“Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
“Here I came to the very edge
where nothing at all needs saying,
everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,
and the moon swam back,
its rays all silvered,
and time and again the darkness would be broken
by the crash of a wave,
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings open, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning. ”
― Pablo Neruda
Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas Cathey MIller, Cathedonia (click to enlarge)
“The marriage of reason and nightmare that dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”
— J.G. Ballard
He also singles out several “brilliant, well-thought-out, delicious beers” from Dallas breweries: Velvet Hammer, an imperial red ale from Peticolas Brewing Co., Mosaic IPA from Community Beer Co. and Temptress, an imperial milk stout from Lakewood Brewing Co.
The man obviously knows what he’s talking about. Those three… plus Revolver’s Blood and Honey (which, I guess, isn’t really a Dallas beer) are my favorites.
A hearty cheer – for good beer.
The Wisdom of Mark Cuban
I’m not a huge fan of Silicon Valley. It reminds me so much of Hollywood and the movie and TV industry.
In Hollywood every one will talk and listen to you about your project. But while they are standing there, right in front of you, they are not looking at you. They are looking past you to the next project where they can raise/sell more. Where they can be a bigger star. There is always a bigger fish. Who ever is standing in front of them is hopefully just the bait.
Silicon Valley has become the exact same thing these days. No one wants to literally start from scratch in a garage and build something. No one wants to bootstrap a business to profitability. Those are such archaic notions these days.
“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam…”
— J.G. Ballard
Last weekend I bailed before the end on a bike ride I had gone on with some cool folks – I was getting tired and didn’t think I could keep up the pace. Heading back into downtown Dallas I took a break to catch my breath on the steep stretch going up from the Triple Underpass.
Dealey Plaza is so beautiful on a sunny spring day. It is such a shame such a place is permanently ensconced in infamy and horror.
So I did some work on getting my lights on the bike – which didn’t take too long. I sat down for a minute, put on a jacket, and then headed out into the night.
I had only intended to try the thing out, maybe once around the block. But you know how new things are. I’m not really into possessions – far from it – but a new bicycle… that’s different. Before I knew it I was at the end of the trail, four miles from home and I needed to get back. I had to be at work two hours early and here I was, in the middle of the night, on a bicycle too far from home. It was going to be a tough day tomorrow.
So far, I love the bike. It took a little getting used to – the small wheels are very responsive. But it is comfortable and fast. Like the reviews said, it is rock-solid.
So far I am very happy. And happy is a good thing to be.
Tomorrow, I’ll work on mounting the Crossrack and then start on thinking about the front derailleur kit. There is always more work to be done.
The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It basically folds in half – and it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package – but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.
I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. The handlebar and stem come off with a quick release for a little extra space. Now I have a four-passenger car again.
It was nineteen eighty six (or so) when I bought my Raleigh Technium. That was the last new bicycle I’ve bought (I bought a used mountain bike in 1992 or so and another used one last year when that broke and I needed a commuter bike). For a long time I’ve been wanting to buy a new bicycle, but having two kids in private college has made me too broke for too long of a time.
My Giant Rincon SE commuter bike bought used off of Craigslist.
Now, I have only one still in school (Lee has graduated and is a financial analyst in New Orleans, if you can believe it) and the second is almost done so I tamped down my inner cheapness and bought the thing.
I have been thinking about what bike to get for years. At first, I wanted a modern, carbon, lightweight road bike. But that’s not the kind of riding I have been doing. I’m not in anywhere near good enough shape to do justice to a bike like that.
What I like to do is ride slowly, around the city. So, the second type of bike I thought about is an urban cruiser – maybe a throwback old-school steel bike, or a touring bike. That would have been a smart purchase and that’s what most of the folks I ride with use.
But what I’m really interested in is trying to fully integrate my bicycle riding with the rest of my life. Here in the vast sprawling DFW Metroplex that means using other transportation – the train or even a car – in conjunction with a bicycle.
Thinking about that aspect of riding – I kept coming back to the idea of a folding bicycle. Something that I could keep in the smallest of trunks, or on a train…. The versatility of a good folder would open up a lot of opportunities. Plus, I have my commuter bike already… and my Technium is an old-school road bike – there is no reason to give up on them. A folder would simply add to the possiblities.
That was actually a good thing. A cheap folder would have been a mistake.
There are a number of folding bicycles out there. There is the Brompton – a beautiful complex design that has an intricate folding method that collapses into an incredibly tiny cube of metal. Then there is the Bike Friday – very well made but very expensive. And the huge line of Dahon bikes – there is one for every wallet and need.
As I did my web research, I came across an odd bike, called the Xootr Swift. It was made by a company better known for their kick scooters. As I looked at it, though, it seemed to make more and more sense.
It is known as the best riding of the folding bikes – it rides like a full-sized bike.
It uses standard bike parts and can be infinitely customized.
The Xootr Swift has a weight limit much higher than the others (unless you buy a special “heavy option” Bike Friday – which is very expensive) – the vertical fold of the Swift is stronger than the hinged designs of the others.
The big disadvantage of the Xootr Swift is that it doesn’t fold very small. For me, that wasn’t a concern. I wanted something that will fit in a trunk or take up a little less space on the train – I don’t plan of flying with it.
