Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Was a Tough Week...

So, Monday a week ago my best friend got laid off. Before Friday, two more friends lost their jobs as well.

On Thursday I found out that an old house mate of mine dropped dead in his tracks, age 52, apparently of an aneurysm.

Then, on Tuesday, I found out that a fellow who is probably the closest I've ever had as a mentor, one that worked with me on the Tektronix Smalltalk project, and the fellow whom I followed when he left Tek to go to another company--this guy is dying of cancer and probably has days or weeks to live.

And you may wonder what I've been up to.

In my copious (NOT!) free time I've also been busy as chairman of the BTC. Our community cycling center is open, which is both exciting and scary.

Anyway, to leave on a positive note, here's an article from today's Oregonian/Oregon Live. Only in Portland!

Judge clears nude bicyclist in Portland

by Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Wednesday November 12, 2008, 8:46 PM

A Multnomah County judge has cleared a Northeast Portland nude bicyclist of criminal indecent exposure charges, saying cycling naked has become a "well-established tradition" in Portland and understood as a form of "symbolic protest."

Judge Jerome LaBarre said the city's annual World Naked Bike Ride -- in which as many as 1,200 people cycled through Northwest and downtown Portland on June 14 -- has helped cement riding in the buff as a form of protest against cars and possibly even the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

LaBarre then cleared Michael "Bobby" Hammond, 21, of any wrongdoing after two days of hearings that concluded Wednesday.

Hammond's legal troubles began June 26, when he stripped off all his clothes and hopped on his vintage 1970s 10-speed -- in an effort, he says, to make clear that nothing was powering his mode of transportation but his own unadulterated body.

Portland police, however, saw Hammond's two-minute ride through the Alberta Arts District as a stunt, not free speech. They arrested Hammond, citing city code that states it's illegal to expose genitalia in a public place in view of members of the opposite sex.

A bystander recorded the episode, which unfolded at 10:30 p.m. in front of Hammond's home at Northeast 15th Avenue and Alberta Street. The video was posted on the Web.

As Hammond pulls to a stop, police begin to question him.

"Who, me?" responds an apparently startled Hammond, adding that he doesn't think he's doing anything wrong. A woman can be heard yelling in the background that Oregon law allows nudity -- as long as it isn't done to sexually arouse oneself or others.

"Dude, look," says one of three officers who approach Hammond. "Go put on pants, or we're going to take you to jail. There's a city code that says you can't be naked in public. There are kids out here. You can't be riding around with your penis hanging out, OK? ..."

"I just want to ride my bike," Hammond says. "I'm wearing a helmet."

"That's fine," responds another officer. "You want to go to jail tonight? Either you get your pants on right now (and) you get off your bike ... or you're going to jail."

Hammond gets off his bike. He stands still, almost frozen for several seconds as an officer can be heard counting down from five. When the officer gets to one, the trio bring Hammond to the ground during a 10-second struggle, because Hammond continues to hang onto his bike. The officers handcuff him, laying him naked on the street.

Hammond said later that a bystander offered to get him some clothes but that there wasn't time before police pulled him to the ground.

Lesser charges

Police originally charged Hammond with felony assault of a public safety officer, among other charges. The district attorney's office, however, decided not to pursue that charge and instead sought misdemeanor convictions for resisting arrest, fourth-degree assault and indecent exposure.

Hammond, who works at the Black Cat Cafe and as a caregiver for people with developmental disabilities, testified that he moved here more than a year ago from New Mexico. He said he thought nudity was legal in Portland because he'd participated in his first World Naked Bike Ride without incident.

"If anyone here hasn't been, you have to go," Hammond testified. "It's one of the reasons I live in Portland. As far as you can see -- as far in front of you and behind -- it's naked people."

Twelve days after the event, Hammond, housemates and friends sat on the lawn of his home, passing out origami, selling art and playing music during the art district's Last Thursday event. They bemoaned the car traffic congesting Alberta Street, and Hammond and a friend, Walter Geis, decided to strip down and ride their bikes up and down the boulevard.

Hammond testified that he was expressing a message in support of bikes and against cars, foreign oil, the Iraq war and air pollution.

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin argued that Hammond didn't carry any signs, pass out fliers or otherwise attempt to communicate his message to bystanders.

"He may have well thought he was doing this for a noble purpose, but there was no way to express that to a rational person," Lufkin said. "This was, by every definition of the word, streaking."

Lufkin told the judge that if he dismissed the charges against Hammond on free-speech grounds, he was in essence invalidating city code. Lufkin said anyone who'd been arrested for indecent exposure could argue they were exempt from the law because they were expressing speech.

A case-by-case issue

In 1985, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in City of Portland v. Gatewood that appearing nude in public can be a protected form of expression -- such as if it's done in political protest -- and should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

LaBarre said Hammond's case qualified as protected expression.

"It's been well-known since Lady Godiva that the shock value of nudity can be a very important protest," LaBarre said, referring to the legend of a noblewoman who rode naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry in England to protest her husband's oppressive taxation of the people.

Hammond was all smiles as the judge issued his decision. He hugged his attorney, public defender Tiffany Harris, and friends and neighbors who came to watch. He expressed his relief that he wouldn't lose his job as a caregiver. He said his employer, Westside Community Focus, had told him he would be fired for liability reasons if he were convicted.

He also made plans for the future: Would he ever ride naked again?

"Oh, yeah," he said.

Aimee Green;

Monday, September 29, 2008

LCI #2106

So, how does it feel to own a bicycle in a bicycle shortage? (That's 93 cars, by the way).

I just finished a very long weekend training to become a fledgling League Certified Instructor. I am now authorized to conduct classes on bicycling. My first classes I will need to have other instructors present.

Training consisted of 23 hours over Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday. There were ten candidates and three LCI's in addition to the instructor.

Preparation included studying an entire textbook published by the League and a pretest on which we were required to achieve a passing score.

During the course of the weekend we were introduced to the principles of teaching and reaffirmed to the staff that we understood the material that we were supposed to be teaching. However, most of the time consisted of us modeling our role as teachers, giving both classroom and outside instruction to one another, covering all of the elements of "Road 1", the League's most common class.

We got to be evaluated by our peers as well as the senior LCI's. I'm still exhausted. You'll see me on my soapbox again soon

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Doctors Visit and RSVP

Yesterday I went to Portland to visit a doctor. As usual, I multi-moded: I rode to the train station, let the light rail haul me over the Tualatin Mountains into downtown, and then rode the last four blocks to the offices. After the visit I reversed the route, ran some errands in my neighborhood, then finished the day telecommuting from my house.

Since it was a pretty lousy day for August (temperature in the low 60's with occasional heavy showers), I wore more special clothing than I have lately. When the weather's perfect I've been getting away street clothes. However, yesterday called for a little less cotton and a bit more technical wear. That plus the obvious accoutrements (helmet, geek glasses, gloves, and the nearby bike on the train) made it clear that I was One of Them.

The interesting thing about this was that in the space of the hour and a half round trip and visit, I was accosted by three different people who wanted detailed technical advice on bike commuting. Not "Gee, I wish I could figure out a way to bike like you do." No, it was real questions, like "How do you pick your glasses?" "How do you ride in the rain?" "What do you do about getting your shoes wet?" "How do you keep from getting flats?"

