Friday, October 31, 2008

ebay etiquette

I was watching an auction for a pair of "slightly used" Zero Gravity Negative G SS brakes. I was interested, but not at the reserve the seller set. It turns out no one else was either and the auction ended without a single bid.

So I emailed the guy, told him I noticed his auction ended and that he hadn't sold the brakes. I also told him I was interested, and told him I would bid if he listed the item again with a lower reserve...or that I would be willing to buy the brakes straight up for $X.

I would think it bad form to offer a seller cash for an item up for bid in exchange for the seller canceling the auction. But is it bad form to make an offer on an item after the auction has ended and the item went unsold?

He hasn't yet replied.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

back in the saddle

Some three and a half weeks since the break and today, officially, I'm back on the bike. Ninety minutes of blowing two loaded barrels of snot around the roads south and east of Shippensburg. It felt really, really good.


Listened to last week's This American Life, about the election and campaigning in Pennsylvania. Recommended.

Two thoughts.

First, there's a story in there about the energy, emotion, and exhaustion of State College democrats in their voter registration drive.

Sarah Koenig tells us about Jonathan Berkhart (sp?), sent by the Service Employees International Union to register 2500 voters on his own. He's sick. He's had an eye infection. His eye infection got so bad it had to be operated on.

SK: Right now taking a break is out of the question. He's still less than halfway to his goal. He's got what you might call "The Shindler's List Syndrome."

JB: I mean, there's an infinite amount of work I could be doing all the time. You can never, like, overdo it.

SK: Right, so you could look out over all of these people and just start asking them, like, are you registered? Are you registered? Are you registered?

JB: Exactly, you know, the sort of...ok, so you registered half the student body, why didn't you register all of the student body? You register all the student body, why didn't you convince ever single one of them to vote for your candidate. You convince every single one of them to vote for your candidate, why weren't you in other areas where you could have been convincing other people? Like, you just keeps on going.

I found myself listening to this today and it sounded eerily familiar. Really familiar. Familiar in a way that left me with little empathy for Jonathan because his guilt-motivated campaign for the good seemed, in a way I can't quite explain, like a reminder of an almost daily personal emotion. And then I realized why. He was talking like a missionary. A Mormon missionary. I know that feeling because I've lived that feeling. I'd go so far as to say I've lived that feeling to a degree about a thousand times as intense as what Jonathan's describing. So what Jonathan's describing doesn't seem particularly unique. In fact, it sounds like the hand-wrining of a greenie, a novice, someone who hasn't yet developed the complicated (and often conviluted) psychological coping strategies that allow you to deal with the mountains of guilt you take on whenever you allow yourself to get swept up in a cause that you believe is much bigger than you.

"Give him another 23 months," I found myself thinking. He'll get over himself.

Second, the TAL episoid closed with an unfamiliar rendition of a familiar song.

I very much remember this song when it and I were both young, how it was played and replayed on the radio. I must have been only nine and ten. To me, it was just a tired pop song. I was young, but my musical tastes were already firmly planted in the "classic rock" of the 60s and 70s. But of course I couldn't understand the song.

I understand it now. And it's a moving song. It's upbeat tune belies the depth of the message.

Too much powerful prose is lost in the trivialities of its musical packaging. For instance:

A modern-day warrior
Mean mean stride,
Todays Tom Sawyer
Mean mean pride.

Though his mind is not for rent,
Dont put him down as arrogant.
His reserve, a quiet defense,
Riding out the days events.
The river

And what you say about his company
Is what you say about society.
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift.

The world is, the world is,
Love and life are deep,
Maybe as his eyes are wide.

Today's Tom Sawyer,
He gets high on you,
And the space he invades
He gets by on you.

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government.
Always hopeful, yet discontent,
He knows changes aren't permanent,
But change is.

And what you say about his company
Is what you say about society.
Catch the witness, catch the wit,
Catch the spirit, catch the spit.

The world is, the world is,
Love and life are deep,
Maybe as his skies are wide.

Exit the warrior,
Todays Tom Sawyer,
He gets high on you,
And the energy you trade,
He gets right on to the friction of the day.

If I taught poetry, I'd teach pop music. (I'm sure I'm not the first to say that.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

palin visits shippensburg u.

Or she's going to visit. We're told. A little after 4pm. But thousands are already waiting. The line to get in the field house formed around 11am. Now it stretches north at least the length of a city block then around the Luhrs Performing Arts Center and west the length of another city block. Everyone lining up already has a ticket. The line is orderly. Very straight.

Our field house seats less than 5,000. But there is to be no sitting. No bleachers. No chairs. I don't know how many our field house stands.

A small group of Obama supporters have congregated on the basketball courts across the street from the field house.

News trucks from CNN and all the local network affiliates have made a parking lot of the grass.

Unmarked silver-gray police cars with large (compensating) antennae patrol the streets.

It's not a warm day to be standing outside. Forty-four degrees with 30 mph winds. Wind chill of 34 degrees. A chance of rain. Some of these people will have waited outside four hours to get into this rally. Four hours. To listen to a political figure they already know they're going to vote for.

