Category Archives: Bicycling

A few links about reading, publishing, timeliness, & poems about dogs

Emotional intelligence, improvement of

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

But psychologists and other experts said the new study was powerful because it suggested a direct effect — quantifiable by measuring how many right and wrong answers people got on the tests — from reading literature for only a few minutes.

Does Reading Literary Fiction Make You a Better Person?

(Same story from Publishing Perspectives.) At the end of this article is a link to participate in the study. You don’t have to read any literature, just look at pictures of eyes and determine an emotion. But they do ask you how much fiction vs. nonfiction you’ve read in the past year. (Just so you know, I got 31 out of 36 correct. I think that’s pretty good. But then, I read literary fiction.)

Publishing: Traditional vs. Self (Before we die this will cease to be a story)

Is Publishing Still Broken? The Surprising Year In Books

Self-publishing is a huge and disruptive force in the publishing industry, but contrary to popular belief, it’s largely benefiting publishers.

Bowker Data Offers Surprising Insight into Traditional and Self-Publishing

First, more publishers than ever before signed authors who had previously self-published their books, a far cry from the days only a few years ago when choosing to self-publish was an all-or-nothing choice.

Just in case you were thinking about making a magazine app

Why tablet magazines are a failure

8 apps a day. (Average number of apps opened by mobile users each day. Out of an average number of 41 apps on the device.)

Manners, improvement of

On going over your time

Just don’t do it.

Marketing & Design & Creativity

From today’s Very Short List (@VSL), “the delightful email that shares cultural gems from a different curator each day.” Today’s curators were David Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford’s, and Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and bestselling author. One link was to an article titled “Mermaids & pirates take the fear out of hospital scans” about the redesign of MRI scanners.

“I mean, some of the most effective insights we got came from kneeling down and looking at rooms from the height of a child.”

Good news on the one hand, except if you think that this insight is coming after the fact, it’s a little depressing that these machines and the experience for little children wasn’t considered beforehand. Oh well. Better late than never, right?

Curating this edition of VSL was also a good marketing venture for @kelleybros, whose book, Creative Confidence, publishes next week.


Mary Oliver’s ‘Dog Songs’ Finds Poetry in Friends

Hey, I’m a dog owner.

Some links about self-publishing, an Amazon protest, long walks, and a boat-like bike

These next three items are thanks to @EditorialHell who puts together a newsletter from Berrett-Kohler Publishers called BK Communiqué.

And he’ll help support your local indie bookstore. And he’s just one town over from me.

Self-Publishing Could Become a $52 Billion Business: Report

Unremarkable men walk 40 miles for no particular reason

“It’s not anti-charity; it’s pro-friends, pro doing-anything-you-feel-like-doing.”

Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh
This just sounds like a good story. Any time someone helps others tell their own stories, it’s good for all of us.

Just plain weird. Discovered this story while reading blog of author Anne Elizabeth Moore.

Making iOS 7 more readable
For those of us over 50.

If you’re a bike commuter and there’s a body of water between home and work.


Aquatic bicycle

Picture taken from SBK website.

Becoming the change I want to see

Keep Jumping Red, End Up Dead

Flickr photo courtesy of Kaputniq

My new cause is for bicyclists to stop at stop signs and red lights as if they were a motorist. In Massachusetts, and perhaps elsewhere, it’s now a law. If you go through a red light on your bicycle, you can be ticketed. I shouldn’t get self-righteous here because I’ve bicycled through many a red light in my time. But now, my feeling is that if bicyclists will stop at red lights, then car drivers might respond to them differently; rather than as pesky lane swervers, motorists might see bicycles as legitimate vehicles, almost like another car. And I think that would be helpful for all of us. I’ve got to believe that that state of affairs would help cut down on car-bike accidents. And I believe that bicyclists have to make the first move. Because they have the most to lose; car drivers are never hurt when their cars collide with a bicyclist. (Please let me know if I’m wrong on this one.) Bicyclists think car drivers should shift their attitude, but that’s not going to happen. Cars are in the majority, cars rule the road. Our society reveres cars and car transportation; bicycles and their riders are second-class citizens at best, rebels, outliers, socialists at worst.

This past weekend a group of bicyclists passed me as I was returning home from a ride. There were six of them; one of the guys was not wearing a helmet, which is just downright stupid. They moved ahead of me and then there was a red light ahead. I was trying to catch up with them, but they slowed for the light, checked that no cars were coming in the cross street, then sped through. I called out half heartedly for them to stop and then I waited for the light to change. And then, well, I just got pissed off. I don’t know what it is. Why couldn’t I just let them go on their way? I poured on the speed and caught up with them at the crest of the next hill and as I passed I looked over at the two leaders, Mr. No Helmet and his friend. “I really wish you guys would stop for red lights!” I yelled as I continued on, pedaling hard. I was sort of hoping that the next light would be red and I’d be stopped and they’d have to make their way around me in order to go through the light. But it was green.