On to other things. While I was sitting at the doctor's office, I heard a receptionist speaking to an older patient. She had the high-pitched slightly patronizing voice that I hear health care workers talking to patients who may be slightly...slow. "Mr XXXX, did you remember to take your heart medicine?" I looked up and saw a man, heavy set, mid 60's, stooped over and shuffling, wearing terry shorts and a T shirt, with a wet spot on the seat of his shorts.

My heart just fell. Here was a man who is beyond trying to retain dignity in public, who's just trying to stay alive. I was overwhelmed with a great sense of sadness at the thought of what it is for people to grow old and to slowly lose a grip on their quality of life as their body slowly fails them.


On to a lighter subject. I just finished a two day ride, the 2008 RSVP ("Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). This ride is quickly becoming one of my favorite multi-day events. I think it's because the ride is structured in such a way that there really aren't any deadlines except for getting your bags on the truck in the morning. Since you ride through plenty of towns, you "live off the land" for your food. There are organized rest stops each day, but--again--it wouldn't be the end of the world if you even missed those since services are prevalent.

Anyway, since there's no pressure, I find myself not stressing about eating, sightseeing, taking pictures, and just overall plain enjoying the ride. I'm not the only one who's figured this out. This year they opened registration a month early but only for Cascade Bicycle Club members, and the ride sold out in two weeks. Yup, I belong to a Seattle bicycle club now.

Lynne (who is not my wife, my dear Clarkie likes for me to point out) and I rode it on Clifford the Tandem (as in Big and Red). As captain, I didn't get a lot of pictures, but Lynne got plenty in the back.

Thursday night we got to visit David and Claire again. They didn't do the ride this year. I think they were caught completely off guard by how quickly the ride filled up. I made it perfectly clear to them that I expect to see more of them next year! On the plus side I got to finally meet their younger daughter Emma, who's been shunted off to summer camp in years past. I was surprised to see that Crispin the Guinea Pig no longer lives there, but I was pleased to make friends with Luna.

The ride starts at the old Sand Point naval station north of UW and pretty much immediately sets north on the Burke-Gilman trail. (One of these days I want to ride the five miles between UW and Sand Point. STP starts at UW and heads south; if I ride that stretch I can say I've ridden the entire length between Portland and Vancouver BC.)

The Burke-Gilman is slowly getting more and more decrepit. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad they have a bike trail along there; it's just that they slapped asphalt down without any sort of road bed. Thus tree roots and other encroachments are slowly trashing the road surface. Combine that with slightly claustrophobic foliage and scores of riders who do not understand how to ride in groups, and I had one very stressed stoker. We took our time.

A note about the Cascade Bicycle Club riders. I understand that when you're the largest bicycle club in the country that you have to expect a greater incidence of accidents. However, I was dismayed to see hundreds of cyclists wearing ear buds while riding. This is against Washington law (and should be illegal everywhere, IMNSHO). Again, I am amazed at how many people think that just because they know how to brake, steer, pedal (and drive a motor vehicle), that they know how to safely operate a bicycle. It's kind of like young males who think that their Y chromosome gives them an instinctive understanding on how to ride a motorcycle. It just ain't so.

There were numerous route adjustments this year. The first big change I noticed was before Woodinville, where it seemed that we remained on the bike trail for much longer, presumably to bypass some construction on the normal route. I liked this change; the roads at this point are still far too urban for any real enjoyment.

After our obligatory Second Breakfast at the Buzz Inn in Snohomish, we started on the Centennial Trail with the infamous Bollards of Death. I've had enough apologizing, thank you very much, so we avoided any excitement here. Lynne and I felt as though we stayed on this bike path longer than last year as well. Again, this is a lot less stressful and a bit prettier than the semi-urban roads that the old route took us.

In Arlington we stopped for lunch at the Blue Bird Cafe. (Did I mention we eat like hobbits on this ride? First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevenses...) I asked the store owner as we were paying if she got any warning about the swarm of locusts descending on her establishment. "Oh, I call and find out when it is now." Smart woman!

By the time we left Arlington, I definitely felt like we were running towards the rear of the pack. There was yet another route change on the climb ohere. Again, it seemed to take a lesser traveled route. It may have been slightly more climbing, but I think it was a bit more scenic. Around this time it was starting to get warm. We started seeing bicyclists lying in any available shade at the side of the road, kind of like roadkill. Lynne and I kept riding: "dropped on our heads too often as a child" she explained to one prone cyclist as we passed. It kept getting hotter and hotter. We just kept drinking water and riding.

A bit past Mount Vernon we entered the Skagit Valley. As usual, this part of the route included massive headwinds. Usually I just hunker down and bear it (though I really can't complain, being on a tandem.) This time though, I was truly grateful. Why? Can you say "onshore flow"? There, I knew you could. The air temperature was truly about twenty degrees cooler than it was on the climb out of Arlington!

I'm not sure if it was because of the cooler air temperatures or the fact that we weren't trying to kill ourselves, but the Chuckanut Drive climb seemed much easier than in years past. We made the obligatory stops at the overlooks and took the tourist pictures, made the Pink Lemonade Stop (Micaiah is a high school sophomore now, can you believe it?), and dropped down into Bellingham.

Lynne got us lost getting to the dorms and put us on this vile little street called Liberty Street that heads straight up Sehome Hill. I should have realized something was wrong when I saw the horizontal ridges on this street to provide traction.

We walked down to Boundary Bay to have dinner. I'm a little annoyed at them now and will probably pick a different place for dinner next year. When they said there was a 45 minute wait, we told the hostess we would wait in the beer garden. She took our name and my physical description, and we went down and had a pint. An hour and a half later Lynne went to check, and the new hostess said, "Oh, we skipped over your name because we don't go to the beer garden to fetch guests." Right. There are other places to eat, thank you very much.

As usual, the second day's ride is more about the destination than the scenery. Don't get me wrong; there are some great views, especially in the morning, including Wiser Lake and Mount Baker.

It's still fun to show up at an international border crossing on a bicycle.

Also, the ferry crossing was a bit faster than usual. The ferry man has figured out how to manage our crowd a bit better, I think.

We managed to get onto the "Pitt River Dike Trail Option" this year. It's a bit easy to miss, but Lynne was insistent that we give it a go. On the plus side, it avoids the truly atrocious traffic on 224th and Dewdney Trunk Road leading up to the Pitt River Bridge. It's also much more scenic.

On the down side, we're talking pea gravel with occasional divots in the road surface. Captain is vewwy vewwy busy. There isn't much coasting due to rolling resistance and the need to maintain stability mountain-bike style. The 700x28 tires on the tandem were quite sufficient to the task, by the way. Stoker is busy taking pictures.

By the time we reached Port Moody it was starting to get hot. Lynne was regaling me with fantasies of sprinklers and ice cream. I could really relate (well, not the ice cream; I'm lactose intolerant), but I was ready to stretch and rehydrate. I probably downed a quart of liquid while we were there. As we launched from the rest stop, I felt a sickening snap as I shifted gears. A quick analysis showed that my front shifter broke! We were left without our large chain ring for the last twenty miles. If you're going to lose a gear, that's probably the one to lose.

