Friday, October 30, 2009

Ted Robinson on TED... a talk on the importance of nurturing creativity in education, and the failure of most education systems to do so.

After discussing the prevalent hierarchy of subjects in all public education systems the world over--mathematics and language first, humanities second, and the arts third--he leaves us with this:

"Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we've strip mined the earth, for a particular commodity..."

That which makes us employable and economically productive.


I think he's right.

You can watch the 20-minute video here. If you're in education, or care about it, you'll likely find the time spent worthwhile.


I enjoy Mr. Robinson's critique of our educational systems, though I certainly don't have the answer as to how it should be done, if how we are doing it is wrong. All the same, I know how I feel in the classrooms of children.

I have empathy for the authoritarian when I "supervise" indoor recess with 20 seven year-olds playing wild dogs and cats and I'm scared half to death, scenes from a real-life enactment of Lord of the Flies at my feet. Children, with all their energy and wild creativity, can be terrifying. They're so much easier to control with strict, rigid discipline.

But I also know this: I see kindergartners neatly lined up, waiting to go to lunch--"Arms to your side. No talking. Walk, don't run. Stay in line."--and I'm overwhelmed with a deep desire to set them free. I hate to sound too dramatic, but when I see that, I feel a little ill. Like I'm witnessing a crime. And it tugs at my heart, like the claws of moral responsibility, and I'm left with the sense that my job in education, my holy calling, is to do my best to get these poor, obedient little bastards to unlearn all the fear, powerlessness, servility, and acquiescence to authority that they're being taught there and to learn to love and trust themselves again.

the year's first mudder

After the fact that was Murrysville Cross:

Next up: Fair Hill.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

airline bike box fees

The research is all the work of someone else. Reproduced here without permission, primarily for my own reference:

Air Canada: $50, plus checked baggage fees.

AirTran: $79.

Alaska / Horizon: $50.

Allegiant Air: $50.

American: $100 in addition to the applicable checked baggage fee.

Continental: $100.

Delta Airlines: $175.

Frontier Airlines: This document says $50, while this page says $75.

Hawaiian Airlines: $100, unless you're doing intra-island travel in which case the fee is only $25.

Jet Blue: $75.

Northwest Airlines: $100.

Southwest Airlines: $50.00.

United Airlines: $85.

US Airways: $100.

Virgin American: $50.

Monday, October 26, 2009

iron cross lite & the podiums in our lives

Audrey had a nice Iron Cross Lite. The pictures, I think, adequately tell the story.


I love to see Audrey riding her bike. And I love to see her on the podium.

I love to see me on the podium too, but I feel a little cheesy up there, like I'm play-acting. I mean, it's a part I love to play, don't get me wrong, but look at those kids. Their expressions of joy are so genuine. Magnificent.

Anyway...the parts I've played in the past few weeks:

2009 Iron Cross Lite, Men's 3/4

2009 Murrysville Cross, Men's 3/4

As cheesy as all that is, I'd rather be on the podium than off! And third place feels nice after having finished one spot out of the money in Hagerstown and at Iron Cross VII.

Hats off to the folks who put on Murrysville for their deep payout (eight places in a field of 38). Promoters on this side of the mountains (MABRA series races, PA series races, and the MAC) who also enjoy the benefit of deeper fields could take a lesson.


Murrysville Cross on Saturday was a wonderful muddy mess. My first mud of the '09 cx season. And a tough race. I had notions of doubling up--the 3/4 at noon and the 1/2/3 at 2 pm--but I was toast after that first race. Rather surprised at how beat I felt, frankly. The seems to drain a little from your body's every muscle. My abs ached. Plus, no hose = dirty, dirty bike.

I suppose you'd have to ask the spectators, but I think we gave them a race worth watching.

I had a prime starting position (thanks to presently holding the series lead), pretty much blew it right off, and had a delightful time slowly picking off riders over the next several laps. I was passed a few times too. Some by guys who started off with a pace they couldn't maintain, and some when I got caught up in some tape and had to stop briefly to untangle. And that's what I think made the race exciting. A bit of back and forth. The race wasn't really decided until the end. By midway through the last lap I was only 20 feet down on the dude in second place. Unfortunately, he caught sight of me, found my breathing down his backside all too motivating, and rode the last half lap with a fire under his saddle. He earned his spot.