There was one final item that convinced me to get the Xootr Swift – and I’m a little ashamed of this. I looked all over town, at all the rides, for another Swift, and never saw one. Nobody I talked to, even folks that had other folding bikes, had even heard of a Xootr Swift. As far as I could tell, nobody in Dallas owns a Xootr Swift. I know that can’t be literally true – but for all practical purposes it is. It would be cool to own a unique bike.
The last negative thought was that I would look stupid and ridiculous on a folding bike – sort of like a bear riding a clown bike. But what the hell – losing your last bit of pride and self-respect is a very liberating thing…. So fuck it.
My final decision was what accessories to get. I struggle up steep (and not so steep) hills. I want this bike to be as useful and as versatile as possible, so I ordered a front derailleur (the stock setup is 1×8), shifter, and a smaller second front gear to use on those steep inclines (and to get home when I’m really tired).
Then I had to decide on getting a rack. If left to my own devices I’d fill a bike up with all sorts of crap, and I already have my commuter bike for that (front and rear racks, fenders, a plastic ammo box bolted to the front – that sort of shit) so I thought about keeping the Swift clean.
But, again, I want this bike to be versatile – and that means I will want to carry cargo sometimes. Xootr sells a special rack for their folder called a Crossrack. Looking at the design, I realized the homemade panniers I just made would fit like a glove – so I broke down and ordered a Crossrack.
Five days ago I logged onto the Xootr website and placed my order. Standard shipping was free. Today, about an hour after I came home from work the doorbell rang and when I opened the door, there was a brown truck speeding away and a cardboard box on the front porch.
The box was surprisingly small and light. I guess that’s what you get with a folding bike.
The box. Pretty small for a bicycle.
A lot of packing material.
So now I have to start putting the thing together. I should have enough time to get a quick test ride in before it’s too dark. That will have to wait for another entry – so for today, if you are interested in the bike, you’ll have to be satisfied with some of the links I found while researching the bike.
Today was Candy’s birthday and, along with some friends that have done it before, we decided to celebrate with a Segway tour in downtown Dallas.
My first impression of the idea was a little iffy. I would rather have ridden my bike around downtown (as I am wont to do) than stand there lazily on two electric-powered wheels. Plus, I’ve seen these groups of touristy-looking folks, wearing helmets and standing stiffly on the slow-moving vehicles, moving in a line along the downtown sidewalks. It looked rather silly to me.
Well, I thought about it and realized that, as usual, I was full of shit. Let’s face it, everyone wants to at least try out a Segway and see how it is. I remember the crazy hype back in 2001 when the thing (code name “Ginger”) was introduced and, although it could never live up to its promotion, it still made an impression. All in all, it had to be fun.
Candy and I had gone to our third Dallas Savor Wine Tour yesterday and then gone to Lee Harvey’s for a Naked Lunch concert last night and stayed out too late. When I crawled out of bed – too early for a Saturday – I didn’t feel too well. I’m getting too old. But I gutted it out and we drove downtown to the Segway place – in a cool old brick building.
We had a few minutes of lessons, a quick pep talk, then off we went.
That might be the most amazing thing about the Segway – how easy it is to learn. After all, this is a completely unique and new transportation form. It has no controls at all – only a platform to stand on and a stick with a handle. There is no seat or restraint – you just stand there. Still, after only a minute of practice, we were off along the streets and sidewalks of a big city. We had to maneuver along narrow twisting paths, through curb cuts, and over precarious routes along concrete dropoffs.
It was a piece of cake. The only difficulty I had was that, at first, I stood too stiffly and my feet and ankles were painful and cramping. After a bit I was able to relax and flex better and it became comfortable.
I was surprised at how far the tour went. We started out on the edge of the West End area (near the bus station) and headed out to the famous bronze steer sculpture and City Hall, then north clear through the heart of downtown. We visited the Arts District and then on to Klyde Warren where we took a break. Finally we rode west to visit Dealey Plaza before heading back.
That’s a complete tour of downtown.
The Segway is a great way to tour an area. You cover a lot more distance than you can walking, of course. You see so much more than in a bus or car tour. I’ll give it a nod even over a bicycle because you are able to keep your head up and look around while you ride.
The last leg of the tour was a blast. By then I was very comfortable on the machine and was able to enjoy myself – doing a bit of slalom between landscape trees along a stretch of sidewalk, swinging around in close spaces, or simply picking up the speed (a little bit). It’s an odd experience – the key to comfortably riding a Segway is to forget you are on one and let your instincts take over. I really can’t tell you how to go forward or backward, how to stop or turn – you just do.
Most of the people in the tour were not from Dallas and I asked them if they thought the Segway Tour was a good way to see a new city and they all were enthusiastic.
So, the next time you visit someplace or even revisit the place where you live – check out and see if a Segway Tour is available. Do it if you can. It doesn’t look as silly when you are in the bowels of the thing than it does from outside looking in.
Candy getting her Segway Lesson.
The tour stops at the Dallas Eye.
Segways lined up at Dealey Plaza. The Texas School Book Depository in the background.