Climbing the Barnett Highway felt really hot, though I always get a kick out of the huge piles of sulfur down at the port. At the last part of the highway when I could see the top, I called for us to stand ("Arf!" stoker says.) Passing the prone cyclists in the shade we got cheers ("Look at them go!") Again, Lynne: "We were dropped on our heads as small children."

They've significantly improved the Frances/Union bicycle boulevard this year. Whereas before there have been interminable stop signs, they've been replaced this year with traffic roundabouts. Not only is this easier and safer for the cyclist, it made the Really Important Stop much more obvious (it's a very busy cross street that needs one's full attention.).

On the Adanac bike boulevard (Adanac is Canada backwards, get it?), we started to get a huge school of pilot fish as people realized someone was traveling with two hands free and calling out ride sheet cues. Lynne gets really popular at this point of the ride every year!

After settling in our hotel rooms, we had a quiet dinner at a local Japanese restaurant. The waitress looked slightly helpless as I asked for two pieces of octopus. Tako, I amended. She gave me a big grin. Hey, I only know six Japanese words, but sometimes I can get it right!

As usual, Sunday was spent making it back to Stumptown. It didn't take us long to get past immigration. The immigration officer didn't even look at our passports. Similarly, we didn't have a long wait back at Sand Point for our bicycles. I guess they didn't have to saw the bicycles apart and look for drugs this year like they did last year, where the bicycles didn't arrive for hours after us.

Like I said, my stoker got most of the pictures; browse them here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

You've Been Tagged...

OK, I guess I've been turn...

Q. If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?

A: Stronger than the Incredible Hulk, lighter than a gnat's fart, carves corners like butter, steadier on the flats than a Harley chopper, cheap enough I can park it in front of WinCo, smoother than a baby's butt, stiffer than a ummm...what kind of bike would give me all of that?

Seriously, since I ride my bike over 300 days a year, I can't just settle on some sort of toy. I need one that I can use for commuting and grocery shopping: one that can withstand the mud, the rain, the grit, the just plain abuse a bike takes when you ride it year-round.

Q. Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?
A. Oh, a dream bike. You know, my LeMond Carbon-Ti is a pretty sweet ride. See my previous answer, though. The tooth-rattling stiffness makes it an awesome speed machine, but an English century's worth of chip seal leaves me craving my 35 year old steel commuter.

Q. If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
A: How about this year's Race Across Oregon? With 535 miles, there's enough that I might not get bored. Note also that at 535 miles in length, I could ride all day long :-)

Q. What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to to do for the rest of her/his life?
A. Someone who likes writing questionnaires.

Q. Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded?
A. 99% of my riding is road riding. Yes, I have a mountain bike. Some day after I win the lottery I'll be able to give it the attention it deserves. Good mountain bike riding requires significant skills that I haven't yet developed. I enjoy extremely non-technical mountain bike riding (Banks-Vernonia Linear Park, Forest Park, etc.) I also appreciate mountain bike riding in the winter when you just can't stay outside as long. However, I'm really more of a put-the-miles-behind-you zone-out-to-the-next-town kind of rider, not a ohmygodimgonnadie kind of adrenalin freak that seems to be the kind of person who's attracted to mountain biking.

Q. Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent?
A. I've never had the opportunity, but I'm completely receptive to the notion. Many people report that as their spine becomes less flexible with age that they've been very happy on a recumbent. Personally, I'll stick with my "wedgie" for another ten or twenty years.

Q. Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?
A. No. Every time I consider it, I remember I have an urgent date to floss my cat's teeth. Seriously, I have a real problem with swimming. My neurotic nurturing female-type parent forced me into serious swimming lessons at the Y when I was a kid; she was deathly afraid I was going to drown. Finally, my freshman year in college that made me jump three stories from the rafters into the swimming pool, fully clothed. Did I mention I'm afraid of heights? The result is that it's totally killed any enjoyment I have of being in the water. I fall in the water, I swim to the side and get out; no problem, no enjoyment. Perhaps I'll try a duathlon one day.

Q. Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?
A. Well, duh: ice cream, of course. I'm lactose intolerant!

Q. What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it. What size of shoes do you wear?
A. "How many bikes do you own, and how many bikes do you really need?"
A2: Five: commuter, racing, fixie, mountain, tandem. And who says that need enters into it at all?

Q. You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?
A. Leave. Quickly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Social Suicide and Race Across Oregon

It was a week ago, but I've finally got the Race Across Oregon pictures posted.

I was the crew chief for a four-man over-50 team called "Old Goats for Cycle One." I didn't get the memo, or I would have grown a goatee like everyone else (except Bev and Laura, of course), such as Mike Manning's here.

Race Across Oregon is a grueling endurance race. It starts in Portland, winds up to Government Camp via Sandy, and then loops through central Oregon all the way out to Prineville before ending up back at Timberline Lodge (yes, as in Kubrick's The Shining) for the finish line. It constitutes 535 miles and about forty thousand feet of climbing. And it's not a stage race. You snooze, you lose!

As a consequence, every participating team is required to have support vehicles. At night, a vehicle must trail the rider with the rider in their headlights and two pairs of flashing amber lights clearly visible from the rear. During the second day this is strongly advised though not strictly required.

Our team had a small RV and two outfitted pickup trucks for the support vehicles. JR and I ran the second pickup truck, which substituted for the main follow vehicle when necessary and held the bike for the next rider.

The course ran through some breathtaking scenery, and I use the word breathtaking for two reasons. First, it was flat out gorgeous. I kept thinking to myself, "I want to ride this--but not all 535 miles at once." Second, this is some of the most remote country I've been in, out side of say, a Cycle Oregon ride. We had 15 spare gallons of gasoline loaded in the pickup trucks, and we used ten of them to keep on the road.

The part of the race I remember most vividly was waiting at the top of Ochoco Summit around two in the morning waiting for our rider to scale the last rise before Mitchell. We had our motors off and were frankly just grabbing half an hour of sleep waiting for Kevin to show up. The Milky Way was resplendent above, and the site was completely silent except for the wind. Us city slickers don't get that kind of solitude very often.

JR and I took turns driving. JR was an excellent shotgun, especially at that dark hour of the morning where your diurnal clock is saying sleep sleep SLEEP!. JR is an interesting character, a therapist retired from the Veterans Administration and the Washington County area who moved to Prineville about two years ago.

JR, it turns out, runs about ten marathons a year and is preparing for an Ironman later this year. Did I mention he's 64 years old? I wanna be like him when I grow up!

I told JR, somewhat tentatively, that I felt like many older people who have grown physically inactive have just given up on their bodies. "Oh, that's probably about 85 to 100% of the people I saw at the VA". He continued: "The worst were the 'social suicides'."

"What are those?" after I pass the follow vehicle and start up the hill.

"Those are the people who are killing themselves with destructive behavior. Like the guy on an oxygen tank who turns off his oxygen, steps outside for a cigarette, and then spends 20 minutes coughing before he can turn on his oxygen again."

I was surprised to hear him quote such a large percentage. I certainly don't want to say it's 100%; I mean, there are certainly people out there like Christopher Reeve who have less control over their physical health than others.

