Monday, August 29, 2011

goodnight, irene

Others will have posted images and discussion of Hurricane Irene and the damage it caused.

I want to be curmudgeonly about the hype leading up to it.

Politicos and news media need us to be on edge and upset. It doesn't matter if it's worry or anger, as long as it's intense - because if we're not on edge, they're not center-stage.

At last report, only about twenty to 25 people died in this storm that had been the center of the news for days. Of these, at least two had been surfing (surfers love the big waves generated in storms) and another was sleeping outdoors in a tent after a party when I tree fell on him. So at least three of these deaths were due to invincible stupidity. Even so, to have so few deaths from an incident that got this much advance attention demeans the meaning of every future warning.

I have no faith, anymore, that any warning I receive, that is not accompanied by a weapon, has any value at all.

Politicos and news media, your shouting will have more value if you ever spoke calmly - just for the variety of it.

ban powerpoint

According to this in the Guardian (UK News source), there's a political party in Switzerland that wants to ban PowerPoint:
Matthias Poehm, founder of the Anti-PowerPoint Party, claims that €350bn could be saved globally each year by ditching the scourge of public speaking. Poehm believes that the software takes people away from their work and teaches them little. "There is a solution," he says. "A flipchart."

I'm all for it. PowerPoint,and the other presentation applications, limit discussion, hinder digressions, and force the presentation to be delivered in the order of the slides. The effects and videos that have become de rigueur because of Powerpoint have, too often, replaced real subject knowledge and content. The winner of the argument is now, too often, the one with the grooviest animations, not the one with the most compelling facts and conclusions.

In instruction, teachers talk about the "teachable moment", that moment when the ear is ready for the message to be heard. If that message is eighteen slides away... too bad, eh?

I don't have data on this, but I suspect that Powerpoint has also changed the way we learn. It may be that we need (or at least expect) bullet points, animations, and visual jokes in a classroom now. (I also remember too many presentations with all music, all the time. Yes, it proves you're both hip and tech-savvy... but it doesn't get your point across.)

But a political party? A government ban?


Thursday, August 25, 2011

feelin' old & fat

We recently went to the wedding of a friend, for whom I feel all avuncular, as I’m of the generation of her parents rather than her associates. After years of being too shy to dance at weddings, I’ve given up, and at this wedding I was one of the first (and only) men to dance, a development with which my wife is quite pleased. But, of course, it suggests that I’ve re-classified myself as a person of an age where I no longer care what people think of me.

There have been other suggestions of age, recently. I cut some of my fingers a bit over two weeks ago, and they’re just about healing now. It’s become increasingly difficult to keep off the weight that I lost about two years ago. We went on a long-weekend trip (partly so that we could eat a number of times at the Culinary Institute of America, which was a delight), and stayed at a hotel with a bed with a questionable mattress for two nights, and my back and shoulders have been aching ever since – it has been helpful to sit on chairs with hard backs, or on the floor, but my recliner actually makes the pain worse.

I went on a ride with the old guys yesterday (there’s a group of about two-dozen-or-so Freewheelers, almost all retired, who ride together three times a week in season; I ride with them when I can, either on holidays, or when my off day on my nine-workdays-in-two-weeks schedule allows me to), and while I’m faster than most of ‘em (not all; there are some remarkable legs, even among the over-70 boys), I’m feeling it today in my knees. It’s not muscle pain, it’s joint pain.

I’m feeling old & fat.

i have hope for islam

If more Islamic women looked like this, Islam wouldn't scare me so much:

... and I'm sure a number of my Islamic acquaintances are having the opposite reaction.

Stolen from Imgur via Oursignal (which means I really don't have any idea of the source).

And I promise I'll do a real post soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ezra Jennings on the deficit

Jennings said, "Reagan ran on a promise to eliminate the deficit, but increased it by trillions. Clinton got it down. Bush ran on a promise of no deficit, but increased it by trillions, and when Obama got into the White House. the Republicans blamed the deficit on him."

Jennings continued, "Teabaggers notwithstanding, it appears the only times that Republicans are against the deficit is when a Democrat is in the White House."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

not ready yet

I've just started a new project; I'm setting up a website for charity rides in central Jersey. It's got some bugs (not least of which is that it's the wrong end of the season to do this), but it works (at least for now) as a Wordpress blog. I visualize it as a place where people can find out about charity rides, make teams to train and ride, and so on.

I hope to have it together for the 2012 ride season, but I really don't think it will be useful until the 2013 season. It's specific to rides I might actually do, so it's central-Jersey specific, and info about how much money to raise, and what goodies might be available, will be included along with dates, lengths of courses, and start location.

Further developments as they arise.

Friday, August 12, 2011

tr & patriotism

This speaks for itself.

I wish I knew the source.

Ezra Jennings on patriotism

Jennings said, "I'm glad I live here, and there are some things this country does very well - new ideas and technology is one example. Still, I'm not going to fall for the delusion that this country does everything better than everywhere else. And I won't say that my country is better than everyone else's just because I was born here."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ezra jennings on paying taxes

Jennings said, "'I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization'. I wish I'd said that first, but I stole it from Oliver Wendell Holmes."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

on riding a road bicycle

It’s an eccentric pursuit.

