Bicycle Diaries: December 2007

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Je ne regrette rien

to 2007

Non! Rien de rien
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal tout ça m'est bien égal!

Non! Rien de rien
Non! Je ne regrette rien
C'est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé!

Avec mes souvenirs
J'ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs
Je n'ai plus besoin d'eux!

Balayées les amours
Et tous leurs trémolos
Balayés pour toujours
Je repars à zéro

Non! Rien de rien
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien, qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal!

Non! Rien de rien
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie, car mes joies
Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi!


No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the grief doesn't last
It is gone
I've forgotten the past

And the memories I had
I no longer desire
Both the good and the bad
I have flung in a fire
And I feel in my heart
That the seed has been sown
It is something quite new
It's like nothing I've known

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things that went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the seed that is new
It's the love that is growing for you

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The year that was...


Why Benazir Bhutto matters death
as in life

بينظير ڀٽو

If Pakistan weren't in one of the world's roughest regions with neighbors like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Kashmir, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Tibet,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If global oil prices weren't negatively tied to growing political instability throughout this region,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If Pakistan did not straddle the great divide between Islam and the West,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If Bhutto hadn't supported the Taliban in Afghanistan during her 2nd tenure as Pakistan's prime minister,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If Bhutto hadn't become the only candidate for prime minister who could challenge the Pakistan's radical Islamists,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If Bhutto hadn't successfully accelerated Pakistan's nuclear weapons program,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, didn't need Bhutto to shore up the faltering support of the US,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If the US hadn't pinned its hopes first on Musharraf, and then on Bhutto,for victory in the War on Terror,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If it hadn't become commonplace in Pakistan to assassinate national leaders like Bhutto,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.
If Pakistan weren't perpetually and violently on the edge of the abyss,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.

31 XII 07

If al-Qaida hadn't claimed responsibility for Bhutto's assassination,
her assassination would be just another political tragedy in one of the ignored corners of the world.

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Bike, snow...

and beers!

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The most important meal of the day

breakfast on wheels

Overslept? Who doesn't; especially with these long winter nights. You have to hurry: brush teeth, pack your stuff, get your bike gear on, then go. Growling stomach! What about breakfast? Thank G-d I've got bikefast!

Get on your bike, put on your breakfast tray, and RIDE! Don't be afraid. You can enjoy your meal because the cup fits into the tray. And the tray's rim prevents your nutritious meal from falling off.

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I was a counselor at Boy Scout camp in upstate New York for over a decade. When I first started in the mid-70s (!) there were a couple of senior counselors who played guitar. In addition to being ultra-cool to a 16 year old geek such as myself, they played a lot of old-timey songs at our campfires. One of my absolute favorites was John Prine's Paradise. So here it is...

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.


And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

Repeat Chorus

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

Repeat Chorus

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.

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Mummer Mass

a new
CCM tradition?

Imagine 1000 Biking Mummers treating Chicago to a view of Yuletide of days gone by. Hark! There is still time for thee to don thyself a Mummer Suit!

Wednesday, 26 Dec 07
@1731 N Bissell

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on the
domination instinct

It's particularly amusing that Benedict XVI recently found the time to criticize cager habits rather brilliantly. His encyclical, Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road, highlights the unbalanced behaviour and related consequences that kills and maims a significant number of his fellow Xians very year.

Too much blood is spilt every day in an absurd competition with speed and time. That definitely rings true on my daily commute from the apartment on the far north side to the job in the loop.
25. The domination instinct, or the feeling of arrogance, impels people to seek power in order to assert themselves

Driving a car provides an easy opportunity to dominate others. Indeed, by
identifying themselves with their car, drivers enormously increase their own power. This is expressed through speed and gives rise to the pleasure of driving. This makes drivers wish to experience the thrill of speed, a typical manifestation of their increased power.

