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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Laid Américaine

So ends an especially ugly election with a verdict laid down by the subpar mentality of deplorables and dunces. America has again been delivered to white prejudiced patriarchy. Arise, you angry, crude, ugly American men, if you can from your beer stained, chip littered couch. At last, your time has come again, as if you ever let go of it at all. Get out of the way, believers in the American dream, homeless, immigrants, jobless, liberals, people of color, residents in blue states who, despite their allegiance, can expect retaliation from conservative cadre, politically correct sensitives, rainbow coalition, sick, weak, and worst of all women. Retreat and strategize based on age-old papal pap, forever, "Weather the storm.” Hope you’ve put aside enough to cover at least 4 years worth of expenses while you struggle to reverse this profound setback.

Pope Francis, although a self appointed spokesman for the unfairly treated 99%, couldn’t support a woman atop planet’s richest country, though he didn't forbid yet she did represent society’s largest downtrodden segment, over 50% of population. Sexism was an implicit undercurrent: Better a male with no civic experience whatever in office than a female with a lifetime of service who lived for 8 years in the White House. Only idiots need to believe that any idiot can lead. Such an example of matriarchy might topple Catholic tower of phallic power. Trump owes a debt to their swollen presence; Hillary lost by getting shrill and pointing out their influential ill. Control of your assets and soul are where politics and religion convene in an unholy matrimony. Republican senate skillfully used your middle class resentment of having to carry all of the burden against you after ensuring it was so. So raped, you’ve reelected them? Elevating a billionaire suggests numbskulls prefer monarchy and serfdom. Democracy demands rational thinking, something in short supply, and rigorous effort, something few willingly expend.

Why do nonsensical candidates squeeze country through wringer every 4th year? Because they can funded by your donations and taxes, and whoever deserves job wouldn't collect enough votes. Forget fairness of meritocracy. Those eager to occupy oval office, with no corner from which an ambush can come, aired nation’s dirty laundry, drew attention to themselves, and refocused it away from issues that mattered. Every day America went from stalwart power to terrible condition on verge of collapse. Imagine how poorly this must be met by allies, and how significantly it emboldens enemies. They totally trashed office in the process. Far too much attention was paid to presidential circus, which changed nothing, though too many conservatives got into or stayed in office by riding coat tails. Remember, Republicans dominating Congress were responsible for last 16 lackluster years, despite relentless propaganda to the contrary by Fox News and talk radio shifting blame onto victims, the middle class and poor. Repeated lies lay bare luxuries too worshiped to lose.

While Hillary won popular vote, The Don carried electoral, which means he duped enough districts by tapping into fear, ignorance and pride. Country bumpkins bought his bogus slogans. Barnum, who said, "A sucker is born every minute," never had so loyal a proponent. Hillary carried urban knowledge base, who consistently provide innovation for job generation. Don awoke isolated farmers and know-nothing yokels. Klu Klux Klan boasted on how they intervened for him. National Socialists, organized crime, and white supremacists gloated. Foreign leaders awoke in disbelief and horror. #RIPUSA trended in social media worldwide, while violent protests spontaneously broke out nationwide. Vote may well have been rigged, as Trump contested, but by Russian hackers representing just about the only country that welcomed results. France, stunned, wonders what will become of global climate action, since The Don calls it a “hoax to weaken America”, which only manages perception of its pollution better than China while cramming landfills, emptying fisheries, and spilling toxins.

What does this election mean to bicyclists? Beware the crass grasp of capitalist greed bound to proceed from examples set. Conservatives hate any alternative to their coal and petroleum burning agenda, especially bicycling. They foster gun sales to children, who Labann has seen on several occasions shooting indiscriminately toward bucolic roads you might be riding along. Since WWII they’ve been trying to drive bicyclists off roads altogether. The last Republican president, the dumbest and most divisive ever, curtailed all spending aimed at improving bicyclist and pedestrian access according to laws that mandate; he bragged about rendering these laws unenforceable without funding, although bicyclists could have brought a class action suit bound to be struck down by Supreme Court.

You don’t have to be happy and shut up about this outcome. If anything, it proves that nation has had it with bad governance, grown desperate for improvements, and may be ready to embrace a new progressive party to supplant both Democrats and Republicans, neither of whom represent mainstream thinking or majority interests. Both bicyclists and independents outnumber those who affiliate with either party.

