Changing with the Season

The thing about space, filling and fitting a space, isn't just a matter volume, but also about the way the things in a space interact with their surroundings. Their relationship to the space. This house has never been an ideal fit for us, it's selection was based almost entirely on the basis of it's proximity to mass transit, the garden potential, and to the fact that we were desperately tired of house hunting. We had watched too many home improvement shows on PBS, and imagined that the failings and shortcomings within the house could be remedied in short order. I mean, didn't Donna Reed convert that old wreck of a Granville House with little more than a feather-duster and a couple rolls of wall paper?

I feel as if, to some degree, I have been working around and against the limitations of this space almost since the beginning; and yet strangely, reducing the number of people in the house has aggravated, rather than ameliorated, the ill fit of the space. Technically, we had more space after The Boy's father left; more space and more flexibility about how to use it (I think he and I had different homes in mind, as well as different lifestyles), and yet, in explicably, it has been a worse fit in his absence.

Perhaps this is due partly to the fact that every nook and cranny, every atom that makes up this house, reminds me of the life I imagined we would live here, the promises made and broken. But I think it is more than that. Just as the marriage was built on false promises, the house was chosen on faulty assumptions --like the notion that you can completely rebuild a house between pledge breaks.

I have heard it said that things always come in threes, and the third thing here is that I came into this house with the intent of buying it, of owning my own home. That was the plan, but now I am in the same boat as all those mice and men who made plans before me. After the Boy's father "found someone nicer" there was no way I could cover the house payments on what I get from Financial Aid. In theory, the good news there was that we had been buying the house from my parents, and certainly they were not going to foreclose on me. Now I kinda wish they had.

So, now it is their house, or more accurately, their investment, and I have discovered that living in a home belonging to relatives something akin to the tenth ring of pergetory. I can not begin to describe how wholly untenable it is, and increasingly so. I am beginning to identify with the Menendez brothers in a way I am not comfortable with.

My holiday plans were disrupted by my parents intention to gut the bathroom. It does not need gutting, but they seem to have a need to gut it. Since I was on notice that the house was going to be descended upon by a work crew brandishing shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, I didn't make any plans that would have taken place inside my home. For a decade an a half I have had the simple wish to be able to BE home for the holidays, my own home, not my in laws home. And not once, in a decade and a half, was I able to do that. This would have been the first year I had the option, but I didn't because of this arbitrary plan to gut the bathroom, which, in keeping with Murphy's law, got postponed. grrr

Now the plan is on again, with a vengeance, complete with all the value judgments about me and my life that my parents never leave home without. And I find myself contemplating a move to anywhere other than here, and perhaps enrollment in the witness protection program, or maybe dyeing my hair, changing my name and joining a commune. On the other cost. Or maybe Canada. Paraguay?

So it was that I spent most of Bike Friday loading most of my worldly possessions into a U Haul truck to to put in storage in preperation for this gutting the house does not need, and to protect said possessions from my parents, who wanted to load them all into a pickup and haul them to Goodwill. Yes all of them. Bye-bye worldly possessions. And this is only the very beginning of what promises to be a very long list of "improvements" they wish to make, sooner rather than later.

Here is Nestle in the soon to be gutted bathroom, she likes it just as it is, as do I.

So it is that I find myself on New Years Eve, contemplating many changes, including a change of address. The ironic thing (it always comes back to irony, doesn't it?) is that, despite all it's shortcomings, I have come to love this house, and would love to stay here, but putting an end to the constant disruptions takes precedent, and -after all- I am already packed


Christmas Bunny

Well, the latest addition to our family has arrived, and the wisdom of letting The Boy choose his own best friend was confirmed.

We went to the Humane Society to find a new rabbit as an Xmas gift for The Boy (our previous rabbit passed away last Spring), and to my surprise, he did not choose the baby bunny I was sure would be his first choice, or the bunny I would have thought would be the next runner up, or any of the baby rabbits I thought he would be interested in. He chose a 2 1/2 year old rabbit named Nestle. She is a breed know as Chinchilla, and according to the info on her kennel, she is a shy rabbit in need of extra handling and socialization to bring her out of her shell. You would never guess that from watching she and The Boy together: they are getting along famously: Nestle loves being held by him, and is inquisitive and adventurerous about everything as long as The Boy is near.

I had been concerned that it might be hard to go into the shelter and not want to adopt everyone there, but we (and the critters) are blessed by the high standards of care and commitment that the Humane Society holds itself too. The shelter is clean and cheerful, and the staff commited to making te right human/animal connection. There was no pressure and little guilt. The day we were ther 48 pets went home, thats about one adoption every 10 minutes of business hours!

In 2005, Oregon Humane Society received and cared for over 12,700 animals, finding homes for 96 percent of the dogs and 80 percent of the cats - 8,534 pets found homes. Their adoptions rates are quite impressive when compared to the national average (25 percent for dogs and 20 percent for cats). Board members, staff, and volunteers are committed to placing 100 percent of the animals brought to the shelter for adoption into new, loving homes. Part of the challenge is that folks have the idea that the best way to get started with a new pet is to get them as a baby, which is not always the case.

We start with our children as new borns, and yet they grow up to be themselves ~sometimes despite their parents best efforts. Similarly, other animals grow up to be themselves, and when you meet them as adults their habbits, quirks and foybles are clearly evedent, in ways they were not as infants. Will that brand new puppy dig and bark insesantly, or be a champion frizzbe player? It is impossible to know when they are 8 weeks old; at 8 months, or 8 years, their strengths and challenges are more readily apparent. My money is on the older pet, every time.

So it is that we know that Nestle is a calm, loving and solisotous spirit, she is as big as she is going to get, and is unlikely to develope any bad habbits from here. Her "poos" will be a boon for the garden, and she will help eat the weeds we pull out of the garden, but most importantly, Nestle is best friend to The Boy.


Happy Hanukwanzmas

Wherever you are, and whatever you hold sacrad, heres wishing you and yours the very best
Blessings Bright and Deep


Giving Pets as Gifts

The Boy has been clamoring for a rabbit for months, since shortly after our senior house bunny passed away early this spring. I wanted to give us all time to mourn, and to learn from our mistakes with the first bunny, so I resisted getting a new rabbit right away. Things got busy over the summer, I was swamped with school this passed fall, and now here we are in 'gift giving season', and he is still clamoring for a bunny. He does not know it yet, but he is getting one.

Having worked in the past as a veterinary assistant, I have seen all the pitfalls and disasters that come of surprising someone with a pet they did not choose, and of receiving a pet during the chaos of the holidaze. I have taken a number of precautions to make sure that The Boy gets exactly the bunny he wants, and that the transition is smooth for everyone involved. We were aided in doing so by the wealth of information available on our local Humane Society's web site, some of which I have posted below

Our local Humane Society is up to it's proverbial eyeballs with cast-off bunnies, and the products of unplanned bunny pregnancies, giving us a wide variety to choose from, and following their recommendation, I will be taking the Boy in to select his own best friend. I have also purchased every concievable thing the rabbit might need in it's first weeks with us, from food and bedding to toys, and put them into a giant new rabbit hutch purchased to create a wrappable "starter kit". You gotta have something to go under the tree, and this ensures that everything will be in place for our new arrival, and we can focus on getting to know our new family member.

Knowing that many other families are planning to add pets to their families this season, I thought I would post the tips our Humane Society had on their site below, in the hopes that these adoptions will be happy and successful, and bring all of you joy for years to come

"It's Christmas morning and your child was expecting a large box with a puppy jumping out of it. You resisted the temptation to bring a new pup into the home on this hustle and bustle morning and opted instead for a box full of puppy toys and supplies and a gift certificate from the Oregon Humane Society toward the adoption of a new pet. Your child and you then spend quality time together after the holiday looking at all the animals available for adoption at the Oregon Humane Society's shelter. The choice was obvious to your youngster - the 1½-year-old yellow lab mix with freckles on his nose. This might not have been your choice however. Good thing you purchased the gift certificate from the Oregon Humane Society to use towards the adoption of this new bundle of joy. It was better to wait a day or two to make the perfect selection of a pet than rush into a decision. Don't worry about whether you'll find the right one; you will. There are 150 homeless pets looking for loving families everyday at the Oregon Humane Society - from mutts to purebreds, large and small, young and old - you'll find your new best friend at The Humane Society."


