Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mystery of Couscousness: To Err is Hummus; to Falafel, Divine

What is consciousness? Merriam-Webster defines it thusly:

con·scious·ness noun \-nəs\

Definition of CONSCIOUSNESS

1 : the liquid left after butter has been churned from milk or cream

2 : a moderate reddish brown


More than this, though, consciousness is the key ingredient in our humanity. It's what separates us from the animals. Can a squirrel go food shopping at Trader Joe's? Does a mongoose know how to use a mortgage calculator? Have you ever seen a seagull order a $17 entrée and then publish a scathing restaurant review on Yelp? Certainly you have if you've ever been on LSD, but otherwise you haven't, since doing all of these things requires that proprietary human technology called consciousness.

But being human isn't just about having consciousness. It's also about of what we choose to be conscious. For example, consciousness often involves being overly aware of stuff that really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, like whether your bicycle frame is laterally stiff yet vertically compliant, or whether your new derailleur is lighter than your old derailleur, or whether or not your fly is open. (Honestly, as long as you're wearing underpants, does it really matter?) When it comes to being conscious of meaningless stuff like this, are we actually better than the rest of the animals, or are we in fact worse, since we're in a crippling state of constant distraction and preoccupation?

So of what things should we strive to be conscious? What are the things that actually matter? Is it helping your neighbors? Is it nurturing your family? Is it maintaining a deep and abiding awareness of and respect for the ineffable forces that govern nature and life on this planet?

Meh.

For me, there's something far more important than all of that. Something we should all have in mind at all times, and of which she should remind ourselves every waking moment of every day. That something is this:

I'm a complete idiot.

Socrates once said that "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." This is as true now as it was back in 1896 when he said it. Pretty much every disaster in human history--from wars to the sinking of the Titanic to the insipid prose of Sasha Frere-Jones--is a result of people being possessed of the absolute certainty that they're right. However, it's the late 1990s now, and as such I think we need stronger language than whatever it was Socrates spoke. (What language do they speak in Greece again?) Instead, we need resonates with the youth of today--and I don't mean this Youth of Today either, since those guys must be like 50 by now:

I don't know exactly when hardcore music officially went downhill, but I suspect it's when the performers started wearing sweatpants.

Now, I'm not a religious person (apart from the fact that I fervently worship a Lobster God and believe strongly that anybody who doesn't will boil in a lobster pot for all eternity). However, I do engage in certain rituals that I believe help keep me on the path of righteousness by reminding me of certain universal truths. And since I believe one of the most truthful universal truths is that I'm an idiot, I practice rituals that constantly remind me of this fact. For example, "curating" this very blog is one of these rituals, since the constant mistakes and overall poor quality are a constant reminder of my ineptitude. Another key ritual in my life is the performing of bicycle maintenance.

I perform all of my own bicycle maintenance, and I do so only because it reminds me constantly that I'm an idiot. Moreover, it also teaches me exactly why I'm an idiot, and in what way my idiocy manifests itself. See, we're all idiots for different reasons, and in my case it's because once I think something should work a certain way there's absolutely no convincing me otherwise. Consider this bicycle wheel:

I got this bicycle wheel when I got my Ritte Van Frankenstein bicycle. After a few rides, the wheel began emitting a creaking sound, and so I set it aside and switched to a different wheel until the day I could unleash my idiocy upon it. Finally, a few weeks ago, that day came, and I set about opening the hub. It all came apart easily enough, until I got to the point at which any reasonable person would have tapped out the axle with a hammer or his own thick skull. I, however, decided for no good reason at all that I needed to stick an allen key in either end of the axle and twist, and I did so with such wrongheaded and moronic force that I broke it.

Anyway, I prevailed upon the people at Ritchey to send me a new axle, which I managed to install without incident, and everything is free from creaks and working perfectly now. Do I regret not having turned the wheel over to a professional? I do not, for to me there is no more rewarding experience than the one that illuminates my idiocy, and hopefully as I go through life and encounter resistance I will occasionally remember to back off a touch instead of simply forcing the issue.