The free availability of speed, being able to accelerate at will, setting out to conquer time and space, overtaking, and almost "subjugating" other drivers, turn into sources of satisfaction that derive from domination.
And Back in 1956 Pope Pius XII exhorted cagers:
Do not forget to respect other road users, be courteous and fair with other drivers and pedestrians and show them your obliging nature. Pride yourselves in being able to master an often natural impatience, in sometimes sacrificing a little of your sense of honour so that the courteousness that is a sign of true charity may prevail. Not only will you thus be able to avoid unpleasant accidents, but you will also help to make the car a more useful tool for yourselves and others that is capable of giving you a more genuine pleasure.
In any case, with the Papal request for cagers to exercise virtue, some folks here in the City of Big Shoulders have drawn up a special decalogue for them, in reference to the עשרת הדברים, or Aseret ha-Dvarîm, of my co-religionists.
You shall not kill.

The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and
not of mortal harm.

Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with
unforeseen events.

Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims
of accidents.

Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination,
and an occasion of sin.

Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when
they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

Support the families of accident victims.

Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the
appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

Feel responsible towards others.

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Merry @%#&! Xmas!


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Yet another bike film

Today's temp: 27°F
Windchill: 17°F
Tomorrow: Snow

Can Spring
be all
far behind?

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Dark nights

bright lights

Even though the shortest day (and longest night) of the year is now thankfully behind us, it's still the season of night-rolling. So over at Gizmodo, you may be interested in a recent article about this new product:
MPK, a company that has made a name producing glow-in-the-dark paint, has developed self-luminous micro particles called Litrospheres. The new material is said to be inexpensive (35 cents to light up a 8 ½ x 11 piece of plastic that is 1/8" thick), non-toxic, and capable of staying constantly lit for over 12 years thanks to a betavoltaic technology that uses a radioactive gas.

Fortunately, the gas is involves a "soft" emission of electrons that cannot penetrate the glass or polymer wall of the microspheres. So theoretically, you don't have to worry about brain tumors or taking on super powers when using it.

The Litrospheres, which can be injected molded or added to paint, are not affected by the heat or cold and they can withstand up to 5000 pounds of pressure. They can also give off light that is equivalent of a 20-watt incandescent bulb in almost any color imaginable. As you might expect, the first applications of the technology will most likely involve safety equipment—or the clothing and accessories of frequent clubgoers.

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Gears to gigabytes

MIT's bike-powered

A new world record in human powered computing has been set by MIT students who used bikes to power one of the institute’s supercomputers for 20 minutes. As part of the Innovate or Die pedal-powered machine contest a nuclear fusion reaction was modeled by the sweat of the students’ brows.

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Bike attack

Stanley Williams

Dan P. Blake reports in The Chicago Tribune, 20 December 07, that biker dies 8 days after beating by youths on Chicago's West Side:
A 43-year-old man died Wednesday night, more than a week after a group of youngsters assaulted him on Chicago's West Side, police and his girlfriend said.

Stanley Williams, who grew up in Oak Park but had recently been taking care of his ailing grandmother on Chicago's West Side, was attacked near her home in the 1000 block of North Long Avenue on Dec. 11, authorities said. He suffered severe head trauma, apparently after being struck with a board repeatedly, and died at Mt. Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

According to his longtime girlfriend Erica McIntosh, Williams was riding his bicycle about 4:30 p.m. that day when he was attacked by the group of up to four youngsters. A police spokesman said this morning that he did not have a description of Williams' attackers, but McIntosh said witnesses described his assailants as neighborhood teenagers.

Police said no arrests have been made.

Williams' mother, Rosetta, said her son loved riding his bike year-round despite the weather and was probably returning home from his job as a cook at local restaurant when the assailants jumped him.

"All I understand is it was a bunch of punks hanging on the corner," Rosetta Williams said. "When they struck him, it was head trauma. He went into a coma and didn't come out."

She said her son often would ride his bicycle through Cook County forest preserves to escape traffic.

