"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

29.12.08

2008 - The Best That I Could Do

This time of year, everyone...everyone...puts out a top ten list.

Mostly it is just digging around online or through iTunes libraries to find the most obscure bands from Scandinavia to Brazil to simply enhance hipster cred. A bit more respectable are book and movie lists. I'm lucky to have seen 10 new movies all year - maybe five real books in that time span - so to accumulate a deep pool with which to make a list from is pretty impressive in my opinion.

So in order to get on the band wagon, I've started a bit of a tradition of my own over the last few years - a more personal list of the achievements and highlights (and lowlights) of the year. This year will be a bit more cycling specific (shocker) but this year was still quite well-rounded, I'm happy to say. And for this year, now that I have some depth of my own, I'd like to a take a more retrospective approach, with commentary were appropriate.

I now give you:

2008 - The Best That I Could Do


1. My first full winter of base-training. By time training camp in California arrived not a moment too soon, it was done, in the books, count-it-and-let's-see-where-you-are. I spent endless hours pedaling in place as it snowed and sub-zero winds blew outside, while Prince, Air and The Prodigy droned on in my headphones, and watched I Boonen win 2005 Paris-Roubaix over and over and over..so much it all gave me Dr. David Bowman-like visions. I hit the weights three times a week at the ratty and well-worn Park District gym with Mark, and rode on and on for hours more with teammates in an Oak Park basement. And what did it get me?

2. To the tops of Black Mountain and Mt. Mitchell...

3. And to downstate Illinois, where I was achingly close yet too far away upon the bricks of Hillsboro.

4. I took a huge step in my life - about time some would say (Mom...Dad...shut up), and moved in with the love of my life into a beautiful Logan Square apartment. Our family has grown quite a bit, too.



5. I received my first payout...and then my second just two weeks later. It felt pretty damn good have that .0001% return of my biking investment!

6. Superweek and the rest of the summer racing season came and went with my first ever podium - including one in the State Championship Road Race - a heartbraking crash and lot of mediocrity. But at least I looked good...



7. My hero died. I've listened and hung onto every one of George Carlin's words since I first bought a cassette tape of Class Clown after seeing his HBO special in 1984.

8. I took an active part in the Illinois Justice System.

9. Katy and I watched history roll in on an unrelenting tide of peace, goodwill, and good, old-fashioned relief through Grant Park on November 4th. We enjoyed it with good food and even better friends and huge smiles on our faces.

10. Blago.

Honorable Mention:
- The New Bike
- My First Sonnet
- There was a lot to Hate...

18.12.08

Thursday Hate: Shut UP!!!

What is it with people who have nothing to say, yet seemingly cannot stop talking?

This afternoon in the Metra station I had to endure two frumpy, old Jewish ladies kvetching about the mud on the floor and the newspapers on the seat...not one word of substance passed their lips.Even when the phone rang: "Hello? Hello?! Hello?!? Oh Hiiiii!" In an echoey, brick warming shelter where everyone else just wanted to sit quietly and mind their own business, they prattled on and on for 25 minutes.

Worse, they obviously had no concept of personal space. They walked right over, and with their fupas mere inches from my face, tried loudly and unsuccessfully to interpret the Milwaukee North District Metra timetable. Coat brushing up against me, perfume making my eyes water, it was all I could do not to jump to feet and make a scene: "Jesus CHRIST! What the hell is the matter with you two?! Can't you see I'm sitting right here? Do I even warrent an 'excuse me'?"

It all continued onto the train. Thankfully I couldn't hear them through the vestibule doors but sure enough, in a train car full of quiet people reading or politely chatting, they were across the aisle from each other lobbing wet verbal tennis balls.

I don't understand how people can have no concept. Who's in the mood for that?

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Completely unrelated:

"I don't drink water because fish fuck in it." --- W.C. Fields

16.12.08

Humbled

I drank from the cup
And passed it around
Full to the top
Of a taste more profound
Than anything sweet,
Than a stomach that's full
Of their pain n' defeat
From the charge of the bull.
A more lasting nurishement
Of beautiful contentment.




I was named XXX Racing's 2008 "Super-Domestique" on Sunday night. To my non-cycling audience, domestique is a French term that literally translates as "servant." In cycling it is a rider who works for the benefit of his team and the glory of his leader.

To me, this is the highest honor I could ever receive from my peers, bigger than upgrading, bigger than winning a race. Hearing Brian Boyle (the Good) introduce the as-yet unnamed winner, I could only imagine it was someone in the 3s, who'd spent the summer leading out Ed, Randy, JT, Luke, Peter, or Shane. Someone visible on the road, in Northbrook, and in the mud. Someone without a lick of self-doubt, possessing razor-sharp decision making and a threshold of a masochist. Several names entered my mind and they stayed there right up through "I'm proud to give this award to a fellow Irishman, Brian..."

And still, I feel like I don't deserve it. My three podiums and medals this year happened by the grace of several very selfless teammates working hard for nothing more than appreciation, plus the bonus of a Butterburger on the way home, and a few beers back in town. Maybe some cash if the check was even worth it.

I too, had my share of leadouts and bridges, blocks and sacrifices this season...of course I always put Team first. But who didn't?

I felt extremely humbled to have received the popular vote for this award, given the character and caliber of those who've received it in the past.

11.12.08

Thursday Hate: "He's [Bleeping] Crazy!"

Well, it looks like they're setting G-Fraud up for an insanity plea. Count on it.



My prediction:

Rod stays on as long as the key to his office still works. Shows up to work, tries to make small talk by the coffee machine as if everything is normal. Gradually he starts with an eye tic, and then by next week he's shouting randomly at people, and offering the handicapped stall in the men's room for a $50,000 donation.

By the time he's impeached and removed from office we'll be so tired of seeing his ass on TV every night, we'll be happy just to see him off to Scottsdale, AZ with a lifetime Xanax prescription.

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More restroom hate: why do janitors absolutely stuff the paper towel dispenser so full you end up pulling out a square acre of rain forest when you just want one towel? And why, WHY do people insist on taking the middle toilet when you're in the restroom alone? When I come in next I have to sit right next to you to take a shit...a worse variant is the guy who sits in the middle toilet next to you when you're in the restroom alone. That's just creepy.

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Check out yesterday's bike post. It has been edited for 15% more humor.

9.12.08

In the Wake of the News...

Choose: Kwame...or Blago.

If anyone needs me, I'll be out on the tollway painting over Blago's name on the I-Pass arches. Strictly volunteer. The State should not have to pay for the indignity.

And let's make it easy on everyone. I suggest Patrick Fitzgerald just take Blago to a nice dark room - oh hell, maybe a lakefront condo with a nice view just to rub it in at what he will be missing - and leave him there with a bullet and a gun and fifteen minutes to think it over.

8.12.08

Monday

Fell off the rollers on Saturday in a teammate's garage. It was quite dramatic. A quick transcript:

ACT I, scene 1
(Thursday night @ Goose Island)

Me: "Hey Randy, I got the hang of the rollers pretty quickly, first try! I can do no-handed, drink from the bottle..."
Randy: "Great! Try out of the saddle next...just remember to keep your weight back."
Me: "OK!"

(Saturday morning in Jacques’ garage)
Me: "Hey guys, watch this…"
(4 seconds later)
Jacques: "Dude, are you OK?"
Me: "No."

