Tagged daily cosmonaut

Daily Cosmonaut #5: Ramona Quimby

Daily cosmonaut


When I was a kid only three authors existed in my mind: Danielle Steele, John Grisham, and Beverly Cleary. There were thousands of books at the library but the only books in our house were by one of these three authors. John Grisham seemed incomprehensible. Danielle Steele seemed boring. But Beverly Cleary spoke to my experience.


Her characters behaved like I did and often even inspired my actions. Ramona’s literalism was matched only by my own. When she was told that the first bite of every apple was the best, she proceeded to only eat the first bite out of each one. In my mind, or perhaps in the book’s illustration, she was sitting on a mountain of apples with one bite taken out of each. This was a completely relatable scene that ran suitably parallel to many of my capers.


When travel writer Laura O. Foster proposed that we publish Walking With Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland, my first thought was that we could not have published such a book even three or four years ago. Our audience wouldn’t have understood it in our parade of releases. It would have felt out of place. And a major part of that reason is that our staff had become passive for so long; agreeing to publish books that were offered to us rather than taking a proactive view of what our ideal list would look like. We were so busy doing the work that we had to get ahead enough of ourselves to think about what we were doing. And in many senses,  with enough explanation, Beverly Cleary’s work is perfectly sympatico with Microcosm’s. She celebrates the bad characters, the misbehavior, the hilarious messes and hijinks, and the way that not all bad guys have a TV-style moment of realization that changes their moral compass, and there isn’t always a bow tie and happy ending. In short, it’s good because it’s real.


Beverly Cleary turns 100 this year, the book comes out in November, and it’s a rare moment of redemption to connect my adult self to the mischievous kid that I was in 1982.


Daily Cosmonaut #4: Good Trouble

Daily cosmonaut

We’ve recently launched a Kickstarter project for my book Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business with Asperger’s. I wanted to explain more about why I wrote this book.


I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 32. Sadly, my actions had already hurt many people that I cared about deeply. But in each situation I did not understand what had gone wrong. Like most people with Aspergers, I have very dull mirror neurons, the part of the brain that lets us know what others are communicating emotionally or nonverbally. For the majority of my life, I understood communication only as a way to share information. Think about that for a minute. I did not understand communication as a way to form bonds or relate with other people. This made it very difficult for me to make friends.


Worse, I did not understand neurotypicals’ many forms of subtle communication: body language, posture, facial expressions, hesitation, context, dropping hints, nuances, metaphor, or even innuendo or most humor. To me, every request was direct and straightforward. When we think about how people understand and express boundaries it is almost never through the level of clear and unmistakable kind of communication that I required. I was physically incapable of fully understanding what another person wanted from me or was not comfortable with. My disability left me with a lack of the necessary parts to interpret these signals and act accordingly. I could not understand other people’s feelings because I did not naturally feel empathy and respond with sympathy. The result was that I hurt people’s feelings, even people that I genuinely cared about. People tended to view my behavior as rude or insensitive. Generally people believed that I was ignoring their request or willfully bulldozing their boundary.


I almost always had a very different and undeterred perspective on any given issue than the people around me. My balance was delicate and I could be easily offended or upset. I believed there were rules and best practices for every task, however small. I was cold, monotonous, distant, and clinical in my interactions with other people. The people in my life each slowly responded in kind. Much pain resulted for everyone involved.


Since the missing part of my brain is not something that can be fixed, the situation was eventually resolved through what is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I spent about four years working with trained psychologists and social workers to learn how to intellectually understand empathy and  understand what signals to look for and respond to appropriately. I began to understand why my behavior had upset people so deeply and learned to gradually shift through regimented learning. In 2009, while still embroiled in learning about boundaries and neurotypical social skills, I became involved in what would become the longest relationship of my life, lasting to the present. I still make mistakes sometimes, of course. Sometimes the fundamental mechanics of a question are asked in a way that does not produce the kind of answer that the person is looking for and we have a miscommunication. I now know to apologize and understand what they really want instead of getting upset that their question was not properly formulated, but because my comprehension is so rigid, I still make mistakes.  I’ve apologized to the people who I have hurt and done my best to listen and make amends.


