Aftershokz bone conducting headphones

One, if not the major goal I have while cycling is not to get killed.

Another is to become a stronger rider. In order to accomplish the latter one must simply put in the time and miles. As cyclist Greg LeMond has said, “It doesn’t get easier – you just get faster.”  This means, in my case, putting in a lot of solo time on the bike. Now this is not a bad thing – it can be a very zen experience – just you, the click of a freewheel, your panting becoming a mantra up a long climb – but eventually one gets tired of the voices in their own head.

Music or a book on tape could sure make the hours in the saddle a bit easier – but, only a lunatic would plug their ears with ear buds out on the open road.  Ambient sound while riding not only allows you to hear the insults hurled by tobacco chewing pick up drivers, it is a great part of keeping a rider aware of their surroundings and therefore – alive.

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There are blue tooth speakers that go into your water bottle cage, but I find them bulky and on a longer ride I’d sure rather have a second water bottle there. Fortunately I have found what is a good solution for myself. Aftershokz bone conducting headphones. These headphones sit in front of one’s ears leaving your ears open to the outside world sounds.

They are the opposite of noise cancelling headphone – they claim that they conduct the sound directly into your cranium via your cheekbones. I’m not so sure how much of this is true – I find them to be more like little speakers in front of my ears. In any case – they work.

Now while the sound is better than passable it is by no means on a par with in ear or ear covering headphones. IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE – these things are meant to let in the outside sounds to keep you aware of your environment as you pedal or run through it. the headset stays in place perfectly and does not interfere with wearing a helmet. I opted for the wired version with the mic so that i could take phone calls. There is a bluetooth version that is a bit more expensive – but I decided since I had my Garmin connected to my phone via bluetooth already I didn’t want to add the battery drain to my phone.

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On group rides  I leave the headset home – but if I am headed out for a couple of hours solo – I take my Aftershokz. I did have one small issue with my sets volume controls. I wrote the company and they replaced them via warranty very quickly.

So I have been using these for about three months now and I can easily say that I recommend them – it’s fun  to have a soundtrack to my workouts without increasing the chances of being run over by a dump truck.

 

God bless Donald Trump.

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Trump is not the problem.

Okay, so it looks like this Russia stuff might be the straw that breaks the back of this administration. If not for the initial infraction – most likely for the cover-ups they are spinning. So – it seems to me in all likelihood Trump will not be finishing out his first term. I could be wrong – it does seem like nothing really matters anymore – but the political system doesn’t cotton to outsiders very well and eventually spits them out.

And therein lies the real dilemma. Trump is not the problem – he is a symptom. Now, a lot of the holier than thou left wing liberals are pushing around the idea that he is the manifestation of the low educated racists elements of the country – and true these types have gravitated toward him – but that is way too simplistic a diagnosis. It is an analysis that allows these same liberals to avoid any responsibility for his election and it was, in my opinion, these very same elitist libs who got Trump elected in the first place.

What was his appeal to the voters in the flyover states? Simple – he is a Washington outsider. So much of the country has felt that the deck is stacked against them for so long that anything – even a crude, misogynistic, race baiting semi-literate buffoon was a better option than more of the same. These folks are right – the deck is stacked against them – in the decimation of union jobs – in outsourcing – in the redistribution of wealth upwards and upwards and upwards – in campaign finance laws that give money the rights (but not the responsibilities) of a person – in the most expensive healthcare system on the planet – the list goes on and on.

The Democratic party lost all credibility in these voters’ eyes when the Wall Street oligarchs responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008 walked away not only Scott free – but with OUR money. Add to that the fact that The Dems nominee was seen (legitimately I believe) as in bed with these crooks and you have a recipe for the disaster that followed. Andrew Kaufman summarizes it nicely here.

Was there Russian interference – sure there was – but the election should never have been close enough that it would matter. Election meddling is a fact of life. Hell, the US is one of the greatest practitioners of it across the globe. Get used to it – put up a candidate who is so distinguishable from their opponent that a quarter percentage point will not matter.

So – what are the chances that the Democratic party will have learned a lesson from this? I predict – none. The upper crust lib has benefitted far too much from the status quo. They are out to protect their own pile of cheese crackers and wine. Why do you think the DNC were so hell-bent on making sure Bernie Sanders didn’t get the nomination – even when every poll showed him beating Trump easily?

