Fundraiser Raffle! With Sweet Prizes!

Harlean over at Poetic Pinup has assembled a great lineup of prizes that she will be giving away soon. There will be up to 500 raffle tickets, and there are 14 prizes, so your chances are pretty good! Proceeds will be split between Toys for Tots, whom you’ve probably already heard about, and Next Door Solutions, which is a group of caring people who provide shelter and resources for people fleeing domestic abuse.

The prizes are products of independent craftspeople and small businesses that we love to support. Some you will not find anywhere else, and at least one of the items is out of print.

Each ticket is only five American dollars, and there is a code you can enter on the site to get 5 for the price of 4.

Here’s a little collage with the prizes:

There is fun, and there is literate, and there is just plain nice. You can get a better look at the prizes over on the Raffle page. Most important of all, every ticket you buy will improve the life of other people. Here’s a link! https://poeticpinup.com/product/2021-holiday-fundraiser-raffle-tickets/

The drawing is Friday, so quit dithering and click the link! Seriously! I see you dithering! Knock it off!

Even if this is not for you, please consider sharing this post with your circle. We all want those tots to have their toys!

2

My Chat With Aptera (updated a second time)

Update November 18, 2021: I got a response after I sent the link to this article. The full response is below, but to summarize, it said “Dude, you’re asking the wrong people.” Hm. Fair enough. But I have some thoughts on that as well, which I have added to this episode.

Please note there is a second update at the foot of this episode, where all the efforts of Tom and Jess to do their jobs turned out to be futile.

For background, there is a company that is trying to introduce an ultra-light electric vehicle covered with solar panels. I am, without reservation, the exact profile of the financially-secure boomer-hippie driver they are catering to.

I have read all the words on their Web site. For 100 clams I can hold a place in line for the privilege of buying one of these things some time in the future. But not that distant of a future! they plan to start serious production in 2022. Or, at least they planned to. Do they still?

The thing is, we here at Muddled HQ already have more cars than we strictly need. Even before the plague, the times when both cars weren’t in the garage was vanishingly rare. So even if one of our cars is retired, the replacement is more likely to be a workbench than something with wheels. (Although I did see a sweet workbench that was on wheels, so you never really know.)

Here’s the split between me wanting to own something and me very much wanting that thing to exist. Rather than hand them $100 for a place in line, I could simply invest in the company. They make it easy (minimum investment $1000).

So here was a chance to help make this whole thing happen, without ending up with a vehicle I don’t need. I was excited enough to start reading the SEC filings about the offering. Those things require the company to list pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong, and all the ways the board of the company could legally dick you over later.

I’m not an expert on those filings, but the few I’ve perused have all been pretty scary. Investing in an under-capitalized car company is top of the scary heap, however.

But back to my motivation: I want cars like this to exist. If I can pitch in a bit of cash to increase the odds of success (or, prolong failure to improve the chances for the next attempt), I’m willing to consider it. So I kept reading, and eventually I contacted the company with some questions (some formatting lost to WordPress suckyness:

Congratulations on the full-media press release in The Washington Post! I found the coverage exciting but pretty dang credulous.

I am intrigued by this vehicle, and I think the world will be better when something like this is real. Should I ever buy another car, I’d like it to be one like this.

So I’m more of a crazy-eyed hippie investor than a sound financial decider of things. I try to put some of my money into companies that I think should succeed, while worrying less about whether they will. I don’t tell my investment professional about these.

Having said that, and having spent some time with the offering circular, one thing jumps out at me: The circular mentions targets for Q3 and Q4 2021. Perhaps there is an addendum to the circular I lacked the patience to uncover, but it seems like some measurable milestones have passed since that circular was drafted.

Specifically:

• Have the “Betas vehicles” been built?

• How is test validation going?

• Strangely, the Gamma body was due in Q3, and supply chain sorting-out for Q3 and Q4.

• Gamma production in Q4.

It goes on, but you get the idea. I get a feeling that one of the other lessons you learned from Tesla is an optimistic timeline. Falling behind on this schedule is not a blocker to my investing, but I do need to know that the executive level of the company is setting its own expectations realistically.

