Archive for August, 2008

Of all the things I’ve seen while cycling 4,200 miles of the city’s streets this past eight months, such scenes with me are seldom more than the most fleetingly glimpsed (click to triplify).

Here’s to being a thousand miles away from my revised goal and maybe getting a thousand more miles past it before the year’s out.

Snapped northbound on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City having just crossed Jefferson Boulevard (image flipped horizontally to spell out all signage forwards because I like it better that way and because it gives the faux illusion of having been taken by someone else inside the office window I was passing).

Upon finally being able to review the vid this morning, I found that the computer’s crash didn’t come at midnight. Instead it kept on storing images in sequence every 15 seconds until shortly before 4 a.m. Fortunately the 300mb file was condensable too a far more YouTube friendly 38 megs. Enjoy:

I knew as much, but a quick search of the Google shows me that I didn’t coin the term “indignorance,” which can best be defined by the statements of one angeleno named Graham A. Rowe in a letter to the editor he wrote to the Wall Street Journal, responding to that paper’s entirely slanted and negative August 1 article on bicycling in Los Angeles (yes, the one I had issues with). Here’s what Rowe couldn’t keep himself from saying:

Bicycle riders believe that they should enjoy all the benefits of both car drivers and pedestrians. They choose to ride both with and against traffic. They obey no traffic signs, never stop at red lights or stop signs. At a red light they decide to become a pedestrian and simply ride across the crossing. They ride on the sidewalk at danger to pedestrians. Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions. Maybe then they would be more careful and get more respect.

Rowe could have gone a long way to make himself look less a kneejerk idiot if he’d just started the rant with “Some,” but instead he choses to lump us all together as law-breaking, sidewalk hogging, wrongway riders hellbent with ill anarchistic intent.

BikinginLA has a far more reasoned and complete response to this myopic jerk. Me, I just try to roam around the ether looking for any whiff of background on him. And while I can’t verify if this is the same Graham A. Rowe or not, a search of the Google for that name yielded this 12-year-old nugget of FAIL from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority website (bold emphasis mine):

Individuals Barred Or Suspended
Jonathan G. Fink, (Registered Representative, Los Angeles, California) and Graham A. Rowe (Registered Principal, Los Angeles, California) submitted Offers of Settlement pursuant to which Fink was suspended from association with any NASD member in any capacity for 60 days and ordered to requalify by exam as a general securities representative. Rowe was fined $5,000, jointly and severally with a member firm, suspended from association with any NASD member as a general securities principal for 15 days, and required to requalify by exam as a general securities principal. Without admitting or denying the allegations, the respondents consented to the described sanctions and to the entry of findings that Fink engaged in numerous purchase and sales transactions in various securities for the account of a public customer that were excessive in size or frequency in view of the financial resources and character of the account. The NASD found that Rowe failed to establish or follow adequate procedures reasonably designed to carry out the supervision of Fink to ensure compliance with applicable rules and failed to respond when confronted with various situations that indicated that the recommendations by Fink were unsuitable. The findings also stated that Rowe failed to approve promptly in writing each discretionary order entered in the discretionary account or to review such account at frequent intervals to detect and prevent the transactions

Damn but on my rides in to work and back home today, the bike’s rolling tight. With everything battened down it travels like new without making a sound. Small consolation for the pain I endured Sunday getting it to this point.

See first, I re-greased the stem and got rid of the snap-crackly sound that had slowly returned to bug the crap outta me. But even more important, I swapped out the back-up set of 170mm cranks I’d put on last weekend for a set of 160s that were still on the remains of The Phoenix, but not first without the wrench I was using slipping off the right pedal and sending my left hand downward upon the empty chainring where a couple of its teeth gouged out strips of flesh on the back of my middle and ring fingers.

Pretty gross, actually. I’ll spare you the pix I took in the midst of cleaning it out.

The funny thing was that the moment before the wrench gave way I looked at where my hand was positioned above the chainring and wouldn’t you know I was in the middle of thinking that might not be the best position to be in when whoops and the next thing I’m jumping around, holding my profusely bleeding digits and hissing “I knew it!”

