Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Header

I used PhotoShop and an itty bit of HTML tonight. It felt good. That photo is looking up at the westbound flight path to LAX, as seen from a Lennox elementary school playground. I was there for a health fair about a year ago, and how many cases of asthma did I see? Not pictured: High-voltage power lines stretching up and down the street as far as I could see. I'm sure I'm on some watch list, given how many pictures of power lines and airplanes I snapped that day. But it was just so unbelievable -- huge jets passing overhead every few minutes and the incessant buzz of electricity running through thick cables.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Surly Bonds of Fact-Checking

It's 4 a.m. and I'm listening the NPR, reminded by "The Writer's Almanac" that today (Monday, January 28) is the day in 1986 that the Challenger space shuttle crashed.

I remember exactly where I was sitting in my fourth grade class, when a runner from the main office came and whispered in the teacher's ear. Shortly after, a television was wheeled into the room so that we could watch the news. We watched as the coverage unfolded, as footage of the explosion played over and over. I was reminded of the experience as I sat, glued to my television, on September 11th, 2001.

But to the main point of this post. Garrision Keillor incorrectly credited Ronald Reagan with a quote from an aviator-poet of the Royal Canadian Air Force. As soon as he read the famous words, my fact checker mojo turned on. Not one to give Reagan a lot of credit, especially not for elegant prose, I looked up the original source.

Slipped the surly bonds of Earth ... and touched the Face of God belongs to John Gillespie Magee, Jr., not the Great Communicator.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Introducing: Lumpy the Car

Previously known as "Lucky." My car, uncrumpled. It's a custom job -- I paid someone called the Dent Experts $1000 to pound all those little bumps into the hood. Photo courtesy of my dad.

The bRidal Industrial Complex

Snagged straight off of BikeSnobNYC, but this needs all the play it can get: the Primal Wear bRide 2B Jersey.

The Primal Wear B-Ride 2B Jersey. Just right for the Bride-2-B! Chain rings and bike chains make up the "lace" on this bridal get-up. Classic corset design will let you show your "skin" without getting a sun burn (and not to mention a little extra exposure for the tribal tattoo partially visible near the "exposed" lower back).

This makes me want to barf on so many levels. Somehow, when I got back on my bike, I thought I was pedaling away from the insanity that include things like the modern cult of the bride. Also, if I'm about to get hitched, I'm gonna be riding around in a REAL corset, sunburn be damned.

And the tribal tattoo? I don't have words, only a face:

Thanks to a BSNYC poster for showing us how to do it right:

Courtesy of Sheldon Brown, of course.

Ironically, I'm in the market for a corset for an upcoming theme ride. Now I'm gonna shop extra-seriously for something extra-slutty. And it's not gonna be white.

But maybe I'll buy one for John? Now that would be hottt. Oops, never mind, they only come in CAUCASIAN!

Bleaaaah. Live in sin until we run out of oil.

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK on Vietnam

Today I was reminded of one of MLK's most powerful but lesser-known speeches: his speech on April 4th, 1967 to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam at Riverside Church in New York City. He lays out an argument against the Vietnam War, and posits that working for civil rights is just one part of a greater struggle for social justice around the world. (I can't really write anything that isn't dwarfed by King's own words.)

Democracy Now! reports that "Time magazine called the speech 'demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,' and the Washington Post declared that King had 'diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.'"

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

What have we done in the past 41 years? Listen to or read the speech here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I woke up before dawn yesterday (another bravo, but not the subject of this post) in order to take John to the start of his first brevet. "Brevet" is French for "diploma," and John definitely deserves one. Brevets are long bike rides that come in several flavors: 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, 600 km, and 1200 km. Riders are called "randonneurs," French for "rambler." This one was 200 km, or 126 miles, which works out to be about 120 more miles than I ride to get to school each day. They started in Malibu, headed up the coast to Carpinteria on PCH, and then came back again. At about 6:30 pm, John arrived back at the start point tired, hungry, 6 pounds lighter (eek! that's 2.72 L of lost fluids!) and happy. Well, happy to see pizza, at least. I'm really proud of him and I told him that lots in the brief time before he passed out last night. He's got me excited about riding more and covering more distance, and I'm unnaturally interested in this 1230 km ride that happens every four years called the Paris-Brest-Paris. Riders ride from -- well, duh -- Paris to Brest in the northwest of France and back again. My mostly-rejuvenated randonneur pulled no punches when he pointed out that we had to stop every few miles on our wine country ride. I'm sticking to my story that it was the incredibly yummy trail mix we were carrying that day. So a huge BRAVO to John and a promise that I'll be up to doing the next one with him. In the words of Yoda: “Do or do not... there is no try."

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I've had the plague for the past couple of days (on the mend now), so I've had some time with the NyQuil bottle to contemplate the Big Picture. I realized that while I could tell you how a candidate's sympathetic nervous system is responding on the podium (assuming they're all mammals), I don't really know that much about the 2008 presidential election. I was too embarrassed to admit to my parents that I watched the caucus results on the local evening news. Then my dad came up with some gossip about John Edwards and a $400 haircut. Further embarrassment when I had no knowledge of it and no retort.

