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Local man of mystery


Where did I get the bike and the bike gear, you ask?  From a loyal reader and occasional commenter, that’s where!  That’s what blogs are for:  bringing people together . . . in such a way that they do me favors like lending me bicycles and inviting me to watch The Sopranos.

I’ve decided that I’m a great deal less likely to damage other Fellows’ cars if I stick to biking along the Tobacco Trail.  So far, so good:  I have not struck any other bicycles on my seven-mile journey from downtown Durham to the Center.  I did send a few hapless pedestrians into the ditch, but they mostly deserved it for moving so slowly.

There was only one catch:  after my first day on wheels, I remarked to my benefactor that I was unable to find the gear-shift mechanism.  There seemed to be gears, all right, but how could one change them?  “Oh, I should have told you,” replied the benefactor, inexplicably forgetting that I am less than ideally adept on these vehicles.  “It’s an index shift.”

“An index shift,” I repeated.  “That means the bicycle goes up or down in accordance with the Consumer Price Index?”

“No, fool,” said my increasingly exasperated benefactor, who had given me a helmet and a yellow jacket and a pair of gloves only to learn that I needed a lesson in what makes the wheels go round.  “You just push this lever with your index finger.” And lo!  Yesterday I made it to the Center in about forty minutes.  Today, thirty-five—and that included a five-minute wait for a freight train crossing Cornwallis Road.  It seems that this “index shift” thing really works!

Today I also learned that the bicycle has “calipers” or “forceps” or something, and that they need to be in the right “position” or the front brake will not “work.” Don’t ask how I learned this!  Just close your eyes and imagine.

Posted by on 03/29 at 06:18 PM
  1. I am positing that we, your loyal readers, are to assume that the last bicycle you owned was an early 70’s model Schwinn three speed with bendix brakes operated by the pedal assembly???? 

    Since you are the international professor of danger, and you are undercover, in bike attire, could you please offer us a tantalizing tidbit or three regarding the local population’s take on the Duke lacrosse scandal??? 

    Oh dear the captcha words are back and this one says: “example.”

    Posted by  on  03/29  at  07:53 PM
  2. I’ve never seen a helmet make someone look so dangerous.

    Posted by  on  03/29  at  08:30 PM
  3. Michael:

    Thanks for bringing back the captcha words as a detterent to PEREZOSO. That’s my last word on the issue, promise.

    But..you had trouble figuring out the gear shift math?

    I assume you remember the similar scene in Phil Dick’s *A Scanner Darkly*?

    Undercover narcotics detective Robert Arctor (assigned to spy on himself) realizes that he’s taken TOO MANY DRUGS--because his brain can no longer figure out the math involved in the gear structure of a 10 speed bicycle.  Off to the funny farm for Detective Arctor!

    Posted by  on  03/29  at  08:42 PM
  4. So based upon this picture and story, are you a Neo-Luddite?

    Posted by corndog  on  03/29  at  09:01 PM
  5. That would make a good pic for your website, I think.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  03/29  at  09:17 PM
  6. It’s the blue shirt and that cool blue helmet racing stripe!

    Posted by  on  03/29  at  10:23 PM
  7. I’m getting a cyberpunk vibe from that picture.

    Posted by Simstim  on  03/29  at  11:01 PM
  8. I didn’t even realize the blue shirt would work so well as an accent.  I dress in the dark, you know.  And David, thanks, but the captcha has nothing to do with perezoso.  It has to do with spambots cruising by and leaving their spambot “comments.” I think I’ve deleted them all, but I delete in the dark, you know.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/29  at  11:50 PM
  9. “I did send a few hapless pedestrians into the ditch, but they mostly deserved it for moving so slowly.”


    Michael, you are truly the Dangerous Professor, no matter how you locomote.  Have you considered a sedan chair?

    I do sympathize with you about the gear problem, though.  I briefly tried getting back into bicycling decades after I used to terrorize everyone in Atlantic City, Ventnor and Margate all summer long by Speed Racering my Schwinn on the boardwalk and in the streets.  My old bike not only didn’t have gears, it still used the “brake-by-pushing-backward-on-the-pedals” stopping technique.

