Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Advice for Allen Lim

As The NY Daily News' Nate Vinton writes today, Allen Lim of rice cake fame is likely to be the next person made uncomfortable in the name of rooting-out corruption/doping in cycling. My advice to him is to tell the truth, whatever that might be.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RIP Kitty

Half a Day Left
By Sarah Michael

Just half a day left
For this rag-tag cat
Just half a day left
In a gutter at that

But God whispered softly
From one heart to another
Until removed from the gutter
By someone called Mother

She took me to her own loving home
Warm cloths to gently clean my face
Then a special warm bed to snuggle
Where I was tended with grace

Food and water was offered
Though too sick to take much
The best nourishment she gave
Were soft words comfort and touch

Just half a day left
For this lovely black cat
Who now is in Heaven
Content in God’s lap

"All this is possible" the cat told God
"For in that gutter my life was waning
Yet now in Heaven healthy and new
Because my Mother blessed me with naming"

"Which allowed me to stand before you and say,
A name is the pass to Heaven Dear Lord"
"Someone cared enough to love me, so
My name is [Kitty], please bless the woman below."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Love that Media

You don't contact me to check your facts, let alone to ask for a quote. But then you write a big-but-empty story sourced from...public documents. And then when I reach out to you in the aftermath with an offer to discuss the story so that you can correct your various errors of fact and omission, you decline to respond. So what does that say about your motivations for writing the piece in the first place?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Movies, Special Effects, The Town

Watching a download of a 1969 big-budget all-star-cast war movie, "Battle of Britain." It's funny just how BAD special effects were before CGI. ;) Saw "The Town" last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Two thumbs up and definitely worth seeing on the big screen to get the full effect of the Fenway Park shoot-out. Seriously though, if you like action flicks, go see this one. Ebert had this to say:

"Here is a well-made crime procedural, and audiences are likely to enjoy it at that level..."

There's a great scene in The Town where the bank robbers - dressed as nun's in full habits, wearing ghost masks and carrying assault rifles - have seemingly eluded a massive police chase after a botched armored car heist, and are about to ditch the getaway vehicle. The come screeching to a stop in their old neighborhood (The Town), realizing only too late that they've pulled-up in front of a squad car occupied by a single, older officer. It's one of those classic moments, and the cop basically gives the boys a free pass by intentionally looking the other way long enough that they have time to escape. Classic.

It's not a very deep film, and it's certainly no "The Departed," but it was worth the $15.50/seat to sit in the VIP at the Waterfront theater and watch all the action. Read Ebert's review of the movie here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Floyd Landis and the New Pathways Conference

I fully support Floyd Landis' efforts to effect positive change in the sport of cycling and I find those arguing against his participation in the New Pathways for Pro Cycling conference to be disingenuous and extremely self-interested.

As Floyd himself points out, "the behavior and comments of the persons and organizations that seek to shut down the conference as a consequence of my participation demonstrate that they are interested only in selfishly perpetuating their own positions and purported authority at the expense of progressive reform and in total disregard of the sport’s long-term interests, including those of the riders and fans, which they are charged to protect."

I can't think of any better way to say it.

Yes, it's uncomfortable to be reminded of the culpability that we all face as a result of having unquestioningly allowed cycling to devolve into a drug-addled netherworld during the past decade. And repairing the damage was always going to be uncomfortable and would always require each of us as individuals to examine our roles in having uncritically accepted what we can now clearly see was myth, but what we then considered to be god's truth and fact.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Photos - For the People, By the People

My friend writes, "I love cycling photography, but its scope tends to be a bit narrow: pro racers riding fast on bikes; heroic suffering; the peloton gliding through beautiful scenery - and so on. But that's not what cycling is like for most ordinary cyclists - it's far more modest than that. It's about chatting in cafes, repairing punctures by the side of the road, cleaning your bike, drying your wet shoes on the radiator, waiting to start a time trial on a cold March morning, falling into a grass verge, finishing in the peloton in a cat 3 race, milling about bike shops, commuting to work, hacking through the woods on your mountain bike while a bit drunk, the club dinner dance, marshalling the club road race, putting on numbers for the first time, learning to ride with cleats - and so on and so on. It's all these small things we associate with riding that collectively make up cycling culture for the majority of us. That's what I want to capture."

