Today, in honor of my 175th post, I've designed a new header for my blog. I'm pretty excited about it. The background photo was taken at stage four of the 2006 Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic, a four day stage race in Fitchburg, MA. It was my first stage race, and I finished pretty close to the bottom of the heap, but I had a blast.
Well, I had a blast in retrospect. I was not having a blast when this photo was taken, as I was struggling to keep up in one of the most competitive crits I've ever raced. My legs, weary after three days of racing over hill and dale in central Mass., were not having it. So I put my head down, pushed as hard as I could on the pedals, and pulled as hard as I could on bars. I somehow managed not to get dropped on that day. If only I'd had similar luck the previous day, on stage three's slog to the top of Mt. Wachusett, during which I did get dropped. No matter. Stage racing is fun.
Anyhow, back to the header. It took a little time to put it together, using some Photoshop and InDesign wizardry, but I think it was worth it in the end. The new header, combined with my blog's new motto, does a much better job of encompassing the spirit and energy that I'm trying to capture here. It's about my life, and my life revolves largely around bikes, and riding bikes. So, "Writing Life. Racing Bikes." it is, and I hope you'll join me as I continue to do both.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Today, in honor of my 175th post, I've designed a new header for my blog. I'm pretty excited about it. The background photo was taken at stage four of the 2006 Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic, a four day stage race in Fitchburg, MA. It was my first stage race, and I finished pretty close to the bottom of the heap, but I had a blast.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Upstate racing continued on Saturday with the second of three Johnny Cake Lane races. A full field of racers turned out despite temperatures in the mid- to upper-30s, a powerful, gusty wind, and five inches of snow that fell north of Albany on Friday. Luckily (or perhaps not), it hadn't snowed at all in Coxsackie, nor even rained.
The wind was coming from the north, so we had a strong headwind for a whole leg of the course, and going into the finish. While warming up, my practice sprints to the finish felt like riding through wet cement.
The "A" field had a slightly different feel to it this week, as the Kenda/Raleigh team stayed at home (or was racing somewhere else), but there was still a large contingent pro and semi pro teams, including Target Training, CCNS, Calyon Litespeed, and a few others. Keltic, an amateur team, brought about 10 riders, and was the largest team in the race, so this week it was an army of men in green and white at the front, instead of last week's yellow and black.
There's a kind of tunnel vision that happens when it's as cold as it was yesterday. At a certain point during the race I stopped being able to see anything but the wheel in front of me. The cold opened my nose like a faucet, and snot ran down my face throughout the race. I know I blew snot rockets on a few people out there. If I hit you, I'm sorry! With the wind and the cold, yesterday's race was, without a doubt, some of the hardest conditions I've ever faced. Give me 45 degrees and raining any day, just turn off the wind!
Like last week, the race went off like a bullet from a gun, and there was immediately a flurry of attacks. On the first lap two riders got away, and put a gap between them and field. They stuck it out, and one of them, a Target Training rider, won.
Behind, the race for third was under way. There were a huge number of attacks, counter attacks and accelerations. I rode in a few breaks, but none made it to the front. Like last week, the peloton was in single file for much of the race, and small groups got spat out the back with each new acceleration. At one point, there was a split and about 5 riders went off the front.
I was just out of position, but wanted to be in the group, so I attempted to bridge on my own into the headwind. Surprisingly, I actually made a lot of progress, but I couldn't quite get into the break. As close as I got, they were just out of reach. So I drifted back. About a lap later, there was another big acceleration from the Keltic team, which hadn't managed to get a rider into the break, and the field split in half. I was again caught out, but this time managed to bridge the gap, again into the stiff headwind. The effort was one of the hardest I can ever recall making on a bike, and probably shortened my life by a few years, but god damn was it satisfying to be able to get into that move.
Once in the smaller break, myself and about seven others caught the chase group. Unfortunately, once we were about 100 feet behind, some Keltic riders got antsy and started accelerating, breaking our rhythm, and popping me and two others. We finished the last lap in a group of about three. I'm pretty sure I got into the top 20. Considering the cold, and that I only lasted 3 laps last week, I'm very happy with the way I rode yesterday.
Travis wasn't able to make the trip down with me this week, so I don't know too much about what happened in the B race, but I heard it was a lot slower than last week (again, Travis wasn't there to push the pace..), and so officials actually decided to cut a lap. Someone won, I'll find out who it was soon.
