The Gilligan Island Effect

Just got back from my 2nd day (well, night) of class. Man, that campus is desolate when 10pm classes let out. Not really scarey or spooky, though. Not like being at Wayne State in downtown Detroit at night. Just quiet. There’s something about a college campus at night that I really dig.

Anyhoo… second class, second GenX popculture reference. This time it was Gilligan’s Island, when the instructor was pointing out spots on a photograph of the earth from space. He was identifying Hawaii so of course he had to make the Gilligan Island reference. How could he not? Right.

And like that I had the title for my first CTR (Current Topic Report).  Every few weeks we have to select a news article that we can relate to what we’ve been talking about in class. For my firt one I’m using an article about bicycles made out of bamboo. My intention it to relate it to sustainiblity since bamboo is a renewable resource where as metals are non-renewable. And according to the article bamboo is indigenous in many different place in the world. And if you can make bikes out of bamboo why not other things? Also, this bamboo bike movement is working to help alleviate poverty in developing nations by teaching people from such places to make bicycles out of bamboo thus providing them with a means of transportation.

But the title of my CTR, right. I’m going to call it the Gilligan’s Island Effect. Pretty catchy, eh?

I just started thinking about how they made everything out of bamboo on Gilligan’s Island. Even a pedal-powered car at one point. Maybe it was just a fantastical TV show, but why couldn’t some of it become reality? Why couldn’t we make things out of bamboo instead? Things like broom and mop and duster handles. Swiffers too. Think of all the little things that you see in place like Target that don’t need to be metal or plastic. It boggles the mind.

Anyway. That’s my topic and I’m sticking too it.

Curious, irrelevant aside. The young woman sitting in front of me had multiple piercing in her ears, even up on the top part. I didn’t realize that people still did that. Also, she had a tiny tattoo of a star on one hand and a tattoo of some musical notes just behind one ear. I wasn’t ogling. I just happend to notice. I can’t helpt it. It was an interesting detail. And I collect such details. Store them in my head for possible later use in a piece of fiction.

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BMX is GenX….

…and not just because it has an X in it either.

From time to time, I’ll recall my BMX days. For example: when I still in grad school I bought an SE Quad Angle for no reason other than I wanted it and happened to have some extra cash. I rode it for a few  years and then passed on to my nephew. Recently I retreived it, or what remainded of it anyway, from his grandmother’s garage, with the idea of restoring it. Who knows if that will actually happen. For now it sits in my garage in  need of wheels a brake cable and some reconditioning. A cool paint job wouldn’t hurt either. I’m thinking black or a deep purple (my daughter’s preference).

Anyway, if I do, I plan to post before, after and in-process photos here for anyone who might be interested.

For anyone who used to or currently does have a interestin in BMX, check out the BMX Museum. If you had a bike, it’s on this site. Mine was — A GT Expert.

Bicycle commuting slacker, that’s me

I’ve been really slacking off on riding my bike to work lately, especially last week in which I only rode in one day, even though the entire week’s weather was pretty riding friendly.

So this morning when I saw it was some 60 degress and might get up to 70 with sunshine, I made sure to get on my bike. But I left about a half later than I normally do, which made a pretty significant difference in the commute. It was the traffic. There was much more of it. I was ready at any moment to kick out with my outside foot into the door or quarter panel of any vehicle that got too close. But that never happened. Still, I think I’d rather make the ride in earlier to avoid the traffic.

Of course, as it gets colder that won’t even be a concern. Still, with global warming and climate change it will no doubt stay warmer longer. Evidence of this: we have day lillies in our back yard, which are dying and read to be wraked up and composted, but popping up between the dead, color-drained stalks, are new sprouts. If it gets warm enough long enough they’ll bloom again. But according to the weather channel it is going to cool down this week. So….

My not so new bicycling back pack

Sometime back I got a new backpack, one specifically for biking. It is fairly water tight. Colleen took some pics of me heading off to work one morning but of course slacker that I am I’m just getting around to posting them now.

