Thursday, May 31, 2007

And speaking of shadows...

If Ridemyhandlebars ran a photo contest, this one would definitely be a winner. Taken by Sydney Rappaport, she didn't realize what a masterpiece she'd created till she looked at it later. "I was just walking down the street, saw it and thought, what a neat bike, and then WHOA, cool shadow! *SNAP* "
Thanks for sending this in, Sydney!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vesting in our future

OK, here’s the super glow in the dark&light vest of which I spoke yesterday. I forgot to bring the product ID information with me to my hideout today, but when I get back home I’ll fill that in. I bought it at Bike Gallery.

Notice how the back comes down much lower than the front. That’s so when you’re leaning over slightly, as one is wont to do when riding, the thing still shows up. Brilliant. The last vest I had was as short in the back as it was in the front, and it wasn’t nearly as visible from the back because most of it disappeared when you were leaned over.
Also, this one is a snap to take on and off, made easier by having a little belt that buckles in front. That way you can adjust it according to how many layers you’re wearing – instead of trying to wrestle with the “one-size-fits-all” mythology of many products.

I had to pay this model a ton of money to pose for these pictures so I hope you appreciate it and go out and get one of these. I’m not getting paid for this. And why aren’t I, anyway? If the luminescent vest makers want to give me money for blogging about them, I won’t turn it down. But even without the money, my interest in promoting these is completely selfish. As a bicyclist, I don’t want to get hit by a car, and as a driver, I don’t want to hit a bicyclist. So there.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rain bad, Sun worse – don’t be lulled into complacency

Ok, boys and girls, I know you’re all as happy as clams out there with all this glorious weather. So what do people do? Immediately dump the perpetual load of rain gear -- and with it goes the luminescent rain jacket / windbreaker. Aren’t we all ecstatic to be able to hop on the bike with 50% less junk? Because isn’t that the Number One complaint about biking – that there’s too much STUFF you have to schlep around with you?

HOWEVER – all is not perfect in P-town -- or anywhere else where the sun is shining brightly. What happens (especially in a car) when you pass abruptly from a brightly sunlit area into the dark shade of a row of trees? Ever notice? You’re temporarily struck blind, that’s what. Isn’t it true? For a few seconds you can’t see a durned thing and you’re operating entirely on guesswork. This effect is much less dramatic when you’re on a bike because you’ve got the whole dome in your visual field, filled with an array of light and shadow happening in all the 360 degrees around you, providing for gradual adjustments from light to dark and vice versa. In a car, however, you’re all closed in, making the light more glary and the dark mo darker. And having all that glass reflection to contend with further compounds the problem. Once again the cyclist has the advantage of better vision BUT, ironically, is at the mercy of the impaired vision of the bigger and much heavier Moving Metal Deathtraps.

Conclusion? In sunny times, that luminescent garment is just as crucial as it is in rainy times. That could be the ONLY thing the driver sees once you enter a shadowed area. I have for that reason been enduring my caution-yellow rain shell throughout the sunshine so far. People look at me weirdly, but at least they look at me. Finally I’ve bought myself a simple VEST which is a lot cooler. Later I’ll post a photo and brand information and tell you why I think this one is so much better than the last one I had.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day weather misleads thousands of tourists

Nothing better than to stay home on a holiday weekend and watch the city empty out. Especially when it’s a 3-day weekend, that day sandwiched into the middle is so blissfully quiet. I wouldn’t miss it. The few people that stick around are all on slow mo. Like me.

No doubt for some vacationers, Portland was a destination. These are dangerous times, my friends. Our holiday weather has been so unbelievably perfect that many of those hapless visitors will leap to the conclusion that they would find true happiness if only they moved here. That results in a growing population of wrist-slitters who can’t manage our dreary damp grey never-ending winters. If you know someone on the verge of such an error, do them the kindness of informing them of the truth. Otherwise we’ll not only become horribly overpopulated, but the mood of the overpopulation will be: extremely crabby.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tinted side windows big safety problem

I’m seeing more and more of them, so I looked it up online, and it seems that tinted side-front car windows are legal in Oregon. How dumb is that? Tinted windows completely obliterate any hope of eye contact with a driver.

There are so many situations in which we need to know if someone is seeing us or not. You can save your own behind if you’re lucky enough to be able to see that a driver is looking the other way, yakking away on a cell phone, or just not paying attention.

Even without window tinting it’s hard enough to see the driver because of reflection on the glass. We can’t do anything about that, but why make it worse by allowing tinted windows? As pedestrians, cyclists, and even as drivers, we all benefit hugely from eye contact when it's possible.

Note to drivers: Don’t assume that anyone outside your car can see your gesturing. Chances are, the reflection is such that they can’t see through your window glass. While you’re gesturing wildly away, they many have no idea you’re even looking in their direction.

