Saturday, May 24, 2008

Picking a Name

In the midst of our young dog's trials, we reconsidered the name she got at the shelter, Gracie. I lobbied vigorously for Underfoot, but my wife hated it. She came up with Wendy, but that was mainly because she was craving lunch at the time. I tossed out a bunch of ideas, and the only serious contender was Rosie. My wife didn't like it because it made her think of AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie." I, on the other hand, thought of Bruce Springsteen's classic concert closer "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and, to a lesser extent, "Oh Rosie" by Robert Earl Keen, Jr.

Alas, my wife could not shake "Whole Lotta Rosie" from her mind, and she insisted that our innocent little dog "is not that kind of girl." We decided to stick with Gracie, a name already well known among Chicago's veterinary community.

Viagra: the New Cycling Performance Drug?

A report titled "Riders using Viagra for altitude?" examines medical research about the little blue pill's effect on cycling performance in the mountains.

This reminds me of the controversy surrounding hypoxic tents, which simulate the low-oxygen environment of high altitude. This encourages the body to create more red blood cells, improving aerobic capacity and endurance. Two years ago, the World Anti-Doping Agency considered banning such tents because they achieve results similar to blood doping.

Now there is another way to improve cycling performance by pitching a tent.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lyrics of the Day

Jennifer's comment about the "very bad idea" of arguing with police made me think of this verse from "Guitar Man Upstairs" by Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers:

When I was sixteen I had a little trouble with the law
He said "Boy come here" I said "Boy yourself
I ain't done nothing wrong"
He grabbed me by the arm and he went upside my head
Nobody saw nothing
But I got a little spot where my hair ain't grown back yet
That's from Southern Rock Opera. If you don't own it yet, you should.

Close Call for Gracie

Wednesday, I awoke to the phone ringing. My wife had been walking Gracie along Lawrence Avenue when the little girl darted out into the street and took a few licks from a green puddle of antifreeze.

Ethylene glycol, the primary ingredient in antifreeze, is horribly toxic to dogs (actually to all animals including humans). At first, the animal may appear to be drunk, but this passes after several hours. The next stage gets ugly. When the liver processes ethylene glycol, it creates substances that permanently damage the kidneys. Untreated, an animal will die within days. It only takes two ounces of ethylene glycol to kill a medium-sized dog. At 36 pounds, Gracie might be on the light side of medium.

Fortunately, Gracie ingested the antifreeze only a block away from a veterinary clinic called Animal House of Chicago. My wife walked her there and called me. First they made Gracie vomit, and then they made her swallow activated charcoal. The bill was only $135, but her treatment was just beginning.

Intravenous hydration was the next step. Since Animal House was closing at 2 PM, we had to transport Gracie to Chicago Emergency Veterinary Services on Clybourn Avenue, which is open overnight. The last time I was there was "the beginning of the end" for Teddy, so it brought back a lot of painful memories. Sometimes I still wonder whether it would have been more humane to let him go that awful night instead of trying in vain to prolong his life (he died a month later after great expense and I hope not too much suffering).

Gracie's prognosis was relatively good since she didn't drink much antifreeze and received treatment immediately. The vet ran tests to get a baseline on her kidneys, and then they began the IV. They retested her at 4 AM Thursday, and her kidneys were still fine. The emergency vet closed at 8 AM, so we had to pick her up first thing in the morning. In addition to the bill (another $609), they gave us a bag of IV fluid to take back to Animal House so they could hydrate her for the rest of the day. Gracie was surprisingly lively considering what she had been through.

The 15-minute car ride from the emergency vet to Animal House was like a scene from a horror movie. Gracie was in the car for less than a minute when she started gnawing at the dressing on her leg. By the time I said, "I'd better sit in back with her," she had torn out her catheter. Luckily for us, the furniture pad I use to keep the car clean when transporting my bike was still in place. As blood flowed from her leg, I struggled to hold her head to keep her from doing more damage. By the time we arrived at Animal House, there was blood on her front legs and chest, and the furniture pad was saturated.