An undetermined number of the people waiting outside will wake up tomorrow with the sniffles. Some will get the flu. They'll stay home from work. School. They'll have to drag themselves out of bed to vote next Tuesday. They'll cough on their ballots. On their punch tools. Others will get sick. Some of us already are. Sick. Of. Politics.

Friday, October 24, 2008

google is just cool

I really try hard to disassociate myself from brands. I don't like wearing logos. I told the car dealership they'd have to pay if they put their name on my car.

But google is just cool. Latest example: they map your polling place, then provide links to all the voting particulars in your state, like how to register and whatnot. A simple thing, but so cool.


I've been down and out with a nasty cold, fever, sore throat for the past several days and have been watching a lot of television. NBC has been serving up a Brian Williams interview with McCain and Palin piecemeal through their various news programs. It's been interesting...and, I think, revealing. (I did a quick search for some clips available online and came up empty. I'm sure they're available somewhere.)


Also, The New York Times editorial board's presidential endorsement.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

bachmann's overdrive

One of the more disappointing characters to emerge as a national figure in the 2008 presidential campaign is this woman, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (recent news, website, wikipedia).

On a personal note, I'm troubled by a concern that my dislike of this woman may be in part a tacit sexism. I can't stand her smile. Just like Sarah Palin's nails-on-chalkboard voice, whenever I see this woman and her plastic smile on TV my esophagus burns a little with bile. And so I ask myself, are there men to whom I react similarly, or is this sexism? In other words, do I hold persons like Bachmann and Palin to the same standard as I do men, or is there some deeply engrained cultural bias at work here?

Well, whether I'm sexist or not seems slightly less important than Bachmann recently associating "liberal" with "anti-American" and her call for media inquiry into which members of congress hold "anti-American" views.

(This is my first embedded youtube clip, by the way. Are you proud of me?)


(I'm no great Chris Matthews fan, but I loved how he just let her hang herself, which she seemed all too eager to do.)

So let me get this straight, if I don't like something my country is doing or has come to stand for then I am anti-American? McCarthy would be proud of this woman. He also saw no value in dissent. What is it that breeds this kind of absurd rhetoric?--the rhetoric of the unreasonable, as I've taken to calling it. (Note: McCarthy was from Wisconsin, Bachmann from Minnesota. Does that mean anything?)

I'll try to put as objective a hat on as possible and say that I'm pretty sure this woman is mildly insane. (Though, now that I think of it, she's probably not saying anything half as absurd as one might hear daily from the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity--people who I'm pretty sure are more than just mildly insane. Hey, maybe I'm not sexist afterall!)

stupid boys...

Song to Be Sung by the Father of Infant Female

by Ogden Nash

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
Contrariwise, my blood runs cold
When little boys go by.
For little boys as little boys,
No special hate I carry,
But now and then they grow to men,
And when they do, they marry.
No matter how they tarry,
Eventually they marry.
And, swine among the pearls,
They marry little girls.

Oh, somewhere, somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who feed and clothe him.
Their lips are sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to loathe him.
Yes, I loathe with loathing shameless
This child who to me is nameless.
This bachelor child in his carriage
Gives never a thought to marriage,
But a person can hardly say knife
Before he will hunt him a wife.

I never see an infant (male),
A-sleeping in the sun,
Without I turn a trifle pale
And think is he the one?
Oh, first he'll want to crop his curls,
And then he'll want a pony,
And then he'll think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a mouse
Is he without a spouse.

Oh, somewhere he bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks his thumbs.
His cheeks are roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are tucked in his gums.
But alas the teeth will begin to grow,
And the bubbles will cease to bubble;
Given a score of years or so,
The roses will turn to stubble.
He'll sell a bond, or he'll write a book,
And his eyes will get that acquisitive look,
And raging and ravenous for the kill,
He'll boldly ask for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose middle
Is diapered still
Will want to marry My daughter Jill.

Oh sweet be his slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear, are infanticiddle.
A fig for embryo Lohengrins!
I'll open all his safety pins,
I'll pepper his powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his spinach I'll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce for his teething ring.
Then perhaps he'll struggle through fire and water
To marry somebody else's daughter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

barack hussein obama

The most emailed NYTimes story of the week. It's a goody.


About the debate last night, everyone (I should have several links here, but I'm too lazy) seems to think McCain came out ahead. But I'll tell you what I saw: an old man with a misguided sense of entitlement getting increasingly cranky about the fact that he's going to lose this election (after _finally_ getting oh-so-close) to a young upstart with such an un-American sounding name.

It's too bad. A year ago I had positive feelings towards McCain. Now, not so much.

Unfortunately, McCain's place in history will forever be that of the man who tried to keep the first black president of the United States from becoming the first black president. A milestone chapter in the progressive history of the country is being written, and the McCain/Palin parts will forever be that of the ineffectual villains.

Which part will you play? ;-)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

beating the deceased pony

Courtesy of someone's Garmin Edge I can pinpoint the location of my quickly-becoming-all-too-tragic accident. Highlighted in the first figure by a green (teal?) circle, in the second by red.