However, coming from a health care professional, that's pretty damning. Do you want to run an Ironman in your mid-sixties, or do you want to curl up with your pill bottles and watch The Price is Right?

Many hours went by...and then I resumed the thread. "You know, JR, there's a connection between the automobile and social suicide that I don't think people have grasped."


"Well, I just read not too long ago that the average American walks 350 yards per day. I beginning to wonder if there is a connection between that dreadful number and metabolic syndrome. Further, metabolic syndrome generates a vicious spiral where the individual is less likely to exercise and make other positive life choices because of their weight."

Portland Parks and Recreation hates bicyclists. They chose to block a bike rack instead of putting the blue room in an automobile parking space. Or, as one person put it, "Bikes mean less than crap to PP&R".

It just amazes me how people aren't willing to connect the dots when it comes to little choices they make (like in this picture) and the overall issues involving public health and health care.

Speaking of which, my wife made it out of day surgery on Friday, but not unscathed. They shooed her out of the clinic, and by the time we got home she was in severe pain. The doctor's advice? Go to the emergency room. Fooey. That is the least efficient method to acquire medical care. But we did so. We were amazed at the long wait, at eleven in the morning on a Friday. The staff allows that the demand has doubled in the last six months. What in the world is going on? Anyway, my wife is fine. Once she was "caught up" on her pain management, the prescribed medication was completely sufficient for the rest of the weekend.

Back to RAO: our intrepid crew made it fifth across the finish line, and we set a course record for our division. It was actually a bit disappointing, because the other group in our classification gave us a great run for our money for about the first 130 miles. I was kind of looking forward to a tense tight race, but after about 9 PM on the first day we didn't see them again.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Most Advanced Engine in the World

My wife had a "day surgery" yesterday and she fell off of the back of the conveyor belt before her pain was under control. I ended up with a very stressed wife and a very long and expensive trip to the emergency room for "pain management." If they'd kept her at day surgery for another half an hour I think we could have avoided all of that annoyance.

On to lighter subects: yes, it's an advertisement. It's still great.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

T plus Eight Weeks

Copyright (c) Andy Singer; noncommercial use only

I see that a number of people have found my blog because they were googling on terms like "low testosterone." If you aren't interested in my health issues, you might want to skip this post. If you're reading my blog for the first time, I write a lot about bicycling and living west of Portland, Oregon. However, I found in the spring that I was suffering a hormonal deficiency, and both the ailment and its treatment have been life changing. When I mentioned this to my primary care physician, she said she believes it's one of the most under-diagnosed ailments in older men.

Since I started getting the shots about two months ago, my quality of life has altered drastically, mostly because of the treatment. Testosterone therapy is a risky and scary thing. The potential side effects can be life threatening, which actually caused me to delay seeking treatment for about half a year. I want to discuss the flip side today, which is that if you need it, you should seriously consider trying it.

You know, when you think about it, if women's ovaries can wear out, why not men's testicles? However, I think the similarity stops there. Women have these whip-saw once-a-month hormonal swings, whereas men have fairly constant androgen levels that slowly decrease with age. My point is that while menopause has positive as well as negative health benefits, male andropause seems, according to my research, to have mostly negative results.

The remainder of this entry is a presentation of the perceived effects to date. They're mostly positive, and-of course--YMMV (your mileage may vary). The list is so huge that I've had to make a list before seeing my specialist next month. That in itself should give you a pretty good sense of how significant this treatment is. I want this message to get out because testosterone deficiency is such a gradual thing that it's easy to dismiss the effects until you wake up one day with an acute symptom.

The web sites that say "do you have low testosterone? take the test" didn't really help me very much. All of the questions were "gimme's", things like you're not happy with your weight or your athletic performance, or you're more tired, or wondering about your sexual performance. Excuse me? How am I supposed to distinguish between the normal effects of aging and all the things you're talking about?

Instead, I'd like to share my personal experience with this treatment, to give you an idea of how dramatic the changes can be. Again, this treatment isn't for everyone. I'll be on blood tests for the rest of my life, and the shots are a pain in the butt, both figuratively and literally. It might even kill me. However, the quality of life difference has been immense, and I hope if your doctor has diagnosed you with low testosterone (below 300 ng/dL) and you think you're having some quality of life issues, that you'll seriously consider at least trying the treatment.

One section deals with urogenital effects. If you're uncomfortable hearing those things, you might want to skip to another one of my posts.

Mental Effects

I'm listing these first because the mental symptoms had the earliest onset.
  • greater visual erotic stimulation, [+1 day] Yeah, I like looking at women again. I mean, for a while there, it was the weirdest thing: "yes, she's pretty, but I just don't care." Is this a positive or a negative? Well, let me put it in a way that women understand: do you like looking at cute animals? You like looking at children? Yeah, it's kinda like that; it's one of those small daily pleasures in life.
  • more assertive [+4 days] No, I don't mean aggressive; I mean standing up and getting my point across.
  • more sexual thoughts [+2 weeks] One point last winter I realized that I could go for a day or more without thinking about sex. Women might wonder what the big deal is, but I'm sure men out there know that that just ain't right.
  • clearer thinking [+2 weeks] Me hunter. You mammoth. Me chase mammoth. Seriously, though, my ability to follow complex reasoning seems to have improved.
  • less grumpy [+3 weeks] I don't normally use the word "grumpy" to characterize my bad moods. Anxiety is term I would more commonly use. But over the winter my problems went beyond any sort of anxiety or seasonal afflictive disorder syndrome.
  • more competitive [+4 weeks] Just the sort of thing women roll their eyes about. Guy pulled up to me on another bike at a stop light and blew by me as it just turned green. I wasn't about to seem slower than him. Oh, yes, I last saw him half a block behind me.
Athletic Performance:
  • Faster cycling [+1 day] There is an immediate effect on my cycling performance, both overall and the day after a shot. (Sorry, Floyd Landis.)
  • Reduced recovery time [+4 weeks] After the Birkenfeld Brevet I was sore the second day after the ride. I'd never had that before, and I don't now.
  • Stronger (25% more power in 6 weeks just bike commuting). Let me explain this. When I commute around town, I don't make it an athletic event. I ride at a comfortable pace. I start coasting when I see I'll have to stop because of a light or a stop sign. All of these things mean that my average speed, as measured by miles traveled divided by total on-saddle time, is not going to be very impressive. Every two weeks or so I copy those two numbers off of the cycle computer on my thirty pound monster and enter them into my training log. Imagine my surprise when I saw this dramatic increase in average speed.
  • Faster running [+6 weeks] I suck at running. But it's good for you. All winter long I just could not get my mileage up, and my perceived exertion was pretty high. I still suck, but I suck less bad at it now.
Not for the squeamish, but since one of the major indicators of low testosterone is low sex drive, it's not fair for me to omit this.
  • stronger orgasms [+4 weeks] I just wasn't enjoying sex as much. This changed surprisingly quckly.
  • more frequent orgasms [+4 weeks] Kinda goes with having a greater sex drive.
  • spontaneous erections (with sexual thoughts) [+6 weeks] Man, I haven't had this symptom since, well, my twenties.
  • frequent morning erections [+6 weeks] It's actually an annoyance since usually you need to urinate.
  • more semen [+6 weeks] This needs some discussion. I had discounted the decrease in semen as a side effect of another drug I'm on. As soon as I noticed this change from the the therapy, another light bulb went off: PSA == Prostate Specific Antigen, a rapid increase of which may indicate prostate cancer, which in turn means runaway metabolic activity (cancer cells). And, my specialist is avidly looking to find a new baseline measure for my PSA level because of the treatment. Aha! It all makes sense!
  • possibly more hesitation when urinating, esp. at night -- I can't even say for sure this is happening, but all the medical geeks say that increased urinary problems are possible.
  • no more hot flashes [immediate] Waking up at four in the morning covered in a cold sweat for no apparent reason was not enjoyable.
  • higher heart rate (both resting and max [+1 day] This is not reported in the literature, but my resting heart rate had dropped about 15 beats per minute over the last year or two before the treatment started. My maximum heart rate has also risen close to its previous levels.
  • More energy (perceived tiredness, amount of sleep) [+2 weeks] I'm still lazy and I still procrastinate, but I'm not so flippin' tired all the time.
  • oily face [+3 weeks] It seems like whenever I wash my hands in the bathroom, I also wash my face now.
  • scalp fungus [+4 weeks] Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I went to my doctor and complained about acne on my scalp. He said it wasn't acne, it was fungus brought on by my body chemistry. He prescribed a shampoo back then, which I use on an as-needed basis, typically in the spring and fall. However, I realized when this symptom recurred that I hadn't had it in about five years. I'm betting this is closely related to the oily skin.
  • sleeping much better [+4 weeks] I wasn't expecting this one. I fall asleep faster and I awaken less frequently. My middle-aged male visit to the bathroom in the middle of the night is much less annoying now. It goes without saying that I am also much more rested upon arising in the morning.
  • improved sense of smell [+6 weeks] Hunh? Hey, I'm just reporting it. I can smell again. Probably not good for any weight loss attempts, since I enjoy eating again.
  • increased beard growth [+8 weeks] I know, this is frequently reported in the literature, but have I very little beard to begin with (my Cherokee ancestry, I'd like to think), so I wasn't really expecting anything dramatic here. However, I simply can't skip a day of shaving any more.
What have I not seen? Well, no "roid rage", but I think my emotional demeanor was pretty decent to begin with, and the medical geeks believe this is actually an exacerbation of existing emotional problems. Also, I haven't lost any significant weight yet (drat!), but I would expect that to be very gradual. Finally, I have so little hair on my head that any hair loss would be imperceptible. I'm not a "chrome dome", but it's already very thin, so I doubt this will ever be an issue for me.