Removing Trump from office is not the answer to all our problems. It’s like taking an aspirin for an aneurism.

Do I think we’d have been better off with a Clinton presidency – of course we would in smaller ways – but the biggest issues would still have been ignored. I am starting to wonder if Susan Sarandon was right – that we needed this wake up call of electing a completely unqualified and dangerous person to the presidency to take a look at what was really going on. Unfortunately – I am also pretty sure that her theory is too optimistic.

The ruling class has no fear of the masses. Look at the healthcare bill that is being pushed through right now – virtually nobody supports it but its passing or failure is at a razor’s edge margin – if only 17% of the population supports this train wreck of a bill how is it even close? Because it benefits .5% of the wealthiest – plain and simple it is a wealthcare bill. THIS is the reason Trump is president. There is no representation for the majority of folks in this country and the disenfranchised and disgusted just wanted a change. Just wanted to send a message. Just wanted to be heard.

Too bad nobody is listening they’re too busy playing gotcha with Russian nesting dolls.

 

Oru-Case part Deux

Okay – my bike is safe and sound in Seattle. Absolutely no worse for wear.

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit anxious – but it turns out I didn’t have to worry on this trip. Couple little things that I gleaned from this first foray that might be of use for others who decide to try this case in order to avoid the extra fees airlines might charge.

A couple folks warned me that if I told the ticketing agents that there was a bike in the case – even if it was under the size restrictions they might decide to charge me ($200.00 each way on United) anyways.  I was also told other airlines don’t charge as much – but I am sitting on buttloads of air miles with United so that is a moot point for me. Anyway it was suggested to me that I could just say fitness equipment – a massage table – corporate display – but the best suggestion I decided was “bike parts” which is 100% truthful. Now I had packed my pedals in my carryon so if anyone had the foresight to ask me if there were a whole bicycle inside my case I could honestly answer – no.

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This is some split pipe insulation that I put on the chainring to add extra padding to it where it rested in the bottom of the case. The case is padded but I wanted to add a bit more.

In the end, this time – none of this mattered. Sara dropped me at the curb and I checked my bag there – curbside. The dude who took it didn’t ask me anything except where I was going– I asked him to please take extra care of it – gave him a couple bucks tip. He slapped an extra fragile tag on it and I was on my way.

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I also used some of this padding on the seat stays as well.

As I was boarding the plane one of the baggage handlers came onto the gangway – I asked her if she could please look out for my bag – the one with the orange duct tape and he “please do not drop – thank you” scrawled across it. She said that they already loaded it – it was the last bag on and they took extra care because I had written THANK YOU on my message. She said folks always write fragile – do not drop, etc. etc. but rarely do they write thank you. So I had that going for me.

I had a change over in Denver and I was able to spy my bike as it was waiting for transfer to my next flight. It was lying on its side and I had to board before I could see them put it on – but it looked like they may have been holding it for last there too.

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That’s my bike waitng to be transferred to the second plane. It’s on its side – which will change some of the way I pack it next time.

Neither flight was too dramatic – but there was a bit of turbulence on both. Nothing to make you scream out loud – but a little jostling. In Seattle they brought the case in by hand rather than putting it on the belt, which would have dropped it onto the conveyor. I did a quick inspection unzip peeking in and it looked okay for what I could see.

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Here’s the bike as it emerged from the case.

I Ubered to my son’s house with my bike snuggly relaxing in the back seat. Once I was able to open the thing up I found my cycle in perfect condition. This was even more surprising because TSA had searched the case. They opened it up – looked through and resealed the thing and it still was in perfect condition.

So do I give a full-throated approval to the Oru-Case? I’d give it 90% approval right now – there was some extra care taken thanks to me having contact with several of the folks handling it – but it was on it’s own for at least half this trip. I’m definitely going to use it again – and I would even throw my cyclocross bike into it for an overseas trip.

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Rat bastards!

Let me get another couple journeys with this thing before I give an unqualified thumbs up – but – so far so good.

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It’s supposed to stop raining tomorrow.

Oru-Case maiden voyage

US Airlines are pretty much evil. They squeeze us into less and less space, take away past perks such as meals and award miles premiums – they act as if it is your privilege to pay them for their increasingly shallower service.

