Haiku for the rain

Rainy day bike haiku

Haiku comes easy for me. I use the process of writing haiku to settle my mind, get focused, or just to have fun.

Today, I needed to run a quick errand. The thunder was already rumbling from a distance as the sky turned black. Rain was visible a few miles away and I thought I might be able to reach my destination in time and get back before the heavens let loose with another deluge. I was half right. I made it, but soon as I turned around to bike back… The Storm. And these weren’t any little pissant raindrops, either – they were full-fledged, fat, heavy raindrops that don’t waste any time soaking you.

The thunder was closer. The rain had come. The sun-blistered roads were steaming from the coolness of the rain. A slight, cool breeze blew.

Haiku. I biked home.
And the poem wrote itself.
“A picture,” I thought.

I ran inside, grabbed the camera and tripod. I set the timer to wait 20 seconds, then take three shots in succession. Boom, boom, boom.

The rain didn’t care.
The road became a river.
Did I smile? Oh, yes.

Movies That Stamped Me

I’ve had several conversations recently with folks about Top Five or Top Ten movies of all time / movies that made an impression / movies that changed our lives (for better or worse). I realized that I’d not put a definitive list together of OMG All-Time Favorite Movies.

Now, having had some time to think about it, this list is not exhaustive or definitive, but it does contain movies that have left their mark on me in one way or another.

Top Twenty Favorite Movies (in no specific order):

  1. Amélie
  2. Dead Poet’s Society
  3. Terminator 2
  4. The Producers (1969)
  5. Big Fish
  6. 12 Monkeys
  7. Hot Fuzz
  8. The Last Waltz
  9. Cinema Paradiso
  10. Stranger Than Fiction
  11. Being John Malkovich
  12. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  13. The Game
  14. The Fisher King
  15. A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)
  16. Kill Bill Vol. I & II
  17. Eyes Wide Shut
  18. Star Wars trilogy
  19. Pink Floyd’s The Wall
  20. Young Frankenstein


Five Reasons You Might Meet My Middle Finger While I’m Biking

Before I started commuting by bike in 2010, I’d heard stories about the abuse that can be dumped on cyclists. I’d seen the rants on cycling forums, talked with folks who had horror stories of interactions with motorists, heck, I’d even seen some of it firsthand. But I doubt that there was anything that could have prepared me for the realtime, in-the-moment attitudes of automobile drivers towards me on my bike.

I offer to you, in response to those attitudes, the Five Reasons You Might Meet My Middle Finger While I’m Biking.

Five Reasons You Might Meet My Middle Finger While I'm Biking

Reason #5 – Trash Talkin’

I’m lucky in my daily commute that I’m unable to wear my hearing aids while biking. It probably reduces the number of times I give the finger significantly, but nevertheless, I have folk who are determined to make sure I hear them yell at me out their window as they drive by.  I’ve been screamed at (no intelligible words, just screaming), and been told:

  • I’m fat
  • My mama _______________
  • Get on the sidewalk
  • Get the fuck out of the street
  • Get a car
and my personal favorite:
  • “Get your fat, cracker ass out of the street, motherfucker!”
Friends, believe me: If you scream at me out your window in frustration or exasperation, I’m going to be sure to give you one more thing to be frustrated about. That’s right: The Finger™.

Reason #4 – The Side Door Smackdown

Cruising down the street, paying attention to my surroundings, other vehicles, the pavement, loose animals,  broken glass, stop signs, stop lights, pedestrians, road conditions – it’s all a part of commuting to work and using my bike to run errands and get around town. One thing I’m not always able to do, however, is keep track of who’s behind me and what they’re going to do.

I’m glad that this has only happened to me once, but coming up on a street to the right of me in a quiet, residential section of Pensacola several months ago, I had a car make a hard right turn directly in front of me into the side street. I slammed on my brakes quick as I could, but still hit their back door and went flying off my bike into the street, yelling at the top of my lungs (and scared to death).

Their reaction? Didn’t even slow down. Kept right on going.

Now, I’d hit their car (tactile). I yelled at the top of my lungs (auditory). I flew off my bike (visual). And they didn’t see, hear, or feel that? Yah, right. A dude in an SUV traveling the other side of the road, music blaring with his windows up heard me and made a u-turn to make sure I was alright.

And I was alright. You know why? Because I’d unleashed The Finger™ on that jackass who doored me.

