Saturday, March 24, 2018

You’s A Captain

In cult classic, Vietnam War era film Easy Rider, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) rides a chrome sparkled, star spangled chopper. Both he and motorcycle are nicknamed Captain America. This harks back to Jack Kirby’s comic book character (debuted March, 1941), who began in Brooklyn as abused candy-ass Steve Rogers to become colossal as USA’s captain, champion of freedom against tyranny with a singular obsession enabled by top secret steroids, a la antihero Lance Armstrong. Kirby received death threats for opposing Nazis before nation’s involvement in WWII; when premier issue featured Cap socking Hitler, cartoon offices were picketed and vandalized by splinter group goons. Democratic majority praised and purchased copies in droves.

A gulf exits between patriotic devotion and undeserving administration with no clue as to what that means. Soldiers lay down their lives for ingrates who don’t value their sacrifice; back from Nam, they were noticeably reviled, spit upon, when nationalism, Nixon, and noxious warhawks in congress were responsible. Sometimes powerful states need to mind their own business, not violate sovereignty because of misguided vanity, really an excuse to make a small cadre a disgusting mound of money.

In Easy Rider, fireside rap under glittering desert skies hears George (Jack Nicholson) foreshadow, “This used to be a hell of a good country, I can’t understand what’s going on with it… What you [hippie bikers] represent to them is freedom… Talking about and being it are two different things… Oh yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it's gonna scare ‘em." Billy (Dennis Hopper): “Mmmm, well, that don't make 'em runnin' scared.” George: “No, it makes 'em dangerous.” Billy, George and Wyatt all wind up dead because of this stranger danger with typical reactionary hate.

According to Marvel Comics, fictional Captain America was born on 04 July 1918. He did spend 70 years frozen after an Arctic crash and was revived in 2008, coincidently with publication of Bike&Chain, then recruited as the first Avenger, though was already the original in suspended animation. In his 90th year girlfriend Sharon Carter, under sway of nemesis Red Skull, attempted to assassinate him, only he was sent into another dimension and subsequently resurrected as head of SHIELD, where Cap will celebrate his 100th birthday this summer still defending liberty by wielding his vibranium buckler embossed with a central star and tricolor circles. After storyline controversially strayed through an affiliation with evil, Cap has a renewed fanbase. Hail Hydra… heinous nonsense! Congress today stinks of same red skullduggery and treasonous treachery. Corruption not only exhibits a bad example and sends wrong message, it steals your future and undermines security for the most vulnerable.

Among holidays, Labann not only favors the Fourth, but many summers ago rode his own Captain America bike on Independence Day, as depicted in Companion Reader, “Ever Was” (March 3, 2010). Easy Rider was an enormous influence, since it instilled a distrust of capitalism and lifelong inquiry into freedom and responsibility, fork in life’s road, mutually opposed paths, and thematic metaphor of Bike&Chain. So, blessing or curse, Captain America personally aligns with own notion of bicycling culture, though character racing about righting wrongs would likely be depicted on a motorcycle or jet, perhaps powered by alien cube or environmentally clean energy.

The very term has many bicycling associations: Tandem Captain, Team Captain, Wheelmen Captains who organized local clubs and meets over a century ago. Athletes might represent nation by wearing a Captain America skinsuit. Stem Captains can be retrofit onto bikes to present conspicuously clocks, compasses, thermometers, even tiny Captain America decorative shields, though made of aluminum, not imaginary vibranium, which absorbs all shock and is allegedly indestructible, so overkill for a small round spot atop handlebars.

Captain Gerard’s folding bike, among first practical examples, was adopted by French army in WWI. Gerard had an idea, but needed clever engineers to realize and Cycles Peugeot to manufacture, and publicized as his own, so promoted himself into an actual captain’s commission. Peugeot’s factory team won more Tour de France races, 10, than any other sponsor. As late as 1955, they produced more bicycles per year, 220,000, than cars, having by then just reached 100,000th to date. Interest in bikes steadily declined in decade before 1970’s boom. Fairdale bike brand was allegedly named after Captain James Alibaster Fairdale, who doggedly but unsuccessfully attempted to cross Arctic ice shield and reach North Pole by bicycle. Billy, George and Wyatt barely crossed America’s comparatively balmy winter Southwest en route in reverse to New Orleans, only to be beaten savagely and gunned down on the road to freedom.