Surely a storm is coming. The Don will prove a corrupt puppet in the hands of a shrewd senate. International agreements will falter; foreign aid will ebb to lowest in a half century. During Dubya’s administration, nation suffered its worst recession, nearly equal to the Great Depression, some say worse. He already boasted of tax cuts for billionaires, voodoo trickle down economics that caused it. Oil prices will soar with his promise to end trade deals. War cannot be far off, since that represents fast track and last resort to diverting revenue into offshore accounts and private pockets. Billionaires laid their exit contingencies in place long ago with bicyclists, soldiers and workers providing a human shield for them.

As to domestic policy, "Fend for yourselves," has always been a conservative manta. This translates into grab whatever you want, ignore responsibilities, kill anyone who gets in your way, and run recklessly into ruin. Casinos cater to such piggish self interest, which president elect exemplifies. You will have to pay to secure president’s extensive holdings; Secret Service already plans to rent an entire floor of Trump Tower at $1.5 million/year. On Inauguration Day or soon after riots end, heads will roll, starting with FBI Director Comey, for not indicting Hillary when ahead in polls. "You're fired," an oft repeated and well known phrase will resound. He vows to cut NASA’s budget for studying earth’s climate. As under Bush, Trump will shrink agencies that oversee commerce, provide watchdog regulations, or succor the less fortunate. All this will foster consumer complaints, crime, death, frustration, joblessness, lawlessness, murder, repression, tyranny, and want. It will cost hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs. Abortion patients may serve mandatory jail sentences while miscreants freely roam. They intend to clear gridlock for the privileged to race along unimpeded wherever they want. Those forsaken may turn to bicycling their last resort to remain mobile. Almost everything on your bicycle will cost more since prices for imports will increase, though maybe the few remaining small domestic builders could expand.

Armageddon? The unthinkable can only cross threshold into reality when reason ceases and sociopaths decide policy. Changes affect rural homesteads least; suburbs and towns absorb most of the burden and harm. So backward rubes keep rabid conservatives in office on promises to punish anyone who thinks differently. One would call this textbook tyranny if aware beyond primitive and civilized above tribal. Yet society survived 8 years of Dubya because opposition maintained its resolve and people tightened their belts.Those with twin gifts of intellect and means will have to redouble their efforts to restore balance. On each beautiful ride, sometimes you crawl, sometimes you glide. You don’t need congressional or presidential approval to pursue decency, equanimity, fair trade, sustainable practice, and zero carbon footprint. But some policy shift could always sweep away almost anything that stands in the way of extremists, fascists and radicals, who wrestle for dominance alone.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Game Emplane

Major League Baseball's 2016 World Series ended a 108 year drought for latest champions Chicago Cubs. Winning coach Joe Maddon, named in 2015 a record-tying 3 times as Manager of the Year (and chance to stand alone after next week’s announcement), rides a bicycle to clear his head, explore many cities he visits, and get creative about how to win. He also mountain bikes off season and whenever possible; Bike&Chain last mentioned him in 2008 (p. 477 of Companion Reader). Losing coach Terry "Tito" Francona prefers his Harley motorcycle; did warn him to get a bicycle. Although Francona won 2 championships with Red Sox, only once in 2013 was he named Manager of the Year, an honor usually awarded to skippers with season records better than 100/62. He was nominated 8 times, and would probably accept another, since they award it to the best in both Leagues, American and National. Ironically, Tito presided over the end of the Red Sox's 86 year drought in 2004, but fell 1 run short in 10th inning hosting in Cleveland, after earlier sweeping Red Sox to get his Indians into this World Series. Doesn’t mean that Boston’s team wasn’t represented with Crisp, Epstein, Napoli, Francona, Lester, nearly Maddon himself, and Ross all playing pivotal roles as previous Red Sox champions.

Every Olympic game since 1896 included bicycle races. In 1908, the last time Cubs emerged on top, over 1 million bikes were sold in United States representing $13.6 million in sales. It was the year Ford Model T, among the all time top 10 selling motor vehicles, was introduced. Yet by the end of 1909, there were still only 200,000 passenger cars across America, less than 10% of bicycles then in service. After a century, cars now outnumber bikes by about 3:1, less than you'd think given the $1 trillion feds spend on interstate highways every decade and only $1 billion on bikeways this century following a spending drought in preceding 4 decades. Bicyclists surely need less than motorists, but not nothing, just painted stripes to share pavement they also pay for in income and property taxes.

