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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Barack Obama Spoke Card

As I mentioned previously on this blog, I'm supporting Senator Obama in the current presidential race. The recent proposals by Senators McCain and Clinton for a summer gas tax holiday, which Senator Obama opposes, are just more evidence to me that I'm backing the candidate most aligned with my personal values. And, as near as I know, he's the only candidate with his own spoke card. I went to:

and sent them a buck. A few days later I got this spoke card in the mail.

I certainly understand that not everyone shares my political views and I hunted around the web looking for Clinton or McCain spoke cards, but I came up empty. So if you support one of those candidates (or Ron Paul or whomever) and you come up with a spoke card, post a link to it in the comment section here. There are a lot of cyclists out there. We don't have bumpers, but we do have spokes. And a lot of us vote.

Keep 'em rolling.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bikes to Ghana -- Pictures from 4-26-08

I've been busy as heck with my new job managing the Bike Works shop but better late than never, here are some pictures from the Bikes to Ghana loading on 4-26-08. We had a great crew of volunteers and working from 9:00 AM to 4:40 PM we managed to pack 476 bikes plus a bunch of parts into the shipping container.