Fortunately, I no longer have the constant friction and hurt feelings all around me in my daily life. I learned how to blend into a world where most people are not like me. Most of Microcosm’s staff and most people that I have met in the past few years have a hard side seeing my Aspergian traits and will sometimes express disbelief. In these moments I simply have to explain the algebra calculations I do each time I cross the street to ensure the speed of each object in motion and likelihood that it would hit me. Or I explain the equations for calculating the number of pills that I need to order and pack before my next trip or show them the multitude of spreadsheets that inform every decision that we make at Microcosm based on the risk assessment and potential rewards involved.


I wrote Good Trouble: Building a Success Life & Business with Asperger’s because most of my life was about various kinds of failure. I always desperately struggled to understand why my relationships faltered and failed despite my best efforts. After two failed relationships in a row that were very painful for me, I decided that it would be best to socially isolate myself. But instead, I met my current partner by chance and the dynamics in our relationship are unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced before. I hesitated for six years to publicly discuss my Asperger’s because I have been bullied for much of my life in various ways and I knew that having to publicly disclose my diagnosis would result in many people putting my lived experiences and even the diagnosis under a microscope of scrutiny. For most of the last ten years, other people have attempted to speak for me about what my motivations were or how I felt about things. My lived experience was slowly being overwritten with theirs. It slowly made me crazy.


Eventually I decided that I owed it to the next undiagnosed adult with Asperger’s because I know how much it hurts to go through each day, paranoid and nervous, that I will hurt someone’s feelings or have yet another confusing and painful social interaction. And more than anything, an explanation that it can get better is what my teenage self needed more than anything.  

Daily Cosmonaut #3: Real-Estate Reality Check


Daily cosmonautA few months ago I stood in shock as a house on a major commercial strip in my neighborhood was demolished by a wrecking crew. A few days earlier activists had climbed onto the roof and attached themselves to the structure in protest. Protesters lined the sidewalk and police stood in my way as I tried to walk to the grocery store. The police shouted at me as I walked in the street, it being the only place not occupied by the skirmish. I replied, “You made this mess. I’m just trying to get out of the way.”


For those unaware, Portland has found itself in the grips and throes of a major real estate pinch increasingly over the last decade. Over the past year we’ve had the highest rent increases of anywhere in the U.S. brought on by big tech starting to settle into our “affordable real estate.” This situation has long affected Microcosm. Our office from 2003-2006 suffered a 25% rent increase in 2007. Having long overgrown the place, we moved out as a result. But real estate wasn’t quite understood by our peers and community until the last year or two when similar hikes began affecting residential rents. We’ve seen numerous giant condo buildings appear only to be found not profitable enough and replaced by luxury apartments. In our transient city, landlords now target a renter with a much higher income who doesn’t plan to stay more than a few years, treating the city like their childhood playground.


The resulting housing crunch and lack of vacancies drove prices up all over the city. As density increased to manage demand, the residents weren’t scandalized by the gross abuses of capitalism to profit on this housing crunch but rather by the fact that historic buildings were being demolished and trees were being displaced to increase housing density. Worse, instead of banding together to take a stand for affordable housing and the city’s homelessness rate that has spiraled out of control, people took a stand against demolition, seeing it as the scourge of a changing city. There’ve been homeless sweeps and the eradication of camps over the past year. I watched in horror one day as a prison work crew tossed the contents of a homeless camp into a garbage truck as a neighboring luxury apartment was being built. It was as if the sight of the homeless was enough to reduce the value of these apartments. I felt like I was watching the cycle of capitalist life in a vomit-inducing abuse of power to protect wealth.


Worst of all is the response of people who are in a position to effect change. There seems to be a strong disconnect from the reality that the people who moved here a decade ago are not “victims” of this development but rather part of the cause. A popular bicycling blog runs a series of stories about how bike thefts are on the rise and how a homeless “bone yard” is the place where the spoils are fenced. Their fans and readers escalate it further in the  comments section, decrying that the poor are looking to escalate their crimes into violent ones and that the police are virtually complicit in trying to ignore the rampant theft.