Bike Friday, December 29th ~and FOREVER!!

Join the Bike Friday events in Toronto (if you are there), Join us on the Hawthorne Bridge, bright and early, for piping hot coffee, yummy pastries, and good company on your morning commute (if you are here in Portland) Join us around the Nation and around the world as we make a world of difference

Reflecting on Reverence

Solstice was great this year, the Solstice was the highlight of the season for me, notwithstanding the fact that I had to leave the festivities friends earlier than I would have liked to take a grumpy little boy home [my son, not a date]. It was real, and magical and everything that the over-commercialized, co-opted by corporations, commerce-driven holidaze have stopped being. Christmas was never about Christ for me (no offense to anybody, thats just not where I was at) but now the little tin god we are worshiping is commerce. Thats not ok.
For me, the holidays were always about community and connection, they were about reflecting and reconnecting, drawing closer to the people and ideals that we truly value. I miss that.

Leave it to the Canadians to come up with a delightful alternative
and a new carol to go with it
I hope to immigrate to Canada some day, in the mean time I am taking copious notes on the shape I want my observances, rituals; as well as my life, to take to take, and taking comfort in a blogging community that includes the likes of Tuco, Cycleing Dave, Joe, MinusCar
Zilla, and others. It is good to know that we are not alone in these dark days.

Learning to lead

We had a lovelt Solstice ride last night, my first ever attempt to lead an organized ride and I learned a lot along the way. There were a few bumps, the map did not match the lay of the land in some critical places, but everyone was cheerful and up for the adventure --and luckily a few folks knew the neighborhood better than the map makers. The main thing was we all had a good ride and a good time, I met some wonderful people ~perhaps one in particular? and at the end there was a yule fire warm drinks and friendly people to greet us. Cant beat that
I am already planning my next group ride!

In the mean time, heres a couple little songs for the season, from the folks at BikePortland

O Come all ye cyclists
(To the tune of o come all ye faithful)

O Come all ye cyclists,
joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye by bicycle

Come and behold them
See what fun they’re having
O come let us stop driving
O come let us start riding
O come let us start riding
Our bi~cy~cles!

Bikes for the World
(to the tune of Joy to the World)

Bikes for the world! The time has come
Let earth receive clean air
Let every heart, beat steadily
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Bikes rule the road, with speed and grace
And make our nation free
From oil rigs and corporate greed
So ride your bicycle
So ride your bicycle
So ri~de, your bi~cyc~le!


Happy Solstice

Solstice Blessings

Love ie the most important thing in Life,
So whatever your Religion or Spiritual Path,
Give that to each other at this Turning of the year,
For Love is the Gift you can give when you have nothing else.

For Children and Parents, for Partners and Friends,
And for our beautiful Earth, whose Children we all are,
Love is needed, for Love brings about the successive
Generations with which Life can transcend Time itself.

With the Coming of the Dawn on the Day of the Young Light,
The Reborn Sun returns bringing the Light of the World.
May Its Light Guide you through the Seasons as they Turn,
And may Its Warmth fill your Hearts and Souls with Love.
And may It bring Peace to All Life on our troubled Planet.

To you all, have a happy Solstice and a Merry Yuletide.


Solstice Bike Ride, Thursday, 4pm

Let your light shine, bundle up and join us in cycling into the new solar cycle, leaving from Lents Park Community Garden (SE 88th & Steel) at 4pm for a magical myster tour of SE, with stops for a back yard yule fire, and a toast to the new season.


"I'll tell you everything I've learned, and love is all she said"

I have been cleaning and sorting through my very cluttered home, and my very cluttered life, and I have reached a conclution: I want less.
I want less stuff and more room. More room for friends and a partner and maybe even more children,
I want to laugh more, and love more, bike more, remember more
I want less stuff, less of all the material stuff that clutters our lives and clouds our thinking
Somewhere along the line, when I was still quite young, I got this notion that it was all about making a good living, making money, and that somehow there was something I could do or buy with that money that would make everything great.
It has taken me several decades to figure out, it's not about making money, it's about making a life, it's about making friends and making connections. My son is too young -or perhaps too wise- for this conversation, so I am telling you. Blessings bright and deep


Things You Never Thought You Could Do By Bike, But Actually Can #2

So, sure: trailers, racks and cargo bikes make it easy to pack groceries home, or even haul kids, pets and lumber. But what if you are actually moving out of your house, and need to move all your worldly goods. You need a moving van, right? I mean, you couldnt actually move house by bike . . . could you?

Yup, you could. And this past Wednesday, a bunch of us helped our friend Ernie do exactly that.

Here in Portland we have this thing called Move By Bike, and informal arrangments by which folks who are moving can post details to SHIFT's web site, and, in the tradition of an old time barn raising, cyclist will show up at the appointed hour and get you where you are going

So, Wednesday, under drizzly skies, a cheery group of about 8 cyclists -some of whome had never met Ernie- showed up with all manner of trailers, including the Bikes at Work trailer in the photo (above), and even a Dutch “Bakfiets”(below). We got everything from baskets of kitchen utensils to bed frames and chests of drawers loaded up and moved half a dozen or so miles to his new digs in just a few hours

*first 2 photos by the beautiful and talented Jonathan at BikePortland


Bike Adventure to Seattle

Despite a few bumps in the road (and delays on the tracks) The Boy and I had a good time in Seattle.
I have always loved trains, and I would love to be able to wax poetic about going by train with your bike, but I have to say, our experience was mixed, for example, the Station in Portland insisted we box the bikes (which required partially disassembling them and paying $10 for a bike box that was only slightly stouter than a grocery bag, Seattle allowed us to use the bike racks.
and in speaking with other cyclists who have traveled with their bikes on trains throughout the US, I heard more negative stories than positive one's.

In theory, cycling and train travel complement each other beautifully, and ought to offer a near perfect travel option for families traveling on a budget, as well as cycling enthusiast who want to be able to tour on two wheels. However, not knowing whether, or under what circumstances one might have to box one's bike is a huge deterant to cyclist going by train, at a time when Amtrak is desperate to increase ridership. The solution would seem to be a no-brainier, by catering consistently and respectfully to folks wishing to bring their (fully intact) bikes, Amtrak could greatly increase ridership, improve rider satisfaction and word-of-mouth, while contributing to the reduction of pollution Nationally. It would be a win-win situation, if only they were willing.

In the mean time, here are a few tips:
*Make your bike reservation during the same transaction in which you pay for your tickets. Tell them you want a bike rack.
*There are only 6 racks on each train, so make reservations early
*Racks can accommodate standard sized bikes, but tandems, long tails, and cargo bikes need to be boxed
*The racks CAN accommodate Adams Trail-a-Bikes, but individual stations may or may not agree to put them on racks
*Check in early, at least an hour before your train is scheduled to depart, so that you will have time to sort out any issues without missing your train.
*Do not assume that all stations on your trip will have the same policies, or that all employees will interpret them consistantly. One station (or a given emplyee) may insist on doing it one way, another may be more flexible. So check and double check, and be prepared with fall-back plans.
The best bet is to visit the station a day or 2 before your trip with the bike(s) you intend to bring, and speak to the Amtrak staff.
When I had called the Amtrak info line before the tip and described our bike/trail-a-bike set up, they insisted that both bikes be shipped; I think part of why Seattle allowed us to use the racks is that we arrived at the station for our return trip with the unboxed bikes, well ahead of our trains departure time. When the staff saw our bike/trail-a-bike set up they clearly understood that both bikes could be accomedated on the racks; Seeing is believing I guess.

If You DO Need to Box:
Avoid buying one from Amtrak, instead get a shipping box from your local bike shop, or put one together from refrigerator boxes. Either way, it will be a hundred times stouter, and certainly more affordable
Building a box allows you to size it to your bike, so that you will not need to remove pedals, swivel handlebars etc. All of which is a real chore.
The folks at Amtrak tell me that the box need not be a standard bike box size, as long as there is only one bike per box, the box clearly indicates it contains a bike (write "BIKE" on the side with a sharpie) and the box weighs no more than 50#

The photo shows the bike box I was forced to purchase (on the right), in taters and shored up with duct tape, next to the one I was able to get from the bike shop. This shot was taken, before they were loaded on the first train at the beginning of our trip, the purchased box was falling apart before we even got it to the station, while the free shipping box, already used to ship a bike cross country, survived my bringing it home through the rain, and was still in fine shape at the end of the train ride

The Up Side
I can think of no better way to See Seattle, or just about any other town, than by bike. The Boy and I were able to zip along the waterfront, zip over to the museums and up to Pike Place market. No worries about figuring out the bus systems, or the expense of cabs, we were free to move about the city at will, and see far more than we would have under any other circumstances. It was a blast. We also had a handy bike rack on with which to carry souvenirs.