So inside I went to the kitchen sink to wash the wounds and dress them and Susan brought the hydrogen peroxide and the band-aids and did her best to straddle the fine line between staying out of my way and helping me, all the while trying not to worry too much or roll her eyes in too big a circle. Thankfully the cuts were mostly superficial. Mostly. So in a few minutes with some makeshift bandagings, I was back outside and on the job.

The really cool thing was when I looked at the chainring and saw the 1 1/2-inch long strip of already-sundrying skin that had been plowed off my middle finger and was left dangling from from the teeth.  It looked a bit like jerky. And there was an ant on it already.

Really gross, actually. Quick bastards. So I plucked it off and pitched it into the trash (greenwaste bin of course) and got the rest of the task completed without further injury.

And speaking of further injury, my efforts — though bloody in the short term — may very well have saved me worse hurts down the road. See, when I put the spare 170mm cranks on  (after the bottom bracket incident last weekend) I only put one chainring on it. Trouble is, it’s a crank designed to carry two chain rings (similar to a 10 speed) and though I tightened the solo ring as much as I could, the gap presented by that second ring meant there was a measure of looseness there — a looseness in the chainring bolts that I noticed had grown markedly worse having  pedaled it to work and back the previous five days.

Had I opted to leave the 170s on there was some risk that the ring could have come off, say, while cruising across Venice Boulevard at 20 mph, or trying to barrel up some hill. And while not a catastrophic failure guaranteeing a fall, it’s decently probable that one could happen.

So in mounting the 160mm cranks (also a two-ringer) I went ahead and put an inner ring on it. Gap? eliminated. Ride? tight.

Saturday morning I found one of the neighboring yard’s cactus flowers pretty well inundated with bees, and posted about it here with video links on L.A. Metblogs.

Sure enough by Saturday night all but one of the remaining cactus blooms  opened up, none of which were ideally situated to capture the nocturnal blossoms in all their glory (like I did last year). That last blossom was perfectly positioned and by late this afternoon it was just beginning to unfurl and so in-between grilling a tri-tip I hustled to set up my cam to record a snap every 15 seconds.

If the laptop doesn’t crash or a raccoon doesn’t knock the camera or the light over or any combination of the three, I’m hoping to have a 12-hour Quicktime timelapse to show tomorrow.

UPDATE (08.11): Oh well, I’m not totally surprised that the computer crapped out and quit taking images at midnight. I think it’ll still a pretty cool timelapse that I’ll compile and post later this evening.

Rising from the terrorizing ashes that were the 1972 summer games in Munich, my fervor for the Olympic games probably crescendoed in 1976 when Bruce Jenner won the decathlon and I decided I wanted to become a world-class decathlete by 1980. That pipe dream was crushed when I approached Coach Hills at Le Conte Junior High with my hopes of beginning my training immediately and he shook his head wondering where the hell did I expect to find a pole vault much less get permission from the LAUSD to risk the injuries I would undoubtedly sustain in doing so.

Good thing for that reality check too, because had I spent the following four years dedicating my life to bringing home another decathlon’s gold it would have been wasted thanks to the U.S. boycott of Moscow’s Olympiad. But of course, then I would have had to dig down deep and keep it all going for another four years and try to win it in my hometown, which — win, place, show, or no — would have made a great story. But I digress.

When the games came to Los Angeles in 1984 I enjoyed them, but I didn’t physically go to any venues. Mainly I watched the events on television and reveled in the Two Greatest Weeks Los Angeles Has Ever Experienced.

Since then my “love” of the games has disipated to almost nothing — and I’m not really sure why. The spectacle is there, and the thrill of competion and all that, but it’s all become just one big “meh!” to me.

Whether it’s right or wrong, I think I pretty much blame NBC going back to the games in Australia in 2000. Though I’m sure it could have been any network trying to figure out away to broadcast live sports back home from halfway around the world, NBC seemed to be peacock proud of its “live on tape” extreme-delay coverage. I wasn’t. Knowing I was watching something that had taken place 10 hours previously — and whose results I could find online in a mouse click — succeeded in taking a good measure of the immediacy and enjoyment away.