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Yep. That's me, circa January 2001. By next March in 2002, I'd dropped around 40 of those pounds, a year later, another 40. Cycling didn't get me there, but it's kept me there. It may be an obsession, I will admit that. But it's better than drugs and it's way better than Big Macs.



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The Lelli is at Mission Bay as I write this. I hate to be cliche, but since I'm the first one to order one, her name will be Maxine. Kinda obvious I know, Max Lelli and all, but I got mine first, so there. Plus a road bike has to have a female name. Your cross bike or mountain ride is your best friend, but your road bike is your lover.

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Click here for something to inspire you through the winter. This is not your teammate's ordinary race video. A truly inspired look at the sport, nay lifestyle, that we all lead. Hope to see you next summer. (Choose the very high quality option.)

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One of my poems has been selected as a semi-finalist. I know, I know, it's no more "official" than those Who's Who scams, and they're of course asking for fees...but it will be published, regardless what money I give them. At least that's something, because they can't publish every haiku about Aunt Mabel's cat they receive.

And I still could receive $1000. Gotta start somewhere.

I wrote this poem back in October, while up in Milwaukee with my mom who was visiting my aunt, now dead at 64 of cancer. I rode 54 miles round trip from my other Aunt's house south of Whitnall Park to a cousin's place on the Northwest side via the Oak Leaf trail on a brisk Sunday morning...

Their fiery colors warmed the day just born
And ashes just as bright as flames
Gave a way forlorn
New life, new light. A voice exclaims,
"The warmth is gone, but summer I don't mourn!"
The visions of those days still give me pain
A sweetish breath of agony
a mem'ry again
frozen there, tart and wry
To tease me out of thought and to remain.

4.12.08

Thursday Hate

So I was going use this week's Hate to piss and moan about Texas getting screwed out of the Big 12 Championship because the conference used the BCS Ranking as a tie breaker. But I'm sure Texas voted on it themselves, so fuck them. I'm no longer mad about it anyways.

I was also going to rant about pro athletes not acting like the millionaires they are - i.e. Plaxico Buress (or however you spell his name, but I don't care because I'm no longer mad about that either) taking a loaded gun into a Manhattan club and nearly killing himself...but then again, millionaires pretty much act like assholes, so there you go. And this goes for Jennifer Hudson's sister marrying a convicted carjacking murderer (attempter) and Ben Rothlis... Rosthleth... Rossell.... Schnickelfritzwhateverthefuckhisnameis speeding on a rice-burner without a helmet and nearly (or successfully as the case may be) killing themselves in the process...so fuck them. They cheat on their taxes anyways. Who cares?

So since I have to hate something, and we know that's easy:

Fat, whiny, 12 year-old effeminate boys on the bus who talk way too much and say "Mommy!" every fourth word.

I hate them.

3.12.08

Hump Day

First, something's been on my mind a bit...

Let the sunrise speak and sing a song to you
With ripened fruit overrunning with truth,
And words and lines as plain as the day it breaks.
There should be no fear to run along the banks
While screaming, wildly spinning arms and legs
Alone or not, the sand is your audience.

For to be on stage is to read from a script
And be force fed from those golden hands cupped
Holding rancid wine and stale moldy bread.
Intoning outward to rapt eyes his lies whispered
Into your tender ears, unable to cry or scream
Feet nailed to the ancient wood, unable to dream.

I've been reading a lot Dylan Thomas lately, and above is an attempt to emulate it. I find his prose and his rhyming schemes fascinating. I actually don't read a lot of poetry, but his work especially speaks to me for his ability to paint with such vibrant colored words. It really doesn't matter what he's saying, but none it is dry or dull at all. And uncovering the puzzle of his rhyming is so freeing and enlightening. There is no limit to what he creates - lines that rhyme with others right below, or four and five away, at the bottom of the stanza. Or not really rhyming at all, just matching syllables and phonics.

His writing is indescribably beautiful, inspiring, and mystifying.


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About three years ago a very good friend named Joe gave me a book for Christmas, over drinks with a few of us at the Hungry Brain. The Modern Drunkard's "Handbook For Drinking in the 21st Century." We got pretty sloshed that night, unironically. The Christmas before, Mat - who was also at the Brain that night and received one in return - gave a me flask full of Jameson at rehearsal on Christmas eve, that I drank and refilled and drank again...and then got us thrown out of Simon's by literally passing out while standing in the middle of the goddamn bar.

As a rehabilitated drunk - not through AA, but rather cycling - I look back on those four or five 3am nights a week with still more than bit of fondness. I loved the socializing that ran like an engine with its oil freshly changed...smoking cigarettes and sloshing the smallest drops of Irish Whisky down my jeans in between laughs and gesticulation...going home with a different woman seemingly every night. It was degenerate to be sure, but I was good at it, had a nice balance. I made it to work on time every morning, for the most part. I never caught an STD...and I never did any drugs harder than weed...

Stopping was hard. I feel as if I've abandoned a lot of people in my life, people I now hardly see anymore. But I know they are they there, and we see each other when we can, and frankly, the mornings after were harder. They aren't awake in the mornings.

I am now.

The sunrise at 25 miles an hour on a beautiful weekend morning is just as good a social lubricant. And no less degenerate if you've ever been privy to a conversation between me, Peter and Newt on those morning rides. The enjoyment and satisfaction of putting in, physically, more in 4 hours than most get done in a week is what pushes me at 6 am without an alarm.

And that hot, strong coffee and chocolate chip cookie eaten and drank as my tired legs rest taste far better than the highest top-shelf Manhattan and cigarette bummed from a woman far out of my league ever will.

Not that I don't miss it. That and my friends. And don't think for a minute that I am a teetotaler. I still enjoy a Manhattan, a Martini, a fine glass of Goose Island - Chicago's finest - and certainly a good bottle of wine. And I still drink with those friends. Drinking to get wasted is empty. So is bringing home a new woman every night.

Alcohol and sex are gifts. Ultimately, doing each for love makes both worthwhile.

My old Christmas present reminded me of that yesterday, after I dug it out of the bookshelf and really began to read it for the first time. A lot of it is stupid, Mad magazine exaggeration, stuff that in real life would land you in an episode of Rehab - but there are some genuinely truthful moments in there.

The tips on pulling off a successful party are a must read:

Think of your party as one of those chimp-piloted rockets they used to send up into space. They were huge, bad-ass rocket ships doing important scientific stuff and did it matter if a wild-eyed monkey was flying the fucking thing? Of course not. If anything, it made those missions even cooler. Why? because most people like monkeys even better than astronauts and - trust me - everybody likes monkeys more than prison wardens.

And the chapter on drinking alone is actually a beautifully written lesson. Drinking alone was never something I was afraid of. In fact, it helped me move from the perpetually paranoid, cringe-inducing, nervous-wreck I was from sixth grade through roughly age 28 to the semi-normal person who laughs at his own jokes and craves attention at all costs that you know today. All human foibles. And drinking alone - and getting to know and learning to love my inner self in the process - gave me the confidence to embrace them.

The best part, though, is when I read the book, I hear Joe's voice narrating it in my head.

1.12.08

Winter's Solace

A heck of a first day of December, eh?

It's not even officially winter yet, but there's white stuff everywhere. Becoming a competitive road cyclist has turned me traitor and thinned my Alaskan blood. Where I used to see snowmen and forts, and then warm whiskey, good wine and rich food, now there's only biting wind and corrosive salt. I can feel myself shrinking and tightening, becoming denser and slower with every day I spend off the bike.