We had planned to catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island, but there was work being done on the tracks in route, resulting in delays and our getting into Seattle too late for the ferry. Absent the bikes I'm not sure what we would have done with the little time we had, but because we had the bikes we were able to get around easily and see more than we otherwise would have.


A Sunday Ramble

It was meant to be a quiet Sunday spent puttering about the house; ah, the best laid plans.

As I was cleaning and greasing the Trail-A-Bike, in preperation for our train adventure, the axel started malfunctioning, which nessesitated packing it up and running it over to the bike co-op in the Xtracycle. It's a 6 mile trip to the bike shop, past the library, the food co-operative, various other shops. SO, having gone all that way, the return trip became a gauntlet of errands, some done largely to get out of the rain showers that were passing through.

By the time I got home I had stoped at the library and the video rental place, picked up groceries and done some holiday shopping.

So much for putting my feet up and having a restful day. Here is a shot of my trusty steed at one of the stops. Yup, that IS a bike box stapped to the Xtracycle, I picked it up at the co-op for shippin the bike on Amtrak. God I love my Wide Loaders


Go By Train

The Boy and I are planning our first out of State bike adventure! It started quite by accident, as all the best adventures do, a homeschool group of which we arnt even really a part had space on a group train excursion, Portland to Seattle and back. The Boy has been obsessed with trains almost since birth, I have an over-active sense of wander-lust, so at $18 round trip for the two of us, we could hardly say no.

We are dusting off the Montana and Trail-a-Bike for this trip, The Boy has not quite exceeded the weight restrictions for it, though he will soon, and I kinda miss riding tandem. The Xtracycle is an amazing joy, and marvelous for hauling stuff, but for touring around one of my favorite cities, having a stoker will be nice. I have also noticed that The Boy has a tendency to get cold on the X, even when I am comfortable, and my theory is that lack of pedaling on his part means he isn't generating enough heat. Bike vacations are not as much fun when you are too cold, so hopefully going tandem will mean that we both stay worm, and neither of us wears out too much.

Due to the fact that the reservations were already made, are not in my name, and are for a group, I will be boxing and checking the bikes, which has me a little nervous. It will mean loosening bolts so that that the handlebars can be turned, so some assembly will be required on arrival, and theres the whole notion of shipping one of my babies, but I have heard good reports about Amtrak from other cyclist, so I am hoping for the best. If the Montana can handle a collision with a big ugly SUV, I guess it is up for a ride on a train.

We will just be there for the afternoon, about five hours total. I had hoped to meet up with an old friend who lives there, but alas, she has to work. This only adds to my sense of decadence in taking a day out to galavant about on a train, for no other reason than it will make my son and I happy. But I guess you gotta do that once in a while

We leave bright and early Tuesday morning, The Boy plans to take tons of photos, and we'll be sure to post the best ones


I have been tagged

So heres how it works:
List six weird things about yourself. Strange habits, likes/dislikes, et cetera.
Pick six victims to tag likewise. Leave comments so they’ll know what’s up.
Describe how the tagging works.
I am tagging cyclingdave, John at Bike Year, Wisteria, Trista at Accedent of Hope, Tuco, Tim at Bicycles and Iceicles

For reasons I will spare y'all, I am stuck on the notion of irony and inconsistency, and this is reflected in my list o'six. Can I just say that inconsistency is not the same as irony, nor are ether the same as inequity. People are forever wanting life to be fair (equitable), which it has never been; and for humans to be consistent, which they never have been. Thats not ironic, thats just how it is.

But I digress

Weird things about me, oh my, how to choose?

Although I am a dyed in-the-wool, bleeding heart, tree hugging, rabble-rousing left-wing nut; in high school I had a mad crush on William F. Buckley Jr. (I was in high school a VERY long time ago) The first time I ever saw him, before I knew anything about him, he was speaking on Public Television and taking a passionate stand for being able to back up one's opinions with reason and insight. He was saying, in essence, “don't hold strong opinions about issues if you cant defend them” (although he said it far more eloquently) Even after I found out he was an uber conservitive Rebublican, there was just something about his stinging intelect, and in the fact that he stood for everything I apposed, and yet we held this core value in common, that I found strangely compelling. Ironically, I would later marry someone with whome I shared basic likes and interests, but did not share core values. Perhaps I should have stuck it out with Buckley.

I have an odd facination about those moments when digital clock reads, for example, 10:10, or 5:55, theres something about the alignment of those digits. The notion of 11:11, November 11th, 2011 [11:11 11/11/11] just does something for me I cant explain. I know, it's weird.

Given my druthers, I would be barefoot 24/7, but if I must don footwear, I tend to go for knee high, lace-up boots. Doc Martins, Combat, shit-kickers. Go figure.

I consider myself very tolerant, I was raised on the credo “I may disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”; I am generally open to the myriad ways people choose to live, worship, etc. I have stood by friends during public scandal and Federal trials. But I do not tolerate lies or deception. period.

I am all about eating healthy, local organic food, I alternate between being vegan and vegetarian.
But I have a dark secrete: a fast food fetish. I occasionally get these mad cravings for fast food. When I was pregnant I gave into obsessive urges to eat KFC mashed potatoes and gravy, and to this day, every once in a while, I will pass some greasy spoon and get an overwhelming urge for a cheese burger, fried chicken, or whatever. So far, I have been able to “pedal through it”

I cant sleep unless there is a radio playing NPR in the background. Seriously. Thats not ironic, it's just how it is


'Here Comes The Sun . . .'

I cant remember the last time there was a cycling event in my neck of the woods (outter SE Portland). So, with the Solstice fast approaching, I got this crazy idea that I should organize a bike ride to celebrate the return of the sun.

Solstice Ride
December 21st
Leaving from Lents Park
at 4:00pm for a magical mystery tour of SE Portland, with stops for a Yule-fire, and a toast to the new season

The ride will cover a dozen or so relitively flat miles, winding through a couple of neighborhoods. It IS the shortest day (and Longest night) of the year, so appease the gods and adorne your bike in abundant and creative lighting. If you are in the neighborhood, join us!

Fast away the old year passes
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses
Sing we joyous all together
Heedless of the wind and weather


A Word About Wide Loaders

So, I have had my wideloaders for several days, had the opportunity to put them through their paces, and feel moved to offer a product review

When I decided to buy my Xtracycle, I knew that one of it's primary functions would be to help transport The Boy; Xtracycle offers two attachments that help facilitate carrying a human passanger: little foot plates called Footsies

and the less adorable, but infanently more functional Wide Loaders (shown here with the slings that were left out of my order). The Footsies run about $45 for the pair, and can only be used for resting your feet on, where as the wideloaders can fill any number of needs.
Obviously, I opted for the later.

On the Pro side, I have to say that the loaders offer some real advantages (beyond their potential as foot rests): having hauled lumber with and without the wide loaders, I gotta say with is better: they offer a flat, level surface on which to load the lumber, eliminating the need to hold the sling with one hand while loading with the other. Nice. .Their wide profile encourages cars to give appropriate clearence when passing, and the bright red finish (I know, in the catalog photo, above, they look silver, dont they? Nope: bright red they are) really helps with visability

The primary disadvantage to the Wide Loaders is, well, they are wide: not wider than the handlebars, but it amazing the difference made by having the entire bike be the width of the handlebars. The same wide profile that has cars giving you extra space also takes up extra space. The bike becomes less nimble, and is prone to catching on tight turns and narrow passages. The loaders complicate use of the kickstand, which I find a nuisance, and although the boyz at Xtracycle assure that it is safe to lean the full weight of bike and load on the wide loaders, in lue of a kickstand, I am reluctant to try it (certainly, doing this would eliminate the whole flat level thing, of which I am so fond)

There is also a very irritating tendency for the leading edge of the loaders to "bite" your ankles as you are pushing off from a standstill or walking your bike. The loaders are, technically, removable. Doubtless easier done when using the slings that are designed to go with the loaders, rather than innertube webbing I am using as a substitute. The slings attach to the frame at 2 points, and are designed to detach; my webbing is woven into the frame, making removal a real chore. The other reason I have -so far- left mine on full time is that I tend not to know in advance when I might have use for them. I would hate to have a need arise and not have them on hand.