Sorry, I forgot the camera this week, so no pictures. I hope everyone had a good weekend!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Well, what to say? It's Thursday, again. The day after Wednesday. The start of my weekend, finally. I'm keeping this post brief because I worked nearly 12 hours today and I'm rather tired. Please forgive me.
Tops from the week:
1) Becky got into grad school! Yay!
Blue Sky Bikes... you're looking at their newest salesman. Stop by for a visit... I'll sell you something!
3) Capital region cycling, the Saratogian's newest sports column... by yours truly, who else? Look for a column at www.saratogian.com every Tuesday.
4) V for Vendetta. Good film. Go check it out.
5) Spending the day with U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Squeezing into the police station with 25 reporters, cameramen and politicians.
2) The Replacements. Not a great film.
3) This early spring weather. Snow? Tomorrow? I'm ready to break out my shorts. Just give me the weather already!!
4) I dropped my commuting helmet down the stairs on Tuesday. Oops. That can't be good for the poor helmet.
5) Rising, rising gas prices. Maybe I'll make it to three bikes races this summer...
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In lieu of writing anything tonight, I offer you this amusing anecdote that comes to me by way of Becky's mom:
John Cleese: The USA is being repossessed by Great Britain
A Message from John Cleese: To the citizens of the United States of America:
In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas , which she does not fancy). Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. (A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed).
To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.
1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.
2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up 'vocabulary.')
3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell- checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.
4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun..
6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
7. All American cars are hereby banned. This is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.
8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) at roughly $US10 per US gallon. Get used to it.
10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. Australian beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth, and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of British Commonwealth - see what it did for them.
12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie McDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nannies). Don't try Rugby - the Australians, South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.
14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America . Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad..
16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.
God save the Queen, Only He can.
Back to Andrew:
In other news, I was 46th in last Saturday's Johnny Cake Lane race. There were only 51 finishers, out of 75 starters. In better news, the group I came to the line with was only about 10 minutes behind the leaders, which means we did a reasonable job trying to save time against a much larger and stronger group.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Watch the video... it will tell you interesting things about how your mind works.
I just got back from a very nice group ride with the regular Tuesday night crew. Regular Tuesday night rides start later in the spring, but a few of us got the ride going tonight. It was a very pleasant 38 mile jaunt through Greenfield, North Umberland, Gansevoort, and the Town of Saratoga. Throughout the ride, we didn't encounter one unpleasant motorist leaning on his horn or yelling obscenities out of their window. Perhaps this video is starting to make an impact.
I'd also like to announce that starting today, I unveiled my new weekly cycling column in The Saratogian. The column, which I'm about to announce to the greater cycling community (or, the to cycling industry people that I know up here), will focus on upstate events and racers based upstate. You can check out the first column here.
I'd also like to call the attention of any drivers reading my blog to the treaty proposed today by my fellow blogger, BikeSnobNYC. It seems like a good agreement to me, I think we should all sign forthwith.
In other news, Becky got into grad school! She now has the option of attending the University of Albany School of Information Science. Congratulations Becky!
Monday, March 24, 2008
While getting ready for work on Sunday morning I was perusing the New York Times online when I found the Reading Room blog, which focuses on conversations about great book.
This week, the blog is focusing one of my favorite novels of all time, Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel about Sherman McCoy, a self-described "master of the universe," whose girlfriend accidentally runs over a black kid in the Bronx, launching his life into a tailspin, in which has Wall Street job, the Fifth Avenue apartment, his show marriage, and his sense of the world around him all fall apart.
From everything I read on the blog this weekend, it seems that the book was considered important at the time of its release because of its trenchant observations about a New York City in one of its worst moments. I wasn't really too aware of the state of New York City -- the filth, the racial tensions, the economic disparities -- as a three-year old living in Carroll Gardens. So, although I enjoyed the descriptions of New York of yesteryear (and the description of a yellow gossip columnist), what really resonated with me was the description of the greed and corruption on Wall Street.
As I read it, all the bad the befell Sherman McCoy stemmed from his access to money, and his quest for ever more power. For me, the book is about the dangers of rampant capitalism, and a very solid argument against a career on Wall Street. Having all the money in the world, a trophy wife, a duplex apartment on Fifth Avenue, he wanted more. He wanted the perfect mistress and the perfect affair too. Well Shuh-man, you can't have it all.