When I’m driving, I’ll often roll down windows that I’m looking through, to make it easier for other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to see me-the-driver rather than just me-the-car. A lot of communication can occur by eye contact alone.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another reason to wear a helmet

This week's Newsweek quotes a bicyclist who got his head run over by a delivery truck. He said, “I didn’t see it coming but I sure felt it roll over my head. It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head.”

I’ve often thought that if you somehow fell over in a bike lane or from a sidewalk on a busy street, you could easily land in the path of an oncoming car. That’s why I avoid these shared arteries like Broadway. In my opinion, that was not the brainiest traffic planning idea in the world. I use the little residential side streets as much as possible.

The guy’s name was Ryan Lipscomb. He suffered only a concussion. It didn’t say what brand of helmet he wore, but his story would make good ad copy for the helmet maker -- like those luggage ads that showed the suitcases falling off the top of a car on the freeway and surviving.

That actually happened to me, about 20 years ago – same brand of suitcase, fell off top of car on I-5, no lie, run over by a semi. My parents still have it in their basement. One of these days I’m going to send it back to the company for a refund. The ad claimed it wouldn’t be squished, and it is too squished. It didn’t open and spill my stuff all over the road, though, which really impressed me. I think that’s what’s holding me up. I’m conflicted about whether my experience differs from the ad enough to warrant a false advertising claim. I can’t decide. Maybe a lawyer could help me.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hey don’t make fun of my car, dude

If you recall, I’ve complained before about having to wash my car even though I rarely use it. It turns out that a car not kept in a garage will get dirtier from not driving it than from driving it. At least driving it blows the leaves off, and maybe the top layer of dust.

Saturday two guys came to our door and inquired about it -- said they were out looking for a car to buy for their sister.

It’s not a car, I told them. It’s a home for wayward spiders. And a stage for fey raccoons dancing the night away – as evidenced by their mud prints on the hood; on the roof; and on the trunk. (What was wrong with these guys? Couldn’t they see?)

I said their sister probably wouldn’t like the spontaneous-engine-kill feature. That’s the sort of thing that’s for experienced drivers only. But they like to work on cars and they thought they could fix that. Nice but foolish boys. Lucky but unlucky sister. I forgot to ask them if their sister drove a stick shift – that would have finished them off right there.

Hardly anyone drives a stick shift any more. I’ve heard they don’t even make them now, which means that if Lindi and I go through with our loony plan to ditch our old cars and update to a single new one, I’ll be doomed to drive a sissy automatic. Boo, hiss.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Life is so high maintenance

I haven't posted for several days because I’ve been busy. I’ve been writing the article that would not end, the article that kept coming back, the article that would not go away. Among other things.

Life is so high maintenance I can’t even believe it. There are about a hundred things that will fall right into the abyss of doom if you don’t keep on top of them constantly. The most high maintenance thing is the human body, the second most is the human household.

We'll start with the body. The minute you slack off on exercising, every molecule of your body starts to go to hell in a handbasket. And you don’t get to retire. Au contraire, the older you get, the more crucial it becomes. When you’re younger you can slouch for a week, a month, and get away with it. But even though the older you get, the less you feel like it, it is also true that the older you get, the less you can play hooky. You skip three days in a row and you feel like you’ve never exercised in your life.

That is so not right.

The only hope is to make exercising totally fun -- or at least as fun as possible. Hence my biking habit. Totally fun most of the time. A big pain some of the time. There are so many details of life that are tedious, that if you don’t find a way to make them fun they’re just not going to happen. Riding a bike around town is fun. Exerting yourself on a machine that requires an equal amount of work but goes absolutely nowhere is not fun, at least not for me. I am not a hamster and I will not be fooled.

And now the dwelling. If anybody knows how to make cleaning house fun, do tell. The minute you slack off on vacuuming, your house becomes so full of tumbleweeds that you need soccer shoes just to get across a room. Vacuuming is so not fun. It can be improved slightly by obtaining a vacuum cleaner that you love, but still.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ear damage while biking

One thing about riding a bike is that your poor ears are exposed to all the construction noise you pass. I try to hold a finger in my closest ear, but I always wonder if the reverberation off the buildings hitting my other ear are actually louder. I’ll have to ask someone who knows about sound waves.
Here’s a photo I took while riding through the famous Pearl District, which is supposed to be the greatest thing that ever happened to Portland. See that black thing in the middle that looks kind of like a crane but isn’t? That’s a pile driver. The thing’s hammering away every single day when I ride by, and it’s so loud it hurts. I’ve got my finger in my ear the whole time I’m near it. I don’t see anyone else doing this, which makes me wonder. Am I just ridiculously sensitive? I mean, ow! Once I saw a mother standing casually at a stop light with a baby in a stroller right next to where this is, and I wanted to jump off my bike and stick my finger in the baby’s ears. I didn’t, though. But it was hard. "Move the baby!" I pleaded silently in my mind.