Copyright (c) Andy Singer; noncommercial use only

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Portland in the News

The tide is shifting. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

Monday, July 7, 2008

More on the Columbia River Crossing

I just read this morning that the Columbia River Crossing will only be effective for twenty years.

Umm. This is a four billion dollar bridge. For those of you who don't live in the D.C. beltway, that's a lot of money.

It's time to do a bit of arithmetic. Let's assume that the bridge carries the expected amount of 2030 traffic for its entire twenty years, with no reduction in frequency due to tolls.

That ends up being

$4.0e9 / (20 years) / (365 days/year) / (225000 trips / day) = 2.50 $/crossing

That's two and a half clams for every single crossing. Five dollars for a round trip.

However, the CRC people themselves acknowledge that if that charge a toll, fewer people will use the bridge. The new math:

$4.0e9 / (20 years) / (365 days/year) / (178000 trips / day) = $3.08

Surely they can't be smoking the whacky weed on both sides of the river. Why are people even considering this? The goal should be to efficiently move people, goods, and services across the river.

Why do people choose to haul 3500 pounds of polluting metal over the existing Interstate bridge twice a day? It's because they need it in order to conduct their business once they make it onto this side of the river.

Let's put this in terms we can all understand. Tri-Met's operating budget for the current fiscal year is about $300M. If we were to invest the CRC money directly into Tri-Met, it would increase our capitalization in mass transit by over fifty percent. over that same 20 year period.

I visualize cross-town links from Milwaukie to Tualatin, connecting Vancouver into the grid, and out lier support for areas such as Oregon City and Sherwood.

Even if we earmarked some of that money for improvements to the existing bridges (light rail crossing and needed repairs), the resulting infrastructure would be on an order to rival that of Manhattan, Tokyo, or any other major city in the world.

The CRC proposal is criminal (treasonous) thinking on the part of the terrorist-loving automobile pushers. I'll stop now.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


(Yet Another Traffic Gripe)

Sorry for the annoyance, but hey, if you are a motorist but haven't yet started using your body (walk, run, bicycle, skateboard) to get around, the message needs to be made.

This morning a motorist passed me on a narrow stretch with no shoulder and an oncoming car. No, "Brenna" (as her vanity plate read) didn't get over into the other lane; I could have reached out and touched her car as she passed.

As I explained to a friend later, "I had a moment of inattention." Really, that's how I'm beginning to see it. There seems to be a natural human inclination tendency to decide that if it's possible to pass a cyclist without crossing the yellow line, then it is safest to do so.

Yeah, right. For everyone except the cyclist.

The frustrating irony of it is that when a motorist chooses to cross over the center line, they will almost always give me plenty of room. There's a psychological threshold that gets crossed when a motorist goes over the center line. I don't even think it's an issue of a motorist being in a hurry. When I force a motorist to wait, I never get a sense that they're frustrated or impatient. (I know, never is a strong word. It could happen one day, but it hasn't yet.)

So, it's my responsibility to control the situation. Whenever it is unsafe to pass, I will move far enough to the left. (Thanks, Hal Ballard. Your advice to "control the lane" is becoming more and more central to my defensive cycling practice now.)

So why am I writing about this? I've discussed this before, and I'm probably preaching to the choir anyway. The point is, the Uniform Vehicle Code and the Oregon Revised Statutes both state that cyclists are to ride "as far to the right as practicable."

My concern is that I am taking a very liberal interpretation of this phrase. I found myself wishing (as "Brenna" turned onto Huntington, clearly another non-local using my side street as a through street short cut) that the legislature would grant me some specific allowances for these kinds of situations: passing over a solid yellow line, passing on a bridge, passing when oncoming traffic precludes achieving a safe distance).

According to John Forester, only three percent of all bicycle-motor vehicle accidents involve the cyclist being overtaken by the motor vehicle from the rear. I find myself arguing vehemently with people who think it's safer on the sidewalk that they are deluding themselves. (They're actually less safe, but that's another topic.)

And yet...

There is no other time that any vehicle travels as close to any other vehicle as when a motorist commits one of these unsafe passes of a cyclist. Think of it: even when you're traveling in adjacent lanes on a freeway you don't pass another automobile with such little clearance. Even when a cyclist is in an adjoining bike lane, you don't pass so closely.

Although I disagree with the cyclists who ride on the sidewalk, I sympathize with their concern. These unsafe passes, in my not-so-humble-opinion, are the most dangerous situations that I face with any type of frequency.