Things didn’t really seem to improve in Athens four years ago, and in what may be the only time I tune in this time around, I was shown last night it’s still the same old thing — compounded by the fact that I was watching the US team whomp all over a categorically overmatched  Japanese team in an essentially meaningless prelim womens beach volleyball match that was already ancient history at 15 hours old.

Was that all NBC had for me? Even Michael Phelps swimming practice laps would have been as interesting.

Not NBC’s fault, but the Beijing air around the volleyball facility looked like a crapsoup and the teams were reportedly playing in a light rain. Rain? There’s no raining in beach volleyball!

Sadly the most compelling news out of the games yesterday was the murder of an American there.

In the beginning of my first year at Le Conte Junior High in Hollywood I thought I’d become friends with a ninth grader named Tony. I say “thought” because it was definitively and painfully proven to me that this was later not the case at all.

I can’t remember the particulars that resulted in Tony being friendly to me — and it was nothing major; usually just a nod or a “hey” as we passed each other. But as anyone familiar with the hierarchy/pecking order of schools knows, for a seventh grader to gain the acceptance  and recognition of an upperclassman? Huge. Practically life-affirming.

But like I said, it’s not like we hung out down by the schoolyard or got together on weekends. Whatever it was that connected us is too far back in the archives to extract. What broke us apart, however, remains far more freshly filed.

It was another day at school during another lunch break. I was standing in the main part of the school yard, waiting in the long line for the cafeteria when I saw Tony standing over at the side with several other seniors. It was hard to miss Tony, he was tall and his head was topped with a decent-sized afro. I watched him hoping to catch his eye and get a hello and sure enough he finally saw me looking at him and dang if he didn’t excitedly motion me to come over to where he was.

I didn’t hesitate to jump out of line and head over. And when I got there my heart leapt because there was Tony holding his hand high and enthusiastically saying “Give me five!” I couldn’t stick my hand out fast enough, and for the split second when he stung it with a hard slap, I was in underclass heaven. I had arrived.

But then the sting didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. On top of that I was surprised to find Tony and his surrounding buddies laughing loudly, some with surprised expressions on their faces. One was howling and pointing at my hand, which brought my attention back to it and showed me why the pain wasn’t going away.

Impaled to the hilt in the middle of my palm was a blue bulletin board pushpin. Some of my blood was leaking out around it. I stared at it first in disbelief momentarily wondering how that could have gotten there. Then I realized Tony had delivered it hidden from between his fingers and the betrayal and shock registered, probably with the proud smile still stupidly stuck on my face as Tony and his entourage jumped around in pained glee.

Maybe the crew were expecting me to add to their entertainment by crying or screaming or running away and making even more of a fool of myself, but I just stood there staring at Tony with my hand held out and the blue pushpin sticking out of it and the blood leaking our around it until he finally realized the show was over and put on an expression that was half embarrassed and half curious.

In the Hollywood version of this story I’d put Tony onto the ground with a kick to the nuts and then get pulled off of him while using his ears as handholds and slamming his afro’d head into a bloodly pulp against the tarmac. But that didn’t happen.

In the other Hollywood version I’d just reach over with my right hand and pluck the pin out, illiciting more pained reactions from the seniors. With the blood unstopped and flowing outward and over the edge of my palm I’d position the pin point-up between my middle and ring finger and raise it my hand over my head.

“Your turn,” I’d say and Tony’s eyes would get wide and he’d run away like a big ninth-grade bitch with his friends following his chickenshit lead. Then I’d find Mr. Pittman, the school security officer, point out Tony to him and tell him what happened. I’d be sent to the nurse to have my wound tended. Tony would end up expelled.

But that didn’t happen either. Instead I just pulled out the pin, walked away physically and emotionally wounded, humiliated and heartbroken.

I kept the pin for awhile. Stored it in my keepsake box the way a soldier might keep a bullet that wounded him in battle. Ultimately though I realized I didn’t need anything physical to show me that people who you want to impress can be failures. That those you think are your friends are not. In that vein I suppose I should thank Tony for teaching me such an important lesson so early. But if I saw him today, I wouldn’t shake his hand. I’d hold mine up high and say “Your turn.”

Or I’d just kick him in the balls.