A graduate of Oak Park & River Forest High School, Williams was trained as a window installer and recently worked as a contractor for the Chicago Housing Authority, McIntosh said. Together they had two daughters, ages 13 and 17.

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Freiburg traffic taming

Die grüne Stadt

Biking is central to Freiburg (im Breisgau)’s transport system. In the last three decades the city’s bike lane network has grown from 29 km to over 500 km in length. The Freiburgers themselves like pointing out that there are three bikes to every two residents. It's an impressive, if somewhat bewildering statistic. Key to the success of the transport network is the way the different modes of transport interconnect so effectively.

For example, the main railway station sports both bus and tram stops, and a range of bikers’s facilities, including 1,000 parking spaces for bikes. The extensive bike lanes and tram-lines, as well as park-and-ride and bike-and-ride initiatives make public transport not only efficient but attractive. Further developments include the new €400 million Breisgau S-Bahn, a fast suburban railway linking Freiburg with nearby towns and villages.

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in 17 syllables

clean frosty sunlight
breezy coastal cycle trip;
feel very alive

pablo cruz

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a little Brad Pitt?

Anyone riding the trains our buses in my fair city has had a greater chance of seeing me than ever before. It's not because it's winter and I'm staying off my bike. It's that I'm one of 14 bikers featured in The Chicagoland Bike Federation's new ad campaign: Join the Movement.

Being recognized by friends and strangers alike reminds me of Clive Thompson's recent article for Wired, The Age of Microcelebrity: Why Everyone's a Little Brad Pitt.

Microcelebrity is the phenomenon of being extremely well known not to millions but to a small group — a thousand people, or maybe only a few dozen. As DIY media reach ever deeper into our lives, it's happening to more and more of us. Got a Facebook account? A whackload of pictures on Flickr? Odds are there are complete strangers who know about you — and maybe even talk about you.

You could regard this as a sad development — the whole Brand Called You meme brought to its grim apotheosis. But haven't our lives always been a little bit public and stage-managed? Small-town living is a hotbed of bloglike gossip. Every time we get dressed — in power suits, nerdy casual wear, or goth-chick piercings — we're broadcasting a message about ourselves. Microcelebrity simply makes the social engineering we've always done a little more overt — and maybe a little more honest.

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What happens in Chicago, Part II


Last week I posted Peter Sagal's brilliant commentary on Chicago-style reality. It's what I love about the City of Big Shoulders. But if you're going to make reality a virtue, you have to acknowledge the bad along with the good. A case in point is torture. On 16 December 07, Darius Rigali, highlights (in The Boston Globe) the links between torture overseas and here at home. Too close to home, it seems ... because he includes several examples of Chicago-style torture:
Chicago police used magneto [electric shock] torture in the 1970s and 1980s to extract confessions. Most alleged incidents implicated Commander Jon Burge, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, and the detectives he supervised...

In Chicago, in the decade after Vietnam, the use of magnetos and other clean tortures left a disaster: At least 11 men were sentenced to death and many others given long-term prison sentences based on confessions extracted by torture, and in 2003, Governor George Ryan of Illinois commuted the death sentences of all 167 death row inmates. Earlier this month the City of Chicago agreed to pay nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits filed by four former death row inmates who claimed they were tortured and wrongly convicted.

If the spread of torture techniques suggests a blurry line between "us" and "them," it also teaches that there's no real boundary between "there" and "here." It would be ignoring history to assume that what happens in an American-run prison in Iraq will stay in Iraq. Soldiers who learn torture techniques abroad get jobs as police when they return, and the new developments in torture you read about today could yet be employed in a neighborhood near you.

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scholar, poet & mystic

مولانا جلال الدین محمد رومی

Mevlâna Jalâluddîn
Muhammad Balki

30 September 1207–17 December 1273

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What happens in Chicago

...really happens

The reality thing; that's what I love about my adopted City of Big Shoulders. On 13 December 07, NPR's All Things Considered was reporting on our mayor's campaign to build a city-owned casino somewhere donwtown. Afterwards, our own Chicago-boy, Peter Sagal, imagined what the reality of Da Casino in Chicago will be like.