I’ve watched it deteriorate over the last two decades as I have been hovering around the 100,000 mile travel mark yearly since I started working internationally. One of my gravest days was when Continental merged with United – but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I’m here to talk about traveling with a bike.

Once was a time that you could check your cased bike like any piece of luggage, No more – size restrictions have made it almost impossible to get away from extra charges to fly your bike. Of course golf clubs and skis are still exempt. Beer belly execs are safe to transport their sticks and balls at will as are the snow bunnies because – well you tell me why.  I have my own theories based on socio-economic biases but that too is another story.

I’m here to chronicle my maiden voyage with an orucase.  The manufactures promise that their cases come in under the guidelines of all the major airlines  and will be acepted as checked luggage. The case isn’t cheap – $400.00 – but United would charge me 200.00 each way on a flight – so if it works once – it has paid for itself.

You do have to have a smidgen of mechanical aptitude as the disassembly is a bit more involved than your regular case.

The Orucase is soft sided and padded. My bike is an Orbea Orca 57mm – so it’s not a small bike by any means. Here’s the process:

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Here we go – we need to get that bike into that case.
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First – pop the wheels off.
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Next – remove the pedals.
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Take off the rear derailleur.
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Off comes the front brake.
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Remove the front fork.
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I put all the internal components back on as they came off.
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I thought about taking the chain off – but decided to just gather it up and wrap it and the rear derailleur up in bubble wrap and tape to frame with painters masking tape.
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Wrapped front brake in bubble wrap too.
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thee’s a fold over pouch that your fork goes in.  In order to get it to sit neatly when folded over I ended up taking the back brake off too, which was not in the original instructions.
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Just about there.
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Here’s the fork sitting in that pouch.
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Remove the skewers from the wheels.
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Slide the wheels on either side of he bike – there is a pocket for the pedals skewers etc. I wrapped the seat – still attached to the tube in bubble wrap and set it inside the case in the middle of the frame.
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All closed up
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And here it is with a floor  pump for scale (I was out of bananas.)

So – I leave for Seattle on Thursday – today is Tuesday – I figured I’d pack the bike a day early in case anything weird happened.

It seems pretty safe as long as nobody goes dropping the thing off a ramp – I’m going to get some duct tape and write on it “please do not drop”. Total weight is 34lbs. well under the standard 50 allowed for checked luggage and it is pretty compact.

We will see.

Updates to come.

Cyclists are the worst people ever!

bike06Cyclists are without a doubt the worst people on earth and deserve to be harassed, frightened, cursed at and or run off the roads, that by the way, were made for cars and nothing else!

This is how it seems to us who are out and about on two wheels – whether for recreation or commuting. I have been the victim of all of the above. There is something about wrapping a couple thousand pounds of steel and glass around some folks that turns otherwise nice peoples into intolerant jerks.

First – some facts. Bicycles are considered a vehicle and have all the same rights as automobiles on the road – including the right take a whole lane if the cyclist believes this to be the safest option – this is the law. Law requires that cyclists ride to the right as far as they feel safe. Debris, potholes, puddles etcetera often make riding too far right dangerous. It is not the automobile driver’s decision where a cyclist should feel safe. In Ohio – where I live – it is also the law that when one passes a cyclist on the road one must give at least three feet space when doing so – and one may cross a solid double line in the road to do so as long as it is safe. Again, this is the law. If drivers cared to be educated enough about this a whole lot of frustration could be avoided.

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So shouting at cyclists that they should be on the sidewalk is not only dangerous – but it is legally wrong and only proves that the shouter does not know what they are yelling about. Similarly, buzzing a rider at less than three feet is not only dangerous, but also illegal.

Let’s go back to shouting at cyclists for a bit. It doesn’t work – most of the time we cannot understand what you are shouting. It’s called the Doppler effect – your irate bellowing just sounds like a dog’s bark. It’s jarring, but communicates no information other than that you are impatient. It does startle a rider though and can cause them to swerve or overreact – shouting at cyclists has been documented as a cause of death. Is it what one is hoping to accomplish when screaming or laying on the horn of an automobile? Do you want that cyclist dead? Because that is one outcome that is possible.

