Couch potatoes may save us all

There’s a new invention on the horizon that could decrease air pollution, reduce traffic congestion, promote physical fitness and bring us all a little closer together.

It’s the, er, couchbike.

couchbike

Perhaps you’ve already heard of it?

No?

Well, that’s understandable. According to a recent issue of UTNE Magazine, the only working prototypes seem to be in Canada.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Canada? No?

It’s rather north of here…

The innovative pedal-powered sofa, or couchbike, is the brainchild of mechanical engineer Brent Curry and his Norwegian sidekick, Eivind Meen (www.bikeforest.com).

Their motto is, appropriately enough, “Have You Driven a Couch Lately?”

The pair took a rather nondescript, 95-pound sofa, attached wheels, brakes, two pedal-operated chain drives and a side-mounted steering mechanism and headed for the open road, sometimes hitting speeds of 27 mph (downhill) and drawing the attention of at least one Canadian constable.

Officious traffic authorities aside, the pair proved that the couchbike is a very viable mode of economical transportation whose time has come – although perhaps not yet on interstate freeways…

My question is, are we going to let Canada monopolize the pedal-powered sofa market?

I think not, amigos. This idea belongs to the world (and you know it’s going to be big in Berkeley).

Think about it. The couch bike uses no fossil fuels. It’s comfortable, roomy and inexpensive to operate. If you become fatigued during a long trip, you can just pull over, stretch out and snooze until your resolve is restored.

Not only will the pedal-powered sofa help cut national petroleum consumption, it will also contribute to the beautification of America, getting all those ratty, discarded couches off the roadside and into America’s 21st century transportation pool.

No longer will derelict sofas litter empty lots and the sidewalks in front of fraternity houses. They’ll be reborn as much sought-after sport utility sofas.

Best of all, couchbikes should be just as easily customized as any automobile on the road today.

You could, for example, go for the full-sized luxury sofa or strap yourself into a sporty, low-slung loveseat. Add some fog lamps, chrome wire wheels, a stereo and extra-large cupholders and you’re on your way to becoming a local street legend.

Yesterday you may just have been another couch potato from Oroville. Tomorrow you could be the king of the Sunset Strip.

These are, like, much cooler than your uncle Wilbur’s 37-foot motorhome with the stuffed Chihuahua in the back window.

Couchbikes should lend themselves to a wide variety of activities – exercise, travel, shopping and, if you and your cycling sweetie are feeling a little romantic after an idyllic ride through the countryside, hey, you’re already on a sofa, right? Just find a secluded spot and try not to scare any nearby livestock.

It doesn’t get any better than this, amigos…

Originally published June 27, 2014

Warnings don’t go far enough

According to a recent Associated Press report, medical authorities in Great Britain are concerned that consumers of the popular reality enhancer marijuana may not realize just how dangerous it can be.

Since marijuana regulations in England have loosened significantly in recent years, health workers there are worried that people don’t realize that burning marijuana and its byproducts may contain as many or more carcinogenic agents than cigarettes or cigars.

They’re reportedly investigating a process whereby marijuana, like commercially available tobacco products, will be labeled with a brief warning about potential cancer risks.

Although I’m not exactly sure how well this is going to fly with the world’s responsible but notoriously disorganized marijuana distributors, I have to argue that a simple printed carcinogen warning label probably doesn’t go quite far enough in adequately protecting smokers of the much-maligned weed.

After all, most sapient human beings realize there’s always a calculated risk whenever you enthusiastically suck the gaseous byproducts of burning vegetable matter into your lungs.

(You think tobacco’s bad? Try poison oak…)

There are, however, other quite unique hazards associated with the smoking of marijuana, and they have little or nothing to do with cancer.

If the Brits are really going to do this right, they’re going to have to print up a variety of warnings and print them frequently, since the average marijuana smoker has the attention span of a grinning sand flea during a tsunami.

For example:

* CAUTION! It has been determined that marijuana smoking can result in a sudden and quite uncontrollable craving for pizza, doughnuts, refried beans and banana milkshakes which can result in elevated levels of cholesterol, body fat and flatulence, all of which can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and possible ejection from your car pool vehicle.

Or:

* CAUTION! The Royal College of Physicians has determined that marijuana smoking can result in periodic and possibly permanent damage to short-term memory, long-term memory and one’s ability to initiate and complete tasks. Do not attempt to set up an IRA, purchase international commodities, take a college entrance exam or remember your anniversary during or immediately after the inhalation of marijuana fumes. (NOTE; College entrance exam restriction not valid in Chico or Berkeley).

And perhaps:

* CAUTION! Medical research has shown that prolonged exposure to marijuana smoke can significantly alter one’s perception of gravity and what is commonly thought of as the space-time continuum. Do not attempt to operate a motor vehicle, gyrocopter, guanaco or wristwatch during or immediately after the inhalation of marijuana. And yes, the nice policeman is talking to you. Pull the guanaco to the curb and climb off now…

Originally published December 22, 2002