If you're interested in contributing to the effort, go here:

Bike Weight Marketing BS

Just saw this polished-turd marketing-speak on the Giant Bicycles website. How difficult would it really have been to say, "This bike in size medium weighs 24.8lbs in factory-configuration"? Instead, we get this crap:

"How much does this bike weigh? It’s a common question, and rightly so. But the truth is, there are no industry standards for claiming bike weights—and this leads to a lot of misinformation. Variances exist based on size, frame material, finish and hardware. And as bikes get lighter, these differences become more critical. At Giant, we believe the only way to truly know the weight of any particular bike is to find out for yourself at your local retailer."

Please. Gag me with a raw fork.

At least the bike looks cool, though.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Photo (c) Steve Keltie

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Passive Doping

Passive doping refers to the theory that “clean” sportsmen can do measurable harm to their health by overcompensating in an effort to match competitors who race with the benefit of illegal performance enhancing drugs. For many readers, the idea of passive doping conjures-up images of physical exhaustion, but the phenomena involves a psychological component as well, and it's no less serious.

Today I spoke with a good friend who competes professionally at the Pro Continental level - he is deciding who to sign with for 2011, and is considering whether or not he wants to race in Europe with a top-level team, or back in his home country. To the best of my knowledge, my friend competes drug-free, and he's never failed a doping control. And yet he's a victim of passive doping.

I revealed to my friend that one of his rivals has been up to his eyeballs in doping and is facing sanction. My friend was shocked, and he wrote to me in a text, "I'm pretty gutted over him man. I would be really hard on myself when he blew out a result."

Instead of physical pain, my friend suffered psychologically as a result of the passive doping. When his competitor achieved successes that were seemingly not possible for my friend - who is a more naturally-talented rider - my buddy assumed that he wasn't training hard enough and that he was mentally weak and lacked discipline. But in reality, the simple fact is that for years, the other rider enjoyed a 10% advantage because of EPO. But my friend was beating himself up over this.

How much anxiety and self-loathing did he experience because he was judging himself against an unreasonable standard that was impossible for him to match cleanly? That's passive doping.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Power of Music

December 25, 1947

"The directors have gone to some trouble to give Christmas Day some special quality for us...for the first time after two and a half years, I heard Bach and Beethoven: a cantata, and the 'Gloria' from the Missa Solemnis. At first it was almost unbearable, but then a perfect calm came over me..."

- Albert Speer, diary entry during the early years of his imprisonment in Spandau Prison, serving a 20-year sentence. [Speer, Albert (1976), Spandau: The Secret Diaries, New York and Toronto: Macmillan]

For Wikipedia entry on Denazification, see this page.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

(Almost) Blood on the Road

Yesterday, Friday, September 3, 2010, I came within what seemed like only inches of disaster. Reflecting now upon what happened then, while I peck-out these lines with a solitary index finger, I realize that there is no identifiable scale that can measure the luck of my escape and the magnitude of the disaster that would have befallen me. As it is, I'm typing this with only one hand, but feel as lucky as a leprechaun to suffer this relatively minor inconvenience. Several years ago, the Churchill Insurance Company determined that approximately one-third of auto accidents happen within one mile of home and a further third within five miles. Churchill's report revealed that "drivers experienced a 'switching off' syndrome on familiar roads which is a common cause of car accidents."

Knocking on wood (before typing this sentence, since again, I've only got the use of my right hand/arm), I've never crashed a car on the open road as a result of carelessness or imprudence. Admittedly, a collision with a deer on I-84 in New York at over 100kph saw me total a Chevy estate car (fancy term for station wagon), and I was hit from behind while stopped at an intersection by a distracted school girl who was regaling her passenger with tales of the latest lunch room intrigues. I even wrote-off a Porsche 993 Turbo at the Nürburgring while running during a closed-session. But I've never "had an accident" as we say here in America. However - before yesterday, I'd been hit three times by cars while riding my bicycle. And yesterday saw number four. And only 1.8 miles from my house.

