Monday Required Reading

1A. These are the best (and most surprising) places to get a draft in a bike race. Important research to know before your next race.

1B. How to keep the bike boom from fizzling out. In Pete Buttigieg we trust.  

“The need for the bike boom to roll on beyond the pandemic is about more than the love of cycling. . . . You’ll literally breathe easier when you start replacing more car trips with bicycles. We’re talking less carbon emissions, less traffic congestion, and a healthier population — the essential ingredients that make people happier and less stressed out. In the World Happiness Report 2020, countries with high bicycle use tend to be among the happiest overall, like the Netherlands (ranked sixth; daily bike use: 43 percent), Denmark (ranked second; daily bike use: 30 percent), and Finland (ranked first; daily bike use: 28 percent).”

2. What to wear to Christmas parties this year.

3. Perhaps he has written more hit songs than anyone else.

4. New data shows residents fleeing California in near record numbers. Substantive reporting from the Sac Bee. Good to know some local papers are still alive and kicking.

5A. COVID-19 and the Failure of Swedish Exceptionalism

“Whereas American exceptionalism is about America’s unique place in the world, Swedish exceptionalism is about being immune to any disasters that may happen in the rest of the world.” 

5B. Younger People Get Vaccines First in Indonesia’s Unusual Rollout.

“There are no good choices, there is only the least-bad choice.”




Tesla-fy What?

Earlier this week I posted a vid about EV West, a California company that installs Tesla like electric technology into really old, but stylish cars nearing the end of their lives.

Makes me wanna go out and find a candidate for a Tesla transplant. And I have the perfect car. One of the best cars ever made in these (dis)United States. Some cars may be a little more reliable, but none more stylish. A car my family was lucky enough to own in the mid 1970s. Drum roll. . .

IMG_5732-762x456.jpgThat’s right an American Motor Corporation Gremlin in powder/purplish blue. Here’s another angle of one with a badass racing stripe.


This was the zenith of American motor vehicle history. Why Japan’s auto companies didn’t unilaterally surrender, and how AMC didn’t make it, I’ll never know.

One warm sunny day in Cypress, CA, my two older brothers collided while repositioning the Gremlin and another one of our cars in front of our suburban tract home. I thought one of them was going to kill the other. Most funny thing I may have ever witnessed.

Middle Brother always struggled with the ladies, so feeling badly for him, moms gifted him the Gremlin before the “San Bernardino Mountains ski bum” chapter of his illustrious life. Once, while in the mountains, a falling bolder clipped our automotive masterpiece or at least that’s the story he tells.

His love life did improve after taking ownership of the Gremlin. How could it not? Similarly, I suspect I will draw much added attention after finding and Tesla-fying a Gremlin.


Friday Assorted Links

1. Did you like The Brady Bunch? Do you have $1.885 million?

2. Attention drivers. Highway 1 is now open.

“After 17 months and more than $100 million replacing a damaged bridge and rebuilding the highway in two locations, drivers can once again skirt the western edge of the continent, forever burnished by wind, rain, waves and tide.”

Props to the much maligned public sector.

3. No PressingPauser would ever stereotype professional basketball players just because of their outward appearance, but just in case, there’s this.

4. If I ever suffer temporary insanity and pay $250 for a pair of running shoes, they damn well better make me (a lot) faster.

“Compared with typical training shoes, the Vaporflys are believed to wear out quickly: Some runners have said they lose their effectiveness after 100 miles or so.”

$2.50 per mile? As Millennials like to say, hahahahaha.

5. Forget a Fast Car, Creativity is the New Midlife Cure. Right on. I hope that means superficial, materialistic lowlifes like me can score a pre-owned Porsche for less.

6. Could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Congress in a Nutshell

And our national debt.

From today’s WSJ:

Rep. John Garamendi is known as a staunch advocate for cutting unnecessary defense spending. But the California Democrat avidly defends one program: a fleet of high-altitude surveillance drones that the Pentagon wants to scrap.

While Mr. Garamendi says the drones are a critical Pentagon tool, there is another reason he is a vociferous defender of the unmanned aircraft: Pilots who control them work at a base in his congressional district.

The Worst Retirement Advice

Divide oldsters in the U.S. into three parts—1) those who haven’t saved nearly enough money to stop working; 2) those with modest savings who with social security can retire if they live super simply; and 3) those with sufficient savings to stop working and move anywhere they’d like.

Some of the “sufficient savers”, once they stop working, follow “experts'” advice and head south where it’s warm and sunny. I grew up in SoCal and as these pictures from a recent visit to CentralCal attest, I dig nice weather as much as the next guy.

Here’s the problem with that advice—financial “experts” don’t factor social capital into their retirement equations. Given what we’re learning about happiness or “subjective well-being”, it makes no sense to sever longstanding friendships in the interest of better weather.