In other news, yesterday, a new (almost) half world champion was crowned. Wish I could have been there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

mean, mean gunner

Gunner Shogren, bully:

(Iron Cross Lite, 2009)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jessica's Web

I was just quickly reading through the introduction of a book, to figure out what the book is about, and came upon a peculiar statement:

Jessica's Web [the name of the book] was written for people who endorse the following four statements:

* In my career, I intend to make a positive difference for others.
* I know that I don't know all that my career demands.
* I plan to work both smart and hard in my career.
* I want to advance to positions of greater influence and opportunities to better please a higher power.

I read through the first three points, absorbing them without difficulty (not many would have difficulty endorsing the first three points), then read the fourth. And I stopped. Stunned.

I read it again. And again. At first I thought it the author's intention was to say that his book is for people who want to please their boss. But after a second reading, I'm pretty sure the author is referring to a higher power, as in a Higher Power.

Unfortunately, there is no further explanation, no further clues as to the author's intention, an omission that I find both troubling and baffling. But I don't like it. Not at all. It reads conspiratorially, a wink to people in the know, people who will know they're in the know when they read that. It hints at a very particular worldview that the author shares with a certain group of people, people for whom this book is apparently written. It also indicates that this book is not for me, that it is intentionally exclusionary. Sure, I can read it, there's no harm there, but without the background ideology embedded in the author's worldview I won't really understand the book. Because it's written in code, a moral code, and I don't have the Rosetta Stone.

I'm not sure I want to. The conspiracy feels vaguely nefarious. But I do want to know to whom the author is speaking. I want to keep an eye on these folks. Exercise caution around them. They make me suspicious.

Friday, October 9, 2009

kids kross

My new thing. Mondays, when the weather is nice, around 4:00 pm behind James Burd Elementary.

Most of the ponytail posse was out this last Monday. And Jack. It was pretty sweet.

Kids love bikes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

get looow

I like this picture of Cadel's new ride (thanks Graham):

I like it because of the stem. Specifically, the stem angle. I like it because the stem is angled downward, which means that Mr. Evans likes to get low. Really low. The way it seems a bike racer should be riding his (or her) bike.

That's how I set up my bikes, anyway. Though I admit that this is due in part to what seems to be a manufactures' trend toward increasing the length of head tubes. My 58 cm Tarmac SL2, for instance, has what I would consider to be a ridiculously tall head tube (205 mm; compare that to the 170 mm head tube on a 56 cm frame). This requires an awkward compromise in my riding position--having to stretch out more horizontally, with a longer stem, to get my shoulders as low as they would be on my other bike, a Giant TCR, which has a shorter stem and a less aggressive stem angle. (I'd actually really like to try a size 56 Tarmac. My thinking is the front end would fit much better, but I'd be showing so much seat post that it might look a bit ridiculous.)

I say "awkward compromise," because I think I do prefer the TCR's geometry. It feels more...natural. Though my position on the Tarmac isn't exactly awkward. It feels good enough. Even after four or five hours in the saddle. (The relationship between bottom bracket and saddle position is the same on both bikes--I measure this stuff rather obsessively. The difference in position really comes down to where my hands are, which effects elbow and shoulder angle, but (hopefully) not my back.)

Anyway, I like to see Cadel dealing with a similar problem, even if on his bike if the head tube was much smaller it would nearly disappear.


In other (completely unrelated) news, I think this is interesting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

bca (hagerstown) cross

BCA Cross in Hagerstown will always hold a special place in my heart (but not because of my breast cancer, which I don't have). Because. Saturday, I commemorated the occassion by doubling up--the masters 3/4 at 10:00 am and the the masters 1/2/3 at 12:15. My first time in a masters cyclocross event.

The first race went well enough, I suppose.

