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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Will We Ever Have Winter Again?

Apparently not. I was able to ride five days last week, not bad for January. I ride every day but I'm talking about formal bike rides out of the city.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Confessions of a Failed Entrepreneur

Inspired by go-getters like Donald Trump and the Koch brothers I decided that I’d turn my life around by reinventing myself as a self-made businessman. After all, if these hyper-successful examples of the American dream possess any outstanding individual gifts they aren’t visible to the naked eye. Why couldn’t I, too, make a pile of money in the business world? What did they have that I didn’t have? After examining their success secrets closely I formulated my first money-making plan.

Get Adopted by a Very Rich Family
The easiest way to get rich is to never have been poor in the first place. In spite of all of my efforts to look cute not one set of rich parents seemed interested in adopting a middle aged man, although one family offered me a landscaping job.

Adopt a Future Sports Star
We’ve all heard stories of people riding on the coattails of their talented children. What could be easier? I don’t have kids of my own so I set out to discover some new, young talent. In hindsight I suppose that it’s pretty obvious but sitting around in a parked car near a playground watching children play through a set of binoculars might not seem innocent to many people although the cops didn’t show up until I started making a group of 4 year old kids do timed 40s—you can’t teach speed! I tried to take advantage of my time spent in police lock-up by interviewing some of my younger cellmates on their athletic prowess. I was beaten severely on one occasion and thought about managing the kid as a fighter but he wouldn’t be able to turn pro legally for another ten years or so. Back to the drawing board.

A Detour into Crime
After a number of legitimate business failures I decided to try criminal activity.  I don’t like guns so I opted on counterfeiting, a victimless crime unless you consider that I may have been taking jobs from people who make real money. This was a dismal mistake just like all of the others. The pennies that I was counterfeiting weren’t very convincing and the only way that I could pass them off as real was if I hid a few of them in a role of pennies that I deposited in my bank account. 

Harmonica Repair Shop
The space I rented on New York’s Fifth Avenue was really expensive but I was going for the upscale consumer. What really killed me on monthly bills was my insistence on providing lots of free parking for potential clients—I didn’t want to turn people away because they couldn’t find a space. I thought that I was getting on the ground floor of a niche market. I didn’t know anything about the instrument so I checked out the only book on the subject at my local library. Curiously, 86% of harmonica malfunctions are spit related. Anyone who complains about the lack of quality of modern American merchandise should take a look at the harmonica industry. My bankruptcy is proof positive that those things are built to last.

Cigarette Butt Detector
Have you ever been at a party when you put down your can of beer for a second, then pick up a can that you thought was yours only to take a big swig and swallow a cigarette butt? This will never happen again with my new product that tests the contents of the beer before you take a drink. I haven’t been able to develop the technology with this device but it just seems like a great idea. Some brainiac will make a fortune off this.

Maybe manufacturing isn’t for me? To be perfectly honest and not to sound too lazy but it sounds like too much work. I think the arts provide a completely manual labor-free opportunity to get rich quick. I think we can all agree that the terror movie industry provides the lowest talent barriers for entry but I’m too late to cash in on the Vampire/Zombie gold rush. I decided to mine the rodent order of the animal kingdom for the nemesis as, to my knowledge, this is virgin territory (virgins have been fodder in horror films since the beginning). To all of the Hollywood big shots reading this I present my cinematic masterpiece.

I have chosen the common squirrel as the heavy; not exactly the Great White of the order Rodentia but easier to work with than the lazy hamster and the obsessive-compulsive prone beaver.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Life without a Car

Parking: 1Car = 10 Bikes

I feel that a preface is needed here to say that my car-free status is a personal choice and that I am not advocating it for everyone. I do feel that there are many, many people in America who have probably never even considered it possible to live without a car. It is and it’s great!

I haven’t driven an automobile in nine and a half years. Not only that but I’m rarely a passenger in a car. I realize that my memory is for shit and getting worse every day but I can’t remember the last time I got inside a car other than a short taxi ride. Whenever that was it wasn’t out of necessity because I always have alternatives, alternatives that I’ve been choosing for almost a decade. I shudder when I watch scenes in a movie or a TV program in which people are driving around some American suburban car-scape. To me driving is simply terrifying and I hope that I’m done with that task and cars forever.

Before this present nine and a half years of being car-less I spent eight years in Seattle where I drove very little, perhaps 6,000 miles in total with most of that being trips out of town to the mountains or into Canada. I lived in the downtown area and effected almost all of my day-to-day travel either by foot or bicycle. Here in Valencia almost all of my transportation is by bike or on foot. When I travel away from the city it’s by train. I have the option to use a very fine mass transit system in Valencia of busses and underground metro but it’s just easier and faster for me to travel by bicycle.