I'm here today to type-up this blog post, so it couldn't have been that bad, you say. Well, it wasn't (though put that down to sheer luck), though it could have been (and there would have been nothing I could have done about it, except not be on that stretch of rode at that time in the first place). An old lady, who lives a little more than half a mile further down Route 88 than my turn-off, was heading home yesterday at the same time I was finishing a rain-shortened training ride. Though it was dry at the time, and I was on a wide-open stretch of road, riding at approximately 30kph on top of the white line that marks the boundary of the road and the shoulder, the hapless senior citizen in a Chevy passed me like she didn't even see me. And apparently she didn't, commenting afterward that she thought the terrific "THWACK!" she heard came from something in the road that she'd run over. Close...

I'm guessing that her car didn't have breakaway mirrors, because when she smashed my left elbow with her passenger side mirror while she was careening-along at a good 65kph, it was my arm that buckled, and not her car. It's true what they say that things happen so quickly that you don't even realize it, at the same time your life passes before your eyes.

I heard the sound of the impact before I felt it, and what little there was to feel was quickly smothered with a terrifying numbness - my left arm just stopped "feeling." If you'll allow me to indulge myself with a spot of self-praise, I sit like a natural on the bike, and am as relaxed as a cougar perched on the tops of my bars (lol). And this probably saved my life yesterday!

By all rights, I should be dead. The impact should have wrenched my bars around, knocked my front wheel from under me, sent me tumbling into the lane of traffic and deposited me in the path of the next vehicle such that my head was in prime position to be squashed in a residual car vs. "biker" incident. In all honesty, though, I didn't even bobble. That's not to say that our Blind Betty barely grazed me. By her own admission she hit me so hard that the report left her thinking she'd come into contact with something in the road (which, technically, she did). Rather, my default position on the bike is "relaxed," and I was lucky that the impact merely deadened my arm, before almost ripping it off my shoulder. In that horrifying split-second from when a crash begins to unfold, to when you actually become aware of it, I saw my left hand flying off the bars and wondered where it was off to in such a hurry! Next I was wondering why my torso almost collapsed when I tried to re-weight my left arm after regaining the brake hood, and soon I was marveling at how straight a line she held after passing me so closely that she could hit me with her wing mirror, but not her bumper, or miss me altogether.

What was disconcerting was not the horrible pain that flooded my elbow shortly after the collision. Rather, it was the nonchalance with which the driver continued down the road, and her utter incomprehension when I caught her at the next stoplight (about a mile down the road) and advised her that she'd just hit me, and that I wanted to obtain her insurance information, if she would be so kind. She didn't deny it - after all, she said she'd heard something, but just assumed it had been "in the road" (God forbid Fido had been playing in the street, or a herd of deer crossing the road - Granny wouldn't have even noticed as she ploughed into them all). She simply couldn't comprehend what she'd done.

A gouge in the passenger's side mirror housing and paint smeared with my hair and skin testified to the coming-together of man and machine in a way that Chris Boardman would never have approved of.

While now more than ever I believe that senior citizens should face mandatory retesting in order to retain their driving privileges, at least this one didn't make things worse by being rude about what she'd done, or claiming that I shouldn't have been on the road to begin with. And in turn, I managed to keep my mouth shut and choked-down the myriad negative emotions that threatened to ooze-out of my jaded-by-one-too-many-brushes-with-asshole-motorist pores.

I've got to wrap this up, as there are other things to attend to, and I've already seen 24 hours of productivity lost to the mother of all aching elbows, but I wanted to share this story with you. Not because there is some profound moral to the tale, or in an attempt to shamelessly leverage my own near-death experience to demand the building of bike paths or mandatory helmet laws. It's just a reminder that riding a bike in traffic is an inherently dangerous proposition, and not usually because you aren't a skilled athlete, but rather as a result of motorists who either don't think you should be there, or aren't even aware that you are.

I'll try to be less disdainful when loved ones implore me to "be careful out there" when I push-off for my next ride, when my elbow stops hurting and feeling returns to my hand.