Also, I’ve seen it a dozen times now, where a startup electric vehicle company comes out with a planned price point and ultimately they just can’t hit it. You don’t need me to go down the list. How is that part of the plan holding up?

Potentially your friend,

Jerry Seeger

The third bullet point was mainly due to me misreading something in the circular, realizing my error, then botching the editing of the question. But those were my questions. Specific, lifted from their own filing, and ripe for the answering. In response, I got this from Jess (Aptera Motors’ Reg A Offering Support):

Hi Jerry,

Thank you for contacting Aptera Motors Investor Support.

Unfortunately, we can only answer questions related to the investment process.

For questions regarding the product, please contact [email protected] so the team can best assist you.

Please let us know if you have any additional questions regarding the offering or investment process & we will be happy to assist!

Best, 

Aptera Motors Investor Support

Huh. If you ask “did you hit your targets?” and the answer is “I can’t discuss that,” you’re not talking to a company that takes transparency with its investors as a core value. It starts to feel more like a company looking for money that doesn’t ask questions, and Wall Street is looking the other way so they’re turning to crowdfunding.

Which sucks. As much as I’d like to see a solar-electric vehicle, I’d also like to see a startup that embraces the true community feel of crowdfunding. But that means you have to treat all those little investors like they matter, like they’re part of something, and that means being ready to tell them the truth.

So I wrote this back:

I hate to be pushy, but I was asking for concrete information about the performance of Aptera and whether it was hitting its goals as a prelude to investing. Granted, that is not the “investment process”, but it is completely normal due diligence. The questions I asked were not product questions.

So I guess, yes, I do have “questions regarding the offering”. Those questions are listed in my original message. I am interested in investing, but I would be an idiot to invest in a startup based on months-old projections that have come and gone without any review.

I am just a small investor, and whether or not I buy in to your company will not make or break you. I get that. But you are courting the small investor, and honestly you should be more ready to answer questions from people who have read the SEC filings. Some of them might be bigger than me.

Jerry Seeger

You will not be surprised to learn that I have not heard back.

Edit to add: After I informed them of this episode, Tom (Aptera Motors’ Reg A Offering Support) sent a reply which just said in much clearer (to me) terms what Jess had said previously:

Hello Jerry, 

Aptera Investor Support has no comment on your blog post. 

Keep in mind we are agents working on behalf of Aptera therefore we don’t have the “insight” on the company you are looking for. You need to contact the Aptera Team directly for questions related to the product which was iterated by the past agent. 

Please let us know if you have any additional questions regarding the offering or investment process & we will be happy to assist!

Best,

Aptera Motors Investor Support

So the tenor of the response was more “we don’t know” than “we don’t want to discuss it”. To be honest, I may have taken the phrase “questions about the product” in the first response too literally – I have questions about the company.

Also I was kind of assuming that as agents working on behalf of Aptera on an investment offering, that questions about company performance would be anticipated and prepared for, and that a process would be in place to unite questions with the people who can answer them.

So it’s clear that Jess and Tom and any other agents working on behalf of Aptera are just doing what they can. But it would have been so much better if the response had been “we can’t answer, but we have forwarded your query to the people who can.” Aptera should anticipate questions like this, and therefore should have a resource allocated for handling them. Then it would be simple to instruct their agents where to redirect questions.

While my ire was certainly misdirected, there is still a gap in this whole process that demonstrates failure by Aptera to embrace the small investor. Still, I hope they succeed.

Another update: I sent a very dry and businesslike message to the address “iterated” by Jess. Just asking for who to talk to about performance against stated milestones. As of November 28, 2021, a full week after sending the inquiry, I have been met with stone cold silence. If I ever do get a response, I’ll add my full query and their full response.

2

Tailwind

I was moving right quickly as I pedaled south this afternoon. The weather was perfect, clear but cool, the path dappled with the shadows of the trees. Just a great day.

While the wind wasn’t too fierce today, I knew that I had a tailwind, even as I felt the wind in my face.The tailwind manifests not as a push but a reduction in resistance.

