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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Wed
Hi: 52
Lo: 39
Thu
Hi: 54
Lo: 47
Fri
Hi: 60
Lo: 46
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I'm just a little behind in my reading list, but it's nothing I can't handle.
I'm just a little behind in my reading list, but it's nothing I can't handle.

Paging my attention span

There's something about a good book that appeals to me. An attention-grabbing subject or intriguing plot is the biggest draw, of course, but I'm talking about the actual, physical page-turning, cover-bound, paper-and-print copy of a book.

Today's fast-paced gadget culture is programmed beautifully for ease of use, but the Nooks and Kindles out there are not without their drawbacks. The problem with all this user-friendliness, especially for me, is it's far too easy to for me to peruse my way into total distraction.

Most of my day is spent reading through emails and websites smash-and-grab style, picking out main bullet points and moving on. When I do get a chance to slow down, breathe and settle into a good book, I have to do it with an actual print copy or else nothing gets accomplished.

Putting an e-reader in my hands does nothing to keep me focused. These slick little tablets remind my information-foraging mode too much of a laptop or smartphone. Instead of whittling down my reading list, I end up on a quest to assemble a laundry list of "Books I Really Should Get Around To Reading" that's less of a manageable pile of literature (see the above to-do stack) and more of something that resembles my 400-deep Netflix queue.

Yes, access to all the free public domain books I can get my hands on is appealing, but again, all I'll end up with is a good-looking collection and a longer to-read list at the expense of however much e-readers go for these days.

Plus, I drop things a lot, and books don't get spider cracks.

The Ride of Silence hopes to promote remembrance of and awareness for bicyclists injured or killed on the roads.
The Ride of Silence hopes to promote remembrance of and awareness for bicyclists injured or killed on the roads.

Pedal for a purpose this Wednesday

With summer weather slowly trying to take over, Milwaukee's seen its yearly upswing in two-wheeled transportation. But while motorcyclists are lucky enough to have their familiar commercial campaign reminding other motorists to keep an eye out for them, bicyclists don't often get this kind of widespread attention.

In an effort to make a lasting statement about bicycle rights and safety, nine Wisconsin cities will host a Ride of Silence, a solemn ride to pay homage to bicyclists injured or killed in bicycle crashes.

The Ride of Silence began in 2003 in Dallas, Texas and has since spread across 18 countries, taking place on the same day and at the same time worldwide. This year, Wisconsin rides will take place in Appleton, Green Bay, Lake Geneva, Madison, Oshkosh, Racine, Viroqua, Waukesha and Fox Point.

The Fox Point ride will travel a 10-mile route beginning at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of Wheel & Sprocket, 6940 N. Santa Monica Blvd.

To draw special attention to their cause, select bicyclists will attach a three-foot flag to the side of their bikes to illustrate the amount of space automobiles are legally required to leave when passing. The route will also display all-white "ghost bikes" along the route to honor those killed while riding.

Each city's Ride of Silence is free and open to all bicyclists. Proper riding gear is required, which includes a helmet, bright/visible clothes, a bicycle mirror, front light and red flashing rear light. More information about the rides is available online.

The traffic jam soapbox

Most people have heard some version of the joke about Wisconsin only having two seasons: winter and construction.

While the construction bit isn't totally accurate (the winter part, I'm pretty sure, is fact) it comes from a true place. Road work in this state is inevitable in our few warmer months. People do let the occasional – and understandable – gripe loose, but for the most part, we do what we have to: suck it up and deal.

For all the indifferent tolerance we have for this condition of our commute, though, we seem to have an awful time playing nice on the roads when the orange barrels come out. 

Caught in gridlock, we seem to regress into full-on animal kingdom mode. The only thing, it seems, that keeps everyone from prying their way into a desired lane is imagining the ridiculous car repair bill that would result. 

I know it's too much to ask for the zipper effect. Someone always gets greedy. For every minute I see it work, I see five more of people thinking it's okay to literally merge into the car next to them just to get one car length ahead.

All I'm asking for is a little civility. The fine folks of Milwaukee are more than capable of that. Use your directional, look out around you, don't cut people off and for the love of all that is holy, don't get all up in the tailpipe in front of you.

I understand I can't single-handedly save transportation as we know it, and I'm cool with that. But a little karmic ripple, like someone looking to merge into the lane in front of me, is a cause I'm happy to get behind.