I just kept going and then there was my left turn light ahead. It was red, though for the two travel lanes the light was green. I stopped, and I was standing there with my right foot on the pavement, when Mr. No Helmet whooshed by screaming at me, “The light is green!” as he flew down Beacon Street. His glee! He was so thrilled to be able to “get me back.” I was startled at first, then realized in that moment the folly of my ways. (Though of course I wish I had had the wherewithal to reply with some snarky remark like, “You may be stupid but at least you’re not colorblind!”)

I’m not going to get bicyclists to stop at red lights by yelling at them after they’ve gone through one. At least I could approach the discussion differently, perhaps a reserved, “Have you thought about stopping at red lights?” as I pedal along beside them. Maybe I’ll do that, or maybe I’ll just continue to stop at red lights and let the other bicyclists do what they will. Perhaps in time I’ll serve as a role model. Maybe some other bicyclist will think, “Hey, that’s a good idea.” As I slowly made my way home, it was then that I truly understood the oft-quoted line from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So for now I’ll stop screaming and just do.

But I do think of places like the Netherlands where drivers are trained to open their car doors with their right hands, reaching across their bodies, turning themselves to the left, forcing them to look back at the road, thus enabling them to see any bicyclists who might be coming their way. (I’ve been “doored” by a car driver. It is no fun. Knocked me out of commission for a couple of months and to this day I have a left shoulder problem associated with that accident.) Meaning that we could find ways to accelerate a melding of the minds between car drivers and bicyclists. Hopefully that day will come in my lifetime here in the U.S. of A.

Post script: was visiting some friends who were sitting out on their front porch last night. (It was a beautiful evening.) Got talking about bikes and red lights with this friend who has taken up biking later in life and who I often see Sunday mornings making his way home from the store where he’s just bought fresh bagels. He told me that because of my example he is now stopping at red lights and stop signs. Not always, and not consistently, but he’s doing it more and more. All I could say was, “My work here is done.”

Well, if not done, at least a beginning.

Why I ride in the Pan Mass Challenge

I started riding in the Pan Mass Challenge (a 200-mile two-day bike ride in Massachusetts, USA that raises funds for the fight against cancer) because I had gotten back into biking after a long hiatus, I had friends who were doing it, and because I was now in my 50s and thinking more about how to give back to people rather than getting for myself. Apparently that happens to men of a certain age. Less concern and worry about their place in the universe and more concern about how to help others.

The thinking also went: “I’m going to be out there biking because I like doing it and I like how it makes me feel and how it makes me fit and since I’m putting in all these miles (and time), I might as well see if there’s a way to somehow be helping someone simultaneously.” Enter Pan Mass Challenge. Perfect fit, really.

Then reality sets in. You’ve got to be in pretty good shape to ride back-to-back centuries. (A century in bike parlance is a 100-mile ride.) As a result you have to ride a lot to get in shape for that weekend. You end up riding more than you would otherwise ride just to stay in shape. Which is good. On the one hand. On the other, you end up putting in more time in the saddle than you otherwise might want to. Other things don’t happen or don’t get done. There’s only so much time in a day. As I get older, this is more and more apparent to me. (As I tick off only 3 of the 7 items on my to-do list.) Either I’m slowing down at getting things done, or I just have wildly unrealistic expectations. Or: combination of the two.

But you ride for the cause. Money raised goes to fight cancer. You don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. Think about that. No one. Everyone you know and everyone that all of the people you know knows doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer. Follow that geometric progression out. As far as causes go, it’s a no-brainer.

But really, the main reason I continue to ride is my presence on the road. And not just my presence. But all those bicyclists out there training every day, every weekend. People see them. Pedestrians see them. Drivers see them. These folks who see the bicyclists–and many of the bicyclists wear Pan Mass Challenge jerseys from past years–will think of the Pan Mass Challenge and the cause it supports and they might think about someone they know who is currently undergoing treatment for one kind of cancer or another. Moreover, people have told me how people undergoing cancer treatments see each of these bicyclists as a ray of hope. Why? Because they care. They care enough to go out and ride their bike and ask colleagues, friends, and neighbors for money to help find a cure for cancer. Person on bike = hope. It’s physical, it’s visceral, it’s emotional. It’s helpful.

There are those Saturday mornings when I’m waking up and thinking, “oh, I’d like to sleep a while longer,” but there’s a group going out at 8 a.m. I want to ride with. So you get up. And as the summer progresses, the rides get longer and longer. Here’s the thing: by the time you get to the first weekend in August and you’re going to ride nearly 200 miles over the course of that Saturday and Sunday, you want a couple of similar weekends under your butt. So you go out and ride 80 miles on a Saturday and then go out again and ride 80 miles on Sunday. And somewhere in there you do a century ride or two as well. Then you’re ready. (Though I’m pretty certain a lot of riders go into the weekend not nearly well enough prepared. But you know, their hearts are in the right place and you hope it hope it isn’t too hot and that they don’t stress their bodies too much.)

