Monday, July 30, 2012

Plan 10 from Outer Space

While we're on the subject of movies...

Have you seen the movie "Plan 9 from Outer Space," written and directed by the legendary Ed Wood? It's on every movie critic's list of the worst movies ever made; I have it in my collection. (Part of the Ed Wood box set, which includes 3 or 4 other movies that are almost as bad.)

I've watched it a half-dozen times over the years, but still can't really describe the plot. It's science fiction... something about space aliens revitalizing the dead, and turning them into zombies. But you don't want to spend all your time trying to figure out the subtle nuances of the plot... because there are all the awesome props, special effects, etc. (Cardboard tombstones in a cemetery... supposedly at night, but you can see the cars whizzing by just behind the hedge... paper-plate flying saucers dangling by strings, etc.) It was the last movie Bela Lugosi was in; he died during the filming, so they hired a "double" who always holds his cape across his face... surely nobody will notice it's a different guy! It's so bad it's hilarious.

One of the many holes in the plot... the movie never properly explains how the space aliens communicate with the zombies.

I think I've figured it out!

When Wood made the movie in 1959, even a visionary such as himself couldn't foresee the day when smart-phone zombies would be clumsily lurching about, staring at the screens of their phones... perhaps waiting for instructions from their space-alien overlords! I propose a remake of "Plan 9," and all the zombies are clutching their "smart-phones."

(Why do they call 'em smart-phones, anyway? It's not because their users seem so smart, when they are smart-phoning!)

There's an article on the Deseret News website today, "What to do about protecting distracted pedestrians." It cites several examples of pedestrians who sustained serious injuries after walking over cliffs, into holes, etc., while staring at their phones. Emergency room visits by "distracted pedestrians" have quadrupled. "State and local officials are struggling to figure out how to respond, and in some cases asking how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves."

Officials in the Salt Lake City area are concerned, because several people have recently walked right into the path of oncoming trains, while paying attention elsewhere.


Why is it the government's job to protect people from themselves?

Distracted motorists routinely kill and maim innocent bystanders... it happens all the time! By contrast, the pathetic distracted pedestrians usually only put themselves at risk. Adults should have the freedom to weigh the potential benefits of an activity against the potential risks, and make a decision on whether they want to tolerate the risk. "I want to stare at my phone while I'm walking about. Yes, I might walk into an open manhole, or into the path of an oncoming train, but I'm willing to accept that risk." (By contrast, you have no right to say, "I want to text while driving. Yes, I might kill an innocent bystander, but I'm willing to assume that risk.")

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Terminator rides!

Since he hung up his governator's hat, Ahnuld Schwarzenegger has been gearing up to get back into the movie business, apparently.  And part of his fitness regimen is cycling, according to a story in the UK's Daily Mail. He turns 65 tomorrow (July 30).  One thing that's funny about the British press... they obsess about fashion.  Schwarzenegger "kept cool in a red martial arts t-shirt, black bicycle shorts, and brown boat shoes."

On the scale of 65-year-old guys, I'd say he looks pretty good. Cycling can only help.

The first two "Terminator" movies are favorites of mine.  And I just ordered the original "Total Recall," which has been given a new Blu-Ray treatment, apparently to coincide with the new "Total Recall."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bike ride across America interrupted by crazed shooter

Stephen Barton and Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent are a couple of young fellas, recently graduated from college, with time and freedom. They decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime - a bike ride across the Fruited Plain.

They departed from Virgina Beach, VA... and based on the news story and Ethan's blog, it sounds like they were taking the scenic route! Definitely not the straightest and quickest course. (And also unusual, I believe, because they were heading east-to-west. Most cross-country bike rides I've heard about begin on the west coast and move easterly. Tailwinds? I don't know.)

As fate would have it, they ended up at a friend's place in the Denver area on July 20th, where they would stay the night before heading into the mountains the next day. And their friend invited them to attend the premire midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

Tragically, we all know the next part of their story. As the movie unfolded, a disturbed individual crashed through the doors, heavily armed, and began indiscriminately shooting at the movie audience, killing 12 and wounding five times that many.

The story for Stephen and Ethan could've been much more tragic... the former, and their host, both sustained gunshot wounds but should recover. Ethan miraculously walked away unscathed.

Just three of uncounted lives that were interrupted, and forever changed, by the insane act of one individual. (And unfortunately, there have never been easy answers on how to protect innocents from totally-random and unprovoked criminal acts. You just pray that they'll be few and far between.)

Their family from back east picked 'em up in Denver, and drove 'em home. The trip will have to be completed at a future time.

"Maybe they would come back to Aurora next summer, depart from the theater itself and make their way to San Francisco, raising money along the way for shooting victims and their families. Maybe ."

I sure hope it works out that way.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Midsummer update

I feel bad for not posting to the ol' Bike Nazi more frequently over the past few weeks. It's partly because the cycling has been pretty routine, partly because other activities and obligations have been stealing my attention.

One significant development in my "personal" cycling... I have a new bike frame. My sweet Cannondale T1 touring bike developed a couple of stress fractures - the first problem I've had with a Cannondale frame in many years and miles - and they replaced it under the lifetime warranty. (I intend to post separately about this. Please stay tuned.)

Other notes:

The weather has been hot! (But as a long-time observer, I can say that happens quite regularly in these parts, in July.) We had 2 108-degree days; that's within 3 degrees of Boise's all-time high. I rode 20+ miles on both of those 108 days, but I was sweatin' like a New York waiter!