Anyoo… here they are, for anyone who gives a rat’s backside.

The glow you see isn’t my ass buffed to high gloss shine, but rather the reflective back of my bike seat. Although having my ass buffed does sound intriguing. The backpack also has reflective stripes running down the back, and it is equipped with straps that stretch across the chest and stomach to take the weight off your shoulders and place it more on your back and hips. Less strain.

And here I am riding a way. Nice morning, but was back in the summer. The temp is a bit more chill these days. Well, in this morning it was anyway — 54 degress. But this afternoon was beautiful – 79 and very blue, clear skies. Aaaaah.

And here I am on the same day just as I take off. Huh. I never realized how gumpy I look on my bike. Ah, well. Being hip is for the youngsters. I’m 40. It’s my job to be a goof. My daughter seems to think so anyway.

Ridin’ in the rain….

… I was just ridin’ in the rain. What glorious, albeit chilly, feeling. Ridin’ in the rain!

I didn’t ride to work yesterday. Nor did I this morinng. But last night after work, I did. It was overcast, pretty dark clouds, and it had already started coming down before I got to Addy’s school to pick her up. But it slowed and then stopped, and I figured I bought this new windbreaker/rain jacket at the Eddie Bauer outlet store in West Branch on our way back form Up North Labor Day weekens. If I wasn’t going to ride in the rain, what did I buy it for?

So off I went. It wasn’t bad. At first. A little drizzle. But then it really started coming down, and that point I was already half way through my ride so there was not realy point in turning back. Just needed to press one.

My ears started to get cold, and ache. So I stopped and pulled my hood up over my helmet. Sure, I probably looked dorky, but I was dry and my head was a lot warmer.

I could feel the water through the jacket a little. And my shorts, which are not waterproof at all, were soaked. But I din’t mind the water. It wasn’t that cold.

Actually, it was kind of cool riding in the rain. It added and extra element of challenge, I guess. The only real bummer was that my glasses got speckled with rain drops. I cleaned dried them off once but it didn’t take long for them get covered with water droplets again. I could still see but I often had to look above the lenses. It something I’ll have to learn to live with, becaue I don’t do contact lenses.

Looks like it is going to be nicer tonight. I’m going to try and make it two nights in a row. My evening rides are longer than the ride to work, and therefore better exercise.

Political Lawns Signs

Over the past week or so I’ve been taking note of the political lawns signs popping up in my neighborhood, especially last week when I was riding my bike to work. You just notice more when you’re riding a bike. And it makes sense, now that the conventions are over, and we have about 2 months until the election, that these signs should be appearing more and more. Of course, there was an early sprout lawn sign about a block or so a way in the subdivision behind us for Ron Paul, but it hasn’t really spread.

Anyhoo…if political lawns signs are any kind of election bellwether, I’d say that Obama is doing quite well. In fact, the ratio so far is about 2 dozen or so Obama lawn signs to one McCain sign. Of course, that is just in  my little area of Birmingham, Michigan, which includes the downtown area and the neighborhoods eat of Woodward, near Adams and Maple Roads, for those who know the area. For those who don’t, being east of Woodward is, I found out, commonly referred to as the other side of the tracks. Although that could apply to train tracks since the trains runs through our neigbhorhood, so close to our house that we can hear the trains as they pass. It isn’t disturbing. In fact, we like the sound. Reminded Colleen and I of our days in Kalamazoo, when we were attending Western Michigan. Also remeinds me of living in Ypsilanti, when I went to EMU for undegrad, where the train ran through as well. But once again I digress.

Birmingham is not a big city, but it is bigger than the town of some 6,000 that Sarah Palin was once governor, with a population of approximately 20,000. But the economic demographics can vary quite significantly. There are some very wealthy people in this town, and as such they automatically support the Repubilcan candidate regardless of who it is. But apparently in recent years, Birmingham has been skewing more Democrat. Recent elections, in which State Senator Papageorge and Congressional Rep. Joe Knollenberg, both Republican, were almost ousted, would bare this out.