We were the first ones in the door when Animal House opened. Gracie made quite an entrance, leaving bloody paw prints all over the lobby. They took her in back and inserted a new catheter. Then they put an "idiot collar" on so she couldn't bite her leg again. We left her there for more IV treatment and went home. Since I had to take the car in for service, we removed the blood-soaked furniture pad. Imagine what a mechanic would have thought if he'd seen that!

We called to check on Gracie late Thursday afternoon. They said she was doing well, but they wanted to give her another IV. Fortunately, they had a vet there overnight so we didn't have to transport her back to the emergency vet. We picked her up at 2 PM today and paid another $250. At that point, poor Gracie had spent more time at the vet than in our house since we adopted her. So far there are no signs of kidney damage, but they gave us some pills and asked us to come back Saturday for one more blood test (another $120).

Incredibly, she seems none the worse for wear; she was quite spirited on the half-mile walk home. Rosco greeted her with a wagging tail, but a few minutes later he growled at her to back off. It will take a while for those two to work things out, but right now we're just glad Gracie is still alive.

While I could fault my wife for not keeping a tight rein on Gracie (she'll definitely be more vigilant in the future), at least she did the right thing by getting the dog to a vet ASAP. I'm glad we could afford to spend that $1,120 -- there goes our economic stimulus check -- but I hope Gracie will be less expensive in the future!

The Value of Visibility

Jennifer wonders what else she can do to make herself more visible to motorists. From the photos I've seen, I think she has done an excellent job of making herself and her bicycles garishly impossible to ignore. She doesn't need most of the following advice, but many others do...

What should a cyclist do to increase visibility? Following the law is a good start:

Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.
That's Illinois law (Chicago's is similar). Blinking taillights are fairly common in Chicago, but I am amazed how few cyclists use headlights (note above that taillights are optional while headlights are mandatory). My wife is a police officer. When she tells cyclists to get headlights, they actually argue with her. That's pretty nervy considering that she could give them tickets instead of verbal warnings for such equipment violations.

Additional reflectors on pedals and wheels help to draw attention (although the law requires new bikes to be sold with them, it doesn't say bicycles must have them to be operated at night). Light colored clothing, including a white helmet, is good, and reflective clothing is better. You can put reflective stickers all over your bike.

At some point, however, the extra expense isn't worth it. Jennifer's post reminds me of something written by experienced bicycle tourist Peter Saint James on the Touring e-mail list:

When I lived in Colorado, I found an amazingly high number of Front Range motorists doing things like turning in front of me or cutting me off. On occasion I would catch one and confront them with their illegal, dangerous, and impolite act. The answer I always got was, "I didn't see you." I thought about doing things to become more visible until I heard about a woman who crashed into a full-sized, bright yellow, school bus and gave the same excuse. I gave up.
That is not to say that making yourself highly visible is a waste of time and money. But visibility only goes so far, so don't obsess about it. I know of a Chicago cyclist notorious for using multiple headlights and taillights -- proverbially "lit up like a Christmas tree" -- who was critically injured when a car hit him one night.

The most important ways to avoid nighttime accidents are the same as to avoid daytime accidents:
  • Ride defensively.
  • Follow the laws.
  • Watch other traffic closely.
  • Always assume no one can see you, no matter how much reflective gear you have.

Dress yourself and your bike to be seen, but don't forget that how you ride is more important than how you look.

Dear Self in 2005:

It looks like Jennifer started a meme, which makes her way cooler in Bloggerland than she probably thought she was.

Dear Self in 2005:

Don't stop exercising and start pigging out to mourn Teddy.

Your Self in 2008

P.S. Watch that travel budget; you'll never sell enough books to cover it.

Her letter is thankful while mine is loaded with regret, but I'll leave the analysis to someone else.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Go David!!!

In the Chicago Tribune's "Ask Amy" advice column today, there is a letter from "David in Northern Illinois:"

I'm a 19-year-old male college student. I'm planning a bicycle trip from Illinois to Oregon with a male friend this summer. My parents are worried about my safety, and they are considering not letting me go.
I rode across the country alone at age 31. Some people told my wife that she should forbid me from going (even strangers I met along the way asked me why my wife let me go). As I told her, "If you were the kind of wife who would try to stop me, I wouldn't have married you!" My only concession to the worriers in my life was to carry a cell phone, which at least was handy for making motel reservations.

