Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "To Keep Your Balance"

This poem is spillover from the November 8, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] sweet_sparrow and [personal profile] shiori_makiba. It also fills the "exercise" square of my 10-4-16 card for the Games and Sports Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by janetmiles. It belongs to the Cassandra thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Cassandra is struggling to cope with all the emotions stirred up by Groundhog's brief flight and the exercises they've done with Highliner. Then Aidan gives her a bicycle, which Cassandra loves but is so far outside her price range that it freaks her out, and Groundhog's more modest gift of biking clothes is closer to reasonable but still angsty for her. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"To Keep Your Balance"

After Groundhog's momentary flight,
Aidan came to check on both him and
Cassandra to see how they were doing.

Aidan was gentle and thorough
and as encouraging as he could be.

He confirmed that Groundhog's superpower
was starting to function again. Cassandra's
was still growing back, but at least it
showed clear signs of recovery.

Aidan fussed over them both,
which was a little annoying, because
Cassandra was a grownup now and
could take care of herself ... and
secretly reassuring, even if she
wouldn't admit that aloud.

He came back several times
during that first week, plying them
with herbal remedies and bags full
of mouthwatering organic groceries.

He did what he could to coax
their respective superpowers
back toward better health.

The third week, Aidan
took off with Groundhog and
didn't return until late afternoon,
when they called for Cassandra
to come down to the recreation floor.

"I'm doing laundry," she protested as
she stuffed wet clothes into the dryer.

"Oh, go on," said Marsha Farley.
"I can finish loading that and turn it on."

So Cassandra went downstairs,
wondering what all the fuss was about
and why they couldn't just come up to her.

The reason turned out to be a pile of stuff.

There were several large plastic tubs
and a gorgeous white bicycle with blue trim.
"Who's all this for?" Cassandra asked.

"It's for you," Aidan said. "We wanted
to express our appreciation for all of
the help you've given recently."

"Wow, I mean, that is amazingly kind
of you, but I don't really deserve
so much," she said faintly.

"We disagree," Aidan said.
His expression turned wistful.
"Don't you want to see the rest of it?"

Making Aidan sad was like stepping on a puppy.

Besides, Cassandra couldn't help wondering
what might be in all of those storage tubs,
if the main part of the present was a bike.

She opened the first tub to find all kinds of
luggage. There was a small white goody bag
that went behind the handlebars for snacks.
A similar one fastened under the seat and
held a bike repair kit. Two baskets could
clip onto the front and rear cargo racks.

There were two pairs of waterproof pannier boxes
in a cheerful shade of blue that locked shut, and
a pair of soft gray coolers for cold things.
The next two, gray with blue trim, could be
worn over the shoulder as messenger bags
or latched together as more panniers.

Another pair resembled saddlebags of
white fabric with azure splashes. These came
with multiple attachments: mesh pockets,
outer bags, and bottle cages. They had
reflectors for high visibility. There was
even a laptop sleeve with pockets
and a removable shoulder strap.

"What is all this?" Cassandra asked.
"I could carry as much in here as in a car!"

"That's the idea," Aidan said. "You've been
running errands for people, like shopping.
You need a real cargo bike for that."

The next tub held biking clothes:
a short-sleeved top in white with
blue streaks and matching shorts of
black and blue, a long-sleeved blue top
with white sleeves and long black pants,
a long-sleeved top that was all white except
for blue designs on one sleeve, gray cargo pants,
and a turquoise windbreaker with a hood
and lines of reflective white piping.

In the bottom, Cassandra found
a white tank top with a bicycle design
that read, Life is a beautiful ride.

As she held it up against
her chest, Groundhog said,
"That one reminded me of you."

"Yes," said Cassandra. "I like biking
because it feels almost like I'm flying again."

She pried the lid off the last tub and
found a matching helmet, white with
turquoise flowers and birds that made her
think of freedom. Tucked inside that lay
a pair of blue-and-gray biking gloves.

Underneath those she found
two different heavy-duty locks,
one U-lock and one noose chain,
along with an auxiliary cable lock
for securing wheels or cargo.