The host of NPR’s Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and author of The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How to Do Them), captures not only the low self-esteem of his fellow Chicagoans but their authenticity as well:
Anyone who lives in Chicago is painfully aware of our city’s inferiority complex.

We’re caught between New York and L.A., literally and figuratively, fighting off the cities like Denver and, God help us, Minneapolis who want to steal our crown as the best city most people fly over. All the visiting celebrities interviewed on our local TV chat shows are always asked, so do you like Chicago? What do you like about Chicago? And the celebrities always say, oh, yeah, I love Chicago. I love its energy, because what else are they going to say? They love our processed meats?

We got in the news recently for being the first city to ban foie gras, which is just insane. This is a metropolis that grew rich by being cheerfully cruel to animals on an industrial scale.

Our mayor wants the Olympics because look what they did for the international stature and prestige of Montreal? Thanks to the best-seller, “The Devil in the White City,” Chicago is now best-known for our serial killers and the World’s Fair that closed a century ago.

So we need the nation’s first city-owned casino. But instead of the Venetian or Paris casinos in Vegas, which conjure up sterile visions of foreign locales, the Chicago casino’s theme will be its host city. You’d knock on the door like an old speakeasy and only be allowed in if you pay a small bribe.

Cocktail waitresses would be dressed like payroll-patting city workers. One of them goes and gets you a drink, while three of them just watch - but they have to be tipped too.

A grand, marble staircase - known as the white flight - would lead you up to a gaming floor, where the croupiers will be dressed like aldermen, when they take your winnings they put a symbolic chip in their own pocket and promise to pave your street.

Outside, instead of an erupting volcano or pirate ship battle, every hour on the hour, actors dress as cops and protesters will reenact the 1968 Democratic Convention riots, except now, the police batons will be rubber and it will end with everybody getting bought off with city contracts, and then joining each other for a rousing chorus…

(Singing) My kind of town, Chicago, is.

What Chicago is, is authentic. We won’t promise you riches or parties or fun; we’ll take your money and give you enough cheap gins so that you become soused and keep playing. And if you do, by freak random chance, win too much, paid cast members will take you out back and pretend to break your legs, because the reason we live here and the reason we love it and the reason that those Hollywood types really should spend more time here is that Chicago’s great product, a rare commodity in today’s world, one we can make our own is reality. What happens in Chicago really happens.
Copyright ©1990-2005 National Public Radio®. All rights reserved.

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Ooo la la ...

Now that's how you should maintain
proper tire pressure

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Fascist bike art?

Gino Boccasile

The famous Italian illustrator was born in Bari; the son of a perfumer. Little Gino showed a precocious aptitude for design early on. He completed studies at the fine art school in his home town; and after the death of his father in 1925, moved to Milan, the center of the design world. Despite initial difficulties, he eventually gained a post at the Mauzan-Morzenti Agency. Over the next few years he produced sports posters and illustrated fashion magazines.

Following the lead of fellow poster artist Achille Mauzan, Boccasile went to Buenos Aires for a time where he met his future spouse Alma Corsi. He also visited Paris, where the Paris Tabou dedicated an entire issue to his work, and participated in the 1932 Salon des Indépendants. Returning to Milan, he opened a publicity agency called Acta with his friend Franco Aloi. It was there that he found his real creative outlet.

But wait there's more ... A supporter of Benito Mussolini, Boccasile produced propaganda material for the government. This included several racist and anti-semitic posters. After the war he was imprisoned and tried for collaborating with the Fascists and although acquitted, he remained an outcast. He could not find work for a few years as his signature was feared by prospective employers.

Nonetheless, he supported himself by doing erotic sketches for English and French publishers, and by 1946, after slightly changing his style, Boccasile was back at work. He set up his own agency in Milan where he created memorable posters for Paglieri cosmetics, Chlorodont toothpaste, and Zenith footwear, all bearing his signature.