    The first time I rode a bike with gears and handbrakes was also the first time I wore a helmet.  Between complaining about the helmet ("stupid thing won’t stay in place"), the gears ("how do you shift again?  And are the higher gears the easier ones or vice versa?"), and the brakes ("wait!  stop!  it won’t stop! help!") I provided quite a lot of inadvertent entertainment to everyone in the vicinity.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  12:11 AM
  10. When you’re not shifting with your index finger, be sure to keep your pinky to your lips to complete the Dr Evil expression. Also, I’m not sure you can be all that shocking-the-bourgeoisie-style dangerous in a pair of $200 shades. But they’re hot nevertheless.

    Posted by D.B.  on  03/30  at  01:59 AM
  11. You have only just begun to explore the ways bicyling can enhance your image as Dangerous Professor.  Next steps: wearing lycra, shaving your legs, discovering the world of clipless pedals, and horrifying your colleagues with oozing road rash wounds--which can result from the often lengthy learning curve associated with clipless pedals.

    I’ll share two of my favorite quotations about bicyling:

    Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live. 
    Mark Twain, Taming the Bicycle

    The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man.  Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.  Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. 
    Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  03:00 AM
  12. Did that guy really tell you it’s called an index shifter because you shift with your index finger?  That’s hilarious! PS- is the beard real or did you pencil it in on the photo?

    Oh, hell- I can’t resist telling you why it really is called an index shifter.  Traditional derailleurs move smoothly through a range of motion- think of a finger sliding on a violin string - and the rider has to know by feel when the shifter is in the correct position.  An index shifter clicks into place when the derailleur is correctly positioned- think of a finger on a fretted guitar neck.  It is “indexed” to a set of fixed positions, making it easier for an unskilled rider to shift accurately.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  03:49 AM
  13. Oooh, Michael, you look so . . . dangeral. You don’t need no stinkin’ brakes! Don’t fall in with that fanatical Lycra-wearing, leg-shaving crowd, though. You can be an International Professor of Danger or you can shave your legs. You can’t do both.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  07:45 AM
  14. I think I’ve deleted them all, but I delete in the dark, you know.

    I think #14 on Koufax Finals Are Here is spam. If so, please whack it. But do leave #15, which is excellent.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  08:34 AM
  15. Here’s proof that you’re dangerous:  in the photo, you look like Jean Reno.  Remember him in The Professional?  See the connection?


    Posted by Crazy Little Thing  on  03/30  at  09:43 AM
  16. Damn, I’ve fallen from Jurgen Prochnow to Jean Reno.  But at least I’m still dangeral.

    The shades, by the way, were $10 plus tax at a Wrightsville Beach gift shop.  But I’ll be happy to put them on eBay for $200.

    JR, I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I should be riding a violin with indexical raillery?  I swear cyclists are as bad as golfers with all their accoutrements and accessories.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  10:49 AM
  17. Have you heard from Hollywood yet?  Maybe, they will let you play yourself in The adventures of Professor Danger.  I cannot wait for the scene when you are involved in a bike race with DH.  Can he even get on his bike?
    I think it is one of these films in which the lead actor never takes his sunglasses off.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  11:30 AM
  18. Wrightsville Beach?! Dude you need to get to Emerald Isle sometime.

    And never, ever, ever go to Chapel Hill again. (That place is full of Tarholes!)

    Posted by Yosef  on  03/30  at  12:37 PM
  19. Or Prof. Danger (Danger is my name, danger is my game) could be like the David Caruso character on CSI:Miami. I’ve only seen the show twice, but he’s constantly taking of and putting on his shades. Either cool, or annoying as hell!

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  01:36 PM
  20. So Lefty thinks that Professor Danger’s first name is Horatio?

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  02:28 PM
  21. I don’t think this place is anything like Three Bulls.  I mean where’s the insightful literary an dphilosophical criticism?  I don’t get it.

    And where’s Berube’s pipe?  I mean he MUST smoke a pipe.

    Posted by Capt. Trollypants  on  03/30  at  03:34 PM
  22. Steve, if you are the most dangerous prof. in the land (possibly the most dangerous person, considering that Michael is corrupting an inordinate amount of our precious youth), he can call himself anything he wants! Or almost, as my captcha word suggests.

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  04:56 PM
  23. An index shifter clicks into place when the derailleur is correctly positioned- think of a finger on a fretted guitar neck.

    I’m sure that’s not right—it’s called an index shifter because it’s located at the back of the bike, and the gears are in alphabetical order: eighth, eleventh, fifth, first, fourth, and so on. This is faster if you know what gear you want, but not so great for browsing.