"What, no shoes? No knee pads?"
Cassandra gave a wild little laugh.
"Maybe I need a parachute!"

"I knew your clothing sizes from
picking up a few essentials, but
not shoes," Groundhog said.
"Aidan always includes at least
basic safety equipment when
giving a bike, but you ride well,
so we didn't think you'd need
more than gloves and a helmet."

"This all looks incredibly expensive,"
Cassandra fretted, but she couldn't
keep her hands off of the bike. It just
looked so beautiful, so powerful.

Aidan sighed. "Well, yes and no,"
he said. "It's top quality equipment,
but I didn't pay cash for the cargo bike.
A friend of mine who does metalwork
wanted a planter to fill the bay window
in his living room, to hold his wife's plants.
I do more woodwork than Emerico does,
so we bartered for each other's projects."

"As a custom build, you're looking
at about $10,000 worth of bike,"
Groundhog said. "That's why I
rented you a spot down here in
the bike storage closet. If you want
a membership for public docks or
bike lockers, that's on you."

Cassandra squeaked on the inhale.
"Seriously?" she said. "You could
buy a used car for that, a decent one."

"You could, but a car can't go
everywhere that a bike can, and
a bike runs on calories so you don't
need to buy gas," Aidan said.

He wasn't a big fan of fossil fuels.
Honestly, neither was Cassandra.

But the sticker shock still
got the better of her.

"This -- this is too much,"
Cassandra said. "There is
no way anything I've done or
ever could do is worth all of this.
I don't have this caliber of talent!"

"See, this is why I told you
to reserve the trailer for later,"
Groundhog said to Aidan.

"Yes, actually, you do,"
Aidan told Cassandra. "You've
helped Yona with the children,
taken care of Eunan, and kept
a level head during soup incidents."

"But anyone could have done that!"
Cassandra protested. "It's not special."

"No, soup care is not a common talent, and
that includes babysitting children of soups who
might flicker into gifts of their own at any moment,"
Aidan said. "Your caregiving skills would be worth
this much, even if you didn't have superpowers
of your own. Don't underestimate yourself."

"You testified against Jabez Christofferson
and helped convict him," Groundhog added.
"That's an important contribution, too."

"You see?" Aidan said, spreading his hands.
"You have done so much for us, the latest bit with
Eunan was just a reminder for me to express
my gratitude in a more concrete form."

He had already put Cassandra back together
after the mess had Jabez made of her by
hacking off her superpower, and brought
groceries and blue chamomile and even
remembered to buy monthlies. And now
Aidan thought that he owed her?

"These are meant as gifts, Cassandra,
not bribes or wages," Groundhog said gently.
"You're a good friend, we like to treat
our friends, and we're not broke."

"I know that, but ..." she said lamely.
Her hands groped in the air without
finding a grip on anything.

Aidan sighed. "You're really not
used to receiving gifts, are you?" he said.
"At least, not anything more exciting than
a nice sweater or a bit of jewelry."

"My family wasn't ... extravagant,"
Cassandra said. "Most gifts were
practical things. I know, some people
say it's awful to give clothes at Christmas,
but if I got a sweater it would be real wool,
and for the first day of high school they
bought me a leather backpack."

"All right, I can work with practical,"
Aidan said, smiling. "Come here and
actually look at this bike. This is not
a fashion statement, nor is it a toy.
It's a real working vehicle."

So Cassandra gave in and examined
the bike. It had a rock-solid frame for
supporting the front and back cargo racks,
and a dual kickstand to hold it steady. Along
the frame it had an electrical assist motor with
all kinds of sensors for smooth engagement, and
the handlebars held a touchscreen computer
almost as powerful as a whole laptop.

A titanium seatpost and plump tires
promised to cushion the stiff frame a bit,
and the handlebars were fully articulated
so they could go from horizontal to vertical.
The headlamp was small but powerful,
augmented by LEDs for visibility.

It was a real workhorse of a bike,
Cassandra realized, sleek and strong
and beautiful. She couldn't help
smiling as she listened to Aidan
extolling its many virtues.