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I know the arguments that cyclists don’t follow all the road rules – they don’t come to complete stops at lights etc. etc. This is true – not all cyclists follow every rule of the road all the time when they are out on the roads. Neither do all drivers. Does either deserve to die because of it? Let’s unpack this a little. First off, a cyclist is on a two wheeled conveyance that weighs around twenty pounds – has no protection other than a helmet. Do you think maybe they might have a vested interest in weighing the safety of bending a traffic rule? One of the reasons a cyclist might not come to a complete stop at a stop sign or red light is that they are using clipped-in pedals and biking specific shoes. That means that their feet are actually mechanically attached to their pedals a complete stop requires them to unhook their shoes.

This takes time – it also means if a cyclist in front of automobile driver comes to that complete stop and unclips – their starting up again requires re-clipping and reacquiring the motion to get rolling again – this will take a longer amount of time – time that is so often the reason cited by drivers that they are so afraid of losing behind a cyclist. The goal of a cyclist is to keep rolling. In some states it is legal for a rolling stop for just these reasons. Another reason bicyclists may roll through a red light is because many of them – especially in rural areas – are triggered by the weight of the waiting vehicle – a cyclist and their bike is not heavy enough to trip the light.

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There is also the complaint that cyclists do not pay road taxes. This is simply not true – most cyclists also have cars so yes they pay road taxes. Another consideration is that road taxes are rated by the amount of wear and tear a vehicle will impart on the road. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a bicycle does absolutely no harm to roads. Also – a big portion of road upkeep is funded though property and sales tax. Relatively speaking then, cyclist most probably pays more than their fair share of road taxes. So this argument is invalid.

Another complaint is lost time – to which I reply, really? The thirty seconds or so (and this is a estimate way, way, way, on the high end) it might take to wait to safely pass cyclists is worth risking their life? What destination or appointment is so important that it merits killing someone?

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So here are some suggestions:

  • I’ll admit that cyclists don’t always follow all the rules if drivers admit that they too don’t always follow all the rules. Let’s just leave the enforcement up to the police and call this one a wash – okay?
  • Give the cyclists three feet when you pass – imagine that the rider is a member of your family.
  • Do not shout at, blow your horn at, throw things, or buzz too closely by cyclists – again, imagine that the rider is a member of your family.
  • At an intersection, if a cyclist is stopped do not ask them to go ahead of you or out of turn. You do not know what is on other driver’s minds – let the cyclists decide when they think it is safe to continue.  This also goes back to the clipped in shoe thing and the fact that the cyclists are the ones who decides what they consider safe at the time. I know this is a gesture of goodwill but it isn’t really helpful.
  • At a red light if a cyclists motions for a driver behind them to move forward it’s because it is weight triggered light and the automobile will cause it to switch.
  • Take a deep breath – think about it. How much time is a driver really losing? What is there really to be so upset about, a couple seconds added on to a drive to ensure the safety of another human being?

Remember – my life as well as your steering wheel is in your hands.

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The only type of school choice that matters.

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This is cross-posted over at the Outspokenlit.com site.

Last night I was inducted into the hall of fame of my high school, Mentor High. It was quite the humbling experience, one because of the honor of the whole thing and two because it forced me to realize how little I actually remember from those days 30 plus years ago.

I was joined in this induction by four eminently more qualified women (a second male inductee could not attend due to illness – so his wife accepted for him.) two being graduates from earlier classes and two latter. I was comfortably book ended by accomplishment and eloquence. I read two poems, thanked some folks and said a few words and got out of the way.

One theme that came up in my and a couple other’s acceptance speech was the matter of choice in schools.

We were not talking about that extremist view that tax dollars should be taken away from public schools and doled out so folks can move their kids to private and religious institutions. I mean here we were, five inductees to a public school’s hall of fame who have all achieved a modicum of success and it was not because we escaped public schools, rather we succeeded  because of the public school system.

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Amy Roediger, Pam Leber Trivisonno, me, Wally Hood’s wife, Jill Kneen Stamm, Susan Sternad-Basel

The choice we were speaking about was choice within our public schools. When I was attending school I had the opportunity to select electives that interested me – keeping me an engaged learner. I was able to take classes in journalism, poetry, and science fiction that were developed by teachers who had their own special interest in the subject matter. Enthusiastic instructors + enthusiastic students = a winning combo in my book. A second inductee, a Certified Public Accountant, reminisced about her similar experience with elective business oriented classes. Now while I did my best to steer clear of curriculum that involved numbers and stats – her recounting verified something I’ve been telling educators for years.