For me it’s hard to understand this response. Nobody wants to live in a homeless camp or sets out to rely on a life of crime. It’s a matter of sustenance; a downward spiral that capitalism virtually demands. It’s in the definition: The wealth of some is reliant on the cycle of others to live in poverty and some to be without any jobs at all. We are encouraged to demonize the people at the bottom as lazy and of poor moral character despite the fact that if they didn’t exist, the foundations of our own struggling ability to subsist would be threatened.


If we are serious about protecting housing rights and taking a stand against displacement, it will be a matter of working together. Sure, it’s disgusting to watch a neighborhood association raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to save trees and it sucks to have your bike stolen (I can attest to this several times myself), but capitalism is our real enemy. Unless we work together and organize to protect the most vulnerable among us, we will all eventually lose.


Daily Cosmonaut #2

Daily cosmonaut

While the last two weeks of December and the first week of January is normally our slowest time of year, our distributor moved some deadlines and we had to spend the past four weeks furiously assembling all of our advanced reader copies for the books that we are publishing next Fall. While this probably sounds completely unreasonable (in terms of workload and schedule; books that aren’t coming out until eleven months from now), given the volume of modern publishing it is necessary. The sales team at our distributor has to spend time understanding who the audience is for each one and figuring out which stores to approach and how to talk about each book. Similarly, traditional book reviewers need a four to six month window before the publication date to review books in trade publications and national magazines.

This is also a relatively heavy season for us with ten books. I set my personal record of designing three entire books in one day. I designed a total of six books during one week while Meggyn furiously illustrated beards and vulvas for two (different) coloring books. While weeks like these are incredibly stressful, they are also highly rewarding. I mean, you get into publishing to make books. So to make tons of them in quick succession and working out the bugs in the coming months is super fun. It’s also neat to watch all of this hard work and planning pay off.


It’s informing our process as well. We’ve spent the last two years slowly easing our workload further and further ahead of schedule so we don’t end up in these binds where we have to rush and double up everyone’s workloads. And there’s an undeniable reward in getting to read for fun on the weekends too.  

Daily Cosmonaut #1

Daily cosmonaut

With rumors circulating of the potential impending collapse of our local conservative daily newspaper, The Oregonian, we decided that it was time for a back to basics around here. For those of you who have been Cosmonauts since before 2005, you may remember a time when I would write “articles” on our blog about things that I was thinking about, decisions that we had made, and things that could narrowly pass for “news” around here. We’ve found that as the meta-commentary from behind the scenes became less and less, there was more and more misunderstanding about what Microcosm was up to or why we would do certain things. Honestly, that had more to do with an increasing workload and a period of time where the voices and work emanating from our office were decidedly intended to seem more anonymous. But, of course, that made even less sense when the voice contradicted itself.


But it’s a slow time around here, at least around the couch that I pushed into the corner of the office so Ruby, my medical alert dog, can nap with her head on my lap while I work. So we thought it would be a good time to pull up the curtains and reveal a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes. Most of it is admittedly pretty entertaining. Like the time that a thief stole our entire stack of outgoing UPS boxes a few weeks ago, only to discover that the boxes were full of books and disappointedly deposited them in front a school who was polite enough to call the customers. It could have been a total tragedy but there was a perfectly happy ending. And not to jinx ourselves, but that’s how tragedies tend to go around here.


We’re going to have some daily news from here on out! Let us know what you want to hear about from this side of the curtain.



Santa Claus: A Critical History

Saint nick photographed by hemis/alamyMany theological rejections are quick to point out that Christmas has never been celebrated anywhere near the actual birthday of Jesus and widespread consumerism has overwhelmed any religious focus in the Western world. So I feel safe assuming that Christmas has little, if any, relationship to Christianity, though if it’s your Roman celebration of the Sun God, please carry on. (and send us photos!)