"Okay, you convinced me,"
she said. "It's a good utility bike."

"The clothes I picked out are
practical too," Groundhog said.
"I tried to find things that looked nice
and reminded me of you, but they're
all high-performance activewear."

"I do like them," said Cassandra.
"I can tell you put a lot of thought
into the selections you made."

"They're not all by the same company,
but I tried to keep the colors close so that
you can mix and match," Groundhog said.
"They'll layer, to keep up with the weather,
and they're all sleek enough that you can
ride in them without snagging anything."

So far, Cassandra had just worn her jeans or
regular shorts, not the most comfortable option,
but all she had since she'd had to leave behind
everything except a few essentials when she
ran away from her parents' house.

"Real biking clothes would be fantastic,"
she said. "There's plenty of room inside
the panniers to store some spares in case
I get wet or the weather changes."

"Don't worry about the luggage,
by the way," said Aidan. "All that stuff
came free. The manufacturers send
their new releases to bike builders
for testing, so Emerico put together
a promising set of things for you."

"There's just so much of it,"
she said. "I feel like a mooch."

"Ideally, we'd like you to try out
different combinations of equipment
and report which ones you like the best
and use the most," Aidan said. "You can
consider that your share of the work."

Cassandra looked at the heap of
high-end bike accessories that
she loved instantly but never
could have afforded on her own.

"This is all beautiful, but I already
have a bicycle," she said.

"You have a secondhand bike
that you got at a thrift store which has
a saddle patched with plastic bags,"
Groundhog pointed out. "You
really need an upgrade."

"It's a good bike," Cassandra said.
She'd been lucky to find one so reliable,
even if it was an ugly duckling.

"It is, for someone doing occasional errands,
not someone running an errand service,"
Groundhog said. "For the kind of work
you're doing, you need a great bike."

Cassandra couldn't deny that
her butt took a beating every time
she climbed on her current bike.

"Yeah, maybe," she admitted.

"You know, we could tune up
your old bike, and put a new saddle
on it," Aidan said. "Then you could
pass it along to someone who doesn't
have a bicycle but needs one."

"That sounds wonderful,"
Cassandra said. It made her
feel less guilty about accepting
a small mountain of equipment
that was worth more money than
she'd ever had to her name.

"Is that a yes?" Aidan asked.

"Okay," she said, taking
a deep breath to calm herself.
"I'll test the bike and the cargoware.
You have to give me some kind of
framework for making reports, though.
I've never done live reviews before.
I wouldn't know what to say."

"Just say what you like or dislike about
things," Aidan said. "I will try to find you
review worksheets or performance charts
to give you an idea what feedback would help."

"I think I can work with that," Cassandra said.

"Great!" Aidan clapped his hand together.
"Why don't you take it out for a spin?"

Cassandra looked at all the stuff
and nearly panicked again trying
to figure out what to use.

"Just put on the helmet and
the gloves, and ride the bike
once around the block,"
Groundhog suggested.

"Okay," Cassandra said.
"That much I can manage."

The gloves fit like a second skin,
and the helmet felt so light that she
had to check to see if it was really on.

The bicycle felt solid yet
responsive under her hands,
like the time she had gotten to ride
a Clydesdale at a petting zoo.

"I think I'll call him Clyde,"
she said, and naming a bike
was like naming a dog: once you
did that, you were keeping it.

Cassandra walked her new bike to
the side entrance and out to the street.

Then she swung a leg over to try it.
The fit wasn't perfect at first, so it took
a few minutes of fiddling before she
got it adjusted comfortably.

After that, it rode like a dream.

Oh, the sturdy frame made it handle
very differently than the bicycles that
Cassandra had ridden in the past, but
it was a robust and graceful ride.

It was also heavy as hell. Even
with the electric assist, she could tell
that her legs weren't up to driving
a bike this weighty, not yet -- and
she hadn't added any accessories,
let alone loaded it with cargo.

When she completed the circuit
of the block, she went back inside.

"I love the bike," Cassandra said.
"Thank you both so much. I think
that I need more exercise, though.
It wore out my legs pretty fast."