Then there are the systems. The PMC has great systems. It’s easy for people to donate online. It’s easy for me to set up. I keep the same link year after year. When someone donates, I get an email right away. (This is a recent development.) Meaning the PMC team is constantly working at improving their website and how it works and how money gets funneled to the cause. (Sidebar: I donated money to a friend who participated in a 2-day cancer walk. Never heard from her. But knew she was the kind of person who would send a thank you note. When I asked her about it, she said she had sent a thank you note via the fundraising website. I never got that email. Bad system. Life’s too short to work with causes that don’t have good systems in place.

One last thing. It’s the people who come out to cheer you on. They are the best fans. Lining the road, clapping. And the best part, the folks who say “Good job!” or “You’re doing great work!” You know, this is the kind of encouragement you never get at work. But that you should get at work. It’s a good lesson, really, for everyone. Encourage the folks you work with. Tell them–out loud!–what a great job they’re doing. Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you’re great. Tell everyone else first. Who doesn’t want to participate in something when you know you’ll get positive feedback from everyone. Everyone! I’ve been thinking about this aspect of the ride for a while now. Maybe this encouragement from the roadside fans has more of an impact on why I sign up each year than I’m willing to acknowledge?

Every year during the hot days of mid July when I’m out there pushing my bike (and my body, 210 lbs!) up a steep hill, I ask myself “Why am I doing this?” A couple weeks later I get the answer when I’m standing in a parking lot in Sturbridge, MA with a few thousand other cyclists and we’re waiting for a State Police officer to sing the National Anthem at 5:45 a.m. and you look around at all the people and think of all their stories and why they ride and, well, it’s a great feeling. A lot of people making a difference in the world.

Then when January of the next year rolls around and it’s time to decide whether to sign up for the Pan Mass Challenge again, it’s always that first weekend in August that you remember, not the months leading up to it. Sign up again? Sure.

You can support my ride at this link:

Pan Mass Challenge again…redux

CIMG1088, originally uploaded by erikorama.

It’s that time of the year again. Starting fundraising activities for the Pan Mass Challenge. Pasted in below is the email I sent out to folks asking them to support me in this year’s ride:

Dear Friends,

I’m participating in the Pan Mass Challenge for the fifth time this summer. Last year’s event raised over $30 million for the Jimmy Fund, which in turn supports cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. It is the single largest contribution made to the Jimmy Fund, representing almost 50 percent of the charity’s annual revenue.

The 2-day, 192-mile bike ride (not a race!) from Sturbridge, MA to Provincetown, MA, will again take place the first weekend in August. While it is in fact an individual athletic event, it is in spirit a huge community gathering. More than 5,000 riders will participate this year. They are helped on their way by 2,800 volunteers. And all the PMC folks are in turn supported by citizens who line the route across Massachusetts to cheer on everyone. Of course we’re also supported by people like you who have donated money in previous years to help in the fight against cancer.

I hope you can do so again. (And if you haven’t donated before, please consider helping us this year.)

To donate online, go to this address:

My donor ID is EH0050.

Thank you for your generosity. (100 percent of your donation is tax deductible.)

If you prefer to donate by check, please make it out to “Jimmy Fund” or “PMC” and mail it to me at the address below. If you’ve got any questions, please email me:
erik [at] erikhansen [dot] com

You can get more information about the Pan Mass Challenge at this web address:

My photos from the 2009 ride can be found here:

Thank you again for your support.


How do I bike to work when I work at home?

Currently I work at home and have what I call a “60-foot commute” from my bedroom to my office. (Probably not even 60 feet.) But this week is Bike Week here in the Boston area and tomorrow, Friday, is National Bike to Work Dayand so I think I’ll join one of these convoys headed into Boston. Just to see what is going on. And there are new Bike Lanes running along Commonwealth Ave., so this will be my chance to check those out.

In general, I’m not in favor of bike lanes because there are so few of them. The message they send to drivers is “this is where bikes belong.” But what about those places where there aren’t bike lanes. (Like almost everywhere!) For instance, in Coolidge Corner in Brookline, there’s a bike lane along Beacon Street that runs for half a mile or so. And then after you pass over Harvard St., it just disappears. And the lanes narrow, so bikes that are sticking to the right-hand side of the right lane are right up against parked cars. And parked cars are potentially dangerous because drivers open doors without looking back. I’ve been knocked to the road by an opening car door. (And 30 years later my left shoulder is still out of whack because of that incident.) Nearly everyone I know who bicycles has been ‘doored’ as we say. It hurts. And can potentially kill.

I’d rather that bicycles and cars learned to share the roads together. Hopefully these bike lanes are the first step to that beautiful future.

Shake it for the PMC, the video

I made a short video about Andrew Steinhouse’s Pan Mass Challenge fundraiser at b.good in Brookline, MA.