I understand the scorn of the Dutch blogger who said that American cyclists need helmets because they fall so much (evidently Dutch cyclists are thirty times less likely to get in an accident than American cyclists, and if you google on this you'll see there's quite a bit of controversy about whether helmets are worthwhile). However, I don't think it's the American cyclist that's the problem; it's the American motorist.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Building Roads Doesn't Ease Congestion

A quote from Gil Penelosa's keynote speech at the 2008 Carfree conference:

70% of the public space in Los Angeles is dedicated to car mobility… 20% of public space in Paris is dedicated to car mobility. In which city would you rather live?

I can't say it any better. Here's an article I lifted from the opposition to the Vancouver BC Gateway Project. This is pertinent because of own local stupidity, the Columbia River Crossing project. Enjoy.

Why building new roads doesn't ease congestion

An excerpt from Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream
by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck
North Point Press, 2000, pp. 88-94.

There is a much deeper problem than the way highways are placed and managed. It is the question of why we are still building highways at all.

The simple truth is that building more highways and widening existing roads, almost always motivated by concern over traffic, does nothing to reduce traffic. In the long run, in fact, it increases traffic. This revelation is so counterintuitive that it bears repeating: adding lanes makes traffic worse. This paradox was suspected as early as 1942 by Robert Moses, who noticed that the highways he had built around New York City in 1939 were somehow generating greater traffic problems than had existed previously. Since then, the phenomenon has been well documented, most notably in 1989, when the Southern California Association of Governments concluded that traffic-assistance measures, be they adding lanes, or even double-decking the roadways, would have no more than a cosmetic effect on Los Angeles' traffic problems. The best it could offer was to tell people to work closer to home, which is precisely what highway building mitigates against.

Across the Atlantic, the British government reached a similar conclusion. Its studies showed that increased traffic capacity causes people to drive more--a lot more--such that half of any driving-time savings generated by new roadways are lost in the short run. In the long run, potentially all savings are expected to be lost. In the words of the Transport Minister, "The fact of the matter is that we cannot tackle our traffic problems by building more roads."2 While the British have responded to this discovery by drastically cutting their road-building budgets, no such thing can be said about Americans.

There is no shortage of hard data. A recent University of California at Berkeley study covering thirty California counties between 1973 and 1990 found that, for every 10 percent increase in roadway capacity, traffic increased 9 percent within four years' time.3 For anecdotal evidence, one need only look at commuting patterns in those cities with expensive new highway systems. USA Today published the following report on Atlanta: "For years, Atlanta tried to ward off traffic problems by building more miles of highways per capita than any other urban area except Kansas City…As a result of the area's sprawl, Atlantans now drive an average of 35 miles a day, more than residents of any other city."· This phenomenon, which is now well known to those members of the transportation industry who wish to acknowledge it, has come to be called induced traffic.

The mechanism at work behind induced traffic is elegantly explained by an aphorism gaining popularity among traffic engineers: "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." Increased traffic capacity makes longer commutes less burdensome, and as a result, people are willing to live farther and farther from their workplace. As increasing numbers of people make similar decisions, the long-distance commute grows as crowded as the inner city, commuters clamor for additional lanes, and the cycle repeats itself. This problem is compounded by the hierarchical organization of the new roadways, which concentrate through traffic on as few streets as possible.

The phenomenon of induced traffic works in reverse as well. When New York's West Side Highway collapsed in 1973, an NYDOT study showed that 93 percent of the car trips lost did not reappear elsewhere; people simply stopped driving. A similar result accompanied the destruction of San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway in the 1989 earthquake. Citizens voted to remove the freeway entirely despite the apocalyptic warnings of traffic engineers. Surprisingly, a recent British study found that downtown road removals tend to boost local economies, while new roads lead to higher urban unemployment. So much for road-building as a way to spur the economy.·

If traffic is to be discussed responsibly, it must first be made clear that the level of traffic which drivers experience daily, and which they bemoan so vehemently, is only as high as they are willing to countenance. If it were not, they would adjust their behavior and move, carpool, take transit, or just stay at home, as some choose to do. How crowded a roadway is at any given moment represents a condition of equilibrium between people's desire to drive and their reluctance to fight traffic. Because people are willing to suffer inordinately in traffic before seeking alternatives--other than clamoring for more highways--the state of equilibrium of all busy roads is to have stop-and-go traffic. The question is not how many lanes must be built to ease congestion but how many lanes of congestion would you want? Do you favor four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour, or sixteen?

This condition is best explained by what specialists call latent demand. Since the real constraint on driving is traffic, not cost, people are always ready to make more trips when the traffic goes away. The number of latent trips is huge--perhaps 30 percent of existing traffic. Because of latent demand, adding lanes is futile, since drivers are already poised to use them up.4

While the befuddling fact of induced traffic is well understood by sophisticated traffic engineers, it might as well be a secret, so poorly has it been disseminated. The computer models that transportation consultants use do not even consider it, and most local public works directors have never heard of it at all. As a result, from Maine to Hawaii, city, county, and even state engineering departments continue to build more roadways in anticipation of increased traffic, and, in doing, create that traffic. The most irksome aspect of this situation is that these road-builders are never proved wrong; in fact, they are always proved 'right': "You see," they say, "I told you that traffic was coming."

The ramifications are quite unsettling. Almost all of the billions of dollars spent on road-building over the past decades have accomplished only one thing, which is to increase the amount of time that we must spend in our cars each day. Americans now drive twice as many miles per year as they did just twenty years ago. Since 1969, the number of miles cars travel has grown at four times the population rate.· And we're just getting started: federal highway officials predict that over the next twenty years congestion will quadruple. Still, every congressman, it seems, wants a new highway to his credit.·

Thankfully, alternatives to road-building are being offered, but they are equally misguided. If, as is now clear beyond any reasonable doubt, people maintain an equilibrium of just-bearable traffic, then the traffic engineers are wasting their time--and our money--on a whole new set of stopgap measures that produce temporary results as best. These measures, which include HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes, congestion pricing, timed traffic lights, and "smart streets," serve only to increase highway capacity, which causes more people to drive until the equilibrium condition of crowding returns. While certainly less wasteful than new construction, these measures also do nothing to address the real cause of traffic congestion, which is that people choose to put up with it.

We must admit that, in an ideal world, we would be able to build our way out of traffic congestion. The new construction of 50 percent of more highways nationwide would most likely overcome all of the latent demand. However, to provide more than temporary relief, this huge investment would have to be undertaken hand in hand with a moratorium on suburban growth. Otherwise, the new subdivisions, shopping malls, and office parks made possible by the new roadways would eventually choke them as well. In the real world, such moratoriums are rarely possible, which is why road-building is typically a folly.

Those who are skeptical of the need for a fundamental reconsideration of transportation planning should take note of something we experienced a few years ago. In a large working session on the design of Playa Vista, an urban infill project in Los Angeles, the traffic engineer was presenting a report of current and projected congestion around the development. From our seat by the window, we had an unobstructed rush-hour view of a street he had diagnosed as highly congested and in need of widening. Why, then, was traffic flowing smoothly, with hardly any stacking at the traffic light? When we asked, the traffic engineer offered an answer that should be recorded permanently in the annals of the profession: "The computer model that we use does not necessarily bear any relationship to reality."