So let’s look at popular culture in the U.S. and what’s actually going on with Christmas. Some capitalists go to great lengths to defend the consumerist tendencies of “the holidaze,” but we are going to take a step back in time and look at the origin story of Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas was a Greek Bishop of the town Myra born in 280 AD. Myra was located in what is now Turkey, which must be where Nick got that dark-skinned complexion. It’s unclear when or why exactly he relocated to Germany and across Europe and finally to the North Pole, but we can safely conclude that this move was not approved by climate scientists and we also must express concerns about his importation of resources to such a remote location, particularly the raw materials used in his toy factories. 

Slowly and surely his ethnicity was stomped out with age and his grey hair turned white. Nick was remembered as a fiery, wiry, and defiant defender of Christian doctrine while Rome was burning Bibles and executing Christians who wouldn’t renounce Christ. Nick was imprisoned until Constantine conquered the region and freed him. Nick didn’t get fat nor jolly until hundreds of years later but his gradual shift towards immortality after experiencing such life-changing events left him a little bonkers and with a changing metabolism. 

Caroline Wilkinson, a facial anthropologist at the University of Manchester (England), used retrieved bones and modern software simulations to reconstruct his face. Apparently Nick had a badly broken nose, which National Geographic writer Brian Handwerk attributes to persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

Nick gets bummed out sometimes when he realizes how far he's fallenEight hundred years later, as Nick had presumably retired to a remote location similarly to one of Tolkien’s Elves, he was remembered a bit like Yoda from his valiance in the wars against Rome. He was the patron saint of everyone from Sailors to children to entire countries to gift giving. In one tale he anonymously delivers three bags of gold to an indebted father to free his three daughters from lives of prostitution. 

According to Gerry Bowler, author of Santa Claus: A Biography, Nick was opposed to pickling people as well. When he entered an inn back in the middle ages, he “sensed” that the owner had murdered three boys and was pickling their remains in the basement. He did the only respectable thing: he called the dude out and reincarnated the boys. Kids really took a liking to the guy after that. 

Around the time of his Elven retirement, Nick took on a deeper mythology and started to anonymously deliver gifts across Europe. He also developed Norse superpowers like flight. Why he chose Europe instead of his homeland is likely related to imperialism and the changing color of his skin. 

After the Protestant Reformation, parents thought Nick was pretty uncool because they associated him with religions that, like polka, weren’t so hip anymore. But kids were really digging on the guy, or at least on getting presents, so he got a Hollywood reboot and was now called Santa Claus instead. That made everyone happy. 

Santa signed his first endorsement and co-branding dealNick’s mind continued to unravel and he became violent, now known as Ru-klaus (Rough Nicholas), Aschenklas (Ashy Nicholas), Pelznickel (Furry Nicholas), or even “The Horrific Christmas Devil” by various people in various countries at various times with an entirely new set of mythology. Children who did not cooperate with his edicts and demands for “good” behavior were whipped or even kidnapped.

It was somewhere around this time that he needed more than powers of flight and set up his elaborate toy factories somewhere in the North Pole. Lacking a fitting labor force, he imprisoned a colony of Elves who were half of the size of their more common Woodland or Underdark brethrens and ran the factories under their operation. Shortly thereafter, he was able to expand his operation virtually worldwide. But were all of these compromises worth it?

Nonetheless, children in The Netherlands continued to believe in Nick and as they emigrated to The Americas, they defended his good name and spread the stories of how to get sweet gifts on December 25. But in New England the holiday was rejected and celebrated in private due to being associated with the Pagan “Saturnalia,” an outdoor alcohol-fueled blowout, simply because it was celebrated on the same day. 

It wasn’t until 1809 that yet another Holiday reboot occurred to put Santa back into a positive light. Poets and writers created a new mythology—that Christmas was a family holiday celebration. It was around this time that Santa also began dressing in Germanic furs and became interested in animal enslavement to ensure that he could maintain the rigid schedule of planet-wide distribution. Santa started packing a birch rod that he instructed parents to strike their children with when they strayed from “virtue’s path.” It might have been about time for Santa to consider “virtue’s path” himself. This series of inhumane behavior may explain how and why Santa was stripped of any religious association in 1821 in the anonymous poem “The Children’s Friend.”