As popular and relevant today as ever, Captain America wouldn’t be rallying for MAGA. You can be sure that proponents aren't sincere in Making America Great Again since they exclude segments of population and pit one group against another, not promote social justice, wage equality, or women’s rights. Any political vision within which all can’t thrive can’t be trusted by anyone. Even if you benefit at first, you’ll be next to fall when winds shift.

Should be no need to recount The 4 Freedoms: from tyranny and want, of religion and speech. Nowhere on earth are these baseline ideals fully advocated and enforced. Sacred by United Nations sanction, entire world needs to attend their application and protection, differentiate between affirmative action and insincere mention. Advice arrives via motives of authority and avarice. Acquiescing, you’ll give up while weaklings steal your vitality, take what’s yours, and walk all over you. A lone hero arranging own deal, incessantly training for inevitable battle, will forever hold appeal though nothing but an ephemeral illusion fostered by moments of fame for both do-gooders and public menaces alike. Freedom can only be secured through cooperation built on mutual trust, not negligent allegiance.

Related songs include Captain America by Jimmy Buffet, Grand Funk Railroad’s biggest hit I’m Your Captain, beloved by disillusioned, homesick Vietnam vets, and Ride Captain Ride by one hit wonder Blues Image, which could almost be a bicycling tune after avid cyclist Trey Anastasio with Phish covered. Each beats cornball Star Spangled Man with a Plan, meant to imitate 1930’s Broadway show tunes centenarian centurion Steve Rogers might remember as a teen.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Full of Frangipane

Formal Latin was the main written language in western civilization up to beginning of last millennium, then various vulgate works gradually emerged. No mystery that many literary terms come from Italy with such important poets in Dante, Horace, Ovid, Petrarch and Virgil, though they all were influenced by Homeric Greek, from which bulk of poetic glossary arose. Italian language provided anaphora, Ars Poetica, chiasmus, dactyl, decorum, futurism, persona, sonnet, stanza, terza rima, and volta. Romans also spread pastry confections common around Mediterranean since antiquity, none so perennial or ubiquitous in late winter as zeppole (Bignè di San Giuseppe) consisting of a baked or fried ball of dough filled with boiled cream, custard, or frangipane, a mixture of almonds, butter, eggs and sugar named after “frangere il pane” (trans., "that breaks bread") or Italian renaissance perfume inventor Marquis Frangipani, who may or may not be mythical.

Poetry reaches a higher level of expression than simple narration because its rules and styles force authors to carefully consider and construct what they want to say. This leads to such oddities as double entendres, facades of truth, and statements with depth of meaning. Suffice to say a great poet uses sound waves to pluck your heart strings and shape your sensibilities as if an ultrasonic weapon. Society venerates poets above scientists. Novelists concoct thinly veiled tales about acquaintances and family, who they exploit, insult, and oust.

Labann spent an entire, enviable, paid career contributing to improvements and imparting weighty facts, so does know perfectly well how to avoid ambiguities. But book and blog sought balance by exploring what opposes clarity and whether readers consider it ethical to do so. Most don't value logical facts or straightforward truth. Some even believe simplicity belongs under banner of metaphysics. Science does exhibit elegance: energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared. More often branches of science form a confusing, dangerous tangle resulting from narrow minded neglect and next generation incompetence.

You can’t cogently comment on anything unless you understand all aspects of it, its history, how it works, what it’s comprised of, whence it was derived, to whom it applies, or who keeps it going and why. A devote billion prefer fish on Fridays during Lent, since symbol of Christianity was once a fish, not cross. Information traffic won’t help you conveniently get through issues, just the opposite, raises blockades and stifles progress. Without, you might as well be running around dangerously carrying razors and scissors, though that amuses those who dominate, so will never be prohibited. When you expose such corruption, however, you’re branded as a heretic, or it’s equivalent in a godless realm, a nobody, or, under Trump, a loser.

