Sep 30, 2008

What Can We Do?

We have sadly had four (4) bicyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents in the Twin Cities in the last several weeks.  This includes a long time cook/chef at the Minikhada Club near Lake Calhoun and most recently a 54-year old woman riding her bike in a designated bike lane on Summit Ave. in St. Paul.  

Needless to say, these tragedies have sparked a lot dialogue on the local bike boards. One of the best threads running at the moment is on MBL.  I like that this is generally constructive and solution focused, so far, and there are a number of good ideas. I hope the City(s) look at this and take some of the ideas to heart. I also think that this is probably an issue that should be dealt with by the Met Council or something, since bike and traffic safety issues are not specific to any one city. If the Twin Cities want to be a truly bike-friendly place/liveable, etc. then we need some wider focus on these issues and a holistic response rather than one City reacting one way and the others either not reacting or doing something completely different.  

EDIT - the picture that did not show up is from the Strib and shows one of the recent ghost bike memorials. Click the image "place holder" and it will take you to the Strib link. Sorry for the technical difficulties on that one.

Sep 29, 2008

Self-Sufficient Riders

Last evening we were driving home from a friend's house in Kenwood.  We had gone up there to visit, help out with some yard work to get her place ready for winter, and help eat up some meat that she had thawed and wanted to grill. One of my errands for the day was getting a big load of wood chips from one of the piles the city puts out and spreading them on our friends flower beds, so we took my pickup truck, a wheelbarrow, a shovel and a soil rake.

On the way home, we passed a bicyclist on the side of the road on Portland Ave. around 42nd Street.  It was getting dark and the rider looked like they might need a hand; the bike was upside down, the rear wheel and tire were off, and he was rummaging through a backpack looking for something.  We have also had a rash of armed robberies in friendly So. MPLS lately, so Molly suggested that we circle around and see if he needed a hand.

When we pulled up, we saw an older guy with a very nice Scott carbon-fiber road bike. He had the wheel off the bike, and the tire/tube off the wheel, but the presta valve was stuck in the rim and he could not get it out. I unscrewed the valve from the rim for him and showed him how I worked that little bit of magic, then he asked for a flash light because he had lost the tightening screw from his quick-release skewer for the rear wheel.  Although we looked around with a powerful flash light for the missing nut, we could not find it.

It was not getting any lighter, and I could tell this guy was not going to be riding home anytime soon, so I asked where he was headed and if he wanted a lift to somewhere. He replied that he was trying to get to Richfield. I told him we would take him that far if he wanted, but when it came time to put his bike in the bed of the pickup, he balked at that since it might get scratched (it was a really nice bike, but still, I would rather risk a scratch than spend my evening on Portland Ave looking for missing bike parts in the dark).  We ended up leaving him out there and hope he is okay, but I have been thinking about the "self-sufficient rider" today.

TCBC has a decent description of what it takes to be a self-sufficient rider.  I ran into quite a few broken down folks during my Anchorage Trail Watch days, but often those were just people out for a quick spin - not riders on high-end road bikes planning to make longer rides.  I actually rescued quite a few downers in Anchorage and made phone calls for the ones that could not ride home.  Knock wood, I have only had to call Molly once to come rescue my non-self-sufficient butt.  I got a flat somewhere between the Mendota Bridge and Harriet Island in Lilydale or St. Paul. Everything was going just fine until I  fucked up inflating my spare tube with my one-and-only CO2 cartridge.  Based on that sorry experience, I got some Gatorskins, ditched the CO2 for a road pump, bought a light that can double as a flashlight and have never looked back.  

When we parted ways last night, the Scott rider's game plan was to replace the wheel (which could not be secured to the frame) and walk the bike to Chicago and then take a bus home. I hope he made it with no problems!

Sep 28, 2008

Where the hell have I been?



Anchorage some, then home on Friday, but tired all weekend.  I'll probably be my sparkling self tomorrow.

Sep 19, 2008

What the Scrubbing Bubble Taught Me

Every Thursday, there is a farmer's market on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis during the "outside" season (plus a few crappy weeks on either side of good weather).  I like the farmer's market because their are a lot of people on the mall, you can get all kinds of stuff - not just vegetables, but also good bread, cut flowers, potted plants for the garden, etc., and it is great people-watching habitat as well. Also, lots of demonstrations and PR ploys get pulled, which makes for good entertainment.

Yesterday the weather was as close to perfect as you can get, and it was the farmer's market day, so a group of co-workers and I ventured off-campus for lunch.  While walking to our destination, I was treated to the sight of a gigantic Scrubbing Bubble standing silently on the corner of 10th St. and Nicollet Ave.  The menacingly introspective bubble was trying to be visible and yet stay out of the way of everybody while a clean, cheerful young person with a toilet seat was hovering near by, presumably passing out free samples or something, but I did not want to get involved.

