Monday, September 18, 2017

Blown Powertrain

Results are in. After nearly 2 decades of counting near misses, rude behaviors, and tantamount criminality on byways and highways, compiled significant statistics and profiled successfully those who ought to have motoring privileges permanently revoked.

Race didn't matter, although in New England you see more caucasians behind wheels versus asians, blacks or hispanics. Appearance means nothing; genetics don’t determine driving skills. All offend equally within demographic limits. Cruel carnage doesn’t discriminate. Neither would Intelligence tests exonerate those who blare horns, cut bicyclists off, force into curb, hook at turns, pass on right or too close, peel out ahead, protrude past stops, scream out windows, or throw trash bombs. Have likewise witnessed courtesies of backing up to clear path or stopping to block other vehicles to let pedalers pass. As square dancers in traffic's desperate dos-á-dos and vis-á-vis, bicyclists appreciate not being slammed into or treated as if moshpit maniacs. Exercising inalienable rights, humans move, but pundits do say dangers of bike riding have risen.

Bicyclists earn right to pass red lights and stop signs by letting faster traffic pass them while dodging actual grates and manholes, artificial menaces, and "manhole motorists”, forfeiting own share, and not messing with Mother Nature. Otherwise, benefits would barely outweigh drawbacks. Of course, this means careful and defensive road use, easier for bicyclists able to hear and see stripped of an automotive shell while rolling at only 12 mph on average. People who pick motors respect brethren less, seldom look back after squashing relentless rabbits and suicide squirrels, and too often mercilessly speed out of control.

Facile conjectures ruled out, choice of vehicle does correlate with cretins. General Motors sold a large number being operated, although in any given study year they weren't top producers in popular categories. Yet since 2001 those who drive Chevrolet and GMC cars, pickups, SUVs and vans account for 67.3% of 1200 observed incidents. In cases where personally hit, all 3 were GM. To what can this skew be attributed?

For other GMC makes - Buick, Cadillac, Corvette, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac - recorded incidents were negligible. Top selling Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, and Volkswagen Golfs come in a distant second despite preferential road presence. According to MoneyTalks in 2016, drivers of luxury vehicles get ticketed least, a tenth as often as Chevys, Nissans and Volkswagens. Higher priced models are usually operated carefully; creasing a quarter panel by impacting a cyclist might involve huge deductibles, insurance increases, and out-of-pocket expenses. When cars cost less, do such deterrents apply? Lexus ranked as both highest and lowest, ranging 33% to 3% from least to most expensive versions.

In direct contradiction, Forbes insists Mercedes S and other luxury coupes tend to be ticketed twice the norm, but also sensible Toyota Camry sedans, which Forbes claims are driven by crones without family passengers versus minivans and SUVs. It’s self serving nonsense pandering to upmarket readers. Bicyclists disagree and will forever be more wary of landscapers hauling trailers and soccer moms speeding teams in wide transporters on suburban streets. Proves only that there's no consensus. Police miss 98% of scofflaw acts, which NHTSA attributes more to teen males than other age/gender groups, so ticket numbers don’t count. Vehicle rank is agitprop based on speculative pap, as are all statistics upon which policymakers dote.

Factors beyond numbers sold or tickets issued need to be considered. Why are incidents with Jimmies 8 times more likely than Henrys? Ford F Series pickups garnered top sales figures throughout study years, 34 million to date, yet only figure in 8.7% of complaints. FBI and police drive both Fords and GMCs equally, more than all other makes combined. Vehicle collisions kill more law enforcers than any other cause. Could there be design flaws in Chevy heavy metal that intensify driver aggression and road rage? Fear and goosebumps come from a glimpse of italic cross blazoned emphatically across a Chevy’s crucifyimg grille. Maybe that’s message intended: “Clear or die. Out of my f***ing way.”

It's well documented that bigger, higher vehicles encourage excessive speed, since drivers can see further than those in passenger cars, which conversely stop in shorter distances due to momentum differences. Also, because they can't fit through traffic breaks, wide bodies provoke impatience. This is why it's unsafe to drive near tractor trailers. Root causes could include ergonomic defects that generate discomfort or distress, such as bad suspension or poor handling typical in trucks. Triple A rated tires found on better models assert track, raise confidence, and squelch aggression. Operator cockpits require adjustability, usability and visibility. More likely, it's in attitudes of those who buy brand. Buyer remorse? With popularity of leasing, more deal short term, so not saddled with lemon hassles. Still, automotive costs drive drivers bonkers. Price for performance isn’t repaid with crumbled roads and traffic congestion. High performance Chrysler and Nissan cars recorded highest death rates, twice average, for millions miles driven in last year assessed, 2014.