Tim Keider opined in New York Times that writing suffers from, “…a side effect of our information economy, in which ‘paying for things’ is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom.” Open source published, as was Bike&Chain in 2008, probably flags either couldn’t be bothered pleasing or not worth purchasing. Neither proves it’s inferior or unimportant, only free, atypically and completely. Students can lift passages wholesale, though that only exercises newfound skills at cheating, not imaging novel ways to express self that professors were supposed to teach before higher education lost all relevance. Liberal arts once rounded hell bound workers out so well they could see through greed’s spell and ultimately rebel. Readers lately fear any arrangement where they don’t pay an internet access fee to be disappointed, stupefied while mining some sanctioned nugget of wit, and threatened never to duplicate contents under fear of lawsuit.

Talent has no place in today’s society. Reality dabbler Mike Rowe, interviewed yesterday by Fox News, belittled Americans for not submitting to dirty jobs for low pay, a master/slave wet dream of the one-percent to whom Rob Reich says went an inordinate amount of proceeds from industry since Nixon administration and source of social injustice and systemic ills today. They argue there are too many smart, unemployable people; reality proves there aren’t enough. Hawking wasn't irrelevant, represented the best mankind had to offer by defying ALS and lasting 76 years against all odds. Stephen held same post as Sir Issac Newton without knighthood, which he declined in protest against British shortfall in science funding. Blind or impaired, humans never stop dreaming, exploring, pressing ever onward, unless monetary concerns put them in prison cells. Subsidized statesmen and wealthiest individuals demand excellence without duty to pay for it. Why comply?

South Carolina Governor Hank McMaster [even sounds like a scion of slave owners] called teens protesting gunmen killing kids “shameful”. Some hidebound bircher, orthodox, right wing email must have been circulated so response would be uniformly reactionary. Gun control seems like a strange stance for GOP, who already command farmers, hunters, law enforcers, military, and ranchers, the only legitimate weapon users. Why wouldn’t they want to disarm opposition? Only care about campaign contributions, damn mayhem and murder?

There’s not much point to owning handguns and rifles if you spend all your time in a city. Where can you shoot without hitting someone inadvertently within population density? Sure, you can occasionally show up at a rural or suburban range, or stockpile weapons for some hypothetical zombie apocalypse. You could also rent a shotgun whenever urge to subjugate any clay pigeons arises, if ever. Rand Paul can’t condone any nanny state who wants to deny donuts dripping with transfats or interfere with friends frantically stuffing their faces with frangipane filled pastries while preparing for a dystopia of their own making.

“Long and weary my road has been. I was lost in the cities, alone in the hills… Friends and liars, don't wait for me, I'll get on all by myself. I put millions of miles under my heels, and still too close to you I feel. I am not your rolling wheels, I Am the Highway.” Audioslave, Chris Cornell [who died suspiciously in 2017, soon after performing this song in an anti-inaugural protest concert]

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Puttin’ Vitrain

From ash of a particular type of coal called vitrain, optical engineers extract germanium dioxide (GeO2) and put it in with silicon dioxide to produce superior night vision goggle lenses, thus expose secretive doings in the night half way around world. Caught red handed, courses a scoundrel may take are to defect, deflect, demand more, deny, outright lie, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” or plead guilty to being a geopolitical puppet and resign. Why not sell out after sinking personal millions into sketchy Russian investments? Betrayers can survive bitter vitriol, if any. Benedict Arnold, a name synonymous with traitor, got off scot free except for his vile revolutionary legacy.

Nation’s last president and tyrannical successor can be distinguished by one glaring disparity: While the former was grateful to assume such an august role in history, the latter expects such privileges after a lifetime of gratifying self at expense of suckers. After all, casino owners prey on addicts, as do drug dealers, flesh peddlers, and other vampires. Bankers and organized criminals extort small businessmen, who’ve invested family’s future and life savings into job creation. Under Dummy Bush, office of POTUS forfeited power, lost luster, yet presents a potent aphrodisiac for the cognitively impotent. Despite any executive end run, Senate calls shots dictated by gun, oil and sugar lobbies. A lame chief with no mandate upsets no corrupt apple cart. Manly walk and tough talk don’t measure up with what constituents want: effective leadership and public service. Everyone groans over how candidates make promises but renege once elected. Few disclose root causes of a diabetes epidemic, environmental toxicity, or violent civilian deaths. Anyone who does is deemed loser and shouted down.

