Well here it is, the Matchless. I've been meaning to write something for and about my dad for months now, but I guess I'll start with this and let the stream of consciousness flow from there.
As long as I can remember, my dad talked about the Matchless he owned before I was born. In all my years, I never saw one. Not on TV, not in a book, not on the Internet. I came to think they were like the Pegasus: a mythical creature. Add in a touch of wistful longing in his eyes and voice every time he talked about his bike, and you've got an instant legend. It probably explains my love of motorcycles to this day (well, DUH!).
The day after my dad died, I was coming out of Woodlands Market and crossing the parking lot when I spied this immaculate Matchless. I was… thunderstruck. I stopped dead in the middle of the lane when I realized what I was looking at. All the hairs on my body were standing at attention and my nerves started jangling so hard I had a dull roar in my ears. (No, it wasn't the Matchless; he hadn't started the engine yet.) My spine felt all… fuzzy. I somehow managed to get my feet moving towards the bike and stammer something to the rider. For the life of me, I can't remember exactly what I said. I know there was a compliment, a mention of my dad riding one, a question of year, and possible something about a unicorn or pegasus… it's all a bit muddled now, like the echo of a dream. I don't remember the riders name, but he had a huge and very bright white smile against his dark skin. I don't remember his face, but his smile I'll never forget. He let me take a picture (damn cheap shit cameraphone!) and he told me it was a '68 (or did he say '69? Ah yes… jangled nerves speaking…)
I watched him for a few minutes as he suited up, started the bike and rode it away. A profound sadness crept up behind me and ripped something out of my gut as he disappeared down the road. The taste of red wine drunk with a penny under the tongue was lingering in my throat and I had to swallow hard to push down the lump of grief that was threatening to choke me. Unbidden, tears stained my cheeks and for some reason, I let them stay there, as my face suddenly felt like I'd been standing in front of a blast furnace with the door open. It was one of the few times I've ever let the tears just chill there: it felt like a silent salute to Steve. I would never again talk to him about motorcycles, the adventures he'd had on his Lambretta while riding around Europe in the 60's, never more hear the stories of the Sunday Morning Ride, never hear the stories of his adventures with Crazy Mac. It HURT and that was new. It was real pain I felt in my chest… I was more raw and more alive than I'd ever remembered feeling before.
Just then a crow alighted on top of the Woodlands Market sign. Now, crows are not an uncommon sight in Marin. They are everywhere, but they are rarely alone, at least in my observations. This was a lone crow, It was just above my line of sight and it's timing was uncanny. Crows (and Ravens) are often associated with death. They are carrion eaters AND they're all black. That's enough for most people. Crows to me though are fascinating birds, and they are evidently connected spiritually with my family. Without going into a pedantic level of detail, suffice to say that my late uncle Jimmy had the crow as his spirit animal, and he's visited his children, myself and my brother in crow form since his death in 2006. The arrival of the crow was like the point below the exclamation. Unlikely as it seems, another layer of gooseflesh rose up under the first: I was starting to feel like a frightened porcupine. I got in my truck and wept for a few minutes and after that… after that I really don't remember much of the rest of that day. I made it home without further incident, and life went on.
I've yet to see another Matchless since that day, or even the same one. Was it a ghost? Are shitty low res cameraphones capable of picking up ghosts? Maybe…
Steven English Hopper, RIP
9.20.1942 - 8.06.2007 (64 yrs, 10 mo, 17 days)
Gone, but never forgotten.
Well here it is, the Matchless. I've been meaning to write something for and about my dad for months now, but I guess I'll start with this and let the stream of consciousness flow from there.