Why does anyone choose a make or model? Much can be attributed to family history, nationalism (although these days everything automotive involves global manufacturing), peer pressure, pigheaded inflexibility, prejudice, previous satisfaction… same as racism. Obese drivers decide on trucks, despise subcompacts, and deride cyclists since they disrespect selves. Does frequency of occurrence warrant unprecedented warnings? Nobody heeds them, as ubiquitous as traffic tumult. Perhaps insurers could increase already exorbitant premiums. Insurance itself encourages rudeness, gives motorists a fatal illusion of safety, goads risk taking, and provides only a leaky net from legal fiascos involving millions in losses that slightest lapse of self control might elicit. The cover story that motorists are trained sufficiently to handle horsepower has already been blown. Definitely need to help real people find new roads.

Why reference if not to persuade someone and render roads a sliver safer for everyone? Could save a life, but might infuriate those profiled who believe they own road, collect tickets as if trophies, drive Chevys badly, ignore vulnerable road users, pass shamelessly on right, and weave through traffic already traveling at speed limit. Maybe rage results in net loss. They have nobody’s permission to oversleep then try to make up time by endangering others. Doesn’t work anyway; they just dart ahead to back of next jam instead of running steadily. Rush hours are riskiest time to roll; 22% of bike accidents occur between 6:00 and 9:00 PM.

Same as a border wall for which someone else will presumably pay, oversized vehicles ought to be surcharged for massive highway upgrade. Highways aren’t half as bad as local roads and neighborhood streets that require 90% of attention. Appeasing transportation angst, forcing trains to run on time, was how Mussolini consolidated control in pre-WWII Italy. Understand proposal for what it is: A tax diversion to automakers, insurers, lenders, and mobs who run construction companies. Applicants will be suckered into allegiance, but assemblers bear eroding compensation and laborers only draw <25% of project cash. This isn't the only parallel, but are enough citizens willing to identify signs and modify course before nazi gangsters take over?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

And Would Fain…

Constellations are merely arbitrary groupings of bigger or closer conspicuously bright stars. Any honorable historian mainly blames Lacaille (modern) and Ptolemy (ancient) for names. Towards the center of our Milky Way Galaxy there happen to be more apparently bright stars among hundreds of millions than elsewhere. Of the 88 generally listed, you tend to remember constellations associated with astrological signs, for examples, Aries, Cancer, Leo, Pisces, and Taurus through which ecliptic passes. Others, such as Camelopardalis (Giraffe), only pop up as mind quizzes on bicycle rides and game shows. Certain ones resonate with bicyclists: Andromeda (Chained Lady), Antlia (Air Pump), Auriga (Charioteer), Libra (Balance), and Pegasus (Winged Steed).

Ever mindful and persistent, Andromeda of Greek mythology was chained to rocks as a sacrifice to undersea god Poseidon. Hero Perseus flew in on horse Pegasus to save her. For bicyclists chains and steeds excite imagination and incite mention. Andromeda is a frame name among more than a few bike makers including Carrera (1996) and Pinarello (2017), the latter the favorite brand of Team Sky and Tour de France champion Chris Froome. Pegasus is another Carrera model (1996) and a defunct Dutch bike brand (c. 1970’s). Andromeda Klein is a bicycling heroine and tarot occultist of Frank Portman’s teen novel of same name (Dell Publishing, 2009).

Antlia Pneumatica, the original Latin name Lacaille gave in 1751 to commemorate the Machine Pneumatique invented by compatriot Denis Papin, lies within former grouping Argo Navis (Argonauts’ Ship) in Southern sky, now split into 3 renamed subregions. Herschel later truncated name. Pneumatic tires that require air pumps were conceived nearly a century later by Thomson and realized by Dunlop; clinchers were patented by Jeffrey in 1882. Looking through Antlia astronomers see a face-on spiral galaxy, NGC 2997, which in time lapse photos appears as a faint gankyil wheel in deep space. Galaxies rotate as do most things out there, but not so you’d never notice.

Chariots were mankind’s first 2 wheeled conveyance. Auriga’s diamond shape and pair of wheels were adapted to buggies, carriages, carts, and eventually Draisienne dandy horses from which modern bicycles emerged. Chariot in tarot represents motivation, movement, and unification of working parts with a goal of starting anew. It’s also the tradename of a bicycle trailer. Expert woodcut (shown) by renowned printmaker Mark Sisson, art professor at Oklahoma State University, “Deals with the battle between small ‘specialized’ bike shops (the bike messenger as constellation figure Auriga), and mega-box stores (represented by my dog [wearing the store branded collar] nipping at the messenger’s heels).”