Apathetic Americans avoid involvement at all costs, settle into some nondescript role, turn their blind eyes away. “What can I do about it, anyway?” This question probably has a thousand answers, some of which Kipchoge Spencer pointed out: Altruistically aid, bargain collectively, boycott bad practices, buy from local producers, picket, protest, and/or ride a bicycle for peace, instead of sling around angry tonnage because you’re told to. The Bicycle Opera Project composed and performed Sweat, which, “Demands better transparency in the fast fashion chain,” deplores a thousand dead in a Bangladesh clothing factory collapse, and supports local sustainable manufacture. This Toronto troop gets around by bike to underscore their commitment. Ground might give way above played out coal mines sometimes. Social justice issues abound when you’re the slightest bit aware.

Easy to perceive what’s wrong, point fingers, and propose options suiting own interests. Netroots underestimate what they’re up against. Billions are spent annually on promoting not only corporate output but sanctioned lifestyles. Most believe they already possess choices and rights, since laws exist to protect communities. They’re often wrong. A war against quality, reliability, safety and value operates in stealth mode, often aided inadvertently by effete opposition. Competition for consumer loyalty has become extinct with lax enforcement of antitrust laws. Billionaires preside over monopolies that tell you what to buy and think. A few makers produce many brands.

You could pay closer attention, perform required analyses, and pinpoint sources, but you'll waste a lot of time deriving what you already know about heartless narcissists in office rigging game, so why torture yourself? As a result of incessant conditioning and lack of caring whether anyone earns a wage, those who can’t participate might buy assault weapons and kill easy targets, since they can’t access their real enemies or comprehend who they are. Confusion, doubts, rivals, sheiks, stockholders, warlords?

Enough of simplistic explanations, not all corporations contribute to malaise. Some are small, exert negligible influence. Most produce life’s requisites and serve real needs using resources available. Majority just manage to maintain staff, post profits, stay solvent, and undertake thankless drudgery. As always, a few give rest a bad name, but those who silently abide monsters are ultimately to blame.

Worldwide, about 40% of electricity comes from burning coal, none pollution free. Peat represents a pre-lignite carbon fuel, precursor to million year old coal, as plentiful as it is risky to mine, source of Beijing’s and London’s cliché smog and widespread asthma and pneumoconiosis. Many generating plants stateside were built new or converted to burning methane, which doesn't create as much atmospheric CO2 and particulates. Some deride solar arrays and wind farms as tax credit boondoggles, though they do harvest energy cleanly by comparison, so warrant subsidies. Ironically, China suffers the worse smog, but supplies the most solar panels. A layer of GeO2 improves solar cell efficiency.

Clean coal technology has yet to be proven on a large scale, rather results in acid rain and, ironically, atmospheric cooling due to sulphur dioxide emissions, which increase fish kill, groundwater and lake acidity, and related problems. Current coal fired electric plants also account for 3% of carbon dioxide buildup and add to greenhouse effect. Weather wherever you are began elsewhere; what you personally do to reduce carbon footprint won’t slow hurricane or tornado winds from wiping you out. It’s almost like policy makers figure sulphur effects kick global warming down the road, something they’ve routinely done with budgets concerns. Print more money, by all means, because taxpayers are gluttons for punishing debt and hardly care if next generation inherits annihilation.

Senator Don Coram (R) of Colorado introduced a state bill to ban coal rolling, that is, expelling (usually diesel) vehicle exhaust so as to obscure vision of another driver, any bicyclist, or nearby pedestrians, awaiting addition to volumes of unenforceable laws, though all but motorist inconvenience seems a conservative afterthought. Though unrelated to coal itself, name was based on dense smoke it belches, through which bicyclist/filmmaker Elisabeth Reinkordt coughed, “Someone with a motorized weapon wanted to prove their dominance over me,” thereby rankling cagers. How is such rudeness not a form of rape? Wallahs in East India desperate for rupees load up bicycles and push bags of stolen coal to market. Any talk of choosing coal energy over clean sources represents a last resort and step backward. Or is it more evidence of civilization unraveling? Destination unknown, nobody seems to know how to conduct trek without harm or waste.