No one else did, either. This marketing ploy was too over-the-top for our chilly Minnesotans. No one was engaging the Bubble or his/her colleague, despite the obvious plea for attention. 

One of my co-workers in our Lunch Bunch (who, by the way, also avoided the Silent Bubble) happens to be a public affairs professional. She shared a story about one of her early assignments as a communications professional that involved handing out flyers for a now non-existent directory assistance service to anyone that would take them on a crowded street corner while wearing a duck costume and honking on a duck call (sweet Jesus).

While the duck costume was clearly a traumatic event for my co-worker, this Bubble sighting, and the co-worker's story, got me thinking that despite what - by all accounts - has been a very successful career (so far), I have one unfulfilled dream: to be some kind of mascot. I have always wanted to be a San Diego Chicken, or a Bucky Badger, a Racing Sausage, or perhaps, even a toilet cleaner bubble. 

Why, why, why would this be? These mascot suits are undoubtedly hot, claustrophobic and demeaning...  

It's because mascots strikes the perfect balance between recognition and anonymity. They are the center of attention, the star of the show, the "main event" while in the costume, but off-duty, you would never recognize them.  They can walk away at quitting time -it's fame with no loss of privacy and damn little accountability.  What's more, mascots never say anything, so there would be no worries about engaging people in small talk and managing the inevitable awkward pauses. When it happens, you could just mutely wave at passers-by and move on to your next victim, and it would be perfectly normal and accepted by our society.

I bet Brittany Spears and Sarah Palin would like to be mascots, too. 

Time Out for Art

Last night I was treated to a relentless torrent of political ads while I tried to watch the news.  I am getting awfully tired of it. And, once again, I don't see a candidate I want to vote for - I will probably vote based on who I think is the least damaging yet again.

Here is a link to the Virtual Museum of Political Art. It's an interesting web site that covers many movements, ranging from Socialist Realism to Saddam Hussein and modern U.S. stuff. I came across the site years ago when I was looking for more information on Socialist Realism. I have always been a fan of the Socialist Realism work - the image at the top of this post is "Lenin at Red Dawn" by Boris Eremeyevich Vladimirsky and it's quite famous (and also seems appropriate, too, as I get ready to leave for work today, commrades). The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) located right here in friendly So. MPLS has some Socialist Realism works and lots of other interesting pieces.  Beginning Sept. 22 they will be running an exhibit on icons that we will likely go see.   

That's it - time to go organize the workers for our glorious labor!

Sep 16, 2008

The Sin of Temptation

I saw this at an undisclosed location in downtown Minneapolis today. It's not the first time - several days a week I have come across this bike and lock combination and just slap my head everytime I see this.
It makes me feel very good knowing my 4 year old Cross Check is right next to this with a U-lock and a cable.

Sep 15, 2008

Melt Down

For those of you that are not paying as much attention, the stock market plummeted today, and the pundits are crediting bad news from investment banks and lenders as the primary cause for today's carnage.  

Bloomberg.Com ran an article today about some of the reasons for the subprime mortgage crisis. What I particularly like is the social science, rather than finance or business management angle in this article...

"[Robert Schiller,]the Yale economist and author of ``Irrational Exuberance'' says the crisis has unleashed forces that are tearing at America's social fabric and will probably slow economic growth for years. He likens the struggle to the punitive reparations imposed on Germany after World War I.

"Once again, many people, unable to repay their debts, are being pursued aggressively by creditors,'' creating a sense of helplessness and betrayal, he says. We may be witnessing what he calls ``the first act of a long and complex tragedy.''

Click the title of this post for the full article.  There are links as well to Schiller's book and other relevant topics on this as well at Bloomberg. 

On a more positive note, here is why you should not get too worked up.

That's what I've got tonight.  Thanks for reading and all that.

Sep 12, 2008

Democracy vs. Republic

Time for a civics refresher. I got into a little disagreement with the guy in the seat next to me on the flight back from PDX tonight on the topic of whether the U.S. was a Democracy or a Republic.

The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment--with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term "the people" means, of course, the electorate.

I say we are a Republic - the guy in seat 3C says we are a Democracy.

Home Again (Again)

I am back from Portland, OR and hunkered down watching hurricane Ike mess up Houston. We closed our Houston office yesterday afternoon and all of the employees have fled for higher ground (hopefully) but I am going to stay up and watch the coverage.

Portland was fabulous - the weather was unbelievably nice and the visit was great. Nice to get back to PDX and renew old ties and make new ones. The photo is looking east from my hotel room across the Willamette River at the mountain.

I am having second thoughts about the Minneapolis Bike Tour, but I might still ride it. With the weather turning towards fall, I find I really want to spend my time outside birding, but we'll see how things look early Sunday morning.

Nice to be home.