Bicycle touring only scares people who haven't done it. People are so paranoid about the dangers of the world. Someone who has done ample planning and is in reasonable physical condition should be fine. Sure, bad things can happen on a bike trip (David, don't let your parents see this book), but bad things can happen anywhere, anytime. I am sure a lot of great things will happen on David's trip, and those memories will stay with him forever.

Amy gave David the right advice, basically saying, "You're 19 years old and your parents need to 'let go' and let you go." Have a great trip, David!

Our New Dog

We got her at the Anti-Cruelty Society on Monday. They named her Gracie, but we might change it. She's only eleven months old. I wanted a dog that was a few years older and a little less crazy, but she and Rosco got along well at their "meet & greet." Now that she is home, Rosco isn't quite so friendly. She won't leave him alone -- she's the obnoxious younger sibling that Rosco was when we got him nine years ago. I hope this wasn't a mistake.

Note: I've been trying to post this since Tuesday, but Blogger wouldn't upload my photos. I finally had to do it the old fashioned way -- I uploaded the photos to my Web site and coded the HTML for them.

Biking Illinois at CBF Events

Speaking of sponsorships, I am donating books again for numerous Chicagoland Bicycle Federation events. Signed copies of Biking Illinois will be among the raffle prizes at Bike the Drive and the Bicycle Commuter Challenge in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

DJWriter, Inc. Sponsors MC200 Runners

DJWriter, Inc. is proud to announce its sponsorship of the ChiADeads running team in the 2008 Madison-Chicago 200 Relay on June 6-7. Ever since I became a business owner 12 years ago, I have wanted to sponsor an athletic team or event. This is a prime opportunity since I've been involved with the ChiADeads group since its inception. I can't wait to see the team t-shirts with DJWriter, Inc. plastered across the back!

The 203-mile race is divided into 36 relay legs. Starting at 8 AM on June 6 in Madison, Wisconsin, each of the team's ten racers will run three or four legs ranging from 3.0 to 8.6 miles. They expect to finish around 4 PM on June 7 at Montrose Harbor on Chicago's lakefront.

The Chicago Area Dead Runners Society started in 1999 as a sublist of the Dead Runners Society, an international online running club founded in 1991. Although I stopped running years ago due to recurring knee problems, I still participate in the group (in 2000 I started a bicycling sublist called ChiACycle). I miss running very much and wish I could be racing in this event. Sponsoring the team is the next best thing.

Other sponsors of the ChiADeads team include Runners Grove, New Leaf Technologies, and R.J. Foster & Associates.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bastard of the Day

One of my wife's f***ing cats crawled into the corner behind my desk and turned off my computer's power strip tonight. We're talking about getting another dog. I hope it eats those little bastards.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

And People Think City Cyclists Are Crazy?

No, this is crazy: today I saw a guy roller-blading down Lincoln Avenue while pushing a double-wide baby stroller. Sheesh, somebody ought to call DCFS or something.

Another observation: I was eating a leisurely lunch at Costello Sandwich & Sides while reading a great book (so far, at least), Ogallala Blue by William Ashworth. The Cubs game was on the overhead TV in the corner. Occasionally, I looked up from my book to see the Cubs beating the tar out of the San Diego Padres. Having been emotionally scarred as a child by the 1984 National League Championship Series, I still love to see the Cubs whip them, even though that slimy bastard Steve Garvey is long gone. But I digress.*

Anyway, over the two hours that I was there (I told you it was leisurely!), I saw at least half a dozen women wearing Cubs jerseys or t-shirts come in to buy sandwiches. Strangely, every one of them sat at a table outside instead of sitting inside where they could watch the game. Granted, it was a beautiful day, but still. I couldn't imagine my mom -- a real Cubs fan** -- choosing a little sidewalk sunshine over a good Padre pummeling.