After watching "The Story of Stuff", I've been thinking a lot about it. Some synaptic bridge suddenly connected in my brain the other day, and I remembered reading about the former owner of Esprit moving to Chile, buying up 700,000 acres of rainforest land and turning it into a sanctuary. While I was trying to find the article on-line (please do read it, it's well written and will make you want to go there!), I stumbled on THIS article about the hidden dangers of electronic-recycling. As the Story of Stuff mentions, consumerism is creating the problem. If manufacturers designed their products to be upgraded (think about computers, cell phones, ipods to start) instead of being tossed out or recycled, it would start to attack the problem. Then make them responsible for properly dealing with the e-waste on the back end, and you can be sure they'd be designing products that were far more robust and durable (not to mention a lot "greener"). The "hidden cost" of our consumerist behavior is not being transmitted to us in those insanely cheap prices we're used to a the register, and it fosters an environment where the impulse buy is king. In the meantime, writing to the companies themselves and asking for the change is a good idea. Apple, IBM, Intel, Dell, HP would be good places to start. I have been guilty of wanting the "new thing", which is currently the iPhone. I've managed to retain my 3rd Gen iPod and I've already changed out the battery on it myself. It would be great to have the same software that the newest generation iPods have, but that's not an option that Apple made possible: poor thinking IMO. I'm kind of disgusted by the fact that I'm always confronted by the "new thing" and that I somehow unconsciously developed a predication towards viewing the "old thing" as inferior; according to the Story of Stuff, that's exactly the mindset that the consumer chain wants me to have. I have to actively fight that mindset, and I'm getting better at it, but it's still a daily struggle.
Ok.. so this entry is slightly random, but I'm just freaking out, because it's something that's new to me, but not to the scientific community. Where the hell have I been?
Electroechanical Batteries have been in development at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories for over 20 years. According to THIS paper, they hold amazing potential for energy storage. The thing I think they're missing is the potential for vehicles that are much lighter than a car. Anyone who reads this blog knows what's coming next: electric bicycle power. If you could build a electromechanical battery using something like this Halbach array (or maybe something a little smaller) and keep the weight of the other components to a minimum, you could smash the weight/power problem that I have on my human electric hybrid SuperVato. Consider this: my current battery weighs about 26 lbs including the enclosure. The Gaussboys Halbach array weighs 32 oz. Two of em spinning in opposite directions would cancel the gyroscopic effect of the bike, and assuming they were mounted on limited excursion gimbals they could resist the braking and acceleration forces created by the bicycle. I'm guessing you could build a high capacity system for less than 10 pounds. I'm planning on going back to school in the fall for engineering, and now I think I know why: I want to build a Human/Electromechanical Battery Powered Bicycle. Maybe I've just figured out my dissertation thesis… wouldn't that be convenient?
Critics mock the electric bicycle because the products are often poorly made and poorly thought out. Electrical storage has been the Achilles heel of the electrical bicycle, but the Electromechanical Battery would have huge advantages over even the newest Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer batteries because of the longevity and capacity. The weight differential between Electromechanical & Lithium Ion/Polymer appears to be fairly close. Electromechanical batteries would obviously cost more in the prototype phase, but because they appear to be pretty simple, I think the costs could come down significantly if production could be increased. I'd like to see a product like this made as "greenly" and equitably as possible, i.e living wages for the production crew, non toxic assembly techniques performed in energy efficient production facilities.
I can't be the first person to think of this…can I??? The designers and engineers want to make money from this by putting it in hybrid cars and in municipal systems. Most of the money for the project at Lawrence Livermore has come from corporate sponsors, so that's no surprise. That's nice for the car manufacturers, but cars still don't make a lot of sense a lot of the time, even if they DID use less fossil fuel. I'm all for putting this in municipal systems. It can't be any more dangerous than Nuclear power right?
CURRENT MUSIC: Revolting Cocks, Cocked and Loaded
I'm an idiot. Officially. Up until today I had the words "electromechanical" and "electromagnetic" used interchangeably in this article. Not ok, since they are completely different ideas! My apologies: publishing blog entries after you've been up late writing them isn't always a good idea. ESPECIALLY when you have proofread them at least twice. *Forehead Slap*
My friends Nikki & Merritt are putting on another Prepare For the Playa event, this time in celebration of the holidays. I told them I'd flog their event on my blog, so take a minute to check it out. If you're a bay area resident and are so inclined, check out the event this Sunday (TOMORROW!) in SF. Here's the spiel…
Prepare for the Playa -
Don't get distracted by the sugar plums dancing in your head - The holidays are upon us and the quest for creative and unusual gifts has begun!
Need a special gift for that friend, campmate or significant other? Is a watch, sweater or set of encyclopedias just too boring, normal and mundane for your Burner friends?
Looking for an unusual, creative and furry gifts for those folks on your holiday shopping list???