Most of my bike travel around town is on one of the excellent bike share bikes the city operates in conjunction with JC Decaux called Valenbisi. A one year subscription to the service costs only 29.21€ for unlimited use at 276 stations around the city. For me this has been the single greatest innovation in urban transportation in my lifetime. I have two bikes of my own: one I use for trips around the city and the other is dedicated to sport cycling. I ride a bike every single day of my life.

What has it meant for me not to drive all these years, or to have driven so little over the course of my entire adult life? I have often said that cycling solves many of society’s ills and now I will try to articulate each and every one of those solutions.

First of all, there is the savings involved with not owning and operating an automobile. When I lived in Seattle I would meet people who lived in the suburban areas who would voice their envy of my downtown lifestyle. They would often confess that they would love to live in the city if only they could afford it. I don’t even think that it was true that rents in the city were much more than in the suburbs. Perhaps you get less for what you pay but the rents weren’t much more than 20% more in the city than in the surrounding exo-burbs, places I never, ever visited. My apartment was small but if you live in the city you have so many reasons not to stay at home that this hardly mattered to me. Most of the people I knew who lived out of the city had expensive cars because they felt they needed this luxury because they spent so much of their lives trapped inside them. Many of the people that I knew who lived in the city didn’t own cars and many didn’t even have a driver’s license. My advice to my suburban friends was to sell their car and move downtown. Many chose this route and were glad they did. No one ever regretted thier move.

Living without a car means I have no car payment (I’ve always paid cash for cars when I did drive). I don’t have to send a check every month to the insurance company. I don’t have to pay a mechanic to fix a broken vehicle. My parking costs are exactly zero every month, month after month. An even bigger advantage of not owning a car than the financial boom is the fact that I never have a breakdown, or a flat tire, and I never get pulled over for a ticket. The only interaction most adults have with the police is related to driving. I don’t drive and I’ve had exactly zero contact with the police in more than a quarter of a century.

From the financial gains of not driving we move on to the spiritual improvement of my life, or the fact that I have zero driving-related stress in my life. It’s been 9.5 years since someone has given me the finger or honked at me as I make my way around in a metal box. I haven’t been stuck in traffic in so long that I can’t even remember what that is like—although I’m guessing that it still sucks. My blood pressure doesn’t rise because I can’t find a parking spot. Unfortunately, I still run the risk of being involved in a car-related accident but this possibility is lowered because I spend so little time on my bike in the street as I ride on bike paths whenever possible.

The health advantages of cycling over riding in a car are difficult to calculate but seem to be completely obvious. How often do you max out your heart? I do it almost daily in my trips around town. Even on days when I don’t have the time or the inclination to exercise I am exercising as I ride around town. I don’t even count my inner-city commutes as exercise but I know these trips help my overall level of fitness. Never once to I think to myself, “Man, I really don’t feel like riding 20 minutes right now.” More often than not I am thinking to myself, “Great, I get to ride a bike for a while! Yeah!”

Many of the benefits of cycling are societal in nature and not related to the individual. One example is the fact that for every cyclist on the road that means one less car which means less traffic, fewer parking problems, less wear and tear on the roads, and much less pollution. Next you have to consider that I’m not using up two tons of raw materials that make up a modern automobile which will be thrown—sooner or later—on the scrap heap.

It has been as easy to live without a car as it has been to live without a jetski or a snowmobile. A car seems no less ridiculous to me than those two toys but unfortunately the automobile is much more destructive.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winter Crop

I guess that you could call this mid-winter although you'd never know that from the daily temperatures. It has reached 20 degrees on most days and the lows aren't much lower than 10 which means the winter harvest has been exceptionally good. Our two main varieties of tomatoes, the valenciano and the raf, look as good now as they did in late November. 
Raf Tomatoes


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Bikes and Living

At almost 10 times larger than Davis, Portland, Oregon has achieved a bike modal share of 7.2% thanks to over 319 miles (and rising) of bike lanes. Over the years, this infrastructure has cost the city around $60m (£39.7m) – the same cost of constructing 1 single kilometre of urban freeway.

The best cycling cities of 2015. Valencia needs to get on this list and soon! 
Once a month pedestrians will rule the Camps-Elysées

Monday, January 04, 2016

Sunday, January 03, 2016

I'm Just Asking

Is there a Ph.D. in sociology in the house? I have a linguistic emergency. And if someone says "empowering" I'm going to dump the contents of a chili cook-off port-o-pot over your head.

The above-mentioned and highly politically-incorrect adjectives in this derogatory meaning have been around about as long as rollerblades and text messaging. Their relatively young status in English reflects a need to express a relatively new concept that heretofore had not been described or even conceived, such are the challenges of modern language.

Ridiculous, nonsensical, and asinine, although not really synonymous with the banned adjectives, are words which convey the almost comic nature of someone engaged in not one but two modern activities that I feel should never be performed in public and simultaneously only in the circus.