Libra Cycle is a current Indian brand specializing in juvenile bicycles. For German maker Tyrell it’s a current bike model. Libra represents balance, fairness, focus, honesty and trust, practices that especially serve two wheelers. To weigh 2 sides of any issue speaks to ambivalence bicyclists often express. Virgo Goddess Dike snatched the scales from Scorpio’s claw. Gliese 581 in Libra has been confirmed to possess a planetary system, possibly with at least one planet that would support life as you’d know it. Who are the people in your celestial neighborhood?

Canis Major (Big Dog) could also be of concern to cyclists. Onza make a Canis MTB tire whose treads offer, “Both the ferocity of a wolf and reliability of your neighbor’s dog.” If more people rode bikes instead of drove, you might be able to see stars again. During one late ride on a small island well off coast of New England was amazed to trace Milky Way, which seemed close enough to touch with sky unpolluted by exhaust fumes and street lights. Carbon emissions also induce cloud cover as planet heats up and water evaporates into atmosphere. Do miss watching meteor showers, which appear to radiate from a particular constellation on a predictable evening, really where the earth returns after orbiting sun for a year and swings by to again intercept particles from a comet’s decayed tail.

It’s wasn’t only heroes, kings, mighty beasts, and titans who were immortalized in constellations, but lowly fish, fly, lizard and tools, such as compass, easel, and scales. No celebrated cultural icon, modern head of state, or sports champion ever merited this supreme honor, not even Lord Byron, who, inspired by planet Jupiter, misidentified it as a star. Nothing any human might henceforth do would elevate that person into heavens, unless one fain pays to have some distant star unofficially and willingly named for her or him. Instead of sensible scientific conventions, constellations should be seen as a haphazard collections of points forming regions with blurry borders. Ancient Chinese divisions into equal mansions formed maps that resembled spoked wheels for a system far more exact. Perhaps it’s too late to divest space of its literary baggage.

Glory days of evangelization and grand gestures are gone. These days one probably won’t write best or longest pieces when nobody shows the least interest. True, some babble all day or mumble to themselves for hours, even aloud. But to compose, edit, proof and publish seem either compulsive or sociopathic when there's no audience, client or encouragement. One can write to right wrongs, satisfy self, or sharpen skills, but what becomes of it? Such outputs are neither profitable nor safe. Entire novels have been tossed onto fires to avoid consequences of honesty, not always the best policy.

It’s neither easy nor important being earnest, at best frowned upon or laughed at. Even after exploring ethics for thousands of pages, can’t expect anyone to treat you fairly, justly, with no malice or self interest. Perhaps, had ethical behaviors been normal over last 3 centuries, scientific and technological progress would have stalled. You can’t experiment with dangerous forces without risking lives. Earthlings just began their probings of extraterrestrial frontiers and what they’ve been exposing amazes. You’d think sorting out meaning from human genome, microscopic universe, planetary constituents, and vastness of space would motivate and satisfy without petty racism, political ambition, and state greatness. Small minds seek immediate gratification. The future belongs to those who prepare.

"I felt troubled-and would fain / I had not left my recent chain; And when I did descend again / Darkness... fell on me as a heavy load... too much opprest / Had almost need of such a rest... In quiet we had learn'd to dwell / My very chains and I grew friends... I regained my freedom with a sigh."—Lord Byron, The Prisoner of Chillon

Monday, September 4, 2017

Think Distrain

Now for the rest of the story: Will it cast a pall over your holiday celebration? Some have little to celebrate this weekend with work cut out for them by natural disasters. Why not laugh at how commentators characterize events? Take the so called British rock invasion. American blues and jazz invaded England decades earlier. It was just a rehash that gathered a stash, whereas those from whom they stole got squat. This substance and sum of how society acts towards those who produce floats to surface when floods crest.

Corporations profit from every catastrophe. Earthquakes, hurricanes, such as Harvey, and tornados fill cashboxes of building materials and durable good manufacturers, retailers and suppliers. Charities scurry to collect alms; directors pay out 10% to those they said they would and pocket 90%. Merchants gouge customers on basic necessities made scarce. Oil refiners pass along loss of windfall profits when they shut down Gulf Coast operations; they suffered no real decline, just decided it’s an excuse to stick it to you.

The fact that all or some of this is flagrantly illegal seems to mean little. Governments could distrain, i.e., seize, money, products or property should they decide it’s in citizens’ best interest. You’ll never see a penny of it. Being in business entails a social contract to provide high quality and serve everybody’s needs, especially during debacles, which intensify deprivation and hardship. Don’t count on it. Bicyclists and citizens always get the least consideration.

