2008-11-29

tire sizes...

...just in case anyone needs to know, the Electra Amsterdam does not in fact come with a 700x40C tire, as the website claims, but rather with a 700x38C tire. If you try to put a 700x40C tire on it, it will rub against the fenders and skirt guards.

good things to know :)

2008-11-27

misc :)

Well, Søren is all fixed up and running like a charm. The Schwalbe tube they gave me at Clever Cycles is much nicer than the Heng Shin tubes that came with the Amsterdams. The only hitch putting Søren back together again, was I left the chain too loose the first time and had to tighten it a bit, no big deal. However, if anyone has any tips on how to easily get the tire off the rim, that would be really useful in the future.

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I took him out to get some croutons this morning, as we forgot to get them the other night when we did the rest of our Thanksgiving shopping. On that note, Happy Thanksgiving all you American folk. And happy November 27th to everyone else :)

We're heading to Trina's family down in Albany, OR today, and then doing dinner with my family tomorrow night. Whee!

See you all soon.

2008-11-26

ghosts of cyclists


IMG_8872
Originally uploaded by poetas
they dissolved into thin air as they were passing, leaving trails of their bikes lingering...

Søren suffers a flat, and lessons learned :)

Yesterday after work I rode to New Seasons to meet Trina and get some stuff for dinner and Thanksgiving tomorrow, and when I came out of New Seasons, my rear tire was totally flat. I'm not sure if I punctured it and it was slowly leaking while I was in there, or if someone popped it, or what. I haven't examined it carefully yet. Anyway, I had to walk my bike home from New Seasons, as I didn't have a spare tube or tools on me - at least it's only a couple miles :)

So, lessons learned - I want to try to always carry an extra tube with me, as well as the couple wrenches I need to take my rear wheel off, which I don't think should be too hard to do. If I get some practice at it, I think I can have the rear wheel off the bike in something like 5 minutes, put the tire on, be all done in 15. Better than being stuck all the way across the city with nowhere to go. And it's not technically difficult at all, it's quite simple.

On the upside, it gave me a reason to actually take the rear wheel off myself and figure out how it works, and to clean out the inside of the rear fender, which had gotten pretty gunky from the autumn riding. I'll be heading to Clever Cycles after work today to pick up a couple new tubes, and then I'll put him back together again.

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2008-11-23

hooray for russian markets...

Today we went up to Roman Russian Market on SE Division ST and got a number of wonderful things... we had some Pork Pelmeni for an early dinner, with some delicious sour cream and dill. We bought some Russian and Hungarian salamis, some Lithuanian cheese, Latvian peach nectar and cheesecake bars (if you've never had these, you're *really* missing out), Russian tea cookies, kvass, and some random candies and treats.

I'm happy that Portland has so many different ethnicities living within the city, and it's particularly happy for us to have Russian markets, having lived in Eastern Europe - we can get a lot of products that are very familiar from our time there.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

2008-11-22

another simple bike modification

Today I took my bike down to Clever Cycles on Hawthorne and had the headlight re-mounted down near the fork, rather than up by the handlebars. This will help the light to actually illuminate the road when I'm riding, and also put it low enough to go below the poncho being sent to us by Marc which goes over the handlebars, and once we move the light on Trina's bike, she will be able to use a front basket.

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They also used a Lumotec bracket to re-mount my light, which goes with the headlight I want to replace it with soon, so that will be extra convenient to do so. The headlight I want to get is considerably brighter than the one that comes on the Amsterdams, a lot more durable, and it has a capacitor in it, so it holds some charge after the bike stops moving, and will continue shining for a couple of minutes. It also helps to regulate the brightness at different riding speeds, which will be really nice.

Hope you all had a lovely Saturday. Cheers!

2008-11-19

more boring philosophy and religion stuff, sorry :)

I was sent this article in an email today, and just wanted to present it and my thoughts on it... I'll post the article first, and then my thoughts following.

----------------------


Statism

by R.C. Sproul

"A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…." In Luke 2, the well-known passage introducing the nativity story, the title accorded to the Roman emperor is Caesar Augustus. Had this census been mandated earlier under the monarchy of Julius Caesar, the Scripture would read: "A decree went out from Julius Caesar…." Had Octavian followed the model of Julius, he would have called himself Octavianus Caesar, and then the text would read: "A decree went out from Octavianus Caesar…." But we note Octavius’ explicit change of his personal name to the title Caesar Augustus. This indicates the emerging dimension of the emperor cult in Rome, by which those who were elevated to the role of emperor were worshiped as deities. To be called "august" would mean to be clothed with supreme dignity, to which is owed the reverence given to the sacred. The elevation of the emperor in Rome to this kind of status was the ancient zenith of statism.