Vote yes on referenda for a few millions in bonds toward adapting shoulders and finishing bikeways. Any infrastructure will get used and help ease tension between bicyclists and motorists. Consider candidates who support bicycling, too. Humpty Trumpty, having sponsored a national race in 1989, absolutely reviles them, wouldn’t be caught dead on one, though with the pace of bankruptcies surrounding his empire he might someday have to. Like Kerry, her Secretary of State predecessor, Hillary, shown on cycling family holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, promises not to forget bicycling improvements. Privileged conservatives can afford and usually need heart transplants; they don’t get how mobility eventually raises deprived people into trading partners.

Between elections and sports, how can readers wonder why there were no posts in last 2 months? Winning is why players persist, for example Series MVP Ben Zobrist, who produced the go-ahead RBI for Cubs in 10th inning, because rewards are heaped on heroes. Pitchers who strike out more batters than they allow bases will earn more in a year than corporate CEOs, yet seldom win more than 2 dozen games a season out of 3 dozen appearances. That's a deliriously high pay rate, possibly $300,000/hour, more than a skilled surgeon who performs transplants and saves lives. Leads some to question what capitalists value, seemingly entertainment above society’s survival. Bicycles seldom suit such a lifestyle, since continuous travel by bus and jet with sports equipment leave little patience for any perilous, slow crawl. Yet Maddon's role is more cerebral than physical and requires only changes of clothes and uniforms, so in his case emplaning with a bike provides a game changing advantage, as it does for 49 million other contingent workers, 40% of nation's 122 million workforce, who bravely face brutal financial pressures, holes in safety nets, and other uncertainties on a daily basis. Sport spectacles barely make working for a living tolerable. Venues do provide subsistence jobs for those not participating on field, and untold wealth for those who own teams, perform at major league pinnacles, or produce broadcast content.

Sources of sustenance are no longer readily available or taken for granted despite a slew of unaddressed issues. Society hugely relies on advanced technologies for which basic education in the 3R's has become inadequate. Students may gravitate toward what they’re good at or wired for, but shouldn’t expect gainful employment, since will likely arrive ill equipped to handle 21st Century challenges. Maybe this explains baseball’s wide appeal, an avocation for any teen and twentysomething capable and willing to train hard and truly leave every ounce of effort on diamond of dreams, no computer savvy or trigonometric solutions required. Hit ball, run fast, score safely, stay healthy, and win games. Sounds simple, no? Were it so, Maddon wouldn't need his bicycling meditations to fathom baseball's humbling intricacies or subtle machinations.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Commuter Train

What's the perfect bike commute? Must meet one’s own criteria for convenience, distance, health, schedule, terrain, and weather. Long have met own challenge, “Bike there instead of drive, if and when you can.” Those who take pride in propelling self would be remiss not to ride every dry day ≤3 miles each way, 3 days a week for ≤10 miles, and, say, minimally once weekly ≥15 miles. Comfortable cripples disagree, consider it likely to cause distress, and rather drive. Avid cyclists, annoyed at having to dress for less, often skip a 20 mile round trip as if preposterous excess. That’s only 100 miles per typical workweek. An example of whom to speak, Sam Bennett, Lanterne Rouge of 2016 Tour de France, covered >500/week for a month. Sure, bicycle sensible attire does not equal business casual. Have to bathe and change upon arrival, it’s true, but shouldn't let inconveniences deter you. There are always ways to extend routes and vary routine. Adapting to a different scene and new styles expands your mind. Rainy days address lawn duress, and are for swapping out odorous duds for laundress. Why not find advantages in all this logistical planning and physical training which prepare you for charity rides and criterium trials?

In latest role, commute climbs outbound with fresh legs in quiet dark on empty streets usually without slowing wind. Mentally replay folk tunes from youth by Bob, Mary, Paul, Pete, and Peter, Early Morning Rain. Suits introspective mood of an hour of slow slog begun in gloom that morphs into cool glow before sun eventually gains horizon. Begin amidst left over damp and miasma rising and steaming from morning sewers, but end with ducks preening on a golden serene pond. They say, “The darkest hour is before dawn,” to offer hope to anyone beset or deep in debt and each institutional resident, but it seems more like the best time to bike and least likely hour to encounter evildoers, though mostly notice crackheads, early risers racing to lousy jobs, and truckers abusing noisy beasts that probably wouldn’t pass mandatory inspection. Emperor Wu, who marches around his bistro, greets all alike including you. Teen cheerleaders waiting for their school bus sometimes urge, “Go, go, go,” as you fly past. Afternoons don sport headphones and sunglasses and roll downhill, enjoying prevailing tailwinds, along a motor free bike path to heavy metal, rap, and rock, "Run to You," referring to those at home preparing for a meal together. Return with tail tucked in after having been drained, but never complained, blessed amidst so many still unemployed due to domestic policy neglect. Bicycling boosts mood and leaves belligerence along roadside, or so the faithful have always confessed.