In general, the bicycle is seen as an Earth-friendly mode of transportation. Of all the types of bike riding, road bikes are probably the least ecologically sustaining:
  • Most road bikers drive, with the bikes, to a start point;
  • Road bikes are frequently upgraded or replaced, meaning that parts are often thrown out (or stored in the back of the garage, to be used on that "project bike" that's probably never really going to happen);
  • And road bikers generally are not using the bikes for transportation, except in the broadest sense; we are, instead, using the bikes for exercise and fun. We don’t use the bikes to do anything other than ride; the only place we ‘go’, frequently, is ultimately back to our starting point, without having done anything in the meantime except stopped for coffee, perhaps, or a scenic view… or perhaps, a new, higher number on the speedometer.

It could be argued, however, that road bicyclists are the purest lovers of the machines. We don’t use them for anything else other than the love of the ride. And we use the bikes in a way that only bikes can be used. The downhill riders might as well be skiing, and it could be argued that a mountain biker is on a modified hike. But a roadie is using the bike to transfer human energy directly into speed. I think it’s the most like flying that a human can experience without the assistance of an engine. It takes effort, of course, and it takes more effort to get higher up. But I’ve noticed that birds, especially large ones, have to put in effort. In fact, when driving up to a gaggle of geese in the road, notice that instead of taking wing and flying safely away, the geese will attempt to waddle out of the way of the car (and sometimes they are hit in the process). It suggests they can’t just fly easily away.

On a well-tuned road bike, a flat ride is a winged glide. And after pumping up to the top of a hill, the subsequent, sometimes terrifying descent is nearly a hawk’s stoop from the sky.

Road bikes are an unusual combination of old & new technologies. Barring the Shimano electronic-shifting Di2 system, the mechanical technology, with the possible exception of the doin’s inside the shifters themselves, would be intelligible to any reasonably mechanical person alive in the last 500 years: gears and chains, cables and springs, squeeze brakes. It was thought that Leonardo da Vinci had scribbled a doodle of the first bicycle, although that has since been discredited.

At the same time, modern road bikes often incorporate the latest in materials technology. My bike is a tad behind the fashion, but the frame is made of a titanium alloy, the front fork is made of a steel alloy that has proven long-lasting and effective for bicycles, there is space-age carbon-fiber in my shifters – even the leather of the saddle has been treated to make it weather-resistant. The tires themselves incorporate aramid fibers, similar to the Kevlar in bullet-proof vests, so that they resist puncture (no small thing in a high-pressure, thin-wall tire) and so that they can be folded. The bead, the part that fits inside the wheel rim, on your car tire is some kind of metal; you can’t fold that for travel!

Even those silly looks-like-a-superhero-in-training outfits we wear have a purpose. The tight clothes help with evaporation of perspiration, helping to keep us cool; the tight shorts also reduce chafing. (I’ve heard they’re usually black because it gives you a place to wipe your greasy fingers after a repair, and also because the black dye on the old saddles would transfer to them on wet, sweaty rides… but I think they’re black partly because they disguise the topography beneath. Ahem.) The jerseys are brightly colored partly to make us visible to drivers who aren’t looking for us. I generally eschew the busy team logos on my jerseys; them guys ain’t payin’ me to ride for ‘em, so I ain’t gonna do their advertisin’ for ‘em… and I certainly ain’t gonna pay extra for the privilege (printed jerseys are almost always several times the cost of the plain, single-color ones I use). Pockets are on the backs of the jersey, because when you’re in that bent-over position, if your pocket were in front, your cell phone would be likely to either fall out of your pocket, or be causin’ some discomfort by diggin’ into the soft parts of your anatomy.

And riding is wicked fun. I've found it's fun alone, and it's also fun with a group of like-minded, similarly-dressed-and-supplied acquaintances, especially when you find the ones that have a level of competitiveness that complements your own.

So it’s not for everybody. But neither is skiing, tennis, or international finance.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

crush the luxury car in the bike lane

Sounds like an online Flash game, right? Except apparently, in Lithuania, it really happens:

A mayor of a Lithuanian city this week took to driving an armored personnel carrier over a Mercedes-Benz that was parked in the bike lane. "I've had enough of these drivers parking their luxury cars on bike lanes and pedestrian crossings. This tank is a good tool to solve the problem of parking in the wrong place," Mayor Zuokas told the assembled reporters.

See, In the beautiful city of Vilnius, Lithuania, there's a big problem with people who drive fancy cars like Mercedes-Benzes and Ferraris parking them in the bike lanes. Citizens so far have been posting pictures of the jerks on social media so everyone can shake their collective fists. However, the type of people who drive these cars and park them in bike lanes don't seem to care much about what people say about them on Twitter as their behavior hasn't changed. That's what pushed Mayor Zoukas into action and into the tank. After it was over, he rode away on his cute little bike.

There's even video. Go check it out.