So what's the verdict? I am glad I ordered them (though grumpy that they arrived sans slings), they have more than earned their keep in just the past couple days by facilitating the hauling of large and bulky loads, and I am very much look forward to having them the next time SHIFT has one of their Move By Bike events. I also look forward to getting the slings, so that taking the loaders off and on is easier.


"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"

Monday was freakishly cold, I got caught in a brief episode of sleet, and the evening weather report predicted there might be snow in the higher elevations. I worried because the Boy would be coming over hills in rout from a visit with his dad in the morning. It never occurred to me that my own commute would include snow. But when I woke up this morning and stumbled into the kitchen, this was my view out the window (the blue tarp was over the bikes, but got blown off)

It almost never snows in Portland, and I cant remember the last time that it snowed in November. Snow that makes even a pretense of sticking is even more rare; and yet here it was. As I sipped my morning coffee, I weighed my options. I could bus in to school, which would be a huge hassle, especially given the art project I needed to take in to class, that included a willow branch and several pounds of other material, as well as my textbooks and laptop, or I could bike, which meant I should probably head out right now, to allow plenty of time for the commute and the crazy drivers who have no concept of how to drive on snow and ice.
More and more the whole cycling thing is becoming a moral imperative for me, a daily act of rebellion and redemption against all that is wrong with this culture. I didn't like the statement I felt I would be making by falling back on motor vehicles just because there was an inch of snow on the ground. I wanted a better statement, and I wanted my message to be clear, so I pulled down the yellow plastic sign that had been adorning a shelf in my home, mounted it on the back of my bike, and headed out into the weather

The guy over at the Minus Car Project has a highly tuned system for calculating how many layers of what to wear to stay comfortable riding in all kinds of weather. I am not that detail oriented. So I just stated layering: snow pants over lacra leggings, thick socks and thermal knee-high boots; a thick wool sweater and additional wool arm warmers over corduroy shirt, over my Minus Car Project t-shirt; fleece gater over balaclava; wool gloves; Eddie Bauer rain coat. Miraculously, I could still move with all those layers, and was relatively comfortable.
I will have you know, I was far from the only cyclist on campus, though our numbers were reduced. Throughout the day, when I would pass another intrepid cyclist, it seemed we made a point of exchanging nods or other salutes; and during a brief piriod of walking my bike up a steep incline of the Mt Tabor ridge after dark, a fellow cyclist pulled up along side to make sure everything was ok. Nice.
The Boy made it over the mountains and safely home, as did I.


What I am Thankful For

Here in the States, Thursday was Thanksgiving, leading into the ultra commercial Thanksgiving Weekend. As the Boy and I were headed to the last of our familial obligations, we were chatting about the job I am thinking about applying for at the bike co-op, and the other things I want to do with my life. I said he should be sure to mention to his grandparents (whom we were on route to visit) about how he was considering going to the local public school, because they would be SO excited to hear that we were considering alternatives to homeschooling. He wasn't sure he wanted to go through with it if they were that keen on it, to which I said that the fact we were looking into it didn't mean we had to do it, but in the mean time it would be it would be lovely to bring up something pleasant during this holiday get-together. The grands would not want to hear about the job I am considering applying for at the Bike Co-op, or my plans to transfer out of the university they both graduated from, etc.
My parents have SO many judgments about SO much of what I do and care about, I feel as though much of my life has been this dance between trying to appeas them and rebelling against them, so much so that I am not always sure what I want for myself. I asked The Boy what he thought of the idea of my apllying at the co-op, and my beautiful son looked me square in the eye and said “I think you should follow your dreams”
I spend whole days worrying that I have muttled every possible aspect of parenting, and then he goes and says something like that. I love my boy

My other pride and joy, my Xtracycle, got it's latest upgrade today: the wide loaders I oredered back in September arrived just in time for this month's Bike Friday
The wide loaders are ment to come with nylon "slings" to support bulky loads, but somehow the slings got left out of the shipment.
They will, of course, arrive eventually, but in the mean time the amazingly talented Patrick wove together a substitute out of intertubes. Brillient.
For my boy and my bike, I am very Thankful



Join the revolution that started in Toronto and is spreading fast: the last Friday of each month and every month folks everywhere are ditching their cars and taking to the streets by bike and on foot, to do what needs to be done without burning fosil fuel!
Here in Portland, Oregon, SHIFT2BIKES hosts a free breakfast on the Hawthorn & Brodway Bridges for cyclist crossing into the downtown core between 7 and 9am.

The breakfast features coffee donated by our friends at Nossa Familia, fuit donated by Pioneer Organics, and pastries donated by a variety of local bakeries. Many bike commuters have come to rely on the hot coffee and delicious pastries on their way to work -- all free, so theres no conflict with Buy Nothing Day!
Stop by and join us if you are in the neighborhood!

Photos taken at the October Breakfast on the Bridges event, by the marvelous Mr.Maus over at Many more great shots can be seen there, along with all the regional bikey news


A Vision of Things to Come

So, heres what happens when you start cruising the Internet instead of doing your homework (which I really should be doing), you find images like this: a vision of the future! In my little fantasy, this guy is hauling away the last car, after peak oil and other consiquences of our foolishness have converted us all to bike travel.
Ok, enough bike porn, I got a paper to write


Bike Friday/Buy Nothing

Shop Less - Live More: Friday, November 24th is Buy Nothing Day
an opportunity to take a break from the consumer rat race and take stock of what you have, and those things money cant buy. Buy Nothing Day also exposes the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The developed countries - a mere 20% of the world population- are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. I find that taking a day in which I buy nothing realy makes me concious of my consumer choices and patters, and allows me to reevaluate them

This Friday is also the last Friday of the month, and you know what that means:

2006 is set to go down as the year in which mainstream dialog about global warming finally reached its critical mass. What better way to celebrate -and point the way to solutions to this quagmire- than to combine Buy Nothing and Bike Friday. Spend time with family and friends, rather than money on them; go cycling as a family, or have a pedal powered potluck. Or, just sit and revel in all that you already have, all your blessings, and all that is
The Malls will still be there next week, and perhaps a day of collective reflection will lead to the changes necessary for the planet to still be here in the future as well


X-tra Photos

As promised, here is the shot of the Xtracycle hauling sheets of playwood, 2x4s, and a bag of hardware home. On that fist trip I did not have my camera phone with me, so took the shot with a regular camera, shot the rest of the roll, finally took the roll in to get developed and just got it back from the photo place. a week or so after tha fact. Gosh, I love my camera phone.

Recently, I added stoker handlebars, complete with bell, for The Boy. I had hoped to get a shot of him on the back, but he insists I need to be on the bike with him, for stability.

In addition to benefiting The Boy, the handlebars are great for both securing loads, as with this bag of hardware,
as well as for keeping larger loads from riding forward, as with this cooler I found on the side of the road. I picked it up thinking what a great accessory it would make for that bike-powered smoothie mobile I have been dreaming of


Funky Chicken

So, this has been an unspeakably hard year for poultry down on the lo Wheel Revolution Homestead, chickens, quail and ducks have been killed by predators, died under mysterious circumstances, and been abducted by aliens (ok, that last one is only a theory, but it is the most plausible we have been able to come up with)
All this lead to our having one lone duck, who in her desperate and lonely state, had taken to quacking, insensately, at unimaginably high decibels That bird has lungs! We are not allowed roosters in this neck of the woods, owing to noise concerns, but this duck is louder than any roster I have ever heard. When I realized that She could be heard more than a block away, I knew I had to do something: she needed a friend -STAT!! So I started looking for a poultry buddy for her

Winter is not the best time of year to add to one's flock: chicks are born in spring, by November it is slim pickins, especially if you want a young bird (a spring chicken, if you will) with a long life of egg laying yet ahead of her. I found people looking for homes for old chickens that were no longer laying, rosters, large aggressive geese, etc.