Yeah, right.

But that's just my own brand of stupidity, and as I mentioned, we're all stupid in our own ways. Consider this article entitled "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education," which was forwarded to me by a reader, and which begins thusly:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness.

As important as it is to remember how stupid we are, it's equally if not more important to laugh at how stupid other people are, and this guy is really stupid. Sure, I know plumbers tend to use "mysterious" language like "leak," "pipes," and "water," but when your plumber shows up with his funny hat and says something in his indecipherable plumber's jargon like, "Your toilet's clogged because you tried to flush a monogrammed hand towel down it, numbnuts," don't just nod politely and thrust money in his face. Instead, invite him to sit down in your well-appointed living room and ask him all about those alien experiences that made him the person that he is today. Make sure to be really condescending too--that way you can repeat the learning experience with the second plumber you have to call to extract the plunger from your posterior.


The Free University of Brussels today an honorary degree awarded to an athlete. Eddy Merckx, for many the biggest Belgian sportsman of all time, gets that honor. "This is normally only reserved for people who have cancer or do so," said a proud Merckx.

I don't know what that means. However, I do know he's only an honorary doctor, which means he can only perform an honorary heart transplant.

In any case, while consciousness may be what makes us human, we can only speculate as to what it actually is. Similarly, we can only speculate as to what lies behind this mysterious door at the headquarters of the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company:

Though through the miracle of digital photo enhancement I was able to zoom in on the glass and get a tantalizing glimpse of the following:

(Trek's product development lab may be working on top-secret wrist mirror technology.)

Indeed, mirror technology is poised to become the hottest segment in bicycle retail, and rumor has it that Specialized is currently at work with an integrated pant cuff retainer/ankle mirror.

119 comments:

Anonymous said...

They said you were dead. They said...

You young pup! You young pup!

Gurney-man! Gurney!

JB said...

Whiiizzzz!

Vannevar said...

wow wow wow

JB said...

That was my freewheel...

JB said...

Long slow distance, indeed.

McFly said...

suck it

mikeweb said...

Happy VD

Kenny said...

My zipper was down so much when I was in college that it stopped being a shock to people.

theEel said...

tWEED1st!

top ten!

Cooter said...

Tahini!

Anonymous said...

Damn, you guys are fit!

le Correcteur said...

Damn, could have been 7th; stopped to read the whole thing; but top 20 for sure!

ken e. said...

mmmm falafel!

jmbo said...

My last old lady was horizontally compliant but generally not conscious.

Mal Sharpe said...

You DON'T really need to be a doctor to perform surgery!
http://www.coyleandsharpe.com/mp3/druggist.mp3

Anonymous said...

The plumber has zero interest in having a conversation with you. Just pay your bill promptly, thank you very much.

McFly said...

Sometimes people think you are smart when all you really are is someone who does not give up easily and wonders "what that button does".

Anonymous said...

Panties!

Mehjor Taylor said...

Snob that was an epic meander through consciousness, Socrates, punk rock, religion, bicycle maintenance, custom make bikes, and finally your point (you broke your axle). Will you uploading that to Strava?

Miss Panties said...

Panties!

Miss Panties said...

Panties!

Anonymous said...

speaking of LSD, I notice that your estimable missive seems to switch on my computer screen in "mid blog" as it were, between double and single spaced.

Call me an idiot but is it me? Perhaps my underwear is too tight and this is impacting my vision or else I am 'snapping the carrot' (an archaic Basque expression) too much.

Anonymous said...

Plumber vs multi degreed douchebag commentary = funny.

Consciousness/beginner mind bit = Zenny.

Matt said...

I think the transcendent moment in idiocy is that instant when you decide that it would be a good idea to put a pipe on your wrench because, really, just a bit more leverage is all you need. This has inevitably led to deeper self-knowledge. Not to mention discoveries like, hey, one of those pedals turns the other way.

Buffalo Bill said...

I understand that speshulized has a patent pending on consciousness, although treck is claiming prior art for the id and ego.

disgruntl Ed. said...