Santa is due for another hollywood reboot any day now

Over the next one hundred years Santa gained and lost thousands of pounds and entered into marketing and product representation contracts with the Coca Cola corporation, drawing massive protest from the anti-capitalist movement. Rumors indicate that Santa used the funds from Coca-Cola to expand the size of his factories and production footprint. He also hired an elaborate PR firm to tell Europe about his new image. The transformation worked and they forgot his violent and conflicted past, buying into the American version of Santa, as a rolly-polly and jolly white guy with white beard, rosy cheeks and white trim on his suit. It was one of imperialism’s greatest moments, though they told him that he couldn’t wear the indecent long johns anymore. Local customs gave him their own names in translation, like a Disney movie. For example, he was Père Noël in France, Sinterklaas in Holland, and Father Christmas in Great Britain.

But in Russia, Grandfather Frost (Santa) crossed the great Josef Stalin and when the Soviet Union was formed, the idea of Christmas gift-bringing was dumped on the curb. By the 1930s Stalin needed to fix his public opinion and tried to build a new alliance with Frost, allowing him to deliver gifts again on New Years. Communist Santa tried to cooperate, wearing a blue coat and expressing secular values, catching on in Poland and Bulgaria but the image ultimately flopped and people recognized that jolly white guy for who he was when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. 

Time for a little r&r In contemporary times, Santa is sometimes seen to represent commercialization due to his full-on adoption of capitalist values and enslavement production models. The Ghost of Ayn Rand gave him a three star review in her post-humous book, The Tyranny of Not Being Selfish, proclaiming “Santa Claus Is the only honest representation of capitalist enterprise in a world gone mad even if he has a way to go on selfishness,” and “Santa found the last outpost of free enterprise on Earth but is not exploiting it to its full potential.” For reasons like these, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria, Portland, OR, the TV show Seinfeld, and Latin America all maintain critical views on Santa Claus, opting instead for local customs. 

An inspiration of both charity and greed, Nick was not anti-war like his Jesus and reported to generals during 3rd century wartime. Perhaps they liked his kick ass miracles. In any event, it’s important to remember a person for the entire scope of their legacy, warts and all.

Why Not? Minot Festival

Why Not? Festival 2011 from Cantankerous Titles on Vimeo.

There aren’t many events that we go to every single year for Microcosm, so when we make repeated appearances it’s either a matter of three different things: Getting to catch up with very special friends who live there, consistently awesome support for what we are doing, or a truly amazing and inspiring event. Somehow Why Not? Minot Fest offers all three.

You wouldn’t exactly think of Minot as a cultural epicenter or even associate it with art, necessarily. Which is why it surprised me so much when I made my first trip back in 2006, after seven years away, to discover a vibrant music scene at The Red Carpet, a DIY venue on the outskirts of the city. 

I was confused for Joshua Ploeg, who I was on tour with, and had apparently delivered a memorable performance in 1994. We sold literally every piece of merch we had with us that night, which admittedly was only a few boxes, as we were traveling on Amtrak.

You see, Minot knows that when you support the people on tour they will come back. And they’ve also got heart. Talking on the phone with Why Not? Fest co-founder Billy Luetzen, he expressed how disillusioned he was going on tour with his band The Father, Son, and Holy Smokes where the shows were not always well organized or promoted at all. It gave him further resolve to do the best job possible in Minot.

And the best job possible became the order of the city. 

So when I got the phone call that our presence was requested at the first Why Not? Fest in 2010, I felt like I owed it to Minot. So we booked our tour around it and I’m fairly sure we left  as much merch in Minot as we did on the rest of the tour combined. 

Not content to rest on their laurels, the scene got together and created a new DIY venue, after the collapse of The Red Carpet, called Pangea House. It was the hard work of Luetzen, his buddies Jake, Daniel, Jazmine Wolfe, and no less than sixteen people named Chris. Whenever any of them are asked who is responsible for doing the work, they will all endlessly point to each other in the most charming manner. 