This trend appear to be true as well for all of Oakland county, which, according to some articles I’ve read, could be significant in this election. Back in the 80s, when Regan and Bush were running for President there was a saying that went sometning like this: As goes Macomb County so  goes the state of Michigan, and as goes Michigan so goes the country. This was in referenc to Regan Democrats, largely blue-collar workers that went for Regan and helped him to two terms, plus a third via Bush. Well, a similar idea is being talked about, but this time it is not Macomb County that is getting the attention. It is Oakland County. But it isn’t blue-collar works this time, but wealthier white-collar workers who may be conservative but have had enough of the Republican party, at least as represented by W and his ilk. Also, while some are economically conservative they are more socially moderate.

In any case, I find this encouraging, enough to put my optimism/pessimism rating at something like 58/42. But I am still far from confident that Obama will win the White House in November.

Back on the bike….

…after almost three weeks. Yikes! A few weeks back I got sick, and all my joints plus my back really ached. It was kind of weird, actually. Then, just as I was on the mend, I over did it (I’m at the age where that is something I do now) playing dodge ball at my nephews birhtday party. I kicked ass, sure. But at what cost. My back killed.

I was actually worried about strapping on a backpack to ride to work because my back was still hurting. But, you know, I think it was actually good for it. I’m feeling pretty good.

The ride home was cool. I was racing a thunderstorm home. While on vacation up north over the Labor Day weekend, I bought a windbreaker that is also water repellant but of course I did not bring it along. No matter. I did not get caught in the down pour. But it might have been fun if I had.

Anyhoo… with the girl back in school, which is just a block from home, much closer than her summer camp facility, I can ride my bike every day if I chose. I’m going to see how far into the fall I can crank it to work. Wish me luck all.

Up North

Just got back from Up North where, like so many other Michiganders (as well as people from other states, such as Illinois, Indiana, New York, Kentucky, and even from other countries such as Canada), my family and I spent the Labor Day Weekend. A mass exodus from the lower part of the state to the upper part of the state is an annual tradition come Labor Day (also Memorial Day and 4th of July) here in Michigan. If the state of Michigan were a giant scale you could literally feel it tipping northward as people piled into their vehicles, loaded down with camping equipment, food, bicycles, water sporting goods, etc, and head up I-75 (mainly) for Up North. If you remain behind, which we often do, you can literally feel that there are less people around.

Of course, Up North in Michigan means different things to different people. For us it means Brutus, Michigan, a literal crossroad on the map, on 31, half-way between Petosky and Mackinac City. My in-laws have a cottage up there, although I use that terms loosely, since their cottage pretty much dwarfs our house. It has two big bedrooms with their owns baths, soon to be three when they finish the downstairs, plus a room for kids with two bunk beads and another full bath down the hall. It has a big wood deck and digital cable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it. It’s nice. But it doesn’t really jive with my childhood up north experience, which meant my grandparents’ cottage, which was about the size of a big garage, with a couple of very small rooms with bunk beads and one bathroom that was so small it was difficult to move around. Showers were limited to five minutes — there was an egg timer in the shower. Also there was a sign above the toilet that read: IF IT’S YELLOW LET IT MELLOW, IT IT’S BROWN FLUSH IT DOWN. There was a small black and white TV that got only two stations, both of which were fuzzy, despite the big antenna towering above the tree tops. Didn’t matter. We didn’t waste time watching TV. From the moment we got there until we collapsed from exhaustion we were going, running, heading to the water, playing in the creek nearby, mucking about with the local kids. I remember there was a small store and gas station with a bait shop and this old phone booth in what was called town.

