Friday, December 25, 2015

Riding in a Clear December Light

When the light catches the shiny stem just right...

The light around the winter solstice on a fine day can seem clear and pure. Refracted and reflected through falling water, it can seem positively diamond-like. With a brain still shaking off the last vestiges of a rampaging caffeine dependency--I quit drinking coffee about two weeks back--the heightened awareness and quiet streets can hit the senses with a quiet of unusual intensity. 

Wait, I quit drinking coffee? Yes, I fear my short but glory-filled coffeeneuring days are done. For I had become a coffee guzzler, a caffeine hound, and reached the point where the diminishing benefits gained from caffeine where outweighed by the fuzzy, anxious, tense, tired feeling that seemed to be increasing for the last few months. Also, the mass quantities I consumed during the day were affecting my sleep patterns at night no matter what time I cut it off. It was necessary to stop.

But my, my, caffeine cessation cold turkey is harder than it sounds. And took longer than expected. I decided to blunt the edges with one or two cups of green tea in the morning. Compared to what I was consuming, though, that's nothing, and the first three or four days were headachy and slightly sleepy (less than I expected, though). But I feel better, and most importantly, I'm sleeping MUCH better, which is huge.

Arizona Falls water splashing on my Selle Anatomica saddle. That beeswax saddle stuff does a good job.

I don't think coffee itself is bad. In moderation, or less, it's probably fine. but I had greatly exceeded moderation. Your mileage may vary. Plus, much of what I was drinking was that horrible work coffee, the type in the mystery bags, from the mass supplier brand, of unknown origin, which in itself is no doubt a bad thing to do to oneself. I wonder what percentage of that was actually even coffee.

I quit once before, twenty years ago I guess, for a short time. I remember feeling clearer after quitting. Perhaps it's the  years, the age thing, but that feeling is slower returning this time. It's there, I can see it in the distance, that opposite of over-caffeinated feeling. A quiet bike ride on a clear December afternoon kind of feeling.

I think I'm going to try meditation, next. Have fun, and peace, out there, friends.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Unreal Real Sunset

More or less actual color

The raging sunset caused me to pause beside the path on my Friday evening commute. Typically, the colors experienced in these moments turn out differently in/out the camera, but in this case, I think it caught the fiery flare pretty well. I just stood a moment, and listened to the water's flow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Crazy for Clouds, the Cyclist's View

Just riding along when the clouds caught my attention...

The more I looked, the more I couldn't stop looking

The setting sun kept changing the lighting and the clouds reacted accordingly

Lens and camera can't really capture it, but riding on my bike, I can experience it, at length.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bridging Moments

Mill Avenue Bridge (1931), Tempe, AZ

I rode the exact same route two days in a row because the weather was so fine and the sitting beside the lake so peaceful. To sit here a moment and gaze at the bridge and its reflections on a warm November afternoon was bliss itself. Not a long sit, ten minutes only, perhaps, but ten minutes of solitude with the water and light. 

I know I've mentioned it before--the magic of the late afternoon light in November. It made the substance of this bridge glow. Pure rays of it flowed around me, hit and lit the creamy bridge. Nearby a family played on the sculpture while dad laid back and stared at the blue sky. A super-fit young woman ran back and forth across the grass, full of oxygen life fueling her muscles and glad to be in the moment of exertion, of power, of life itself graced by a feeling of unendingness even while facing the signs of ending: Autumn, a river stopped briefly in a lake, a lake stopped briefly by a dam, the dam itself being replaced by another just downstream since it did not hold up as expected, jetplanes roaring in lines overhead to land, falling water in sheets by the Tempe Center for the Arts running like time itself down reflective walls shining sky and now. 

Her breathing deep and strong but not labored. Steady, a heart rate at heart, wind at her back in every direction, she stops and the universe wheels into a water bottle that could make the Milky Way vortex overhead. Head down, run another sprint. How quiet it should be, to hear feet hit grass as she ran back and forth?

