Saturday, August 23, 2014

4x 100, etc.

Just wrapped up my fourth 100+-mile week on the bicycle in a row. This week was also my first time participating in an "organized cycling event" (fortunately I'm not very noticeable in any of the pictures, as most of the nearly naked riders were much easier on the eyes than me). After a little looking around, I've also found the bike shop I plan to call home.

I'm thinking I may shoot for 150 miles next week. I'm still in 29th place of 287 riders in the Gainesville Cycling Club's National Bike Challenge Team and in 13,284th place out of 45,233 riders nationally. Not that I really think of it as a competition per se, but I am trying to measure up as a rider of at least average activity/dedication just because that's how I am.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reconsidering Diaspora ...

Never have really gotten with the program on Diaspora. I try to remember to drop in and see how it's coming along every now and again when something reminds me to. Today was one of those occasions:

A sustained clampdown on the Twitter presence of Islamic State (IS) has forced the hardline jihadist group to explore less well-known social media platforms, setting up a string of accounts on the privacy-focused Diaspora.

Not that I have any sympathy for Islamic State, mind you. They don't appear to be any better than most states (in fact, they seem to be a good deal worse than most states in ways that are important to me).

But to the extent that I'm interested in what IS is up to, I'd rather my social networks didn't decide for me whether or not I can hear about it directly from them.

Twitter and Facebook (and probably Google Plus, although I've never noticed one way or the other), for whatever reasons, aren't content to serve as neutral content delivery platforms. They take it upon themselves to decide what I'm allowed or not allowed to see over their networks, preemptively substituting their preferences for my own, possibly contrary, preferences.

So anyway,  Diaspora seems to be coming along nicely as a social networking framework. Hopefully IFTTT will be along with a Diaspora "channel" some time soon.

About "Non-Partisan" Elections and Offices

Per the Orlando Sentinel [hat tip -- Sayfie Review]:

Orange County commissioners voted late Tuesday to ask voters to make constitutional officers such as the sheriff and tax collector term-limited, nonpartisan races.

There ain't no such thing as a "non-partisan race" -- at least not in any significant election.

Taking Orange County, population 1.2 million (and 45 million tourist visitors per year), as an example, consider the position of Sheriff.

There will almost certainly be a Republican candidate for that office -- that is, a candidate personally identifying with, and backed by, the Republican Party.

There will almost certainly be a Democratic candidate for that office -- that is, a candidate personally identifying with, and backed by, the Democratic Party.

There may also be candidates affiliated with and backed by other, "third" parties.

Amendment or no, that's how it is and that's how it's going to stay, for the simple reason that the Orange County Sheriff's Office is a large, powerful political enterprise (2,400 employees and an annual budget of $180 million).

All the commissioners are really proposing is that voters deny themselves the most convenient source of information -- a party designation and/or logo -- concerning the partisan affiliations and backing of the candidates they're considering.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Letter to the FCC

The Federal Communications Commission has extended the public comment period on its Internet power grab and established a special "open inbox" for said comments. Here's mine:

Dear Sir or Ma'am,

It is my opinion that the Federal Communications Commission should close shop, disband, apologize for its entire history and go home.

Failing that, could you at least keep your fucking mitts off the Internet? Pretty please, with sugar on top?

Best regards,
Thomas L. Knapp
Gainesville, Florida

Get yours in by September 15th if you're interested enough to do so.

One Policy Suggestion Re: Ferguson 187

The St. Louis County Police Department should be suppressed and disbanded as a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization. Its only substantive activities are the operation of large-scale protection rackets and theft schemes across St. Louis County, Missouri.

In the spirit of mercy, lengthy prison sentences for organized criminal activity and violations of US Code, Title 18, Sections 241 and 242, should probably only be imposed on the top police leadership and on St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch and a few of his mob lieutenants. Other SLCPD employees could be left unmolested, perhaps excepting lifetime bans on working in law enforcement or government in Missouri.