Then look no further! Prepare for the Playa returns for the Holi-Daze with an eclectic mix of vendors with unique gift items that are sure to please every character on your holiday shopping list!
Live Music, Free Entrance and Free Parking!
ALL AGES WELCOME!
(same location as BM Decompression 2007)
650 Indiana Street, San Francisco
Lots of FREE parking and we never charge an entrance fee!
Sunday - December 16th, 2007
Buy Local this Holiday season!
God dammit. I just watched The Story of Stuff and I started crying. I had to stifle my sobs actually, because my son is sleeping, and it would suck to have to put him back to sleep all the while trying to explain to a toddler that my generation and the several preceding it have done a horrendously bad job of taking care of our planet and our country. Do I weep for what is lost to everyone or just what *I* might never experience? Selfish or Selfless? Maybe a little of both. As a revelatory slap-in-the-face, The Story of Stuff made me feel pretty bad about the world my son has to inherit at the moment. I hope to be able say someday that I played some small part in making some changes for the better. Rationally, I know I didn't cause the problem by myself, but I know I've been a part of the problem more than once. This little 20 minute video is kind of like taking the red pill, if you'll excuse the pop-culture reference.
"What does that mean?" "It means fasten your seat belt Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye-bye."
The Wachowski Brothers
Please please please, if you click on only ONE link from my site, let it be to the THE STORY OF STUFF. Wait, have I said that before? I think I might have. It gets hard to recall all your entries when you start approaching 200 blog entries.
I found another link that was moving to me as well this evening: The Road Witch project is very cool, and I think very effective. I believe some of their inspiration came from the folks at Creative Communities, and in particular, I was rather inspired by the 7 Principles upon which a Positive Social Virus is propagated. I hope to propagate some of the traffic calming techniques in my own neighborhood.
Today's post was written by a friend of a friend. His name is Alex Sebastian and he wrote this little gem a number of years ago when he was bicycle commuting every day. Alas, his job as a building contractor largely precludes riding a bicycle to work, but the bicycle is still in his heart. He graciously allowed me to post this: Thanks Alex! For many of us who commute to a fixed location for employment, riding a bicycle IS possible, so please consider it. You children (if you have them) will thank you someday for your forethought, and if you don't have any, I'll make sure mine thank you someday! :)
The Bicycle Manifesto
by the everyday cyclist
When was the last time you…
…went a week without honking or swearing?
…greeted with a smile, wave or "hello" your fellow citizens on the sidewalk?
…felt freedom from gas stations and car garages?
…arrived to your destination refreshed, alert and with a clear head?
…were never concerned with parking?
…arrived to your destination by a trail, alley, sidewalk or path?
…found a cure for car sickness?
…remembered the first thing you learned to steer?
…opened your window at home and heard silence?
…felt like you were in shape?
…didn't experience the inconvenience of losing keys or locking yourself out of your mode of transportation?
…thought you were flying?
…had 15% more income because you didn't spend it on your mode of transportation?
…sat in a town square?
…by-passed grid-lock traffic like it didn't exist?
…felt the wind through your hair?
…you were never late because your mode of transportation never broke down?
…felt self-sufficient because you maintained your own mode of transportation?
…asked yourself what the real reasons - not the reasons the newspapers and television claim as truth - are that Critical Mass attracts so many riders?
…noticed which streets are lined with trees?
…took your family on a journey through the city?
…lived in a neighborhood that had everything you needed within a half mile?
…inhaled a deep breath of fresh, unpolluted air?
…remembered that which you've always been told you'd never forget how to ride?
If it has been a while since any of these things have happened to you,
then when was the last time you asked yourself…why?
I couldn't have said it better, so I won't even try. READ IT, believe it, make it happen.
Write to your senators , representatives and the president as well. Tell them you want immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq. No fucking excuses. This it OUR country, OUR money, and our elected officials are DUTY bound to uphold the will of the people. Let them know how you feel! Keep ratcheting up the pressure folks, that's the only way to get through.
You might include a sentence to the effect of "I will not be voting for you, no matter what other issues upon which we are in agreement if you vote to continue the occupation of Iraq & Afghanistan". Of course, there are those of you out there (though more likely than not, most of my readership is NOT in support of the current occupation) who may think we should continue occupying Iraq & Afghanistan. My answer to you? STICK A FORK IN ME, BECAUSE I'M PRETTY SURE I'M DONE PAYING FOR IT!