So many hot summer days

So many hot summer days I've ridden past the splash pad and wondered what a bike standing against it would look like. This day the splash pad was quiet of munchkins, but water running, so I parked a moment in the creamy low light, cast shadows long, and paused to think on it. Not on the slash pad exactly, but on the moments which have danced and vanished on its surface. Like shadows, no as shadows have played, so have the countless children and moms (mostly), shrieking in the cold showers, the droplets breaking from the streams and arcing between nozzle and pavement. A place that bridges these moments into days that run into winter.

Not that winter

Not that winter ever arrives here, not really. This warm November afternoon proves that triviality, even as this splash pad proves that moments bridged in a low slanting light sound like a shower of rain hitting pavement beneath steel palm trees and bent arrows or paddles. 

I rode the exact same route two days in a row. The TCT, the tri-city tour, down paths and lanes with a few other cyclists. To sit a moment beside water.  Tilted my head back, inhaled a deep mindful breath, imagined kindness, love, and understanding. 

The light looked like that timeless relaxed being I sought, but did I? It may have looked more like I was on a mission, some kind of fitness-driven time trial, pedaling down the path, like I was racing a heart rate or a pulse ox measurement, a personal best. I may have projected what I did not wish. 

What I wished was some grace-moment, some connection, some hopeful, idealistic exhale with my eyes to the sky. The kind young woman on the bike who told me to go ahead: was that because I seemed in a rush? But where would I rush to? What time would I be trying to beat? What could possibly be more important than a moment on the corner, waiting for the light, a moment at the intersection of before and after? 

A bright enough light will sizzle it all away. Like on Venus. All flesh is grass. Greenhouse. Every metal less than steel melting in relentless rays. Not this winter, though, not this gentle November light. My next exhale hits the splash pad like a shower of cold water on a summer afternoon, and in my center I shriek joyfully for this moment, anyway. A bridge I can cross on two successive days on the same bike to the same place, but different ways. "Only connect!" written in large letters across the bridge, reflecting glowing in the warm light. Each breath, the universe wheeling at the same speed as my bike.

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."-- "Howard's End", EM Forster

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Cars in a Vivid Light

Little cars in a Grand Prix made me think...

The November afternoon light was low and sharp. The sun's low slanting beams cast long shadows, illuminating the scene with vivid clarity.

They erected separate infrastructure for the safety of the small cars. Some controversy erupted around the requirement to wear helmets, as the studies on their efficacy were equivocal. But, as more cars joined in the pack traveling within the cocoon of subjective safety shooting from the rear silk spinner of the mother caterpillar of the encouragement butterfly, the drivers appeared to relax into their assigned roles, driving more boldly from point back to the same point.

Originally, there had been suggestions that the tiny cars would be driven on the streets, in a lane delineated with paint, or perhaps by sharing lanes with the full-sized cars. But fears of being overtaken, of being outmuscled, or just unseen in the tide of cellphone wielding SUVs led to the separate track being mandated. The helmets remained.

Round and round they go

In a vivid November light, I rode the fixed flatland commuter project bike for an easy Saturday afternoon spin, and glimpsed the future. Little car hobbyists and their followers, gathered on a beautiful Fall afternoon to celebrate with nostalgia the day of the internal combustion engine motorcar. Round and round they go, inside walls built just for them, keeping them safe, encouraging drivers to enjoy the space set aside specially for their unique, vanishing hobby.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

50 Fishing Rods Not For Fishing

Spotted next to the bike path: boxes of 50 fishing rods (Scottsdale Public Art)

These boxes of 50 fishing rods sitting next to the canal are not for fishing. They are for assembling into floating artworks called "Bloom" by Bruce Munro in the canal along the Scottsdale Waterfront. Now that's settled, the bike commute can continue on its normal schedule

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I Avoid Cars

For paths and trails away from the noise and power of cars

Some rides, I set out to avoid cars. To evade the noise, the grinding, the stopping and starting, the glare of the sun off the glass, the glint of metal, the rushing to the red light, the cut-offs, the inattention, the constant unacknowledged nearness of the possibility of death and mayhem. Some rides, I just want to spin along in a peaceful bike revery. It's not typical, it's not commuting, it's what I seek when I want quiet and calm.