With Daylight Savings springing ahead on Sunday upcoming, this nonsensical practice, specifically begun to conserve coal, celebrates its 100th anniversary. Numerous studies conclude twice yearly switches disrupt transportation, heighten risks of heart attacks and strokes, hike crime rate, impact circadian rhythm, increase bicyclist and pedestrian accidents, and shift depressive episodes and suicides into high gear. One thing it doesn’t do is save energy. Had gotten comfortable with biking to work in daylight, but will have to flex to a later hour. Clocks everywhere ought to read whatever time it is along the neutral international date line in the middle of Pacific Ocean; mankind could then acclimatize and standardize.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Peat by Slane

You cut no chill on a treeless moor if you don’t slice peat in previous Spring with a slane, a flat short spade with or without wings designed to form combustible bricks out of compressed swamp muck, something of a last resort when you've depleted forest. Stoves usually burn equivalent sawn and split wood, which has become a costly commodity, unless you happen to own a wooded lot. Unlike coal or crude oil formed over eons, peat and wood are slowly renewable resources, just plant and wait a few centuries. Plentiful garbage and sewerage are easier to recycle, but would incur costs nobody wants. They'd rather destroy neighborhoods with fracking and refining what little is left of petroleum.

Hypothetically, anything from which you can release energy, including pedaling, can be converted to or stored as electricity, which, thanks to Edison, Tesla, et. al., can be harnessed to handle almost any task effectively. This rates high among history’s most amazing developments, a billion people cooperating toward an energy policy and labor savings. People gathering resources and providing services made it all possible. You’d think such impressive results would inspire individuals to cooperate all the more. But you can never rely on just one technology. For example, reliance on oil will end catastrophically. Electricity uses precious metals on cusp of shortfall. Cheats, egomaniacs and opportunists negate enthusiasm.

Colleges confer higher degrees upon whoever endows or pays. Doesn’t guarantee intelligence. Among other stupid practices, companies make it almost impossible to deal with them. You may dread going to a dentist, yet it’s still preferable to dealing with cable providers, energy utilities, government agencies, insurance underwriters, or other monopolies. You immediately seek out any alternative. Restaurants and Starbucks dole out decreasing points for shrinking rewards, so it’s no longer worth the effort and resentment sends you to honest competitors. A local roaster offers a free cup of coffee with a pound purchase, not some snarky lure that takes 25 or more purchases to earn one over course of a year with points expiring before you can collect. Neither savvy nor shrewd suggest smart. Quite the opposite, only mutual benefit and resource preservation instill trust and make life better. Greedy profit motives collectively doom everyone, drive majority crazy, and foster domestic terrorism.

Luxury car dealers love drug dealers. For both bling is their thing, not communal sharing. Every year drug users, who nationwide number over a hundred million, nearly half as many as motorists (120 versus 220), die due to over/wrong doses, 7 times as often as crash casualties, nearly one user per hundred versus one driver in seven hundred. Such fatalities generally fall into categories of cardiovascular collapse or suicide. It confirms that taking drugs rates among the riskiest of behaviors, though doping and driving are extremely popular and aren’t mutually exclusive. Yet pharmaceuticals designed to increase alertness or protect heart may actually avoid as many accidents and they cause, not so opioids and painkillers proscribed when operating heavy equipment with inherent bone-crushing momentum.

The least liked and most avoided activity is digging through detail and hype hoping to discover what’s crucial to you. Most fail to see how interconnected everything can be and what happens elsewhere when something nearby gets nudged. Butterfly Effect does occur, but so does Pareto Analysis to dismiss marginal and focus on major influences. Filtering out irrelevant distractions has always been a key to efficiency. Boldface lies, false conclusions, selfish opinions, and smoke screens supplant steady science. Between incessant change and swift pace, there isn’t enough time these days to make informed decisions. Unqualified to try, people let others choose and suffer consequences of being exploited by charlatans, cons, experts, frauds, and scammers. Note how “fast” describes both loyal pals and unfaithful women. Trust is hard to bestow. If trade seems good, go with quid pro quo, though it's too easy to donate possessions and sacrifice life pointlessly. Coalitions seldom last, plans don’t always meet forecast, so you must sometimes go with the flow.

