Thursday, June 24, 2010

do the deaf dance?

This has me fascinated. And jealous.

I love that her signing is a kind of dance. Awesome.


In other news, I've been playing a little tennis lately, which has prompted me to buy a racquet. It came today: Wilson BLX Surge.

As it turns out, the racquet led me to YouTube...because, you know, racquet = guitar...and I needed something inspiring to play.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the practical non-relative nature of time

The longest day of the year and the sun set by 8:30. Something I can't quite get used to about living on the East Coast.

Monday, June 21, 2010

four reasons why soccer is dumb (and I like soccer)

Yup, I like soccer. A lot. But it's a sport that, for whatever reason (and I don't know the history), has rules seemingly intended to make it as dumb as possible.

So, four reasons why soccer is dumb, listed in increasing level of importance:

(4) There are no clock stoppages. I mean, really... It's the 21st century. Surely FIFA can manage to put a competent thumb on a stopwatch and, when the ball goes out or play stops for whatever other reason, the clock stops too. How novel. Then both the players and fans will know when the game is over.

(3) Only one referee. Or official. Or whatever he's called. This is crazy dumb. You don't want so many officials running around that they're getting in the way, but surely there's room for more. Compare soccer to basketball. In basketball, there are ten players on a tiny little court and, at the professional level, three officials. They still miss stuff. They still get calls wrong. Ya just need more than one pair of eyes. Letting the side judges call and weigh in on fouls would be a nice start, but really they need another couple dudes out there too. At least.

(2) Only three substitutions per game. At least, I think that's the rule. And it's dumb. Why not unlimited substitutions? Why not let players come out and go back in? It would keep the players fresher, which would speed up play, which would make the match more exciting and likely result in more goals.

(1) The offsides rule. So dumb. I can't even imagine the absurd logic that resulted in this rule. People say the offsides rule prevents cherry-picking. I say, what's wrong with cherry-picking? (If it's a concern, throw a defender back there on the would-be fruit-lover.) People say there's elegance to offensive strategy because of the offsides rule. No doubt. And discarding the rule would call for new strategies, but would they be less elegant? Can you imagine basketball with an offsides rule?

So there you have it, FIFA, MLA, whoever wants them. Make these changes and your sport will be so much better. So much. Fix #4 and there's room for TV breaks. Maybe you don't think that's such a good thing, but if television were able to peddle advertising slots in the traditional (American) way, it's likely there would be more television coverage, which would increase fan interest. Win-win. Fix #3 and the conspiracy element associated with officiating would be much reduced. Perceptions of fairness would increase dramatically. Fix #2 and #1 and you'll have a game with more scoring, which is of course more exciting, but will likely also significantly reduce the chances of a draw, which is the lay person's most voiced complaint about soccer.

However, even for that I have a recommendation. After 90 minutes, if the score is tied, the teams enter a series of 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods where in each consecutive period teams must give up one player, starting with the keeper. Goals will be scored.

You're welcome very much.

Friday, June 11, 2010

elna baker

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir

I can't remember when I first heard of it, but I decided to read the book after it created a small uproar in a Nashville book club among friends.

I just finished.

If you're a Moth or TAL listener you've likely heard Elna's voice and a couple of her stories before. They're funny. I liked her when I heard her. Elna's an actress-turned-comedienne, and I think she's a good performer. At least on radio; I've never seen her perform in person.

Anyway, I'm not going to give a synopsis of the book or anything, just share a few thoughts. Though, I should start by saying that I understood the book to be about Mormon single life in the Big City. Pop sociology dressed up as a memoir. That's not really what the book turned out to be (though that's a book I'd like to read).

At the beginning, I found Elna to be a sympathetic character. I found myself cheering for her. I liked her. She was funny. I laughed a lot. I liked her more with each chapter.

Midway through the book, I started to rethink Elna a bit. She’d make me cringe a little. For one, I can’t believe she’d actually share all that with the whole world... At times, just too much information. I was relieved she wasn't my sister, because wow--embarrassing. And I felt for her family. I kept wondering how much of this she cleared with them and what their reaction was to having it published. (I also wondered if she was really telling the truth.) I especially felt bad for her mom.

