bet that the 1 in 4 insane inmates of your asylum really run it. Smarter to demystify and simplify. Too bad deck is stacked against you making a living by roaming aimlessly and spinning cranks, which at least represents personal gain rather than soul drain. Many writers have tried to sell a bike book suffuse with advice nobody wants to hear and lists of somehow related items readers don’t care about; can neither give them away nor trade experiential knowledge for energy credits.

Passed Columbus in October’s moonlit glimmer. His bronze finger confirmed direction already taken. Explorers may point the way and promise profit, but reality occurs en route. A semi-tandem-trailer whizzed by letting out a blast from his air brakes. Was on gradual climb broken by a traffic stop, but the grind doesn't stop until you cross Miller and flatten on Pleasant. Bicycling sometimes resembles exploring. Reached workplace and settled into another hectic day as if nothing had happened over 500 years ago to merit remembrance.