PR in Space

When I was a kid, my parents let me watch the Space Shuttle launches. They were often delayed, so I remember waiting in the morning, watching the countdown and liftoff, then running off late to 2nd grade.

Then in 1986, the Challenger disaster happened during the launch, and in 2003 the Columbia broke apart on re-entry. The shuttle program was shut down, and I pushed that youthful excitement aside to live a life wondering about global warming, instead of how to terraform a habitable Mars.

This morning, I heard on the internet that SpaceX was launching their heavy booster rocket. Somehow I’d missed that they were launching a Tesla towards Mars. (Wait, a Tesla? Yep. We’ll come back to this.) Ten minutes later, I’d tuned in to the live webcast of the Falcon Heavy launch, and was excitedly showing my son Orion (yes, that’s his name) as we watched the countdown.

It was exhilarating! I was pointing out parts of the process, when suddenly the Tesla was floating in space. It’s more than a little disconcerting to realize your childhood hopes and dreams have been hijacked to deliver a car commercial. (At least it’s an electric car? But electric cars are still a huge part of the problem!) At any rate, I’m not sure I want the future where we go to Mars for the benjamins.

Meanwhile, two of the falcon rockets made their way back for a simultaneous landing. This was stunning to see, but what about that third core? Watching the live feed, you can tell something’s gone wrong. The bubbly hosts are off script and grasping at straws, and you can see (or rather not see, SpaceX has sensors and two cameras on everything, so they definitely have telemetry and footage).

The PR aspect of this whole thing kicks in. If SpaceX had a successful landing, they’d show it. Not showing us feels like damage control. The sucky thing about outsourcing our space program to private corporations is that they control the signal.

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To Outwit a Bike Thief

How to keep your bike from being stolen: 

My favorite advice is “Have a really expensive looking Bike… Lock. (and a crummy looking bike)”

Even new bikes can be made less shiny. Ride it everywhere: dirt/mud/let your kid ride it! Don’t worry about it too much…

Register Your Bike! 

Don’t even take it out of your sight until you do this.

There are others, too:

Note Your Serial #

This may be the most important part!

Otherwise, you have no proof. I’ve seen some great bikes with the # highly visibly etched or made part of the frame… If your bike is nice enough, consider asking your mechanic to do so.

Lock it up! 

Lock your bike, even if you’re leaving it for a minute.

Lock your bike, even if it’s in a locked garage.

Lock your bike, even if it’s in a locked bike cage.

All of these have led to stolen bikes. So…

Lock your bike to the foot of your bed, or to be extra secure, to your foot.

What to do if your bike is stolen: 

File a police report!

For bikes under $500 in value, you can easily report the theft online:

Over $500, call the non-emergency number at 206-625-5011 to report it to an officer

More good info here:

Post a photo and link to your bikeindex profile and your local area Stolen Bikes group (this is the Seattle one), Nextdoor or neighborhood group, and keep an eye out on OfferUp or craigslist (some will let you set up an alert if descriptions matching your bike are posted).

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Can we afford to repeal the ACA?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” or “The ACA”) has been panned for not living up to its promises, but I think what hasn’t been talked about is it’s usefulness as a safety net

The “Patient Protection” part of the ACA is often simply dropped, but it may be the most important part. That made it so that anyone can get covered, and you can’t be denied based on “pre-existing conditions”, i.e. not being able to get coverage for cancer… because someone didn’t have coverage when they found out they had cancer. 

Medical expenses have been growing for decades, but that growth has actually slowed during the Obama administration. Those medical costs can be the largest unexpected household expense. 

Getting sick can lead to defaulting on a mortgage and losing your house. It can hit the poor the hardest, leading to homelessness. People have fallen behind on rent and died on the streets. This isn’t hypothetical, it happened just this week. 

So when we talk about the ACA “not working”, we’re talking about it not living up to specific promises for some people: “You can keep your plan”, etc. But it is working for 20 million people who are now insured, and many more who won’t be denied care. 

The finding that the majority of Americans are only one lost paycheck from homelessness should be a call for a safety net. The ACA is that safety net, tackling the most likely cause for losing out on work. 

More people want to fix Obamacare than want to repeal, which is what we should do for something that just needs to work better. 