When I set the bike down on the grass to rest a moment, this was the spot. The dull drone of traffic was still audible from across the way, but here, it was just me, the ducks, the quiet, and a few passing cyclists on the path. 

I don't mind commuting with traffic. Through it, across it, with it, in it. Even seeking out back streets and quieter routes, commuting several miles through Phoenix is going to involve engagement with traffic. So I ride defensively and alertly, studiously observe the traffic laws, take every intersection as if someone is going to run the light and have the chance to kill me. I try to stay reasonable in each encounter, for example, not standing hard and fast on the rule that I won't ride ahead through a traffic circle when a driver stops in the middle of their circuit to wave me through when they see me waiting: on the one hand, it's not a safe or normal operation of a traffic circle to do that, but on the other hand, it's a nice gesture and I don't want to seem like a jerk. This happened to me twice in one day on Friday, and I took it both times. They see me waiting at the yield line, stopped in the circle and waved me through, and although it runs directly against my "You're not doing it right" reaction, it's a sweet and humanizing gesture, so I waved back and rode ahead.

But sometimes, particularly on relaxing non-commute rides, I avoid cars. With a purpose. To get away from all that riding a bicycle around traffic involves. Even if I am OK with traffic, I can't say that I feel that riding in, through, across and around it for hours is my first choice. My first choice, when the option is open and I follow my bicycling heart, is something like the photo above, quiet paths around still lakes with trees and ducks.

Indian School Road in Scottsdale has a bike lane and stoplights. The lights are timed such that on a Saturday morning, in traffic, a determined cyclist can usually stay ahead of the traffic between lights since the bike lane enables passing up to the front of the stopped mass at each light. Timing it right and riding hard, I pack more cars into the mass that builds up behind me. It's fun, kind of, but the best part of the ride begins when I can veer off the bike lane onto the path. The tension slips away, and I just ride.

Indian School Road is just through the trees there to the right

From this spot onwards, it's all path, trees, shade, water and desert, almost, if you're familiar with the area, as far as you could possibly want to ride. By connecting with other paths from here, you can spend the better part of the day in places like the one in the picture above. Even though just before entering the path I passed a Lamborghini close enough to reach out and touch and added it to the mass of cars stopping and starting behind me, which is kind of cool, I prefer the quiet path bike ride life. If it's quiet enough to hear the wingbeats of ducks and herons as they take off from the water's edge, it's quiet enough for me for me to ride far and peacefully on a calm Fall day.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Calling the Whole Enterprise Into Question

The broken Park Tool chain tool with the broken piece in the center

I turned the stout handle on the seemingly well-built chain tool to press out the rivet on a new chain I was installing. I had measured the new chain to match the length of the old, and was cutting it shorter. This was perhaps the fifth or sixth time I used this tool for this purpose. The chain didn't seem to fit over the horns to the right. Since it's an 8 speed chain, I was thinking maybe the fatter chains go over the outer horns to press out rivets. Maybe that's wrong. Because with just a couple of turns, the horn snapped off with a soft little click.

That surprised me. Overall this thing is built very stoutly. Those steel outer shells seem much stronger than they might need to be, for example. You could bang on them with a hammer and nothing would happen. But that little chain horn, it snapped right off. I'm sure there are one or two guarantees or warranties I could take advantage of in response, but honestly, it's not really worth the time it would take to pack it up and ship it somewhere. A) I have another chain tool and B) I definitely don't want another one with horns like this one. Even if you're not supposed to put the chain over the left one to press out rivets. You're also not supposed to bang on those outer shells pieces with a hammer, either, but you could. If/when I buy another one, I'm looking for a design without little fragile horns that break off, even if you line up the chain wrong or try to use it on one rather than the other.

Events like this call the whole enterprise into question, though. If the engineers behind this tool, who must have decades of practical tool engineering added up to make this design, still turn out something that does this, when faced with real world forces and usage, what chance does any of us have when facing the same types of dynamics in our own day-to-day activities? 

