Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amsterdam and Bike Share

Follow-up to the Bike Share post from a month or so ago. Amsterdam's bike use rate is 40%? Wow. We can only dream...

Good Blog...although I'm still pessimistic regarding the success of the program in a typical southern city. That's equal parts pessimism related to the southern city part, and pessimism related to the bike-share part. I'm listening though...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Last Night, I almost went to JAIL!


Here's the deal...

The three of us are walking around in Publix and doing a little post tropical storm food shopping. Big Momma is wearing a green t-shirt and the baby is in the buggy, top shelf. I'm prancing along and making googly eyes at the baby and doing the entertain-the-child-so-momma-can-shop thing, and all is well. We finish the deal and we're heading to the front to pay, and momma has the buggy. I stop at the paperbacks up front in the store for a quick title peruse and then amble brainlessly toward the green blouse...(you know where this is heading, I can tell...but it gets better!) I enter the line and look at the magazine covers. Jennifer Aniston, Rhiana, Tyra Banks...all on different covers, all in white, and all with waaaaay too much cleavage. I mutter to no one in particular, "Jubblies!", reference to Austin Powers' slang term for the female breast.

Nonchalantly, I amble up behind my 'wife' and stand patiently as we wait for the customer in front of us to finish paying so we can unload the rest of the food onto the carousel. I'm moments from smacking my 'wife' on the ass playfully to get her to move forward and take her place in the cue, when I realize that I don't recognize any of the food in the buggy...or on the carousel. Hmmm...strange. Big Momma must be planning some new menu items that I'm not privy to, maybe as a surprise. Then I realize that there is no baby in the buggy. Then I realize that Big Momma isn't wearing a green t-shirt. Then I realize that something is wrong, very very wrong, and I stop myself...moments to spare...split seconds even...from smacking a complete stranger on the ass! Big Momma and the baby are two isles over! I am standing literally 6 inches from the butt of a 65 year old woman, who is visibly concerned about her personal space, and I am mid-motion toward smacking her bum-bum! Whoops!

Duck out of line, look around, locate my proper party and stifle the giggles as I try to help momma with the food and the baby. Close call...maybe too close.

I have a habit of saying just about anything. I don't have much of a filter. I can be crude. I don't much care what people think... I also can't remember if I said anything after "Jubblies" and before I nearly committed the unauthorized ass-slappage. I was thinking at the time that it was amazing how risky women were being photographed a for the covers of magazines today, and in all honesty I could have said all kinds of crude stuff 6 inches from the ear of a total stranger, or I could have just stood right behind her and freaked her all the hell out in total silence. I can't even remember.


Good news on the day to the store...BP was 107/79 and pulse was under 70 for the first time in years...68. Much improved.

Fair Tax my A$$...

A friend sent me one of those emails that always seems to make the democrat out to be a greedy pro-tax urchin and the conservative to be a friend of the poor downtrodden welder, specifically related to I sent him this...

I'm sending this from my personal email so I don't lose my job... and its a Big, long email…get ready.

That is a pretty propagandized email, pretty one sided toward McCain, and not very factual for either candidate. I’m still waffling on who I’ll support. I always liked McCain, but he’s being deluded by the religious right too much. Republicans need to shake those crazy people loose. I disagree strongly with Obama’s proposed increases and revisions to capital gains and estate taxes, because I have a lot to lose, and because that money that I stand to inherit isn’t mine, rather it belongs to my family. That’s Baby’s money. I like Joe Biden and I think he will add a good deal of moderation to some of those proposals. Remember that Biden wanted to make personal finance responsibility an issue back when he supported legislation that would make it harder for folks to declare bankruptcy to shed credit-card debt. I’m big on fiscal responsibility.

I’ll hold judgment until I find out McCain’s running mate, but I think the god-mongers will dictate who he picks and that will end it for me. If he bucks the pressure, makes a maverick decision like the ones he’s been known to do for 30 years, and picks Lieberman or maybe Romney, and I’ll think about it…