Out of mind, I know that's not true. Now at the end of my coach's two week rest period (taken early due to two unanticipated weekends on the road) I have started lifting weights in earnest and running three times a week. The body needs cross-training in order to refresh and renew, and keep itself stronger and true over the long term.

The running and the weights place impact and tension on the kinetic chain, promoting bone density and giving non-cycling muscles, underused during the season, new life and strength. Joint function and flexibility are restored to their peak, ready for the next three months of base training, followed by the incredible spike in intensity of training camps and races in March and April.

But right now I just feel the heaviness of this past weekend's indulgences squeezed into my belt. Right now look out upon the icy glare in the streets and the frozen breath hanging in the air and feel only ennui. Right now I couldn't ride to work if you paid me.

I don't cyclocross or mountain bike - at least not this season, and after the new road purchase, probably not next season either. Right now all I can think about is the coming near-constant temptation to eat and drink that which I shouldn't, and to get off the trainer earlier than I should.

Yet today, oh on a day such as this, a tiny seed was planted. Planted in my head by that pantheon of all that is anti-bike and materialist : Bicycling Magazine (no offense to Conde Nast, I know you gotta put food on yer family). Bill Strickland was lucky enough to have been challenged and sponsored by the British clothing company Ralpha to climb France's legendary La Marmotte and Etape du Tour, back-to-back in two days.

Their holy grail, of a sort, was the sticker-covered sign that marks the summit of the Col du Galibier:
The purity of having climbed Galibier is almost too much to bear - so raw, so honest that we need to step away, walk off and again convince ourselves that our jobs are important and our world depends...on paying our phone bills and washing our cars and answering our emails.
This coming March, as I did a year ago, I will climb Black Mountain in San Luis Obispo, willing myself on to reach the view of the valley, the immenseness of the weather station, the cheers of my teammates. 48 hours later I will climb The Wall, and then Asheville's Mount Mitchell in April...finding my rhythm, each time immersing myself in 10,000 feet of pain, catching nearly everyone who dropped me in the foothills, to finish alone in a very personal triumph.
We seek the sign at the top of Galibier, at the end of our driveways, at the beginning of the weekend ride...when we've had a bad day at the office...a fight at home...the ATM's broken...last year's slow guy beats us...
Motivation.

Winter, I am ready for you.

Hate Preview

Texas has beaten OU, yet OU wins the division...because a computer says so? A head-to-head tie breaker means nothing? What could possibly be wrong with this system?! And how can straight up voting on the rankings be any worse?

In fact, why play any games at all? Let's just let the computer simulation run from the pre-season rankings and have a big parade in September and save everyone the trouble!

Well, I at least can laugh about this decision to rely on the BSC computer rankings as a tie breaker while it bites Big 12 Leadership in the ass - they very well may have a riot on their hands and they should definitely be careful when passing under the clock tower. But, still...how fucked up is all this? What was wrong with the old system - with it's emphasis on conferences and bowls? Does a national champion really matter that much among so many teams?

More later this week in Thursday Hate. I will be seething about this until then.

30.11.08

Book Reports! An American Tragedy...and a Travesty

I have really been neglecting my reading lately until this past fall, when I applied some much needed eye drops to the ol' peepers and finally stretched out the cognitive functions in my brain once again.

First up was Philip Roth's newest book, Indignation. Roth is a highly-acclaimed American novelist famous for his exploration of the Jewish condition in 20th Century America and his recurring character Nathan Zuckerman.

I have read one other of his books, 2004's The Plot Against America, an historical "what-if" about the repercussions to Jewish Americans of real-life Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh winning the 1940 presidential election.

Indignation is a much shorter and considerably lighter entry of his favorite subject matter. Marcus Messner tells a first-person account of a Jewish boy from Roth's own home of Newark, New Jersey attending college in Christian, Midwestern Ohio, far from home and the annoying clutches of his overbearing, kosher-butcher father. A comedic-page turner to the tragic end, Roth captures the quintessential American experience from the 1950's while Messner fights for independence and self-confidence on an journey of sexual discovery. As with The Plot against America, Roth uncovers feelings that we've all hidden behind walls of silence or tough exteriors, while showing the younger of us that they are universal throughout past generations. Providing the older of us with a nostaligic and poignient look back on a country that was much larger and far more mysterious and open from the coasts to the heartland.

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Eric Van Lustbader picked up the Jason Bourne saga from Robert Ludlum and has over 21 other novels that are international bestsellers, but First Daughter is the first book of his that I've ever read, and I'm dismayed, yet not surprised he has gotten as far as he has. Capitalizing on the backlash to the current president's faith-based administation, Lustbader weaves a somewhat intriguing thriller starring a goverment agent on the trail of the President-elect's kidnapped daughter.

Yet, while the prologue is a shocker, grabbing you by the lapels with the post-kidnapped daughter about to commit a terrorist act at her own father's inauguration, the entire story becomes bogged down by seemingly endless cliches and abysmal dialogue. The main character is - of course - named "Jack [Irish surname]," a loner who hides dark secrets and sees the world in a very different way - his "synapses" are contantly "firing". Every chapter, a main character is brought to their knees by emotional kvetching or unconsolable sobbing, or delivering heavy-handed soliliquies. Lustbader is trying to accomplish too much with these amaturish devices, to fill in needed information all at once that could should be spread out more subltly. Mistaking melodrama for literary weight.

Bad writing has never stopped anyone from making a living at it, howver. The entire novel reads like a screen-play starring James Kaan and Jennifer Aniston and it's plausible that's exactly what Lustbader had in mind. His Bourne novels have paid the bills for years apparently, although I'm not entirely sure he doesn't have Matt Damon to thank for that.

26.11.08

Hump Day

Good news: Thomas Lynch pleads “Guilty.” Remember – the roads are for everybody. That type of behavior is only acceptable behind a shopping cart on Black Friday, not the steering wheel.

Bad news: George Ryan is appealing to President Bush for clemency, after being left off the pardon list. The man who used state finances as his and his friend’s own private campaign financing, and probably has more than a little blood on his hands in the Licenses-For-Bribes-Scandal could get out of prison after having served less than a year.

Even worse news: It’s with Dick Durbin’s help. I know you are sympathetic, but people are dead because of this man. It's more than just political scandal.

More bad news: Thanks, China!

Better news: Traffic is much lighter today. Ironically, today is my first long Thanksgiving Eve drive, ever.

Cuter news: Meet our new dog, Jack


The best news: my new bike arrives sometime next week. A Max Lelli Tiburzi Pro, with Dura Ace/FSA and Hed Stinger 60 wheels.

Gimme Hed til I’m Deda.

23.11.08

Rain

A trail of dusty footprints
Without one drop of sweat
Illuminated at morning,
In shadow towards sunset.
Over sun-baked earth they lead
Through wrinkled cracks, a desert shore
Five sides, five times their number
From the years before.
Not unquenchable is my thirst
For I know I walk towards rain
That growing storm is at the edge
And will soon bring relief and pain.
A passing shower, far ahead
Dampened the air, erased the age
With muddy skin, faceless, shiny
Slick and wet, a brand new page.
A coming deluge, a wall of power
A million drops of tears and grief
To slake my longing, end my waiting
Killing the unending heat beneath.
For now the steps are dry again
But the storm on the edge tests my will
I smell the heavy damp in the air
And the shadow behind grows longer still.

