PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

June 23rd, 2006

Defensive Riding

If I ever happen to come across as a wee bit defensive, or even paranoid, about riding my recumbent bike, there are good reasons for it.

I’ve been yelled at, laughed at, crowded off the bike lane, and nearly clipped by cars and trucks. And while you might think “Hey, ALL bicyclists get that kind of abuse”, I can assure you that there is some special hatred out there for recumbents.

Don’t believe me? This is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.

So I hope I can be forgiven for being a bit prickly about trying to keep my precious skin safe while having to ’share the road’ with such assholes.

June 23rd, 2006

You’re Pitiful

Have you heard James Blunt’s song “You’re Beautiful”?

I have. Many, many, many times. I hate it. It’s a whiny, sappy ballad about a loser who gets a glimpse of a hot chick with another man on the subway, and creates this absurd fantasy romantic ideal about how heartbreaking it is that they won’t be together forever and ever and ever.

Give me a break. You saw a hot chick. You’ll never have her. It happens to the rest of the adult male world every single day. Get over yourself.

Oh, and “pure” and “sure” are supposed to rhyme. If they do not, you are pronouncing one of them incorrectly. Unless it is your intention to be “shore” of something. But I digress.

Fortunately, I do not have to waste any more of my energy mocking Mr. Blunt’s work, because the king of song parody, Wierd Al Yankovic, has done it for me. Please listen to “You’re Pitiful”.

Hail to the King, baby!

June 23rd, 2006

Music Video Madness

Ah, that curled lip, those dangling earrings, the fingerless gloves: it must be Billy Idol.

Billy Idol - Hot In The City

You may love GN’R, you may hate them, but you couldn’t escape them. They were always on the radio. And besides, it was always fun to try and spot Slash’s eyes.

Guns N’ Roses - Paradise City

Oooh, and what could be more quintessentially ’80s than a tune from the “Miami Vice” soundtrack, by a former member of the Eagles?

Glenn Frey - You Belong To The City

And finally, one of my personal picks for worst song of the decade, and definitive winner of the ‘How the Mighty Have Fallen’ award:

Starship - We Built This City

Whichever city you may be in, I hope you enjoy the first weekend of the summer.

June 21st, 2006

Learning to Ride a Recumbent

The first time you try to ride a recumbent, it’s an interesting experience. You see, your body knows how to ride a bike. It’s an almost entirely automatic and reflexive process. Unfortunately, a lot of those reflexes don’t work on recumbents.

The first time you push off, the bike falls over. Your body is used to having a lot more help in staying balanced than it gets on a ‘bent. So you try again, and use your steering to stay balanced, but the steering seems hypersensitive, and you start over-correcting madly. Then you try to turn around, and everything goes to hell.

It just feels completely odd, and even though most folks are wobbling around successfully in just a few tries, it takes quite a while longer before it becomes natural.

Nestofdragons, a Belgian recumbent homebuilder, filmed a coworker attempting to ride one of his bikes for the first time. It took him a few tries.

Try number 1:

Try number 2:

Try number 3:

If you are interested in riding a recumbent bike, keep trying. It’s worth it.

June 21st, 2006

Naked Bike Ride - Portland

In case you missed it, June 15 was World Naked Bike Ride Day. I would imagine that in most communities, such an event would come and go with hardly any recognition. In some towns, perhaps one or two hippies would pedal their rusty Schwinns down main street, testicles flapping in the breeze.

But this is Portland. Things are a little different here.

Naked Bike Ride Portland - The Video

If really need a warning that the video contains nudity, please go get your mother to sign a note giving you permission to use the Internet.

June 21st, 2006

Into The Woods

My wife does not like beer. She does not like wine. She likes rum and coke on certain occasions, and Colorado Bulldogs when she has had a hard day. However she is constitutionally unable to spend large chunks of time in a fuzzy drunken haze.

So, unlike many mothers, my wife has to actually deal with our children during summer vacation.

This week, that meant signing them up for Girl Scout day camp. Before y’all point out that my son hardly qualifies for Girl Scouts, I should hasten to add that they have programs for younger siblings. My wife signed up as an adult volunteer as well. However if this strategy was intended to reduce the wife’s workload, it has failed miserably.

For one thing, they all have to get up earlier than they did during the school year. When they get home, shortly before dinner, they are strung out and exhausted. To add insult to injury, the wife has to immediately start doing laundry because they all have to wear their day-glo orange ‘camp shirt’ every single day.

So, it hasn’t exactly been what you would call ‘relaxing’ for my wife. Yesterday, however, was the precise diametric opposite of relaxing.

As I understand it, sometime after lunch, it became obvious that one of the groups of girl scouts was AWOL. They had gone on a hike up the neaby hill and hadn’t returned. What’s more, a second group that had climbed the same hill later hadn’t run into them on the trail. Leaders scurried about, and a fire drill was hastily arranged to bring everybody to a central location. There was a headcount, and this group was not present. However, organizations like Girl Scouts have plans for these sorts of eventualities, so, the kids were contained in one location while adults were sent out on search missions to try and find the missing group.

