Pride, literally, comes before a fall

That ultra-bright new tail light
That ultra-bright new tail light

I love rid­ing my bike to work, even in the cold and dark of win­ter. Know­ing that if I can’t be seen, I can be run over, I bought a tail­light so bright that “it can cause seizures,” as a friend described it. That same friend went on to tell me of his ultra-bright head­light that allowed him to see pot­holes and road imperfections.

I pride­fully said I was good with my lit­tle flash­ing head­light that allowed me to be seen — but not to see.

The very next evening after that con­ver­sa­tion, I was rid­ing home and ran head-over-heels into a cor­ner curb. I had assumed that there was a wheel­chair ramp on that cor­ner. No.


Thank­fully, I did not tum­ble into oncom­ing traf­fic or dam­age myself or my bike more than just a few scrapes and a destroyed innertube.

Les­son learned. I need to lis­ten to advice, even when it’s not given as such. (My pride could have been the death of me.)

Where to give this Christmas

homeless signHome­less­ness is some­times a result of men­tal ill­ness. Often that is com­bined with sub­stance abuse.

My friend and I encoun­tered another friend we hadn’t seen in a year. Our not-seen friend is now home­less. No sub­stance abuse is involved, but there are def­i­nitely some other pow­er­ful issues at play.

I’ll be talk­ing with two friends who are experts at my church to find out some ways to help him. It’s complicated.

So this Christ­mas­time, I think it’s a great idea to give to an orga­ni­za­tion in your area that helps the home­less. You’ll be assist­ing those who have reached bot­tom and maybe pro­vid­ing hope for the future.

Great thinking

double-sided-receipt (https://www NULL.sprouts, a health-oriented super­mar­ket with stores near us, has a great idea... double-sided receipts! I’m not refer­ring to the kind with adver­tis­ing on the back. These have pur­chase infor­ma­tion car­ried onto the for­merly blank side.

This will effec­tively save about twice as much paper as reg­u­lar receipts. Yes, there is an infra­struc­ture cost — reg­is­ters that can print tape on both sides are prob­a­bly more expen­sive than those that print only on one side. But that cost will even­tu­ally be made up. Or not. Even if it costs more money in the long run, that’s a nice invest­ment in the health of our planet.

If you want to find your near­est Sprouts, click here (https://www NULL.sprouts

Stop worrying

illustration of worried foreheadIt was a sur­prise. And not a good one.

The result was wak­ing up ear­lier than I wanted — and not drift­ing back into the peace­ful novo­caine of sleep.

Then I remem­bered this: “Can all your wor­ries add a sin­gle moment to your life?” (Jesus said that in Matthew (https://www­gate­way Wor­ry­ing won’t fix any­thing. In fact, it will prob­a­bly take away more than a moment of my life.

So I urge you — and me — to stop worrying.

It’s not worth it

nature box snacksFree is some­thing that some­times moti­vates me. Who doesn’t want to get some­thing with­out pay­ing for it, as long as it’s not stolen?

But few things are really free.

I sub­scribed to the snack ser­vice Graze for free. The snacks were OK, but were priced far more than the tastier (and less healthy) snacks I buy at the gro­cery store. Also, more than one-fourth were not tasty. So I unsub­scribed before the trial period ended.

An ad for Nature Box (http://naturebox on This Amer­i­can Life*moti­vated me to visit their site. I con­cluded that it was too sim­i­lar to Graze to make me want to has­sle with unsub­scrib­ing later.

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If you are a fre­quent reader of Shiny Bits of Life, you know that I love cars. And since car man­u­fac­tur­ers have deep pock­ets, they throw the occa­sional free pro­mo­tion at peo­ple like me. One of my favorite free things was a test drive of the lat­est 3-series, when BMW was doing a national pro­mo­tional tour. No sales per­son sat next to me while I pushed the car to its lim­its. A free cap was wait­ing at the end of the ride.


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* This Amer­i­can Life (http://www NULL.thisamer­i­can­life is a pod­cast and radio show on National Pub­lic Radio, for peo­ple out­side of the USA.

On musical creativity

james-and-carlyJames Tay­lor has pro­duced more than 16 albums that sound rel­a­tively the same. He gets bored too,* but he doesn’t need to break out of that mold to stay alive. I truly like his sound, but it has not changed much over the many years he has been a musician.

Some artists are lim­ited by their cre­ativ­ity and oth­ers seem to have a bot­tom­less fount.