(I've long thought that owners of luxury cars thought they didn't have to obey the same rules as the rest of us, given the way I've seen them cut people off, park, and so on; cops apparently have bought into this, because I've seen occasions where cops have not gone after them. This seems to me like a reasonable response.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

volunteering for the event, and quick ride

Today was the Princeton Freewheelers Event (can you believe they don't have a specific event page?), with rides of 16, 25, 50, 100, and two metric century rides (100 km or 62+ miles), one hilly and one flat. There are regularly over a thousand riders who come out for this ride, some of whom ride little during the rest of the year. All that density and inexperience sounded like a magnet for accidents and mishaps, of which there have already been too many this year. Also, I get a lot out of being in the club, so, overall, today sounded like a good day to sit out and volunteer at one of the rest stops.

(Back when I was in early recovery, I remember the other alcoholics in recovery referring to New Year's Eve and St Patrick's Day as "amateur night", when all the "amateurs" go out and try to prove they can drink. I was reminded of that today; the Event is when the amateurs try to prove they can ride... although there were a LOT of very good riders out today, too!)

It turned out that the stop to which I was assigned was the first on the 50, 100, and both 62-mile rides. That meant that, with a 7:00 start time, we could expect the first riders not much later than 8:00, and, sure enough, they were rolling in before 8:15. I found a place cutting bagels for the riders; some asked if the bagels were pre-peanut-buttered (not cream cheese, but PBJ's on the bagels for this crowd). I said the bagels were naked, and that became the by-word for the stop: "Welcome to Millstone, home of the naked bagel." We also had bananas, watermelon, water and Gatorade, Granola bars, snarky remarks, and directions. Pete Garnich of Knapp's Cyclery had a maintenance stop set up in the parking lot, as well.

Hundreds of people came through, some of whom had been on the Anchor House Ride, and others whom I've ridden with (some many times). Since I was not wearing my helmet and wraparound shades, many didn't recognize me until I opened my mouth and that distinctive Long Island accent came out.

But since we were the first stop on the longer rides, we were cleared out early. By 11:30 we had only a couple of riders coming through, one of whom is a distinctive character among the Freewheelers (instead of riding one of the routes, he was going from stop to stop, comparing, inspecting, and evaluating), and others were long riders from, for example, New York City. (One poor guy seemed a bit lost, and was trying to figure if he could get back to the start point in time to get a sandwich.)

By 12:30, we were cleaned up. The stop captain agreed to stay until 1pm, which was when we were told we could leave the stop alone; I left before that (with her blessing). And since tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, I decided to get a quick ride in.

I've written before about riding from my house to the canal, to go up Coppermine Road, and return. It's a 20-mile loop, as near as makes no difference, and I've done it several times this season. As best I can determine, the hilly part goes up almost 300 feet in about .8 mile.

Today I did it with an average speed on 19.1 before the cool-down lap around my condo road, and 18.9 including the cool-down lap. For me, that's wicked fast.

I'm now sitting home, basking in the self-righteous smugness I always enjoy after volunteering, and the satisfaction of riding fast today. My excellent wife is home after spending last night over her mom's house, learning to make pierogi (filling, dough, and all; think Polish ravioli, but not, of course, in tomato sauce, and usually fried rather than boiled); they worked her limp making dozen upon dozen pierogi, so we're gonna go out and help the economy by buying some ready-made food later, rather than making her cook any more today.

Life is good.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

saddest merchandise ever

Ozge Samanci, of ordinary things comic, has been having a series she calls "saddest mall ever", based on the items she found in the Skymall catalog that is left for travelers in airplanes. This takes the cake. It's an alarm clock with a motion capture camera that will take pictures of people in your bedroom when you aren't there.

If you need this, get a divorce. Your relationship is beyond saving.

don't I wish

Don't I wish.

I've told you about Bug Comic before. Original here

Monday, August 1, 2011

on working with substance abusers

I've been working with substance-abuse clients, treatment, prevention, and training of staff, for over twenty-five years.

On a ride this weekend, I was riding in the back (as I sometimes do; I like to make sure the folks in the back of the group don't get dropped), and I got chatting with a woman who is a social worker with a huge behavioral health service on this side of Middlesex County. She mentioned that substance abusers were not her favorite clients, as they are not with many of my colleagues in related disciplines.

I've got two things I usually say about that:
  1. The percentage of people who die, or who have long-term problems related to substance use, is similar to the percentage that die from, or have long-term problems with, ailments like diabetes or hypertension. Chronic illness that requires ongoing behavioral change for treatment simply has poor long-term prognosis, no matter the specifics of the disease. (Americans, possibly because of our Puritan background, have, I think, unusually high demands for abstinence as the only measure of substance-abuse success.)
  2. Anybody can work with clients who get better. Where's the glory in that?

As our discussion proceeded, she told me about a job opportunity (which I declined, I hope gracefully) and asked if I'd want to come over and address her peers. I gave her a business card. She may have been coming on to me; my wedding ring is covered by my gloves when I ride, and I'm notoriously slow on the uptake with this kind of thing.