Since I haven't written my usual diatribe, you should have plenty of time to head over to the Reading Room and check out some of what the folks over there are writing about Bonfire.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
This bike definitely performs as advertised
Although, it still needs a few tweaks to my position on it
Racing upstate began yesterday with the first of three Johnny Cake Lane races, held in Coxsackie, NY. About an hour from Saratoga Springs, the race is on pancake-flat speedway, with three small bumps, but no real terrain challenges. I've done this race in each of the past two years, joining BVF teammates Scott, Adam and D. Mark at various times.
This year, I raced in the A field, categories I, II and III, which completed 9 laps around the 6-mile course. I went down with Travis, who raced in the B field, categories IV and V. Becky came down too, originally to cheer and take photos, but she wound up doing some marshaling, and holding lap cards, for which the promoter gave her a T-shirt.
Yesterday was a cold, windy day in upstate New York. My race, 54 miles, started like a bullet from a gun and never slowed down. The wind kept the 75-rider field strung out one- and two-riders abreast, and a host of pro and semi-pro teams kept the pace high enough to force everyone into duck and cover mode, in which you lock onto the wheel in front of you, and try to hold on for dear life.
This would be the last time we'd be bunched up like this
This race was on from the gun
The wind was blowing strong out of the west, which meant that in course of one lap, racers were exposed to the wind in every direction. With the tail wind, the pack would scrunch up, while speeds went to 30 miles per hour and faster, then it was a cross wind from the right, which put everyone into the gutter on the left side of the road, riding in a single file line, while the official in the pace car furiously blew his horn for us to get on to the right side of the road. Then, it was a headwind, that slowed the pace to a crawl, but still made spinning even an easy gear excruciating. Then it was a cross wind from the left, sending us into the right gutter, and fighting for even the slightest shelter. It was a tough race.
The pace was so high that within the first mile, groups of three and four racers were getting spit out the back of the group. In order to avoid the carnage, I put myself near the front, where I made it my business to stay for the first three laps. Then, the combination of pace and cold started to take its toll, so I decided it was time for a snack. At first I tried to reach for an energy gel in my pocket, but quickly found that my hands were too numb to easily get the gel out. Not wanting to cause a crash with my flailing for food, I drifted to the back of the pack. Big mistake.
No sooner had I dug the gel out of my pocket then we hit a cross wind. A furious acceleration from the front put the nail in my coffin, as I was now way out of position, and I soon found myself off of the back. No matter. I soon fell in with a sizable group similar cast-offs, and we did a semi-organized pace line to the finish, rolling across the line sometime behind the winner, who sprinted out of a three-man breakaway for the win. The largest group to come together was 15 riders.
In Travis's 42 mile race, the pace was also very high, but the group stayed largely together. one rider, from the University of Vermont, snuck off of the front, and stayed away for the win, while Travis nearly aced the field sprint, coming up only half a wheel short, and finishing second. Nice racing Trav!
I'll be at Johnny Cake Lane again next, hopefully with a better result to announce!
Thanks for the photos Becky!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This has been quite a week, between getting a new bike, and getting ill for the first time in years. At the very least, this week has seen more than its share of ups and downs. When could be a better time for a new top and bottom five list?
Tops from the week:
1) Scott Addict. Enough said.
2) Pizza. A cure for what ails you.
3) Finally clipping my toenails. Quite a nice feeling.
4) Grant's Tomb. Always a great race, and a great chance to hang out with friends.
5) Johnny Cake Lane. Race three for the season.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Being sick.
2) Being sick.
3) Missing work because I was sick.
4) Not having paid sick days yet.
5) The cold and rainy spring weather.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I first heard about The Facebook after my freshmen year of college, when it was all the rage at a few, top colleges. My friend Brett, who went to Harvard, was an early adopter. So to was Eryn, who went to Cornell.
My school didn't get on to The Facebook until sometimes in my sophomore year. Imagine that, a time when The Facebook wasn't open to the whole world? As soon as I was able to join, I did. Of course, that came with some tough choices: Should I post serious picture or a funny one? Should I make my profile an accurate representation of myself? A lyrically philosophical look into my soul? A farce in which I speak out against The Facebook?