21.11.08

Random Friday (and Haiku Friday Returns)

I got my 15 minutes today.

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People! Pumpkins. Trash. NOW.

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A name in the air
Frozen in the cold sunshine
Our last memories

18.11.08

Dreams

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a recurring dream.

I’m back in college, and through the ambiguity of time I wander about the semester, loving my music and writing classes – but waking up with a start on finals day realize I’ve been missing my history class the entire time and I’m going to fail. It’s obviously a work ethic issue. I seem to have it when I am being particularly lazy at work, or when layoffs are imminent. I dreamed this incessantly in the months before losing my last job.

I am always back in Denton, in the warm sunshine, living in the dorm room – during my underclassman days, when I was still taking those basic requirement classes. Being from Alaska, there was no way I could justify flying down to Texas for orientation and registration when just 3 weeks later I’d be moving into the dorm. So of course when I registered after the entire freshman class, I had 8am theory Monday through Thursday. My priority as a freshman was to drink as much beer as possible every night of the week, so generally those mornings started at 7:55 with me struggling through my remaining buzz to remember where I was before putting on last night’s clothes and running to class – barging into a tonalization exercise 10 minutes late and BOing profusely. The TA would give me a sad look of disgust and pity, then get back to the lesson dismissively.

It’s not a huge regret of mine – nothing ever is – but I probably would’ve been a much more successful musician had a put effort into those early college theory classes.

This dream captures perfectly the frantic helplessness of the 7:55 moment, the frustrations of never being able to change my bad habits, the self-loathing I felt upon interrupting class, over and over.

Last night, however the dream changed quite bit. I was still in school and living in the dorm, however, my brother was there with me. For his first day of school. He never went to college. I was so proud of him in the dream – yet with a feeling of complete normalcy. The idea of him at college didn’t seem weird at all – which in reality is a laugher. Not disparaging him at all – he's a thick-skinned, up-at-5am-to-work-in-the-dark-10-below-Alaskan-morning, blue-collar, donuts and black coffee, “get your fucking ass up there” electrician.

In the dream we rode the campus shuttle together, where at one point I got off to retrieve my bike – a brakeless fixie for some reason – and we went our separate ways. A little later we connected by cell phone. He was headed off to get loaded at some bar and I was headed to the library. I chided him, self-confidently.

I wonder if something is about to change in my life. I don’t believe in fate, or spirituality, but then again I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe in some sort of extra-sensory perception. I spell it out so as not to let the acronym give a sense of cliché. But I believe there are some things that we just know.

My aunt, my mom’s older sister, has terminal cancer. She’s been waiting to die since May when she received the news that the tumor in her brain had not been eradicated as thought, and that the malignancy in her lung had spread to her liver. I’d never seen anyone dying of cancer before. Everyone knows it’s an awful way to go, but seeing it in-person is another thing entirely.

I haven’t seen much, only the suffering on her face – swollen from steroids – when the headaches wash over in waves of pain. Her dizziness and confusion. Her disinterest in a remaining life of shuffling between meals, the toilet, and the bed.

I’ve visited her twice since the diagnosis. Once over Labor Day and the second time about a month ago – just going through the motions while gradually getting weaker.

About 10 days ago, I went to bed rather early, and had a dream about her.

In the dream, the cancer was gone. She was her old self. Just the two of us, we stood in the kitchen of her old house, where so many family reunions have gathered over beers, cheese and crackers, jokes and ostensibly hurt feelings from political discussions. But there was no cigarette in her hand, no haze in the room, her face wasn’t wrinkled, her hair was shiny and lively, and she wore a wry smile.

“I’m glad that’s over with,” she said in her characteristic exasperated laugh.

The next morning, the dream out of memory, I checked my email over coffee and saw a note from my mom, sent the night before, after I’d gone to bed. Mary had taken a strong turn for the worse earlier that evening. Hearing that brought the dream back. Sometimes we just know.

Once the end stages hit – it’s over very soon. The labored and rattling breathing, the indignities, the morphine, and constant sleeping are now apparent as her body finally shuts down.

She’s made peace with her family, her friends, and I hope she’s going now with a little suffering as possible. I hope the worst is over for her.

16.11.08

Winter Commuting: There's No Bad Weather...

...only bad clothing. And bad planning.

Now that snow is soon on its way and temps are heading downward with the economy, it doesn't mean your bike commuting is over for the year. With relatively little money - smart spending - and some common sense, your practicality can continue through the dark, cold months while all the other suckers rot in their cages or inhale other people's germs on buses and trains.

Bad clothing does not mean cheap clothing. Quite the contrary. Following these recommendations for dressing and riding will keep your winter commuting enjoyable, warm, and safe.

Layers:
Keeping the core warm will save your extremities; the body doesn't have to divert blood from fingers and toes. The general rule is an extra layer for every ten degrees below 50 (anything below 60, just remember to keep your legs and arms covered). You will sweat some, so try to stick to technical fabrics - material that wicks moisture away from the skin - instead cotton. But unless your ride is over an hour, it's not a big deal. Just worry about the proper layers.

As the temperatures head below freezing, a thermal layer and a wind stopper become imperative - on top of the base layers. Any wind making it through the outer layer will immediately chill your core. Block it with some sort of fleece top underneath a wind breaker. However, if you do have some money to spend, I highly recommend the Cannondale Thermal Jacket, which combines the thermal layer and the wind stopper into one versatile piece of activewear. Its resembles a cold-water scuba-diving suit, and I've used mine religiously since 2005. It's never let me down. If you look hard enough it can be found for under $100 online.

If you feel like spending money on a good set of winter cycling bibs, the Pearl Izumi offering is the perfect choice. They are full-thermal, with added wind-stopping fabric on the leg-fronts. Winter bibs do not have a chamois so you can wear them day-to-day without having to wash them. Use your regular shorts underneath. However, a pair of long underwear or thermal layer underneath your jeans - some sort of wind pants would be better - will get you there. The wind stopper is again most needed over the core.

Keep the core warm, and you won't have so much trouble keeping everything else comfortable.

Hands and feet:
Any sort full-fingered gloves will work - use ski gloves below freezing, they are windproof. Cover your ears with a balaclava.

One of the best tricks for keeping toes warm is to put a plastic grocery bag over your feet before putting your shoes on. This will actually make your feet too warm, but aromatic toe jam is preferable to frost-bite upon getting to your destination. There used to be a mechanic at Rapid Transit Cycles in Wicker Park - Sarah - who made fleece-lined winter covers for toe clips. Anything to keep the wind out will keep your feet warmer.

Lights:
Winter commuting means riding in the dark. Display at least two rear (red) blinkie lights and make sure the batteries are strong. Many people don't realize just how dim their rear lights are and that they are dangerously under-visible. . Attach at least one to the frame and have another on your helmet or bag.

The Cateye Opticube is a great choice for a front light. It requires three AAA batteries and can be easily moved from bike to bike with its tool-less mounting system.

For longer rides, to the suburbs like I do, I recommend a rechargeable unit. They attract a lot more attention when streetlights are fewer and the road surface ahead is highly illuminated. Batteries can either be mounted to handlebars or helmet, and the corded battery is mounted to the frame or carried in a pocket. Nite Rider and Light & Motion are two great brands found at many cycling shops.

Your ride:
It's simple: fenders, fenders, fenders. Road salt will eat your bike alive.

Wider tires with traction and lower pressure.

This is all you need to know.