This was a systematic fault, where the system consisted of this tool, my hands, the chain mounted on the horn of the tool, and the torque I was exerting on the handle converted into linear pressure against the pin which transferred to the base of the horn and snapped it off. By extension, I suppose, to the makers of the chain, the makers of the tool, the designer(s) of the tool, the steel mill, the miners who dug the ore, the sailors who carried the ore in the ship, the coal miners who mined the coal that made the coke used to make the steel, on and on, all of us in a related system, my muscle power (very little of it, in fact) turning the handle and disappointingly snapping off the horn. The locus of the fault was the base of the horn, the right angle corner where it joined the body, but the factors which met in that moment to press the fault from latency to actuality were vast.

This is one reason why I resist simplistic, scapegoaty answers when stuff like this happens. All those things, all those connected, related, and distant factors, don't convert from latent fault to actual fault on 18 Oct 2015 except by my agency in making it so. Perhaps another time, another place, another person, another chain, also this horn would snap off, but who knows the odds of those potential, non-factual non-actuals?

This one, I just learn from. No more chain tools for me like this one, no more snapping off this type of horn in this type of operation for this or similar reasons. A better, a stronger, a stouter, a different design, will all be in my future chain tool plus chain plus torque systematic meetings. I blame no one for this but me. I want nothing else from this experience but experience. Data to learn from. Future chain horn snappings to avoid, by me, with my particular, peculiar, but my own, combination of movement, force, agency. I don't plan to break any more of these, not like this.

I always carry the old ones, which I noticed are now marked "8SPD" which helps. E2 vs. C2 I need to learn.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You Must Smile at Me, Crazy World

This made me 12% happier to see

I'm reading "10% Happier" by ABC newsman Dan Harris, which I got because it's only $1.99 on Kindle now, but it's selling well and getting good reviews and seems to have the potential to make a difference. Whatever resonant magic the title did inside his head it also does in mine, I think. More importantly, the idea that the most common default mode is reactive aversion, and that we would generally be much better all around if we could change the default to responsive compassion, stuck a deep chord for me.

Once I started observing people to try to understand what their default mode might be, I saw reactive aversion all over the place. Including in myself. Upon making a conscious effort to switch to responsive compassion myself, I noticed the alterations that a different perspective and attitude naturally bring to social interactions. Thanks, Dan Harris. Let's go for a bike ride some time, and talk meditation.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Brooks Cambium Saddle First Impressions: Equipment Hierophanies

Cambium, an exchange, see "cambio"; also the layer of active cells between xylem and phloem 

Things testify*. They give sense and shape to our understanding of the world as embodiment of our projects. Not only do their forms speak (to other humans) of their intended purpose, but also about who made them, and how, with what materials and techniques, and to what end. We imagine what to make, we make what we imagine, then later someone else finds what was made, and imagines what must have been imagined to make such a thing.

Anthropologists and archaeologists find dusty artifacts buried in the ground of long-gone civilizations, and from these artifacts derive the world that was. Or, not the world precisely, but rather the human image of the world as held in the minds of the people who fabricated the found objects. Such is the connection of mind to mind, even across thousands of years, that through studying a few scrapings on a stone, a few carvings on a chunk of wood, a few presses of a stylus into clay, a few dabs of paint on a wall, one might conceive the dreams of someone dead 5000 years ago.

The Brooks Cambium bicycle saddle, if discovered by some future archaeologist with even a hint of understanding of what bicycles were, who rode them, how, and why, will prove the point: it testifies to the project of crafting a fine interface layer between human and machine, one both durable and comfortable, effective yet invisible during its task.

Close-up of the cotton covering, and the torx-secured fastener bearing the model name

In case you haven't already heard the Cambium story, I'll just mention that Brooks wanted to create a saddle not requiring break-in like their traditional leather saddles do. So they came up with this innovative form of cotton and vulcanized rubber with that goal in mind. They are not cheap, with a normal price of around $150, but I've been wanting to get one for a while, and kept my eyes open for any sale or coupon that might help a little. Finally seeing a weekend sale, I bought one**. 