I tried to strike a chord between all three, and posted a picture of myself riding my bike. Obviously. It was great. Suddenly, I was connected with long-lost friends from high school, middle school, even preschool. Then I began to meet new people, through the "social utility." During my college career facebook (which eventually became simply "Facebook," and not "The Facebook."), it was a great way to stay connected with all sorts of people, to share photos from my life, and to wish distant friends a happy birthday.
Then things started to get weird. First random people that I'd never met wanted to be my friend for no apparent reason. these requests I would either accept of deny based on my mood. Then my family and adult friends started joining facebook. First it was a few cousins my age. Ok, predictable. Then it was cousins, and eventually my parents. Now that was suddenly pause for concern.
Not that there was anything incriminating of me on facebook, but did I really want my personal life so tied in to my family life? No, I sure didn't. But it felt too rude to reject my parent's offers of friendship. Soon there were too more friends in my "friend's" list.
Recently, something even more bizarre (if that's possible) happened. My adult friends, people I knew through work or through cycling, people who had kids, but weren't my family, started "friending" me. On the outside, it was seemingly predictable. They are my friends, most of them are not really old enough to be my parents. So why shouldn't we use the utility to connect. After all, we already communicate via email and phone, why not facebook?
And yet, for some reason, it seems very odd to me to have worlds once separated (my life in college, my life outside of college), connecting in this way. But maybe I'm just being old fashioned. In this brave new world of interconnectivity, why shouldn't all of my friends and family be connected to me in the exactly the same way?
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I'm sick. I stayed home from work today. I'm hoping that sleep will cure this ailment. In other news, Arthur C. Clarke is dead. He was one of the most important authors of my youth. Anyone not familiar with Clarke's work should go out right now and purchase a copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey. His predictions may not have exactly come true, but he was damn close!
Monday, March 17, 2008
I'm just going to get this out of the way now: I didn't have a spectacular result in my second race of the season. I finished an anonymous 66th out of 117 starters. There were 40 DNFs.
Grant's Tomb is a race held each spring by the Columbia University cycling team around the mausoleum of the union's most legendary general. The race is a six-corner affair, with the start/finish on Riverside Drive South. Heading south, racers turn left onto 120th Street, then left again onto Claremont Avenue, then left again onto a short hill on 121st Street. Then right onto Riverside Drive North. The course then sweeps down into a chicane, that takes you back onto Riverside Drive South for an uphill drag race to the finish line. The whole thing is very fast, and with so many turns in less than a mile course, the race always breaks up quickly.
That Metro rider wouldn't pull through
Click the photo for a video of the race
I made the one mistake that I knew going into the race I must not make: lining up at the back of the field. It was my fault, because I was warming up far away from the start line, and wasn't paying enough attention to get good positioning for the race to the start line, which precedes most bike races of this size.
Click the image to watch
Speeds were high, even cresting this short hill
But win or loose, I was supported at the race by some of my best fans: Mom and Dad. Eric was there too. He seemed to take delight in heckling me on every lap, yelling out things like "you suck," and so on. At one point, I was riding with my friend Mike Berk, who had similar bad luck, and Mike yelled back: "I know," after Eric had berated us.
He took some photos... hopefully I'll have them to show you soon!
Even though I was riding faster than I've been able to in a long time, it wasn't enough, and the field lapped me. This being a criterium, riders on different laps are allowed to work together, so I cruised in to the finish, just behind the leaders.
Although it was not a stellar result, I felt very strong during the race, and feel very good about my fitness going into the next few weeks, which will see me racing at the Johnny Cake Lane series in Coxsackie, NY, and the Tour of the Battenkill, where I'm hoping for a strong result.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
My brand-new Scott Addict in the bathroom/bike room
Douglas looks on from the background
After months of anticipation, my new race rig has arrived! I picked my Scott Addict R4 from NYC Velo on Friday morning. The bike, which I have not yet named, comes to me through a sponsorship deal between my team, Brooklyn Velo Force/GQ Racing, and Scott, which allowed me to purchase the bike at a significant discount.
The carbon frame and internal headset perfectly integrates the fork
The massive head-tube structure keeps the front end very stiff for quick handling
The frame and fork are both carbon fiber, including the dropouts and front derailure hanger. The bike came equipped with the Shimano Ultegra SL group, which is lighter than regular Ultegra, and is supposed to shift nearly as well as Dura Ace components. It does shift better than my Ultegra equipment. The cockpit is all aluminum Ritchey WCS, except the seat post which is carbon. A stylish, black and red Fizik Arione provides the perfect perch.