Final Tips:

  • It’s easy to pack light. A rear rack and pannier are a bonus, but not needed. Leave a pair of shoes at the office, and if you roll up your clothes tightly, even your suit won’t need ironing and there’s plenty of room for lunch.
  • A shower is not necessary, even after an hour ride. Most people don’t ride hard enough to really sweat to begin with so a damp rag and a comb is all you need.
  • Being able to take your bike on the Metra trains is one of the huge advantages of the reverse commute to the suburbs. Make sure you bring a bungee chord to secure your bike with, and be prepared for overcrowding by leaving a second beater bike at your destination station.
  • Avoid peak travel times to minimize potential conflict. Leave early. Most employers will be happy to accommodate your schedule as long as you are getting a full day of work in.
  • Most importantly, be predictable and ride confidently. A wobbly cyclist who can’t hold a straight line and dips in and out of parked cars will unnerve drivers. It sounds right from Mr. Rogers’ mouth, but don’t blow stop lights and at least yield to the right of way before proceeding through stop-signs. Look over your shoulder, signal, and when safe, take the lane or turn with authority. It’s your right of way. Use it or lose it.
Ethan Spotts of CBF adds:
"If it's wet out, wipe your bike down when you get home. Salt and wet will ruin your bike and components (brakes, chain, shifters, etc.). While it's not highly recommended for bike use, I use WD-40 in the winter to get that crude out....a quick spray on your components and then a wipe down will keep your bike going throughout the week until you can do a more complete cleaning and use real bike lube on chain/components."

14.11.08

Thursday Hate (Late)

Fuck these people.





Fructose is sweeter, more refined than cane or beet sugar. It's broken down by the body faster and therefore is stored as fat faster, if not used as glycogen for muscular activity almost immediately. And as we also know that much of the packaged-goods products containing high fructose corn syrup are not being consumed by people fond of exercise.

I'm not blaming all of our problems with obesity and diabetes on HFC...it's yet another symptom of a culture of sloth, shortcuts, and self-indulgence. The same type of laziness that just runs patronizing ads to counter facts in protection of a bottom line instead doing actual work to address the problem.

Our Place


"Two hundred years ago, a typical distance across which finbacks could communicate was perhaps 10,000 kilometers. Today, the corresponding number is perhaps a few hundred kilometers...We have cut whales off from themselves. Creatures that communicated for tens of millions of years have now effectively been silenced."
--- Carl Sagan, in his immortal Cosmos




Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Navy could continue SONAR exercises around whales. Their reasoning was that the training of the fleet outweighed the researchers study and the good of the whales, because "[e]ven if plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable injury, such injury is outweighed by the public interest and the Navy's interest in effective, realistic training of its sailors."

This is completely within the expected worldview of such an entity. A centrist microcosm of human debate, it's a tool by which we settle disputes. Most people will not put whales above human needs, so nor should we be surprised when the Supreme Court does not as well.

However, those needs - our "needs" - are always at the expense of other animals. It seems to be hardwired into our genes to exist at the expense of our environment. We do not adapt. We adapt our environment to us. Once our brain realized our opposable thumbs, it was over. Because most other creatures do become a part of their environment, they suffer as we proper. And prosper we do.

To a point.

Our environment can only be adapted so much before it loses its foundation and ability to support us. We still need to breath, eat, and drink.

The virus analogy of humanity is now ubiquitous in our culture. The Matrix, the Star Trek character Borg, and the artificial intelligence in the Terminator saga are all expressions of human success run amok, degrading the host body, using up all resources for its own purposes, then moving on in search of new blood.

If our intellect is indeed capable of eventually taking us to the stars in search of new room to grow and multiply, while leaving behind a smoggy and sodden greenhouse overrun with whatever organisms are still able to breath its miasma, the virus analogy is pretty apt. As we left for other worlds, there are long-dead worlds, older than Earth, in our wake.

A morbid turn to Arthur C. Clarke's vision in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Yet, what if we don't make it off? If our genetics really were born and are confined here? Or maybe our intellectual potential is not enough to master interstellar travel, at least in time to save us from ourselves. Then what? Do we reach a new understanding after some sort of environmental or nuclear apocalypse? Do we take ourselves literally back to the stone age, and begin anew on a course of symbiosis?

Or do we ultimately kill ourselves?

We are the mirror image, the bizarro-version, a traitor to the life force that gave birth to us. Incommunicable - with no chance of escape. Alien. Horrifying in our maniacal, senseless, unending drive to reproduce at all costs.

Cancer.

Perhaps the Earth succeeds in ridding itself of us before it succumbs as well? Perhaps the earthquakes, the meltdown, the intensifying storms...are all part of its defense mechanism. Things might finally get back to normal. But if not, and we go, it all goes...

The Earth never smoked. Drank too much. Ate fatty foods.

Lord knows she gets enough exercise.

What a shame.

6.11.08

Now that the election is over...

(BTW, the boy in this poem doesn't represent Barack Obama.)

The boy sat in a playroom alone
On a scratchy carpet,
Waiting for his parents
To come and pick him up.

All the toys were all broken
And the other kids
Long since gone
From the scary painted walls.

The lights flickered.
The boy sighed.
He wanted a cookie,
Or someone to talk with.

Outside a noise grew
A siren went by,
Blue and red lights
Painted the room.

He heard a crowd growing
The boy looked down
And cringed from the window
At the pulsing anger below

But when he looked again
He saw no hate
And that they were dancing
And calling his name.

----------

I had to defriend somebody on Facebook yesterday. An old high school friend. We were in band together, and back then she was really cool. First girl to ever talk dirty to me. When she found me online, I looked at her profile, and was at first taken aback by her "Republican" and "Christian" status. Not a good combination in my book, when describing yourself. Those two together usual signify "religious right." But I was willing to look past labels and such, and for awhile, even though we would have contrasting status updates, we were quite friendly.

But gradually, her pro-Palin postings chipped away bit by bit at my open-mindedness. By Wednesday, the day after the election, her status update said, "Welcome to the United Socialists of America!"

The socialism charge during this campaign and in general has irked me as being particularly knee-jerk fascist and betraying a lack of intellect. Barack Obama has gone out of his way to appeal to the centrist middle-class - his judicial criteria commentary notwithstanding - especially on taxes. This red-baiting by the McCain campaign was a scare-tactic the whole way, and it really depressed me that normal-thinking people could be drawn in by its base populism. Socialism. You know, the people that brought you the 40 hour work week and child labor laws? As I've said before, socialism unchecked is of course bad, but so is capitalism. Communism to one extreme, Fascism at the other end. When opposing forces balance against each other, the whole is as strong as it ever can be. Great leaders recognize this very basic tenet.

Well, later that day she posted a note. I should've copied and pasted it here in an attempt to make her an internet celebrity, but instead I just went straight to my friends list deleted her. That was because her screed included the words, "Fag," "Nigger," and "Jew," just one sentence after something about promoting "God's glory," ending up with, "now we'll NEVER get oil out of ANWR!!!" (as if in a McCain administration drilling would commence on Inauguration Day and by Friday gas prices would be back to pre-Carter levels. McCain didn't support drilling in ANWR to begin with.) and a whole lot of bad spelling, incoherent sentence structure and misplaced punctuation in between.

Oh, and there was something about a Liberal Education Agenda in there too.