The underside showing the suspended rubber saddle. It all comes apart with a torx driver, if you like.

Out of the box (maybe the finest cardboard saddle box ever made), it seemed firmer that I expected. Solid. Not very giving to a finger press, or hand squeeze. But once mounted, and under my full weight, I got the idea right away. It's not soft, not at all. But it is compliant. It seems to deaden out road rumble, vibration, and roughness, to take out the small continuous bumps. Sidewalk expansion joints almost gone. The cotton cover looks rough but doesn't feel that way. I didn't find undue friction when moving slightly forward or back while riding. In a more upright position, it feels supportive and comfortable. In a lower position, hands on the drops, pedaling hard, the saddle...disappears. These are my initial impressions after a few rides. We'll see how it feels after a few hundred miles.

Adjusting it is interesting. After the first ride, I felt like moving it just a small amount further back would make it better (see photo below). This small adjustment did make a difference, and feels like just the right place to leave it for a while.

I just want to move it back that much

I've often written in this blog of how bicycle riding sometimes seems meditative, uplifting, inspiring. Others have expressed similar thoughts. That potential seems impeded when the bicycle is broken or clunky, contrariwise enhanced when it's operating smoothly and comfortably. The saddle, this key contact point or layer between rider and machine, is a key component that has to be right for the mind to ride to that more open place. 

You ride far and fast to the Cambio, wanting to exchange daily cares and worries for flow and clarity. The girl behind the thick glass wearing an old-fashioned visor counts out the currency, taking out a huge cut, and hands you back a modicum of sacred sight. The shimmering edges of average objects indwelt by the ground of all being become apparent for a few moments, the cosmos and "now" turn inside out are and equally huge. 

My face not far above the stem, my legs pedaling as hard and fast as they can, the sound of even breathing and the slight wavelike rocking side to side. 

This saddle they find one day with the cotton cover well worn and its vulcanized body well used will testify: he rode as one imagining that someone would unearth this saddle one day, in some distant better future in which pure bright hierophanies would be as common as excellent bicycle rides on fine fall afternoons.

*The introductory thought was triggered by some passages in a book by Daniel Boscaljon, "Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in a Secular World". For example, "The second type of testimony offered by things is as signs to the surrounding cultural world; this form of testimony is unique to equipment, and no sense of the world would be possible without the ability of things to embody the projects of humans."

**I paid for this saddle myself and received nothing in return for this post. See my blog disclaimer for more info about that if interested.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Speed Hump

Dateline: Phoenix

For weeks the rumors had been circulating. A major change was coming. The next big thing. Standby, just wait, be patient. It would be worth it. Everything would change. One would mark the time and place when one first heard of it. What came before would be forever separated from what came after. Anticipation built, and then built some more. People gathered in crowds the night before in front yards, around makeshift fires and simmering kettles, sipping beverages and murmuring their theories of what was coming, what it would be like, and how life is changing so fast these days. Several social networks were overwhelmed with hashtags and check-ins and selfies. Rumors of collaborations with famous people who would come and speak about the significance of the occasion circulated. Local news held their opening spots free, sent crews, reserved satellite time to upload footage. Travel itself would be altered, the teasers suggested. Motion formerly restricted to the horizontal plane would elevate in verticality, the philosophers intoned.

After the ribbons were cut, the speeches made, the headlines written and edited, the crowds dispersed, and the "first humpers" drove back and forth across it many times to inaugurate it, only the quiet street with its new prominence remained. A lone cyclist commuter passed, momentarily transfixed by the shock of the new, before riding on to work.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Divertimento with Heat and Happenstance

Transit shelter, bicycle, car repair oasis, and one of the "Happenstance" markers on Scottsdale Road (Artist Tad Savinar)

When I was a kid on road trips with my family, I used to plead, or beg, to stop when I noticed one of those "Historic Marker Ahead" signs. Usually, you have no idea what history they might be marking, way out there wherever it may be. Sometimes we'd stop, sometimes not, pile out of the car, and run over to find out what the CCC built there in 1935, or what the date was when Meriwether Lewis explored the area, and so on.