About thirty years ago, I shared a taxi cab in St. Louis with Francis Schaeffer. I had known Dr. Schaeffer for many years, and he had been instrumental in helping us begin our ministry in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in 1971. Since our time together in St. Louis was during the twilight of Schaeffer’s career, I posed this question to him: "Dr. Schaeffer, what is your biggest concern for the future of the church in America?" Without hesitation, Dr. Schaeffer turned to me and spoke one word: "Statism." Schaeffer’s biggest concern at that point in his life was that the citizens of the United States were beginning to invest their country with supreme authority, such that the free nation of America would become one that would be dominated by a philosophy of the supremacy of the state.

In statism, we see the suffix "ism," which indicates a philosophy or worldview. A decline from statehood to statism happens when the government is perceived as or claims to be the ultimate reality. This reality then replaces God as the supreme entity upon which human existence depends.

In the nineteenth century, Hegel argued in his extensive and complex study of Western history that progress represents the unfolding in time and space of the absolute Idea (Hegel’s vague understanding of God), which would reach its apex in the creation of the Prussian state. The assumption that Hegel made in the nineteenth century was made before the advent of Hitler’s Third Reich, Stalin’s Russia, and Chairman Mao’s communist China. These nations reached an elevation of statism never dreamed of by Hegel in his concept of the Prussian state.

In America, we have a long history of valuing the concept of the separation of church and state. This idea historically referred to a division of labors between the church and the civil magistrate. However, initially both the church and the state were seen as entities ordained by God and subject to His governance. In that sense, the state was considered to be an entity that was "under God." What has happened in the past few decades is the obfuscation of this original distinction between church and state, so that today the language we hear of separation of church and state, when carefully exegeted, communicates the idea of the separation of the state from God. In this sense, it’s not merely that the state declares independence from the church, it also declares independence from God and presumes itself to rule with autonomy.

The whole idea of a nation under God has been challenged again and again, and we have seen the exponential growth of government in our land, particularly the federal government, so that the government now virtually engulfs all of life. Where education once was under the direction of local authorities, it now is controlled and directed by federal legislation. The economy that once was driven by the natural forces of the market has now come under the strict control of the federal government, which not only regulates the economy, but considers itself responsible for controlling it. Where we have seen the largest measure of the loss of liberty is with respect to the function of the church. Though the church is still somewhat tolerated in America (in a way it was not tolerated in Mao’s Red China and under Stalin), it is tolerated only when it remains outside of the public square. In other words, the church has been relegated to a status not unlike that given to the native Americans, where the tribes were allowed to continue to exist as long as they functioned safely on a reservation, outside of any significant influence on the government. So although the church has not been banished completely by the statism that has emerged in America, it has been effectively banished from the public square.

Throughout the history of the Christian church, Christianity has always stood over against all forms of statism. Statism is the natural and ultimate enemy to Christianity because it involves a usurpation of the reign of God. If Francis Schaeffer was right — and each year that passes makes his prognosis seem all the more accurate — it means that the church and the nation face a serious crisis in our day. In the final analysis, if statism prevails in America, it will mean not only the death of our religious freedom, but also the death of the state itself. We face perilous times where Christians and all people need to be vigilant about the rapidly encroaching elevation of the state to supremacy.


-----------------------------

I would say I agree with this mostly until the last three paragraphs.

We do have a tradition of valuing the separation of church and state, but I don't believe that the US was founded as a Christian state, and I don't believe that the original definition of separation of church and state in the US was simply a matter of assigning different duties to one or the other. I don't think the founders intended the US to be a Christian state - in fact they wanted the state to be a-religious, allowing citizens to practice what they believed.

I would also argue that Sproul may have misinterpreted what Schaeffer said. In Schaeffer warning about Statism, I would argue (without any further context, as none is given in the article other than Sproul's interpretation of what Schaeffer meant) that he may have been referring to the American Christian tendency to make a particular form of government, a political party, or particular political values synonymous with or a part of their religion. In my (and not just my) view of things, this has happened in America and being a Christian has become synonymous with being a Republican or a Libertarian and a whole slew of other political beliefs that go along with those parties - and thus the political machine of America is determining peoples' religious lives.