My ability to choose what I wanted to learn helped me become the person who I am today. My accountant compatriot said virtually the same thing last night. Her opportunity to delve into a subject that interested her more deeply led her to the achievements of her life – including the hall of fame slot. This is not rocket science folks (although a well designed physics elective may lead one there.)

THIS is the kind of choice we need to foster in our schools. Research shows that engagement is critical to learning and that choice leads to engagement. This is true in reading, as Kylene Beers and Robert Probst remind us in their latest book Disrupting Thinking: ”We know – we know – from research that giving kids choice in what they read is critical in increasing volume of reading and that the volume of reading is predictive of reading achievement…” to which I would append, “and academic and subsequent life success.” This choice dividend extends beyond reading material.

I know I would have floundered in those statistics classes and that some of those kids crunching numbers or unwrapping a twist of DNA well, their eyes may have glazed midway through The Martian Chronicles.

But, that’s the point isn’t it?

I think it would do us well to look a bit closer at the folks who are setting our education agenda. Are they forcing their proclivities downstream? Does a billionaire software engineer really understand the kid who is going to grow up to be a philosophy professor? Does a wealthy political donor comprehend the learning needs of a kid on the spectrum?

Again I come back to a question I repeatedly ask of educators, students, policy-setters and myself – What is the goal?

Is the goal to pass this certain test or is it to instigate critical thinkers?
Is it to create citizens with broad and shallow knowledge bases or do we want folks who understand and excel in their chosen vocations?
Are we creating a workforce who obediently follow instructions or are engendering free thinkers who question authority when needed?

There is very little more frustrating than having no choice.

More electives, more learning delivery systems, more everything – it keeps students and teachers engaged. We do not need school choice – we need more choice inside the schools we have.

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Wait a minute…

All we have is time.

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That’s it – that’s what it all boils down to. Like the trope states wherever you go – there you are – our physicality occupies space – displacing air molecules – standing in line at the coffee shop – riding along in our cars – sitting at our desks – we take up measurable space which makes room for us as we move about. We also consume time – but we do so universally. My time spent in a line waiting for coffee does not put everything else in the universe on hold – the goat herder outside of Abuja carries on as if nothing else is happening – although everything else is happening – including my line waiting.

And this is how it should be – we all move about in our own space and share time independent of each other. That is until we ask someone to wait on us – or agree to a time we are going to meet – or leave for an appointment – or take the plane off for a destination – get back to someone – etc. etc. etc. When we ask someone for their time we are asking them for the only thing they actually own.

This is why my number one pet peeve is waiting on others who are late.

I understand that time is a manmade construct – and that it can be relative. But we as a species have pretty much settled into the concept of our daily spin of the earth taking 24 hours give or take a leap second here and there – and our circling of the sun at 364.25 of these spins. We can measure this with a wristwatch, a sundial, a cellphone or the microwave signal that electrons in atoms emit when they change energy levels. There are countless ways to keep track of time. Humanity runs on the stuff.

SO – If you agree to meet someone at 6:30pm on Wednesday November 22, 2017 – there is only one spot within the construct humankind has agreed to treat as time that you may arrive which marks whether or not you are late. If you’re early – you have deemed the person or event worth an extra bit of your time – when you are late you convey the opposite.

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There is no in-between.

This also goes for scheduling events – you advertise said event to begin at a certain time and it does not – you are wasting other’s time – wasting the only thing they actually own and can never get back.

And therein lay the crux of the biscuit. When you waste another’s time – they can never get it back – it is gone forever. I can think of no greater insult – because in order to take time away from a person they must have already agreed to spend some of this finite commodity with you and in return this agreement has been broken.

One cannot make up for lost time – it does not get added on at the end of one’s days – the scissor wielding daughter of Zeus, Lachesis, doesn’t knot on the extra fifteen minutes you waited for the plane’s crew to show up. Nope it is gone forever.