When I found out that there were some marker-like objects along a auto dealership strewn strip of Scottsdale Road, I had to divert from my normal TCT (Tri-City Tour) path through the green belt over to check them out. Here's a list of them with themes and locations:

Themes and Locations:
Farm to Market: East side of Scottsdale Road, just North of Roosevelt/Continental.
Better Mousetraps: West side of Scottsdale Road, 1/4 block North of Roosevelt/Continental.
Sand and Snow:  East side of Scottsdale Road, South corner of Granada Ave.
Home: East side of Scottsdale Road, South corner of Oak St.
How I Came To Be Here: W side of Scottsdale Rd, Transit Shelter just South of Virginia Ave.
Water Has the Right-of-Way:  East side of Scottsdale Road, South corner of Earll Dr.

Remarkable little "Alice in Wonderland" style of jackrabbit on one of the markers

Riding my bicycle slowly along the sidewalk as the cars rushed by in the road, with the long shiny rows of angry-faced new cars parked in the lots on the other side of me, these markers evoked a strong feeling of the passing of time and the altering of place. Whether it's Rage Cycles moving out of their old location that I passed, or the stores that have gone out of business to be replaced with newer, generally more generic and more national commerce-oriented ventures (an old used book store gone, obliterated, replaced by the march of profits with I don't even remember what).

The heat hasn't quite given up yet in Phoenix--it was over 100°F for this ride--so I didn't see a lot of pedestrians out strolling to read the markers. That accentuated the feeling that these bronze and concrete objects are part of some probably losing battle between humans walking and cars roaring past. You really have to pause, lean in, read these markers, to appreciate them, but to do so is the be noticeably near to the passing roar of many people not doing that. This next one, for example, which has evocative words about the airport, and the Yacqui, and people moving into this area, has a precious little frieze of the rank and file, that you can barely see from the sidewalk, let alone from a car passing at 45 mph.

"How I Came to Be Here" with cyclist reflection

I got a feel of the actual dissonance these markers create when I stopped by the first one, which says, in part, "As you read this you are hearing the sounds of flowing water mingle with the sounds of vehicles passing by on Scottsdale Road. The water that passes below your feet through gate 24 is itself mingling from many sources..." The hot afternoon I visited, water could indeed be heard gushing through gate 24, but the sound wasn't so much mingling with the cacophony of the traffic, but rather murmuring to it unheard by everyone by this random cyclist stopping by to read it closely. Everyone else was too busy going elsewhere fast, not even knowing there was a moment to be had here at this spot.

I know there's a yearning for these moments though. It echoes in my memories of bouncing out of the car to go and look at historic roadside markers. These things are here. Time passes by, but some stories remain, even if the air happens to be so polluted that particular day that you can't quite make out the hole in the rock in the distance any more. These connections stretch out in bicycle time, I'm sure of that. I've felt it, looking at tiny statues of strangers in a line, staring their bronze stares at fleeting flashes of cars speeding by. I breathed, and I swear I detected the faintest wafting of creosote on the breeze, out of time.

Another kind of yearning on Scottsdale Road, another kind of movement that creates a different destiny in its own time.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bicycle Lock Enlightenment Chain

Not the strongest chain in the rack

Lamp chain: not typically associated with bicycles. It took all my willpower not to grab the seat post and pull hard just to see if this wouldn't fall apart under about twenty pounds of force. If tough looking cables yield so easily as we've seen previously, I wonder what kind of resistance this would offer. Not enough, I imagine. Could be time to break out the little yellow public service cards to share locking tips. But this is so extreme, there might be something going on beyond lack of knowledge.

I'd like to leave the video below playing on a loop at the rack to try to raise the general knowledge level about these basic principles. I think locking skewers and having an uglier bike also can help. The video covers the basics, though. Basically, don't use a lamp chain as a bicycle lock.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Best Laid Plans, Future Must-dos in Barcelona

At  Montserrat Monastery, outside Barcelona. I didn't ride up there, this time

I felt car-sick on the tour bus most of the way up the twisty road, and after we passed about the third group of cyclists, which the guide felt compelled to comment on, "Too dangerous," I wanted to be cycling and not busing it up the mountain. Next time. Then I saw this trio up at the top, with that great background, and thought it would fit here on the blog. Guy in red is saying, "OK we got up here, now it's time to go the other way. Fast."