Anyhoo…now, being in Brutus, means knocking around Petosky, which has a lot of money and big summer houses, or in Mackinaw City, even Mackinac Island, if you want to drop the ferry fee. There is also Burt Lake. And this year we rafted down the river nearby, the name of which escapes me at the moment. This year it also meant watching Return of the Jedi broadcast against the wall of a building in the park downtown.

For us, Up North, also means sleeping late, read a lot, going for walks, sitting around a fire late at night.

Oh yeah, Addy went tubing for the first time. At first, she didn’t want to. But her aunt offered to go with her. Once Addy got a taste she was hooked and ended up going alone. She loved it.

Normally, Colleen is the one that goes for walks. I usually lazy around as much a possible. But this time I decided to get up off my butt, since I seem to keep tipping the scale in the unhealthy direction more and more these days. There is this trail that was once a railroad bed with track but the parks services have pulled up the tracks and the trail is there for walking and biking, perhaps cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. I covered a few miles and it was pretty cool. I’m hoping to bring my bike up next time to ride the trail, see where it’ll take me. My understanding is that there is a trail that runs from Gaylord up to Mackinaw City, and I’m wondering if this is the same one.

Like I said Up North means different things to different people. It isn’t strictly a geographical location. It is a sense of place. A way the air smells, and the way the wind blows. For me in particular it is pine trees and the way they smell in the cool air, but even more than that it is blanket of fallen pine needles on the ground beneath the trees. That reminds me of my earliest trek up north, with my dad and brother, on a camping/fishing trip, way up in the UP. It left a real impression since my family didn’t often go up north. We usually headed south to see relatives in West Virginia. Also, it is an image from that Hemingway short story, Big Two-Hearted River, the main character, Nick, beds down for the night on blanket of brown pine needles.

Up North isn’t just a place on the map, it is a place inside you. It is memory itself.

Anyhoo…before I get to weird about it. On the drive back I wanted to mark the approximate place where I sensed that we were no longer Up North. And near as I can figure, driving on South I-75, it ends around that spot where the green sign above the expressway displays I-75 and 23 South, announcing Saginaw, and 23 North veers off toward Standish. It is not at Saginaw proper, since at that point Saginaw is still some 20- 30 miles away, but at that particular place on the expressway. After that the land flattens out, feels too open to be Up North. I think the Pine tress were all but gone too.

A day in the life of a GenX hubby and daddy

I’ve been thinking. One of the reasons JenX67 chose me as her Michigan Generation X blogger is because “I am a husband and a father.” So I thought it might be interesting if I gave a quick run-down of a typical day in my life, and hence my family’s life.

First off, I would say we are a pretty GenX family. My wife, Colleen, is ten years younger than I am, so she is a latter GenXer, which actually affords some interesting differences in attitudes. But perhaps more about those specifically at another time.

So here is a typical week day in our house.

I get up first, at about 6:30am. We only have one bathroom in our modest approximately 1,100 sq. ft. ranch that sit on a slab and so has no basement. By time I am done showering, Colleen and our daughter, Addy, who is seven, are starting to stir.

While Colleen showers I try get Addy on track, getting her breakfast. While Addy eats I get dressed.

Because I work less than a mile away from our home and because Colleen drops Addy off at school/summer camp in the morning, I try to ride my bike to work whenever I can. I manage to to do this at least 2 or 3 times a week. Sure, it may not save a ton of gas but it does save some and it’s a bit of exercise, although not as much as I should get. I recently read that the currently recommended amount of 30 minutes five days a week doesn’t really cut it. It should be about 55 minutes a day seven days a week.

I work at the local public library. Even though my job as a cataloger can be pretty tedious I like it because: 1) it allows me the flexibility I need to be available to my daughter ; 2) it does not tax my brain, leaving me me with intellectual energy to expend on my writing in the evenings ; 3) it is not a corporate drone job, I’m actually doing something that I feel is worthwhile, contributing to my community.