Racing fans will know that this is nearly the same bike raced by the Pro Tour Saunier Duval-Scott team. Therefore, and for many other reasons, this bike represents a huge upgrade for me. From riding the equivalent of a store-brand ride (albeit, a very nice store brand), I now have a bike that competes in the Tour de France. What's more, this is my first carbon bike, which is a night and day difference from aluminum, but which I've never before experienced. I'm more than a little excited.
The bike came with Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels and Hutchinson rubber, but I've switched those out for my Mavic Ksyrium SL3 wheels, which are lighter and stiffer, and Continental rubber. All told, without water bottles or a flat kit, the bike weighs just about 15 pounds -- four or five pounds lighter than my Douglas.
So far, I've only been able to ride the bike once, home from the shop, and then for about an hour and a half in Prospect Park on Friday afternoon. I raced Douglas on Saturday, feeling that I hadn't yet perfected the Scott's fit, and wanting to give the cables a chance to stretch out for maximum performance before racing the Addict, but my first impression was that the bike is remarkable.
You might think that 4 pounds is not a significant difference, but it is is. The light weight makes the bike leap under at each pedal stroke. Acceleration is fast and snappy. Dante said I should be careful that the bike doesn't flutter away in a breeze. The bike's stiffness is also noticeable. There's none of the bottom bracket slop you experience when pedaling a metal bike. Each pedal revolution goes straight into the wheel. The bike gives the impression of having a motor somewhere in the down tube, it just wants to go fast.
Knowing that I wouldn't race it on Saturday, I raced a few people in the park on Friday. I'm not sure if anyone knew they were racing, but I won. I was hoping to ride the bike today, but it was raining, so I took my new rain bike -- the Douglas -- out instead. I'm hoping to put the Addict through its paces again tomorrow, when the forecast is sunny and warm.
The only thing I'm not excited about is the color. I'm going to spend a lot of time cleaning this bike.
I'll be back tomorrow with a report of the Grant's Tomb criterium.
Friday, March 14, 2008
I've recently been experiencing the worst thing that could possibly befall a blogger/writer: computer trouble. You see, my computer, a 15-inch MacBook, with the Intel core duo processor and a gigabyte of ram, has found a new trick that it likes to play on me. When I'm running the computer of it's battery, which I do whenever it has juice, the computer will tell me exactly how much batter life I have left. Two hours. An hour and fifteen minutes. Fifty minutes. Then, with some where between 40 and 20 minutes allegedly left on the battery, the computer will completely shut down without any warning. The screen just winks off.
To correct this problem I called Apple, whose answer to me was "fully charge the battery, then let it run all the way down." They advised me to let the computer sit after the battery had died, not plugged into the power supply," for at least five hours. They seem to think that this cleansing fast of sorts will restore the battery to it's old -- predictable -- ways. One can only hope. In any event, I was in the middle of the five-hour shutdown last night, which is why I didn't post my usual top and bottom five. Also, because I was driving down to Brooklyn, where I am now. But you can stop holding your breath now, here it is:
Tops from the week:
1) T-minus two hours to my new bike!! Look for pictures soon.
2) Grants Tomb.
3) Hanging out with Eryn and Eric last night. So great to catch up!
4) The early spring weather we're having, and the amount I've been able to ride! Maybe the snow will melt soon.
5) Waxing... questionably behavior. Read all about it... don't forget to leave a comment!
Bottoms from the week:
1) The stomach thing that has felled Becky... I'm thinking of you, and I miss you!
2) Soon-to-be-former Gov. Spitzer. So much promise. So much disappointment.
3) My computer's behavior as of late. I might have to send it off for some obedience training.
4) The amount of money I had to spend on my car this week. At least now it's running well.
5) This early spring weather... when will it be warm?!!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
By the way, I was going to put some photos in this blog post, but I couldn't find any that hadn't been completely overplayed. sorry.
So Spitzer resigned after keep the entire state government hanging for 48 hours. I took in the Governor's resignations speech while spinning in my living room this morning. Let me tell you, there are few things less inspiring to watch while spinning than live coverage of a governor's resignation. But I felt obligated to keep current. I tuned in around 10, in time to watch 45 minutes of anticipation of Joe Bruno's gloating speech about the importance of getting back to the state business.