I consider myself a social lefty and a fiscal conservative. That said, I think that our government is universally burdened by a lot of crap that I shouldn’t have to pay for, but I do not believe in the Fair Tax Plan either. I think most people who like the idea of the Fair Tax can only see the trees and not the forest. For you and me, Fair Tax wouldn’t realize much of a savings, and considering our penchant for buying cool new cars and satellite radio and I-pods and crap like that, we may actually pay more! Where Fair Tax fails, and where the money lost would hurt the most in government budgets is taxes on the rich and super-rich. Fair Tax cannot possibly re coupe the tax responsibilities of the Bill Gates and the Warren Buffets and the Paul Allens of the world, based solely on their purchases. Bill Gates was on NPR a few years back (when he made a record contribution to the UN and announced the formation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) explaining that he makes more money on interest than he could possibly spend in a year so why not donate it to a worthy cause? (Unfortunately, most rich do not make donations unless a tax benefit on income is involved.) Why wouldn’t we tax him as heavily as we do? He directly benefitted way long ago from small business development grants and local government assistance dollars for small businesses…programs which would suffer under Fair Tax cutbacks, and now I think it’s perfectly fair to assume that he needs to pony up and kick in for the next round of Steve Jobs and Larry Ellisons…it’s a good investment.

So in my estimation the net effect of Fair Tax would be…

1 - You and I would still have our burden, similarly unchanged from today only paid out incrementally as we bought milk and eggs and I-pods and 20 inch rims and EWRs. If we stopped buying toys, regressive taxes like sewer fees and storm water runoff fees and garbage collection fees, would take the place of direct tax dollars and we’d be paying anyway…only more, because…

2 - …The super rich wouldn’t pay nearly as much as they do now, (even though by Gates admission he can’t spend it fast enough) greatly reducing cash-flow at the federal level, because...

3 - You can only be taxed so much for purchasing a Bentley before nobody would ever buy a new Bentley again. Used luxury goods would be bought and sold at fudged prices to avoid taxation. New big-ticket products would languish unsold and become undervalued. Companies which drive valuable and strategic subsectors of the economy like shipbuilding…Boston Whaler and Hunter Yachts, and aviation…Cessna, Embraer and CRJ jets, would suffer because only used private yachts and jets would sell. In order to ensure the economic viability of new product manufacturing, and fair market pricing of existing goods and services, there would have to be some huge government machine created to make sure that private transactions for second hand items were properly valued and that Fair Tax was collected accurately…just another IRS with a different set of initials for us to hate. The government would still be heavily involved in collecting money from each of us. It is inescapable.

4 – Non-profit donations would dry up without the opportunity for income tax deductions. If I can’t write off my annual contribution to the United Way that I authorize my employer to make on my behalf, if that isn’t a pre-tax contribution, then I ain’t making it. Humane Society, MADD-SADD, NAACP, ACLU, WWF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, hell even Fair-Tax.Org, would all be broke and done, whether we liked them or not. We mock the ACLU and Amnesty, but can you imagine being jailed for saying something unpopular and protesting in public and having nobody come to your aid? I like having non-profit watchdog organizations monitoring the actions of my government. It makes me feel safe at night when I know that unchecked government monitoring of my phone-calls, movements and conversations are called into question publicly by heavy-hitters like the ACLU. Tax deductable contributions fund many things that I cannot even fathom not having around.

5 – And finally…The real issue would still go unaddressed. Pay special attention here, because this is important...Middle-Americans feel like we pay too much for government programs which we, sitting in the comfort of our air-conditioned homes and drinking our glamour beers, feel are abused. We don’t want to fund an abused welfare system that gives single mothers more dough if they have more kids, rather we want people to get off their butts and get jobs. We don’t want to hear about our tax dollars going to abused federal funding mechanisms like Community Development Grant initiatives and Federal Housing programs and burdensome correctional reform programs and illicit drug use interdiction initiatives and many other government programs that we as mainstream Americans have what we believe is very little need for supporting and even less direct benefit from funding. Unfortunately, the perception, accurate or not, right or wrong, is that these programs support chiefly minority populations in our country. And therein is the rub…No elected official in our representative government would ever stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and say that which the frustrated taxpayer who is pushing for reduced tax burden would never say publicly for themselves…I’ll let you fill in the blanks with the rest of it because I think its pretty self evident what descriminating issues I’m getting at… This is where efforts like Fair Tax get traction. There's this perception that we will only pay for what we use under FairTax, and the reality is just the opposite. There will still be public insistance, and politicians who cow-down to it, that support be given to social concerns like welfare and food stamps for the 'lazy', no matter how abused the program is, and we as middle class americans will lose direct support of the institutions we use, and our standardized services will become fee-based regressive taxes to take up the slack. Welcome back to 30% taxes.