"It's also about of what we choose to be conscious."

Yesss!

Anonymous said...

Stupid is as stupid does.

Anonymous said...

Pack fodder

Keith Earickson said...

Poor Ivy League-ers, so disadvantaged. That's an old school humble brag, "I'm so smart I can't identify with most plebeians."

Anonymous said...

"It's also about of what we choose to be conscious." "about of"? Snob, I suspect you were trying to obey that idiotic rule that says not to end prepositions with a sentence, which is often interpreted to mean one shouldn't end sentences with a preposition. That rule makes about as much sense as giving (or selling) eleven gears to freds who don't know what to do with five. Less sense, actually, because at least the seller makes a profit, whereas nobody benefits from that stupid rule about prepositions. Not even the few English teachers who still adhere to it--it's why nobody listens to us. Take my word for it--I have a doctorate in English. People have been not listening to me for years. "It's also about what we choose to be conscious of." See how much easier it is to be conscious of something than to "of what be conscious" about something? And if you ever wondered where a rule that stupid came from (you didn't, but what the hell), it came from a time when people admired Greek and Latin more than English, and they thought English should emulate Greek and Latin by not using prepositions to end sentences with. So if you don't speak Greek, it's silly to follow Greek grammar rules.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Matt, ce n'est pas une pipe.

Anonymous said...

whooooopdeee deee tooopp teeeb

wishiwasmerckx said...

There is an obvious joke in there about "Free University," but it eludes me at the moment.

leroy said...

I turned down my dog's request that I dress up like Cupid to deliver a singing telegram for him.

I got suspicious when he told me that he wanted it delivered to a German Shepherd at the NYPD's K9 unit.

He almost had me convinced until he asked me to include a rendition of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Honestly, how dumb do I look? (I mean without the Cupid costume. )

Jonah Gibson said...

The unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates was just full of undecipherables. For an unabashedly papist explanation of the difference between couscous and conscience see http://daysoflivingaimlessly.blogspot.com/2012/02/unexamined-life.html

DerZoots said...

YO.
What's up with the spacing,
AGAIN?
Are you trying to reinforce the idiocy theme?

Get yer formatting right please.
Reading is difficult enough az iz.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

The future of smug rides.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/09/eadss-airbike-is-a-3d-printed-nylon-bicycle-actually-looks-rat/

disgruntl Ed. said...

Anon 12:25

No no no! It is a flourish! It is not silly to follow Greek grammar rules. Not when such a splendid sentence results.

Was it Inspector Morse, or was it Dalziel who said something to the effect of, "He may be an idiot, but he is no fool?"

So.

mr. wookie said...

I once had a highly intelligent customer appear in my bike shop, needing a new chain. Not knowing how a chain or chaintool functioned, he removed his chain by hacksawing thru the seat stay.

Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

1. Snobby - get into the blogopreferences or preferenceblogos as it may be and switch back to double spacing.

2. What do you say to a guy with a red sox cap on?
Try: "How about those sox?"

What a douche - no not the plumber...no not you snobby....you, yes you, Willie

Anonymous said...

Mr. Snob,

I'd read about a study that found that specialists in a given field tend to think that they're competent in realms out side their field of experience.

I learned this first hand when I dated someone with a doctorate. Laws of cause and effect are open to some pretty wild interpretations to someone with a doctorate determined to be right all the time.

Buy-cycle said...

Double line spacing is sooo yesterday. Top 50?

Serial Retrogrouch said...

in the grand scheme of things, i know it doesn't matter that your posts from yesterday and today have two different fonts... but i'm overly couscous of the difference and, frankly, it's like we caught you with your fly open, sir snob.

leroy said...

Anon 12:25

If digruntlEd. hasn't convinced you, consider this:

A dog walks into a fixed gear bike shop/espresso bar and asks "where's the chain lube at"?

The barista asks the dog if he always ends his sentences with a preposition.

The dog replies: "Heck no. So where's the chain lube at, bonehead"?