It is easy to forget the extra push, to credit my skinny legs with my success. And my legs deserve a lot of credit! But on the way back north, those same skinny legs were having to work a lot harder, and I still wasn’t moving as quickly. That easy-to-ignore wind became a real burden.

Yes, this is absolutely a metaphor for privilege. Just because you face resistance, doesn’t mean you’re not getting a boost.

2

Rocket7: Prelude

This is the story of a new pair of bike shoes, but it starts with the old shoes.

A few years ago, I was killing time in a local, family-owned bike shop (as one does), and I found myself in the corner where the closeout items were piled. I had been thinking about upgrading from my toe clips to shoes that click into the pedals, and there was a pair of Shimano’s at deep discount, in Euro size 42, which is as close to “my size” as you’re going to find. So I bought them.

It was a while later when I actually bought the pedals to match. I had done absolutely no research on the types of pedals and the shoes that match them, and purely by chance I had bought shoes that work with the SPD pedal system. SPD was developed for mountain bikers, and had two key features: muck tolerance and a sole built up around the cleat on the shoe, which makes walking around easier.

You’ve probably heard the clack-clack of a bicyclist walking in their bike shoes. That clack-clack is not only uncomfortable for the walker, it also contributes significant wear to the cleats on the bottom of the shoes.

So it turns out that although designed for mountain bikers, the SPD system is also ideal for commuters, where there is often an amount of walking around to do once the destination is reached, but before a good shoe-change opportunity.

A fine pair of shoes, looking good after thousands of miles

I have put thousands of miles on those shoes. (It’s not as impressive as it sounds; unless you are impressed by consistency – which is actually pretty impressive.) By the looks of them, with new laces and eventually new straps, they have a few thousand more miles on them easy.

I have come to dislike those shoes. However, as has been said in many a break-up, it’s not the shoes, it’s my feet.

When I ride too many hours in a month, my right foot starts to hurt. When I ride too many hours in a day, my left foot becomes very unhappy. With my fancy bike, longer rides are becoming more common and Lefty has had a few things to say about that.

My feet are different sizes, you see, and while the longer one is very wide, the smaller one is ridiculously wide. I didn’t take the above shoe picture with this in mind, but if you look at the left shoe above you can see that it is pushed out wider just past the strap. That’s where the ball of my foot lands in that shoe, way up on the meager arch support. That also means that the pad of my foot is behind the pedal, and I’m actually pushing the pedal with my toes. It is my toes that get pissed off after 40 miles.

My feet

You know how after you break up you can look back and remember the good times and still be glad that you’ve broken up? Today the new shoes arrived. After less than 15 miles it’s all over. The new shoes are sexy and comfy and made just for me. The next episode will be that story, but I wanted to create the setting first, and pay a little respect for a pair of shoes that have been with me through good times and bad.

2

The Future of Plague

I came down with a cold yesterday, and used one of the COVID testing kits I have on my desk to make sure I wasn’t a threat to others. Yeah, that’s a thing now. And while they aren’t that common yet (I don’t think they are, anyway, but I could be wrong), it’s easy to imagine them becoming common as this whole pandemic thing drags on.

I write Science Fiction stories, but now is there any future that does not include tests like this as a part of everyday life? Will the kids born today ever know a time without ready tests for the latest plague?

1

Get-Poor-Quick, Done Wrong

Or done right. It’s hard to tell.

Recently I read about a high-tech venture called Juicero. It failed. Big.

I haven’t contributed to the get-poor-quick category here at MR&HBI for quite some time, so if you’re not familiar with it, that’s OK. The conceit of this category is that I get an idea that seems good on the surface, and might actually be good, but that building a business on it would certainly lead to failure.

But all these years, I failed to recognize one simple fact: You can fail and still get rich. You just have to fail with someone else’s money.

Juicero: a high-tech device controlled from your phone, connected to the internet for some reason. After you paid a few hundred dollars for this machine, you could subscribe to a service to get sent bags of stuff. Fruit, specially-prepared veggies and whatnot, and you could put the bags into this high-tech machine and it would… squeeze them. And then you could drink juice.

