Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dirge Quinzaine

Given current president’s reality show legacy, ever wonder why federal government doesn’t hold survivor competitions to recruit the best and brightest? Think about how America wastes great minds and physical talents with game shows and silly sports instead. Or how so called “Leader of the Free World” surrounds himself with subpar accomplices. They make Labann look like a Full Bright scholar; have at least tested bike headlights on high beam to tell how long they last on a full charge. Could hire Nobel laureates to concoct tests and pledge considerable prizes that contestants would be eager to collect. Once you screen participants and weed out imbeciles, the top ten would all be offered appointments to high level posts, presumably to advise amazingly and pull together effective policy.

Probably wouldn’t work. Whoever you’d most want to engage wouldn’t be interested. Competent performers are already doing something they consider more important. Besides, who could trust that feds weren’t just rounding up their betters for slaughter? Run the other way!

Should an impeachment remove president from office, hence it would be Pence, kindred nonsense. Cynics think chiefs intentionally benefit by comparison to worse veeps. Nation might be loathe to go from frying pan into fire, ride the lame horse for four short years, soothe selves with reassuring clichés, suspect they can’t meanwhile do irreparable damage, but they’d be wrong.

Government never follows commonsense practices. Monoliths stay put. Any change is too late, too little, and works only to preserve itself. If it doesn’t operate responsibly, resolves no issue timely, and taxes vast majority abusively, doesn’t that make authority the average citizen’s enemy? They are forced to depict boogeymen to deflect blame from themselves. Conditions are too good and lives are too precious to waste time on worry. Better to enjoy your journey by going by bike.

People actually believe that if you sort, identify, label, number, an surveil stuff you are behaving rationally and scientifically. But once the reason for doing so gets lost, the rest is merely empty ceremony, practically magical incantations and specious voodoo. You should reach back to origins sometimes to rediscover meaning. Bicycling teaches where pavement came from, who gets to use it foremost, and why motoring, with all its automated comforts, collision avoidance, cruise control, and wireless distractions, lowers everyone’s safety by reducing driver skills.

Presented for your morbid curiosity are 15 likewise baleful bicycling ballads hitherto unmentioned. Wonder about all this bipolar gloom; a couple even outright describe crashing. Bicycling usually improves mood. Quinzaine is to 15 as a dozen is to 12. Could have looked for a few more related songs, maybe bright and cheery ones, but just how many other words rhyme with chain that haven’t already been used as B&C blog titles?

BallBoy, Olympic Cyclist, i hate scotland, C.I.A. Rec., 2000.

Cyriel, Eddy [The Cannibal] Merckx [Belgian, single], Life Records, 1970.

Juan Luis Guerra, El Niágara en Bicicleta [Dominican merengue], Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual, Karen, 1999. About an accident on a bicycle, then, atrocious attention patient begging for help gets in a third world hospital, neither the same nor equal, worse than trying to cross Niagara Falls on a bicycle. Song won recognition and sales for its social conscience on crucial issues.

Jenna Lindbo, Head over Handlebars, Jasmine Parade, self, 2012.

Juliette, Un Petit Vélo Rouillé [French, “A Little Rusty Bike”], No Parano, 2010. “A small rusty bike in a squalid creaking takes a tangled path. And pedal in the void it runs on the rim increasingly faded, tracing a nasty wheel, a vicious and vicious circle… This miserable bicycle. Who will have me, heart, broken! There is only you to show how ridiculous it is. All parts, the cycle of black ideas.”

Kelsey Law, Head Over Handlebars, single, self, 2013. Replete with a tragic backstory. Not same song as Lindbo's, though shares identical title.

Kevin Thorsell, Ride My Bike, single, self, 2009. Teen experiment goes awry.

Melody 101, Bicycle Girl, Baked in A Pie, self, 2015. “None of these stories are lies. Bicycle Girl doesn’t lie. Bicycle Girl is gonna rule the world.”

Redbong, Hip Hop Poulidor, Divisés [pour mieux régner], Discograph, 2009. Racer Raymond Poulidor was sadly famous for finishing second so often, particularly to Merckx.

Roméo, Ma Vie, Mes Copains Et Ma Bicyclette, L’Enfant a la Voix D’or, Choice of Music, 2002. “I have my life, my buddies, and then my bicycle… In my room, I alone make the law. And I do not need anyone. It’s my paradise, my America… When you are my age, you need to have some freedom.”

The Pale Fountains, Bicycle Thieves [no cycling lyrics], From Across the Kitchen Table, Virgin, 1985.

The Rosebuds, Death Of An Old Bike, Sand+Silence, Western Vinyl, 2014.

Tom Rosenthal, Bicycle Lane, B-Sides, Tinpot Rec., 2013. “Can you see the colors change? Oh, they’re blurring into shapes. What if you had a thought? It’s time to make the great escape. Yeah, there's no sign of cars; you’re in the bicycle lane.”

