Monday, May 19, 2008

"Let me explain, no, there is no time, let me sum up"

The title of this post comes from The Princess Bride, but I think it works here. Of course I do have time. As Sinclair Lewis pointed out, I get twenty-four hours each day, just like you do. I just happen to spending those hours doing a bunch of things other than writing posts for this blog. If you've gotten hooked on my witty prose and are undergoing withdrawal, I'm sorry about that, but given the alternatives of:

a) Throwing a Jim Thill-style hissy-fit of nuking the blog with a comment of "this blog doesn't exist anymore. The reasons for this are not interesting."

b) Ignoring the blog, figuring folks will work out that I'm busy and occasionally posting little bits that happen to interest me.

c) Writing a post like this, which I hate, which is one of those "I'm too busy to write" posts that take way too long to write.

You're smart people (well judging by the comments and notes I get at least a good percentage of you are). You can figure out which way I've gone on this.

Here's the scoop. Since April 21st, I've been working at a job that I absolutely LOVE. I've had many great jobs before, working with all kinds of great people, but Bike Works is such a terrific group and such a great cause and it happens to have some of the kind of problems I know how to fix. The hardest part of my new job are the days off.

Here are some snippets from this past week. On Tuesday, three of us (Dan, Donald and me) rang up just under $2,000 worth of business through the shop in six hours. Given that this is a used bike shop where, the basic tune-up rate is $55, an inner tube is $3.00 (yeah, too cheap, I know!) and our bikes are selling in the $200 to $400 range, that's a busy day. Add to that an extra half dozen miles on top of my regular 36 miles of bike commuting because I'd promised Chris Cameron I'd help him and Serena riff on Bicycle Commuting at REI in the evening. So I blast out of the shop at seven, bomb through the evening traffic on Rainier, make it to REI with three minutes to spare. The three of us spend an hour and half telling tales of bike commuting, talking about gear and safe riding and answering questions. I'd fueled up with a taco truck burrito earlier in the day, but Serena is about to black out from hunger by the time we're done, so we retire to some pub for a beverage and grub. I'm home by midnight.

The "normal" days aren't quite so tight and I actually manage to spend about half my life at home but May is Bike to Work month and Friday was Bike to Work day. So I'm out the door a bit after 4:00 AM so I can get to Beacon Hill by 6:00 AM to help Dara set up the Bike to Work station there. Last year there were 66 bike commuters who went through that station. This year there were 117. Maybe it's the price of gas. Maybe it's the gorgeous day. Maybe the velorution is at hand. Then it's down to the shop to work a full day.

Saturday is 87 degrees and sunny in a bike shop in Seattle. You can do the math. I'm the last one out of the shop and I mess up setting the alarm. Whoop, Whoop, Whoop. I get that settled down and then my cell phone rings. "No we're not being burglarized, I'm just a moron."

It's time for another dash up to downtown, this time to see Cory Doctorow read from Little Brother at Elliot Bay Books. But my rear tire's flat. Don't I change enough of these at work? I'm not going to go back into the shop, disarming and resetting the alarm, but I've got everything I need on my bike. I find a suspicious looking shard in my tire, replace the tube, pump up, and head north. I get there with a minute to spare but the place is already packed. My buddies Wayne and Davey are already there.

Cory is an awesome dude. His book, Little Brother, has nothing to do with bikes, but consider this part of this post part of the "Kent's" portion of "Kent's Bike Blog." One of my kinder commenters suggested I should write about what interests me, while it seems like some of you anon guys seem to get peeved if I stray too far from what you like. As Cory has noted "if you give away free ice cream, there will always be folks who complain that they want a different flavor." There's lots of free ice cream on the Internet, this is the flavor we're serving here today.

So Cory's book, Little Brother, is a ripping good read. Don't take my word for it. Go here:

and grab you own free etext copy. If you want a dead-tree version, I've included an Amazon link at the bottom of this post.

So can you make money giving the text of your work away? Cory thinks so. I think so. I bought two dead-tree copies of Little Brother and one of Overclocked. Elliot Bay sold out all their copies right at the reading.