Reason #3 – The Buzz

I wish I didn’t have so many incidents involving The Buzz to share, but I do.  There are several variations to The Buzz that all involve cars getting too close to me while I’m on my bike, so allow me to explain:

  • The Texting / Makeup / Sandwich Buzz – this buzz happens when folks aren’t paying attention to the road while I’m biking in their immediate vicinity. I can usually tell these folks by the sudden jerk / swerve after they hear me yell at them. They don’t do it on purpose, but it doesn’t make it less dangerous.
  • The “You’re Going Too Slow, I’ve Got Places To Be” Buzz – This is self-explanatory. I’m in your way. I’m slowing you down. You’re going to get by me at any cost, even if that cost is my life.
  • The Old People Buzz – I love old people. Seriously. But I’m never quite as spooked while being buzzed when it’s by an old person who doesn’t seem to know where they are. Many old folks are spared The Finger™ simply because they wouldn’t know what it meant, even if they did see it.
  • The “I’m Bigger Than You” Buzz (sometimes known as the “I’m Compensating For Something” Buzz) – These folks truly scare me. My best (worst?) story – picture this: Sunday morning. Pensacola, FL. 90% of the populace is in church. 9 of the remaining 10% are at home in bed. Roads are dead. I’m heading South on N. Davis Hwy – 2 lanes S, 2 lanes N, and a turning lane in the middle. Dude in a big-ass truck gets less than 6″ from my shoulder while I’m in the far right-hand lane. As I look at him incredulously, I watch as his head spins to see how I react in his rearview mirror. Well, I’m not going to disappoint him – I give him The Finger™! What does he do? He SLAMS ON HIS BRAKES in the MIDDLE OF THE DEAD FIVE-LANE ROAD, rolls down his window and screams at me all manner of profanities about what he’s gonna do to me. I think to myself, “Goodness, this person perhaps does not know what the middle finger means. I suppose I shall have to explain it to him verbally.” and proceed to give him The Finger™ again along with the verbal explanation. The good thing about these jackasses is that when confronted by someone who isn’t afraid of them and their oversized vehicle / undersized penis, they usually drive off in a huff (as was the case here).
  • The School Bus Buzz – School busses are the worst offenders in my area. It’s like a double-whammy if it’s a full bus, too – first you’re spooked by the front tire that’s as big as you are 6″ from your left hand, then you get all the students hanging out the window yelling at you while you’re trying to recover from the first scare. And don’t bother trying to retaliate against bus drivers: they deal with worse shit all day long than some pissant cyclist upset that you got too close to him.

Reason #2 – Dodging Projectiles

I’ve had stuff thrown at me out car windows, even over the tops of cars by the driver. The worst thing was a full, 42oz fountain drink lobbed at me by two dumbasses in a quiet residential neighborhood while I had a full backpack on. It was like slo-mo – they weren’t going 20mph, but they overshot me with the drink and missed. What was the purpose of that? They didn’t even speed away, but kept right on going, even as I talked about their mothers’ sexual preferences. But I honestly just don’t get it. Oh, but you know by now what they got, right?

The Finger™, indeed.

Reason #1 – The Laying On of Horns  (or, Can We Unseat Him)

I recently wrote about a specific incident involving the Laying On of Horns and how I was able to confront the driver (and actually made a positive difference as a result). Most confrontations like this aren’t resolved as easily, however.

The horn-blowing individuals out there seem to have varying reasons for their hornyness. I’ve broken them down as best I can into the following categories:

  • HA-ha!! Let’s See If We Can Scare Him Off His Bike!! – Pure, unadulterated stupid. The worst incident of this was when two rednecks in a pickup pulled next to me and blew an airhorn out their window (the kind in a can) at me.
  • I Don’t Know The Laws Regarding Cars And Cyclists – These folks think I’m supposed to be On The Sidewalk Where I Belong. My favorite incident of this was when I caught up to the driver 2 miles later after she blared her horn at me on a narrow, twisty, hilly, no-shoulder section of my commute. She’d gotten stuck at 2 lights and I caught her at the 2nd one. The Finger™ wasn’t even necessary here, as the look on my face as I said loudly, “I bet you weren’t expecting THIS, were you?” while she pretended not to notice, was enough.
  • C’mon, Already! Can’t You Go Faster Than That?? Another self-explanatory one.