The excuse of, “Well what else would you have been doing?” simply adds condescending insult to injury. The answer is, “Whatever I wanted – it’s my time.” See, because by being late, taking YOUR time, you are doing what you want at the expense of someone else. I reiterate – an expense that cannot be repaid.

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Think about it – agree – disagree?

I hope reading this was not a waste of your time.

Universal Soup Update #1 – or For the Love of Pho

I am currently reading two non-fiction books. One called Sapiens about the development and success of Homo Sapiens and another called I Contain Multitudes about the relationship between people and microorganisms. I am also thinking about a poem I am going to write about Vietnamese soup.

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pics from our visit to the terra cotta soldiers in Xi’an, China

So how do these three seemingly disparate texts relate to one and another? Surprisingly well if one squints a little. There are a couple points that I hope to mesh together when I finally write this poem (This little bit of prose here is to get some of the ideas straightened around in my head as to what I am going to end up with.) I’ve made a couple starts on the piece – the whole idea started as a challenge from a 5th grader in Tanzania. I’ve had two false starts so far. Not really false starts though – just paths that I am not going to go down – writing a poem can be like playing Let’s Make a Deal – choosing what is behind door number one two three – etc. except there are innumerable doors and they keep appearing throughout the process. So, what I’ve managed to do is close off two doors – and complete whole bunch of pointless surfing of the web.

Like most (here I am assuming) readers I find something I have an affinity to in a piece of writing – especially non-fiction – and I run with it a little too hard. Sometimes I stretch the idea thanks to a confirmation bias on my part – other times I conveniently ignore contradictory ideas – sometimes my conclusions are merely an echo of a forgone belief. For example – me assuming that most readers do this as well – anyways…

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The two things I have gleaned from my reading so far: I Contain Multitudes – that once you’ve entered the realm of the microorganism the laws of probability are thrown out the window because of the sheer insanity of the numbers you are now working with. A million in one shot is going to happen thousands of time amongst a colony of bacteria for instance – of course I just pulled that number out of the air – but the gist is true and that gist is enough to have derailed the piece I was working on about Vietnamese soup – because that concept was too good not to use somewhere – so I got that going on now.

Sapiens revolves around the notion – as I see it, and I think I’m pretty close to being on – that the reason the Homo Sapiens species was so successful – surpassing what might have been accomplished by ordinary evolutionary progress of adaptation and opportunism – was by developing the ability to believe in fictions en masse. I.e. currency, religion, monarchies etc. etc. – this allows colossal shifts of belief and distribution of intelligence, experience, wealth and labor. I.e. just the fact that a hundred thousand folks might gather in a communal spot to watch men run into each other on a Sunday afternoon – that’s an accomplishment that cannot be recreated by other complex animals such as chimpanzees – whose functional society breaks down over a hundred or so individuals. Now bees and insects gather in great numbers – but they are running on instinct not that they all believe in the same fictions – such as who winds the Super Bowl is something that really matters (at least that we know of.)

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But what if they did? What kind of craziness is going on at that microbial level – power structures, religious fanaticism leading to bacterial infections – viral marketing on the actual viral level? All based on fictions – or in other words lies agreed to be believed.

So, this brings us to Pho – that delicious Vietnamese staple – my favorite food on the planet – my go-to comfort bowl of noodly warmth in any stormy port upon this globe. How does this fit in with microorganisms and shared fiction? I’m not sure but I think it has to do with the fact that the traditional method of cooking the stuff is in a giant cauldron of a iron pot and rather than ever emptying the vessel – the bone broth is simply added to – it is a veritable sourdough approach – it is quite possible that an atom – or a microorganism has remained in that pot from the very beginning – from the first day it was started – a microscopic witness to all time as far as that consommé universe was concerned.

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So these are the things I’m rolling around – and this little bit of writing you’re reading right now is just a way for me to think about it. Now I’ve stretched some of these ideas I’m sure – and I’m most likely less than half right on what I’ve posited. I’m not even sure about the idea of the soup never being totally emptied from the pot – I’m petty sure I heard of it – but it fits my narrative so I’m going with it – please don’t correct me on any of this.

It’s a fiction I need in order to move ahead.

I Contain Multitudes
https://www.amazon.com/Contain-Multitudes-Microbes-Within-Grander/dp/0062368591

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
https://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari/dp/0062316095/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1491502449&sr=1-1