True story according to my dog who claims to know that of which he speaks.

Anonymous said...

"Thusly" ? What's that?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Serial Retrogrouch,

The font thing keeps happening and I don't know why. I may need to call a plumber, but I'm dreading the awkward silences.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Grant Penisson said...

47? Guess that'll be the length of my quill stem today. IN INCHES.

crosspalms said...

Underpants. Knew I forgot something.

db said...

Single-spacing is Snob's nod to minimalism.

Dick Tracy said...

My lawyers are descending on that R&D room right now. They've already worked over the Kickstarter guy.

Anonymous said...

One thing i'm conscious of is how the spacing gets all weird after the YOT picture.

RE: 80's hardcore bands & last weeks post about hating sports. What is your favorite anti sports hardcore song? 7 Seconds "i hate sports" or Void's "organized sports"? some other tune? thanks. matt

Anonymous said...

I have been Tivoing this blog for months so I haven't seen the single space, random font trauma of which ya'll are complaining about.

But I imagine it's just intolerable.

Anonymous said...

Anon @1:16

Favorite anti sports song? Mine?

"The Sporting Life" by The Decemberists.

JB said...

Quit complaining about the formatting! It doesn't change the post.

My father: "You'd complain if you were hung with an new rope."

Anonymous said...

single spacing is for hipsters. eleven spacing is for freds.

bikesgonewild said...

...spacing ???...i'm spaced out of my fucking mind & it's only tuesday...

crosspalms said...

A couple of years ago I discovered a crack in a rear tire rim. Before taking the thing to the bike shop, I removed the rim and spokes to be helpful. Nice guy who runs the place looked at the hub and told me it would have been good to have something to hold onto while they tried to get the cassette off. They managed it without hurting the hub, but said it wasn't easy. Another test of how stupid I am. Passed with flying colors.

grog said...

Damn hipster blogger palping single space without breaks.

Anonymous said...

Snobby - did you get into the Wednesday weed a day early? What the hell was that about?

cycle

Anonymous said...

The guy's wearing a Red Sox cap and the customer doesn't know what to say to him? The plumber probably wears the cap just to put Ivy Leaguers at ease so they will have something to make small talk about.

Anonymous said...

what a maroon!

Anonymous said...

For the love of G-d, can't you learn to right-margin justify?

streepo said...

scranus

McFly said...

I feel like such a schmutz right now because my BB30 is being professionally replaced probably as we speak. I DON'T HAVE THE PROPER TOOLS DAMMIT AND I DID NOT WANT TO DAMAGE MY PERCIOUS CRABON HOUSING! Actually I really like the shop and they are slow right now so good kharma for me. Plus it's by a college. The University of Hoodwink. I feel so unvalid because of my lack of confidence with the BB30 situation.

Anonymous said...

disgruntl Ed. said...
'Anon 12:25

No no no! It is a flourish! It is not silly to follow Greek grammar rules. Not when such a splendid sentence results.'

F**k off. Try that one in Greek and see if you can do without the preposition.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Seagulls are pretentious asshats. I quit listening to them years ago. Theres a flock that hangs out in the walmart parking lot. Real idiots -no water for miles around here.

wishiwasmerckx said...

The story of the Ritchey hub resonated with me.

We old-timers remember the absolute simplicity of bike maintenance in the Campy Super Record days. 5 & 6 mm allen wrenches and a 15 mm spanner could fix just about anything on the bike.

Last week I had a mishap on the rollers and knocked my Mavic Ksyrium front wheel out of true. Lacking a truing stand, I patiently re-trued it on the bike. With only 18 spokes instead of 36, this is a bit of an adventure, but I felt a sense of accomplishment at mastering the weird splined spoke wrench and the weird bladed spoke holder.

Turns out that the wheel is seriously dished to one side now, so off to the LBS it goes, and I hung my head in shame that yet another task that I could accomplish in my sleep in the 80's now eludes me.

Curses, modern technology.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 1:59

Awfully sorry, but ... fail.