Violet Road, Bicycle [Norwegian in English], In Town To Get You, Sony Music, 2016.

Will Stroet, Le Boogie à Vélo [French Canadian], Dans Ma Jardin, [self], 2009.

To spread some cheer in this xenophobic holiday preseason, close with a quote from a non-bicycling ditty, “So if you’re up there somewhere Santa, please don’t bring me another bike… but there’s something kind of special that I want most of all. I Want an Alien for Christmas.” - Fountains of Wayne

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bang Cinquain

Indicting GM ranks among this blog’s most controversial, divisive, and provocative pronouncements. Nobody noticed. Encouragement? Reaction? Symphony of crickets? Artists and writers thrive on direct input. There’s plenty of peripheral material through network news and social media, but practically none that merits mention without personal motivation. One picks facts to make points. Just being surrounded by daily tumult can inspire another output. But what incites meaningful action? Why go by bike instead of car during unsettled weather? Too bothered to constantly check forecasts, one might forfeit progress, forget feeling better, ignore muscle tone, or lose interest altogether. Then sun rises, and urge to splurge arises.

Bike commutes represent just one of many ride options, but one that steadily recurs. You can instead form trains, go together in groups, recreate elsewhere alone, submit to fund raisers, take short neighborhood spins, or tour across country or state borders. Once you involve others, you limit number of trips. Commute routes need to start flat and short; otherwise you wouldn’t arrive on time. Returns can be lengthened to take in hills and scenery. As autumnal equinox passes, daylight at commute hours disappears. Shift from saving to standard time opens a short window to ride again without lights, though soon you must recharge them or replace batteries. You may attempt sunlit midday trips year round in most localities. Winter commutes tend to be entirely in darkness, which discourages all but the dauntless. Some attend indoor spin classes to deter later ineffectiveness.

Was once excited, ready and suited for a winter bicycle commute on a new route. Parked truck in a high traffic lot and rolled bike onto a quiet side street into cauldron pot blackness. Held headlight button for prescribed few seconds and lit as expected. After about a mile it popped. Walked back blind to where streetlights were and wended carefully back to vehicle to resume by motor. Among worst cycling disappointments ever, never got a chance to repeat that loop, which included a new bridge bike lane and rolling country terrain. Have been caught in rain and snow, laid low in hail and lightning, proceeded with caution in fog and on ice, but was never otherwise so utterly forced to retreat. Must always be wary of failure, especially by bike, since it might entail consequences you won’t like.

Can dwell on tragic finality, the curse that befalls all who empathize, or get distracted by comic absurdity as do those who rationalize. Wisdom finds a stance astride. Eyes on the prize don't preclude being blindsided. Need your head on a swivel to identify, react to, and rule out threats while you keep what's important in focus and try to learn what's profitable. You won’t discover it in a casino playing Wheel-O-Rama trying to match five figures across.

“Money talks, bullsh*t walks,” by which they mean people who can pay get treated royally while rest are derided ignominiously. Tempted to rephrase, "Wealth motors, poverty bikes," but bicycling spans all classes, and slogans, however false, seem less so if they rhyme, as if the extra effort of using fancy language legitimizes. No political speech writer or pulpit homily moralizer would ever be deprived of a rhyming dictionary. Apt phrases rattle inside addled brains, just a parlor trick that makes possible persuading the most apathetic without actual arm wrestling.

Life is mostly about getting, going, spending and sleeping. Leaves little chance to be brave. Choosing to go by bike only exposes you to different dangers than motoring. An automotive shell may seem like armor, but because of small footprint bicyclists avoid collisions altogether. Better never to collide.

All humans were born with a fear button. Politicians and pontificators specialize in pushing it to release fight or flight hormones. If you don’t respond, you’re left to assess doubts, misgivings, or regrets. Traced fork of failure back to a blur of pork on a spork. Yet middle aged flab once was a sign of affluent endurance not gross ugliness. Thereby survived stretches of lean and plenty without sheltering the blameworthy. A Labann cinquain, “Election Day”, exposes roots of evil times:

Bandits
brazen, sneaky
blood sucking politicians
murder more than mosquitos
poverty

Its meter resembles how some Congressmen bilked public of trillions, a bit at first, then bam bam, then bam bam bam, increasing from annually to quarterly until one incessant bang. Pettiness wants to deprive the powerless, steal a meal, stash as cash. Fear of future want compels such compulsion. Cinquain, an American Imagist poetic form based on Japanese haiku, is direct with an economy of words for short attention spans. Upon volumes of details taxpayers grew numb. Does anybody know who got away with treachery or remember who got indicted? While it disappoints and seems disrespectful, when nobody listens you can at least expect mobs won’t react wrongly. In Las Vegas, terrorists who do lash out heinously. Blame it on biased conservative media, who have already instigated next attack, always suborn treason, and arguably validate psychos. Aren’t all of these crimes?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Blown Powertrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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