"You can use your current bike
for longer trips, and work your way
up to this one," Groundhog said.
"We have leg machines in the gym
if you want more than just biking."

"Yeah, that's a thought," she said.

"Perhaps I could help," Gyre said,
stopping to look at the beautiful bike.
"I've been wanting to bring this up
for a while. If you're serious about
courier work, I could teach you -- I
don't have an apprentice right now."

"Really? Wow," Cassandra said.
"What would I have to do?"

"First, touch up your knowledge
of Onion City biking laws," Gyre said.
"Second, get a bike license if you
don't already have one."

"I had one, but it's probably
expired by now, and anyhow it
wasn't around here," Cassandra said.

"Then it should be easier for you
to get one now, since it'll be a refresher
instead of learning from scratch," said Gyre.
"After that I can list you as an apprentice and
get you a courier vest and a trainee armband."

"I can work on that," Cassandra said.
"The community center should have
a class on bicycle safety, and I could see
if they have one on repairs too. What else?"

"Lessons generally consist of me telling
you about things that work and things that
don't," said Gyre. "I can help you make
an exercise plan. We can discuss our trips.
I will talk about ethics and professionalism too.
I'll teach you physics and other things that
you'll need to manage cargo balancing."

"Well, I guess it's important," Cassandra said.

"It is, but there's more," Gyre said. "The fun part
is making tandem trips. I don't usually carry
large packages, but I can while I'm training
you. We can split big loads between us."

"The Carris family," said Cassandra.
"They have to buy enough groceries
to feed a small army up there!"

With three adults and six children
sharing the penthouse, it was no wonder.

"That's a good thought," Gyre agreed.
"Please keep me posted on your progress,
and let me know if you run into trouble. I can
probably help get you back on track."

"I will," Cassandra promised her.
"Thank you for offering to teach me.
This is a terrific opportunity."

If she could qualify as a courier,
then it would go from just being
an odd job to a real job like
a grownup ought to have.

Cassandra watched Gyre leave,
admiring the older woman's poise.

Then she turned to Aidan and
said, "Okay, I understand that you
wanted to get something nice for me,
but why a bicycle in particular?"

"Life is like riding a bicycle,"
Aidan said thoughtfully. "To keep
your balance you must keep moving."

Cassandra recalled how much
she had felt stuck while still
living with her parents, and
how much better she felt now.

"Yes," she said. "I believe
it's time for me to move forward."

* * *


Emerico Mas -- He has toffee skin, black eyes, and short wavy black hair. He is Hispanic. His mother fled to America from Nicaragua, and either doesn't know or won't say who his father was; Emerico doesn't remember having a man around the house. His wife enjoys raising houseplants. They live near Aidan Spencer. Emerico is a metalworker who builds everything from park benches to water fountains to bicycles. A difficult life has left him with a somber mood, so he builds beautiful things in an attempt to compensate for that.
Qualities: Master (+6) Metalworker, Expert (+4) Diligent, Expert (+4) Mechanical Intelligence, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Somber

Gyre (Beverly Raz) -- She has fair skin, dark eyes, and short straight white-blonde hair. She is middle-aged. She lives in the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment where Groundhog lives. Her apartment is on the level just below the penthouse; those top two floors are reserved for fliers first, although others can rent them if no fliers are currently interested. Gyre works as a messenger and a scout, primarily in the business realm, although she also volunteers at SPOON sometimes. She lives alone, but works in shapeshifter rescue so she often has someone crashing with her on a temporary basis. (Her response to Cassandra was, "What, you thought Groundhog was the only person providing emergency crash space here? Honey, I have somebody staying with me one month out of three, and I'm lucky if I don't have to pick them up from the fucking pound.")
Origin: In college, she started out studying nature. While surveying a gyrfalcon nest, she lost her grip and fell -- then transformed in mid-air. After that, she began doing odd jobs with her talent, such as carrying packages, and switched her major to business so as to develop the necessary skills for marketing her talents.
Uniform: Usually businesswear in human form. In gyrfalcon form, she may go nude or wear equipment for securing a message or other small package.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Businesswoman, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Naturalist, Good (+2) Reliable
Poor (-2) Tolerating Vegetarians
Powers: Good (+2) Shapeshifting: Gyrfalcon
Motivation: To help other shapeshifters.