But the real question is why so many drivers choose to sit for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic without seeking alternatives. Is it a manifestation of some deep-seated self-loathing, or are people just stupid? The answer is that people are actually quite smart, and their decision to submit themselves to the misery of suburban commuting is a sophisticated response to a set of circumstances that are as troubling as their result. Automobile use is the intelligent choice for most Americans because it is what economists refer to as a "free good": the consumer pays only a fraction of its true cost. The authors Stanley Hart and Alvin Spivak have explained that:

We learn in first-year economics what happens when products or services become "free" goods. The market functions chaotically; demand goes through the roof. In most American cities, parking spaces, roads and freeways are free goods. Local government services to the motorist and to the trucking industry--traffic engineering, traffic control, traffic lights, police and fire protection, street repair and maintenance--are all free goods.·

Read more on why building new roads doesn't ease congestion.


This article is an excerpt from Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, North Point Press, 2000, 88-94.


Donald D.T. Chen. "If You Build It, They Will Come…Why We Can't Build Ourselves Our of Congestion." Surface Transportation Policy Project Progress VII.2 (March 1998): I, 4.


Ibid., 6.

Carol Jouzatis. "39 Million People Work, Live Outside City Centers." USA Today, November 4, 1997: 1A-2A. As a result of its massive highway construction, the Atlanta area is "one of the nation's worst violators of Federal standards for ground-level ozone, with most of the problem caused by motor-vehicle emissions" (Kevin Sack. "Governor Proposes Remedy for Atlanta Sprawl." The New York Times, January 26, 1999: A14).

Jill Kruse. "Remove It and They Will Disappear: Why Building New Roads Isn't Always the Answer." Surface Transportation Policy Project Progress VII:2 (March 1998): 5, 7. This study, in analyzing sixty road closures worldwide, found that 20 percent to 60 percent of driving trips disappeared rather than materializing elsewhere.


Stanley Hart and Alvin Spivak. The Elephant in the Bedroom: Automobile Dependence and Denial; Impacts on the Economy and Environment. Pasadena, Calif.: New Paradigm Books, 1993, 122.

Jane Holtz Kay. Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America, and How We Can Take It Back. New York: Crown, 1997, 15; and Peter Calthorpe. The Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the American Dream. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, 27. Since 1983, the number of miles cars travel has grown at eight time s the population rate (Urban Land Institute traffic study). The greatest increases in automobile use correspond to the greatest concentrations of sprawl. Annual gasoline consumption per person in Phoenix and Houston is over 50 percent higher than in Chicago or Washington, D.C., and over 500 percent higher than in London or Tokyo (Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy. Winning Back the Cities. Sydney: Photo Press, 1996, 9). Currently, almost 70 percent of urban freeways are clogged during rush hour (Jason Vest, Warren Cohen, and Mike Tharp. "Road Rage." U.S. News & World Report, June 2, 1997: 24-30). In Los Angeles, congestion has already reduced average freeway speeds to less than 31 mph; by the year 2010, they are projected to fall to 11 mph (James MacKenzie, Roger Dower, and Donald Chen. The Going Rate: What It Really Costs to Drive. Report by the World Resources Institute, 1992, 17).

Almost any situation seems acceptable to justify more highway spending, even the recent road rage epidemic. Representative Bud Schuster, the chairman of the U.S. Congressional Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, made this recommendation: "The construction of additional lanes, the widening of roads and the straightening of curves would decrease congestion and reduce the impatience and unsafe habits of some motorists" (Thomas Palmer. "Pacifying Road Warriors." The Boston Globe, July 25, 1997: A1, B5).

Stanley Hard and Alvin Spivak, The Elephant in the Bedroom: Automobile Dependence and Denial, 2. Much of the information here on the science and economics of traffic congestion comes from this book, which should be required reading for every professional planner, traffic engineer, and amateur highway activist.

The logic behind the desire to make use of free goods is suggested by an argument overheard at a recent planning conference: "Of course there's never enough parking! If you gave everyone free pizza, would there be enough pizza?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Big Business and Automotive Ads

Copyright (c) Andy Singer; noncommercial use only
I watched an hour of prime time television last night. I'm not entirely TV-free; I probably watch about two hours a week. Last night the stars all fell into alignment and I watched an episode of House. (My daughter the actress says that Laurie's gift is timing; he delivers all of these deadpan lines with absolute perfection.) For the record, I enjoy the show; I just don't often stay up that late on Mondays.

Anyway, just for the fun of it, I counted the number of automobile (and related) commercials. In the space of one hour I saw six commercials. (I say related because one was a Les Schwab advertisement. Les Schwab is a great place, but it really has no goods or services to offer you unless you own or maintain an automobile.)

An aside: the basics of human memory...

In graduate school at Georgia Tech we extensively studied human intelligence as part of my artificial intelligence (AI) curriculum. There was (and still is) a huge gap between human intelligence and what we've been able to achieve with computers, but the hope still remains, even today, that as we understand human intelligence better we might be able to achieve some rough semblance thereof with computers.

Anyway, one of the things we studied was the model of memory. Humans have three types of memory: short term, intermediate term, and long term. Short term memory is principally auditory, lasts up to about 30 seconds, and can hold about five to seven items. Imagine reading a telephone number and then punching it into your phone. Intermediate term lasts from 30 minutes to two hours, and long term is how your grandparents regale you with stories of walking barefoot in the snow uphill both ways to school when they were young.

We know (thanks again to the experimental psychologists) that memories are created and stored strictly in this pipeline, moving first in short term, some of the short term memories making it to intermediate term, and some of those making it to long term. I helped my son learn the state capitols one day in middle school by using my AI background, burning the knowledge into his intermediate term memory and then burning it repeatedly at one hour intervals through the evening. He still remembers them :-)

There are even aphasias where one of the three types of memory are disrupted. I have a personal experience with short term memory disruption. About three years ago I suffered a completely mysterious bicycle crash. I say mysterious because I was riding alone, though there were a couple of witnesses on the street when it happened. I say mysterious because when I replay my recollection of the event there is a the recollection; one moment I'm riding along the street, and the next I'm standing by the bicycle inspecting it for damage with people running up to me asking if I was all right. (Well, I wasn't, not really, but that's another story.) Short term memory disruption is not uncommon with mild concussions, and my AI background allows me to understand the mechanism, but it was still downright creepy to experience it.

Anyway, back to House.

By including advertisements for automobiles at such frequent intervals, Big Business is essentially pounding their messages into long-term memory. The messages are things like,
  • Cars are fun.
  • Cars are glamorous.
  • You need a car.
  • Everyone should have a car.
Jonathan Maus once wrote, "Cars are the new smoking." This blitz of advertising reminds me of growing up in the 1960's when television was rife with tobacco ads (oh, and liquor too). Society finally moved to limit this advertising, especially to youth and other vulnerable market segments. Nowadays we see the following kinds of labeling on cigarettes:

  • Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health (1966)
  • Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health (1970)
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.
I say we should start adding warnings to automobile advertising. No, I'm entirely serious. If we can decide as a society that we need to add warnings because people are hurting themselves, shouldn't we be even more inclined to include warnings for behavior that hurts others? Here are a few suggestions for starters:
  • DEPT HOMELAND SECURITY WARNING: Foreign Oil Funds Anti-American Terrorism.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Automobile Use Causes Cancer in Children.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Automobile Use May Cause Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY WARNING: Automobile Use Destroys Farmland, Fisheries, and Wildlife Habitat.
  • US DEPT COMMERCE WARNING: Private Automobiles Have Made the US a Debtor Nation.
  • UNITED NATIONS WARNING: Private Automobiles Have Caused Global Warming.
Any others you can think of?