I understand the frustration the motorists feel being “stuck” behind me in traffic sometimes. I’m sympathetic to their plight, and I don’t always flash The Finger™ at offending drivers. I don’t think it helps anything except my own psyche (perhaps I’m overcompensating for something by doing it?), but I’ve been surprised at the frequency of the offenses over the last 2 years.

It’d be nice if The Finger™ came with instructions on why their offending behavior was misplaced / misguided. I need a sign saying, “Text ‘Finger’ to 40404 to see why you received The Finger™ from me.”

Of course, they’d text while driving, then I’d get buzzed, leading to…


Bike Commuter vs. Motorist Confrontations

I rarely get the opportunity to confront drivers who lay on their horns, buzz me, or otherwise make my commute difficult. Back in March, I had one morning ride that was different.

As I’m approaching my school on a VERY narrow, 20′ long concrete bridge, a driver laid on their horn for about 10 seconds (before, during, and after passing). As I’m giving my customary middle finger, I notice this woman is on her cell phone, which only adds to my irritation. With my school in sight, I continue pedaling when I notice that the 20MPH SCHOOL ZONE flashers are lit, and I manage to actually catch up to her as she has been forced to slow down. To add to my irritation, she pulls in to the school next to mine and is obviously not a student.

I pulled in after her and, as she slammed to a stop upon seeing me, I said, “Seriously? Laying on your horn at me while you’re talking on your phone and driving? What were you trying to prove?” Her response: “You need to get your fucking ass out of the road!” while wagging her finger at me, STILL ON THE PHONE. I asked her where she felt I ought to go, given that there are no sidewalks and no curb space in this area, when I realized that nothing good will come of the conversation. She continued hollering at me, I said a few choice words at her, and took off. She parked as I continued riding by, and for good measure, she laid on the horn again.

I hate this kind of confrontation for a number of reasons, the biggest being that it accomplishes nothing, and actually may serve to make things worse. By saying it may “make matters worse”, I’m not only suggesting that she will hate all cyclists to the end of time due to my reaction, but also that there is only one way for me to get to school from home – the area is not residential and you’re forced through a narrow bottleneck. Obviously, I’m going to be seeing her again (and there’s little doubt she’s probably already seen me before). This time it was her horn and yelling. Next time might be…?

During my planning period, I put this together: http://goo.gl/1KzIQ and wrote a very brief, unfelt apology for my reaction to the whole thing, rode over and put it under her wiper blades. I expected nothing in return for it (and actually was concerned it might make her more angry, even with the apology).

Two days later on my morning on the ride in, at almost the exact same spot as before, this woman passed me again, but this time there was no horn honking or exchanges of words.

As much as it pissed me off that I included an apology note with the Florida Traffic Laws for Cyclists and put it under her wiper, it apparently did some good. This alone made it worthwhile to me (as long as it continues).

How do you deal with this type of confrontation? Or do you engage this type of driver at all?

“Live Forever!” Thank you, Ray Bradbury.

My heart truly hurts knowing that my favorite writer, Ray Bradbury, died this morning. I first read his short stories back in 5th and 6th grade (and still own those copies of the books I read) and would say it’s not an exaggeration that I learned much about the world through them. His use of figurative language – metaphors, similes, personification, idioms, etc. – is ultimately what draws me to his books. He describes things in a way that few others can.

As I’ve told my students for years: When Bradbury describes running barefoot in a meadow through the dew-covered clover at sunrise, I can see it, feel it, taste it, touch it, hear it. His writing engages all the senses, forcing you to participate whether you want to or not.

For all his excellent works, Dandelion Wine is still my favorite. It’s an annual read for me, usually sometime during spring or early summer. I first read it as a junior higher, about the same age as his protagonist, Douglas, who has several mind-blowing “coming-of-age” experiences and realizations about life, the human condition, and the people around him. It guided me through many of those same realizations, and re-reading it takes me back to that time and those sensations.

Best birthday gift ever: 1st edition of Dandelion Wine, inscribed to me and signed by Ray Bradbury. (thanks, Dad!)

Bradbury frequently told the story of meeting Mr. Electrico at a carnival that came through town when he was a youngster. The magician sat in his electric chair, sword in hand, and, “when the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, ‘Live forever!’” (from an interview with Ray Bradbury, December 2001)

As sad as I am at his passing, knowing that, through his writing, he will indeed “Live forever!” gives me strange comfort.