BTW, some of you may feel I've been a bit vehement in my protestations lately. I guess I'm just feeling a bit raw on these issues: I'm fed up with the bullshit and I'm tired of mincing words. I have a young son, and I see the world around us deteriorating and I can't stand still and watch it without a fight. Whether the rants on my blog make any difference is dubious, but I know I reach a wider audience here, and I know that while I'm just one of many voices calling for change, every voice counts. If you care, lend your voice. Regret sucks and feeling like you didn't make an effort to change something that you could have is one of the worst feelings of all.
This morning, I was listening to KQED's Forum and hearing a republican presidential candidate by the name of Alan Keyes talk about why he was a good guy for the job. I don't agree with him on most of the issues, but he is extremely articulate and seems to be highly knowledgeable about constitutional law. Many of the people calling up resorted to derisive epithets, while Keyes managed his usual logical cold composure. In addition, callers and e-mailers volunteered no direct rebuttals to Alan's points. Too much passion, not enough logic; not a good way to counterpoint someone like Alan Keyes. Score one for Alan. I won't be voting for him, (and neither will the Republican party as far as I can ascertain), but he's far more tolerable than the shrub; he's not a bumbling oaf. More importantly, he brings a degree of sophistication and tact to the table that the next Republican I shall discuss lacks almost entirely.
Tonight, I'm reading through some comments on Flickr of one of my contacts and I click through to a blog link for Bike Satan. I started reading his blog a little, and then I came to THIS article. Ugh. It proves to me once again that most republicans aren't conservative AT ALL in the "conserve" sense of the word. They're radical and ultra-non-conservative. Their argument on the energy bill is that riding a bicycle instead of driving a car was a naive way to reduce our need for oil; What's naive about it? Is it naive to think that American's are unwilling to sacrifice their ridiculous amount of personal car fuel consumption for any reason? Maybe it's naive because the neo-con agenda of dumbing down and underfunding education has created dumber and more apathetic children, children who will grow up to be undereducated adults who are incapable of recognizing self-defeating legislation when they see it? Naive in thinking that Americans aren't willing to sacrifice a damn thing for the good of their own country and the planet on which they reside? Are the Republicans being divisive? You bet. Check. After all, divide & conquer is one of the oldest tricks in the book and old tricks are one of the few things that politicians do well. .
If you look at Patrick McHenry's stance on Gas Prices & Energy Policy , you'll see that he thinks we should drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ok, Strike 2. Then when you read through his site, you see that he makes NO mention of reducing usage by JUST USING LESS. No, he pursues mining the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, replacing oil with *sigh* "Clean Coal" or Nuclear Power plants. There's a telling formula here (though Congressman McHenry is hardly alone, so don't think I'm picking on him alone): each of the solutions that he's proposing benefit a small group of very rich people: mainly those who are heavily tied to the oil/coal industry or companies like Haliburton (who would likely get another no-bid contract awarded to them if the U.S approved building a Nuclear Power Plant). Here's a tip little sycophant; over 40% of all trips taken in the U.S are under 2 miles. If you encouraged your constituency to do what you so superciliously mock (Ride a Bike), then you could reduce the number of car trips, traffic congestion, childhood and adult obesity and insurance costs for your district by a significant amount… then perhaps you would actually be LEADING instead of DIVIDING! I think it's telling that this guy has been a lackey of the George W. Bush campaign juggernaut, well known to be old school puppets for the Oil Industry (both in the U.S and in the Middle East), The Industrial Military Complex (think Haliburton et al.) , and allegedly, even the Nazis.
Do you KNOW how little 1 million dollars is when it comes to the federal budget? These idiots are desperate if they're clutching at this kind of small peanuts as reason's not to participate in legislation that is supposed to help people become less dependent on foreign oil, and oil altogether. Why the nitpicking? Because most of them are in the pocket of Big Oil. How much money HAS Congressman McHenry received from Big Oil? Anyone? Bueller?