Ditching the completely unaccountable county police department and returning to an elected sheriff/deputy system certainly wouldn't fix all the problems in St. Louis County but that, along with institution of a civilian police review board with the power to investigate, issue subpoenas pursuant to investigations, and refer cases of alleged police abuse to grand juries, would be a start.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Out and About

Inshallah and the creek don't rise, I'll complete my third 100+ mile week in a row on the bike tomorrow. Right now I'm at 98.5 miles for the week and even on "rest days" I usually put in 5-10 easy, laid-back miles just to keep muscles from stiffening up and so forth. Right now I'm ranked 15,456th of 44,448 riders in the National Bike Challenge and (for August so far) 29th of 285 riders in the Challenge's Gainesville Cycling Club team (the GCC team is in first place nationally and placed first in last year's challenge).

Friday is my "long ride and treat myself to lunch at the far end" day. This week I did a 32.x-mile round trip to Bronson to eat at Shakers Drive-Thru:

Good burgers. Been there before but this was the first time by bicycle. I stopped on my way in to Bronson to pay my respects at a grave of note:

I guess I'm going to have to up my game. I feel about as good as I ever have; my blood sugar is coming nicely into line after years of fighting it; I can tell I'm building muscle, but the weight loss has stopped. Not sure why. I don't count calories, at least not carefully, but I'm eating less and exercising more. I dropped about 7-8 pounds and now I seem to be stuck at 224-225 pounds. Didn't really worry much about it at first -- I figured hey, muscle weighs more than fat so maybe I'm just gaining the former fast enough to obscure the loss of the latter -- but it's starting to bug me.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ferguson 187: Comment Copy/Paste

The occasion is a CNN Money story relating that Anonymous has divulged name and photo of someone they allege is the Ferguson killer cop (the dominant area street gang, which calls itself the "St. Louis County Metropolitan Police Department," denies the ID -- here's a more detailed story, including screen caps, etc. from before Twitter shut down the Anon account). My comment on the story:

If a police officer had been gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of the street by a young black man, the suspect's name would have been released within minutes, charges would have been formally filed within hours and the suspect would have been taken into custody as soon as humanly possible.

Since it was a young black man gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of the street by a police officer, it is now days later and the suspect's name has not been released, charges have not been formally filed and the suspect has been put on paid vacation while the police department runs through sequential conflicting versions of the story it is putting together until it has everyone worn out and confused enough not to burn the city down when it announces "we've determined that the un-named police officer was acting according to department policy."

Like the pigs (equivalency definitely intended) in Animal Farm said, "all animals are equal -- but some animals are more equal than others."

Tamara noticed this morning that the victim lived in Canfield Green, an apartment complex that we considered moving into a couple of years ago. If you've never been to Ferguson, don't take the media portrayals of it as "ghetto town" seriously. It's a nice, normally peaceful, lower-middle-class suburb (apropos of the race-baiting, it's not "as black" as the town I lived in for 12 years, 4 or 5 miles to the south). I've driven every last one of Ferguson's streets and probably sold ice cream to the victim when he was a young kid.

Ferguson is the kind of town where it takes a lot to get a crowd out on the street facing down armed thugs with badges.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ferguson 187: Two Questions

  1. Why do "officials" think it's OPTIONAL to release the names of murder suspects if those murder suspects happen to be cops?
  2. Given the murder, the refusal to identify the murder suspect, the ongoing military-style occupation of the town, etc., is there any particular reason why its citizens shouldn't announce the disbandment of the police force, the organization of a committee for the public defense and, pertaining to that defense, summary execution of anyone caught on Ferguson's streets in a police uniform after some reasonable period for withdrawal of the enemy forces?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Adrian Wyllie: Beer and Clothing on the Campaign Trail

Wyllie and friends tour the brewery.
Went out last night to Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville to support Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian Party's candidate for governor of Florida. Wyllie is on a month-long "craft brewery" tour of Florida, beginning on the 1st in Key West and winding up in Pensacola at the end of August. That's the "beer" part of the Hunter S. Thompson parody title.

The "clothing" part is the Wyllie for Governor t-shirt I scored -- I'll be wearing it around the town and county on my daily bicycle rides.