* I'll make this a footnote to avoid digressing even more. In 8th grade, I had a history teacher who would use that phrase several times an hour. The word digress will forever remind me of him, as will any mention of the Civil War -- he was a reenactor, and he'd often wear his uniform to class.

** My definition of a real Cubs fan: someone who goes to Wrigley Field to watch the game, not to get drunk on ridiculously overpriced beer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lyrics of the Day

Here's a special Mother's Day edition of LotD featuring "Mama Tried" by the legendary Merle Haggard:

And I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole
No one could steer me right, but Mama tried, Mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading I denied,
That leaves only me to blame, 'cause Mama tried

70 Years, 70 Miles... And $70,000!

The local cycling scene has been full of bad news, anger, and sadness lately, so here's something good from the Southeast...

I got an e-mail earlier this week from Katherine Jeter of Spartanburg, SC. She had read about my Grand Illinois Trail tour, and she was wondering if I could give her some bike-friendly directions for an upcoming visit to Illinois (thanks, Chris). I don't think she'll mind if I quote her:

Loved reading about your 2000 trip. I am a 69-year-old grandmother, training for a 70 mile bike ride on my 70th birthday, on October 25th, to raise $70,000 for my two favorite charities. We've already surpassed $31,000!
This woman has more ambition at 69 than I had at 19! In another e-mail, she forwarded a newspaper article about her efforts. She is raising money for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which assists soldiers and their families while the soldiers are receiving medical treatment, and Jack's Place, which provides housing for patients at Shaw Cancer Center in Colorado.

One thing that Jeter liked about my GIT tour was that I did it on a hybrid bike. She said that "bike snobs" give her a hard time, but she loves her Trek hybrid. Although she was probably disappointed to learn that I now ride a touring bike most of the time, I told her I know a Trek hybrid rider who will enjoy hearing her story.

If you want to help Jeter reach her fundraising goal by supporting these worthy causes, scroll down to the bottom of the article and look under "More Information."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bastard of the Day

Perennial bastard Alderman Bernard Stone is at it again. This time he wants to put a senior center in Warren Park.* This sums it up nicely:

"Parkland is not a land bank for other government agencies," said Erma Tranter of the Friends of the Park organization.
It's Rogers Park, for goodness' sake. There are plenty of vacant lots and dilapidated properties that would be ideal for a senior center rather than stealing parkland from the general populace.

This might be the best comment on a Tribune story I've ever read:
For years we've screwed ourselves "for the sake of the children." Now that the boomers are getting up in years it's time to screw ourselves "for the sake of the seniors."
Speaking of seniors, I wish that crusty, old bastard Stone would just retire already.

* Although the article doesn't mention Stone until the last few paragraphs, anybody who knows Chicago politics knows that an alderman is always responsible for what is or is not built in his ward. Recall how Stone ridiculously used another senior project to deny a pedestrian/bicyclist bridge. If the Chicago Children's Museum desecrates Grant Park, it will be a rare example of an alderman not getting his way -- bowing to the ultimate clout, Mayor Daley.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lyrics of the Day

A special treat for those who saw the Drive-By Truckers at Metro on Saturday was "The Tough Sell," a song from their second album, Gangstabilly, that has been played only one other time this year (and only seven times since 2004). The protagonist describes making a purchase from stereotypical used-car salesman EZ DAN:
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other;
It certainly wasn't the car of my dreams, but the price was right.
And EZ DAN assured me that the mid 70's were a particularly nice period for Chrysler products in general,
"and this one is a Volare."
EZ DAN doesn't fare well in the next verse, but let's say he probably deserved what he got. My first car was a 1977 Plymouth Volare, and I assert that the mid 70s were not "a particularly nice period for Chrysler products," except perhaps for desert dwellers. That car never ran worth a damn in the rain, no matter what I fixed or replaced. At least I was fortunate to have the V-8 (318 c.i.) instead of the standard straight six.