The fact of the matter is, Congress gives HUNDREDS of times more in tax-payer "subsidies" to the oil companies to pay for "oil exploration", at the same time they're turning in RECORD profits. So OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE LINING THE POCKETS OF THE ALREADY UBER RICH OIL COMPANIES; DOES THAT MAKE YOU MAD? IT MAKES ME FUCKING FURIOUS! AUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!! *head explodes briefly*
Riding a bicycle instead of driving your car is honestly one of the most "CONSERVative" things you can do. The only thing better is to move close to your work and recreation so you don't have to drive at all, but with Bay Area housing costs, this is impossible for a lot of people. There are other things you can do to reduce your dependence on foreign oil: buying local produce, using a locally owned grocery store, walking, riding a bike, using public transportation, carpooling, car-sharing… you know, things we USED to do all the time in this country before we "realized" that everything had to center around the INSTANT gratification of our ability to be able to drive and go anywhere at any time. The seemingly simple act of driving your car or SUV 3 miles to the grocery store to buy a bag of groceries illustrates the fact that we are completely disconnected from what a gallon of fuel represents. The amount of energy required to move a 1500 lb vehicle (and that's about the weight of an older Honda Civic) in order to obtain a 15lb bag of groceries is magnitudes of order higher when compared to a bicycle. With traffic and parking issues, the time argument is often a wash on short trips, but even if the bike is slower, you are getting exercise while doing your errands, and that cuts down on your insurance costs (increased health), stress levels (assuming you don't have to ride on the HIGHWAY to get to the grocery store) and the time you need to spend at the "gym" in order to stay in shape. In fact, the bike (if considered in the total time schedule) often times ends up being faster, but don't take my word for it, ask the Dutch! As far as energy expenditure, here's a basic computation of human vs. car, though there's a lot of variables that are assumed. As they say, YMMV.
Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I'm often frustrated at the frenetic pace we continue to live our lives at. It's EXPECTED that everything has to get done, right now, right away. Yesterday even. We're decreasingly patient with any delay what-so-ever. Bicycling to me is a good compromise between speed and efficiency, and it's far more pleasant, interactive and healthy than driving a car. Try it and you'll see what I mean. Even when the weather isn't that nice, every time I take the bike, I never regret it. Oh, and don't even TRY to play the safety card with me: bicycling is statistically one of the safest forms of transportation known to man, and evidently, it's even safer than walking!
Anyone notice that in the "war on terror", our elected officials have not asked Americans to sacrifice anything personal (like driving everywhere) but asked us to surrender our freedom, our civil rights and our constitutional rights? In WWI and WWII, Americans were asked to ration, to conserve, to sacrifice. Now the politicians have taken our freedom via the (Patriot Act I & II), our money (who the hell do you think is paying for this war anyway?) and our future (um, what's the world outlook right now? How do we fit in? We continue to make enemies and drive away our former allies…), they've given us "tax cuts" and told us everything is better… but anyone paying any attention at all knows that we're further in debt than we've ever been, our dependence on foreign oil has never been greater and the world situation is less stable than when we started... but that "million" dollars spent on increasing the number of American citizens riding bikes instead of cars is a waste of money. What a crock of shit. I think I'll go for a bicycle ride…
CURRENT MUSIC: Black Sabbath, The Mob Rules, Voodoo
This is a just a short entry to alert my scarce readership of a humorous (but illustrative) list.
18 Ways To Know That You Have Bicycle Culture is a little funny article (firmly tongue in cheek) over at Cycleliciousness that was linked to by Todd at Clever Cycles. Although he's joking, you'd likely experience many of the things on the list if you live lived in Amsterdam, Copenhagen or several other cities in Europe. Sadly, we're nowhere close to this anywhere in Cali, though SF and Davis are fairly bicycle friendly cities, by American standards at least. I look forward to the day when Novato and Marin County at large has been been given the "Copenhagen Treatment".
Until then, I'll wear my dorky reflectorized helmet, my reflective gear and my flash flags. I don't wear "cycle gear" anymore, and I have my Azor Oma to thank for that!
CURRENT MUSIC: Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, Walk Away
I had a absolutely wonderful evening last night, start to finish. It's not that I don't normally have nice evenings, this one was just a standout for the sequence of enjoyable experiences and moments.
