Friday, November 19, 2010

I lay awake at night

...thinking about how much coffee I drink.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Caribou Barbie:

"...Palin is running for Prom Queen of America and she’s more than willing to give out free cookies (literally) to bribe the feel-good vote."   —from

Heh. That's funny. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

This is Why I Do Not Ride in Groups

I generally avoid discussing specific incidents, because they don’t often have a broader applicability or relevance. But I will make an exception for last weekend’s horrific accident in California—involving two cars, twelve motorcycles and twenty-one motorcyclists. Four motorcyclists and a passenger in one car died, and a number of motorcyclists were hospitalized for a variety of horrific and life-altering injuries.

Short version: ‘Riceboy’ attempts to pass a group of twelve motorcycles on a remote two-lane highway. Driver of oncoming vehicle panics, drives onto the right shoulder, over-corrects and swerves into the middle of the pack of motorcyclists. Car driver suffers fractures; his passenger dies from a motorcycle impacting the passenger-side door. ‘Riceboy’ fled the scene.

The injured car driver appears to be an innocent victim. ‘Riceboy’ is currently the object of a massive manhunt in both California and Mexico. But…

…But goddamn those motorcyclists. They should have known better.

Look—our roadways and our traffic laws and conventions are intended for units of one vehicle, whether that one unit is a motorcycle or a tandem tractor trailer. They are not meant for social organisms. The rare—and in this case, ironic, exceptions are funeral processions; but even those operate under strictly defined protocols, very constrained circumstances, under a societal imprimatur and generally with an official escort. But a pack of a dozen motorcycles, operating en masse?

Let’s assume the most concise configuration—six pairs of bikes, riding side-by-side, ‘ChiPs’ fashion. That alone will occupy about five to seven standard car lengths. Stretched out single-file, the same bikes could occupy up to fifteen car lengths. Now, in a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter. But as the members of the Saddletramps MC tragically found out, we live in a very imperfect world. Who knows why the driver of the mysterious gold Honda Civic couldn’t bear to stay behind a group of twelve motorcycles any longer? Maybe he didn’t like the sound of twenty-four loud pipes? People have all kinds of reasons for wanting or needing to pass, and we won’t know his explanation until he is brought to justice.

I have on several occasions observed large motorcycle groups under the direction of a “Ride Marshall,” an individual, often self-appointed, with the putative responsibility for overseeing the ‘safety’ of the group. The Ride Marshall generally starts their motorcycle first, then rides or steps into oncoming traffic, bringing it to a halt while the remainder of the group files onto the roadway one-at-a-time—a process which can take several minutes. This commandeering of the public roadway in this manner has no official sanction; it is simply done because nobody has the nerve to object. This group protocol would appear to provide some modicum of safety to the motorcyclists en masse (by excluding automobiles from their midst) but that appearance is simply an illusion. It creates an unnatural situation and an utterly false sense of security. Formation riding on public roadways neutralizes a motorcycle’s greatest inherent safety asset—its superior maneuverability, acceleration and performance.

I cannot fathom what riding gains by being part of a pack of a dozen or a score or several dozen or ten thousand riders; I get uncomfortable when another motorcyclist begins to encroach on any portion of my full lane-width. I know from experience that free range of lateral motion is a critical part of a motorcyclist’s defensive tools. Safe riding often depends on having a generous bubble of open space on all sides that allows me to make full use of a lane as circumstances vary. Having another rider in my space is just a bad practice, regardless of any fellowship gained by riding in close formation.

I know Saturday’s carnage is not the fault of the Saddletramps. But I can’t help but think that it didn’t have to happen to them, and that there were lots of little things they might have done to forestall such a tragic and senseless outcome. Whatever fellowship they set out share with one another in their close formation ride has been irrevocably shattered along with the lives of the survivors.

This is why I do not ride in groups.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Good old H.P. also foresaw the 'Tea Party...'

...Otherwise, how could he have written this trenchant critique of the movement, 84 years ago?

“…the inability of the...mind to correlate all its contents…a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity…dissociated knowledge…such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein…either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age…a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind…This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly…with undecipherable characters…the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher’s elevated knees…a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful. The very sun of heaven seemed distorted when viewed through the polarising miasma welling out from this…perversion, and twisted menace and suspense lurked leeringly in those crazily elusive angles of carven rock where a second glance shewed concavity after the first shewed convexity. The odour arising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and…a nasty, slopping sound…It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness. There was some peculiarly abominable quality about them…mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror…built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars...hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration. Slowly, amidst the distorted horrors of that indescribable scene…the titan Thing…slavered and gibbered like Polypheme cursing the fleeing ship of Odysseus…” 

—At least, that's how I read it.  

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day 2010, seen from three-quarters of a century ago:

"As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead."
— H.P. Lovecraft, 1936