Were I a venture capitalist listening to this pitch, the first axiom I would apply is “give them the razors, sell the blades.” But I am not a venture capitalist, and before long Juicero had attracted millions of dollars of VC money, presumably on the promise that Juicero would disrupt something. Because disrupting is sexy.

Eventually it came down that consumers realized they could just squeeze the packets with their bare hands, and the ridiculous WiFi-Internet-Bluetooth app-controlled machine could easily be replaced with an iron device with a lever. And the business cratered.

The venture capitalists expressed dismay, saying (I’m paraphrasing) “We expected the ridiculous ripoff to be less easily exposed.”

That is not the lesson I take away from this. See my razor/blade statement above. They thought they were selling squeezing machines, but they were selling juice packets. The high-tech device with needless configuration steps was not the product. Sell a cast-iron enameled device with a lever on the side. Sell a kitchenaid accessory. Shit, give them away. Sell the juice.

I have digressed from my original intent in this episode. I started by using Juicero as an example of failing but getting rich — I promise the techbros who invented Juicero managed to pocket plenty of the idiot investment money — and instead I turned to how to have succeeded at Juicero.

But there are literally a dozen ideas on this blog that eclipse Juicero. Some have, in the intervening years, been implemented to great profit for others. But even if the idea is a bad one, that doesn’t mean you can’t get rich from it. Just ask the folks at Juicero.

2

November 1, 2021

This is my 21st year participating in NaNoWriMo. Different years it means different things to me, but it’s always a low-pressure opportunity to just kick back and write something stupid.

I’m pretty excited by my story this year. it’s not unusual for me to have a great setting, but this time I feel like I’m starting closer to an actual story than I usually do. You might recognize this from a recent post for a bit that comes later.

This is only part of my first-day output; I decided to omit the very beginning, where we learn that Sasha and Mags are lovers, that scavengers like these three usually die poor, and that all three on the boat understand table odds – the idea in poker that the value of your bet is affected not just by the odds of winning; it is adjusted for the pot to be won. That calculus also recognizes that anything you have previously put on the table is not yours anymore. On Hell’s Balls, Mags and Sasha recognize that they put their lives on the table long ago. Just more chips in the pile.

In that chapter, I don’t abuse the poker metaphor nearly as baldly as I did just now. It was more the logic behind their decisions.

Anyway, there’s this alien tech, and it’s worth a lot, but every example up to now has been blasted to shit. The possibility of intact Gamma tech is a life-changer. Enough for three small people to walk away from the table. Now they just have to go get it.

So here’s where they do.

Sasha started the pumps to pull the atmosphere out of the ship, back into storage tanks, an hour before the jump. Tommy tried to relax in his chair, watching the readings from all the internal systems as they splashed on the underside of his cornea, augmenting his understanding of the ship that was to be his salvation or his coffin.

He was twitchy, nervous, but it was a feeling he knew. Let’s just get this started.

Sasha was sure something was here. Something unprecedented, something that could change three small lives. Tommy trusted her. Mags was sure she had found the spot. She was a bullshitter, but not about something like this. The analysis was solid. Tommy trusted her, too. They just needed to put the boat right in that spot, then get out alive. That was his job. It was time to validate their trust in him.

He watched the timer count down, and as the moment of truth approached his heart slowed, and the calm of action took him. “Full thrust,” he said to no one, and the subspace thrusters roared to life, throwing a trail of near-lightspeed plasma behind the ship just as the jump drive engaged.

None of the systems were built to make a jump while the jumping body was accelerating in real space. The ship hammered into its new location, gratifyingly close to its projected position, but spinning through a giant corkscrew as the computers struggled for a fix and a solution. Tommy slammed his stick to the right and fed unwise amounts of power into the port thruster while flaring the steering jets on the nose to stop the spin as the ship catapulted forward. “Tell me where to go!” He shouted at Mags.

A beacon appeared in his vision. “Whatever that is, grab it,” Mags said in his ear. “Because that is some kind of weird shit.”