Single biggest expense facing corporations is workforce compensation. One day a year they supposedly honor employees with a holiday, that is to say, “Stay home, we don’t want to see your contemptible face today.” Once that meant 1 of 10 annual paid days off. Lately, contractors and temps make up nearly half of staff, and they don’t enjoy any such bonus.

With no benefits or sick days, contingent workers will come in even though they are ill because they can't afford to take time off. They spread disease and thereby reduce productivity and timely response to next business emergency. Bean counters don't care, have no algorithm that accounts for this fare. Explains why more direct employees rather work from home: To avoid cold and flu contagion. Companies complain they can’t afford direct employment because they have to pay insurance premiums for frivolous lawsuits, health maintenance, and workmen’s compensation. Layoffs mean severance costs. Contract workers can be let go cheaply and easily based on forecast inadequacy.

While labor turns out whatever makes life livable, not everything qualifies. Would like to sue mills that weave socks. Socks top polls for worst gift to get. Got on Christmas as a kid and hated them. In some cultures socks signify disrespect; giver "walks" over recipient. Nonprofits collect and distribute shoes and socks to hapless untouchables unworthy of notice, though socks may now be trending as a fashion accessory.

Socks can be inimical by restricting circulation to feet almost as well as tourniquets. They don’t come in sizes you’d want: 6 to 12 is only good for 8, not full range, when just about any other article of clothing comes in S, M, L and XL. For a bicyclist, whose ankles are enlarged and muscular, tightness causes soles to burn and promotes blood clots, evidence enough to bring specious suits for wrongful deaths. Dead don't gripe, never mind hire lawyers. Yet socks can be a key to comfort. Lance Armstrong and NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt even argued over them. Cleats would rub feet raw without. Proof can be seen in fabric wear at heal and toe. Why do you think infants instinctively kick off shoes?

Gravitated to footies, which have no ankle rise and rate among best selling stock, though fall and winter rides require more insulation against cold. Too bad too tight calf, crew, and knee highs are out, as they could protect ankles or replace leggings for united utility. Cotton, too, because it retains moisture. Only olefin (alkene hydrocarbon), polyester, polyester blends, and wool will do. Unfortunately, choices other than cotton causes lingering rashes or unspecified dermatitis. Polyester pills and wool smells. Wear finest silk or merino wool, but promptly remove. Let feet dry uncovered as much as possible.

Those who promote benefits and joys of biking underemphasize its discomforts and hazards. Biking is an earthy, risky, sweaty uncertainty. Driving is a cozy, dirty, lazy luxury. Yet either remains a personal choice. Would biking help Texans get back on their feet? Biking gives them a break from fractioning and hauling crude, though buying fuel sends cash their way even if only a few employ payees or stash proceeds. Bikes, busses, taxis and trains cost less per trip than own/rental car, but people rather withstand indebted servitude for automotive privacy. Busses and taxis have seats that get occupied by different asses, but how is that different from roads that indiscriminately carry anyone. Personal vehicles don’t place owners on pedestals above rest of planetary inhabitants. Panhandlers approach drivers as if they were spendthrift philanthropists, not an entirely wrong assumption.

Easy to be optimistic when you have a long life ahead. By your mid-sixties, all you anticipate is your next meal and wonder whether you'll digest it well. Vitality is what time wants to steal. You age better if you exert yourself, but effort exacts its price in chronic aches and pains. Fun can be had anywhere, but same old scenery becomes wearisome. The more you explore, the farther you have to go to see anything new. By the time you retire, you can't afford and don't want to travel anymore. Motivation wanes.

In the cosmic scheme your comfort means nothing. Trolls automatically assume whatever stance you reject, live to argue, and suck energy from angst as if psychic vampires. Why shouldn’t have-nots be jealous of affluent people? Granted strength or wealth, recipients have a duty to drag along the stricken and weak. Humans are born to hunger, pain, unrequited desires, and want of necessities. Either they meet challenges or suffer. Because they aren’t organized, distrain of offender assets divided equally among victims seldom occurs to them.

Capitalism looks worse every time culprits get away with cheats and fakes, and communism secures increasing appeal. However, one ought to benefit from own efforts, especially when they serve community. Wage earners deserve better but don’t financially thrive, since they pay majority of taxes, which policy makers take and waste. Private citizens and sports stars feel forced to shoulder burden of relief after FEMA cutbacks. So the cycle of get and lose continues to cause want and transfer wealth to least deserving.