Monday, April 30, 2007


I get shitloads of spam. Everyday. Most of it automatically goes to my spam folder where, once a day, I give it a quick scan before permanently deleting the majority.

Since I know someone named Jim Hess, I gave this particular missive a once-over only to realize it ain't from my Jim Hess. Fortunately, it has that most unlikely humorous quality to it only realized in bad to-English translations. Have a read and I think you'll agree. Clicking on the image will enlarge--dare I say enhance--the text.

Me? I'm off to Payless to get a size 13 loafer for my Johnson.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Atop Mt. Hamilton 4/26

A cherry 1986 Fiero...and I thought Lotuses were cool.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spider Dave is my F-ing Hero

What can I say? I'm one with the freaks.

Dave's Web Site

Monday, April 23, 2007

Creature From The Desk #9

Today’s Creature from the Desk is a packet of Easton Friction Paste. It looks suspiciously like a packet of Sriracha (Asian hot sauce) and I nearly put it on my Charlie Hong Kong rice bowl the other day. Though I’ve never tasted friction paste, I’m thinking it’s pretty nasty…and that would have forced me to use hot sauce on bike parts, which can't be right either.

Anyway, friction paste is a grease of sorts except that it’s not meant to lubricate. It has some magical grains of synthetic grit that help insure both corrosion resistance and impressive resistance—paradoxically preventing both the slippage and the seizing of clamped bicycle components (i.e. seatposts, bars and stem, etc.) at the same time.

I’ve heard it works really well, but haven’t gotten around to putting it on my bikes yet. I should though—I’ve always been a little wary about how tight I’ve cinched the carbon seatpost in my carbon frame…and this stuff is supposed to let you get away with 30 percent less torque on the fixing bolts.

So it sounds really good for my bike…but not so much for my lunch.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Heartbreak Sweet Heartbreak

When I think of the word heartbreak, it generally conjures up memories of getting dumped, images of a Cinderella basketball team losing by a point to the heavy favorite, or songs by Tom Petty and Elvis. Check that, Elvis first, then Tom Petty.

And while I wouldn't be as dramatic as to say my heart has been broken lately, it's definitely been rattled a couple times. And in a most unusual way.

Just over a year ago my co-worker and friend Bill Corliss was killed in a bike/car accident near his home in Utah. It was very difficult for all of us at work and, yes, truly heartbreaking to comprehend, especially when considering the unfathomable loss suffered by Bill's family, particularly his wife Deb and his newly adopted 12-year-old son Jordan.

A couple weeks ago Bill's brother Greg, who lives locally, called and told me his parents and Jordan would be spending spring break in Santa Cruz. He wondered if I might be able to give them a tour of our facilities so they could see the place Bill was always raving about. There was no hesitation in granting their request.

After introductions and pleasantries, I took the family around the building and showed them what we do and how we do it with an emphasis on the many projects Bill had a hand in. During the tour I was reminded of how utterly cool the people I work with are--everyone I introduced them to dropped whatever they were working on and gave our guests their complete attention and accommodation.

One of our designers took them to the shape shop, the House of the Holy of our company, where outside eyes rarely gaze and even inside eyes are very limited. From there it was all the way through R&D and sports marketing and graphics and to the test lab.

It was there, the test lab, where we intentionally break things that the first shot to my heart struck.

Bill's dad was in deep conversation with our lab technician about impact standards--one that illustrated the shared DNA of Bill and his dad--when I engaged Jordan in a side conversation as he gazed up at a poster of a mountain biker catching huge air.

ME: "Insane photo huh?"

JORDAN: "It's totally cool. I have a lot of freeride DVDs at home with stuff like that."

ME: "Sweet! A lot of those riders wear our helmets. Who's your favorite rider?"

JORDAN: "My favorite rider?" Pause. His voice between matter-of-fact and cheery. "My dad is my favorite rider."

According to government standards a bicycle helmet must limit the impact to less than 300 Gs in our lab tests in order to pass. I'm pretty sure my heart registered well above 10,000 Gs at that moment. How I did not cry, I cannot explain. The only thing I can figure is that Jordan projected some of his immense emotional strength upon me. For even now, it brings a tear to my eye to recall that conversation.
- - -
By the time the family left the building we had loaded them up with t-shirts and stickers and posters and as many choc skis as we could find. After some prodding, Jordan admitted that he'd had his eye on a couple of mountain bike helmets, which I offered to send him.

Last week, I got this thank you card from him:

That was the second shot.

And just for the record, you can break my heart with sweetness any time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gwen on Cloud Nine

Gwen--my mom--at the Stanford Sculpture Garden in 2003. She may have funny mollusks on her jacket, but her doctor says she's cancer free.

Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 10:25 AM
Subject: Oncology

To say I'm am floating on "cloud nine" would almost be an understatement. I was at the University of Chicago Hospitals last week for my annual CT and back today to see the Oncologist. He said "it is 5 years since your chemo, you do not have to come back". I still have to report once a year to the Urologist, but maybe that will cease too.

Peace, and thank all of you for all of your prayers,

So it goes.

Author Kurt Vonnegut left us today. His death the result of a head injury sustained last week in a household accident.

So it goes.

Thank you for everything.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Creature from the Desk #8

This week’s Creature from the Desk is a photograph I bought at Architectural Artifacts, a building salvage operation that I think obtained the picture from a discarded exhibit at the Chicago Historical Society. Written in grease pencil on the back of the photo is “Social Security Building & Gerald Lee.” The photo is signed artist-style by Ron Gordon and dated 1982. And while I think it’s a fairly thought-provoking photo for the casual viewer, it has a cascading effect on me.