'Off' in the colloquial (and very expressive) construction "Fuck off" (no need to be coy) is not a preposition.

Perhaps you might care to guess to which word class ("part of speech" if you are Old Skool) this "off" belongs?

Blog Drafter said...

1. Even simple animals are conscious in that they will move towards their preferred food or food source.

2. Couscous is a food.

3. Therefore, it's time for lunch!

Nice post Snob. You continue to hint about your upcoming announcement of Universally Self-Actualized Consciousness which you realized whilst bikeen in NYC, of all places.

hillbilly said...

let's go make some babies!

Anonymous said...

I am starting a kickstarter for my patented cock ring mirror...please support generously.

Billy said...

@Matt: As a fellow receiver of enlightenment via pipe-on-wrench, thank you for reducing me to tears of hilarity in my office.

Marcel Da Chump said...

That Ivy-leaguer was an elitist idiot way before college.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"@Anon 1:59

Awfully sorry, but ... fail.

'Off' in the colloquial (and very expressive) construction "Fuck off" (no need to be coy) is not a preposition.

Perhaps you might care to guess to which word class ("part of speech" if you are Old Skool) this "off" belongs?"

Lest I repeat myself . . ., Oh, what the hell: You can f**k off, too. As for whether off is a preposition or adverb, I'll leave the question to those who have dictionaries and know their ABCs all the way up to at least F so's they can look words up to see what part of speech they are.

Anonymous said...

Eaters of Couscous!

Charlie Didrickson said...

I once reinstalled a chain wrong and had to take it to the shop. I'm pretty sure I blamed another shop for my idiocy. I'm pretty sure they did not believe me.

David said...

Right margin justification is for hipster minimalists who hav 59 iphones!

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of all my broken bike parts, of which there are many, because these days there are a lot less than there used to be.

crosspalms said...

Fuck offly. There, now it's an adverb. I put a pipe on my grammar wrench and fixed it for you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes. I have busted my own bike bits, attempting to repair. When I worked at bike shops, espectially when just getting started, I broke other people's bike bits, attempting to repair. That would include brand new bike bits that I was putting together out of the box.

Funny how quickly we (as a species) get to that point of scorn for those who are learning by error just the way that we once did.

CommieCanuck said...

Apple is working on an iMirror: it's an HD camera in the middle of an OLED screen that displays the camera image on the screen, or "mirrors" the image.
$699, plus $45 for a white cable that does nothing but indicate you have an Apple product in your pocket. Malaysian children are working around the clock (the ones they caught in the suicide nets) for the unemployed guys already waiting in line.
Yes, it has bluetooth and can run apps that make farting noises. 3G only.

This will save America.

CommieCanuck said...

The first time I unleashed my inner idiot I realized some idiot at Cervelo had threaded my bottom bracket backwards on one side. Cheap Canadian crap, I threw my Blackberry at it in disgust and beat my beaver.

Anonymous said...

'Twas a good article
nothing to do with falafel

35 years to discover self douchery
wish we can all have such discovery

decry the pragmatism of comp sci
making robots of you and I

Focusing on ideas is most important
less so are things like employment

ideas, privilege, values we care
house, fat paycheck license to err

Ideas and entitlement don't build;
those who do--wages less fulfilled

CommieCanuck said...

wishiwasmerckx ... true story:

I was shooting the proverbial shit in a bike shop when a customer came in with crabon wheel worth $1600. He explained it got dished somehow and he wanted it trued.
The mechanic explained he could not true a crabon wheel. It was, as the French say, garbage.
"oh"
If he wanted a true-able wheel, he should have bought an aluminum one.
"oh"
He could sell him one for $300, and by the way, it was lighter and braked better in the wet.
"oh"

The customer walked away confused.

Quilled and Lugged said...

Man, I was kvetching about single-spacing before any of you. Band-wagon hoppers the lot of you.

bikesgonewild said...

...so...


...what's


the


problem ???...

McFly said...