* * *

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
-- Albert Einstein, letter to his son Eduard, 1930.

Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City is old and full of character. Its advantages and disadvantages balance out to a rate that is neither bargain nor extravagant. The basement is the recreational floor with the more physically active function spaces. The exercise room has treadmills, free weights, punching bags, and assorted bodybuilding machines. The auxiliary gym is subdivided into two 40x20 courts for handball, racquetball, and related games. The game room includes shuffleboard, several dart boards, pool tables, air hockey, foosball, ping-pong, and a few pinball tables. The small yellow room at the end of the hall is used for yoga, aerobics, dance practice, and other freestyle activities. Social dances usually take place in either the main gym or the social hall. The kitchen is used to bake pastries for Jack's Magic Beans, which has no kitchen of its own, just a basic coffee bar and display cabinets. The side entrance is actually the main entrance for this floor, and the handicap-accessible entrance for the whole building, whose smaller front entrance to the ground floor has steps. The side entrance is convenient to the building management office in the center; to the computer lab, locker rooms, and the building's sole elevator to the right; and to the classroom and social hall on the left. The small gray square immediately to the left of the elevator has indoor bike storage that residents can rent.

Class differences can make life challenging, especially between friends. Changing class tends to be disorienting. It is possible to maintain friendships across wide wealth gaps, but this takes more thought and effort. While there are plenty of tips for coping when you are the broke friend, there are far fewer for when you are the wealthier one -- and almost all of those deal with how not to spend money on people. This can create a lot of awkwardness.

The problems here are actually more complex: 1) Cassandra is shifting class in complicated ways. Running away from home left her with no material resources. But moving into the soup community means that, simultaneously, some things cost a lot more while her work is also worth a lot more. 2) Groundhog has the usual sort of wealth gap. He's comfortably well off and enjoys being generous with friends who are less well off. This can be handled with a little thoughtful negotiation. 3) Aidan's issue is completely different. Not only is he in a much higher bracket of personal resources, he simply does not understand money the way most people do. He doesn't care whether he has it or not; it has no meaning to him other than a convenient way to move energy and resources around. The fact that everyone else is extremely concerned about money is confusing and frustrating for him.

Giving gifts is similarly complicated by socioeconomic class. Being too generous can hurt relationships. Rich people also tend to give gifts in a whole different category from everyone else. Now consider that Aidan follows a gift economy, not a capitalist economy: to him, wealth is defined by what you give away, not by what you have. They're opposite principles, which naturally causes friction between people who function with different economic orientations. There are tips on how to deal with expensive gifts from friends and how to manage gift-giving expectations. The baseline is: put the relationship first, and suit the gifts to the recipient.

Cargo bikes are useful for city dwellers. They come in many styles. In Terramagne-America, this category of bike is more popular and advanced models are more readily available.

Electric bikes also come in assorted types. Something else that T-America enjoys more of is charging stations for electric bikes. A big city with a decent budget will put these things in a lot of public places -- parks, bus stations, plazas, etc. Even a modest city is likely to have some large institutions who will offer them as a perk such as malls, hospitals, or big companies. A bike-friendly community (also more common in T-American than here) may have facilities including chargers far beyond what their size or budget would ordinarily predict. The quality of charger is also higher, with multiple features making it fast, easy, and convenient to use. You can read about how to choose an electric bike.

This brings us to electric cargo bikes. These tend to rank among the most expensive among both electric bikes and cargo bikes, up to around $10,000 or so. One reason is that so many of them are custom builds instead of mass-market bikes. T-America has a lot more cargo models to choose from than L-America does, and also has more variety and better technology in electric bikes, so comparatively their mass-market ones are better and cheaper. But handmade bikes are still expensive. Compare the prices of a high-end e-bike to a motorcycle.

