Tuesday, February 24, 2009

my sweet little black bike

Last September the left shifter on my Tarmac fell apart. I don't know what was wrong with it exactly, but it was covered by warranty so it didn't really matter. I had my buddies at In-Gear send it back and in a few weeks I had a new one. But by that point my collarbone was broken and I wasn't riding (though I was thinking about riding, and in fact being off the bike proved rather expensive).

When I got back on the bike I didn't really feel like putting the Tarmac back together (bicycle maintenance is surprisingly stressful on collarbone injuries), so just rode my cross rig, and when I've been on the road I've been riding my cross bike exclusively. Until Saturday.

I really like my cross bike. Really. I even like riding it on the road. But holy cow does my Tarmac feel sweet after having logged so many hours on that cross bike. I really, really like this bike. It's an absolute dream.


Back when I was not riding and therefore spending all my riding time bidding on bike crap, I got a screaming deal (it's all relative) on a pair of Sub Zeros. They've been installed.

I've got to tell you, after reading the reviews I didn't have high expectations performance-wise, but I've been really, really impressed. Of course, I'm coming off months of riding cantis on the cross bike, so it's not hard to outperform those, but these brakes are outperforming the Rival brakes they replaced. Very smooth, steady, sure braking. They're easily the best brakes I've ever ridden.

Monday, February 23, 2009

a note to students and faculty...

A note to students, faculty, and staff in my building:

If, when complaining about the elevator not working, or that it goes too slow, or that in the original plans there was to be two (there's presently only one), you are expecting in me to find a sympathetic audience, you are wrong. Not only am I not sympathetic, but unless you are disabled, I will likely think you lazy, consumptive, and selfish.

Take the stairs.

svein tuft

This is a couple of weeks old now, but the Times published a pretty interesting profile of a pretty interesting dude.

Reading this has invoked a number of thoughts, things I've thought about over the years as I've considered my own relationship--and history--with cycling and the outdoors. For instance, while cycling is undoubtedly an outdoor activity, in order to race a bicycle one might ironically spend an awful lot of time in a car. It also left me thinking about the programed nature of my life and my unwillingness to take risks--as far as life's program is concerned--a train of thought which spirals into a minefield of 'what if's. But this last bit is of more than idle concern about the past, because the programed expectations that are being set for my children now will no doubt define the people they become, an issue of no trivial concern.

Yesterday, my boots were heavy with this stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

stegner's 100th

A nice op-ed memorial-type piece in the Times on one of my very favorite authors.

On his 100th birthday, it’s worth remembering another lesson of his life — to choose authenticity over artifice. “If you don’t know where you are,” he said, paraphrasing the writer Wendell Berry, “you don’t know who you are.”

It's nice that a nod to Wendell Berry, one of Stegner's students, was included in the piece. It's those two, amongst others (Abbey, Williams, Duncan), that taught me to love place, and now I feel emotionally lost without it.

Perhaps that's why I don't so much like traveling by plane...or being a passenger on a long road trip--the new lacks its connection with the already familiar, and I feel lost, disoriented, without place.

Anyway... God bless the saints of literature. Happy birthday, Stegner.


If you haven't, and you're so inclined, start with this.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

nature is an old lady with few suitors

Krabbe, from _The Rider_:

In 1919, Brussels-Amiens was won by a rider who rode the last forty kilometers with a flat tire. Talk about suffering! He arrived at 11:30 at night, with a ninety-minute lead on the only other two riders who finished the race. That day had been like night, trees had whipped back and forth, farmers were blown back into their barns, there were hailstones, bomb craters from the war, crossroads where the gendarmes had run away and riders had to climb onto one another's shoulders to wipe clean the muddied road signs.

Oh, to have been a rider then. Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is Nature's payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses: people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. 'Good for you.' Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few suitors these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms she rewards passionately.

That's why there are riders.

Suffering you need: literature is baloney.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a letter

I wrote a letter to my parents this evening. I've reproduced it here for your reading pleasure.

A while ago you suggested that the US health care system met the needs of Americans par excellence. You gave as evidence for this high praise the wealthy that travel from all over the world for American health care, and voiced the opinion that the greatness of the US health care system is due to the free market for health care; in other words, that US health care is not “socialized.”

Looking for something else, I ran across the following articles today (links to abstracts) and thought you might be interested:

(1) http://healthaff.highwire.org/cgi/content/abstract/21/3/182

In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, everyone expresses dissatisfaction with their health care. People with low incomes are more likely to express that dissatisfaction, though few report trouble actually getting health care…except low income US citizens, who reported more difficulty.