Cory is "an alien of extraordinary abilities." Really. That's what his visa says. You see if you're a Canadian, living in London and you need to travel to the USA for a book and lecture tour it seems that the USA will want to make sure that you're not coming here to take some job away from an American and so you wind up filling out a 650-page form and paying about ten grand in legal fees to get your passport stamped with that magical visa. But it is very cool to be "an alien of extraordinary abilities." I do wish I'd asked Cory how he got his steampunk wristwatch past the TSA. I can't imagine they'd let him on a plane with a watch that features a built-in cockroach launcher.

After the reading signing, Davey and I spent a few hours chatting about the bikeish world, about the open-source idea as it applies to bike repair and many other things. I get to see Davey's Bikery lab and it's the small hours of the morning before I'm home.

And that's a bit of what my life is like now. In general, from Tuesdays through Saturdays you'll find me at Bike Works. I'll be the guy with the grease under his fingernails and a big dumb grin on his face, probably explaining to somebody how a barrel adjuster works or how one of these days I'm going to get around to raising the price we charge for inner tubes.

Other times you may find me on my bike somewhere or in a tea shop with my wife or prowling around a book store. Or you may see me pounding out some text on a laptop. Next month Christine and I will be giving a talk at the Towards Carfree Cities Conference in Portland. By then we'll probably have figured out what we're going to say. We know what the title is: We’re Not Supermen: How Mild Mannered People Demotorize Metropolis.

And now and then, I'll post stuff here.

Keep 'em rolling.


Mark said...

I don't know if the velorution is here, but we had over 500 cyclists at the Bike to Work station we sponsored in Woodinville.

zman said...

So Kent what you're saying, if I may be so bold, is I've got a life, and I'm living it. Bikes are a big part of it, but only just a part of my attempt at a well-rounded life. Good for you.

Jason said...

Kent, I've missed your posts, but I'm glad you've got so many cool things going on (and still take the time to occasionally update us).

Additionally, I'm a fan of Cory Doctorow as well and have been looking forward to reading Little Brother so I enjoyed your entire post.

Jim Thill said...

Wow, I made it to Kent's blog! Fame at last!

Emily said...

That sounds like a truly awesome month :D. You sound very happy.

And no, a post doesn't have to be about bikes. Or often. But I enjoy how you describe your days and what you get up to, so it is good to hear that you're not posting cause you're having a great time. (someone else I enjoy reading stopped posting for about six months due to a dreadful case of depression, so I worry when someone goes silent)

Nina said...

Always happy to hear from you whenever you want to be heard from.

Still think of you when I rock out with the I Ching..

Karl said...

Groovy! Thanks, Kent.

beth h said...

Yes, the velorution is here. Customers no longer stand in line at Citybikes. They roll in and roll out again while the telephone levitates off the hook. We added three benches in the bike to take up the slack on repairs and overhaul appointments and we're STILL three weeks out!

Yup. yup. It's here, baby. Ride the wave. And then ride home.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kent, thanks for posting an update. I had a feeling you were busy doing what you loved doing. And I've been enjoying reading Beth H's postings.

Gene in Tacoma

Steve Nelson said...

Kent, I've always believed bicycling is a metaphor for life. In a case like yours, where life is so thoroughly steeped in bicycling, how could whatever you find interesting not speak to bicyclists? Make no apologies, write whatever is interesting to you, and bicyclists will always be among your audience.

Marrock said...

My philosophy is this: Never explain and never apologize, your friends don't need it and your enemies wont believe you anyway.

Tai-po said...

Brutha from a different motha!

Was great bumping into you a couple weeks ago on Mercer...I will lay a trap there for you next time if I REALLY REALLY need to have my Kent Peterson fix. Don't be alarmed if a six foot tall asian jumps out of the bushes to give you a hug. BTW...have you seen my new boy???

Glad to hear you're loving the new job. You're a great role model for following bliss...but not for nutrition.


Ron said...


I missed bike commuter day this year, because I was in Harborview with a broken pelvis.

You remember me from 1997 to 2000. LWB in LFP. A purple Stratus then.

Cascade kept careful count of the number of atoms of Co2 saved. But did they count the number of work days lost to the May
Commuter Challenge?

Wish you the best; got to ride by in 10 weeks.