My former sister-in-law, Charity (of Hollywood in Heels fame) was in town so I met her for preprandial aperitifs at her new inamorato's dwelling. A gorgeous place, very classy and with a great view of SF (how can you not when you're on top of Potrero Hill?). The conversation was lively and spirited, and the L.A folks held none of the characteristic snobbery that I've come to associate with "L.A People". All very genuine, nice people, people I'd be glad to hang with again. See, my wife is a fan of celebrity news, (though I am not) and I get a lot of the gossip by proxy, like it or not. If the gossip rags and websites are all you read, you get the impression that everyone in Hollywood is a prima donna or a self-important prick. Charity and her cadre of friends are slowly changing my mind, but I should have known they would: Charity doesn't waste her time with the other kind of ilk.
When the party was assembled, we headed off to Oakland to dine at À Côté. My brother and his lovely fiancee joined us there and we made a cozy party of ten. The food at À Côté IS all that it's cracked up to be. The clams in particular got a lot of attention from me, and they really are ALL THAT. If you like clams and you go to À Côté, be sure to get them. There were several notables in attendance from Charity's blog: The Man in Black and Strawberry Kisses. It was nice to finally put faces to a fictional names. While still in SF, we had been introduced with real names, and I didn't make the connection until dinner. Oh well, it's not the last time I'll call myself a simpleton. My only complaint (and it's a minor one) was that the large tables at À Côté are linear, meaning if you're sitting at one end (I was), having a conversation with anyone more than 2 seats away is near impossible. Round tables work better, not only for conversation but for sharing food as well. There was no lack of conversation at our end of the table, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. A shout out to my brother: thanks for keeping me laughing most of the night! You were at the top of your comedic game saturday night…
I had intended to leave dinner early to head to see Fishbone, but I stayed until it was over, as I was having so much fun and it seemed lame to leave such good food and good conversation/people. The DJ Smoke/Wisdom/Fishbone show was supposed to start at 9:00, so I figured that I'd skip the opening band and arrive at 10-10:15 and be there in time to see Fishbone. Our food at À Côté didn't even start arriving until ~9:45 so there was no way I was going to make the (imagined) 10:30 Fishbone start time. I'd let go of my expectation of punctilious arrival sometime around when the food arrived (I was starving at this point, as my last meal had been about 10 hours previous). When we finally rolled out (everyone else was headed to see The Lovemakers at the Uptown), I figured I'd catch what was left of the set. To my great surprise and ecstatic glee, my 11:40 arrival time had me 20 minutes ahead of Fishbone's start time. Jubilant glee ensued, and I NEARLY did the yippy skippy in honor of Charity. Somehow, I managed to contain that energy for the show.
Shattuck Down Low reminds me of the cousin who lives in his parents basement, only waaaaay bigger and with a bar on either side. There's tons of couches and seating, and the atmosphere is far more relaxed that it is at most Marin bars/clubs. I grabbed 2 drinks at the bar (almost no wait: bonus points!) and headed for the stage. When Fishbone came on, the cloud of uber pungent herb smoke that erupted from the crowd was enormous, and more than sufficient to put a permagrin on my face. The set was awesome! Angelo did at least 4 crowd surf sessions, but Dre Gripson kicked it off by doing the first one. In all the years I've been going to concerts (yes, I missed the legendary first Lolapalooza tour), I've never experienced the BAND crowd surfing, though I'd seen it done by fans. It's a different beast all together when the band does it, because though they may get close, they almost never crash to the ground. Angelo even managed to walk on the LOW ceiling several times. The energy in the crowd was electric and contagious and I rode the energy wave the whole night. I neglected to write down a set-list, but hopefully someone will put one up at fishbonelive.org. They played a lot of the hits (Bonin in the Boneyard, Party at Ground Zero, Ma & Pa, Everyday Sunshine, Lyin' Ass Bitch) and a bunch from the new album (Date Rape, Behind Closed Doors, Party With Saddam, Skank 'N Go Nuts, Let Dem Ho's Fight, Jack Ass Brigade). Bottom line: if you like Fishbone even a LITTLE bit from their albums, go see them live and you'll be sure to walk away with a permagrin: I know I did. One final note: bring your earplugs, it's loud (that's how Rock n Roll's supposed to be done!).