Warning signs appeared in his vision, red outlines around critical parts of Hell’s Balls that were shaking apart, stressed to breaking by the jump. Then the warnings were gone. “I’ll take care of that shit,” Sasha said over the comm. “You just fly.”

The shaking stopped as the ship seemed to fully accept its new position in space and time. “Object is rounded, roughly cylindrical, four meters long,” Mags said. “Mass… uncertain. Confirmed Gamma. No signs of damage.”

Tommy heard Sasha gasp over the comm. “Bogeys?” He asked.

“Fed ship crapping its pants and lighting it up, twelve minutes before it’s a problem, off our vector. A bunch little commercial shits dancing around but nothing with a gun I can see.”

“I’m gonna slow down for the grab,” Tommy said. “Without a mass reading I don’t want to tear our grapple off.”

“Your call,” Sasha said.

Tommy swung the ship around to put the thrust of the engines into their path, as the harnesses in the ship strained against the crew and the three sank deep into their acceleration couches. Tommy knew that the object they were collecting was impervious to any force humans could muster, but he was careful to keep his exhaust plume well away from the artifact, instead choosing a broad loop of a course that simultaneously minimized the difference in velocity between them and the target at the crucial moment, and put the Fed ship squarely behind them on their run to get the fuck out of there.

His eyes were blurring from the acceleration, and his heart felt like it was going to implode, and he smiled. 

Tommy worked with the fight computer, and it was perfect. They swept through space in an arc that could only be described as beautiful, the perfect solution to many overlapping problems, from engine heat to Fed cruiser to the uncertain mass of the object that soon would be theirs.

Until is wasn’t.

“Fuck!” Tommy said. “What the fuck?”

Mags shouted, “The fucker moved! It moved!”

“It’s active tech,” Sasha said calmly.

There was silence in the cockpit for a second, before Mags said, “Active. Holy…”

Tommy flung the ship into a new arc, to pass by the artifact once more, directly across the path of the Fed destroyer.

“What are you doing, Tommy?” Sasha asked, eerily calm.

“Gettin’ the thing,” he said.

“You doing this for us, kid? You know how Mags and I feel. But you don’t have to die here.”

“I… I’m sorry. But I don’t think they should have it.”

Sasha chuckled. “Fair enough.”

“Kid’s growing some ovaries at last,” Mags said. “Don’t worry too much about it, but if we survive the destroyer we’ll be heading straight toward a cruiser that’s acting plenty pissed off.”

“First things first,” Sasha said.

Around on the new course, full thrust, there was pretty much no way the grapple would be able to capture the object, no matter what its mass was. At that velocity difference, it wouldn’t be able to capture a fart. As he approached he waggled the ship a little, then did a roll and a dip.

“What the fuck, Tommy?” Mags asked.

“Just trying… to talk to it,” Tommy said. “Trying to look fun.”

Sasha laughed, but the strain of acceleration and danger showed through. “You’re fucking flirting with it?”

“It’s dancing back,” Mags said, almost a whisper.

Tommy couldn’t help but laugh. “She’s worse at dancing than I am.”

“I think we can blame the teacher,” Sasha said.

Mags was strangely calm. Calmer than Tommy had ever seen her. “It moved again.”

“Goddammit, where’d it go?” Tommy shouted.

“It’s in our hold, kid. I think she likes you.”

The ship was suddenly far more nimble. Tommy asked, “Mags, you got a read on the mass of that thing?”

“Um… negative. As in negative mass.”

“Well, that’s something,” Sasha said.

Tommy wasn’t listening. Mags put the fed ships into his vision and he felt the ship move to his instructions, more responsive than ever before but they were boxed between fed ships and failing engines. And… shit. Strike craft were launching from the cruiser. Four total, fast, nimble, and closing exit options quickly.

“I got the little guys,” Mags said, lighting up the ships meager point defense systems. “You just fly, Tommy.”

Tommy just flew. One of the strike craft blasted past, cutting holes in unimportant parts of Hell’s Balls, and at the end of its run Tommy twitched the boat and caught the fighter in her exhaust plume, by far the most potent weapon their boat carried.

