The Abyss Will Gaze Back

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Table of tiny monsters, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Question the heroic approach

Yesterday was a long and tiring day (though it was fun) and my head felt like it was full of cotton. I kept forgetting things all day – until late at night when I realized that we had left Candy’s car parked at the train station. I didn’t want to leave it there all night and didn’t want to have to deal with it in the morning. So there was nothing to do but to move my lights over onto my Xootr folding bike and ride to the train station. I made sure I had the right station and that I had Candy’s keys in my bag and set out.

My folding bike, Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

I immediately realized that a front had blown through and, although it had been windy all day, the north wind had kicked up a notch, and it was cold. I had not dressed for it. But it is only three miles to the DART train station, so I just soldiered on.

Once I get off my lazy ass and get going, I enjoy riding my bike at night. The traffic is so much less, the trails are mostly empty (of people… there are a surprising number of various critters that come out even in the city) and everything is so quiet and still. I understand that it is dangerous, but my lights are good, I keep my eyes out and my ears open… nothing is safe… nothing worthwhile, at least.

As I rode farther, my efforts warmed me up and I felt better. I fell into the Zen mode of bicycling. If I think of the distance that I have to ride, it feels daunting, like I might never make it to my destination. The key is to only think about the next few feet in front of your handlebars and look around and enjoy every second. The miles drop away.

Before I could really think about it I was at the station. I rode around until I found Candy’s car and popped the trunk. That’s one big advantage of a folding bike – yank a couple of quick releases, pull out the seat, fold the wheels together and the bike goes into the trunk. It’s really handy for going and fetching a car.

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. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

My Xootr Swift folds differently than most. You undo two quick releases and pull the seat post up. Then the bike folds front to back (most fold side to side) until the two wheels are together. If you need more space, the seat can come out completely and another quick release lets the handlebars slide out. It doesn’t fold as compactly as, say a Brompton, but it has the advantage of being strong (a big rider like me needs the strong frame) and it uses standard bike parts – which is a great thing over the long term.

So I drove Candy’s car home and stowed everything away in the garage.

Tomorrow’s another day.

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What I learned this week, November, 15, 2017

10 Obscure Punctuation Marks

My favorite may be The ElRey Mark – This little two-headed exclamation point should be used when you’re cheery, but not over-the-top excited.

7elrey

I like these a lot better than emojis.


Here’s how the Northaven and White Rock Creek trails might connect

If you don’t bicycle in Dallas – you don’t realize how cool this would be. It would connect two parts of the city that are separated by an effectively unpassable barrier.

White Rock Creek Trail

Northaven Trail

White Rock Creek

The southern terminus of the Cottonwood Creek trail, where it connects with the White Rock Creek Trail. The DART train is crossing White Rock Creek over the trail. This is about where the Northaven Trail could connect – tying a lot of city together.(click to enlarge)


TOP 5 REASONS TO USE A FOUNTAIN PEN

Sheaffer Pens

Sheaffer Pens


What The Hell: Southwest To Expand Live Music On Flights


From Sichuan to Schnitzel, These Are the 8 Spiciest Dishes in Dallas


Complete Streets Come to Life in Dallas

Morning Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza.


The air became hard, it developed edges, surfaces, and corners, like space was filled with huge stiff balloons, slippery pyramids, gigantic prickly crystals, and he had to push his way through it all

From But Does It Float
Works by Aldous Massey
Title: Roadside Picnic

Seven in Seven

Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley…
—-Control Voice, The Outer Limits, The Sixth Finger

Oblique Strategy: Use Fewer Notes

I am not a fan of internet memes, challenges, viral videos, cat images, or Rick Ashtley.

However, when I was invited to do the “Seven ‘Days, Seven Black and White Photos” on Facebook, I decided to do the thing.

Because I wanted to.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

A Full Moon, Gravel, and S’mores

“Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

The moon rising over cyclists and the Dallas skyline. From the October Full Moon Ride. (click to enlarge)

Oblique Strategy: Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

My Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park. From an early part of the October Full Moon Ride.