Cassandra's bike resembles this "no-car-kitty-cargo" bike. Notice the hinges on the front, which allow the handlebars a full range of motion from horizontal to vertical. Typically, horizontal favors greater speed with lighter or smaller loads, whereas vertical provides better visibility and stability at low speeds with heavier or bulkier loads. On the front rack you can see the headlight and amber LED lights. The rear rack has red LED safety lights above and below it. The bike has a titanium seatpost and a belt drive for comfort and power. The Gen 2 Bosch Motor is sophisticated and effective. The Intuvia display is part of the Bosch e-bike system. Cassandra's bike has a fully operational mobile computer with a touchscreen interface. It can make tell time, make phone calls, surf the internet, send and receive data, and do all kinds of other things in addition to managing the bikeware. It includes a GPS sensor, currently accessible to the owner and the maker. That's a modular unit, so it can be removed, but then you lose the live navigation features and are left with only the static maps. There is also an optional killswitch, but only the owner has the code for that.

Among utility bikes, there are favorites. Comparable mass-market bikes include the Azor Pastoorfiets, which is non-electric but compatible with conversion kits; and the Pedego Stretch Electric Cargo Bike which is factory-made with an electric motor.

Bike security is important. Bike locks come in various styles, and you need to know how to use them to secure your bike and your gear. This site reviews bike locks.

Cassandra's bicycle comes with assorted hardware for carrying cargo and supplies. Her cargo modules have locking theft-deterrent features. The Fahgettaboudit Mini is the most secure U-lock. Other strong locks include the Kryptonite New York Noose 1275, the best portable chain lock. In L-America, cable locks offer next to no security. In T-America, the top of the cable security overlaps the bottom of the chain security, so a good cable is roughly equivalent to a decent chain. The KryptoFlex 1218 Key Cable makes a useful secondary lock.

In general, T-America has much better security technology than L-America, but the cracking tools are also better. Consider security levels for bikes, which is divided into classes. Here's a company that sells bike parking equipment at different levels, similar to many T-American offerings. Simple bike racks are everywhere in many styles, and they are free to use. One area of wide divergence lies in stationary security. Almost everything in L-America relies on portable locks. T-America has bike docks that enclose the frame and one or two wheels, similar to those used by bikeshare programs. (There are docks for skateboards, too.) They also have more bike lockers, which are like tiny garages. Public docks and lockers typically run on membership, although some sell one-time use on location. Top of the line is Onion Security, which literally uses a layered system: a sturdy locker with a security system, then a locking stanchion inside it, and users can also employ portable U-locks. It's insured for the full value of the contents. These are for the car-priced bikes, and they're rented or leased by professionals or wealthy people. Onion's goal is to make bikes as secure as cars, and their theft rate is actually lower than car thefts in the city. The only people who've cracked these have been either black-hat engineers or supervillains, and the police prioritize investigating such thefts due to the product value (it's always a felony) and the lead on career criminals. Also worth noting is that T-America offers public bike repair stations in places such as parks and transit hubs; bike security services often provide these at their docks or lockers.

Cassandra's bicycle comes with assorted hardware for carrying cargo and supplies. Her cargo modules have locking theft-deterrent features. This small goody bag mounts to the frame just behind the handlebars. It holds the rider's snacks, wallet, and other essential belongings. The seat pack fits along the frame under the seat, and holds a bicycle repair kit. This basket can attach to the front or the rear cargo rack. Cassandra's bike comes with two of them. There are two pairs of these waterproof pannier boxes in blue, for the front and rear racks, but usually just the rear set are used. Pannier boxes offer rigid, waterproof protection for delicate items or bulk storage. You can make your own like this. Cassandra's bike comes with one pair of these cooler panniers for the rear cargo rack. They keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Cassandra's bike comes with one pair of these Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Design Splash Pair Panniers in blue-splashed white for rear racks. These are accompanied by several interchangeable accessories: two small outer bags, two mesh pockets, two bottle cages, and one laptop sleeve. There are two of these bags, which can be used as over-the-shoulder messenger bags or clipped together in pairs to serve as front or rear saddlebags.