He used that turn to swing the boat to put Hell’s Balls directly between cruiser and destroyer for one critical moment, preventing them from using their big guns, but that reprieve lasted only a heartbeat and even though they were accelerating beyond any spec for their boat and even though the Feds were crossing their path and would take minutes to achieve a useful vector, the fastest ship ever made couldn’t outrun light.

Tommy jinked and juked, but it didn’t matter. The first hit tore through the starboard thruster and opened the cargo hold to space.

“Cargo’s sticking with us,” Mags reported.

The next hit cored the ship from stern to stem, directly through Mags. One moment she was there, the next she was plasma. Behind him Sasha was crying out in pain, then wasn’t, and Hell’s Balls was no more, and they were gone, and Tommy was still connected to his acceleration couch, but it wasn’t attached to anything, and he was tumbling in the terrifying silent void.

His optic interface was telling him that his suit was no longer intact. As he tumbled, he became aware of another presence, that didn’t seem to interact with light correctly. He smiled, and waggled his arms. Arm. One seemed to be missing. Distantly it hurt like hell but his suit had flooded his blood with morphine. He waggled some more, and laughed when the thing he almost couldn’t see waggled back.

Then his boat’s reactor went up, and there was light beyond imagining, and finally blessed darkness.

1

Someone’s Messing With Me

Driving yesterday, I had the thought: “Someone has replaced New Mexico with an exact duplicate, except without orange barrels on I-25.”

1

12 Hours and One Minute Until Dawn

I looked at my watch, and that’s what it just told me. Seems like a title for a story.

1

Still Searching for the Electric Roadster

Before I go too far down this rabbit hole, we should all make note of the fact that it is entirely possible that I will never buy another car, and that the roadster I currently own (a 1999 Miata) almost never leaves the garage. I have the battery hooked up to a trickle charger and I use my bike pump to keep the tires from going too flat.

But still, every once in a while, I go looking for the “electric Miata” — a simple and spirited little car made for top-down fun. I want this vehicle to exist. There was a time known as the 1980’s where no one thought there was a market for a fun little two-seater, and then Mazda introduced the Miata and bang the genre was reborn. I’m looking for the company that does the same thing, but electric.

It’s a challenge, to be sure. Batteries are heavy, and weight is the last thing you want if your goal is a nimble little car. That fact alone is probably why my dream has not already been realized. I get that. But I dream.

“What about the Tesla Roadster?” you ask. I will not go into detail here, but the original Roadster has value only as a collector item and the fabled new roadster is a preposterously expensive supercar that isn’t actually a roadster at all. What about Detroit Electric? Audi? BMW? The list goes on. All preposterous supercars and not a ragtop to be found.

Part of this, again, goes back to the weight. If it’s going to be heavy, is has to be powerful, and it has to stay very low to the pavement if it wants to turn corners at any speed. I get that. But I dream.

MG, the famous British company whose name is synonymous with “fun (as long as it isn’t broken)”, is now owned by Chinese giant SAIC, and the badge adorns SUV’s over there. But apparently some guy in that company remembers what MG used to mean, and MG has been working on an electric vehicle to pay homage to that heritage. Here at last, I thought, would be the electric that captured the true roadster feel.

Dubbed (I kid you not) “Cyberster”, the MG concept absolutely does NOT capture that feel. It is just another electric two-seat supercar in a market with about as many offerings as customers.

Mazda has now said they will “electrify” the Miata by 2030. But they probably mean hybrid, because, well, batteries are heavy. I’ve long wondered if the Wankel Rotary is well-suited for turning a generator; maybe we’ll find out.

Perhaps what I want is not possible with current technology. In fact, go back and remove the “Perhaps” from that statement. But I still want it! And let’s face it; a battery-encumbered Miata would still out-corner the 1974 Alfa Romeo I used to love to drive.