Sep 11, 2008

PDX Street Sightings

I stole away for a few minutes to hit the Dr. Marten's store in Portland late this afternoon and spied a few things worth documenting. Narrow bars are "in" as far as this Portland rider is concerned:

Also, I apologize for the lousy quality of the photo (that is becoming a theme of this site it seems) but I caught this sticker on another bike parked on Broadway:

Its been a great trip so far; I end up getting a ton of stuff done when I sneak off to another office because most people can't find me and I get fewer interuptions. The weather is fantastic as well, so it's been great so far.

That's it. Back to work.

Sep 10, 2008


I get to spend the next two days in Portland, OR for an office visit. I think it's been nearly a year since I made it to Portland, and I am really looking forward to seeing the city again and visiting with our staff in that office. If time permits, hopefully I will be able to hit one or two of the more interesting bike shops in town (I have friend in PDX to help act as tour guide, but I am open to suggestions on places to go). Hopefully I'll get a photo to post as well.

Sep 7, 2008

Jive Talkin'

Several years ago now, I took flute lessons from a guy in Minneapolis that was a working jazz and big band musician. He played sax, doubled on flute and clarinet, and pounded out a wicked conga as well. I learned quite a lot from him in the time I took lessons, but one of the funnest parts of the experience was the exposure to "jive". This guy actually used jive in every day conversation. I think he picked it up from older jazzers and may not have even realized he was doing it.

Of course, every generation has it's jargon and slang, often used to keep the older folks at arms length, but the Beat Generation came up with some really great slang, particularly when compared to the stuff I am hearing these days. For instance, if you were at a frolic pad (like, say, a jazz club or wine bar) and the guy playing the stand-up bass had on some wild costume, you could simply observe to your friends:

"Check out the wild drape on that cat thumping the dog house"

Here's you chance to get hep to the jive seen. Study this link carefully. Print it out, put it in the bathroom, read it while you eat your corn flakes. Whatever you need to do. Then, once you are confident, slowly starting working these terms into you everyday vocabulary. Start small; call you co-worker "baby" and agree that the meeting was a "drag". They probably won't notice this, but then work in more words and try to string them together into sentences. Pretty soon you'll be hep to the jive and hopefully, your co-workers, friends and family will be, too. Or at least maybe they won't be "Clydes" anymore.

That's it - I'm cutting out, Daddy-O. Don't be square and have a great rest of the weekend!

Sep 5, 2008

The Ancestral Homeland

So, I got back from ANC a week ago with about 12 hours to unpack, sleep, and re-pack for a trip to the ancestral homeland on the shores of Lake Michigan. What brought this prodigal son back to the verdant lands of youth? Free baseball tickets, what else!!

My brother Johann won GREAT tickets to a Milwaukee Brewers game on Labor Day at a silent auction, and he was good enough to invite Molly and I to see the game [insert smiley icon here]. I have never been to the new ball park in MKE, and I like the Brewers on general principle, so I was glad to go. They played the Mets (meh), they lost, and it was really hot and sunny, but it was a great time. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the field, saw an old friend from High School, and Miller Park is absolutely beautiful. After seeing that, I am now actually more in favor of replacing the Metro Dome, which seems dim and old compared to Miller Park (my proposal for the Metro Dome is to take the roof off, fill it with dirt and turn it into a gigantic flower pot, by the way). Plus, this trip took me away from MPLS for a few days so I missed at least some of the RNC convention.

We were truly was blessed in so many ways.

Do not fear - I did not miss all of the excitement, however. I did get some of the convention vibe when came back from Anchorage and again this week when I got back from Milwaukee. The airport was literally crawling with Republicans and clean, helpful Minnesotan's waiting to welcome them to town. The Helpful Greeters were literally lined up at the baggage claim area waiting to hand the delegates white snak boxes and help them find a cab or a hooker or whatever. I tried to get one to give me a snak box and help me with my luggage, but they totally had my number and gave me the bum's rush (I must not look like a delegate).

Despite my cold shoulder introduction to the convention, I was not entirely left out. While the convention was in St. Paul, the Conventioneers were all in downtown MPLS this week!! It turns out Republican delegates tend to wander into the streets in groups with little to no regard for traffic or personal safety (much like geese), and then get pissy when you almost run them over. Here's an actual shot of a delegate from the Great State of Maine that I took from the Mighty Tundra at 7th and Marquette on Wednesday to prove my point:

Like Spring in September

For the first time in days, the streets are no longer clogged with Republicans and normalcy has returned to the fairest of Twin Cities. We will be celebrating the exodus of the politicos with bike rides!

The St. Paul Classic rolls out on Sunday, Sept. 7. This is nice enough route and I rode it last year, but will not be participating this year. Instead, I am saving myself for the Minneapolis Bike Tour which will be next week Sunday. I was going to ride this one last year but ended up in Anchorage instead.

I am entirely avoiding the subject of the Republican convention, Sarah Palin and the protests/arrests because that hits too close to home and work, so I am not touching that one.

That's it for now. Got to get to work.