----------

Tonight I got on my new Cycleops rollers for the first time. I did try my friend Mark's set last spring, very unsuccessfully. No, Greta, I didn't make a video of it this time, but I should've. Not only did I ride for 20 minutes without falling once, I eventually let go of wall and put both hands on the bars, shifted, played with my computer, went no handed, and then finally drank from my bottle out of the cage, twice.

I should've tried juggling chainsaws, too.

----------

Something tells me the Daily Show and Steven Colbert will need Sarah Palin to stay relevant in order to stay relevant.

29.10.08

Prejudice

This article by Steven Calabresi got me thinking today. It's an examination of Obama's past comments on his criteria for selecting judges.

I don't think it's too off base, really...nothing atypical for a right-leaning publication. Especially when viewed in light of the very real possibility that Congress could be more than two-thirds Democrat come January, as well. Obama's comments do reflect a troubling bent, one that flies the face of the entire concept of the judicial check and of democratic reason.

However, Calabresi is a bit inflated and hysterical in his analysis of some equally typical Democratic rhetoric, for several reasons.

First, again, this is pretty standard Democratic rhetoric. Stuff that people, who've endured eight years of Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld, Enron, Guantanamo Bay, The Patriot Act, etc. want to hear. It differentiates, it takes a stand...and a lot of people have been saying things like it ever since Bush and Cheney came into office on a platform of deregulation and unilateralism. The little guy has gotten the shaft for the last eight years, and the guy running against Bush's legacy is going to exploit that.

But the fact is Obama, and his fellow Democrats - any politicians - are still beholden to lobbyists and corporate donors, as well as their constituents. Obama certainly isn't going return Welfare - not less than 15 years after Clinton practically abolished it. The country has undeniably moved to the moved rightward - right center is the new center. Much as a real move around Roe v Wade would galvinaze the pro-choice crowd, if Obama tries to make real steps toward renewing Welfare and the independents who put him in office would send him packing in 2012.

And really, when in history hasn't a presidential candidate caused consternation about his potential judicial picks? It's inherent in the two party system, especially in times of crisis - the consequences seem that much more dire. In the 1930s, Republicans thought the world was ending when Roosevelt was elected. We certainly persevered throughout that time. The expansion of American power and foreign policy weight had a much greater effect on our world fortunes.

Indeed, we all recall how much debate went on over Bush's potential picks during the 2000 election. Yet, the damage his presidency caused did not come from that constitutional power at all. Instead, it came from powers he gave himself not imagined by the constitution at all: further eroding Congress' war-declaration powers, as well as legalizing torture and domestic wiretapping.

That is why I am willing to look past Barack Obama's disconcerting criteria for picking judges. It's just talk, and presidents always select judges based on their how their records meshes with their own ideology. The checks and balances in the system, and his accountability to the voters, will counterbalance his views and keep our judicial system impartial.

It is Obama's commitment to rebuilding our domestic agenda - education and healthcare first and foremost - while reigning in executive expansion of power and privilege - that I trust. We can no longer afford to literally print tons and tons of money to give to defense contractors waging war for their own benefit. Using our tax dollars for such a purpose should be grounds for prosecution of the Bush Administration under the RICO statutes. Our education system is a disgrace - on its way to certain destruction under No Child Left Behind, which is nothing more than a typical CEO's bullshit of charts and numbers, quantifying everything and qualifying nothing. Bush has not lifted a finger to begin reforming our heathcare system.

Obama will no more let his ideology guide his judicial nominations that Bush did, and the Framers anticipated that. What they did not anticipate was the level of corporate influence on the elected branches of government. It is my hope that Obama - if elected - and the other ins will take a different path and turn a greater ear to the people and our future.

28.10.08

Welcome Back, Christopher

Please take minute to welcome Mr. Hitchens back to the fold.

Christopher Hitchens pissed off millions of lefties, much to Matt Drudge's, William Kristol's, John Leo's, Tucker Carlson's, etc. etc. pointed delight, when he crossed over to Bush, and leaving The Nation, after the terrorist attacks to 9/11. The author of "God is not Great" was able to look past Bush's cynical piety and his puppet status on national policy - an empty vessel to be filled by advisers - for the sake of National Security. In fact, he used his book as an argument for it, even as Bush boasted the Lord was on our side.

Yet he is no longer able to look past such empty-headed posturing, even with the Republican pedigree on nation security. Even he is agast at Palin's boastful ignorance, her "I don't know, and I don't wanna know" illiteracy. And even more offended by McCain's (mis)calculated selection of her as VP in order to out-historic and out-Woman's-vote Obama's candidacy.

McCain couldn't run on the issues - by his own words he voted with Bush 90% of the time - so he and Palin had to rally the republican base. And what the world saw was a disgusting and ignorant display of xenophobia and race baiting. It was no coincidence that as soon as McCain went negative, his numbers started going down. The independents, such as Hitchens, were embarrassed by and hated what they saw.

I used to like McCain, I voted for him in the 2000 primary, as I can as an Illinois independent. Yet, now it is wholly apparent his character hasn't withstood the ultimate test. Put more realistically, I realize Obama is no saint. Yet his campaign has been able to deflect the negativity to proxies, to stand from the high ground the entire time, and present himself as dignified, open-minded and pluralist.

That's the leadership I want.




WTF of the Day

A minor working the checkout line at the grocery store isn't allowed the touch the unopened, sealed alcohol you are trying to buy (as if merely touching the bottle would corrupt their young, open minds...making her completely lose self-control and run down the liquor aisle, smashing open Miller Lite Bottles and ripping open boxes of Franzia) yet an 8-year old (EIGHT!) is allowed to fire a fully automatic Uzi at a gun show, with tragic results.

Not sure I understand the core-values that lead to that, but I know it's what you get when you replace judgment and moderation with knee-jerk fanaticism.

God Bless the U. S. Fucking A.

27.10.08

Photo Dump


Katy and I...apparently we've just put new batteries in the camera


A view of the city during my last sprint workout.

Apple Cider Century Weekend, Three Rivers MI


Katy and Henry in the row boat at Mark's Cottage


Baby in Sunlight with Warning Sticker


Mark, Jamie, and Stocky...w/ accommodations


Mark's backyard, lucky bastard.


One of my earlier attempts in the day at a backwards shot. Note the jackass who still makes the picture interesting. I have no idea who this person is.


Ah, there we go.


The guys.


The gals.


SPONSOR FAIL.


Mark and some grapes. They smelled exactly like Kool-Ade. I don't recall California smelling like that. Is that why nobody buys Midwestern wine except Republicans?


Talking with his mouth full.


Team Kenda came along for the ride.


Confusion reigns.


100 miles later.

Birthday at Kit Kat and Azucar


My present from Katy...there's a bike in it!


Katy and Debi


Jeff and Me


Halfprice 'Tinis


Jeff, Me, Mark


Drag Queen.


BFF!


Drunk and Happy


El Jefe.


Vina.

26.10.08

Now I Understand...

...why people become Republicans.

I really do.

Saturday night, while mine and Katy's bikes were locked up outside of a friend's condo, her saddle and seat post were stolen, and my headlight was broken in the attempt as well. Even the headset on her bike was loose after they tried to take the handlebars and fork off, too.

Just the thought of some asshole with his hands on my property sent me into a frothing rage. Realizing he'd probably get less than five dollars for the seat post that I'd spend more than $50 replacing - including the saddle - induced a torrent of profanity to explode from my face as I threw the broken headlight down the alley, ricocheting off the wooden fence and splintering into pieces on the orange, streetlight-bathed pavement.