And there’s the thing. I get the weight. But the people choosing what cars to build don’t get the feeling of being out on the road on a chilly night, top down, heater blasting, moon washing the landscape. They don’t get the drives across the desert where sunscreen is a constant activity. They don’t get that the vanilla smell of ponderosas is part of the magic of weaving up a mountain road. They have never looked straight up and seen the sun shine through the feathers of a golden eagle coasting over the baking blacktop.

They do not love the road as deeply as I do. The motion, the air, the adventure. Someone should put me in charge of a car company (actually, they really shouldn’t). Then my company could make the car we all want.

For symmetry with the start of this episode, also note that in the unlikely event that I actually buy another car, it better drive itself so I can take a nap before I get where I’m going.

A Very Ordinary Genocidal Sociopath

I thought I’d celebrate the day with a link to an article about Cristopher Columbus over at defector.com: Christopher Columbus And The Replacement-Level Historical Figure. If you’re not a sports fan, you might not have seen the phrase “Replacement Level” that is used in the title. In sports, as statistics become ever-more sophisticated, you come across the question “how much better (or worse) is this athlete compared to a completely average person doing the same job?”

Patrick Wyman likes to ask that same question, but not about athletes, but about political and historical figures. Was Henry VIII exceptional, or was he just another Wealthy Asshole doing Wealthy Asshole stuff? What Wyman has discovered is that it is much more informative to look at the class of person who did something big, rather than to dwell on the name of the particular member of that class who actually did it. If it wasn’t them, it would have been someone else.

Back in the 1480’s, there were dozens of Christopher Columbuses sailing around. The one we remember might have been a little dumber than most of his peers (just about everyone else was correctly certain his estimate for he size of planet Earth was way off the mark), and maybe a bit more consumed with social climbing, but in every significant way he was a perfectly ordinary sociopath getting rich off the suffering and subjugation of others.

He would hang out with other, now forgotten sea captains, trading tips on how to most efficiently destroy civilization in Africa and how best to suck up to the various navies deployed to protect their evil trade.

Chris was just dumb enough to try something his peers hadn’t yet, but it was only a matter of time.

Would anything have been different if another captain had made the voyage? About the only difference is that other captain would have been smart enough to realize he had stumbled on an unknown continent and named it after himself, and the natives in this land would not be called “Indians”.

Other than that, the replacement-level sea captain would have still have been a genocidal racist, willing to kill thousands of people if it meant he could sell dozens. He would have used disease, intimidation, and rape to get what he wanted. Back home, he wold tell outrageous lies.

Yet we have a day in this country named after one slightly-below-average member of this club. We learned in school that he was a hero, now we are learning something closer to the truth. But both these narratives make Columbus someone special. He was not. There was a swarm of flies, and he just happened to be the first fly to land on the new world.

2

The Car in the Camp

There is a homeless camp near the Children’s Museum. I ride through it on my trips that start to the North. The camp is growing, as are all the tent cities along the river. We can all take credit for that.

The city does what it can to limit the harm, providing portable toilets and looking the other way when a chain of extension cords or even a hose reaches from the museum to the camp. In one of the most expensive towns in the world, it doesn’t take much to knock a family out of their home. At least some here are more concerned with protecting people and environment rather than assigning blame.

You see some pretty nice cars in the camps these days, reminders of where these people were before they lost everything. Tricked out rice rockets, European luxo-mobiles, big-ass SUV’s. The cars are memories now, tires going flat. Time, poverty, and desperation inevitably overcome all things, especially cars; decay is accelerated. The minivan parked by the tracks one day is a burned-out hulk the next.

In the camp by the children’s museum, there was a car on a trailer. I am not an expert on antique automobiles. My first guess was a 1950’s MG, but looking at pictures now, this car lacks the signature fender->running board line of the MG’s.

But it is a classic roadster of that form, and at first it was on a trailer. The trailer is gone now.

It is a negotiation I think I understand. Job is gone, home is gone, but there is one thing you hold on to. But even being homeless is expensive, especially if you want to escape it. Fees on everything. Do you keep your phone account or do you eat? The trailer is sacrificed to keep the idea alive that this is just temporary. That on the other side will be a life where the classic car means something again.

