Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thomas Paine

“Common Sense” pamphleteer, patriot, seminal abolitionist and skeptic Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809) had plenty to say about “offering up human sacrifices to the pride of tyrants” that resonates all the more today. “Those who want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it... The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance... I love the man [who] can smile in trouble, [who] can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.” America finds itself in same straits as when merciless monarchs ruled, only now it’s oligarchs manipulating media to avoid responsibility to those who made them wealthy.

Pamphlets were the founding father’s Facebook. Despite misuse, current media does reduce consumption by relaying information instead of wasting fuel. Then again, once enlightened, you might want to visit places you never did. Corporations expect employees to adapt, commute and relocate. Messages increase ecotourism and political action as much as inspire “staycations”. Have lately grown weary with local scenery, instead focus on cracks ahead hoping to finish faster and get ride over. Wanderlust only serves those with trust funds. Highways are so messed up motorists would be willing to pay more to correct, when everyone already pays too much in taxes for something totally unsustainable. A trillion dollars nationwide in the last decade doesn't seem to deter those dodging potholes.

Nothing is straightforward. You’re forced to spend all your time sorting through agendas, arguments, lies, opinions and spin. Otherwise, they’ll betray your confidence, deny earned entitlements, pick your pocket, sell you unwanted stuff, and steal public properties and revenues. They’ll allege you have trust issues while giving you reasons not to. Dullards who hate to do for themselves enjoy Top 10 lists, which are as phony as anything else compiled by those in control. The best is usually lame, runners-up an absolute bore. Popularity, extremely overrated, means nothing more than an ill-informed audience agrees. Consensus validates nothing, which is why democracy struggles, though people must agree before action can occur. “All mankind are my brethren. To do good is my religion,” said Paine just before inciting revolution.

What matters is what you think for yourself. You bring originality and perception personally, so it doesn’t much matter whether or whither you wander. But, as Bleeping Pain confirms, you can’t just stay put, need to encounter rude others. Humans must interact to thrive. Destinations don’t matter, either, because bulk of experiences occur en route. So throw a dart at at map then wend your way there. Labann crosses unfriendly city to area farms to buy vegetables, even if costlier for being fresher than supermarket, neither of which are close, makes multiple stops, and talks to many. Therefore, hopefully, farms with wild habitats and wistful vistas like a Wyeth landscape endure. In contrast, because they coerce you to drive, supermarkets in suburban exile present drab architecture surrounded by baked blacktop. Efforts to insulate make one isolated and vulnerable.

Remember being miserable pedaling along soaked in predicted 10% precipitation. Wary of forecasts, wonder why so seldom see overhangs at intervals that could shelter those who need to be out. At least Italy has its arcades, some New England strip malls awnings, and Texas covered boardwalks. They'd attract riders by covering bus stops and posting schedules. But is inconsiderate infrastructure worthy of complaint? Tyrants abuse or use others daily, expect royal treatment, make slaves out of those who have skills, and subjugate wills. All work is dangerous and tiresome, leads to broken bones and scars, while recipients grab proceeds and shrug off your trauma. Many factory workers, for example, have lost fingers. Farmers risk their lives to grow produce and raise stock, but many sell land for lack of profits. If you’ve never made hay, milked cows or picked vegetables, you have no idea what back breaking effort it takes to feed you. Be grateful; you don’t deserve it.

Inhumanity manifests in many ways, none quite as blatant as yesterday being buzzed within inches by a big black SUV with opaque windows. Registration plates betray driver anonymity, so can report this crime if so inclined but doubt state would indict. Cause rests in what Paine impugned before traffic code was ever imagined, a “long and violent abuse of power”, which perfectly portrays entire automotive history. And to think this remarkable prophet died unappreciated and unmourned except by a pair of black freedmen and presumably a few farmers for whom he tirelessly fought. Lest Americans forget, there would be no Independence Day without Paine, who galvanized opinion by embracing the oppressed while snubbing the powerful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

*Bleep*ing Pain

Like any saying, old bicycling adage, “It never gets easier, you just go farther faster,” holds some truth. You do lose excess weight, so pedaling your bloated carcass around grows decreasingly bothersome. Pack a knapsack with 6 five-pound bags of sugar and see how carrying 30 extra pounds grinds knees and wears thin. Cycling advocates can be sickly sadistic, don’t say it so newcomers merely accept pain, rather that they masochistically embrace it. Yet the more you peddle, the better you do get and more tricks you learn. Butt turns to leather, choices help, heart and lungs improve, saddle conforms, and thighs strengthen, so you carry more weight on your legs not tender bits. You quicken your cadence to leave behind rude riders with nary a greeting for a fellow cyclist. None of this applies to those who stay fit, though. A clever saying neglects to mention every exception. As with everything on earth, blackness merges with light, commodious combines with odious, yang entwines yin. Facts and paradoxes are boring/messy/negative; people prefer encapsulated/neat/positive fiction. “Lie to me,” is their plea.