Next time, by bike. And then also this next photo, too. That goes on the must-do list, too, "ronda verda," a 73km ride that circumnavigates Barcelona. What a great trip. Must ride bicycle more next time, though.

Barcelona bike share, super-popular

La Sagrada Familia, got to back and see it when it's finished

Bike with your name on it, 7 Euros.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Overcoming Barriers with Bicycles

After the storm

After the storm last night, after the wind howled and the rain poured, this scene was repeated in various forms in many places. Branches sheered off, trees felled by the winds, leaves and branches everywhere.

I paused here to ponder this fallen branch not because it presented an insurmountable obstacle, but just because I like to pause and ponder. How should I, a cyclist, deal with this? I realized that my options were many, indeed, were many more than a typical motorist in a comparable situation. I could:

  • Try to power through by riding just to the left of center there, to see if I could just lift it over
  • Duck under, pull the bike through, maybe a bit awkward, but no big deal
  • Lay the bike totally down on its side, and slide it under
  • If the previous failed, because of lack of room, and I really had to get through, I might be able to lift if over, or
  • I might be able to disassemble the bicycle to varying degrees, pass the pieces over or under, and reassemble on the other side. I have tools.
  • Fashion some kind of wood cutting mechanism with whatever I might have, in order to resolve the problem not only for myself, but for others who pass here.
  • Go around and carry the bike through the canal water. Completely not recommended, but not totally impossible.
  • Rope up to the standing limb, tie off on the fallen limb, hoist it up out of the way.
  • Hang off the road side and pull the tree down onto the street instead of the bike path. Also not recommended.
  • Use my cell phone to call the City to make them aware of the blockage, ask their advice, and check on how long it might be before they would come out to clear it. If not too long, just wait it out, enjoy the afternoon, chat with other cyclists who might come along and be of a similar mindset, before or after trying some or all of the above.
  • Wait in this spot until another strong wind of exactly opposite strength and direction comes along and blows it out of the way.
  • Think more. Write some poetry. Set up a lemonade stand here.
  • Ask the ducks what to do. They appeared utterly unperturbed by the fallen branch.
After these ruminations, I turned around and went back the way I came. I had no actual purpose in continuing beyond the fallen branch that was more pressing than turning around, so I just turned around.

Nearby, down in the street

Meanwhile, down in the roadway, I spotted this fallen tree pushed off to the side awaiting final removal. I imagine that if / when it was stretched across the roadway, there was less motorist pondering, and more honking. Think of it: honking at a fallen tree. I'm certain of it. DO SOMETHING I'M LATE AND HAVE TO BE SOMEWHERE. I guess.

Picture me there in the rain, on my bicycle, handing out suggestion cards.

Let's open a lemonade stand.
Please write a haiku about the storm.
Write down ten ideas for dealing with the tree which do not involve honking or getting angry.
Consider riding a bicycle instead. It opens up options when faced with fallen trees.

This is temporary. Perhaps going around a different way will pose little or no real inconvenience, anyway, in the large scheme of things. Why not be of a peaceful and contented disposition when doing that? Perhaps wherever you came from has attractions equal to where you thought you were going, and heading back is just as good as going forward. 

A bolt of lighting. Maybe it was lightning that blew that streetlight right off the pole.

Somehow knocked off a tall light pole during the storm. Possibly by the fallen tree.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How High Should We Stretch, How Far Should We Go?

Quieting the voice of limits and stopping

How high should we stretch? How far should we go? Are the limits a greater force than the demands to do more? How great could we be? How much could we do? How far could we ride? How fast could we go? How happy could we be?

This voice: you should stop. You're tired. Just rest. There's no need to continue. It's too much. Close your eyes. Give in. Where does that voice come from?