(2) http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/96/7/1300

Americans, compared to Canadians, are less likely to have a regular doctor and more likely to have unmet health care needs.

(3) http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/25/4/1133

The poorest Americans (bottom quartile) are more likely to have poor health than the poorest Canadians. No differences among the rich (top quartile). Canadians experience fewer unmet medical needs. And despite Americans spending more on their health care than Canadians, the two countries generally have similar health status and access to care, except that in the US there is more inequality between rich and poor.

(4) http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/24/4/903

Americans spend $5,267 per person on health care, 53 percent more than in any other country. Contrary to myth, the reason for the increased cost of care cannot be accounted for by the cost of defending malpractice claims, which only accounts for 0.46 percent of the cost of health care in the US. Nor can it be accounted for by queuing in other countries. “Services that typically have queues in other countries account for only three percent of US health spending.”

These are obviously only four articles, but they provide sufficient evidence to call into question your claim regarding the privileged status of Americans in regards to their health care.

So why, you might ask, do people come from all over the world to receive their treatment in the US? I don’t know that they do, which is to say that a quick search revealed no evidence of that conclusion. But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that this claim is correct.

I would argue that it’s not to the US, per se, that the wealthy flee to for their health care needs, but that it is to centers of medical expertise. To the extent that more (who have means) come to the US for their health care needs, they are likely coming (1) to meet exotic health care needs which require very specialized health care knowledge (e.g. cancer treatment, organ transplant) and (2) because more centers of health care expertise exist in the US than anywhere else. (Certainly the US doesn’t have a corner on health care expertise, but, perhaps, on average, there is more in the US than anywhere else.)

So we then might ask, why is there more medical expertise in the US than anywhere else? You may remember that I argued that this has nothing to do with a “free-market” health care system (see * below), but more to do with medical related scientific research funding available in the US. Which is to say that because, over time, there has been more medical related scientific research funding in the US than elsewhere, there have developed more centers of medical expertise in the US. (I actually don’t know if it’s true that there has been, over time, more research funding in the US than elsewhere, but it seems a reasonable suggestion, for a variety of reasons.)

The interesting thing about medical related scientific research funding is that this money comes, by and large, from the government. You and I, the taxpayers, support the institutions that have created our medical expertise, to the extent that we have any. Isn’t that socialism? (And, I should add, it’s a cost that is likely not considered in the per capita figures of health care expense cited earlier.)

An interesting opinion piece, tangentially related:


You’ll remember that this conversation arose when I pointed out that we (Americans) enjoy the benefits of a great many socialized institutions. Public schools, public roads and other public works, police and fire departments, social security, Medicaid/Medicare (despite their many faults), tuition assistance, public transportation (in some cases), public parks, forests, recreation areas, etc. And, of course, public research grants. Because of this, it hardly seems that socialism is something to be afraid of. Or, at least, that when you cry foul to “socialism,” you’re ignoring the complexity of the issue.

That public goods (including health care) in the US are already socialized is undeniable. It seems that the questions of policy are (1) to what extent should we socialize (rather than rely on regulation to control inequalities) and (2) what does or should our socialized systems look like?



* Looking over the fact that a good part of the US health care system is socialized (Medicare and Medicaid) and that very little about the market for health care can be considered free (as a practical matter, Americans’ only real option for health care are the options their employers provide).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


These pics are from a few weeks ago. My car said it was -3 degrees (Fahrenheit) when I parked at Caledonia.

When it's that cold your breath freezes on your mustache hairs.

Man, I look old in that picture. The crows' feet...

I got on the AT and walked past this shelter. I was surprised to find it unoccupied, in spite of the cold. A couple of years ago I spent a night at the Big Flat shelter in about 10 degree weather and we were just one of three parties there that night.

Atop the ridge:

Leftovers from the ice storm a few days earlier:

The snowfall was recent, but the ice on these pines was from days before. Cold enough that week that even in the sun the ice didn't melt.

It was on this walk that my hiking boots disintegrated. I've never seen anything quite like it. After three hours of hiking I happen to look at my boots and notice that the big rubber soles had caverns the length of the shoe wide open on one side each. The rubber sole had been grinding away internally and when I took a boot off to investigate more closely several tablespoons of rubber shavings poured out. There was no sign of damage when I put them on.