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Family Bike, part 2: NEW BIKE!

I’m finally getting a family & cargo bike. I mean, I’ve had one for a while. Any bike can be a cargo bike, as they say! Just add a bungee… but I have been trying to dial this in for ten yeeears. (see Part 1…)

Here’s some variations I’ve tried:
Bike/backpack/rack (…+seat)
+ Trailer
+ Trail-a-bike
Electric bike/rack
+ Trail-a-bike
Folding bike (…+seat)
+ Trailer

But I’m finally getting a bike meant for these things. All of them. At once.

I have a one-year-old, a ten-year-old, a partner that rides, a commute, and everyone has a powerful need to eat – so it needs to hold groceries, too.

Okay, it’s not the ultimate family & cargo bike… such as a bucket bike you can just throw anything in, or the full-size EdgeRunner with a bit more room to grow, but this is perfect for me. For what I need, and for my budget.

I’m getting a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day. Red.

Just look at it!

Basically, it’s a small-wheeled, long-wheelbase cargo bike, set up to carry a kid and anything else we might need. It has 20″ wheels, and an ingenious telescoping frame, which will allow both Aimee and I to ride it, and allows it to fit on a bus rack. They’re locally made in Eugene, OR and are fantastic little bikes.

I am stoked! And so is this guy: 

O has already got the hang of the oh-shit handle– er, the U-tube

Already went to the park!

And I’m getting a few more things to make life easier: Lots of storage & carrying options (a nice front basket & front pannier holders, really great bags). Dynamo lights that don’t need charging, (and a usb outlet to charge my phone – ABC: Always Be Charging). This is Seattle, so fenders. Of course, fenders.
(Aside: when I started riding year-round in Seattle I had no fenders. How?!? I actually had full raingear before I had fenders… I’d recommend the other way around.)

I’m getting about $3000+ worth of bike, here. To do this, I’m applying for financing, which actually makes it easier to spend a bit more on what I really want. I’ve never bought a car, but this is actually wayyy better. I’ll pay it off in a year, be improving my credit, and I won’t be stuck with a dang car in the end!

But I’m also stopping short of the electric-assist route. I’m pretty sure I’ll want that later, after the kid eats for a few more years and I get that much lazier. For now: gears. Lots of gears. 24 should suffice. I’ve been riding a 7-speed folding bike, so that should be plenty.

Well, time to get in gear for toddler preschool and some car-free Costco runs. See you out there!

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Family Biking, Take 1

When my son Jack was born, I was driving an SUV (I know!) & I went through a few cars. A story for another time… Anyway, I biked around a lot. So I thought, what if I just keep doing that, but take the kid with me?

It seems a bit crazy now, but in 2007, when I started seriously looking, none of the modern options for a family bike existed. I hadn’t even heard the term “family bike”. There were Longtail Xtracycle conversions, but I didn’t know how to do that. The Kona Ute and Surly Big Dummy didn’t even come out until 2008. 20/20 Cycle had a great Bilenky Cargo Bike, but I’d still have to figure out how to get the kid on the front… and all of those options were out of my price range.

“I want to haul a kid around on an electric bike.”

“Can’t do it”, they said.

“What if I just pull a trailer with the e-bike?”

“I think that’s illegal”, they said.

The other thing I wanted to do was ride around with an electric assist. (Kids just keep getting heavier!) When I had some money saved up, I went down to the local Electric Bike store, and told them just that. Basically: “I want to haul a kid around on an electric bike”… “Can’t do it”, they said. “What if I just pull a trailer with the e-bike?”… “I think that’s illegal”, they said.

I literally had a few thousand dollars to spend, and no one wanted to take it.

Around this time, I started honing my now-superior Craigslist skills. I started looking up electric bikes which I could afford, and researching them.

The cheapest of all was the Currie Trailz Izip. It was a Giant bike (the brand, and it was a huge 75lbs). My research said it was cheap. Instead of the superior hub motor, it had a bolted-on motor which ran the rear wheel. Everyone complained it was loud. And it had a throttle. But it was also $600… new. And I could get it cheaper used. (For those of you who can see this coming, I’ll get more into why this bike is a poor choice later.)