In short, “my friend” (as McCain is apt to say) Fair Tax is a hoax. A ruse. There will still be bills to pay for our government services. Roads will be needed, and schools will be needed, and the military will still be needed. Social programs will also live on…because in the end, politicians like the rest of us that they represent, will still fund programs that middle America sees as coddling the lazy and inept among us because no politician would commit political suicide to refuse to. Just as no American would put a sign in their yards claiming first hand responsibility for saying what and who they would and wouldn’t support funding for either.

I am against new taxes for retirement accounts, and changes to capital gains on investments related to family wealth inherited from generation to generation, but I do not see the harm in increasing taxes on gasoline, homes over 2400 (I actually think it is 2800) square feet, and tax increases for resource consumptions and services like water usage and sewer and garbage collection. I think the country would be better off if we took more responsibility for our individual environmental impacts on our own accord and out of our own sense of community responsibility, but that’s not the way modern America thinks. Forcing people to behave responsibly, like a mandated speed limit and a minimum drinking age, seems to be the only way that Americans are held accountable for their individual costs as citizens. We all want school but nobody wants to pay. We all want clean air and water and but nobody wants to pay. We all want to end homelessness and hunger and all those other bleeding heart feel good issues, but nobody wants to pay. Sorry man…somebody has to pay, and sometimes, it is in fact for something that we just may not like, in addition to that which we desperately need.

Here's a good example. Under the current structure, I give Kenn and Jay $1100 for a new EWR. They make money and declare their income and the government gets paid and some of that goes to policies that I don't agree with, but a good many that I do. Under Fair Tax...I would pay $1353 for my EWR...$1100 and $253 (23% in FairTax) in taxes. Nearly 1400 bucks!!! ERRRRRR! Sorry, but for that money I'd buy a used Fat Chance, lie about how much I paid for it to duck the Fair Tax, have the frame repainted and repaired as needed in some simplified barter system where no money traded hands but rather I just did some guy a favor using my own skills and had him do the frame work, again to duck the Fair Tax. Then, the government gets nothing, begins to lose money on things like police protection, transportation, trash collection and education, and now I get hit with a pure regressive tax like a drug abatement civil security fee for police funding, or an increased license fee for my car for road construction, or a book and library fee for the school, or a trash collection fee for my garbage. Wheres the improvement? The provision of government services still COSTS MONEY. That won't go away. Tax burden won't go away.

The Fair Tax website has this little nugget in there...which I think is telling. " some point, the voice of the people will eclipse the voices of the relatively small number of Washingtonians who profit working the income tax system at great cost to the nation. Enactment of the FairTax will require an activist citizenry and a resurgence of what has been too often forgotten--public policy can and should be driven by the public. All that is required is that we all dare to be fair and remind our elected officials that they work for their constituents." Yeah right. Sure. ...and suddenly politicians will become that much more in-tune with the individual constituant. That just isn't possible, because the reality is pretty clear, politicians speaking for us all in Washington and in our local governments are an average of the feelings and goals and wants of all of us. The reason they seem watered down and full of shit is that they are speaking at any given time for millions of very different people. That's just the compromise of representative government.

Don't even get me started on the 16th amendment. "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." That's a pretty well crafted sentence...Basically it says that I don't care who the hell you are or where you live, you're going to pay for your government, a government that tries to balance the needs of 350,000,000 people. It cannot address you alone. If you ever feel completely at ease with the policies and direction of your government, Matt...Run. Run away! I'll be right behind you, because something is terribly wrong.

Fair Tax is a ruse.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay

The worthless wench. We are still drying out and enjoying the return of our electricity. Everyone is OK, but it was a huge PITA, and I'm not a really huggy upbeat person in the first place, so I'll need to go sit alone in the corner and pout quietly before I get back to myopic brainless pursuits such as blogging.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Head Tube Badges

A very slick Flickr site. Head badges are a dying breed, or so it seemed. Recently there has been a bit of a renaissance on the head tube badge front. Here's to hoping it continues...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The original Barnett Bank building here downtown has been an ongoing construction site now for years it seems. The Orlando based developer is in ruins and legal trouble right now (I mean really...does anything good ever come out of Orlando!?) so the project has been on hold. Last weekend, one of my coworkers who lives in the Knight Building, a small residential loft project across Adams Street from the bank, was looking out his window and watching a group of men haul away some big polished brass gates from the building. He thought at the time it seemed strange, so he and a neighbor went downstairs and lit up a few cigarettes and watched the procession of brass out the door. Suddenly, all the guys ran toward their truck and jumped in and sped off, brass bouncing around in the back.