This site is smack in the middle of a whole bunch of those new condos that cost $350,000 and up. In fact I bet there aren’t even any that low by now. If I had just bought one of those and found out I was going to have to listen to a pile driver every day for the next three or four years, I’d be mad as a hornet. I’d be furious. But that would be dumb, wouldn’t it?

People buy those places because they want to be right in the thick of the city and then they spend the rest of their life trying to get it to be less noisy and less like a city. The building and road re-paving is endless and the noise of the garbage trucks reverberates horribly on the sides of the tall close-together buildings, and the train goes right through there – what did they expect? Please make the garbage trucks come later, please make the train stop blowing its loud horn, please make the panhandlers go away, please make them quit building all those other condos like mine, they moan pitifully. What’s slightly amusing is that they’ve paid top dollar to be right on TOP of the train tracks and other city characteristics that used to define a low-rent district.
Ha. Ha.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Issues of delayed signage

The red birthday graffiti was gone already this morning when I rode in – which makes perfect sense, since the birthday’s over. But it was surprising, since most people lack follow-through when it comes to signage. Have you ever noticed that? Signs that advertise some event on a certain date often remain up long after the fact.

This is especially true of garage sale signs. People will nail signs up on every telephone pole with a big arrow pointing in the direction of the sale and then leave them there for weeks. Just last Sunday I was almost home from somewhere when I spotted such a sign. Though I was only two blocks from home and had resisted several garage sale signs already, when I saw this one I veered off to the right in the direction of the arrow. (You know how sometimes when you’re almost at your goal you feel like you can finally give in?) I pedaled three blocks out of my way to find absolutely nothing – six blocks, if you count the way back. This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen for this. Now I have regained my former skeptical outlook of not believing any of the signs.

If you must frequent garage sales, I recommend going by bike. Then you’ll be much less tempted to buy anything that would take up space in your house. I haven’t bought anything since last summer, when I bought a small portable typewriter, which unfortunately fit nattily into my bike basket. I now have five manual typewriters, every one of them in mint condition. I don’t know what more I can do other than wear a blindfold.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Wholesome graffiti goes a step further

Regarding my discovery of wholesome graffiti last week: Well now look – here’s some that’s not only wholesome, but REMOVABLE!! This is laid down in red tape. How considerate is that? Plus it’s written in an attractive typeface.

I don’t know about you, but I’m encouraged. I for one have been trying not to be such a crab. Maybe everyone else is working on this too.

Someone went to a lot of work to do this. Mick? are you there? What was that you were saying in your comment last time about a viral somethingruther marketing campaign? Is this some kind of advertising gimmick to reel in suckers like me who are out here desperately trying to believe the world is not getting rottener by the day? I hope I’m not being an utter fool. If this is marketing, what are they allegedly selling? Sidewalks? Birthday cakes? Bridges? I'm confused.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back to Denmark

If you'll recall, I posted some snaps of Anna in Copenhagen a couple of days ago. She was unable to post a response comment since all the instructions come up in Danish over there. (Can you believe that? Of all the nerve!!!) So I asked her a bunch of questions and she emailed back the following.

"There are many unspoken rules. Bikers have their own traffic signals and a proper biking lane. I don't have the stats on how many people have bikes, but it has to be well over 50%.

"No, there are not showers at work. People just put on tennis shoes and ride in. I have seen women in skirts, men in suits, and of course your spadex clad racers.

"Since it is flat here I only have a 3 speed bike. It is very flat in Copenhagen and I rarely switch out of 2nd gear. The only reason for 1st gear is to combat the wind. It seems that no matter which way you are pedaling the wind is always in your face. On a few occasions I had to stop the bike because I just could not pedal into the gusts. I consider myself to have strong legs so this was some serious wind.

"The only thing I miss about owning a car is being able to carry stuff. Other than that I am happy to be on two wheels.

"I attached a photo I took riding to work yesterday, which should answer some questions. The bummer is no other bikers were coming along then. It looks like he is all alone."

(I will post the picture she included later on. Gotta run now. kg)


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Graffitti becoming more wholesome

Here’s a bit of graffitti from the sidewalk on the north side of the main post office. I found it gratifying to see graffiti I could actually read, for once. I can never even begin to make out that bad-boy typeface that’s been in use by the graffiti people for the last decade or so. You know what I mean, the kind you see everywhere, especially all over the boxcars of freight trains. What’s the use of defacing public property with a message that 95% of the public can’t read? Besides being completely illegible, it’s usually unattractive.

At least this one doesn’t contain obscenities and has a clear simple message – though I could find no trace of any French bread anywhere in the vicinity, so once again I remain stymied. Maybe some day a person who can write legibly with a spray can will get together with another person who has something to say, and some kind of communication will occur.