I wonder that someone down on their luck can’t find a friend with a garage to hold their car until things get better. But although this car is more conspicuous, as I said above there are many nice automobiles in this place, and the number is growing. And friends are hard to find when you have nothing.

I dread the day I ride past and the accelerated entropy has overcome this vehicle. It’s just a thing, metal and rubber and whatnot, and its only value is what we assign it. But it’s also a dream. It’s hope. It’s a lifeline someone is clinging to. I just wish I shared that hope.

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Totally NOT a Robo-Call

I got a message on my phone from an unknown number. In a soft alto female voice the message said:

We’re sorry, an application error has occurred. Goodbye.

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Progress Report on My Mountain

I had a good ride yesterday, 41 miles after I remembered to start the tracking software. It was a good ride through some awesome territory, but that is not the ride I want to tell you about right now. (Except to drop the official tease that 40 miles is about all my left foot is willing to do in my current shoes.)

No, today I want to tell you about a ride I took a couple of weeks ago. It was my most recent assault on Mt. Hamilton, or, as I call it, My Mountain.

My Mountain is a long, steady climb up a twisty-turny road, with an observatory at the top. After the first six miles of climbing (about one-third of the ride), there is a brief respite. My goal that day was to get farther than I had before; my stretch goal for the ride was to get to that 6-mile mini-summit. And I did it! 1500 feet of elevation gain (not counting the climb to reach the official start of the climb), just crunching along. After that point there is a small descent. I didn’t go down there, because I wasn’t sure I’d get back up.

It took me almost an hour to cover those six miles. That’s… not fast. In fact, one of the reasons I made it that far is that I have gotten better at riding very slowly. After the descent and the ride back through town to get home, I was demolished.

When I related the speed of my climb to my buddy John, he said (more or less) “Your goal is to get up there before you’re sixty? You should probably start now.”

Strava, the app I use to track my rides, happily compares my efforts to others who have ridden the same route. Out of curiosity, I checked how I compared to others who have made the same climb. My effort, compared to the best efforts of 14767 other riders is… pretty close to the bottom. I’m a little confused because looking at the numbers tonight I am no longer as close to the bottom as I was (by a long shot), but I’m still way, way, down in the basement.

But Strava compares each person’s fastest times. So of the 14767 other people who have ridden that segment, almost all have better bests than I do. But that doesn’t mean all their efforts were faster than mine.

And you know what? I take a certain perverse pride in crawling up the mountain at 6 mph and not quitting before I got to that point. It was not a sexy ride, but it was a testament to sheer bloody-mindedness. As an athlete, that more than anything else defines me. I am not stronger, or faster, or more graceful, but I am a stubborn SOB.

I just have to find the legs to triple that effort by the time I turn sixty in 31 months. Piece of cake, right?

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A Helping Hand for Vets

We love the official little dogs of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas — even though Guilfoyle is a pretty major a-hole — and we love the people who have dedicated their lives to helping us keep the ODoMRHBIs healthy, even as their muzzles turn gray and their legs don’t have the spring they once did.

Lady Byng with blep

People who gravitate to that calling do it out of love, and let there be no doubt that the pups in this house are much better off for having a good doctor. And therefore I am better off as well.

I was surprised, and then not surprised, to learn that the suicide rate among veterinarians is awful. That job has some tough, tough, days. In fact, even the easy days are tough. So this month I’m riding at least 400 miles to raise awareness (and cash, of course), for an organization dedicated to giving these kind people some of the mental health resources they need.

If you have a caregiver for your pets whom you appreciate, or if you just think maybe mental health needs a bit more attention, then please consider joining the fundraiser yourself (you can even be on my team!) or simply donating and letting me do the work. Either path can start at my page over there.

My circle of friends is small, and not all y’all are living as comfortably as I am. So I want you to know right from the get-go that while I plan to do more to raise money for causes I believe in, there is no way in hell I expect any of my friends to answer the call every time. We all have to choose our battles. So thank you for reading this far, and if this is not the cause for you, that’s fine. (But if you know someone…)

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