I'm not even going to get into the acceptance of the church here, I've done it before on this blog - but I don't think that (in general) people in America are antagonistic towards Christ, they are antagonistic towards Christians and the organized institution of the church as it exists in America now. I think there are a lot of very valid reasons for that.

I would argue that Sproul's view of statism and it's danger to Christianity actually hints at statism in his own view. The only time Statism is a risk to an individual's Christianity is if that individual replaces God with the state in his own mind and heart. The state cannot force this belief on you, therefore if you simply accept the government saying "we are your authority," is that not practicing Statism? I would also argue that if you view the loss of freedom to practice religion as the loss of Christianity, you have a mistaken view of the church. The church is not the building you go to on Sunday, it's every person who knows God. The church institution is also not God, and whether you are allowed to go to church on Sunday or not, you can know God and have a growing relationship with Him.

I think Christians have gotten too caught up with trying to turn the US into a "Christian" state, and we have forgotten that the government doesn't have to agree with everything we say in order for us to both have our faith and live with it. We've made politics our tool for trying to change peoples' lives (even if it is with good intention), and if that isn't Statism, I don't know what is. This is not to say that, as a Christian, you should not be involved in the political system - but you have to clearly distinguish what is politics and what is being a Christian. As Christians, we participate in political systems (just like everyone else), and we should make well-informed decisions within those systems based on our beliefs, but we should never let political agenda become part of our beliefs.

2008-11-17

new poncho on its way...

As it's been getting rainier here in Portland, I've been using an old backpacking poncho that I had laying around, and it works alright except that it has a tear in it and it's too short in front, so the tops of my legs still get really wet.

I've looked and looked on the internet and asked around bike shops here in Portland, but nobody seems to carry cycling ponchos in the US. There are a lot of rain suits, but the only ponchos I could find were more like capes, and suited for the bent-over posture of a road bike. A rain suit would be ok, but I don't really want to have to put on a whole other layer of clothes when I leave and then take it all off when I get to wherever I'm going - it's much easier to just take a poncho off really quickly.

I was commenting on this fact over on Marc's blog at Amsterdamize, and he simply offered to send Trina and I ponchos from the Netherlands made for cycling on upright bikes. I just got an email from him this morning saying he sent them, so they should arrive before too long. Thanks again Marc, we really appreciate it! :)

2008-11-16

yesterday...

yesterday we got up a bit earlier than normal for a Saturday... we fed the cats and munched on some biscuits we had from the day before while we watched a few cartoons, and then we got ready and headed out for breakfast at the Detour Cafe on Division St. I had an egg sandwich with smoked salmon, cream cheese, basil and tomato, and Trina had french toast, with a side of roasted potatoes and bacon - and we both had coffee, of course.

From Cuteness

From Cuteness

From Misc

While waiting for our food, we were poking through a local newspaper, and noticed that one of our favorite music groups, My Brightest Diamond, is playing at the Doug Fir Lounge this coming Thursday evening, for $13.

So, after breakfast, I headed over to Hawthorne to deposit a couple of checks we had, and then headed up to Jackpot Records to buy the tickets.

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When I got there, they only took cash for ticket purchases, so I had to run over to Zupan's market on Belmont to use the ATM and get some cash out. When I was parking on Belmont (there's a big bike parking area, see above photo), one of the employees of the Stumptown coffee store right there came out and was asking me a bunch of questions about my bike, how heavy it was, how far I commute with it, etc. I just told him the weight really doesn't matter for the hills between where he usually travels (many of the same ones I travel), the posture is really comfortable, just like sitting in a chair, and the bike is really easy to just hop on and go. He wants to grocery shop with it and I do that as well, so I could also reassure him that it rides fine with 40lbs. of groceries in the pannier bags. He was really interested in getting one, and it turns out my commute distance is pretty similar to his, so I think I may have sold him on one :)

So I ran and got cash out, then headed back over to Hawthorne and bought the tickets (yay!), and then headed back to Division St, where Trina was waiting at Village Merchants, a little vintage/consignment/resale store. She had found a couple of plates which we have some matching pieces of, a schnazzy silk necktie for me, a couple little bottles, and then we found this really fun old General Electric clock to go in our kitchen :)

From Misc

We bought the stuff, and stuck it in my pannier bags for the return trip (thankfully they had wrapped the plates in bubble wrap).