A group of people leaving for a party scooted past us, regarding me warily.

I'd barely lost $300 dollars worth of property and I was having fantasies about catching the motherfucker in the act. Angrily whipping my telescoping truncheon out, its malicious clacking sound - as it locked into place - would alert the thief to turn around just before it's hard black metal smashed into his jaw. His teeth would barely have time to hit the ground before I grabbed a handful of hair and dragged him out of view behind the dumpster where his pleas for mercy - bubbling through his own blood - wouldn't be heard by anyone else.

Even as I recognized the genuineness of my visceral reaction, I took a deep breath. Embarrassed, I realized I am of course better than that. Reaction is the dominating driver of people who don't or refuse to account for any of their own actions. I should've remembered the quick release on Katy's seat post and removed everything else that could've been stolen. Of course anything you leave out will get stolen. In fact, I needed to assume it would have and acted accordingly.

In other words...I should've acted proactively.

I'm not saying that Republicans are violent, of course. But I am saying the reactionary response that is typical of that line of thinking only gets us in more trouble. By simply cracking down on people stealing easily accessible property without addressing why the property is so easily acceptable or why they need to steal it to get a few dollars will never fix the problem. Shit will continue to get stolen and people will continue to react violently about it, police sanctioned or otherwise while nobody is any better off (except seat post makers and prison guards).

Along the Republican line of thinking, however, this is all fine, as long as we are not wasting time and money to remove the need to steal or blaming ourselves for why it got stolen.

This could really turn into a book, I suppose, so I will close with this: I can see why people identify with this ethos. Completely. I don't agree with it, yet I recognize the need for it as well. The essence or Republicanism is reaction - certainly an outlook that clarifies any situation and can be a way to reach a quick resolution - yet, unchecked and allowed to grow unabated, it becomes fascism. On the opposite end of the spectrum is pro-action, the essence of Democratic thought. It's dark-side is social-engineering, unchecked it becomes Communism. Both ironically find kinship in totalitarianism.

It is important to use both to play against each other, to counterbalance the system and keep it upright and strong. Truly great leaders recognize this principal and uphold it, at the expense of their own power and advancement.

"Nihilism? Fuck, Dude. Say what you want about tenets of National Socialism, but at least it's an ethos."
--- Walter Sobchek

23.10.08

Thursday Hate - Planet Earth

Our universe is so big that light from one end has not yet reached the other.

When the Hubble telescope peers deep into space, it is literally looking back in time billions of years so far away are the galaxies and nebulae it is aimed at.

So broad and massive are the matter and mysteries spread about over space and time, so isolated are we in our little corner of the galaxy, that we will never begin to unlock even a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of what it all means. That our unlikely progression through evolution to conscious questioning of those very mysteries that will go unsolved, as we die out alone and unknown in our provincial little corner - either by choking to death on our own pollution or by nuclear annihilation - the equivalent of a 3-year old burning the house down playing with matches - is of sickening irony.

You know what makes it worse?

Drinkability
.

19.10.08

Ode to a Ride in Milwaukee on a Sunday Afternoon in October

Their fiery colors warmed the day just born
And ashes just as bright as flames
Gave a way forlorn
New life, new light. A voice exclaims,
"The warmth is gone, but summer I don't mourn!"
The visions of those days still give me pain
A sweetish breath of agony
a mem'ry again
frozen there, tart and wry
To tease me out of thought and to remain.

16.10.08

Can't Sleep...

(Cloud Haiku)

Floating in darkness
Underneath that watchful eye
Metallic giants

----------

Remember Shakey's Pizza?

Man, as a kid I used to love that place. I remember walking up - in the frigid, dark air, my breath a frozen cloud around my head and my parents telling me to slow down - to the huge wooden door with the wrought iron frame - old world style - and excitedly pulling it open and immediately being enveloped in warmth and a sensory explosion that almost made me stop in my tracks, unable to react to any of it because I wanted all of it.

Impossibly high ceilings supported by great rustic planks of deep, rich timber supports. The laughter, the cigarette smoke, deep pitchers filled to the rim with root beer - my favorite - being sloshed over the hightop tables from glass to glass. The sound of another round of PacMan or Moon Patrol starting up from the arcade by the restrooms.

And pizza everywhere.

Pizza back then was simpler. Wasn't it? Wolfgang Puck may have been avant-garde down in California back then, but in Alaska we're at least 15 years behind the times in food trends, 5 years for a new hairstyle, minimum. Back then, good pizza still smelled like an armpit. Loads of onions, canned mushrooms, and pepperoni sliced so thin when it cooked it got crispy and crinkly, like dried parchment. The edges of the crust bubbled up in mountains, volcanos with magma chambers of hot air beneath, watching to be released by an errant bite, and erupt and burn your upper lip.

Occasionally I'd grab a slice of hawaiian - the canned pineapple was the extent of exotic in 1979 Alaska, or a hand full of Mojos (batttered cottage fries) - but mostly I just wanted more cheese and the bubbly hot crust.

Giant gulps of that root beer in the pitcher to wash it down.

I'd burp the loudest, impressing all of my friends as those huge balloons, wider on top than on the bottom, floated and bounced around on their strings above us like fat, pink elephants. Then we play Tank Commander - with green-line graphics and the periscope view finder that got all sweaty and chafed a ring around your face after a solid hour of playing.

When my parents finally told me I had to leave, they got no real objection from me, for by that time I'd eaten so much pizza and drank so much root beer I was feeling kinda sick to my stomach. But of course, I did have room for an ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins next door.

Back out though the wooden and iron door I went, and the cold, frigid air slammed down on top of my senses like a heavy, steel gate.

15.10.08

Thursday Hate - Early Edition

But first, a hump day link:
www.palinaspresident.com

I find new things on repeat viewings of this more than on my Spinal Tap DVD.

----------

I had to turn off the debate after less than an hour in. I couldn't take McCain's soulless, constantly blinking face and his condescending, "I'm not attacking you while I attack you" attacks, or Obama's soft-pedaling, punch-pulling, yawn-inducing answers.

Just once, I wanted to hear Obama throw all that shit back McCain's face with, "5 words, John...'Joe Vogler. Alaskan Independence Party.' If you want to continue casting these aspersions and guilt by association, please explain your running mate's judgment in marrying a guy who was a card carrying member - until 2007! - of a secessionist group founded by a guy who was murdered in an illegal plastic explosives deal gone bad in 1993."

Or, "John, what about your support of the Contras in the 80s - with personal donations?"

And then to McCain's inane posturing about never having been south of the border during their NAFTA-renegotiation argument: "Really, John? What does that have to do with anything? If it did, why did you choose a running-mate who just got her passport in 2007?"

I had to shut it off when I wasn't hearing anything new. Which included Barack Obama not standing up for himself.

----------

I ate some jalapeno-flavored potato chips the other day, and got one stuck in my throat. Mucus membranes do not like the spicy.

14.10.08

Tuesday Cinquains

Winter
Light fights to break
Into thickening ink
Sadness grows like snow yet to fall
Over

Crackling
Dried husks once live
Hide the only way through
Home is behind me, death ahead
Out there

Friends gone
Alone and blind
The path out is all mine
One step at a time, through the black
Self trust

Faith, love
Lust and laughter
Melts the ice every time
And visions of a warm sunrise
Promise

7.10.08

Post Debate Meanderings

We bitch and complain about how our students are falling behind in math and science, so much so that many cities are in full panic mode - offering free education and loans to certify teachers right now.