The subject of the photo is an apparently homeless man—whom I assume to be the Gerald Lee from the inscription—in an empty lot on the outskirts of the Chicago Loop. Gerald, with a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard is looking up from a book he’s reading, his eyes barely a sliver either trying to adjust to the difference of light intensity or from some ailment or exhaustion or all of the above. It’s a bright day, but probably cold, given all the layers he’s wearing. He has a half-pound bag of Lay’s potato chips at his feet and is wearing a ‘Mack Trucks’ knit cap.

In the background you can see the Social Security Administration Building, a glistening post-modernist glass-and-steel box amongst old and crumbling brick buildings. On the right hand side of the photo there is a sign on a lamp post that reads “End Blasting”—something I always found interesting given the bombed-out landscape.

Just behind the man is a sign for the Polk Brothers outlet store. Polk Brothers was fairly large regional appliance and electronics chain that folded in the early ‘90’s. I witnessed the symbolic end to Polk Brothers in 1987 when their headquarters, warehouse and largest retail store burned to the ground in a spectacular fire just across the street from the community college I attended.

In front of the Social Security Building is a giant baseball bat—a 100-foot-tall sculpture that was installed in the late ‘70’s with great fanfare. I remember arguing with a friend that it was a White Sox bat, not a Cubs bat.

In the early ‘80’s a guy who went by the name of Spider Dan scaled the bat wearing a Spider Man costume. He went on to scale the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building—respectively the world’s tallest and second-tallest buildings at the time—then went to New York and climbed the World Trade Center, and on to Toronto to climb the CN Tower. He was a bit of a nutter and attention seeker, to be sure, but he had his reasons and they were noble.

So you see there’s all this going on in this photograph for me, but it’s simple too. It’s the look in Gerald’s eye, his right eye, the good one. On one hand sad, but somehow content—I think…or hope, anyway.

PS - If you click on the photo the pop-up is larger than usual, to see the detail.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Opening Day

Now THAT'S bad.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pop Music, Advertising, and the Saving Grace of Irony

I don't know what it is that so abrades me about companies repurposing popular music into their advertising. When a commercial with a song I like comes on, I can literally feel my blood pressure rise as I hurl profanities at the TV in dialogue generally reserved for bad umpires. To my chagrin the TV is indefatigably stoic, refusing to even acknowledge, let alone engage me in emotional banter. Let me tell you friend, that Hitachi is one cold blooded mother fucker.

Brown goes Postal in the latest run of UPS ads.

I suppose I feel that, at a minimum, using pop songs—good pop songs—in commercials debases the art. Which is to say that I could give a shit if they use a Carrie Underwood song to sell tampons or rechargeable drills or Crystal Lite drink mix—have at it. That’s not art, it’s Pop Rocks.

But when they use the Ramones or Johnny Cash or Modern English even, well, that there is straight-up aggression on my personal aesthetic sensibilities. Especially when it catches me by surprise.

I was at a somewhat bland party a couple years ago and I earnestly mentioned to the host that the music they had on was good. And when I say good, I mean OK/good—definitely not great or even above average/good—I was expecting Celine Dion and was pretty happy when I didn’t have to throw myself off their balcony at the sounds of her shrill saccharine. Anyway, the host was quite proud that I’d noticed the music and even more proud to let me know that all the songs came from a mix he’d found on iTunes called “Songs from Commercials.” Suffice it to say that I had a new reason to not venture to the second floor for the rest of the night.

I should interject here that I know and acknowledge that there are lots of people out there who actually LIKE hearing their favorite songs in commercials.

Who actually LIKE hearing the soundtrack of their deflowering being played while they contemplate, oh, I dunno, the number of cup holders in that new SUV they’ve been eyeing.

People who actually LIKE being manipulated and having their emotional connection to a time, place, people and song switched and co-opted into objectified consumerist impulses.

All I can say is that these people are very wrong. And disturbed. And wrong.

The only thing that keeps me sane on this whole thing is what I believe to be the unintentional irony of many of these spots. Secretly, I hope there’s some clever subversive working at each ad agency who insures that holier-than-thou music snobs like myself will be able to poke holes in this shit.

I have to say I was fairly sickened by the American Association of Retired Persons' recent misappropriation of the Buzzcocks' “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” for their latest spot. While the commercial tries to convey a hip and happy take on aging and retirement, the song itself is really a sarcastic and quite UNhappy commentary, the fullness of which is evident when you actually listen to the lyrics and best summed up in the line “life’s an illusion, love is a dream.”

Or perhaps it’s not ironic at all. Most old people I know seem preoccupied with healthcare costs and incontinence and memory loss and hearing loss. What? HEARING LOSS! So perhaps the unhappy original intent of “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” is relevant to the real, unglamorized, arthritis-riddled, rank-and-file AARP member, and not so much for the fountain-of-youthers in their commercials.

I saw another commercial last night that was ironic in a different sort of way. UPS has launched a series of spots themed “Whiteboard” that feature a trying-to-hard-to-be-hipster-business-guy doodling all this shit on the wall about shipping logistics. The spot culminates with him connecting the doodles to make the UPS logo (pictured above). So very clever.

The music playing in the background? A song called “Such Great Heights.”

The band? The Postal Service.