I had always heard the squeaky wheel gets the grease, now I am learning the squeaky wheels gets tools broken off in it's hole and also very possibly replaced with new squeakless wheel. I will shut up now.

Nebraska Bike Commuter (non DWI edition) said...

Dang, I'm hungry for some Mid-East food now.

Also...

Back in the day when I was "Bicycle Repair Man", the most effed up bikes I worked on belonged to the kids of quite excellent auto repair men.

Also...

Sometimes I make music with people that I've never played with before, and they often ask me how I learned to play guitar so well. I always used to have a hard time answering, because I don't think I play all that well, so I'd usually make up some glib comment that seemed amusing, but avoided the question. One time, I gave a response that I knew was completely correct the instant it left my lips, and have been using it ever since.

"I'm just trying not to suck."

Use that phrase after "I'm a complete idiot.", and I think you have a dandy philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I've pulled a stubborn crank arm off with a tie rod separater. cooter showed me that trick.

Jim Partsguy said...

@ wishiwasmerckx

Oddly enough we are in the days of Super Record!

Don't feel bad about the Ksyrium.
The low spoke count coupled with the course thread nipple translates to more rim movement than you would think with a quarter turn. If you were doing halves then yeah, see you later dish.

cramitsucko said...

Scranal blumpkin

Anonymous said...

CommieCanuck report back to Cobra Command Center.

Anonymous said...

I broke a nipple today.
I think you all know how painful that can be.
No worries, I've still got 27 good ones.

-Sergio "Supermammal" Pucci

Anonymous said...

I also had a cooter show me crank arm tricks.

Anonymous said...

The only thing better than Valetines Day is March 14th Steak and Blowjob Day.
Love you honey!!

Rob King said...

And I thought LEKIDDO was the only lobster worhsipper....

http://www.lekiddo.com/home.html

Anonymous said...

I am taking Pliny the Eders advice, firing up the Pussy Wagon and finding some bulbous orchid tubers.
Peace out.

JDH said...

This is how my LBS wrench mocks me. "I'm a machinist. I know how things work!"
By the way, what a preposition are?

McFly said...

JDH,
I am a bonafide Tool & Die Maker and I am scared of a BB30 bearing replacement. Of. Also, to.

Anonymous said...

Alert: The Onion has taken on the Contador mess.

screaming skull said...

Because!

Krys Hines said...

Nebraska Bike Commuter (non DWI edition) 4:50pm

I often get comments like "that was the best coffee I've ever had!" I never know how to respond other that other than "We try not to suck..."
I shit you not we are making t-shirts that say that. It's now our shop motto...K

leroy said...

Nebraska Bike Commuter (non DWI edition) --

Now that's a motto.

JDH said...

@McFly- I don't feel like such an idiot now.

Anonymous said...

Youth of Today was a marketing exploit on Sonic Youth.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

We like our story.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad that the Kings of Leon had to abandon their show in St Louis after they the pigeons shit on them so much that they stopped.

That would had been a rocking show!!!

berkal said...

It won't be long now before Lance gets an honorary doctorate and his ego wonders why he couldn't have cured himself.

Anonymous said...

I can draw a fully articulate hand.
With out the job attached to it.

Anonymous said...

Élance.com is a tranny site not associated with any Lance ego Mr Berkal.

Anonymous said...

I'm up early.

McFly said...

Maybe the Kings Of Leon need to invest in some seagull asshats.

Anonymous said...

Cool. Redux of the bitter, snubbed rock critic. That's my favorite character on this show.

joel said...

I think Kenny Shopsin does a great job of summarizing our universal stupidity.

helena said...

The in the Barrel3-speed geatures a simple-minded color scheme with a complex geometric frame design to form the utopia of cruisers Comfort Bikes.
bike

Emily said...

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singlespeedwaster said...

On behalf of the slower-moving 99%, I demand a bigger podium!

OMR said...

Lovely shoes ! It's perfect for the summer

http://www.xtraorbit.com/1366.html

Robert said...

I'm sure women will actually buy the hell out of wrist mirrors.