Of course, our daughter happened to be in the group that was lost.

My wife, who usually keeps a remarkably level head, was gripped by a feeling of doom that she could not shake. She was gripped by visions of our daughter wandering off away from the group, and the rest of the girls getting lost trying to find her. As the day wore on, she grew more and more stressed. This wasn’t helped by the many young girl scouts coming to give her tearful hugs of support.

Finally, one of the leaders got a phone call from the lost tribe. They had come down off the hill on the wrong side, had been completely turned around, couldn’t get a cell phone or walkie-talkie signal, and had walked until they finally found a house out in the woods where they could get some drinking water and orient themselves. Their location was quickly determined, and several cars set out to retrieve them. Everyone seemed to be fine except for one scout that had twisted her ankle and couldn’t walk on it.

Yes, it was my daughter. She had twisted her ankle not once, but twice, the last time pretty severely. So the first I heard about any of this was when I got the phone call from Mrs. Agent at Immediate Care, where they were getting X-rays.

To make a long story shorter, the girl has to stay off her ankle for at least a week, the wife is a nervous wreck, and I had to run out and buy crutches at 9:00 last night because my wife’s pair was too tall for the girl. Nevertheless, all three of them were packing up to return to camp today, with their bright orange shirts freshly washed, my daughter’s crutches thumping on the floor, and dark circles under my wife’s eyes.

I note that today is the first day of summer. If yesterday was any sort of harbinger of what we can expect, it’s going to be quite a long summer indeed.

June 20th, 2006

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

Sure, lots of sci-fi geeks have argued about who would win, the Death Star or the Enterprise 1701-D. But how many of them actually went out and made a short flm depicting the confrontation?

June 20th, 2006

Oh, I’m going to Hell

I adopted a cute lil’ pirate fetus from Fetusmart! Hooray fetus!

June 20th, 2006

RFK Jr. and the story that shouldn’t die

Like nearly every ‘liberal’ blogger in the country, I recently posted a link to the Robert Kennedy Jr. article in Rolling Stone that (I think) convincingly argues that the Republican Party engaged in widescale dirty tricks to deprive voters of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2004 election, specifically in Ohio. This story generated two-and-a-half times as many e-mails as Rolling Stone has ever received for any other story.

There’s now a nice follow-up interview with RFK Jr. over at PR Week in which he indicates that litigation may be pending related to this issue. I would LOVE to see some lawsuits filed in this mess, if only to drag the facts out into the light of day where they can be properly evaluated. Surely the GOP would also be interested in a fair hearing, if they did nothing wrong in Ohio.

June 20th, 2006

I am not a leaf on the wind

When I lived in the midwest, one of the things I hated most was how hot the nights were in the summer. Some nights it never got below 85 degrees in my apartment. I never slept well in the summers, and would wake up dripping with sweat. Here in the northwest, even during the hottest part of the summer, it cools down at night so you can get some sleep.

Of course this also means it starts out freaking cold when I want to ride my bike to work. It’s supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny today, but when I left this morning it was in the low forties and I could see my breath. Brrr.

There’s something you need to know about recumbent bikes. For all their comfort and efficiency, they do offer a few drawbacks. They aren’t as stable at low speeds as an upright. The center of gravity is much lower, and you can’t shift your body weight like you can on an upright. Plus, the little tires don’t offer the same gyroscopic stabilization until you reach much higher speeds. The result is that at low speeds, like when you’re starting from a stop, you ride like a drunken chimp for a few pedal strokes.

This morning I was just starting out, not quite warmed up yet, and had turned onto a one-block stretch of sidewalk that I take to avoid a particularly busy intersection with no bike lane. I only ride on the sidewalk to get to the entrance of the bike path, and only in the mornings. On the way home, I ride in the traffic.

Unfortunately, this morning I looked up to see an oncoming cyclist on the same stretch of sidewalk. While recumbents aren’t necessarily wider than an upright bike, they look wider and they feel wider. I slowed down and moved as far as I could to the right to let him pass. Unfortunately, I slowed down to drunken chimp speed.

He let out a cheery “Good morning!” as he passed me, and my tires started rubbing the turf at the edge of the sidewalk. I tried to correct, but down I went, like a narcoleptic elephant. *THUD!*

Do you remember on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In when Arte Johnson would put on a yellow slicker and ride a tricycle? And the skit always ended with him falling over? That’s exactly what I looked like this morning. Fortunately I landed on the grass on my elbow and hip, and the only thing injured was my pride.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I felt good this morning, and the ride seemed a little less strenuous than usual. Maybe I’m getting in shape?

I’m finally breaking down and getting a bunch of bike gear to make my commute more comfortable. I’m getting fenders, a fairing, an underseat rack, and some panniers so I can actually carry a change of clothes.

When I get the bike all kitted out, I’ll post a picture of it.