Turns out, after talking with our historic planner on staff, the gates were probably the original elevator cages, apparently one of the few remaining historic elements left from the original lobby of the bank. I'm sure they were headed for the recyclers for the brass scrap. Those idiots probably will get maybe 200 bucks for their trouble. Fools. Coworker feels bad, because like most of us, its only after the fact that we as a culture of mindless potato-heads realize what we could have and should have done. Sort of like blocking out a car's really not our business because its not our car...
picture from

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bike Share?

Here's an interesting story reporting on the concept of Bike Sharing. Storage and transport convenience have long been the negative issues facing bicycle commuting efforts around the globe, and the concepts in this article are championed in places like DC, Denver, the Pacific NW and Europe. It's kind of a neat idea, but to me its got some very obvious short comings as well. First, I want to ride MY bike. Second, why not just provide for more bicycle friendly transportation corridors to promote cycling as a true transportation alternative. Finally...and here's the real kicker...if we as planners and as a society promote and demand more compact development, the idea that the commuter would ride a train or car-pool or hitch the bus 3/4s of the way to their destination, and then borrow a bike from a bike-share program to finish their commute wouldn't be necessary. Wouldn't it be nice to just walk a few blocks or maybe ride 2-3 miles to work and ditch the bus altogether? (obviously ADA needs would still be met by some direct transport transit services) Why do I need to borrow a bicycle? The whole program seems to be a feel good band-aid for general wastefulness and bad planning and I think it's a bust. Generally, unless you have a tremendous influx of persons related to seasonal tourism, like Paris (mentioned in the article as having 20,000 bikes in their program), I wonder as to the effectiveness of the program on the daily user-commuter.

Don't get me wrong...we obviously can't just tear down 50 years of sloppy land development pattern and return to more traditional neighborhood/live-work-shop relationships with the wave of a hand. Still, we can at least PUSH for that return harder than we are, and relegate these feel good approaches to the back-burner recognizing that they aren't full solutions to sprawl...just means to make the sprawl less awful.

Bike Share as treatment for bad land planning practice is like taking Senekot to make constipation less're still stuck with a heck of a lot of crap and discomfort and the causes of the condition aren't necessarily addressed, jut temporarily relieved.

I sound a little more pessimistic about the program than I really am. There are certainly communities where the plan has big benefits, but North Florida aint one of them right now for sure. Maybe I'm just jealous?

Don't get me wrong...I'm not a total poopoo'er of the program, just of the practices that have put us in this situation where we need the program in the first place. I mean there going to be a Bike Share rack at my local Whataburger?,9171,1813972,00.html

Friday, August 8, 2008

Modern under siege...again

You know people are always wagging their pointy little fingers at government mandating that historic buildings be saved, and while I'm all for it, I'm still put off by the fact that mid century modern stuff isn't recognized for the value it brings to our landscape.
In the 1950's, Jacksonville demolished the 1901 city hall, a classically styled, pillared clock tower city hall in the mold of the many that were built in towns and cities across the country. The feeling of the time was one of promoting style, and mid century modern was in...scores of older office buildings in the urban core were be facade-omized with extruded aluminum and simple stonework to give a more modern appearance to the turn of the century buildings. It was in this spirit that the clock tower city hall was demolished in favor of the Haydon Burns library.
Today the library isn't a library any longer, and the downturn in the housing market nationwide has put a damper on redevelopment efforts that would have converted the structure into mixed use live-work lofts. Still the buildings current owners at least seem to have at least some knowledge of the secret to architectural preservation...That which is out of style today is historic and valued tomorrow. We hope for the best for the library, and the future still looks pretty good.
My brother sent me this link to a story from a similar situation brewing in Sarasota, only even more egregious in that the proposed plan calls for a prefab POS pharmacy to be built on the site currently occupied by the BB&T bank on the Tamiami Trail, the main drag through the more suburban mid-century section of Sarasota. Poor bank. Here's hoping that cooler heads prevail, and that the building is seen as what all buildings are, concrete and steel, and able to be adapted and re-used in many different ways and not as disposable obstructions to modern America's unwavering urge for convenience and waste.
I have another news-flash for you, fair civic leaders of the city of will be redeveloping, undoubtedly with tax break subsidies, the CVS before too doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that the practice of putting two freestanding purpose built pharmacies on every corner in America is an unsustainable practice. That CVS will be a car lot or a pawn shop before long. And when its empty, the CVS structure will have no architectural value, the structure will have no material value because of it's steel stud, OSB, Tyvek and fake stucco construction, and you will dream of the day when you had a distinctively styled and well built concrete structure on the site.
Keep the BB&T, Sarasota. Learn from the mistakes of others. There are those in your community that may see the bank as having outlived its usefulness, but they are undeniably the same folks who will lament the structure when its gone, and mutter under their breath about how more should have been done to save structures from that era in the community. Public opinion always follows the same sheep-like path to defining the value of an old building...30 years old is out of style, 50 years old is an eyesore, 70 years old is a valued component of the fabric of the community and worthy of a brass plaque defining its date of construction and the architect. Happens all the time...
Do the right thing! You will miss it when its gone!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Quote of the Day!