I also started to think Elna may not be as smart and clever as I thought she was. She began to reveal herself as being insecure in a way that to say she’s very insecure doesn’t quite cover it. And she turns out to be kind of a snot. Superficial, with not as much texture as I had expected.

(Hmm... Maybe that's too harsh.)

By the end, I was mad at Elna. I didn’t like her very much anymore. She kind of gave me the willies. I would be empathetic about her feelings towards Mormonism if she wasn’t so dumb about it. And the end of the book wasn’t nearly as funny as the beginning.

Now that I've finished, I struggle to put my finger on what the book was actually about. Sometimes Elna seemed to be making making a point about the difficulty of trying to live two lives. I liked that. I think it's a universally important topic. Something a lot of readers, not just Mormon readers, can relate to. But in the end she doesn’t seem to do anything with it, which I found disappointing. Sometimes the book is about change. Personal change. But for the book to really be about that, she would need to address why the change. If left to draw my own conclusions from inference, I'm back to the conclusion of superficiality. I don't really want to be there--it seems so uncharitable--but that's all she's given me.

So...maybe it was intentional, but I felt like the book just ended and I wasn’t left with anything. And its not that I demand a resolution or whatever, but maybe a well formulated question. A...something. Even from a comedian. Because if someone asked me what the book was about I wouldn’t know what to say. It’s not about being Mormon and single in New York. It’s not really a coming-of-age story. It's not about looking for love (not really). It’s not about weight loss. It’s not about sex. It’s not about religion. It’s not even really about identity.

I guess it’s just about Elna. And Elna, it seems, is a me-monster.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 killington stage race

I've been meaning to post a report on Killington, but, well, whatever... I mean to do a lot of things.

The whole thing ended up a bit of a disappointment, and when I think too much about it I get all riled up and it takes me a while to calm I guess maybe I've just been trying not to think about it.

Anyway, Killington... Three days, three stages.

Since everyone that I was counting on going bailed on me, I offered myself up as a teammate to John Landino, the only other person whose name I recognized on the pre-reg list. He thought that idea was pretty cool, which makes him pretty cool, so I found myself "guest riding" for DeathRow Velo for the weekend. In the end, I didn't prove myself very useful as a teammate, but it was cool to have a compatriot in the field anyway.

Stage One. Four laps around an 18 mile circuit. (I wish some of the circuit races around here ran on 18-mile circuits.) A fun course. I didn't like the downhill finish much, but all-in-all a nice course.

I rode a decent race. I was active on the climb every lap but the first, trying to get into breaks and that sort of thing, but nothing came of much and I finished with the lead group of 50-60 riders, luckily dodging a spill within the last kilometer of that crazy downhill finish.

I considered going for some KOM points, but it didn't really work out. Looking back, I wish I'd tried a bit harder.

Stage Two. A brutal 11-mile time trial. All uphill, but not enough uphill to be called a hill-climb or anything. Just a long slog against false-flats and shortish climbs with no downhill recovery sections. And, as it turned out, fighting a fairly stiff wind.

Day two is where the race turned crappy. For me.

Audrey and I headed out early to the race hotel to find my TT start time. I wasn't listed. We went through the sheet three or four times. No 326. No Goatesauce.

Then I saw a little hand-written note on the GC sheet. "#326 disqualified." What?!

There was no one around the race hotel, so back in the car for a 15-mile drive to the start of the TT. I found an official, who pointed me to another official, who told me I'd have to wait for yet another official, who was out on her motorcycle. Finally, I'm told I was disqualified for removing my helmet during the race.

That's true. I did take off my helmet.

It was raining at the beginning of Saturday's race so I threw on a cycling cap under my helmet. But then the sun came out, dried up all the rain, leaving me with an uncomfortable wet cap sliding down over my eyes. I drifted to the back of the field, gave myself a cushion of a few bicycle lengths, then quickly took my helmet off, stuffed cap in pocket, and then replaced my helmet. Apparently that's enough to get you disqualified from a race.

According to the chief referee (to whom I have no kind feelings), what I should have done was gone back to the commissaire's car (I didn't know we were being followed by a commissaire), told them of my issue, and then they would have instructed me to stop aside the road, remove my cap, and then proceed. And I'll just zip right back up to the group like nothing. Yeah, right.