I had almost given up when the Boy and I made a stop at the Feed Store and saw the bird we now know as Henrietta C. Waldo. She is, infact a spring chicken, hand raised so she is very tame and easy to handle, and she is a variety of Banty (I just love Bantams), a very -um- (don't tell her I said this) strange variety of Banty.

So, it is to early for eggs, and too soon to know if we will ever get over chuckling when we see her, but what I do know is that the neighborhood was able to sleep in this Sunday morning, rather than awaking to the sounds of a frantic duck, and we are all gretful for that


Stop Thief!

I have my own strange sense of justice, with it's own quirks and contradictions. I believe strongly in the notion of karma, and the notion that good works ought to be rewarded with goodness, not trespasses. I believe that there is a special place in hell for those who do harm to do-gooders and the disenfranchised.

Last night Free Geek sustained its most major break in to date. A number of laptops from their fledgling Laptop Program were stolen, along with a few hard drives, and LCD screens. Many doors were smashed in forcibly in the process. Free Geek's laptop program is a great source of needed hardware for local non-profits, and the laptops stolen were about to be granted to local non-profits around Oregon. The laptop program is also becoming a source of income for Free Geek's work to support community organizations and empower the disenfranchised and this income is now gone, a great many repair bill incurred, and local do-gooders will have to go without a free source of laptops for months. Thus the thief did not just steal from Free Geek, but from myriad individuals and non-profits around the city and across the country. The ripples are incalculable.

Free Geek is very dear to my heart, this is where my son learned to program robots, and it is a place where I have seen countless lives changed. Innumerable organizations, around this city, across the nation, and a few in Uganda, are able to do what they do because there is a Free Geek. Now, because of one twisted and broken individual, all that work grinds down, and I cant help but wonder about the myriad lives touched, and the work that will go undone as a consequence. I cant roll back the clock and stop him, but I can do something to ensure there will be no profit to be gained from it

So this is an appeal to the cycber community for help: If you see a laptop with Ubuntu Linux installed on it offered for sale in the next couple months, see one listed on eBay or craigslist or whatever, please please please give a call or drop them an email.



Tire Garden

So, I have no car, but I still have a driveway. It is is not paved and gets full sun, the perfect place for a garden. Since it has several feet of imbeded gravel, preventing any hope of taking a shovel to it, I thought it would be tre cool -and a shade- ironic to convert the driveway into a garden using old tires filled with soil and organic compost. With everything els going on in my life I am off to a slow start with this project, but I have been ferrying abandoned tires home as I find them, piecemeal, and hope to have it all set up by Spring. For now I have a nice little crop of spinach in the first tire.

Home Improvement Gone Wrong

The idea was to create a work surface in my office, with shelves above it and storage underneath, for doing art and home schooling. I designed what was supposed to be a lovely and functional arrangement. Ah the best laid plans of . . . well anyway.
The first thing that went awry was that the wall is all plaster and no studs (ok, there is doubtless wood in there somewhere), so the shelves could not be attached as originally planned, there was series of other unfortunate events, and now I just don't know.
So, now the living room and office are trashed and the unit is, somehow not what I had in mind.
If you have any constructive (or construction) thoughts I would love to hear them

Far more attractive is this shot of the Free Radical on my second trip to the hardware store


got rights?

The “lame-duck” Congress is returning to Washington and President Bush has urged them to pass a bill legalizing the NSA warrantless domestic wiretapping program. Meanwhile, the telecom companies that cooperated with warrantless NSA requests are pressuring members of Congress to immunize them from liability for their actions. Some members will try to slip a very broad immunity clause into an omnibus spending bill. Such a clause, if it is passed, would hamper future investigations of the wiretapping program.

Don’t let that happen! Our best opportunity to stop both the bill and any immunity clause is in the Senate. (The House already passed Representative Heather Wilson’s FISA “Modernization” Act, H.R. 5825 before the campaign recess.)

Call both your Senators today o, you can look up their phone numbers at here

Call or email your Reps and let them know that you are a constituent who is very concerned about the NSA warrantless wiretapping bill, and that you are calling to them to:

* Block any bill related to the NSA domestic warrantless wiretapping program. Without a real investigation of the program is complete, Congress has no business passing legislation to legalize it.
* Oppose immunity for the telecoms. It would be a severe impediment to a real investigation, and it sends a message to businesses that they can disobey laws if the government asks them to, and can expect the government to bail them out.
* Prevent a telecom immunity clause from being slipped into another bill, such as an omnibus spending package. Insist on a clean bill.

More information on the Frist-Specter bill (S. 3931) and the Wilson bill (H.R. 5825) passed by the House is available on BORDC’s legislation page:


Things You Never Thought You Could Do By Bike, But Actually Can, #1

I am feeling just a bit the cat who got the canary
I suppose I should back up and say that even I recognize that bikes cant serve all functions. For example, if I call 911 I guess I don't want the fire-fighters hoping on bikes to come rescue me. Still, I think too often we suffer from failure of imagination, we remain trapped in comfortable patterns when better alternatives exist, we assume that because we have always done something a certain way, that thats the only way it can be done.

Case in point, one might assume that a motor vehicle is the only way to bring plywood and 2x4s home from the hardware store.
I beg to differ.
Although, truth to tell, I originally figured I would use a car for this errand. I assumed that the person I gave my car to (the car with the lovely roof rack that can carry anything) would be willing to do me the favor of helping me do this errand last weekend. 'parently not.
So how great for me that it turns out you don't even need a car for this kinda thing! This weekend I headed over to my local independant hardware store, picked out all the supplies I would need for a home impovement project I have been wanting to complete for ages, and for a measly buck, the nice folk at the hardware store cut the plywood and 2x4s to my specifications, loaded it onto a giant cart, along with the large bag of hardware, and wheeled it out to the parking lot for me, where the hardare guy was just plane flabbergasted to see that my vehicle was a Free Radical. I would have liked to have gotten a photo of that face!
I didn't get any photos of that face, but I got some shots of the bike and it's load when I got home, and will post them ASAP, in the mean time, I think this is the official beginning of a new series on this blog: "You Cant Do THAT By Bike", or perhaps "Things You Never Thought You Could Do By Bike, But Actually Can"


Post Election Bliss

In between the crush of classes, research papers and art assignments that are piling up around me, I had been working on a post explaining that I had not fallen victim to Rendition to Syria (more plausible than you might think), nor jailed for attempting to exercise antiquated or recently repealed Constitutional Rights, nor even been flattened by a fossil fuel burning, planet incinerating car; but have simply been buried under an avalanche of schoolwork and the debris of life.

But now, with the national election results certified, how can one not take a moment to savor this miricle? How can one not a moment for a little happy dance. I think we are allowed that. I want a song to sing, in honnor of Rumsfeld's departure ("ye-ho the witch is dead"?) Yeah, I know, Bush has a dozen more where Rummy came from, but he was forced to chuck Rummy, and I enjoy that.

And how 'bout those Democrats? The House and the Senet! Ok, I know, the difference between the Demos and the Republicans gets narrower every year, and it's gotten to where I write-in the names of political prisoners for all the Judge positions ~ but heres the thing: this election, America woke up, got a strong whiff of java, didn't drink the Kool Aid, but instead went to the polls and launched a minor revolution. That is something to celebrate. I say we get the rest of the week to celebrate before we grab our elected officials by the ankles and hold their feet to fire. I say we get a couple days to slap each others backs, breath a collective sigh, and feel really good about this unprecedented voter uprising; and then hunker down and make sure that the change we voted for happens. This election was the preliminary step, people, not the final destination.

So enjoy these Rumsfeld Hikus and enjoy the long weekend, Monday we let our Reps know we didnt roll over and go back to sleep after voting.

He pauses. He grimaces and exhales, reaching deeply for inspiration. And then, he delivers unto us, from the soul... poetry:

Evasion Haiku:
I'm working my way
Over to figuring out
How I won't answer.
- Dec. 3, 2002, Defense Department briefing

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
-Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.
-Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense news briefing

Needless to Say:
Needless to say
The president is correct.
Whatever it was he said.
- Feb. 28, 2003, Defense Department briefing

The question is simple: does he know it? Is he in touch with his poetic soul? Or is it merely a subconscious display?

Has he missed his calling? Or has fate merely brought us a poet in disguise?


Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Last winter was exrordinarily wet, but no where near this cold! It's not even really winter yet, and already we are have crazy-low tempetures, especially early in the morning as I cross over the river in route to school. Hurteling over the fridged water, fully exposed to the wind, one gets the full effect of the chill. We have had more rain during the past few days than we had all last month Definely gonna need more wool! The photo below is from the evening news, floodwaters have resulted in salmon swimming up bike lanes, rather than up stream! I have heard that some folks put there bikes away for the winter when the weather gets like this. Hmmn. Something about recent news reports about Oregon's air keep me peddling on.


In Stark Contrast to Starbucks

So, more than a few folks have wanted to know, if not Starbucks, then what? Where do I get my coffee fix? I am sure there are any number of better alternatives to a multination corperation. In general, you will get the best flavor and highest degree of accountibility from local roasters. I get my Joe from two sources, one -Red Wing, is local, the other sells on line, allowing anyone who reads this blog to access thier beans.

"Good people, Great history, Amazing coffee" unlike so many companies, Nossa Family Coffee actually lives up to their slogan, and their values of social and environmental responsibility. From the rich volcanic soils of the Brazilian Highlands, this family bussiness has nurtured a tradition of award-winning quality for nearly a hundrad years, without exploiting the land or the people.

Whether it be through their support of SHIFT, involvement with local charities or national non-profits, Nossa Familia is all about empowering people to make a difference through their actions and choices. These ideals are practiced in different ways in different areas, as appropriate to the local region. On the farms in Brazil, workers are paid a living wage well above the average for the industry. Nossa Familia also provides comfortable housing, schools, health clinic, church, sport facilities, etc. These farms are true agro-villages that should be used as models to deter the migration from rural to urban areas.

Environmentally, they have a commitment to use the least amount of chemicals as possible - they do this by recycling nearly everything. When the husk is removed from the coffee bean, it is seperated and used to generate power for the farm. The remaining husks are used as fertilizer for the coffee plants and the cycle begins all over again. This reflects the core values of the family. They also strive to protect native species and habitat. In addition to setting aside areas to be untouched, they plant on average between 6000 and 8000 native plants per year. We've been growing coffee at this farm for over 100 years and plan on being there for another by being good stewards of the land and responsible employers.

Certification by Utz Kapeh reaffirms these practices. The Utz Kapeh Code of Conduct includes elements such as standards for minimizing and documenting use of agrochemicals, protection of labor rights and access to health care and education for employees and their families. Their regular inspections verify our practices and ensure traceability to the end consumer.

Oh, and their coffee! The first coffee plants were planted at Fazenda Cachoeira (Waterfall Farm) in 1890; now 4 generations later they are preparing for the 109th coffee harvest! On this farm everything is done manually, which includes coffee planting, harvest, drying and roasting. The quality of the coffee produced by Fazenda Cachoeira is the result of dedication and care during all coffee production stages, from the selections of the nursery trees and plantation to harvesting.

The coffee planted here is 100% Arabica, of the yellow bourbon variety. This rare variety is well known for its exceptional body, profound aromas, and non-existent bitterness. One might ask why it is a ‘rare’ varietal if it does indeed have such desirable qualities? The reason is that it is very, very delicate plant, requiring just the right rainfall, plenty of sunlight, and high altitudes. Luckily, Fazenda Cachoeira has it all, at an elevation of 3,600 ft with well-defined seasons that help the yellow bourbon Arabica beans flourish year after year.

The high quality of these beans have landed the farm various awards, and has placed Fazenda Cachoeira among the finalists of the Brazil Cup of Excellence Competition in its 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004 edition.

Social responsibility and environmental sustainability are at the forefront of the farm's mission. Lindolpho de Carvalho Dias and his son Gabriel Carvalho Dias who now runs the farm, developed a reforestation program planting native species to help maintain a better ecological balance. All the wastewater generated in the farm is treated to avoid polluting the local stream. Socially the goal is to provide excellent conditions for the workers and their families. This is why the farm, with the 47 resident families, functions almost as a self-sufficient community. The farm has a school for kids from Kindergarten to eighth grade, a clubhouse where folks can gather for fun and games, a health clinic, and most importantly—since we are talking about Brazil—a full size soccer field!

The finest beans, grown in the richest soils, buy workers who are respected and well supported, all for $9/ld. I dont own stock in their company, but they have earned my loyalty and my respect. I actually had the opportunity to meet a member of the family, who lives here in Oregon and helps promote their coffee. You think I'm tough on companies in this blog, imagine being cornered and grilled in person. This lovely young man answered all my questions with grace and honesty, and I have been drinking their coffee ever since. Perhaps if Starbucks could learn something from him. But then, they wouldnt be Starbucks.


Cycling is not a Crime

While cruising around the internet I found a rather disterbing (though in no way surprising) artical [originaly posted on BikePortland] about anti-cycling/unfair labor practices at Starbucks (better known in these parts as "Star-sucks")

I suppose that, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I have way too much experience with the Seattle-based coffee conglomerant to be discribed as unbiased. Although I have never worked for this mega corperation, between my involvment with local unions and the Starbucks employees I have known over the years, I have to say that the following story is not even the most shocking example of unfair labor practices at the company, only the most recent. It is all too easy for me to imagine that a company that berated a father for being with his infant son in the critical care wing of the hospital during a familiy emergancy, rather than filling his shift, would do something exactly like this:

Fabian Mills has the kind of boyish good looks and well kept appearence that flies in the face of the Gen-X stereo-type and sets him appart from the slacker sub-culture. His enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to progress from being a lowly barista at Starbucks to managing their store on 102nd and Halsey near the Gateway Transit Center. In his 2 1/2 years with the company, he never once had a bad performance review and profits were up at his store after he became manager.

Back in August he rode his bike to a district meeting and got a surprising reaction from his new district manager, Frances Ericson. According to Mills, Erickson "pulled me aside and said she would prefer that I drove to the meeting. She asked me if I even had a car and then said it was inappropriate to ride my bike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but she actually said she would prefer if I drove a car and that it was unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”

Four days later Ericson transferred Mills to a store in Troutdale at 257th and Stark. Mills was unhappy with the decision because the transfer would add 16 miles to his daily bike commute. When Mills expressed his disappointment with the move, Ericson said, “you should just get over riding your bike.”

Mills filed a formal complaint with the human resources and business ethics departments at Starbucks, Ericson claimed she moved him because of his poor job performance, despite the fact that all of Mill's performance reviews had been possitive and profits were up at his store. Mills has since moved on to a job at Bank of America.

This is a sad comentary on a company that claims to want to be a positive influence on the communiites it moves into. The City of Portland is actively encouraging businesses to support alternative forms of transpotation, including biking to work. Last month over 6,000 Portlanders from 550 companies, including NIKE and other mega corperations, took part in the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. Starbucks did NOT participate.


A Card To Show You Care (about safe streets)

A Yellow Card is used in many sports as a means of cautioning a player regarding their conduct, in the UK, Police may issue a "Yellow Card Warning" to teenagers committing Anti-Social behavior. Now, thanks to Peter Miller, there is a yellow card for maniac motorists. The fact that a couple people sent me links to this site, shortly after I had found the site on my own, struck me as noteworthy enough to warrant a post. I love the calm, compassionate tone of the text, and goodness knows we have all had occasion to want to deliver such a message to a careless driver.

I'm not sure where Miller is located, but do have to admit to my concern that flicking a card, however harmless and eloquent, at an American motorist could result in bodily injury or death. They take their paint jobs and, well, themselves, way too seriously. The card seems like a great idea who's time may or may not have come to this once brave nation.

Miller's site has wonderful images, and info about his myriad art projects and related activity. Well worth a visit.

Related to the Yellow Cards, I am tempted to come up with a card I could flick at the countless cars that arrive on campus with only the driver, with some equally eloquent message and carpool resources. This my be the latest evidence that I have become a crotchety old cyclist. With luck my "Minus Car Project" t-shirt will arrive soon,and that will cover it.

Thanks to tuco for the tip


First Photo of my Miyata & Freeradical

This is fast turning into one of those weeks were things just dont go right, I think I may have to surrender to that. Pretty much everything that could go wrong has, including geek support bailing on me at the 11th hour, meaning that the presentation that I am supposed to be giving tomarrowin one of my classes aint gonna happen, and that is gonna take one hell of a bite out of my grade. And thats just how it is.