I replaced a rear tire. I took off my worn-out Vittoria Randonneur 700x32, and put on another one. The old tire had 3981 miles, with two flats. It remains my favorite-ever make/model of tire. (The front tire has been on even longer. It's starting to look a little raggedy, but it's probably got 6000 miles on it!)

The Tour de France is underway. If I had cable or satellite TV (and time to watch), I'd probably pay more attention. I believe the kid from the UK is wearing the yellow jersey and likely to take home the prize. (And of course, Lance Armstrong continues to be dogged by allegations of doping, years after his amazing run ended. They oughtta give the guy a rest! He NEVER failed a drug test during or after a race.)

Looks like the "forbidden" stretch of Greenbelt, behind Garden City's Riverside Village, will be on the ballot in November. The voters will declare whether it gets opened to cyclists, or continues to be off-limits. Too bad it's only Garden City voters who get to decide; people from all over the area benefit from having the Greenbelt available.

I continue to look forward to spending the better part of a week up in northern Idaho in September, riding the Coeur d'Alene Trail. "More than 71 miles of paved path takes you from high mountain splendor, through the historic Silver Valley, into the chain lakes region, along the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, over the Chatcolet Bridge to Heyburn State Park, and finally climbs to the Palouse prairie..." Sweeeeeet! (I've been wanting to do that for ten years... although my plans sometimes get derailed, I'm sure hoping THIS plan materializes!)

I've had more than the usual number of "off bike" days lately, due to being out of town. But if I keep those pedals turning, I'm still on track to hit 150,000 bike miles (since I started tracking, in 1986), right around the end of the year.

Miss Mackie and I continue to have some excellent buddy rides. I got a replacement white tire and tube at the Boise Bicycle Project - her front tire was getting pretty crumbly. She still likes to get a little push-start on her 20-inch bike, but once she's underway she's amazingly steady and competent for a five-year-old... and she sure enjoys it! Here are a couple photos from a week or so ago, moments after we rode through the cool sprinklers on a hot summer evening.

Ride on! Be safe!



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bike pedal doubles as a lock

I boldly predict this product will not catch on in any big way.

It's a set of pedals that you unscrew from their places on the crank, and attach to the rim, preventing it from rolling. And according to this article, it won a couple of product design awards.


First of all, what's to prevent the thief from just picking up the whole bike and carting it off? Maybe he wouldn't be able to recover the wheel, but even that is a "maybe" - those pedals look to be made out of chintzy plastic or something.

And second... would you be willing to unscrew your pedals, use 'em to lock your bike, and then screw 'em back on at every stop? Do they come with a pedal wrench, or do you furnish and carry your own?

(I try to not let my bike out of sight if it's not secure. And if I need to lock it, I use an old-fashioned chain and padlock. Yeah, it's not a sure bet, but it will deter an opportunist or a joy-rider. And it takes 15 seconds to lock the bike up... the pedal thing could take five minutes or more.  Hint - if you use a chain you can reduce the chance of it scratching your valuable ride by encasing it in an old bike tube, with the valve-stem section cut away.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Sharrows" come to Boise

The Highway District is laying out some "sharrows" as a pilot project on a few roads around town.

Reader Bob T found an interesting inquiry - and a good response - at the ACHD website:

The question: There are some new designs, with a bicycle and a chevron at the top, painted in the middle of the car lanes. They are close to the intersection of Eagle Road and State Street in downtown Eagle. What do they mean? Bicycles go here if you want to be squashed? CarolBeth

(That CarolBeth is witty, huh?)

The answer: “Share the road” is a common saying when it comes to cars and bikes using street lanes. But many of us expect that a bicyclist will be in a bike lane or as far to the right of the street as “practicable” if they are traveling below the speed limit.

That’s Idaho law, after all. But there are exceptions. Bicyclists can take over travel lanes to avoid parked cars or other hazards.

ACHD is painting the new markings, called “sharrows,” in low speed limit locations where bicyclists are likely to be doing just that. No matter how fast (or slow) the bicyclist is moving they might be directly in front of motorized vehicles.

The symbols make the arrangement clear to all drivers. Bicyclists aren’t in the road to “be squashed” as you say; they are avoiding being smacked by an open parked car door.

Regardless of the presence of the sharrows, bicyclists are still expected to ride to the right of the roadway if there aren’t parked cars or other hazards.

The markings are part of a pilot project and we’ll have to see how people respond to them. For some motorists, this may seem like more road sharing than they are used to, but it is simply a reminder of existing bicycle laws.

Monday, July 2, 2012

435 million bicycles in China

In 1995, there were 670 million bicycles in China - most used regularly as transportation. The average Chinese family aspired to having "sanshengyixiang" - cleverly translated "three rounds and sound." Or in other words, the symbols of success were a wristwatch, a bicycle, a sewing machine, and a radio.

Since then, as Chinese manufacturing and prosperity have ramped up, and western greed and decadence crept in, Chinese folks were no longer content to ride their bikes. They found themselves wanting to drive a car, and live in the Big City. "To get rich is glorious." (Such a notion has to be troubling to the Communist Party fat cats, huh?) Car ownership doubled, from 4.2 million to 8.9 million, while the bike fleet dropped 35 percent, from 670 million to 435 million.

Which introduced the unwanted byproducts of motor transportation - terrible air pollution and traffic jams of epic proportion. (The article mentions "62 mile, nine-day" traffic jams!)

Now, China seems to be having a minor bike renaissance, fueled mostly by Chinese "hipsters" wanting to be like the hipsters of the West - who ride bikes because it's trendy and fashionable. (Reasons which are so much more valid than the reasons they used to ride bikes - because it's efficient and economical.)

Article HERE.