It took about a half hour, but I got back in the race. The kicker? I was relegated to the position of the last-placed finisher, 33 MINUTES DOWN! And I have to pay a $20 fine.

So stupid.

Oh well, so now I'm racing again, I have a start time, and I finish a respectable-but-personally-disappointing 11th, 1:12 off the pace of the winner, but 47 seconds off the pace of second place.

I had said if I didn't finish in the top 10 I'd be disappointed. I was aiming for top five. I needed to go 34 seconds faster for fifth place.

It was one of those races where I was never able to really get in the groove. There was only one section, for about two miles after the sky bridge, where I really felt on. The rest of the course I was just struggling to turn the pedals. It's too bad. I so wanted to do well in that TT.

Stage Three. A monster 61-mile loop with two big climbs and lots of broken tarmac. One sprint line. Three (I think) KOM lines.

Since I had nothing to lose, John suggested that I start the stage attacking from the gun. So I did.

About 1/2 mile in I rode off the front and was soon joined by a few others. Disorganization. Nothing came of it. Along Route 100 I tried to get away a couple more times. No dice. But then around mile 17 or so we caught a two-man break that had been away since the first climb. I launched a perfectly-timed attack and rode right away from the field. The problem was that no one came with me.

Whatever. I just kept at it. It's one of those things that you know is crazy. There's no way I'd be able to stay away. Still so much riding. A lot of climbing. A few folks pretty keen on picking up KOM points. But I went for it anyway. It felt good. And I was able to avoid all the potholes that I'd be blindly smashing into were I tucked in the pack.

I'd get time checks from the moto official. First, 20 seconds. Then 25. Up to 30.

So I kept it up. I held off a chase group of four or five motivated by the sprint line at about mile 23 or so. Max sprint points for me. A small victory. (I wish there'd been a prime to with them.)

When the sprinters caught me they didn't want to work to stay away, so I left them behind and soldiered on by myself. But when I hit the lower slopes of the climb, at mile 25 or 26, the field was bearing down on me heavily. I wasn't a half-mile into the climb before I was swallowed up. Another half-mile and I was off the back.

I figured my day was done, but some 10 miles later or so a group of about 20 came from behind with a well-organized chase. I jumped in, and by mile 47 or so we'd caught the leaders. I let them tow me to the finishing climb, and then just Sunday-strolled it to the finish, crossing the line in 48th place, nearly nine minutes behind the winner.

And that's it.

It's hard to say what could have been... I'd been in 11th place on GC after the TT without the relegation. And had I been in 11th place on GC, I would have sat in through the third stage. I wouldn't have burned my matches on the solo break. I wouldn't have been dropped on the first climb. But it's hard to know how I would have fared at the finish. That was a tough climb, and much steeper in places than what I usually do well on. A top 20 would have been great, but I doubt I'd been able to finish in the money. Just too tough a climb for this fat man.

But I'm still burning a little over that DQ.

A euro-style good luck charm, felted by Mrs. Goatesauce on the drive. (It's a dragonfly.)

the edgar soto

I've been thinking a lot lately--since Killington, I suppose--about the short-lived Edgar Soto. Man, that race was a lot of fun. The inaugural event, in 2006, when I was still living in Nashville racing as a Cat 4 (2006 was my first year really back into racing since, oh, 1992), is I think still my very favorite experience racing a bicycle. A four-day, four-stage stage race. We had a strong, close-knit team. We won the sprint competition. We won the team competition. We felt like "real" bike racers. And I think three of us finished in the money.

Anyhoo, I chanced upon some photos from stage three of the 2007 Edgar Soto and thought I'd post 'em.

Tangentially, the bike I'm riding there, though broken later that year, has just been fixed. E found a guy in Shippensburg that doesn't know you're not supposed to be able to repair by weld heat-treated aluminum bicycle frames. So he patched up the broken chain stay. I haven't ridden it since the repair, but E had one of his bikes repaired too, and its already been ridden long and hard with no problems.

If I could find a (very) cheap but functional 8, 9, or 10 speed gruppo and a pair of hoops, I know just who I'd put on this rig.