One advantage of being a --ahem-- older student is I dont get as bent outta shape about these things they way I used to. I am pissed off, but I also recognize that it is not the end of the world. I also recognize that my really sucky week does not make for good reading. So, instead, I offer this rather silly photo of my Miyata loaded down with --most notably-- an insane amout of strofoam (the kind that comes molded around computers and DVDs for shipping) for an art assigment at school. The bike is flanked by one of the many over-stuffed parking lots at school, filled to the brim with cars that, for the most part, bring single passengers --some of whome doubtless think they need to drive because they need to bring big bulky bags of things, in addition to their textbooks, school supplies, big red umbrella, and so on.


Cycles of Consternation and Celebration

Today was one of those days that tries the souls of cyclists. Saints be praised, the soul of the cyclist prevailed.

It was one of those quirky Autumn in Oregon days in which one is literally blinded by the pelting rain, and yet I was too hot with my rain coat zipped, too cold and wet with it open; the rain jacket was keeping my upper half dry (mostly) but my legs were getting wet -especially as I hurtled through puddles and kicked up the mud. It was not good, people, and I had to get across town and back, with multiple stops along the way, including a groceries run.

I made a stop at the cycle co-op, normally a beacon of bikey wonderfulness that makes me proud to be a cyclist, however they have one employee who makes Nurse Ratchet look like a paragon of warmth and human kindness

To say that she sucks at customer service --well, I mean, she would have to actually participate in customer service before one could say that she sucks at it. She sucks at customer service in the same way that I suck at drag racing. Guess who got sent up to the counter against her will when I walked in? I of course had a somewhat complicated question about a special order I had made, in addition to needing improved weatherization. She was not willing to do what needed to be done, I actually ended up coming back later and dealing with someone else, who was able to help me with my order, make a minor adjustment to my new bike and sell me a pair of rain pants in a fraction of the time it had taken her to do nothing. I am not making this up. So, I had an opportunity to meditate on compassion and forgiveness as well as gratitude (for the guy who eventually did help me)

The one flaw I have discovered in the otherwise brilliant Free Radical is that the slings, which are open at the top and sides, allow the monsoons in. But the problem is easily solved by placing a duffel bag in the sling. This has the added advantage of letting me pack everything I need in the duffel bag in the comfort of my home, then drop the duffel bag in the sling and head out --less time than it takes to pack the trunk of a car. Plus, no car!

I was able to fill the duffel bag with library books and rental movies to be returned, schools stuff, art materials, and even groceries and fresh flowers on the way home. Best of all, and the movies place I found Harold and Maude on DVD ~ HAROLD & MAUDE!

Made my day


Of Minds and Monsoons

I had hoped to get some work done in the garden today, in addition to spending some time working on my bikes; but alas, the monsoons are bombarding us today, so I am getting work done in the house and -oh yeah- trying to work on homework for school.

I had a seminar on Jungian psychology this weekend that was facinating, but also grueling: rather than getting this rich, complicated, esoteric information in bites of 2 or 3 hours a day, 2 or 3 days a week, over the course of some months; we are getting it in mamoth, unmanagable, Super-sized weekend marathons of 8 hours all in one day, come-back-tomorrow-and-do-it-again loads. Jung is all about expansivness (rather than "head shrinking") but my brain is way too full -expanded to the point of poping! I had hoped to get out for a ride and clear my head, but the weather was just a little too daunting for a head-clearing sort of a ride. The weekend after next I get to go back and get another weekend long dose ~eeeekk!

I would love to wax poetic about all the amazing stuff I learned, but at the moment my brain is tripping out my ear in time with the rain.



My new baby arrived Wednesday in the form of a Miyana Country Runner with an Xtracycle Free Radical attached
and I am a woman in love!

I rode my Montana to City Bikes to buy it, and was then able to strap the front wheel of Montana into the Free Radical and ride off into the sunset (I took photos and hope to have them up soon. In the mean time I borrowed the one above from their website)

Friday I was able to pack up all the gear The Boy would need for his weekend with is dad, as well all my school stuff and a change of clothes and head out without feeling like we were carrying anything. We stopped in rout and picked up groceries, and still had room to spare. The new rig has proven to be a real conversation starter, everyone wants to ask about it, ask what all I use it for, etc. So it's been a great way to expand my circle of friends exponentially ~and who knows where that might lead?

Why do I need and extra bike?

*First off, here are things I need to do and carry by bike that require more than my humble bike rack and buckets can offer. Art canvasses, tents and camping gear, bales of straw, poultry feed . . . anything too big or heavy for me to carry in the Free Radical is just too big or heavy for me to carry

*I sometimes need to take the Boy places too far for him to peddal in the stoker, or we need to leave too early in the morning --or late in the evening-- for him to be fit for stoker duty. He cant exactly sleep back there, but I have already had the experience of his little head leaning on my back as we travers the last leg home.

*After a year of daily use, my Montana needs a complete overhaul, including a touch-up to the paint, which will take it out of comission for a couple weeks

*With the Free Radical I can get a bike-mounted blender for bike-powered smoothies and other beverages

So there are so meny practicle reasons, but mostly I am dreaming of the adventures I can have with the Free Radical, and the smoothies and Margarettas I can make when I get there!


Trading Food for Fuel

One of the myriad ways that my upbringing was "un-American" is that I was raised to be very skeptical of simple solutions, as well as the status quo. As this country begins it's slow emergence out of denial, and begins to recognize that we are running out of oil, we seem to be latching on to "quick fixes" and simple answers in a way that is note-worthy even for this young country. One example: biofuel.

I have to admit that I was innitally taken in ~I mean, it sounds so lovely: swap out icky, poluting and unsustainable fosil fuels for stuff so pure, clean and organic that -in it's raw form- you can literally eat it. But, you see, that is in fact one of the primary problems. You can not have your grain and burn it too.

In an increasingly hungery world, cars claimed a substantial portion of the world's grain consumption this year, according to a enlightening and deeply disternbing article from the Earth Policy Institute.

"In agricultural terms, the world appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain it takes to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people."

In some U.S. Corn Belt states, ethanol distilleries are taking over the corn supply. In Iowa, a staggering 55 ethanol plants are operating or have been proposed. According to Iowa State University economist Bob Wisner, if all these plants are built, they would use all the corn grown in Iowa. In South Dakota, a top-ten corn-growing state, ethanol distilleries are already claiming over half of the corn harvest.

We are all familiar with the cycles of supply and demand, as the price of oil climbs, it becomes increasingly profitable to convert farm commodities into automotive fuel, either ethanol or biodiesel. Whenever the food value of a commodity drops below its fuel value, the market will convert it into fuel. We are currently willing to pay 70 a barrel for oil, what does that say about what we soon might be paying for a bushel of corn, and thus an ear of corn for our dinner table.

The U.S. investment in biofuel production is threatening to draw grain away from the production of meat, milk, and eggs. And, most seriously, the vast number of distilleries in operation, under construction, and in the planning stages threatens to reduce grain available for direct human consumption. Simply put, the stage is being set for a head-on collision between the world’s 800 million affluent automobile owners and the world's food consumers. Given the insatiable appetite of cars for fuel, higher grain prices appear inevitable. The only question is when food prices will rise and by how much. Indeed, in recent months, wheat and corn prices have risen by one fifth.

Think about how many grocery item contain corn, grain, milk and eggs, rather rules out the line "let them eat cake. For the 2 billion people in the world who spend over half of their income on food, rising grain prices can quickly become life threatening. The broader risk is that rising food prices could spread hunger and generate political instability in low-income countries that import grain, including Mexico. If ethanol distillery demand for grain continues its explosive growth, driving grain prices to dangerous highs, the U.S. government may find themselves in a whole new "war without end" in the form of an unfolding global conflict over food.

There are alternatives to using food-based fuels, alternative to fuel-based transportation, as well as alternatives to single passenger transportation. While there are no alternatives to food for people.

One immediately available alternative would be to simply raise auto fuel efficiency standards by 20 percent, which would give us the equivalent of the 3 percent gain in automotive fuel supplies from ethanol everal times over—and at a fraction of the cost. Other alternatives include shifting some of the current investment in biofule production to investing in public transport could reduce overall dependence on cars.Similarly, if wind-rich countries such as the United States invest heavily in wind farms to feed cheap electricity into the grid, cars could run primarily on wind energy, and at the gasoline equivalent of less than $1 a gallon.