Recommended reading:
Dandelion Wine
The Stories of Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Yoga and Static

Some days there’s just too much static.
Yoga can be difficult on those days because
focus has been pulled in so many directions.

being still
quieting the mind
controlling the breaths
tuning out the static
tuning into yourself

I’m not always successful
but when I am
it makes
a world
of difference.

Yoga. Static.

My Christmas Gift to You

Just in time to annoy your family and friends! Rustypants’ Most Awesome Christmas Mix!

Rustypants’ Christmas Mix 

“What’s included in this deluxe package?” you may be asking yourself. Let me tell you, we’ve chosen only the finest Christmas tunes ever created!

01. Silent Night / Holy Night Jam – Joe Satriani
02. O Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi
03. Oh Holy Night – Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
04. Jingle Bells – Brian Setzer Orchestra
05. Away In A Manger – Sufjan Stevens
06. 12 Days of Christmas – Relient K
07. Little Drummer Boy – Jars of Clay
08. Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto – Snoop Dogg
09. Angels We Have Heard on High – Duvall (Smoking Popes)
10. Mistletoe – Justin Bieber
11. Little Drummer Boy / Silent Night – Jimi Hendrix
12. Christmas Time is Here – Sarah McLachlan & Diana Krall
13. Oh Come All Ye Faithful – Twisted Sister
14. Santa Claus is Coming To Town – Bruce Springsteen
15. White Christmas – Jimmy Smith
16. Christmas in Hollis – Run-DMC

How much would you pay for such a wonderful and eclectic mix of holiday music? $10? $20?? $50???

For a limited time, you can have these 16 tracks for only $0.00!! Simply follow the link, download the file, unzip the tunes, and rock out!

And please, consider this my gift to you. It’s all you’re gonna get. But it’s from the bottom of my heart, promise!

The Two Biggest Reasons I Use Dropbox.com

The two biggest things about Dropbox (for me):

1. Installing that tiny piece of software on multiple computers means when you upload a file to Dropbox on ONE computer, it automatically syncs to ALL your computers. I don’t even create files on my harddrive anymore, I just create them directly in Dropbox and there they are. I’ve stopped using a flash drive – I no longer need it. Any computer you can connect to on the Internet, you can access your Dropbox files.

2. Shared folders. A.MA.ZING. My co-teacher and I share a folder. When she creates something and puts it in the shared folder, it syncs to both of our computers (and any computer we have Dropbox installed on). My friend wants to see some of the work I’ve done on this or that project – no prob: I set up a shared folder and put the files in. He or she can look at them, edit them, save them, and it syncs back to my machine. Another friend wants a copy of Snoop Dogg’s “Santa Claus Is Going Straight to the Ghetto” song? Sure thing. Let me create a shared folder for you… The potential to collaborate is second only to using Google Docs (and that’s a different type of collaboration tool altogether).

If you’re not using Dropbox yet, you should behttp://db.tt/iwJ5rr5

The Completed Bianchi – Full Time Commuter?

I’ve spent the last month making adjustments and adding accessories to the Bianchi Camaleonte Uno with the intention of making it my primary ride to work and around the community. With the addition of fenders yesterday, I’ve now got her where I feel comfortable with moving ahead with that idea. Here’s what she looks like at the end of this adjustment period:

2011 Bianchi Camaleonte Uno w/ Topeak Super Tourist rack, Deuter Rack Pack Uni Panniers, and a Kryptonite NY 1210 Chain and Evolution 4 Lock

The stats:
2011 Bianchi Camaleonte Uno
Topeak Super Tourist rack
Deuter Rack Pack Uni Panniers
Planet Bike Hardcore Fenders
Kryptonite NY 1210 Chain & Evolution 4 lock
Superflash blinky
OptiCube headlight

I got great deals on all of these items from my local bike shop (Truly Spokin’) or Amazon. As always, the guys at my LBS have been fantastic, making suggestions, adjustments, and helping me solve a number of smallish issues.

It’s been more money than I had intended on spending, but even just riding the bike 3 days a week to work will pay off the bike in a year. Using it 5 days a week for work and for all local driving (errands, shopping, etc.) will save even more.

Future additions:
– Replacing the stock tires with a pair of Continental Gatorskin Tires
– Replacing the stock saddle with something a bit more comfortable
– Putting a bike computer on her

She’s a LOT of fun to ride – a very different ride than my 2004 Klein Aura V, but they were made for very different purposes! Looking forward to what this next year of cycling brings!