There is a monthly bike ride held at dusk on the first day of each full moon. It starts in a park in Downtown Dallas and heads out into the wilds of the Trinity River Bottoms where we can watch the moon rise over the city.

I had a blast on the October ride and was looking forward to the next one. It was a little more ambitious. We would head out on the gravel roads that line the levees along the river. Because of the crushed rock, I wouldn’t be able to ride my vintage Cannondale and would have to use my heavy, fat-tired commuter/cargo bike.

My heavy Commuter Bike with Dallas skyline in the background

We would ride ten miles to an abandoned golf course where we would have a campfire and make s’mores before riding back. I was a bit concerned – twenty miles, much of it off-road, is a long way for me to ride on my heavy, thick tired repurposed mountain bike. Despite all my despirte fanfaronade I am the world’s slowest bicycle rider, especially on an inefficient vehicle. Even riding the best of bicycles – the engine is old and worn out.

I rode the DART train downtown, as the sun was setting, met up with about a dozen folks, and set out. The gravel wasn’t too bad, but it was jarring and a job to control the handlebars, especially in the dark. I have a good headlight on my bike and the world was reduced to a pool of small rocks moving toward me while all around was invisible, inky blackness. It was fun. I slowed to the back of the pack and realized that if I cut my speed a little bit the ride became smoother.

The gravel road in the Trinity River Bottoms
(click to enlarge)

So, I was slow, but not too much. There is a bridge about every mile through the river bottoms and we would stop so everyone could catch up. We made our destination on time, and the s’mores were delicious.

Roasting marshmallows for s’mores. (Photo from Bike Friendly Downtown Dallas)

The only hitch was that I didn’t get any photos. I had brought my camera, a small Gorillapod, and a remote shutter release. I spent too much time having fun, and had to rush setting up my camera. I put the tripod on an old air conditioning unit, and before I could shoot, the release fob slipped out of my hand and disappeared inside. I took that as an omen, and packed it all back up.

We rode concrete back – by then the traffic was light. Only when we neared the American Airlines Center (the Dallas Stars were playing hockey and the game let out at the same time we passed) did we run into angry, aggressive drivers.

So, now I’m looking forward to next month. I need to put my nighttime photographic, time exposure kit together and practice, so I’ll be ready.

It’s Impossible

“If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Shoe remains in crosswalk, Beltline Road, Richardson, Texas

Oblique Strategy: The tape is now the music

When you go around the city, on foot or especially on a pair of spoked wheels – or even when your car is stopped at a light and you look out the window – you see a lot of odd crap strewn about the road. Flotsam and jetsam – cast-off detritus, odd personal items: a shoe, a glove, an old toy, pair of headphones crushed under tires – that sort of shit.

I see this stuff, because I see stuff, and I remember it, because I remember stuff. Most of all, I wonder where the hell did it come from? Who leaves one glove in the road? Whey don’t people pick up their possessions when they drop them?

A week ago, I had a bit of an answer. I contributed to this sea of debris, this ocean of junk, this abundance of rubbish.

It all started out simply. One Saturday afternoon Candy and I wanted to go to Four Bullets, a local brewery, and grab a couple of beers. I intended to put a few miles on my bike – so she drove while I rode my bicycle.

I knew I’d want to walk around the brewery, so I didn’t want to wear my cleated cycling shoes. The pedals tear up the soles of my ordinary footwear, so I dragged an old pair of running shoes out of the depths of a closet, and rode to the brewery.

Walking around, I noticed that one shoe was sort of loose and kind of coming apart. I could see a bit of sole peeking out around the side. – I made a note to throw the pair away for good when I made it home. We were there longer than I intended and it grew dark, but I had packed a good set of lights – so no big deal.

I was riding home on the Glenville trail and crossing Beltline (a busy road that everyone in Dallas uses to get everywhere) on a green light when I felt something come loose. It was the bottom half of my shoe; it had given up the ghost and fallen off right as I crossed the road. The light wouldn’t be green for long, so I couldn’t go back and grab it – the only thing I could do was go on.