After work, I bike home if I’ve biked to work, get the car and pick up my daughter. I get Addy a snack and help her with her homework etc. She can watch a little TV until dinner is ready.

Colleen has the career. She works in Market Research and is quickly moving up the ladder. She is impressive at her job. Which is good for our family because she makes good money. Of course, this means that sometimes she has to work later.

Often, Addy and I have eaten dinner before Colleen gets home. Even if she does not work late she has a pretty descent commute. I do not envy her that. I used to commute I-696, when I worked in corporate information publishing, perhaps the suckiest job I have ever had, and the commute was one of the suckiest things about it.

But there are times when we all eat dinner together.

We may watch some TV together as a family in the evening. But we try to turn the boob tube off most nights and play good old fashioned board games, like Sorry and Life and Battle Ship, Uno, and card game call Rat-a-Tat Cat! We don’t do a lot of video games in our house. In fact, the only kind of video game system that we have is one of those $14 dollar jobs they sell at Target. You now the ones that are just joystick that you plug into your DVD Player and you can play old school games like Ms. Pacman, Galaga, etc. And we don’t even play it that much anymore. I got nothing against video games. As a kid, I loved Atari, Odyssey, Intellivision, and the first version of Nintendo. But with the distractions of TV and the computer/internet, we don’t really need video games to waste time on as well.

On school nights, Addy goes to bed between 7:30 and 9pm, depending on how tired she is, how tired Mom and Dad are, and any number of other factors. She gets either a piggy-back ride, which doesn’t require an explanation, I don’t think, or a monkey-ride, which is like a piggy-back ride only Addy wraps her arms and legs around my from the front, or a what she calls a snake ride, in which I toss her over my shoulder so that her head dangles down behind me; I however call this one that sack of potatoes ride since that is what my dad used to call it. “Look,” he say, holding one of us kids over his shoulder. “I got a sack of potatoes.”

Once Addy is in bed, having brushed her teeth and taken a shower if necessary, Colleen and I might watch a movie or just some regular TV. Whenever I can, though, I try to sit down at the computer and work on my novel.

Also, in the evenings sometimes Colleen may run to Yoga for a workout. Or I might go for an extended bike ride.

Later in the evening, once Colleen has gone to bed, I might try to write, or blog, and usually end the night reading myself to sleep, nodding off around 11pm or so.

And that’s pretty much a typical day.

Road Rage: bicyclers vs automobile drivers

You know that bicycling is becoming a big deal when it gets a front page above the fold in the Sunday New York Times Style section. Sure, it’s not the front, front page, but still.

This particular article focuses on the growing tension or conflict between automobile drivers and bicyclers. It leads off with a story of a guy that started biking to save on gas and maybe lose some weight but after the dude basically gets purposely run down by some jerks in a car (according the bicyclers version of the story) he’s done riding, at least for this season.

I got to say. I don’t blame the guy.

Of course, this happened in New York City. If I lived there I’m not sure I’d try to ride my bike to work. I live in a small city and I head to work early enough to avoid most of the morning traffic. And my ride is barely a mile, if that. It is enjoyable for me. The ride home, after work, is little sketchier, which is why I’ve opted to not ride my daughter home on my bike from her day camp. I ride home, get the car, and go pick her up. I probably don’t save much, if any, in gas, but I still like to do the ride. But my concerns are not so much because I fear angry, aggressive automobile drivers who want to go after people I bicycles. It is simply that there is heavy traffic and some of the intersections that I’d have to contend with make me nervous. Alone, I don’t have a problem taking the risk, but not with my daughter on board.

Since I’ve started riding, I’ve noted that most people in automobiles are pretty accommodating. The rare close calls that I’ve had were because the drivers simply did not notice me. And I can understand that. I’ve been unaware of bicyclers myself at times. This was before I started riding. Now, I seem to notice them everywhere. My strategy is to assume the people in cars do NOT see me. I ride defensively. Look, I’d rather lose my stride than get plowed by some guy in a hurry talking on his cell phone.