Then I watched 30 thrilling minutes of live coverages of David Paterson's front door. Then we switched over to Spitz-watch on Fifth Avenue. All the while the anchors on News Capital 9 kept reiterating the whole story, going back ten years and $90,000. Meanwhile they would take commercial breaks, during which time they claimed to gather more information for us viewers. I personally suspect that they weren't actually gathering any information, but were instead just waiting for their assignment desk to feed them The New York Times' latest scoop.
Eventually the pattern broke and we jumped to a shot of several black SUVs pulling up outside of Spitzer's building. Then some shots of the first-family's unfortunate neighbors leaving the building. Then ...gasp... Spitzer and his wife emerged with their entourage. We saw a quick flash of his bald head, and then the black doors slammed shut.
Then the TV cameras went into OJ Simpson mode, giving us helicopter shots of the four-vehicle caravan, which took about a half hour to drive three blocks. Of course, this was no surprise to anyone who has ever tried to drive through Manhattan at noon. I was reminded of similar shots in November 2004, when John Kerry drove, in a four-Suburban caravan, from his campaign headquarters to a press conference where he conceded the presidential election and simultaneously dashed the hopes of liberals everywhere.
So that was how I passed my morning. Then I got to work this afternoon where we quickly huddled to decide how we would cover the biggest story in state news this century.
The funny thing about Spitzer, besides his hypocrisy, is that while he was a very liberal guy, seemingly liked by most Democrats in Saratoga, he also wanted to take revenue brought into the state coffers by the Racino, a facility that costs the city money to host. Some of the proceeds come back to Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County. The money the city gets from the so-called VLT revenue represents 10% of our city's budget. Clearly no one here wanted that money to go away. So this really is a bitter-sweat day for Saratoga Springs.
It was also a bitter-sweat day for TV news, which struggled to entertain viewers, while waiting for a 60-second speech that made unprecedented history in this state.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
My car had a big birthday in December
Like a proud parent, I pulled over on I-87 to photograph the milestone.
I've said it before, but my Nissan Maxima is the best car in the world. I'm saying this now to reaffirm my solidarity in the face of a crisis that shook the foundations of our relationship, nearly causing an irreparable collapse.
A few weeks ago my car's thermostat stopped working. No matter if I drive for five minutes or four hours, the thermostat would not rise off of the pin on which it rests when the car is off. When I raised the car's hood and stuck my hand near the engine it was hot. The only problem seemed to be with the sensor that tells the temperature gauge how hot the engine is. Unfortunately, that part also controls the temperature in the passenger cabin. A couple weeks ago I had a very cold drive down to Brooklyn, when the thermostat, thinking the engine was cold, wouldn't send any hot air into the cabin. My hands had frozen to the steering wheel before I made it to Albany.
Shortly after returning from Brooklyn, I started hearing rumbling vibrating noises from the undercarriage. Uhg.
I took the car in to my local service station and listed my grievances to the grease monkey, whose pupils slowly morphed from small dark circles to $$. He scratched his forehead, smearing a little grease above his eye brow, before saying that he'd take a look, and could I leave the car overnight? Sure, please just make my car better.
The mechanic called me back an hour later and announced that the car needed a new thermostat (which I knew), new serpentine and timing belts, a coolant flush, some metal to replace the strands of rust currently holding my exhaust to the bottom of the car (the noise from the undercarriage), and an oil change. He's happily take care of it all for about $375.
Anyhow, I need my car to work, and to keep the old dog running, it didn't seem like an outrageous price. So I told him to go ahead. I picked the car up the next day, and I have to say, not only did the thermostat work, and the car no longer make sickly vibrations, but it seemed to run better than ever. I have every expectation, that if I keep on top of the maintenance, the car will run for another 100,000 miles.
Here's to you car.
In other news, a cycling-related blog that I read occasionally, Fat Cyclist, by Elgin "Fat Cyclist" Nelson, recently won the "Best Sports Blog" award at the 2008 Bloggies. The awards are based on a two-fold process of public input. First, blog readers nominate their favorite blogs. I nominated Fatty because it seemed like he had a chance of winning an award. I also nominated my favorite blogger, Bike Snob NYC, for a separate category, but he didn't make it onto the ballot. The second part of the process involves an open vote for the blogs with the most nominations.