Some brief impressions:

  • First time I've met Wyllie. Personable guy! So far I've been impressed with what I've seen of his campaign, and even more so after last night. Florida LP vice-chair Alex Snitker was parked outside the brewery with campaign literature, yard signs and t-shirts for anyone interested in promoting the campaign and the party. Meant to get a picture of that but you know me -- I started talking with people and forgot to take many pics.
  • Speaking of the party, I've heard at least one complaint that Wyllie's campaign is about promoting Wyllie, not the party. That's not what I've seen. His yard signs, unlike those of some candidates, prominently feature the word "Libertarian." His campaign team proved very enthusiastic about helping us get an Alachua County Libertarian Party affiliate going.
  • If you like craft beer, you'll love Swamp Head. I very much enjoyed their Big Nose IPA. Three different varieties of hops and an alcohol content of 7.3%. It has a ... more crisp, best wording I can come up with ... bite than my usual IPA, Red Hook's Long Hammer. I'll be going back for more of that.
Go, Adrian! I'm expecting a nice vote total from him in November. Not just because he's running an active and engaging campaign, even though he is. He also has two other big things going for him:

  1. He's not Rick Scott; and
  2. He's not Charlie Crist.
Just sayin' ...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The More Things Change ...

Passed this sign today while out on my daily bicycle ride ...

... just as I was coming up on Haile Plantation, where slave laborers used to pick cotton. Now they work on the roads instead.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Reminder: Words Mean Things

Every time the conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews (aka "Israelis") flares up into open combat, so does promiscuous use of the term "genocide" to characterize the policy of the latter toward the former.

genocide [jen-uh-sahyd], noun 1. the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. ("genocide." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 05 Aug. 2014.)

As I've pointed out elsewhere, the term just doesn't apply to this situation. Its use unmasks those try to so apply it as a) dishonest, b) stupid or c) both.

If the Israelis wanted to exterminate the Palestinian Arabs, well, they've had almost 70 years to do so. For a good chunk of that 70 years they've been in a position to do so virtually unopposed by organized military might (largely due to US assistance in de-fanging, in various ways, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and lately Syria).

And yet the Palestinian Arab population continues to grow, not shrink. And not only that, it continues to grow faster than Israel's Jewish population. Whatever that is, it's not "genocide."

It's entirely possible to take the side of the Palestinian Arabs without lying about what the Palestinian Jews are up to, just like it's entirely possible to be anti-Manson-Family without referring to the Tate-LaBianca murders as "defenestrations" ("the act of throwing a thing or especially a person out a window;" op. cit.).

"Genocide" accusations make for great propaganda if you can sell those accusations, but unless they stand up to scrutiny they only sell well for a short time. And this particular "genocide" accusation went stale and moldy decades ago.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Matt Zwolinski is Why the Libertarian Movement Can't Have Nice Things

If I wanted very badly to rob the term "libertarian" of all meaning, I'd write an article and title it something like "The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee." And then I'd try to convince some establishment "libertarian" think tank to dedicate a symposium to the topic.

If we want to be pragmatic and libertarian, how about this:

Let non-libertarians come up with and promote bad, non-libertarian ideas, while libertarians come up with and promote good, libertarian ideas.

Libertarians don't need to dream up anti-libertarian crap to promote. We've already got people who are willing and able to do that. They're called statists and they are perfectly well-qualified to vomit up nonsense like "BIG, even if it is not ideal from a libertarian perspective, is significantly better on libertarian grounds than our current welfare state ..."

Doing what we do well and letting the other guys do what they do well is about as pragmatic as it gets, right?

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Some Thoughts on Bikes vs. Cars

Being all about bikes lately, I came across this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on the National Bike Challenge site today ...

[C]yclists descended on Sunset Hills in response to an incident Tuesday in which the city’s mayor, Mark Furrer, is accused of swerving his Mercedes convertible into a $12,000 bicycle on Old Gravois Road.