Thom Yorke is the leader of the Eng­lish group, “Radio­head (http://en NULL.wikipedia,” that pro­duced some very pop­u­lar music dur­ing the 1990’s and 2000’s. Thom’s solo albums are weird. He went from almost main­stream pop in Radiohead’s early years to excur­sions down var­i­ous trails of weird­ness. My the­ory is that he was bored deliv­er­ing what the masses wanted. (I like that weird­ness, at least part of the time. And he stretched music in new ways that it needed to be stretched.)

There are count­less musi­cians who have not cre­ated even one good song. A few of those have become rich mak­ing their sound avail­able to the masses. There is no account­ing for taste. And I’m glad everyone’s taste is not like mine.

* The James Tay­lor song, “That’s Why I’m Here” is referred to part of the way into Sylviebead’s blog post (http://sylviebeads NULL.blogspot NULL.html).

Photo is Cre­ative Com­mons licensed, via Peter Trudelle on Flickr (https://www

My dream truck

© 2014 Paul Merrill
I didn’t take time to make it really con­vinc­ing in Photoshop.

But I think you get my point — why not go even big­ger and bad­der? (Mean­while, I con­tinue to drive my lit­tle car — and live in fear of such machines.)

Beauty with age

rusted light fixtureIt’s rust­ing.

Is rust beau­ti­ful? Some think so. Oth­ers think it needs to be sanded off, painted with primer and given a pro­tec­tive coat. For our bath­room light fix­ture, we could go one of three ways — leave it as it is, replace it or fix it. The lazy option won out — for the time being.

Another thing about this light fixture’s rust is that it causes the fix­ture to no longer look new — and it’s not per­fect anymore.

The desire for per­fec­tion varies from per­son to per­son. As peo­ple mature, they real­ize that all bat­tles can’t be won, so they must choose which bat­tles to fight. One must decide whether each fight for per­fec­tion is worth spend­ing the energy, time and/or money to win.

They do the same thing

Tutima watch dialI love expen­sive watches. But I would never buy one.

One warm fall day I was dri­ving north on a major street in sub­ur­ban Den­ver. At every stop light, my $3,000 Toy­ota arrived slightly before the $100,000 Porsche in the lane next to me. Both dri­vers were accom­plish­ing the same thing — going from Lit­tle­ton to Denver.

A $2,000 Tutima watch (https://tutima tells time maybe just slightly more accu­rately than a $30 Timex. Its intri­cate detail is beau­ti­ful to behold. The owner knows that he sup­ported a crafts­man in Ger­many rather than a fac­tory worker in China. If the owner breaks it, his tears will last much longer than those of some­one who breaks their Timex.

But the Tutima owner is buy­ing exclu­siv­ity. He may be the only kid on his block with that model. He knows that his wrist is hold­ing a reflec­tion of high human achievement.

How long does the plea­sure of buy­ing an expen­sive watch last? For some, a long time. For those with many, prob­a­bly a short time.

I do grant a peer-review aspect to the equa­tion. If a real estate agent is try­ing to sell a $2,000,000 house, she may not want to be seen wear­ing a $35 watch. With a Patek Philippe (http://www NULL.patek NULL.html) on her wrist, the mes­sage is, “I’m in your league.”

Which watch will you buy?

Artisan lip balm and whiskey

Burt's BeesBurt’s Bees was sold to Clorox. Small dis­til­leries may be sell­ing you whiskey that was mostly made in a giant factory.

You already know that all is not as it seems. But we are sus­cep­ti­ble to good marketing.

The Den­ver Post reported on Sep­tem­ber 28th that many craft dis­til­leries are using whiskey that is made in giant fac­to­ries (http://www NULL.den­ver­post  It may be a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing to some­one who spends $65 for a bot­tle of “hand-crafted spir­its” to find out that they have bought some­thing made in a mas­sive factory.

Peo­ple with chapped lips want­ing some­thing bet­ter than Chap­stick have turned to Burt’s Bees for a long time. They have (and do) buy that brand because of its more nat­ural ingre­di­ents and the company’s envi­ron­men­tal respon­si­bil­ity. But did you know that Burt’s Bees was bought by Clorox in 2007 (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.html)? That’s prob­a­bly not sur­pris­ing to you. But we still like the idea that our pur­chase will be health­ier and more respon­si­ble than some­thing we buy from a big cor­po­rate global man­u­fac­turer. We also like the idea that our prod­uct is made in a small facil­ity by local humans, rather than on some anony­mous assem­bly line.

The only way to truly buy local and arti­san may be to visit the fac­tory to see how they make what you want to buy. And be pre­pared to pay dou­ble (or more) than what the national brand might cost.

Healthy and respon­si­ble is not cheap.