Grassroots politics died for me the day Howard Dean made that weird noise, but I think -- after four years -- that I'm ready to see other candidates. Given my relative success with online dating in the past, I submit to you a list of what I'm looking for. In no particular order:

1. Speak. It's not right that I have to change radio stations when All Things Considered plays a clip of the leader of our country speaking. I really don't think I've made it through a full clip in seven or so years ... I just wait to read it in print and the pain is a little easier to bear.

2. Read. Books. With chapters. Bookstores are piled high with delicious texts -- history, economics, foreign policy, sociology -- these might come in handy when running the world. I'm jealous. Read the books that I can't because I just started the page-turner Lippincott's Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

3. Iraq. Fix it. I don't know how, but do it. I'm sure there are a lot of smart people out there who have spent their whole careers thinking about the Middle East. Type "civil war" and "Iraq" into Google Scholar and see who pops up. Invite them over for coffee. They might even have written a book (see #2.)

3a. The War on Terror. Enough already. It's 2008 and we're debating whether or not "simulating the experience of drowning" constitutes torture. We're combing Central Asia for some guy in renal failure. I'm more tired of it than the folks making infographics over it CNN. My children are going to ask me about it, like I asked my parents about Viet Nam or McCarthy, and I'm not going to have a good explanation.

4. The Planet. Start fixing it, too. There is so much to do, I'll just give you the basics. Oil. Sucks. Stop killing people for it, stop running things with it, stop making things out of it. Got it? Ratify the Kyoto Protocol already, and I mean this one, not the second one they come up with in 2012. (Hey, another guy you may want to have coffee with. You may just hit it off, but don't ask him about the recount.)

5. Health Care. Um, fix it. I subscribe to the radical notion that all human beings deserve access to medicine. You should too.

6. Sex. Just a few items here, but generally none of your business. You hopefully consider most of this topic to be part of #5 and not #7. We can have it with whomever we want, we should have the opportunity to learn how to protect ourselves against diseases and unintended pregnancies, and we should fund all of the same overseas.

7. Religion. Generally none of your business, and evolution happened.

Extra Credit
A. War on Drugs - Pointless. Racist.
B. Race - Still matters.
C. Guns - You may own one (1) if, for some reason, you are dependent on game as your sole source of protein.
D. Bike - Ride one. Cool.

That's about it. Time to put down the green syrup, turn on the NPR and wade through a year's worth of sound bites. But maybe I'll watch "Obama Girl" one more time. (Obama vs. Giuliani is actually my favorite.)

P.S. - I really hope that I get put back on some watch list when I hit "Publish" because I've been missing that personal touch at airport security.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

What I've been up to ...

That's John and me at SantaCon, a gathering of hundreds of Santas who wander the malls and street of Los Angeles shouting "Buy more stuff!" and singing dirty Christmas carols and generally making trouble.

I was "hipster Santa," so I tried to be ironic by dressing in black, attaching a pom-pom to my Swobo riding beanie and wearing large sunglasses.

We got a police escort out of Pan Pacific Park, who explained that this convergence of Santas might be a distraction from some other, more sinister activity (starts with "t" and ends with "errorism") ?!? It ain't a party until the LAPD helicopters start circling overhead.

We got some media coverage thanks to Boing Boing tv, who ran not one, but two features about us. We were generally wary of television cameras in our face, but the Boing Boing pieces turned out pretty good. We know the "OH-kay" guy, along with most of Santas flipping off the camera or hitting on the reporter.

But I haven't spent all my time wandering the streets. I passed my Block 2 exam, and oh, boy did I pass. I even passed the anatomy section, which I've never done before. That's the test where they stick little pins with flags on body parts -- a human golf course -- and ask you to identify parts. I'm sure there are people who got 95% and are flagellating themselves over that missed 5%, but I am relishing my delicious 78%. Cut-and-paste of my butt-kicking score:

Final Exam
Anatomy (100 pts.) 82.5 (82.5%)

Final Exam - Part A (100 pts.) 80 (80%)

Final Exam - Part B (100 pts.) 70 (70%)

Final Exam - Part C (100 pts.) 72.22 (72.22%)

Final Exam - Part D (100 pts.) 90 (90%)

Category Average 78.94 (78.94%)

To summarize, WOO HOO!

Spent some time at home with my family. We agreed to do a "low key" Christmas and pretty much dispense with gift giving. I'd have to say it was one the most relaxing, enjoyable Christmases I've had. My family, on Christmas morning, eating cinnamon rolls and wearing paper crowns from the English crackers we just exploded:

What a nice family. Not one you'd see roaming the streets of Los Angeles. From left: Mike, my sister's sometimes boyfriend; Kat, my sister; me; my Dad; my Mom.

John wasn't able to make Christmas day -- he does have family of his own -- but he stopped by long enough to flip the hub on my bike and turn it into a fixed gear. For those who don't know what this is: this makes it so that your pedalling is directly linked to your rear wheel. No coasting, all pedalling. Why? You ask. Some say it makes for a smoother riding experience, and makes you a better rider. Some would say it's a silly fad, but I wanted to try it out.

Me, posing with my bike. I can ride it too, sort of.

Other tidbits: Welcome back, Kirsten, Chris, and Soren to the Lower 48. They are settling back into life in tropical Providence, RI after 6-ish months in Alaska. I hope she keeps her blog going, though, even though she doesn't have moose in her backyard anymore.

Got to go think of some resolutions ... #1: Write more often and with more substance, #2 ...