The electric bicycles that Robin and I acquired have disc brakes, something not new in the world, but new to us. About a month ago I noticed a faint whispering sound occasionally, which over time became less faint and more constantly present. I diagnosed that one of the discs was rubbing on a caliper on the rear wheel. It turned out that I was right. (Diagnosis has always been my forté, implementation my weaker area.)
So I looked it up in Bicycle Maintenance and Repair and found several rather unclear illustrations dealing with how to make adjustments which might do the trick. I finally gave up and took it to the dealer when I found that finishing the repair properly would require using a small torsion wrench, something that I do not own.
The dealer fixed it in minutes, charged me $10.00, and away I went. Well, I thought, I’m going to get one of those special wrenches and the next time this happens, I can skip the inconvenience of hauling the bike to the shop, etc. So I looked it up to find that little tool would cost just under $110.00. And even with the proper equipment, there is no guarantee that I would do the repair correctly. In fact, I have quite a long and proud history of fixing things that never ran quite the same again.
Soooo, no new wrench for me. I might be tempted to use it. And at only ten bucks a pop having the dealer doing the work, it would be a looooong time paying for itself.
From The New Yorker
Today’s headlines are full of news of Afghanistan. The name-calling and blaming have begun in earnest. We did it wrong, they say, too fast … too poorly planned … should have turned left at that corner instead of right, etc. As if anyone knew the right way. The U.S. is just one more foreign occupier who has been forced to leave that country without achieving anything lasting. The country has successfully resisted being governed for long by anyone, including the Afghans themselves.
Remember how it all began, after 9/11? We went in and blew up those terrorist training camps to avenge that infamous attack? When we were done with that, we made our first serious mistake. We decided to stay there and try to make a nation out of the country so that those camps wouldn’t just spring up once again. From then on the outcome was never really in doubt. Eventually we would give up and get out and there would be humiliation enough for everybody to have a big plateful. Of course we made it even worse by choosing at that moment to add fixing that pesky Iraq to our to-do list, which was entitled “Things We Can Do To Really Make Our Lives Hell.”
Remember that old saw about those who do not learn from the past being doomed to repeat it? We didn’t have to make these mistakes ourselves … we could have studied the most recent example before us which was provided by Russia, who invaded and then stayed nine years before doing pretty much what we are doing now.
Leaving was always going to be ugly. Perhaps that’s why Presidents Bush, Obama, and cluck didn’t do it. The mistake was staying in the first place and thinking we were smart enough and powerful enough to succeed where no one ever had. Today’s vocabulary word, students, is one that means “excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.” That word is:
Hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris, hubris.
(I had a point in there somewhere. Did I make it, you think?)
From The New Yorker
My introduction to the world of imported beers was in a jazz club along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis when I was 21. A place where I could listen to the music while sitting at a tiny round table and nursing a Heineken, all the while smoking my pipe. I might have looked ridiculous, with my baby-face and self-conscious posturing and all, but I didn’t know it. I just felt like the coolest guy on the planet.
I have never felt that hip again. Self-awareness came along and ruined that particular delusion for me.
Later on a persistent and unpleasant cough forced me to abandon the pleasures of tobacco. To make matters worse, my Heineken punch-card came to be all used up, and that was that. All that was left was the jazz. Which, actually, is still pretty cool. If I wanted I could still go to a jazz club (if I could find one) but there would need to be only this small adjustment to my order once I was seated at the table:
“Waiter, could you be a dear and bring me something in a tall frosty bottle that won’t make me behave like an ass once I’ve finished it? Thanks ever so much.”
One of the great pleasures of advanced age is that you have the time to acquire so much new information, to learn, to (hopefully) become wiser. As long as one keeps their mind open, it is possible that this will occur. Not at all guaranteed, but possible.
One of the great ironies of that same age is that no one wants to hear about it, especially those much younger than oneself. “What in the world can that old poop have to tell me that I might find valuable” is the mantra. And they may be right. We’ve all heard the adage: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.“ But it is also true that when the student is not ready, teaching can be difficult if not impossible.
So I now know more about living than I ever did, and unless something unheard of and unexpected happens, that knowledge will perish when I do. Just about fits the definition of a cosmic joke. But one of those things time has shown me is that giving unsolicited advice is as close to a complete waste of time and breath as you can get.
However, and since you didn’t ask, I will offer perhaps the most valuable thing I have learned in my time upon this beautiful planet, and it is this:
“I believe strongly that I am right. But … I could be wrong.“