Of course, the Times article is highlight conflict because it makes for a better story. And stories about all the people taking to bikes to save on gas etc have pretty much been played out. There are conflicts but I think they are more the exception than the rule. Still, as more inexperienced riders take the streets the more problems that will arise as a result. Let’s just hope people don’t get killed.

The article states that

Every year, the war of the wheels breaks out in the sweet summer months, as four-wheelers react with aggravation and anger to the two-wheelers competing for the same limited real estate.

Really? Every year? I wasn’t aware this was an annual thing. But I assume the article is talking about major cities like New York, LA, Portland, Seattle, etc.

Some interesting stats:

This summer, the number of new cyclists has increased strongly across the country. In June, nearly 11,000 first-time riders participated in Denver’s Bike to Work Day. Dahon, makers of folding bikes popular with commuters, reports a 30-percent sales increase from a year ago, with many models having been sold out since the spring. Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocacy group, estimates that 131,000 people cycle daily in New York, up 77 percent since 2000.

Check out the one biker is combating increased aggression toward him and bicyclers in general:

Having noted the uptick in aggression, Michelle Holcomb, a cycling instructor in Dallas, now carries a secret weapon. Recently, as she cycled into an intersection at a four-way stop and began turning left, a driver at the cross street revved and shot through, laughing as he missed her front wheel by inches. “Smile for the camera,” muttered Ms. Holcomb, who videotaped the incident with her new helmet camera.

Neat, eh.

But there is another level of conflict as well, between the bikers and pedestrians:

Last Thursday evening, at the peak of Manhattan rush hour, Howard Savery was crossing Broadway at 40th Street with fellow bipeds. Abruptly he reared back, just avoiding a crash with an impatient cyclist, racing through the red light.

“Well, that’s a first!” remarked Mr. Savery, a banker, who was heading home to Staten Island.

First time he’d nearly been knocked over by a cyclist in Manhattan?

No, corrected Mr. Savery: “That’s the first time one of them actually beeped at me. Usually they run you down silently.”

Well, that’s just reckless and rude. That rider qualifies to be nominated for Jerk Of The Week. I wouldn’t do that. In fact, I make a point of slowing down or even stopping to insure that I do not collide with pedestrians. Of courses, it is easier because I am not riding in a place like The Big Apple.

Here is a good point:

Driver-rider hostility has become worse this summer because legions of cyclists are simply inexperienced. At least according to the drivers. “They say the cyclists are all over the road and don’t know the rules,” said Michele Mount, a spokeswoman for AAA of New Jersey.

The fact is that bicycles have the same right to be on the road as cars, but it is incumbent on those riding the bikes to learn the rules. Fight with motorists isn’t going to help matters. In a road rage incident who do you think is going to be on the losing end? The person the bike or the person in the SUV? That’s a no-brainer.

But it isn’t just ignorance on the part of some new bicyclers. It is downright arrogance:

A pandemic of obliviousness — earbuds, texting — further ramps up the tension. Recently, Scott Diamond, ride coordinator for the Morris Area Freewheelers, a New Jersey cycling club, saw what he called a trifecta of irresponsible cycling: “A guy riding his bike without a helmet, talking on his cellphone, with his kid in the bike attachment behind him.”

How fucking stupid is that?

Although, I admit that I first started riding without a helmet. That is until I started reading articles about people getting knocked off their bikes.

But the ignorance and arrogance applies to automobile drivers who don’t understand that bikes have the right, by law, to be on the road:

In every state, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. But in the particulars, state vehicle codes and municipal ordinances vary. Consider the frustrated driver who shouts to a cyclist, “Get on the sidewalk!”

Way to be a jerk, and dumb ass!

Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, since I haven’t run into any overtly rude drivers trying to run me down. I don’t really expect to either, not where I ride, but I’m not going to ride obliviously.