The awards were announced Monday. Fatty was pretty excited, and I'm excited for him. The blog is about both his life as a cyclist and his life as a man with a wife who is struggling with cancer. I often find his blog a bit too self-indulgent for my liking, but I think it's tremendous that a cycling blog won an international award over general sports blogs and blogs on more popular sports such as soccer and basketball. Score one for the bike dorks -- Perhaps he's entitled to his self-indulgence. I can only aspire to one day achieve as much notoriety as Fatty and his blog.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Glad that's done with
In other news, it turns out that Mr. Clean is actually a John good for $5,500 an hour. There really isn't much to say about it, except: that if, after Bill Clinton's 1998 sex scandal, a Blow Job became known as "a Lewinsky," what is "a Spitzer?" Discuss.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
It might have been two weeks ago, but I just got a fresh batch of hiking photos from Dante. Enjoy!
We're heading toward Avalanche Pass
It's much easier to travel when the water is frozen over
My pastrami and swiss sandwich was frozen,
Made for an interesting eating experience
Looking out at the lower range
Giant Mountain in the background.
Algonquin in the clouds
Wright to its right
Narva demonstrates the "Tim Tam Slam."
Apparently this is all the rage in New Zealand.
I guess there isn't much to do down there.
and try to get the whole thing into your mouth
before it all falls apart.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
This was a rainy week here in Saratoga Springs. For some reason, I'm much more tired today than I usually am on Thursday. But no matter. Here are the weeks highs and lows.
Tops from the week:
1) The results are in! 13th in my season opener in Branch Brook Park! And going to watch Travis in the collegiate season opener.
2) My federal income tax return: IRS to Andrew: "Please, eat something!" Cha-ching...
3) Three rides outside since my last blog post! I think spring is really almost here...
4) Daylight Saving Time beings Sunday! More time to ride!!
5) !!Exclamation points!! I seem to be using them all over the place today!
Bottoms from the week:
1) Rain, rain, rain.
2) My long-delayed new bicycle... at least I can afford it now.
3) Daylight saving time... That's going to be a sleepy morning.
4) Bagels here in Saratoga Springs... more money, less bagel.
* No number five this week. When you get right down to it, I really do have a pretty good life!
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
He's got a lot of technology at his disposal
If only real law-enforcement had similar equipment
It was August 2007. The occasion was that my Mom and my Uncle had finalized the sale of my grandmother's condominium. Bea had died more than a year before, and it had taken all of that time to find a buyer for the two-bedroom unit on a golf course in Florida. The final price was much lower than initially expected. Instead of a new kitchen, My Mom and Uncle and Dad and I were out for dinner, courtesy of grandma. The bill wound up being about 15 percent of my Mom's inheritance. You're probably wondering how much one meal for four could possibly have cost. The answer is that it was not a particularly expensive meal. Such are the realities of the current housing market. But I digress.
At some point between appetizers and sharing memories of Grandma Bea, my Dad mentioned the Bourne Ultimatum, which he and my Mom had seen the week before. "The technology they have is amazing!" exclaimed my Mom.
My uncle, a PhD in political science and scholar of nuclear disarmament, is the co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center. Founded in 1989, the Henry L. Stimson Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security through a unique combination of rigorous analysis and outreach (I copied that last sentence from the center's website). After my Mom's comments about the intelligence technology in the Bourne movie, Uncle Barry immediately chimed in, pointing out that movie technology is in no way reflective of reality.
"People see that and think that it's actually what our intelligence is like," he said, "What people need to think about is the DMV and how well that's run. Intelligence is much more like that."
Since that August day I've been relating this story to everyone I know, pointing out that the numerous failing of our intelligence agencies really should not be surprising, when you consider how well run your average DMV is. I got another reminder to this end today.
Myself and a few colleagues had the pleasure of having lunch with the Honorable James A. Murphy III, Saratoga County District Attorney. Murphy came to our office to give us the run down on some things he's working on, and on the prosecutorial process in our county. Since he was kind enough to stop by for a visit, we figured the least we could do was buy him (and ourselves) a sandwich. At one point during our conversation, Murphy started talking about what he calls the "CSI Factor," referencing the popular TV drama on CBS.
"Juries think that there are fingerprints and DNA in every case," said Murphy, "I've been doing this for 20 years, and I've had maybe three fingerprint cases."