The remains of my shoe in the crosswalk at Glenville and Beltline, Richardson, Texas

The problem was that I still had about two miles to go. The rough pedal was now against my almost-bare foot and it hurt like hell. Luckily, it was mostly downhill and I could coast a lot of it.

Still, I limped around for a few days until my foot healed from its unexpected meeting with the sharp metal of the bicycle pedal.

That was pretty much a week ago. I drive past that spot, through that intersection at least twice a day, on the way to work. I ride the Glenville trail any time I’m going someplace West of my house on my bike. It’s been a week, and the piece of my shoe is still there. It’s right in the pedestrian crosswalk, at the edge of the road, where the traffic misses it.

So I have made my own contribution to the conglomeration of bizarre trash that litters our planet. I could ride out there and pick it up – but I’m curious how long it will stay there. I just stopped and took a couple of photographs.

Some women walking by the piece of running shoe – they didn’t pick it up.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Build More Robots and Learn How To Make Them Better

Control Voice: [opening narration] God looked upon his world and called it good. But man was not content. He looked for ways to make it better and built machines to do the work. But in vain we build the world, unless the builder also grows.

Control Voice: [closing narration] Out of every disaster a little progress is made. Man will build more robots and learn how to make them better. And, given enough time, he may learn how to do the same for himself.
—- The Outer Limits, I, Robot [2.09]

Bikes and Giant Robots
Hickory Street
Dallas, Texas

Photo taken on the Hidden Art Bicycle Tour. This is a larger view of the mural I wrote about here, and right next to this one.

Oblique Strategy: Do something boring

If a robot is of sufficient intelligence does it obtain a soul? If it thinks… is it therefore am? What do these robots think of the horde of human supplicants arriving astride simple devices of metal tube, chain, and rubber? They seem to have come a long way to see the robots.

But they aren’t of sufficient intelligence to claim souls. They don’t think, therefore they aren’t. As a matter of fact, they are only paint. Even though they look like giant robots and loom over the world, they are less than one one-hundredth of an inch thick. If you peeled them from the building they would collapse into dust. They aren’t robots in the real world… only in the minds of the observers, the bicycle riders.

And maybe on the internet.

He Believes in Miracles

“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.

Because he believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen. Because he is sure that his thoughts can change his life, his life begins to change. Because he is certain that he will find love, love appears.”
― Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light

Warrior on the wall of Bowls and Tacos, Dallas, Texas

Taken on the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Pub Ride.

Oblique Strategy: In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

Snippet – from “The Death of Xaco” by me

The yellow vapors poured down the slope, choking the men. They all had rough masks made from torn T-shirts, but that offered scant protection. The decades of working in the toxic sulfur cloud did not give them any resistance – corrosive is corrosive. The men coughed and shook their heads, struggling to breathe. After a thick cloud passed by, Buelo pulled his hand across his bit of cloth and scraped off the yellow crystals that had condensed there.

The men depended on a network of crude ceramic pipes to channel the molten sulfur down from the vent so it would cool and solidify before it caught fire and burned – then they could break it up into chunks to carry down the mountain. The pipes were always breaking or plugging up and it was a harrowing, awful, dangerous job to climb into the even-thicker fumes and do the needed repairs. Xaco was the only man left crazy-tough enough for the job and Buelo could see his sharp eyes and wild yellow-crusted hair peeking out here and there, now and then, amongst the yellow clouds. There were three tugs on the rope and Buelo tied another section of replacement pipe on and tugged back three times. The rope jerked and the pipe rocked, then disappeared into the fumes.

After a few minutes Buleo could make out Xaco hefting the heavy pipe onto his shoulders and struggle upslope before the drifting clouds hid him from view again. Buelo smiled thinking of Xaco from their childhood. He had known Xaco since his earliest memory, from long before they had known or understood that they would all be sulfur miners.