No, I don't know exactly what happened. It's "under investigation." It wasn't the story I found interesting so much as the (at last count) nearly 200 comments on the story. Some from motorists complaining about cyclists. Some from cyclists complaining about motorists. Some from people trying to be reasonable. My own thoughts:

  • In a perfect world, motorists would be fully aware of everything around them, including people on bicycles, and vice versa. But the plain fact of the matter is that if a bike tangles with the car, the car will win. So cyclists have more of an incentive to go out of their way to be more aware.
  • Motorists who complain that they pay the gas taxes for the roads so cyclists should just bugger off don't know what they're talking about. First of all, most cyclists also have cars and pay gas taxes. Secondly, roads are also financed through sales and property taxes which cyclists pay whether they own cars or not. Of course I personally favor non-government roadways, but as things are the cyclist pays at least his pro rata share of road maintenance costs.
I have no sympathy for anyone who claims that cyclists are never the bad guys in road encounters. Two things immediately came to mind when I saw this story:

When I was young (based on my memory of the car I was driving and where I was driving it, probably around 20), I had my first and so far only negative encounter with a cyclist. But it did stick with me.

I was driving on a downtown street in Springfield, Missouri. I was approaching an intersection/light and I was slowing down even from the low (20 mph) speed limit because I intended to make a right turn onto the one-way street I was approaching.

It was fortunate for the cyclist that I was slowing down to make that turn. As I approached the light, he popped out from behind the building on the corner, going fast, riding on the sidewalk, on the left side of the road from his perspective (the wrong side for a vehicle), going the wrong way vis a vis the one-way street, ran the light (red/no crossing for him, green for me) ... and scowled, slapped my hood and gave me the finger as he passed in front of my car. I semi-seriously considered circling the block, finding him and running his ass right over.

Just yesterday, I was riding with Tamara to the store. We pulled up at the stop sign at the main road near our house and saw that traffic was stacking up a little. The reason: Three cyclists, in matching uniforms, riding in "pace line" down the right shoulder of the road ... even though there was a perfectly good, well-paved, probably fairly expensive BICYCLE TRAIL a few feet to their right, running most of the 10 miles from Archer to Gainesville (after which said trail segued onto a marked bike lane). I ride that trail every day. It was under construction when we moved here and is still nearly new. It's at least as good as the damn road, and it's entirely for the use of cyclists and pedestrians. The motorists were 100% courteous. No honking or complaining, and they were slowing down a bit as they passed these cyclists out of reasonable safety considerations. But they shouldn't have had to.

Now, I am by no means an expert cyclist. Yes, I've been riding for 40 years, but only the last few weeks with anything like a serious daily commitment (21.1 miles so far today, and I may go out for another 10 tonight -- thanks for asking). But I'm already tired of the very few assholes I've noticed on two wheels.

Very few. Almost every cyclist I run into on the road or trail has a smile and a "hello" for people they pass. If they're coming up on someone from behind, almost all of them give a polite "coming up on your left" or whatever for safety's sake. And I suspect all of them keep very much in mind the most important thing:

It's your ass on the line every minute you're out there. Even if it's "the other guy's fault," dead is dead ... and dead is what you're very likely to be if your bike intersects with an automobile. So pay attention, whether the other guys do or not.

Friday, August 01, 2014

30.4, 106.9

OK, I'm back on track with my biking goals. Finished my first 30+-mile ride today (30.4 miles to be exact), and for the first six days of the week ... well, I'll just let the National Bike Challenge tell the story:

I decided to knock out my first 100-mile week over six days instead of seven that I can take a rest day tomorrow. In theory I should take at least one a week, but it's been 13 days.

Friday is my "long ride" day, with a prize (lunch) in the middle. That's my way of rewarding myself for dieting all damn week. Today I lunched at Mac's Drive-Thru, a Gainesville institution of note. I'd been planning to ride to Bronson to lunch at Shakers Drive Thru, but since I'm still assembling things like spare tubes and wrenches and stuff I decided I'd rather be in town than on a rural highway should I happen into trouble of some sort. So Shakers will probably be next Friday.