Okay, that made me want to look the dang thing up. Here it is:

I went to Bauhaus (RIP) to meet this guy from Iowa, who was motivated to sell. (Having received tenure, he was moving back). He’d moved out here from flat flat Iowa, and got an e-bike for Seattle’s hills, then just didn’t end up using it. Speaking of flat, it had one. We took it to a dealership around the corner, pumped it up, and I went for a spin around the block. It’s pretty hilly there, and that thing would really go.

I came back around with a huuuge grin. “You can go for a longer test–” he started to say.

“No, I’ll take it!” And I handed him cash.

Next time, I’ll explain how we got to this:


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A White Guy Confronts His Bernie vs. Black Lives Matter Guilt

I must admit, when I heard Black Lives Matter Protestors interrupted Bernie Sanders, I was upset.

I mean, this was right after the GOP’s Predominately Awful Guys Debate. Couldn’t they pick on someone else?

…and, after all, isn’t Bernie our Great White Hope?

He’s one of the leftiest, most populist Senators, and he definitely connects with Seattle, especially in light of our progressive Socialist leanings.

For people who disagree with any of a growing number of Hillary’s views, Bernie Sanders sounds, just… so good.

So why would these young Black Lives Matters Protestors have beef? How could they possibly not see eye-to-eye with this old, white… Oh.

Turns out young, black, women may not feel represented by even the most progressive old, white, guy. And who can blame them? Take a look at the racial makeup of the Senate. Go ahead, here’s a fact page for you: “Ethnic Diversity in the Senate.”

It actually looks pretty good: 9 African Americans, 6 Asian, 8 Hispanic, even 3 Native Senators. Out of 100, that’s… wait, those stats are for…ever?

Yes, Senate “Diversity” is so bad they literally list every diverse person ever. And since there are 100 Senators, even I can give you the exact current makeup off the top of my head:

0% Native, 1% Asian, 3% Hispanic, 3% African American.

I’ll even calculate the elephant in the room:
…93% White.

To put this in perspective, even the GOP Debate had a 30% diversity rate, over 4X that of the Senate.

Yep, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to bring attention of our grievances to these elite, (predominately) white guys.

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WTO to Tango

WTO Stories

I was there, 15 years ago, amongst the throngs, the upheaval, the tear gas.

After the first day, we went to the Army Surplus store. Surprisingly, they weren’t out of gas masks, though they were doing a brisk business. We snapped them up, even though it had been newly forbidden to wear them. On our way downtown, we were walking when we noticed some cops across the street. We hid our masks, my friend putting hers under her shirt. Right as we passed the cops, her mask fell out onto the ground. Immediately the cops crossed the street and demanded the mask. A long barrage of verbal exchanges followed in which the cops demanded the mask, and my friend refused to give it up. They dragged her off, and we were left trying to figure out what to do next.

She was held for hours and finally released without charge. They kept the mask.

Another story of the arrests I heard only years later, through an explanation of this Laura Veirs song:

“Jailhouse Fire” is the story of a friend, Alex Guy, who refused to go quietly when held (& who I never heard tell this story, even though I knew the song)…

Of course, years later, our former Police Chief Norm Stamper has talked about what was done wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s amazing that he’s come out against many of standard police practices employed in Ferguson, Occupy, and similar political protests.

One of the untold stories of WTO is something which I witnessed firsthand while wandering the streets on my own. I came across some friends who were part of a group which had locked their arms together, blocking an intersection. As we were talking, a commotion caught our attention, and I turned to see a man who was very agitated. As I tried to work out what was happening, this man pulled out a gun and began waving it around. Although I was free to get away, my friends were unable to move, and a wave of shock spread through the crowd. Almost instantly, some plainclothes police appeared to whisk the man away. I realized that the disgruntled man was a Russian delegate to the WTO. Upset that he couldn’t reach his meeting, he took matters into his own hands. Rather than concern for the public’s well-being, however, the police were simply there to get him to safety, and the impasse continued.

Despite the news stories of anarchists and vandals, this was the most dangerous moment I can think of at the WTO, and it was brought to a head by an official member of the WTO itself. I think this is very important to remember. From what I remember, this incident never made the news, what with all the militant sea-turtle-wearing hippies on the loose.

Do you have a story? I’d like to hear your WTO story! I’d love to tell it…

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