Sunday, October 28, 2012

President Romney

By now, I have had it with the Presidential elections.

I feel like the torture victim who is begging, begging his tormentor to shoot him in the head – just to put him out of his misery.

"You know I can't do that, pal," his torturer replies blandly, as he takes an indifferent puff on his cigar. "It don't work that way."

Instead of asking for a bullet through the head, though, I'm ready to accept Romney as the next president. Well, not accept him, because he is so unacceptable. But the GOP is going to steal this thing anyway – so for God's sake let's get it over with.

I don't believe the majority of Americans favor Romney over President Obama. I feel like this thing isn't nearly as close as they say; that we're being manipulated into accepting a Republican "victory."

But then, I'm conspiracy-minded.

How could any sane person support Romney? Or as some of his critics spell it, (R)money?  Romoney. I shudder to even think how disastrous a Romney presidency will be – for the nation and for the planet. Romney is wrong in so many ways, I can't even begin to count them. Even his own party didn't want him. And his running mate! A slimy little weasel, a tea party charlatan – a heartbeat away from the oval office!

And yet, they are going to win. I have to put it in quotes, "win" – because it will be another stolen election.

In three debates, Obama kicked Romney's ass. Yeah, even the first one. It was beautiful. Obama is the Great American President.

At left is my mail-in ballot. I voted Obama.

But let's be done with it, already.

Heaven help us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brake Dancing

First of all, sorry about that title. What a dreadful pun.

A few years ago somebody gave me a bike. Specifically, a Peugeot road bike. I don't know the reputation or status of Peugeot bikes. This one has a "Made in France" sticker on the top tube, which could be considered a conversation starter. But it's got really cheap components.

I'm no mechanic – but even I can tell that. So it's my guinea pig bike.

The other day I continued my experiments in bike mechanics. I put the bike into my new-used bike stand – another item somebody gave to me! – and began taking apart the rear brake. In this first photo, the procedure has already begun with the removal of the brake cable and the center-pivoting nut that attaches the thing to the bike.

Next, I have removed one of the brake calipers. The picture is a bit fuzzy – auto-focus is not infallible! (I took pictures because I thought I might mess up the job, and wanted a step-by-step record, in case I needed a reference when I re-assembled everything.)

In the picture at right I have removed the other brake caliper. Behind it are the springs which push the two calipers back into position. You may not be able to tell in this picture, but when you remove it – it just lifts right out – this spring unit resembles those old-fashioned pincher eyeglasses.

At left, the spring has been removed. Perhaps you can make out the slot that holds the spring in place. It's on that circular thing. Right behind it is a bracket that holds a reflector (just visible). At this point, the brake disassembly is nearly complete.

Photo at right: same as before, different angle. When I put the brake back together I wavered about putting the reflector back on. Since my daughter is the one most likely to ride this bike, I did.

In the center of the above-right picture is a nut. I unscrewed it. And then, as you can see below, the remaining screw slid right out of that mounting hole. At that point I cleaned the entire area (using diluted Simple Green and a rag), congratulated myself, and began putting it all back together. I did indeed need the photos as a reference in places. But I got it all back together and it works.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Scenes Along the Road – a little more

I've got a few more observations, and a few more pictures, that I'd like to put up here, as another cycling season nears its end. (This is a continuation of a previous post.)
Yours Truly in the middle of a century ride, some years back
There are those who will tell you that the bicycle is the greatest invention ever, but I’m not one of them. Not because I don’t believe it (I’m not sure I do, though I’m close) but because of my reluctance to speak in absolutes. Isn’t the wheel touted as the greatest invention ever? And bikes have two of them! But then, cars have four, and semi-trailers have god knows how many. Does that make them exponentially better?
Whatever. I am content to say that the bicycle is among the greatest machines ever developed, and leave it at that.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle,” someone once observed. “Its passenger is its engine.” And this is one of the things that make bikes great: they allow you to travel point-to-point and, as its engine, get some exercise while you do it.
“Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish,” Iris Murdoch declared, in The Red and Green. “Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”
Pure in heart. Since bikes are fuel-free, they are environmentally sound. Between planet-threatening emissions and fluctuating gas prices, there may never be a better time than now to dump the car and embrace human powered transportation as the ideal way to get where you need to go.
There is a magnificent silence to bicycles that has enormous appeal for me. This may be most evident when riding, as I often do, through rural areas in the early hours of a summer morning. The only sounds are the steady clicking of bike’s freewheel, and the occasional warbling of a meadowlark. These are what I think of as bicycle moments.

Bicycle moments. Often they are fleeting, but they speak directly to the bike’s purity of heart: moments of blissful quietude that you can only experience on two wheels.

Of course, for a lot of people bike season is not ending. Community Cycles, mentioned in a previous post, holds workshops on winter cycling. But much as I love them, bicycles have their limitations. Few are willing to pedal to work in sub-freezing temperatures. Biking to the airport to pick up grandma and her three suitcases is out of the question. But for running simple errands around town, bikes – weather permitting, of course – are ideal.
The best thing about bicycles, though, may be that they are just plain fun to ride.