And not content to limit themselves to music, Why Not? Fest has featured belly dancing, improv comedy, theatre, films, an old amusement park, a dunk tank, a short shorts competition (for men), readings, a worst mac and cheese cookoff, and most notably, after the Souris River flooded in 2011, destroying much of Minot and straining an already tight housing market, the fest organized attendees to do free cleanup of people’s homes. 

And if you’re thinking, “All of this sounds great and all but is the music any good?” Well, that’s the best part. I have since come to believe The Future of Music Coalition that local and regional scenes operate best when left alone from the trappings of the music industry or other barometers of commercial “success.” Bands like Mr Dad, Chapstick, Victor Shores, Kids with Beards, Acoustic Sparkle Additive, Idaho Green, and Johnny Unicorn are all innovative songwriters and performers in a way that is captivating for even myself, who is absolutely burnt out after going to shows for twenty years. The fact that you’ve likely never heard of any of these bands—even if you’re a devout music fan—and that most of them don’t even have a website is, I believe, the reason they have been so successful at being great bands and creating a great festival. And the reason why we’ll be there every year that Why Not? Fest continues to happen!

Dinner & Bikes Tour Reflections

DINNER + BIKES '011 from Cantankerous Titles on Vimeo.

It’s been over a month since we returned home from the now-annual Dinner & Bikes Tour but it remains the kind of activism that I think about daily.

For those unfamiliar, it involves Elly Blue, Joshua Ploeg, and I (joined this year by roadie Aaron Cynic) renting a car for a month, hitting up a different region of the U.S., and leaving as much food and bike love (and Microcosm goodies) in our wake as we can.

Joshua and I had toured together for four years before the three of us founded Dinner + Bikes, but the concepts used to be a bit unclear. What was our tour about? Who were we? What were we trying to accomplish? The basic journalistic questions were increasingly hard to decipher from our posters and most people seemed to show up not knowing what to expect.

So we talked it over, tightened it up, and created a platform. Joshua would serve a seven course meal that he’d cook onsite from ingredients purchased locally. Elly would present her current fascinations on Bikenomics, bicycle equity (Bikequity?), and “The Gender Gap in Bicycling.” I’d show various curations of short films I’d made about bicycling, bicycle activism, and bicycle culture, most recently showing an excerpt of Aftermass.

But secretly, the event has nothing to do with us. We are only necessary to bring people together and for the first five minutes or so to get people talking, though arguably, Joshua’s activities in the hours before the event makes everyone much happier come dinner time. 

So we drive around the country for a month so people who live in the same town as each other have a means and a reason to come together, meet each other, and talk about improving their city, no matter where they are in the continuum.

Not to toot our own horn, but our events attract people from all across the spectrum, from bloggers and journalists to city planners to activists to city staff to bike project volunteers to ride organizers to elected officials to roadies and racers to bike clubs to advocacy organizations with proper offices or even those who volunteer from their home to make their city a more pleasant place to ride a bicycle. In most cases, if these people have ever met before, it’s rarely been on equal footing or they haven’t had the opportunity to have a proper sit down conversation. And the results have blown my mind.

We’ve been able to play matchmaker to numerous new couples who either met at our events, went on their first date to see us, or were able to find romance through Dinner + Bikes in a capacity that isn’t PG-rated. Or, in many cases, our events simply turn weekend warriors into everyday commuters.

But that’s just the beginning. We’ve been able to watch as action brews in our wake and people write blog posts or send us emails about how learning about Portland’s history or what activism is working elsewhere has propelled them into action. They are engaging city officials about how bicycling is an economic stimulator or learning how to be politically effective in asking for the changes they want to see and having the confidence to do so. In Reno, NV we watched an entire new advocacy organization form after we left town, employing the tactics they’d learned from our video about Active Right of Way in Portland.

Sometimes we are shocked to learn what has been going on in places like Spokane or St. Louis where monthly rides can attract over one hundred people year round, despite weather, darkness, and lack of infrastructure.