Who can separate beneficial from painful? “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Don’t want to be conspicuously strong or to cheat death, just finish rides and sidestep primordial stimuli carried by interoceptors to thalamus. “Is sitting the new smoking?” Couch potatoes, desk jockeys, and seated motorists face cardiovascular failure while back, leg and neck muscles shrink and shorten. Bicycling and walking build; Tai Chi and Yoga stretch. Pumping iron and working out are only for those already fit. With an obesity pandemic, food choices and quantities ought to come first. People in sunless upper half of America are Vitamin D deficient, which leads to brain disfunction, diabetes, and other diseases. But the preponderance of medical evidence emphatically confirms that smoking remains the #1 health hazard. Cycling discourages smoking, which impedes breathing.

Ways to die in order of frequency (number of deaths cited annually nationwide, compiled from multiple official sources): 1. Cardiovascular diseases (clots, heart attack, stroke, 727,000 fatalities). 2. Cancers (all types including skin from too much sun while cycling, 580,000). 3. Lung dysfunctions (including COPD from car exhaust and smoking, 138,000). 4. Brain ailments (Altzheimer’s, dementia, insanity, 80,000). 5. Crime, gun violence and suicide (70,000). 6. Diabetes (69,000). 7. Accidents other than driving (60,000). 8. Kidney disorders (50,500). 9. Infectious diseases (50,000). 10. Automotive collisions (40,000). More people died in motoring accidents in the last 100 years than soldiers in wars. Causes in common are diet, driving distracted/impaired, smoking, and substance abuse, all personally preventable. Little is done to save lives, since 2 million pointless deaths provide jobs and profits. Meanwhile, other important work never gets done. It's a war. Call it what you will, criminal enterprise, but make no excuses.

Been checking out home water filters that sort cancerous toxins from sustaining necessity. How do you choose what’s best? Claims are proven phony. Had to replace truck, too. Of course, looked for a reliable, safe plug-in hybrid SUV miserly on gas at the same price as a quality bike into which it would nicely fit. At 4 times more than long awaited dream vehicle, settled for a small sedan that actually exists. Who can afford these compromises, prices, premiums, property taxes, or Tesla S? Everything involves complex decisions based on too many facts, models, and options. Traffic is so chaotic, experts try to impose controls, laws, and penalties, none of which slow daily carnage. Technologists are close to introducing the first robotic vehicles. While avoiding valuable cars will they collide with vulnerable cyclists? Built-in cameras, cell phones, cruise controls, hands-free consoles, and sound systems count as distractions that endanger everyone, new opportunities to inflict pain, and wasted resources mankind will never recover.

Can see why bicyclists become bitter; they absorb whatever torture convenience imposes and find no welcome where reckless speed dominates. For pain alone, it’s hard enough trying to convince people to ride. They ought to earn a free pass for not making world worse to live in. Seems another instance where, “No good deed goes unpunished,” although that’s no more true than, “Crime does not pay.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Slip Seine

Short of half way through year, yet at point of no return, should also mention some newly published bicycling books. Whether you attend or ignore, culture continues to simmer into Summer and slip through your permeable net. Labann hears, sees and smells supporting evidence everywhere, often right after issuing a post about the very same thing. “It’s in the air,” they say. Curiously, riding alone it simply occurs with no tangible input from existing but unread books. Can ideas exist without humans to think them? Are books even necessary? Rather catch answers or fish than flak or questions.

Tour de France 2013 champion Chris Froome has out an inevitable autobiography, The Climb (Viking, 2014, 448 pp.) for those who follow pelaton hijinks, a word derived from an 18th Century drinking game, akin to truth-or-dare, which forced loser of dice throws to consume more or do something undignified. These days cycling's more about PEDs than persistence.

Bruce Weber’s Life Is a Wheel (Scribner, 2014, 336 pp.) takes you on a Transamerica 2-wheeled tour. Sounds like 4,100 grueling miles of hell in 14 weeks, but Weber exposes the majesty of a great yet welcoming expanse that so many have accepted as an earnest challenge.

From cycling mad Seattle, Frank Strack, et al., together known as The Velominati, or Keepers of the Cog, set forth in humorous fashion The Rules (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, 304 pages) based on their blog, Any culture must have its elite, jesters, police and snobs. Check out samples for a laugh at Amazon.

Shirley Hughes offers historical fictional in Hero on a Bicycle (Candlewick Press, 2013, 213 pp.) set in 1944 Nazi occupied Florence, Italy. Eager to get on with life’s adventures, 13-year-old Paolo sneaks out each night to ride his bike along darkened streets thrilled by the risks. Partisan resistance soon maneuvers him and his family into an impossible situation. Does Paolo have what it takes to truly be a hero? Morality tales seem to produce more slaves and victims than winners.