I had some good times with that car, no matter how many times it broke my heart.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Lyrics of the Day

In "Women Without Whiskey", Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers ponders love and liquor:
If morning's a bitch with open arms, then night's a girl who's gone too far.
Whiskey is harder to keep than a woman and it's half as sweet,
but women without whiskey?
Women without whiskey?
Whiskey is hard to beat.
Whiskey is hard to beat.
Much to the dismay of 12-steppers everywhere, the booze wins.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I'm Stumped

There has to be a good homophone-related joke here, but I can't think of one right now:
HONOLULU - May Day was Lei Day in Hawaii. Volunteers hoping to set a record for the world's longest lei strung together flowers that stretched for more than a mile at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki on Thursday, organizers said.
On a related note, I must confess that, despite being a stickler for grammar, I tend to misuse lie and lay just to amuse myself. Here is the depressing part of the story:
Success seems all but certain, because organizers say there currently isn't a Guinness record for the world's longest lei.
Damn! That means that until now, I could have made a much shorter lei -- because I'm always stringing up flowers in my spare time at DJWriter HQ anyway -- and claimed the record. Another blown opportunity to get into the Guinness book!

The Government Is Experimenting On Me

I've been gassed:
Calling it the most effective tool to date in the War on Terror, the Pentagon announced Monday that it had developed a new chemical weapon called "ennui gas," a nerve agent that overwhelms its victims with sudden philosophical distress over the meaningless tedium of human life and a sinking sense that everything they have ever accomplished ultimately amounts to dust... Symptoms include uncontrollable sighing, repeated utterances of the phrase "What's the use?" a confusion and bitterness regarding one's place in the universe, and an increased proclivity to listen to Lou Reed records.
At least now I have an excuse. And I do have a lot of Lou Reed* records.

* Speaking of Lou, no one told me he got hitched again last month.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bastard of the Day

My life has rarely been enriched by the Chicago Tribune Web site's message boards, but combative commenters have reached a new low arguing about the death of bicyclist and teacher Amanda "Mandy" Annis.

Cyclists and motorists have been duking it out on the Trib's message boards frequently this spring. Every article about bicycling draws hostile responses where each side condemns the behavior of the other. Discussions get especially heated regarding articles about cyclist deaths. Most commenters don't even pay attention to the facts behind each story -- they just trot out a tired litany of reasons the other side must be to blame.

I've grown used to the hatred and ill-formed arguments by now, but the comments about Annis really struck a nerve. For most of the day, the Tribune had a brief article about the incident. Anti-motorist and anti-cyclist commenters faced off in page after page of often mean-spirited messages. Then this afternoon, the Tribune replaced the brief with an in-depth article about Annis -- her kindness, her achievements, and perhaps most heartbreaking, her pending engagement. The Tribune included a photo of the smiling young teacher in her classroom. This was a woman who had already done good things in her 24 years and had an even brighter future.

After the updated story was published, a wave of comments from friends and family remembering Annis appeared on the message boards. Alas, they were interspersed with those of the warring factions who were unable to give up their pointless dispute, people who'd been quarreling all day and probably didn't even know the Tribune had posted a new version of the story. I wish those grieving for her didn't have to plow through such malicious nonsense.

And yet, it got worse. As family and friends wrote of this young life taken too soon, some bastards had the audacity to say, in essence, "Save your remembrances for the obituary. This is a news story, and you can't stop us from fighting about it."

For a sense of the intensity of the debate, look at how many comments were posted and the ID number of the last comment. As of 11:30 PM, there were 255 comments, and the last ID number was 319. That means 64 comments -- 20 percent -- were removed by Tribune editors for crossing the line of decency.

Annis' death is tragic by any measure. Shame on the bickering bastards who can't set aside their conflict for a little compassion.

UPDATE 05/02/2008 - In a Tribune commentary, Kevin Williams offers a suggestion:
...Wheel Freedom Day. No wheels. No skates, bikes, cars or cabs. Everybody's on foot until we all calm down. Because everybody is mad, and nobody is thinking.
Naturally, his commentary has drawn even more argumentative bastards into the fray. Meanwhile, Annis' smiling, young face graces the top of the Tribune's homepage this morning.

Quote of the Day

"Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change."
--Frank Lloyd Wright