    Posted by HP  on  03/30  at  05:23 PM
  24. Hold up a badge, and some perps might take you seriously, dewd

    Posted by Phlint Phredstein  on  03/30  at  05:33 PM
  25. It is true, while the dear professor did get medieval on the tree that fell in his yard, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look tougher or more ready to corrupt the souls and minds and hearts of our youth that this very moment.  Perhaps he will also encourage them to recycle and he suggest that they order tofu at the Thai place!

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  03/30  at  06:10 PM
  26. can’t resist:

    (oops, what language?)
    the thing is, birth: first there’s the bike, then the kid and then the afterbirth, the latter often mistaken for an epo-laden support system, sometimes eaten, sometimes buried under some part of the orchard.
    Gears? don’t think! just pedal the devil out of your system and fidget all you want. Traffic? Don’t think!(if you do it’s too late by all accounts. Ever seen a Belgian think? I don’t think so...just ride it, hard…
    fuzz-word: “too”

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  08:30 PM
  27. Completely off topic I’m afraid, but following a series of links from the Crooked Timber seminar on Chris Mooney directed me towards your essay - “On Fine Clothes and Naked Emperors” - on the Sokal affair.

    The copy on your site appears to be busted, and, possible because my google-fu is weak, I’ve been unable to track down a working version.  Is there any chance you could post a link or something?

    Posted by  on  03/30  at  08:53 PM
  28. Definitely a cool helmet and shades. 7 miles sounds like a great commute for a bike.

    Posted by Leo Strauss  on  03/30  at  11:17 PM
  29. Woah! Is that really YOU!!!?? Cuz your forehead has totally disappeared DUDE!!!

    Posted by Jennifer Cascadia  on  03/31  at  04:07 AM
  30. Can you give people numbers and take away their names yet?

    Posted by  on  03/31  at  08:17 AM
  31. What forehead?

    Oh, that forehead.

    Posted by  on  03/31  at  09:50 AM
  32. You knew the helmet is worn the other way round, didn’t you?

    Also, I remember when I sadly took my Campagnolo down-tube friction shifters off my Columbus steel-framed bike in 1993. Replaced them with index shifters. Surprisingly not that much more convenient, except that you could pre-shift going into a turn. Got a newer bike, wanted seven cogs, and all you could get for that was index shifting. Then the University started letting mountain bikers invade O-hill, and Charlottesville became an urban mountain bike type town.

    So old…

    Posted by  on  03/31  at  12:01 PM
  33. You knew the helmet is worn the other way round, didn’t you?

    The pointy part goes in the front?  To lessen wind drag, I suppose?

    Posted by Michael  on  03/31  at  03:24 PM
  34. now who’s dangeroos?
    still, did they inspect the helmet (punk-band & helmet?):

    Punk Band Sticker Sparks Campus Scare
    LAST UPDATE: 3/3/2006 4:15:23 PM

    United Press International

    A sticker for the Florida folk/punk band This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb prompted a campus lockdown at Ohio University.

    Members of Columbus, Ohio, fire department’s bomb squad—stationed some 70 miles north of Athens—were called to the campus Thursday and sprayed down the bicycle with the sticker, then dismantled it with a hydraulic device, the Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.

    A large section of the Ohio University campus was locked down and cordoned off as buildings were searched for a possible bomb.

    Grad student Patrick K. Hanlin, 28, who owned the bike parked outside a campus snack shop, told police the sticker was merely advertising a Pensacola, Fla., punk band.

    He was rewarded for his cooperation with a charge of misdemeanor inducing panic.

    Posted by  on  03/31  at  04:45 PM
  35. There is a big snowstorm on its way, and they’ve heard that if the power is to go out, it can take weeks to restore it! Still, they aren’t worried about being home alone until their parents call to tell them that they’re snowed-in at the airport. The call from their parents and the news brief that an escaped killer is headed in their direction is the last two things they hear before the electricity goes out.

    Posted by Limo Miami  on  07/28  at  04:52 PM
  36. think it might be Kennedy. I really hope it is. He was supposed to get so many pushes, but his injuries got in the way. He also has some unfinished business with Edge. He doesn’t have a story line, and could return early. He keeps saying he will be back around Feb. 28. Before Cena had returned, they said he wasn’t coming back for months...and he came back early.

    Posted by Surveillance  on  08/12  at  02:35 PM
  37. Outstanding piece of writing particular in mystery! I’ve never seen a hat create somebody look so precarious. Thanks admin smile

    Posted by Mical Farade  on  05/06  at  08:07 AM





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