Thursday, May 24, 2007

To hell with cars

Hi-dee-ho, neighbors!

Have you filled up yer tank lately? I haven't, but I have been following a little bit of "news." On Monday, ran an interesting story on the rising gas prices. I took the liberty of extracting a few quotes, so I could, of course, make fun of the logic behind them.

"Needing gas ranks third behind needing to breathe and needing to eat," economics professor Patrick Welch of St. Louis University told the St. Louis Times-Dispatch this month. "It's a demand for a necessity, not for a luxury." Economics professor, eh? Well, I guess on the surface this surmise might be true of most Americans. But, come on ... really .. a need? Consuming (combusting) gasoline inhibits humans' abilities to breathe and to eat (thanks to pollution). I think Darwin (not to mention a few fundamental schools of psychology) might have a slightly different take on the opinion. It is sad, truly sad that the "need" for gasoline is ranked (by apparent experts) as a biological requirement for survival in our culture. I would argue as well that the majority of Americans' automobile usage is, indeed, a luxury.

"It is time for Congress and the administration to do their part to help alleviate the pain consumers are feeling at the pump," Mark Cooper, the Consumer Federation of America's director of research, said in recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. The average U.S. consumer is spending $1,000 more each year on gas than five years ago, according to the CFA. Hey, Congress, check out investment in alternative transportation -- truly effective mass transit, incentives for bicycling, more effective city planning so people will wise up and live nearer their workplaces. Retro solutions for adapting cars (i.e. hybrid tax credits) are like Band-aids on amputated limbs. Wake up, dipshits. It's not a problem of "alleviating pain at the pump," it's an issue of solving a problem that spans decades -- we should never have been allowed to develop our horrible dependence on oil for everyday, individual transportation needs.

And, proof that Democrats (too) are fucking idiots concerning this topic:

"Oil companies today are enjoying record profits, and while they could use those profits to invest in more production capacity, instead they use the money to buy back shares in the markets," Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., said at a recent hearing. I agree, Rep. Conyers that oil companies are finding ways to work this situation to their advantage. However, the problem goes beyond combatting capitalism. People, including you lawmakers, need to wake up and begin formulating balanced syllogisms.

"In April . . . crude oil was $7 a barrel cheaper than last year (but) gas prices were almost 50 cents a gallon higher," Rep. Bart Stupak, another Michigan Democrat, said at the same hearing. "Clearly there's more at play than simply the world crude oil market." Stupak has introduced a bill that would make oil and gas price gouging a federal crime. Let's take it a step further and see some laws that make overconsumption of gasoline a federal crime. This is proof of an inherent flaw in free-market capitalism -- as long as there is demand, matched with any available supply, it is regarded as not only right but obligatory to satisfy that demand. Clearly what is needed is a paradigm shift. We aren't dealing here with a simple matter of miserly suppliers creating price gouging -- we are looking at a very limited supply (and oil companies know it). Consumers, however, are programmed to believe that their rights to demand supply are above all other pragmatic considerations such as sustainability and the environment. Why are so many lawmakers afraid to broach this issue?

Everyday on my commute to and from work (via bicycle), I think about the hundreds of poor suckers I see driving cars. With all my capacity for empathy, I genuinely feel for them. It must really suck to feel stuck, to have no options, to essentially be operating like a caged rat. Why feel this way, though? Why wait for a bureaucracy driven by special interests to create a solution for you? Exercise some good ol' fashioned American individuality and find your own way out of your problem. Give up your car. That, my friends, is quite possibly one of the most patriotic actions one may execute in such troubled times.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

What's all that got to do with the price of gas?!

Little Sylvia just had a birthday. She turned 2 on May 7th. Two years have gone by so quickly. Who would have guessed one day we'd be swaddling a newborn and the next we'd be chasing around this little being who has powers much beyond what her diminutive size implies. We have fun together, especially when we get to all hang out as a family. Such was the case at Mayday this year. Sylvia was happy to ride around in the Burley while we pedaled through the crowds at Powderhorn Park. It was a perfect spring day, cool with a bit of drizzle. All the pagans were out in force, happy to be able to flaunt their non-conformism in public. I love it. Even if I don't have the spontaneous free-spiritedness to join in on a whim, I certainly hope Sylvia learns much from these formative experiences.

Here we are at Lake Calhoun just a couple miles from our house. I'm attempting to show Sylvia how to spot fish swimming near the shore. She had fun chasing the minnows. Mostly she had fun progressively testing the limits of how far she could wade despite our urging not to go too deep. She tests boundaries so much already. Hopefully she'll grow out of it by her teenage years, but I'm sure it will only get worse.

We bike most everywhere and, since I ride to work everyday, I never really notice gas prices. I overheard some coworkers talking about how expensive gas prices have become. $3.35/gal or something like that. How ridiculously wonderful, I thought. I don't hate to sound like a morbid curmudgeon -- it is music to my ears.

April's parents were in town last weekend to buy a recumbent at Calhoun Cycle and to celebrate Sylvia's birthday. Sylvia and I decided to hang back at the bike shop while the family was on a test ride. I was making small talk with the shop mechanics when a car pulled out of the parking lot. I told Sylvia to be careful and watch for cars. She said, "Cars are coffins." The shop guys got a kick out of it. She's been saying that now for a couple of months. And I hope she remembers it, believes it and lives by it. Just in case she doesn't, I stuck a little reminder on her birthday tricycle.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Four and one half months until 'cross season

Nope, I don't mean cross dressing season. Everybody knows that's year 'round. I'm talkin' about psycho-friggin'-cross. Running steep hills, slogging through mud, sliding through sandy turns, missing clipouts at 10mph and almost falling face-first into a barrier. And that most plaguing of questions: Is it physiologically possible to 'cough up a lung'? Oh yeah, cyclocross -- quite possibly my favorite European export.

But until 'cross season there are other diversions, like road racing. I upgraded to Cat 4 this season, so competition has been a little better (with fewer silly crashes ... although there have been some doozies.) Our field sizes can be 40 to 60 racers. My good friend Mr Nacey suggested I post my results. Well, here ya go:

April 14: Oxbow Classic -- 7th (A lovely gravel road race chock full o' hills including one 17-18% grade at the finish line.)
April 28: Ken Woods Memorial -- 11th (Like most upper Midwest road races, it's a rectangle laid out on county roads through farm fields. That is to say, windy. Very windy. Since it's a glorified square, you're guaranteed a tail wind for some portion of the loop.)
May 5: Gluek Road Race -- 8th (Another rural course. Mid 50s at the start with a little rain and winds gusting to 40mph. We had an epic pile up on one cross-wind section. I heard one guy broke his collar bone, another dislocated his shoulder. Ouch. I have [knock on wood] been very lucky to get around these pile ups with inches to spare and keep myself from going down.)

The road race season in MN is notoriously short. Nothing left to do now (until June anyway) except criteriums, time trials and track racing. (And then ... come September ... 'cross season!) I'm okay with some down time. I'm actually contemplating a couple weekend tours and Memorial Day weekend we are biking (the whole family) down to a park 30 miles out of the city to camp for the weekend. Once you begin integrating bicycle travel into your life there's not much you can't go do or enjoy on a bike.