On the way back, I managed to snap a couple shots of Trina looking very pretty :)

From Biking

From Biking

So, we got home, put away some of the stuff from the store, and then headed off to An Dong asian market just up the street. We were primarily going to get a new rice cooker, which we did - just a small three cup one with a sealing lid and a retractable cord. Seems like it'll be just great. We also got some more of our favorite miso soup mix, some aged soy sauce, and a couple of really nice wooden ladles. Then, off to Lloyd Center mall to hit Old Navy and get Trina some pants to wear for her upcoming yoga classes.

When we got there, first thing we did was go get a soft pretzel with cheese sauce (we were getting a bit hungry). They were just starting open-skate time in the ice skating rink near the pretzel place:

From Miscellaneous Portland Pictures

So, we ate the pretzels, got some pants for Trina, and then headed off to New Seasons to get dinner goods. We decided we were going to make chicken breasts with marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, and then we also decided to add green olives and capers to the sauce. We did just that, and you can read all about it here on our food blog.

Trina has been asked to contribute food-related articles to a new kind of home and lifestyle blog, ofifteen, so after dinner she sat and worked on her first article, her bio and all that, and I started reading Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. Happy weekend!

2008-11-15

dialectical materialism

I've been reading a book lately titled The Captive Mind, by a Polish author, Czesław Miłosz. This book deals with the period surrounding World War II in Eastern Europe, the rise of Nazism in Germany and Communism in Russia, and how the social and political circumstances leading up to and through the war led to the active acceptance of the Soviet Communist system throughout Eastern Europe.

Getting into this, it made me really curious to learn more about dialectical materialism as a philosophic structure (since it was the philosophical basis of Soviet Communism).

Now, keep in mind, I'm not a professional philosopher, and I haven't read either Marx or Hegel extensively (though I have read some of each). Mostly these are just my causal thoughts about the system and how I understand it to basically function.

I was aware that the ideas used by Lenin and Stalin came from Marx, which in turn came from Hegel - however I discovered that between Hegel and Marx they went through a significant transformation - from idealistic to materialistic.

That is - Marx's view (which differs from Hegel's) is that there is no external source outside of the physical world for anything. The physical world as it is defines thought, not the other way around. That is, thought is not and cannot be independent of the processes of the physical world. We are in a closed system. So, Hegel's theory of dialectics - that everything is changing constantly, that change is brought about by contradiction, and that the process of change is by two contradictions being synthesized into an end result - is changed significantly by having an outside force removed from the equation - it flips philosophy on its head.

The reason this is significant, is that it reduces all human thought and action to physical processes. Human behavior becomes essentially the same then as the behavior or water or the behavior of air. It's easy then to see where the tactics of the Soviet Union came from. You change living conditions and you change people, because people are just a system of processes, and everything is constantly in motion, so as you change conditions, you inevitably change everything that happens within them. You put some heat under water and eventually it turns to steam. The belief was that by changing circumstances, you could eventually *qualitatively* change mankind.

The other reason this is significant, is that dialectical materialism can be used to more or less make logic arbitrary. Dialectics as a system was intended to be able to make sense of things in motion - for instance, a human being is living, but it is also dying, at the same time. So, do we say the person is living, or dying? How do we logically define what is going on when it is not static? The problem being, that as circumstances change, you can continue to modify your logic to accommodate them. By selecting just the right thesis and antithesis (note that in dialectics, as I understand it, the antithesis isn't necessarily the logical opposite of the thesis), you can essentially logically prove anything you want in the synthesis.

This was significant especially in the early days of Russia moving into Eastern Europe, because it could be proven, looking at history, that the current state of affairs was a necessary and logical progression of history.

The problem for the Soviet Union, was that for some reason, no matter how logically convinced a person was that, for instance, standing and watching the German army decimate Warsaw, was necessary for the logical progression of history, there was something in people that still revolted against that kind of thing. No matter how convinced people were of the necessity of what their government required of them, they still hated the government for requiring it. Had the Soviet government not been able to keep up a mass blanket of fear, they would have fallen apart much sooner, because there apparently is something in mankind that is not changed by the altering of their circumstances and their logical understanding of things.