Yet McCain singles out the $3 million new projector at Adler Planetarium - one of the city's top public educational facilities, not to mention one of our top tourist attractions as an example of Obama's wasteful pork barrel spending.

Don't our student citizens deserve the very best? Seems to me top of the line audio-visual equipment (for which $3 million is probably pretty reasonable) is necessary for a tourist attraction that more than pays for the expenditure with it's value as a civic institution - and to improving the knowledge of citizens everywhere who come from around the nation to visit it.

Meanwhile, McCain has publicly advocated staying in Iraq for an unlimited time, at a cost of over $10 billion a month. I wonder why our education system is falling behind these days?

And was it just me, or did McCain, a Republican, say that he supports nationalizing private citizen's mortgage debt??

Just switched over to FOX News, and the MSNBC for some instant gratification on reactions, and it's pretty obvious nothing is going to change, save George Bush simultaneously pulling Osama bin Laden out of his and suppressing the release of Oliver Stone's new movie before Election Day. Even talking heads from National Review and the Weekly Standard are saying it's at least a draw,if not a win, and none one less than the Pat Freakin' Buchanan just called Obama "fluid and presidential."

This was McCain's time to "take the gloves off." But he couldn't. Not on Ayers and Wright he couldn't. If he did, Keating and Palin's own Pastor Muthee and her own "palling around" would've been thrown right back in his face.

A focus group in Virginia raised their hands at the moderator's request in favor of Obama. North Carolina and Florida also went blue this week. Indiana is now blue. Barely, but it's blue. The birthplace of the Republican Party.

fivethirtyeight.com. The popular vote may be close, but it is up to a 9 point difference now, and the electoral vote could be as much as 90%, or even higher by the final debate next week.

BTW, I should just make the tags for these entries just one "politics/assholes/bullshit" tag, as they're never without the other two.

Some "Issues" for Debate Night

If this is evidence of where the rest of the $700 billion is going to be spent, authorized and supported by both presidential candidates, it might just be necessary for some revolution at more than just the polls next month.

I'm not saying...I'm just saying.

----------

Hockey Moms in glass houses should watch their slapshots (credit to Katy for the quip, Mat for the video):

6.10.08

Em Oh En Dee Ay Why

Sorry for the radio silence...took a few days off to celebrate, be sick, and race. TCW is back on the air...come on!

First up, this piece of news gave me a little flash back. I don't know if any of you out there have ever taken the Megabus, but I am quite sure you wouldn't rates it's customer service up there with Lufthansa...I wouldn't either, and I am certainly not done badmouthing this company to any one who will listen.

A couple of years ago I was leaving Minneapolis after taking part in a charity ride, the St. Paul Classic, on the 11pm overnight run back to Chicago. I'd thought even looking at the schedule the arrival time looked a little optimistic, considering Chicago's morning rush hour. But the bus was over an hour late in getting on the road after making the three pickups in the Minneapolis area, and it was soon apparent that the bus driver was still intent on keeping to the schedule.

Speeding through the rain the left lane past more cautious traffic, he swerved back to the right and over corrected, hitting the shoulder, and began to fishtail. The passengers were all fast asleep in the 3am darkness, and the sharp bump and sideways movement shot everyone alert in their seats.

"Oh my God!" was the cry directly behind me, and I was thinking the exact same thing, as I braced myself to either fall against the glass windows next me or fly across the aisle, whichever way the bus rolled. Immediately, the bus was back on line, and nervous laughter floated back over the seat tops.

"I don't think anyone will mind if we're a little late, man!" I offered up. More nervous twittering.

I tried to find a phone number to call on the corporate website afterwards, but none existed, and my emails went unanswered. Even the twenty emails afterward, sent everyday, that stated I would next be sending Letters-to-the-Editor badmouthing Megabus, and would be letting everyone else know about their drivers lack of qualifications, as well.

Still nothing, two years later, so here you have it. More megabus-bashing, as a warning, in the wake of yet another company causing grief and chaos after cutting corners in safety and employee background checks.

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Speaking of flashbacks, do you ever have sensory-triggers? I mean, really strong ones? Everytime I drink a Pepsi from a glass bottle - not a Coke, or a Sprite, but only a Pepsi - I have a flashback to August of 1985. I am twelve years old, on summer-vacation in North Carolina. I am in a small-town, southern, dusty corner-store, the kind with that old Mello-Yello sign and an ancient black man with a crumpled hat out front. It's early evening, and I'm waiting for my father to come down to the theater for pre-show prep. Outside is a colorful sky, roiling on the front end of an evening storm, making the leaves whisper and chatter. I've put a quarter in a rusty soda machine and received my prize through a small glass door. As that peppery, raspy, sugary goodness touches my lips, the cool breath of carbonation blowing back from the bottle will impart this memory in my brain for the rest of my life.

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This is Katy's interpretation of cycling apparently:

We just saw an ad for a living will service. She says I need to complete one and not her because she's not the one who rides her big wheel in a pack of maniacs also on big wheels wearing only their underwear and a styrofoam cup on their head.

Would someone please, please, please draw me a picture of this?

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Finally, I would like to speak to any McCain supporters out there who are suddenly flabbergasted and offended today that Obama has now brought up the Keating 5 scandal. It is no coincidence that he has not mentioned that sordid story until today. Don't act so surprised.

John McCain is out of ideas and out of steam. He has chosen (or had chosen for him) a running mate for cynical reasons and overestimated her effectiveness on his campaign, while not properly vetting her for liabilities on it. Now, as he is predictably lagging in the polls, he has been forced to unleash her as the pitbull she likes to claim to be. Unleashed to make loathesome, pathetic, race-baiting accusations that play into the worst kind of fears of the worst kind of voters.

Ayers was a war-protester when Obama was eight years old. Yeah, he threw a fundraiser for Obama, in 1995. And contributed a whopping $200. Obama has repeatedly disavowed and condemned all of Ayers past acts. Guilt by association? Fine, then you should have no problem with Obama's payback characterizations of McCain's involvment in the Keating 5 scandal.

Yes, he was sent home with a slap on the wrist and a warning for his "poor judgment" which was all McCain deserved. But if you are going to buy into the assertion that Obama's character is clouded by one fundraiser and a $200 contribution from Ayers? Please consider that McCain received over $112,000 from Charles Keating between 1982 and 1987, and had been a regular guest at what John McCain referred to, whistfully, as recently as 2003, at Keating's "Shang-Ri-La" I'm-the-richest-man-in-the-world boat parties.

The fact is, Barack Obama has kept this campaign relatively clean until now. But now that McCain and Palin are questioning his patriotism, expect Obama to get his pants a little dirtier. She's slinging charges of lack of patriotism? I'm sure an official reminder that Palin was once a member of the Alaskan Independence Party - a seccessionist movement, can't be far off.

And if Obama really wanted to get dirty, he could call McCain's health into question, as well as bring up some of Palin's creepier comments that are clues to some of her hidden ambition. There are persistent rumors that McCain didn't want Palin, and that Karl Rove and Cheney has foisted her upon him. The familiar tone of her speeches, the same repeated lies about Iraq and 9/11, it gives me a bit of pause to wonder about the machinations at work behind this bubbleheaded Baptist - who claims God wants a gas pipeline - who could be king.

I'm always happy to roll in the mud if pushed into the puddle.