Copyright (c) Andy Singer; noncommercial use only

Monday, June 16, 2008

Store Cat

The middle of last week, my wife calls me. Evidently there was a lost kitten wandering around outside the shopping center where our bead shop is. Well, OK, so we'll take care of it for a while. We've searched for the owner, but there are no "lost cat" notices and no implanted chip. Our best guess is that it was abandoned; it's extremely sweet and well socialized to humans.

The little thing has adapted perfectly well to being at the bead shop. So much so that it rides to and from work every day and guards the beads for us while the shop is open.

(That's Steve from Sharon's Attic next door.) Yup, Martha's perfectly at home at the bead store, and the customers seem to just love it as well.

Look at the beads skitter!

What Can I Say?

I love Portland. I really do. With the mildest climate in the 48 states, plentiful clean water and air, and people who actually care that we have plentiful clean water and air, I'm glad to call this my home.

But...sometimes people are just weird here.

Check out this news article from the weekend. Umm. Yeah. The thought of riding a bike without any clothes on kinda makes my hide twitch. A positive and health bicycling culture has a lot of great side effects. However, there are some things that happen here that I really don't get, like
shift2bikes, the Zoobombers, and Critical Mass, not to mention the really fringey things like Dykes on Bikes.

Honestly, this place is so weird even the UFO's don't land here any more. (No, I didn't make that up, but I do have it on good authority from the extraterrestrial I had over for dinner the other night.) Recall that King George the First termed this place Little Beirut because it was such a tribulation for the the secret service to keep him alive when he visited here?

I can't even presume that the Willamette Valley got this way since I moved here. Remember this bumper sticker?
(I'm distancing the population west of the Cascades from everyone else, because I think the folks in Bend, Pendleton, and LaGrande would prefer it that way .) Heck, I usually buy Nancy's yogurt at the store (I'm lactose intolerant), and--in case you weren't aware--this is a daily reminder in my life of the legacy of Ken Kesey. Yes, it's that Kesey family that owns it. And I buy Nancy's because they don't add nonfat milk solids (read: lactose) into their yogurt after they culture it, and they don't add gelatin (read: makes it hard to cook with). It's just plain better.

Want another example? We had our Gay Pride Parade here in Portland over the weekend, and who's prominently featured in a float?

Yup, Sam Adams. And in Portland that's not just the name of a nationally renowned (and revered even here in the land of microbrews) ale; Mr. Adams is none other than the mayor-elect of Portland.

Sam Adams is also an ardent advocate for bicyclists. He even wanted to relocate the Sauvie Island bridge to make a pedestrian overpass in the Pearl District, but that's another story.

So, anyway, that's the news from the Land of the Stumps of Mystery as of today.

Saturday was another epic bicycle
ride for the Oregon Randonneurs. You had your choice of a 200km and a 400km route. Those who opted for the 400km tended to finish around 2 AM Sunday, and...seeing as it was Father's Day, I didn't think that was politically correct. Yeah, that's the ticket. That's why I didn't do it.

The worst part about this ride for me was actually starting it. In order to afford the riders with the maximum amount of daylight, we were to start in Newburg at six in the morning, which meant rolling out of bed at four. I spent the entire trip to Newburg wondering how I was going to feel being on a bike. I like my sleep!

The upside is that the weather was absolutely fantastic. It started out just chilly enough to require a windbreaker, but we were down to arm & leg warmers by lunch and then we were out of those by the return trip.

Yes, we had to bypass the Road to Riches in order to stay on our route. So shoot me. (See how blue and clear the sky was!)

However, it was just after I took this photo that, heading southbound down a hill at 15 mph, I noticed that I was feeling absolutely no wind. Bad news, boys and girls. I told myself that the wind would probably die down before heading back north.

As the morning progressed we got our obligatory covered bridges. The last one ended up being blurry, sorry about that.

The descent to Shimanek Bridge was most notable. Even taking it easy I hit 42 mph dropping down to the bridge.

You have to wonder why there are covered bridges here in western Oregon. It's not as though we get that much snow or sleet in the winter. Must be something about the settlers who moved here. The 400Km folks got the other four bridges. Thanks, I'll do that some other year.

Lynne and I called this ride the Dies the Fire ride. At one point just north of Sublimity as we crested a roller, I said "Hey, Lynne, I keep expecting Clan MacKenzie to ride out from behind some trees; this is exactly like the terrain Sterling writes about." Lynne: "This is the terrain!" (Those are terrific books, by the way; check them out.) We kept speculating where the Lord Protector had put is fortresses, and we all agreed that the only way to tour Dies the Fire country is by foot, horseback, or bicycle (the way they travel in the books).

Cecil and the preride crew had warned us about Cole School Road, but it still has to be experienced to be believed. It consists of two climbs; the first one is 15% and perhaps 0.3 miles. It's pretty demanding, then you get a all-too-swift descent paycheck before starting a second climb of similar length. Let me tell you, that climb looks awful impressive at the bottom, and Cecil assures us that it measures 18%. What's the difference between 15% and 18%? Well, at least for me, visualize climbing, standing, in your lowest gear. On the 18% grade your foot gets absolutely no free ride as you shift your weight between the left and right foot; the bike snakes forward for the pedal stroke and is pretty much motionless as you pull the other foot around and then down.

This was also the point in the ride where my derailleur started acting hinky, which was a big worry for the remainder of the day; I kept adding tension to the cable and it kept acting like it was stretching out. I probably gave the adjust two full turns during the course of the day: a twist would make things behave for about an hour and then I'd start getting phantom shifts. Of course it has to happen when I'm literally hours from home.

In Scio we caught a huge herd of randonneurs who were fueling up, including Natalie "Sweetpea" Ramsland and Mr. Sweetpea (Austin). This was where the 200Km and 400Km riders parted ways. We saw a helmet there that had us scratching our head. I'm pretty sure it didn't belong to one of our crowd, but you can't quite be sure...

After stopping at the Sentry Market in Jefferson for the jo-jo's that Lynne raved about...well, that's when it got...grim. We were aimed northward for pretty much the remainder of the day, and no, the wind had not died down. Can you say "ride on the drops?" There, I knew you could! The sap-the-will-to-live moment came, at least for me, when we struck north on Howell Prairie Road. What part of "north", "eighteen miles", and "prairie" isn't clear?

By the time we got to Champoeg Park I could smell the barn. I'd never realized how close Champoeg is to Newberg. My bike rides always come in from the east and, of course, why would you go through Newberg when you have all of the rest of that beautiful scenery in Yamhill County you could be riding through instead?

Total for the day: 128 miles, 9:05 in-saddle, 11:10 elapsed. My HRM says I burned about 7100 Calories, so I "ate with impunity" that night and slept like a log.