This could also lead into a very long discussion about the sort of atrocities that can happen when a person or a society or any group of people bases their worldview and their decisions entirely upon logic... but we'll leave that for another entry :)

2008-11-14

a nice commute...

today it was nice and crispy-cold out, and the moon was still big and bright, though the sun was coming up...

From Miscellaneous Portland Pictures

going one way over the Hawthorne bridge, there was the moon...

From Miscellaneous Portland Pictures

looking back... there was the sun, peeping its head above the horizon...

From Miscellaneous Portland Pictures

2008-11-07

bicycles are becoming more common...

Portland Department of Transportation has just released their bicycle usage statistics for 2008.

Overall, observed bicycle usage is up 28% from 2007, with bridge traffic up 15% and non-bridge traffic in major areas up 32%.

20% of all traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge was bicycle traffic, with 15% and 14% respectively for the Steel and Broadway bridges.

There were approximately 16,700 bicycle trips daily across the Hawthorne, Broadway, Steel and Burnside bridges. Southeast, Northeast, and North Portland all observed over 30% increase in bicycle traffic since 2007, with between 3,000 and 4,000 daily bicycle trips observed on some main bicycle routes.

The rate of reported bicycle crashes has stayed pretty much level for the last number of years, causing the number of crashes to number of cyclists ratio to decrease dramatically.

In the midst of all the financial crisis business going on primarily in the US, there is a lot of talk at the federal, state and local levels about creating jobs in design and implementation of new transportation infrastructure in the US - to create jobs for people who are having a hard time finding them, to encourage non-automobile forms of transportation especially for short trips, make other forms of transportation easier and more convenient, thus reducing our dependence on oil (whether foreign or otherwise) and providing cheaper and easier alternatives for people who already can't afford to drive.

I think this can only mean positive things for the transportation situation in Portland, which on a national level, is already very good. I think in general as we see the US trending more towards alternate fuels and alternate modes of transportation, we will see a lot of positive effects in our cities and even rural areas. I think this is a fantastic means of creating jobs and stimulating an economy that is in a heavy downswing. Here's to a cleaner and more connected United States of America.

2008-11-05

american history...

Originally from Patrick Moberg:

Yes You Did

Looks like they're saying it was the highest percentage voter turnout since 1908, higher than Kennedy/Nixon.

I'm feeling hopeful about this one. Here's to the next 4 years!

2008-11-04

wet, wet, wet

Well, we're having a bit of a dramatic start to the rainy season here in Portland. We have rain on the radar for a week and a half in a row. Last night I rode home in the dark for the first time (after moving the clocks back), and also with rain pouring down on my head like a gigantic shower. I had a poncho, which kept me mostly dry, except it kept riding up my legs, so from my knee halfway up my thigh got pretty wet. Also, the hood wouldn't stay up, so my hat/head got fairly wet. I'll have to think about better solutions for that, especially my head. The one really nice thing, is that my new pannier bags held up really well even in the downpour. They come waterproofed, and the waterproofing held up to a lot of water, without anything inside getting wet, so I was really pleased.

Speaking of ponchos, if anyone who reads this owns a bike shop in the US, it would be great if you could import something like this:

http://www.carradice.co.uk/rainwear/duxback-rainwear.shtml

or this:

http://www.agu.com/en/?pag=22&prod=553

All of the ponchos and other rain gear I can find in the US seem to be largely geared for people riding racing bikes, bent over all the way. Coverage is totally different if you're sitting up straight. A "rain-cape" sort of idea, which seem more common here, simply won't work at all.

So, all that to say - Europe, start exporting your bicycles and equipment over here! America, start importing European bicycles and equipment! We non-sport-inclined commuters will love you for it.

On a completely different note, I'm finding myself waiting in anticipation for the first polling results to come out this evening... yay for living on the west coast and getting to see some of the rest of the country's results before needing to sleep :)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

2008-11-01

Søren gets a trunk :)

Clever Cycles had a store-wide sale that ended today, so we decided to go and get the Basil Kavan II natural canvas pannier bags that I had been looking at, as they were about $50 off. I went to Trader Joe's with them to get some juice, and they worked great so far. It'll be nice once the leather wears in and gets softer, and the straps are easier to open and close, but so far, so good. Here they are :)

From Biking

From Biking