He died prematurely in Milan, from bronchitis and pleurisy, in 1952.

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What's in your pocket?

Last week, Kent's Bike Blog posted on Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff. From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view.

It's a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls folks together to create a more sustainable and just world.

During the 1990s, Leonard visited countries throughout Asia to track exported waste from the U.S. and Europe. She documented her findings in many articles and testified before the U.S. Congress in 1992 on the issue of international waste trafficking, in an effort to ban US waste exports to the Third World.

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Reflectors are da' BOMB!

Flight of the Conchords

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Two wheels north

the West Coast
in 1909

Vic McDaniel and Ray Francisco, just out of high school, set out from Santa Rosa, CA on second-hand bikes, bound for the great Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Travelling on dusty roads, roads of logs, of planks, even of corn stalks, and often no roads at all, they pedaled, pushed, and walked a thousand miles north for fifty-four days.

They started out with only $5.65 between them. Camp was wherever, whenever the sun was gone; food was an occasional meal from a kindly farm wife and what they could fish, hunt, or glean. But they learned that all strangers were not kind, not even close. Vic and Ray reported their adventures to their home-town newspaper. And what adventures they had. They traveled paths beside railroad tracks, fought their way around boulders and up brushy hillsides, and crossed rivers layered with salmon.

Evelyn Gibb, daughter of one of the cyclists, has drawn on her father's recollections to tell this incredible adventure in his voice. Winner of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Nonfiction Book Award, Two Wheels North is a fascinating account of a journey that today we can only dream about--one that finds two boys on the road not only to Seattle, but also to manhood.

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Our 2nd snow ride

1st Friday Critical Masses:
Wicker Park-Pilsen Meet-up

Many thanks to Don Sorsa, our all-weather shutterbug, Steve Lane, the great herder of us krazy kats, and Todd, our very own music man with a political conscience!

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Our first snow ride

Bikewinter 07-08
finally begins!

We got our first snow ... big snow ... last week. Despite the occasional thaw we've got 3-6 inches of accumulation. And the weather gurus are predicting more by the middle of this week.

It all started Tuesday when nine hardy souls gathered at The Handlebar Tuesday night to celebrate the return of Bells to the City of Big Shoulders. Well, it wasn't exactly the official return ... it'll be several months before you can quaff Kalamazoo's finest throughout the city. It was more like a stealth return promoted by The Logan Square Draft Beer Preservation Society.

But as often happens with Chicago bikers, there was another BIG REASON to brave this winter's first great snow storm. When two inches (or more) of new snow fall on our lovely streets, folks are encouraged to meet up for an evening Snow Ride.

Not to be outdone by Critical Mass, there wasn't a preplanned route. As we waited for the required depth, a number of suggestions were offered and debated until we agreed on The Bloomingdale Trail. Billed as our Next Great Park, it's an abandoned 3 mile stretch of elevated train tracks that bisects the heart of our prairie metropolis from west to east. Local rail2trail advocates have worked hard over the last few years to get it opened.

Until that happens, it remains a tempting challenge for urbex stalwarts; especially with 4 inches of swirling, drifting, late night snow %) It was relatively easy to get onto the trail last winer when we rolled the tracks. The were huge gaps in much of the fencing. Since then, however, the city has fixed most of them. The only option left to us was scaling a 6 foot embankment wall near Damen Ave.

The surface up there, about 20 feet wide with the tracks running along the south side, is anything but smooth. Add the snow and it's about the most challenging off-road ride I've ever done. I almost went down a few times. Folks were cool though as I brought up the rear huffing and puffing. But it was worth it.

There was this devil may care camaraderie of plowing across potholes and near-tumbles. Even a couple of people watching us from their cozy condos gave us enthusiastic high-fives. Perhaps that's the whole point of bikewinter here: every day you ride, every icy street you survive, you feel more and more like a true Chicagoan.

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