Early in the first lap my chain bounced off during an exceptionally bumpy section. What follows is an approximation of my thoughts during those few seconds:

(1) Crap.

(1, cont.) I go to the single-ring crank to decrease complexity and now here I am--without a means (front deraileur) for getting my chain back on the ring.

(2) Maybe I should just drop out and save it all for the 1/2/3 event.

(3) That's lame. If someone else threw that on me as rationale for dropping out I'd think it was exceptionally lame.

(4) I don't have to tell them that's why I dropped out. I could mumble something about a puncture...

(5) Still lame.

(6) How am I going to stop here where it's all congested without getting ran over or cursed?

(7) Actually, this is a pretty good place to stop. There's no tape on the outside of this turn.

(8) Why is there no tape on the outside of this turn? Actually, there were sections of no tape earlier too. Did the promoters just run out of tape?

(9) How expensive can tape be?

(10) Where do you buy this tape, anyway? I can think of a few uses for it.

(11) But I wonder if you can reuse it. I wouldn't want to set up a practice course with tape if I couldn't easily reuse it.

** I turn to the guy next to me and mutter something about needing off the course.

(12) Wow, that guy was nice. He actually slowed down so I could get over.

(13) Would I do that if in his place? I probably don't want to answer that.

(14) Was it rude of me not to acknowledge his courtesy?

(15) Too late.

(16) Hmm... Would have a rider have been as courteous in the senior men's 3/4 field?

(17) Less likely.

** Now off my bike, I notice that the chain is only mostly dropped--it's still on the ring at the top, cradled gently between the outside and inside chainguards.

(18) Well, that sucks.

(19) It turns out I'm an idiot (now), because I was smart (then). Redemption for my design (I should have just soft-pedaled a bit and the chain would have come right back on), but boo for panicking and thinking I needed to stop.

(20) So why did I panic?

** On the bike again...

(21) Is it because I'm just a bad bike racer? Was I looking for an excuse to lose?

(22) You ask yourself that a lot, goat--whether you reacted a certain way because you're looking for an excuse not to win--is there something to that or do these things just really happen?

(23) I really ought to look into that. I've read so little sports psychology.

(24) But when. I'm so behind on everything already.

(25) And I'm always so tired. Whenever I have a free minute I just want to sleep.

(26) That better not be from a recurrence of Lyme disease.

(27) Nah, I likely would have had a fever or something.

(28) Well, that's what I tell myself, anyway. Better not to worry about it. There's enough to worry about.

(29) Time. Not only have I lost--how long was I stopped? fifteen seconds? it felt more like 30. probably just ten. maybe less. felt like more, though--now I'll have to waste time and energy getting around all these people that just passed me.

(30) But I love passing people, so there's that.

(31) These poor shleps. They should have just waited for me to get going again. Couldn't they tell when they passed me that I'm faster than them?

(32) Starting at the back of the pack might be more satisfying than starting at the front, because of all the passing.

(33) Hmm... Interesting question, would I rather start at the front and do little passing or start towards the back and do a lot?

(34) That's a dumb question. I just want to win.

(35) Or do I (see thought #22).

And that's bike racing.


I finished sixth (50+ starters). About a minute down on the winner, and just four seconds off the five-place podium (and four seconds out of the money). So close, but so far.

(My only photo from the
event. Oddly, I can't find
anything through the pipes.
There's usually so much.)

In the second race I was gassed. I was tired from the start, coming around the first corner dead last. Things improved after I got warmed up, for a while, but the last two laps I slowed down considerably. By the end, toast. The one steep hill...every time it struck me as increasingly improbable that I'd be able to get my sorry fat sack of bones over again. I finished 20th out of some 34 or 35 starters.


Audrey was my buddy for the day. She hung out during both races, spending time (1) riding her bike all over, (2) playing on the playground equipment, and (3) sitting on a park bench reading. The park bench time was during my second race, and the park bench was just off the I got to see her cute little blond self sitting there each time around. I enjoyed that. A lot.

Love that little girl.

After my two events, Audrey lined up in the junior men's/women's 10-16 event. If you'd like to know, you'll have to ask her how it went.