No matter how one crunches the numbers, the simple fact is that we will need to reduce our energy consumption, which was never sustainable by any standard; and in seeking alternatives, we must keep in mind that the days of simple and cheap answers are behind us. They are in fact what has brought us here.


Now THERES A Radical Notion!

I have been feeling rather the crotchety curmudgeon lately, with far too much to be crabby about. Whenever The Boy gets into these funks I advise him to focus on the positive, rather than the negative, so I took my own advice and went hunting on the Net for some positive to focus on. Thanks to Curt at One Planet One Gear I found a great story here are the highlights:

If everyone who lives within 5 miles of their workplace were to leave the car at home just one day a week and cycle to work, nearly 5 million tons of global warming pollution would be eliminated every year, the equivalent of taking about a million cars off the road.


And the news gets better: People are actually doing it! Cycling for transportation has doubled since 1990, and reports from Interbike tell us that this past year especially has been good for the cycling industry. According to the Washington Journal "A radical idea is sweeping the world of American bicycle manufacturing: building bikes that people will use for actual transportation.

the vary idea!

Cycling for transportation has doubled since 1990, and bicycle manufacturers seem to be responding. After decades of designing for recreation, nearly every major manufacturer has commuter models on offer, rugged bikes made for riding to work. They may look like 1940s through-backs, but materials like aluminum and carbon make the frames lighter, and technological advances mean better brakes, shock-absorbing seats, and smoother shifters. The models usually come with practical accessories, like racks for carrying briefcases, fenders for splash protection on wet roads, and big chain guards to keep legs and clothing away from chain grease.

I am still chuckling at the idea that bikes are radical, but at least I am chuckling, and knowing that commuting by bike -even once a week- can have that big an impact, it a definite incentive: one might even say positive reinforcement


Hard Rain Gonna Fall

The Boy and I had our first ride of the season that included a good solid rain. The rain gear -the perchase of which, only days earlier, had required bribing and conjoiling The Boy who was sure he didnt want it, and my insisting that he would need it- got it's first test and held up well.

This is the time of year that seperates the fair-weathered cyclists from the hard-core utility cyclists. Just 2 weeks ago, at the start of the quarter, every bike rack at school was literaly covered with bikes. I wish I had gotten photos, because they looked like some kind of modern art instalation, with bikes arranged in every concievable way on, over, and around the bike racks, railings and sign posts around campus. Now there is a mere sprinkling of bikes here and there; the bus shelters are clogged with students, and congestion is worse than ever. Car parking and traffic in this area is rediculous and impossible, add to that all the construction going on down town and most sane people dont even attempt to drive to campus.

It has me thinking that all The City (who claims to be hard at work reducing conjestion and encouraging alternative transpertation) would have to do is eliminate parking in the downtown core and the rest would take care of itself. But we all know that aint gonna happen.

Meanwhile, we have discovered that lots of light layers, panniers or buckets to carry the extra layers, and allowing enough time to stop for hot drinks is all we need to brave the winter weather. It's actually surprising how few layers one needs, as you are generating your own heat while riding. I bring a couple of changes of fresh clothes to hang in my locker at the begining of the week, including a dry rain coat and socks in case the ones I have on gets really wet, and carry a few layers for The Boy on the bike (as I know he will not think of it himself) and that seems to cover it. None of this really reqires more thought or effort than packing the car and stocking his backpack would.

Dude, Wheres My Country?

Why would we allow the terrorists to win by doing to ourselves what they could never do, and abandon the principles for which so many Americans today and through our history have fought and sacrificed?”. . .

I have been grieving, and trying to find a voice, a language, for that grief. I have so far failed to achieve the elequence of Senetor Patrick Leeahy, still my grief, however inelequent, will not hold it's tounge

Today dawned with the news that the Senate has endorsed Bush’s proposals for the treatment of "terror suspects".
I never thought of myself as a patriot until recently, until after the word was co-oped by fascists. As too often happens with love, I came to understand how much I love my country only after finding it slipping away.

I loved the things that once set this country apart, I was so enchanted by our legal system that at one point I seriously considered becoming a lawyer. I am particularly partial to the notion of the presumption of innocence, and the idea that if we suspect that someone has committed a crime, all the parties come together, face to face, and present the facts and evidence to an impartial judge and jury. I loved that we honored Habeas Corpus, an ethic that has stood for hundreds of years, in numerous countries, dating back to the Magna Carta. I am a mom, and I appreciate the need to keep our streets, as well as our tall buildings, safe; but if you think someone is a threat, take it to court. Thats my position.

I loved that we were champions of the Geneva Convention, I loved that we stood for individual freedoms and justice, above all els. I loved that I was raised on the Voltaire credo "I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Today, in my home town, and in home towns throughout this once brave nation, people are being targeted for their participation in Quaker meetings, for opposing the War, for association with environmental groups, for their bumper stickers. seriously. I have stopped using the city's mass transit system because they have a policy of detaining and reporting to the police folks who's bikes have stickers baring the name of the Florida indy group "this bike is a pipe bomb". I don't have such a sticker on my bike, but I have a conscience, and a respect for the Constitution (remember the Constitution?) and an absolute belief that your right to swing your arm extends right up to a hair's breadth of my nose.

A bumper sticker is not shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Whatever you, or I, or anyone els thinks of such a bumper sticker --or a particular religion, or political persuasion-- our system of government champions the right to have and declare that sentiment, faith, or perspective. No one should have to justify their beliefs to a bus driver, or anyone els.

Who are we if we no longer believe that. If we are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave? What are we without the Bill of Rights and the Constitution? When did these things cease to be our birthright? When did we stop believing in them?

During the Holly Wars, Afghanistan not only refrained from torturing their prisoners of war, they made a point of treating them humanly. They did this absent any Genivia Convention, UN observers or letters from Amnesty International. They treated their prisoners with basic human dignity because of how doing so reflected on they themselves, the captors. They held themselves to high standards, and in doing so, held the moral high ground. This policy of humane treatment did not make them weak, or vulnerable, or less effective in their wars. It just meant they stood for something. The same was once true of our Nation, standing for freedom, justice and human rights did not make us weak, it made us strong, and it made us great.

I no longer think of becoming a lawyer, these days I think about studying French and moving to Canada, seriously.
Of course, these days I cant think about Canada without thinking about Maher Arar, the Canadian computer consultant and father of two, who was detained by US authorities in New York City in September, 2002. He then became one more victem of the administration's new policy of rendition, and endured ten months of torture and abuse at the hands of Syrian captors, imprisoned under deplorable conditions and forced to make false confessions. This is what torture leads to: good and innocent men making false statements –any statement-- to make it stop.

This was no aberration (if ONLY it were an isolated case). There are countless other examples, more everyday, some of which I am more intimately familiar than others. Brandon Mayfield, a family law attorney here in Portland, is a good man, and honest man, and perhaps most importantly, an innocent man. He was erroneously linked to the attacks on Madrid in 2004, resulting in his family home being servailed and secretly searched, and ultimately to his being spirited away and held for 19 days. Mayfield was never charged, and an FBI internal review later acknowledged serious errors in their investigation.

Over the course of those 19 days, during which his family did not know where he was or how to assist his legal defense, Mayfield experienced the nightmare of an innocent man ensnared in a capital offense by seemingly conclusive (though completely false) evidence. He and his family will never get those three weeks back, nor has their life returned to what it once was.

In these dark days, the very fabric of our society has been catastrophically altered. In the climate of fear that the "war on terrorism" engenders, the response of government to theoretical threats can wreak every bit as much havoc on the innocent who become victims of its of its counter-terrorism tactics, as the "terrorists" themselves. In the case of rolling back rights, governments can do the kind of harm no terrorist could ever hope to accomplish.
Just ask Brandon;s children.

In the most recent Xmen film there is a quote: "The whole world's going to hell, you gonna just sit there?" perhaps there will yet be Patriots who raise to the challenge of reclaiming both the title, and this country, from the fascists. Liberators who will indeed be greeted with roses and cheers. Perhaps there is yet hope for some rag-tag band of super heroes to rise up in the name of freedom, there have been such heros in the past, those who understood that we can not defend democracy abroad while abandoning at home, and had the courage to say so. Perhaps my grief is premature.