"Life is Hard and Violent with lots of Plastic and Disappointment."

- Charleston Mayor Joe Riley

Riley was speaking at the ASLA State Conference here in Jax last week, and this quote was given by him as justification for his efforts over 8 terms as mayor to create inspiring and functional public space and residential opportunities in Charleston as a means of helping his constituents in dealing with the monotony and drudgery of everyday life. He was an impassioned and entertaining keynote speaker, and if his ability at the podium last week for the ASLA is any indication of his ability as Mayor of Charleston, then Charleston is lucky to have him.

Picture is an example of low-mod downtown infill housing in Charleston. There are many examples of the original housing which is very similar in style and function to these new structures.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fat man in a little coat! taking a few days off from the bike won't exactly make me Chris Farley, but I'm not on the bike today or yesterday either way. Baby was sick this past weekend, and now I've got a tickle in the nose and some stinky scents that remind of bacteria and general rot, so I'm taking it easy and passing on the bike for a few days. Besides, the temperature today is 98 degrees, so I'll sit inside and be Farley-ish and cool, thank you very much!

I went home yesterday and took a few hours of comp time that I'd pooled up to cover it. Didn't feel too good, and I needed some physical as well as mental R&R. I bought a Race Face Atlas crank set that I fitted to the blue EWR, so I installed that. During the process I realized that the EWR has a 71mm bb shell instead of the spec'd 73. That played havoc with the bearing tension and preload on the Atlas set, so what should have been a simple task of maybe 30 minutes took almost 4 hours. Chain line is a bit wonky still, but I'll tinker with it and ask the EWR guys what they recommend. And yeah...I wanted them because they have neat little maps etched in the black anodized finish. Cool. I am a geek.

Then I took a nap.

Tomorrow, bridges training ride.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


The Anodized goodies. So Tacky. So Beautiful!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Carrera Day

Saturday I headed down to Orange Park to do a morning ride with the fellas from About Bikes. The route leads you almost immediately out of traffic-choked Orange Park and out into rural Clay County. There were about 20 riders or so, and the pace was quick (quick enough to be hard for me) but not what one would call blistering. A very pleasant ride. I spent a bit too much time goofing with sprints and trying to catch breaks that it bit me in the ass in the end, and when on the way back to the shop we turned into a headwind, I had to fall in behind my friend Travis to let him pull me for about 7 miles at 19 or so into the wind. I'm sure he got a workout from that! Max speed for the ride was 32, couple of stints at 29 or so, and a few wheezy moments...all good signs of a predominantly off-road cyclist getting an on-road workout. I'll be back this Saturday. They're a good bunch of guys.

I did get some comments about my heavy steel road bike, but in the Carrera's defense, a good amount of that weight is from a steel cup headset and the Tange chrome fork. I have maybe two pounds that I could shed on the front end alone...I should get to it. The Tange fork was always meant to be stop that it is still there after a year speaks to my generally content nature when it comes to steel...OR that's BS, and I'm just too lazy to track down a nice red King HS and a carbon Ritchey threaded fork 1". Probably the later, to be honest!

The Rush is at Bicycles ETC getting the replacement swing arm fitted. Warranty work requires that the dealer do it, so there you go. I'll have to give it the once over when I get it back because shop work always leaves me sketchy. While I was in the shop I struck up a chat with Mike the owner and we gabbed a bit about the good old days and boutique manufacturers and anodized purple crap and so-on, and before long I was with him in his store room going through dusty bins of retro goodness. I left with a NOS KORE stem for $10, and an entire SRP anodized bolt display, nearly 2/3 full, for 20$!! WOOHOO! I love tacky old crap!