Bicycling invites in nature after spending long days in climate control. Concerned over EEE, Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, or Zika? Bugs don’t usually bite or even alight when you’re cruising by bike. Did get stung by a pesky bee while trying to scratch an itch, inhaled some swarming gnats or midges, noticed jersey flecked with creature specks, but seldom worry even after swallowing a fly. Will someday surely die, but not because of it. Does choosing sensuality and embracing uncertainty elevate or reduce stress? Some thrive best when things are a mess. Seldom do anything twice exactly the same way, since conditions continuously vary. Change exercises reason, fosters tolerance, and increases understanding. Battle hardens combatants. When you face fears, probe boundaries, and survive, you grow immune to those who dare to impugn your transportation preference and ignore who’s jejune. When poor planning forgets bulk of contingencies, biking and brainpower both belong as remedies.

Do witness frightful behaviors. Beyond angry dogs, loitering gangs, soliciting whores, and staggering drunks, witnessed a guy brandishing a handgun threatening a sweatily defiant foe. He clearly warned, “It only takes one shot,” while retreating target gave him the double-barreled finger; okay, not exactly an OK Corral showdown, more resembled mayhem Lily Allen describes in her song LDN. Hugged base of wall to avoid catching lead in a likely miss and winding up as collateral damage. About all you can say about those who slash, steal, and want to see the world burn is they are the plague to avoid. Such situations seduce driving in rather than letting world in by pedaling. Vulnerable by bike, you doubt any attempt to oppress but notice more beauty and ugliness than motorists. Admit being fearful leaving home in black of night so exposed. Bright lights don't minimize hazards or reveal benevolence of a stranger cloaked in shadows. You can hardly see real menace of debris and potholes to your wheel, yet that too slows pace so reduces danger.

Afternoons harbor traffic havoc. Can hardly hear hiss and slap of trailing motor vehicle tires that bark their aggressive presence. Truckers rather meet a schedule than preserve a life. Car drivers at stop signs curse you as you pass intersections at 12 mph for an elapsed 2 seconds, yet they'd be content to wait 6 seconds for a tractor trailer to pass. They deem commercial trucking more important than whatever a cyclist might be doing, which might be traveling to conduct billions in commerce. Post ride you may be haunted by mood slumps after elation from endorphins and oxygen, and woozy feeling of gliding along, around, down and up that sometimes grips you when you're not riding. These frights soon pass.

Fear can literally kill you. By choosing an allegedly safe automotive shell, you invite a hell of a lot more highway threats against your life from impatient drivers desperate to slam into you in their conditioned response to be first, cut you off, and go fast to nowhere. By car, you’re death bait, downright anesthetized, dried like jerky, driven insane too much, vacuum packed, and woefully out of touch. Today's passenger car only seems like an extension of your parlor recliner. Always sitting, even while speeding through space, is as deadly as shooting or smoking. Stress itself debilitates. Bending to doubts limits your chances to derive biking’s benefits. Dark and light further highlight balance and lurch, blaze and smolder, calm and panic, yin and yang of bicycling, things that terrify those who run in routine ruts. Contented, tame, undisturbed cattle can be effectively bilked or milked. Nervous rabble seek abated anxiety and cool comfort. Being bright, enthusiastic and proactive intimidates mushrooms, nipple suckers, parasites, and vegetables. So hide your habits, or make little of them, lest they try to single you out from herd as an example to sacrifice.

Commuting by bike can trigger trains of thought that serve as sources for new blog entries. It’s the cycle of life, what goes through this cyclist’s mind on repeated circuits to daily destinations, meditations on life’s meaning. After driving over 500,000 miles then bicycling its hourly equivalent of 125,000 miles, collected myriad comparative insights from which to build Bike&Chain. Blog entries since raised them to a reliable level. Could focus on one point and make a case about it with gathered facts, as would any forensic or scientific investigator. Would only deprive readers and spoil fun. But if this were an appeal to get your butt onto a saddle, it wouldn’t have relayed recent agonies or waited until you already hung up equipment for winter storage. But internet blogs are global. Your local conditions may vary. It’s a brand new cycling season below equator. Tropics aren’t affected by daylight saving topics.

Midway through November, days here become too short to provide optimal visibility for already distracted and impaired motorists, who increasingly need their cars to decide when to stop for them. They used to joke about drivers so inept that cars drove them, yet driverless vehicles occupy horizon and worry bicyclists probably forgotten by this development.