A wide assortment of protective gear is also available, but its usefulness varies greatly. (Requiring helmets actually makes biking more dangerous.) In this case, a helmet might be prudent for learning a new type of bike, but probably isn't necessary after that. Gloves seem to hold universal appearl for reducing vibration that can damage hands. Cassandra's helmet includes a snap-in visor, which can make such headgear especially useful during inclement weather. Her biking gloves have gel and foam inserts to cushion her hands.

While it's possible to ride a bike in almost any outfit, dedicated biking clothes are safer and more comfortable. Groundhog has thoughtfully supplied a short-sleeved biking outfit, a long-sleeved biking outfit, a cute tank top, a spare long-sleeved shirt, waterproof reflective pants with pockets, and a cycling jacket (see front and back) which is windproof, waterproof, and reflective.

There are two branches of product review: selling and rating. Selling is where it's fine to hype up the best points and gloss over the drawbacks, or at least frame the latter as tradeoffs (a cargo bike is always heavy in comparison to a cruiser). These amount to publicity and may be hired by the manufacturer. Rating is where it's important to be honest about the pros and cons of a product. These are meant to help customers identify what features they need, what they prefer, or distinguish between similar items. So a conflict of interest between economics and honesty undermines the whole point of the review. T-America therefore tends to solicit a lot of input from actual customers or other people who take a product and really use it for a while. Some companies take the WeGeex approach and reward customers for pointing out flaws that can be fixed, which leads to better products, which is a big thing driving their more advanced technology. This chart shows several aspects of human-powered vehicle performance. This is a comparison of bicycle features. Here are some videos on how to review a bike.

T-America generally favors a tiered system for couriers. Bonded couriers work for a corporation, through an agency, or belong to a professional organization which provides job security and benefits. They are more expensive, more reliable, and have both a bicycle license and a courier license. Services often have a junior (for 18-21 year old couriers or anyone in the first 1-3 years of service) and a senior (proven for at least 1-3 years, and usually 21 or over) rating. Again, more experience and reliability will cost more. Small local businesses are popular. Freelance couriers work for themselves and have no benefits, other than the fact that T-America picks up the employer's half of social security payments for the self-employed so they don't get screwed as happens here. They're cheaper, but there's no guarantee of quality. They may or may not have any kind of license. Good freelancers exist, but typically you get what you pay for. People tend to use freelancers for things of minor to moderate importance; the more important the package, the more likely they hire a bonded courier. A courier typically rides either a messenger bike or a cargo bike. A messenger bike is light, fast, agile, and comfortable for carrying verbal messages or packages of negligible weight. Some messengers like hybrid bikes for a balance of speed and durability. A cargo bike is heavy, slow, modestly maneuverable, less comfortable, but incredibly sturdy and powerful for hauling large or heavy packages. These vary from cargo bikes that are barely heavier than a regular city cruiser to massive tricycles that steer like a barge but can carry almost as much as a small car. Some couriers only do one type of work, but many do both and thus have two or more bicycles. Why are couriers so popular when technology is also higher? The security: you can't hack a person like you can a computer or a cellphone, and bonded couriers are extremely trustworthy. Read about a day in the life of a bicycle courier.

Couriers are more respected professionals in T-America than in L-America. They often wear a vest for visibility and identification. Adding a trainee armband provides clarification of experience level without requiring a whole separate set of vests.

T-America makes more use of apprenticeship as job training. This method appeals most to tactile or interactive learners. Some businesses formalize the apprentice program for couriers. Bike shops often run an apprenticeship program which teaches bike maintenance.

Bicycle licensing almost never works in L-America, because it is almost always done badly. Basic and comprehensive bicycle education are readily available in T-America. A bike license is not required, but it comes with perks, and is often the first form of official identification that children carry. Among those perks is that you can register all your bikes at no extra charge, which increases the chance of finding them if they get stolen. (Normally such registration costs money.) Cycling organizations sometimes require licenses for their members. Jobs that rely on bicycles often do; bonded courier organizations always do. Money gathered from bike sales taxes, license fees, etc. customarily goes back into infrastructure such as bike paths or racks. People are therefore much more willing to pay out when they get something back in exchange for it.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, economics, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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