It's Day Four of no riding and depression is setting in. I think tomorrow I may join the fitness club down the block and spend my evening doing leg presses.

I hate not being able to do anything. I can't even go for a walk...the jarring movement still hurts too much. Probably next week...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

kelley acres

Some shots from the fateful event, courtesy of W. Browne.

Early in the first lap, running the log barrier...

This next was the sketchest part of the course. Down a steep little drop, over a straw-covered wood bridge, then in and through a mud pit. A lot of people struggled though this, some getting off and running the whole thing, but remembering to gear w-a-y down prior to the drop I managed through three times without a bobble.

I think I was in about forth position here, but soon made short work of this NVCC rider.

And this must have been mere moments before the mishap...

So I didn't really get to make short or long work of anyone.

Anyway, I thought it was a really fun, original course. The atmosphere and trails reminded me a bit of Granogue, just not quite as grand as all that. I would have loved to take away my first cross win on that course, and I nearly did. But the butterflies... The previous three times down that fast left-hand turn I felt like I could have taken it faster, so on the fourth pass I did, and now here I am, typing incomplete thoughts with one hand...

Monday, October 6, 2008


Just when it was shaping up to be a great cross season I go and snap my collarbone. Again.

The first time it was sort of novel and interesting. I'm afraid this time it will be unbearably boring. No Iron Cross. No cyclocross season at all. So lame. Lame as an arm in a sling.

Friday, October 3, 2008

wheel lechery...and that darn sarah palin

I have a serious wheel problem. Which is to say I have a serious problem with my desire to purchase wheels.

Weighing all interests (weight, aerodynamics, convenience, cost), I had all but decided on these (Reynolds Assault), which can be had for under 1k, new, on eBay:

But then Reynolds goes and introduces these (Reynolds Strike), which in a few weeks I assume will also be available on eBay for probably around $1100 or $1200:

Nuts. What a decision. What's an indecisive wheel lecher to do?

(The right answer is the Strike.)


The vice presidential debate last night...

I don't even know what to say about Sarah Palin. That nails-on-blackboard voice, the persistent folksy colloquialisms ("darn," "heck," "ya," etc.), her blatant refusal to answer questions directed to her... Most commentators seem to agree that she did well in the debate (if only for not doing poorly), but how a rational, thinking person could want her for President of the United States, or anything close to it, is beyond me.

If not on this blog, I've often complained about the strong tenor of anti-intellectualism in the public sphere in general, and in politics in particular, and I can't help but believe that this current of anti-intellectualism has fueled Palin support...or that it is the reality of anti-intellectualism that makes a Palin VP choice even considerable and perhaps strategically sound. In any event, the reality of it angers me and, worse yet, tests my empathy. I want to believe that differences in political opinion are a consequence of reasonable people having reasonable ideological differences (or if not ideological, reasonable differences regarding particulars of practicality), but I question the reasonableness of someone who supports Sara Palin for high office.

(To be clear, I'm not a McCain supporter, but I can acknowledge that reasonable people would prefer McCain leadership to the alternative. It's the Palin component that baffles me so.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

as predicted...

I guess it was really more a combination of options #1 and #2, though a bit more forcefully delivered than I had anticipated.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

well played

How about this gambit by Prudhomme, et al.


How will LA respond? I suppose the best play is either (1) to dismiss the thing with some unsatisfying nonsense about the past being irrelevant, which is how he responded to Greg, or (2) to construct some story about how those now ten year-old samples are damaged in some way that would compromise the results.

My bet is some variation of #1; a kind of snobbish brush-off. Very Lance.

Is there a better move?

I hate being busy

So much crap going on lately, and there's so much I want to write about.

Like this. Which is to say that I am fascinated by both the politics and and the political science of this whole "bailout" deal. (One question worth considering, which I'd like to ask this dude, is why $700 billion? Why that number. Since the money appears to be coming in waves, on an as-needed basis, where and how did this seemingly arbitrary number come from? And a second question, why isn't the press corps asking that? It seems an important question in the context of the larger point which our politicians and government officials are having a terribly difficult time explaining--why is so much government intervention needed at all?) I want to write so much more about this, but no time...

Also, I love this site. When I wake up in the morning I check my email and I check this site, clicking on the little "next report" link on the right. I just love this stuff. Why? I'm sure it's for the same reason that I like sports, but that's a conclusion that requires a good deal more explanation than I have time for. Alas...

Finally (news flash here!), I love riding my bike. I had such a delightful ride yesterday. This ride has become a training staple. I discussed it earlier here. I think I've done this exact ride four times in the past couple of months. That may not seem like a lot, but it's a hard ride, so you can't do it that often, and usually longer rides are group rides which means riding from and to other locations. Yesterday I rode it in 3:15. Last week I rode it less hard, but finished in 3:08 (last week the wind was blowing the opposite direction from what it usually blows, I assume due to that tropical storm weirdness last week, which made the last fifteen miles or so blazing fast).

Anyway, when I got home yesterday I thought to myself, man, I just love riding my bike. So I just wanted to share that bit of childlike glee.

Yeah. That's it. Back to work...