Despite cycling season on horizon, this misanthrope no longer arranges meets, joins cyclists who vary pace, paints arrows at turns, repairs bikes, socializes nicely, or warms to whatnot revolving around riding with others. In a society potentially connected as never before, corporations condition you to choose solitude because it leaves you vulnerable to expenses and inconveniences from which they profit. However, Labann’s decision to abstain more has to do with lapses in etiquette. For those who might consider group riding:
—Assess own handling skills and health fitness before imposing a burden.
—Be prepared, bike repaired, bring spare tubes and tools specific to your equipment.
—Beware of poorly designed routes with unanticipated hazards.
—Control your descents, stay single file, tap brakes before you straddle leading wheel.
—Cross together at stop lights or signs; otherwise follow traffic code and occupy right third of lane.
—Employ hand signs: going left, letting pass, right turning, stopping (left hand extended, waving, held up, or held down, respectively), and watch out below (left or right hand circling and pointing downward)… nice to be warned of glass, grates and potholes when you can’t see through cyclist directly ahead.
—Expect certain meets to represent no-drop, stay together rambles, versus cutthroat races, self-paced cruises, or solo challenges. You forfeit commitment if you don’t stick with posse with whom you arrived.
—Maintain separation downhill; merge again at bottom.
—Remember that cycling can impact judgment, impair senses, loosen tongue.
—Say nothing; nobody wants advice, encouragement, or intimacy, though audible warnings like, “Car back,” or, “Watch out,” might save lives.
—Suspect anyone who’d join you as someone with issues not worth analyzing or overlooking.
—Take your turn at head of paceline; tow trailers into headwinds, not totally suck slipstream all day.

Some blog entries seem better than others. Insights often pass faster than one can capture. Making every effort to avoid, sometimes nevertheless repeat self. Stuff happens despite best intentions. Authors parade details then tie up disparities at the end, thus hold attention for as long as possible. Readers expect to ignore journey and jump to conclusion, thus save time for pleasure. Bicyclists understand destinations don't matter, it's the ride itself. Truth never changes, rears its head whenever it wants, remains forever the same, unlike leaders, nations, religions or terrains. Earth will eventually restore itself, but humans can’t wait that long. Only good stewardship that resists global despoilment will save mankind from extinction. When settlers first clambered through Franconia Notch and noticed The Great Stone Face, they expected it to be eternal. Motorists once drove for hours to get a glimpse of it perched high above; later bicyclists, self included, slogged up a twisty bike path. Yet just a few hundred years later it collapsed. Automotive pollution? All mountains fall down to the sea eventually for reasons you don’t know fully. Truth outlasts everything.

Deceivers run and ruin everything for deluded masses who think a vote equals democracy. Grass roots stumpers vying for offices cut turf, by which they mean plotting campaign routes for door-to-door canvassers. Slaning peat is a cultural artifact reoccurring each May, bicycle month. Cut turf, keep a straight face, or sod off. Takes teamwork: bunker peels back overburden, diggers both apply slanes, hanker transfers deep cuts upward, loader fills barrow, while wheeler pushes barrow to stackers. For the personal purpose of reducing worker wages, billionaire brothers funded an individual's case before Supreme Court long since settled that would deny closed union shops. Greed left unchecked would assuredly increase social injustice and wealth inequality. Yet unions have lost all credibility after milking paychecks for decades and securing no new benefits, which caused membership to shrink from 35% to 5% of workforce. Forget unions, what's at stake is collective bargaining upon which middle class is founded.

If you put in requisite effort and raise right questions, you can drain quagmires that liars create, thus a little warmth generate. This desperate harvest of peat merits contemplation. Wonder whether whiskey distillers in a Slane stable or World’s Friendliest Bike Shop would approve.

“I wonder, if everything could ever feel this real forever, if anything could ever be this good again. The only thing I'll ever ask of you, you’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when.” David Grohl, Foo Fighters, Everlong (about overdose victim Kurt Cobain, performed live at Slane Castle and when David Letterman returned to Late Night after heart bypass surgery)