In Detroit, we were very lucky enough to end up performing at the Handy Jam, formerly the sound stage for Jam Handy Productions, which anyone who downloads expired copyright films knows of as one of the most prolific pre-Hollywood era propaganda filmmakers. At our event there we met the coolest “competition” Dinner + Bikes could have in the form of Detroit Brunch & Bike, a group of young people who ride their bikes to various local restaurants once per week and throw hundreds of dollars into their local economy. Inspiration, match and serve!

In my hometown of Cleveland, an elected official told us that we were not living in the “real world, where people want to drive to grocery stores and the mall.” A minister confirmed our suspicions that there is a special place in Hell for bike thieves. A latecomer who missed the parking portion of the presentation mansplained about the importance of talking about the costs of car parking. And despite no one suggesting it, a public employee explained that he couldn’t ride the 28 miles from his house to his office. And it was, of course, the advocates who told the room just how dangerous and complicated bicycling is. Numerous people complained that they didn’t relate with the Portland experience. But somehow, after all that, Elly was able to save the day by putting them into their midwestern competitive spirit, telling them that their football rivals, Pittsburgh, were doing more for bicycling than Cleveland, despite teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Sometimes the greatest joy is seeing that Memphis and Houston are rapidly developing their bikeway systems and riderships, even though it’s not being reported much in national media or even on the internet. So we leave our computers and meet the people in real life, like Amy Murphy in Mobile, Alabama who told us after we left, “Since you’ve gone, not a day has gone by that we haven’t ridden our bikes everywhere we’ve gone and even embraced taking the lane a few times (in admittedly low traffic). This afternoon we’re headed to Fairhope to see how their newly restriped areas of town are doing and so we can write their mayor and city council to thank them for it and let them know it brought us to their town to spend some money. Anyway, all that to say that we’ve taken on even more of a role as bike advocates here in town, thanks in large part to your visit, and we’d love to stay in touch. I just read your entry on my hometown of Baton Rouge and am amazed that anyone can bike in that city, though I did notice the prevalence of sharrows in my sister’s area of town starting a few visits ago… I would be terrified to try them out with all of the surrounding aggressive drivers, in all honesty, but each time I go I’ve noticed more and more cyclists and it seems a lot less intimidating.”

The biggest reward is watching people who work a typical day job during the day, but see the need and take up the challenge, becoming superheroes—whether that means routinely poking elected officials to keep their promises, spraypainting guerilla bike lanes in the middle of the night (that sometimes become permanent), or organizing petitions with businesses to improve neighborhoods for better living conditions.

On this most recent tour, we went to cities like Detroit, DC, Buffalo, Lafayette, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and East Lansing where bicycling is one of many concerns in a crippled economy where basic needs are not being met. Despite this, we found huge riderships almost everywhere we went and even where road or cultural conditions were not ideal, it didn’t ever seem to take the smiles off people’s faces.

This year I set out to take one good photo every day of tour and while I failed to some degree, I feel that, in the same way, certain events exceeded expectations by such a wide margin that they were much more photogenic and deserve half a dozen photos.

Here at the ‘cosm …with the CIA.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope all you lovers out there were out lovin’.

We’ve been active around here lately. Tim is heading down to Austin for Staple, our store continues to evolve, we’ve got lots of bright ideas for the future, and we’re adding lots of new titles on the website!

If you haven’t read the new CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting yet, you should. It’s creepy. It’s disturbing. It’s angering. Some parts are downright sickening. But it’s also exciting, enticing, and undoubtedly interesting. It contains minimal speculation and maximal research. Much of the content is admitted by government officials and operatives themselves. And the book compiles it together to let you see more of the big picture. And it’s not a pretty one. Not only does it bring un-skewed history to light, it’s a time capsule that you can send to friends and family to provoke thoughts and conversation. Even if they don’t want to believe most of it, it’s provocative so they can’t help reading it anyway. If you’ve read the original zines, you still want this, because it’s all been updated.

Stay safe out there!

  CIA book