Another voice: keep going. Stretch farther. Do more. Help. Give. Grow. Be. Love. Go beyond. Limits are only in the mind. Reach higher. Each day is a gift. Connect. Challenge. Listen. Strength. Where does that voice come from?

Why? Do what you can do, but how do you know what that might be if you don't try? Keep trying.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Leave It All in the Free Box at Kennedy Meadows

The acquisition of adapter plugs has exceeded the reasonable carrying capacity

In the book and movie Wild, the main character Cheryl Strayed, who is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, meets a man at a place called Kennedy Meadows who helps her understand that she is carrying way more stuff in her monstrous backpack than she really needs. He guides her to divide the stuff between what she really needs, and suggests that she can put whatever she doesn't need into the free box for other hikers, in case they might find those things useful.

Over the years of acquiring headphones, at some point, I began storing the 1/4" adapter plugs in a ziplock bag in my desk drawer, which captured my attention tonight right after watching the movie. Eight? Really? I have accumulated eight of these things?

How many 1/4" adapter plugs do I actually need? I hardly ever use one, let alone eight.

I feel like hiking the PCT some day. It's at least a possible on the bucket list. I think I'll make a necklace out of gold-plated 1/4" adapter plugs to wear on the PCT hike, to remind me not to pack too much stuff. Travel light, pack only what you'll actually need, only what you'll actually use. I that can be done in general, and in this case, specifically, without keeping eight 1/4" adapter plugs in a baggie in a desk drawer.

If some day you come across an odd, gold-looking necklace of 1/4" adapter plugs in the free box at Kenndy Meadows, you'll know I've been through that way.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mutual Operant Conditioning and Mimetic Desire

I felt a compelling desire to photograph the ducks for my blog...they, too, felt a compelling desire...

On a wondrous hot August morning commute, I noticed a group of adolescent ducks paddling in formation in the canal. Thinking of them as a hopeful sign of Autumn's approach, and as the third set born in this area this year, I felt a desire to pull my bike off to the side of the path to snap a few quick photos.

...they made directly for me as soon as they saw me stop, expectantly, and hauled out onto the bank...

Faster than my lightly caffeinated brain could grasp, though, the ducks acted on their own conditioned desire, implanted I assume through previous experience of quacking up on this bank and having someone feed them. My conditioned posting of photos to this blog conditioning a desire to pause to take the photos triggering a conditioned response in the ducks to haul out on the bank and waddle way too close...stemming from your desire to look at duck photos posted by a cyclist-blogger, stemming from...

Right about here I recognized a coordinated duck handout assault in progress...

Closer they approached, seemingly fearless, driven by hunger and strong conditioning...

...and when I didn't feed them, which was not my plan, they began pecking at my shoe. So I left.

Girard held that all desire is mediated, triangular, not of our own doing, but according to the other. Cyclist blogger with a camera, adolescent duck gang, blog readers. What do we effectively or truly desire, and why, and who is mediating and reflecting that with subtle and not so subtle cues (not queues, or is it) into action or being?

We watched Blackfish this week, and yes, it's certainly about the morality of the operant conditioning of large wild animals in captivity for profit, but isn't it also about the conditioning by profit of the owners, the conditioning of the audience by the thrill of the show, and the motivation of desire of all the humans in different roles and different perspectives by money, or other motivations, of other minds? In layers, in mutual reinforcing networks of mediation, motivation, scapegoating, desire, action, and cultural scaffolding? 

Pointing to a single connection in that vastness and saying there! that's it! seems a bit short-sighted. It may be proximate, but it's certainly not ultimate, or singular, or non-mediated, or innocent/guilty.

I don't think it's a good idea to feed ducks at the canal, lest they make a habit of doing rather stupid things like this. I wish the world were safe so that they could always act thusly without danger, but of course, the world is opposite of that. On the other hand, the pattern is already set in this crew. Nothing I do will make it worse, and perhaps I can make their lives, now, a bit better by taking some duck chow down there tomorrow morning and spreading it liberally. Their eager quacking conditioning me to repeat again, and again. Here, have a blog photo.

I do pray for that world where these gentle ones can quack without fear of cruel violence.