The counter argument—we’ll make new friends, especially with spare time—doesn’t factor two important things into consideration. Close friendship stems from personal history, a treasure trove of shared experiences over decades, memories and stories that are retold (and embellished) and thereby relived. It’s tough to build up meaningful deposits in those memory banks late in life. Another cost of moving to a Sun Belt retirement community is the loss of mix-aged life and friendships and the vitality that provides.

Some well-to-do “Snow Birds” split the difference and divide their time between two homes. The GalPal and I may someday try out snow birding lite, renting a Golden State condo for a few months in the dead of winter.

However, I can’t see myself relocating altogether. Today I ran around Capital Lake with a close friend who I’ve been running with for 13 years. We’ve logged over ten thousand miles fixing our wives’ and the worlds’ problems. Ran past Sue who cleans my teeth. I thought I might see her at Christmas eve service, but she must have attended a different one. A few minutes later we passed Denny, who always has a smile and Seattle Marathon entry for me. We can’t go to the Farmers Market without seeing someone we know. After moving around most of my life, it’s nice being rooted. To take the social capital we enjoy for granted would be a mistake.

Still Watching

A follow up to my brilliant “In Defense of Eavesdropping” post from yesteryear. Well, if not brilliant, clever?

I am still watching you.

In particular on airplanes. Think the proliferation of e-readers makes eavesdropping more difficult? Wrong. I’m spying your e-book between the gap between the seats. Steinbeck huh, nice choice.

Too much curiosity to stop.

Based on a quick glance at his iPhone, Skater Dude next to me on the plane was listening to NPR podcasts. Disappointed I couldn’t make out any titles. And come on dude, update your apps already. A fiftyish woman one row up and in the aisle seat is in almost full view. Classy dresser, designer glasses, reading the New York Times Magazine during take-off. A young Diane Keaton maybe? Not even close. Diane Keaton would be reading a script right? Fiftyish Woman played Angry Birds and other stupid games on her iPhone the entire flight. Same with Tatted Up Guy sitting next to Steinbeck Reader.

All this while watching Bridesmaids on Nineteen’s laptop from across the aisle. Add mad multitasking skills to my list of amazing attributes. Eldest was even nice enough to offer up an earpiece for the funniest scenes. And all this people and movie watching while finally finishing up True Wealth by Juilet Schor.

Reading about environmental degradation, economics, and sustainability is a great deterrent to eavesdropping, but our privacy is sacrificed the second we step outdoors (and of course, connect to the internet). Near the end of lunch at the San Luis Obispo California Pizza Kitchen (vegetarian with japanese eggplant) I asked about directions to Art’s Cyclery. On the way out a woman at the adjacent table said, “I heard you asking where Art’s Cyclery is located. They’ve moved. My daughter looked it up on her phone. Here you go.”

Once outside, Sixteen and I spontaneoulsy did a little jig titled “Completely Weirded Out.” Karma is real. What goes around, comes around.

Costco’s Math Smoke and Mirrors

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Time to come clean. I’m addicted to these.

It started innocently enough in Chengdu, China in 2003. Each week while grocery shopping I was intrigued with all the Chinese women who would gather around the giant pistachio bin and fill their plastic bags with the very best one or two hundred. After spectating for a few weeks, I joined in. This brought furtive glances and embarrassed smiles.

How was I supposed to know real men don’t pistachio shop? Upon returning Stateside (love using that term, makes me feel cosmopolitan), imagine my delight when I learned Costco had picked them out and packaged them for me.

I can be too frugal for my own good. Given that, it’s nice there are at least two products for which I’d spend almost anything—iPads and iPistachios.

This theory has been tested lately as Costco’s California pistachios have skyrocketed in price. $14.99 for 4lbs, who cares, toss em’ in. $15.99, $16.99, $19.99. Yikes, now they’re just taking advantage of a helpless addict. The price increases have probably had little to do with supply and demand. More likely, they’re a Schwarzenegger state budget screw up surtax.

When I glanced and grabbed last week, I did a double-take. What?! $14.99?! Sweet! The last time they were $14.99 the President had stolen the election. Then, a second later, “What the hell, that’s a 3 pounder!”

Here’s how I imagine it going down at Costco headquarters in Issaquah, WA. Executive Meeting. Agenda item: Pricing limits of California pistachios. A suit does a quick PowerPoint presentation showing a precipitous decline in sales of California pistachios at the $19.99 pricepoint. What to do? Discussion ensues. The consensus, instead of selling 4 pounds for $19.99, let’s sell 3 pounds for $14.99, and hope people don’t really notice the math smoke and mirrors. Brilliant. A collective sense of accomplishment descends and the meeting is adjourned.”

It might just work. No, it will work on whomever lacks numeracy. And on addicts like me.

Bonus picture. What a minimalist, who asked for nothing, received for Christmas.

Perfect Christmas