Friday, August 06, 2004
Nocturnal Reverie

There are times when I wonder what in the bleedin' 'ell I'm doing with my life. My goals for the day (off) were threefold: get out of bed, get a haircut, get the seatpost of my bike out of the frame. Of these I only accomplished the first, and that at 4PM. I ate Cheerios with soy milk, watched a movie, then took a nap. Such a day might suggest that I'm depressed, or else that I need to get up before the house pot of morning coffee gets tossed (barrista-ing and caffeine addiction go together like mining and blacklung). I've been physically tired lately, kind of sluggish. I can't really ascribe this to a lack of exercise, since I spend close on an hour a day dodging traffic on a bicycle.

Here comes my first digression of the evening: People who ride bikes love them. I have myself progressed from car hatred to bike love. When I first noticed just how out of true my back wheel was, there was an emotional pang. When I think my gears or derailleurs might be out of whack, my stomach sinks in a way that resembles body panic. I think bicycles may be addictive.

OK, jogger's high and all-- endorphins... but there's more to it. When I started biking last fall, I hadn't been on a bicycle in something like two or three years. I got sore in places I hadn't thought much about. At the time it occurred that they were the same muscles that were left sore after a night of vigorous sex, especially (as is basically always the case for me) if it had been awhile. There's the exhiliration from the speed, from the traffic, from the cardiovascular exertion... but the steady pumping of the legs and the holding half your body's weight up on your arms are undeniably sexual. Is it any wonder, then, that the most fanatic cyclists are endlessly going on about the superiority of fixed-wheel bikes, with their requirement of constant leg movement?

So many goodies for bikes, too. If I ever manage to get the seatpost unstuck, I plan on buying a better saddle. The one I have now isn't bad, but undeniably upgradeable. I need new brake pads. I'd like to get a headlight. The most exciting thing, the biggest step, is that I'm thinking of going clipless. Get the shoes, get the pedals, clip right into the bike. Get more power, smoother power, and work an entirely new set of muscles.

But yes, aside from my bicycle what do I have to be excited about? A significant part of my recent wonderings have been job-related. What am I doing working a service job when I hate humanity? Misanthropy and customer service just don't mesh all that well. But then I hit the button on the grinder and get a whiff of fresh-ground beans. I can't think of a better smell anywhere. The coffee dripping right out of the basket, especially for the first thirty seconds or so, is similarly transcendent. Then there's the summer and its attendant crop of bare shoulders... not that I have any kind of shoulder thing -- my odd bodypart fixation is all about calves -- but I doubt a man alive could deny the allure of a beautiful woman with smooth shoulders bared to the world.

Pervy moment passed...

But I've been thinking of other plans lately. Getting a part-time tech job, perhaps, while staying on part-time at the Cafe. On the other end of the spectrum, my old fantasies of opening a record store in Logan have been rekindled, along with newer, even more farfetched ones of moving to Philadelphia. Why? Because it isn't DC.

I spent the night, and part of the afternoon, Googling up a storm on the Peak Oil Theory, also known as The Hubbert Peak (also). Basically, the idea is that once you have extracted half the fossil fuel from any source, it becomes more and more costly to get more until it is no longer profitable. The theory is completely independent of scale: it can apply to a single well, a field, a nation, or even the entire world. The Hubbert Peak for the USA was about 1970, which was shortly followed by the first energy crisis. By varying calculations, we have either reached the peak for the world's oil supply already, or will reach it shortly. My first exposure to this idea was through one of Bruce Sterling's Viridian Notes, where it was luridly tied to the collapse of civilization and global war to secure petroleum. Since our entire civilization (i.e., the entire infrastructure that allows us to support such a high population) is built around fossil fuels, then their depletion would mean worldwide famine, among other things. Most pessimistically, it would mean a massive dieback.

I remember at the time I was given pause. I hate the imperialistic tendencies in American foreign policy, not only because they are immoral and make many people miserable, but also because they serve to empower corporations, enrich the already obscenely wealthy, and support an extravagant consumer lifestyle.

Would my opinions be different if it were a matter of whether my own friends and family members starve to death? Just how moral is my worldview?

Thus it was interesting to find that people interested in disproving the Peak Oil Theory are worried about just such a rationalization for militarism. They also sell dreamcatchers, display offputting anti-semitism, and accuse those espousing Peak Oil Theory of being pawns of the Illuminati. Or sometimes, just cuss them out.

In the end, believing in Hubbert's Peak just seems the more sane option, Alduvai Theory notwithstanding. To my mind, the arguments over whether petroleum is actually fossil fuel or if it is produced abiotically pale in comparison to the raw numbers comparing production to consumption.

Among the kooks and the varied doomsayers, I did find a few worthwhile analyses. The most entertaining, in inimatibly mordant fashion, is a piece by Kurt Vonnegut. A more hopeful view (at least at its conclusion) also gives us a metaphor involving a monkey. A doomed monkey, but hey! Monkey!

It's oddly bracing to see scientific evidence that I could live to see the beginnings of the collapse of civilization as we know it. When the end comes, I'll be ready with a stockpile of coffee beans, a solar powered grinder, and my bicycle. I might even have the seat fixed by then.

4AM. I've been up almost 12 hours!

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