He pointed out that TV shows also grossly mis-represent the DNA process. Murphy explained that getting DNA samples process is a months-long process, not the 30 second affair shown on TV. "On CSI they have a computer, that they stick the DNA into, and they get a match immediately, and then somehow use GPS to find the suspect and immediately go and arrest him," said Murphy. "If you see a computer like that, please buy it for me. I'll reimburse you. I need a computer like that."
Sorry Murphy, I don't think it's out there.
Monday, March 03, 2008
If you thought I was done writing about the start of the racing season, you'd be mistaken. Today was the kind of warm, early spring day where, as I sat at my desk gazing longingly out the window into sunny skies, all I could think about was going for a bike ride. As happens around this time every year, I've been bit by the racing bug. I can't wait to get out there and test myself again! And to think, I have to wait nearly two weeks until my next scheduled event, a crit on March 15 at Grant's Tomb.
To make matters worse, Saratoga is currently bracing for a rain/ice/snow storm that will ensure that I won't ride my bike outside for another three weeks. Spinning in the living room has NEVER been harder. I've been doing it religiously 5 or 6 days a week since December!
Rather than bore you with my continued longing, I thought I'd offer you the following article, which beautifully articulates what this time of year is all about for my fellow racers and I. The piece dates itself by referencing Greg LeMond, as it was written in 1998, more than a year before Lance Armstrong won his first tour, but even if penned ten years ago everything in this article still rings true. Enjoy!
The Dawn Raids Of the Park Racers; Cyclists Are Hitting a Finish Line Before Most of Us Hit the Floor
It was 5 A.M. last Sunday in Central Park, and it was dark, lonely and eerily silent. There were no joggers. No Rollerbladers. No dog walkers. Not a soul.
Suddenly, two bicyclists emerged from this inky canvas, slinking into a dirt parking lot off East Drive near 79th Street. Soon, another bicyclist approached. Then two more. And then some more, until, at 6 A.M., 300 bicyclists had descended upon the area, the gentle whir of their tires mimicking a chorus of cicadas.
It was that time of the year: the first race of the competitive bicycling season.
For years, these races have been held in Central Park through snow, rain and biting cold, quietly drawing more and more would-be Greg LeMonds each year from places farther and farther away. And yet, the race itself is a slice of life that few of the city's 7,380,906 residents have heard of, much less sampled. Even some people at the Parks Department who were asked about the races were not aware of them.
There is an almost naughty sensation to the spectacle. The whole process -- arriving in darkness, waiting for daylight to begin the races, then scurrying to leave the park before the permit from the Parks Department expires at 8 A.M. -- is consummated before most New Yorkers are even out of bed.
There is something fascinating, too, about people who would immerse themselves in a no-pain, no-gain subculture in which sacrifice is a commandment and obsession is an understatement.
''It's like a calling, almost like the lemmings,'' said Ron Kahn, 46, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., a 15-year racing veteran. ''You get sucked in and you go.''
Explaining why, though, is a little harder.
It certainly isn't the money: first place gets the winner up to $76; 10th place, $33. Maybe it is the satisfaction of all-out effort; maybe it is the allure of athletic camaraderie. Or something else.
''When you're on your bike, you're Zen-ed out and in another world,'' explained Kenny Sloan, 47, of Fort Lee, N.J. ''Once you get bitten by the bug, you'll do anything, get up anytime, go anywhere. I tell people, tongue in cheek, that it's an incurable, terminal disease.''
The next race is tomorrow, same time, same place. By the time the last one ends on April 26 in Prospect Park, the competition, called the Spring Series, is expected to have attracted 2,500 participants, making it the largest amateur bicycle race in the Northeast, said Kip Mikler, a spokesman for the United States Cycling Federation in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Spring Series has been around since 1967, founded by a veteran bicyclist, Pete Senia, now in his 70's, who still volunteers at the races. It has swelled over the years from an average of 150 bicyclists each Sunday 10 years ago to more than 300 now, said Anthony Van Dunk, the race's organizer. It has changed in character, too, with older, working-class men now being joined by younger professionals.
Robert Loewengart, 30, a futures trader in Manhattan, took up the sport three years ago. He has since shed 60 pounds, eased up on mayonnaise and butter, and amended his grocery list to include more vegetables, fish and healthful foods.
''It clears your mind and it's a stress reliever,'' said Mr. Loewengart, of Harrison, N.Y., who woke at 4 A.M. to make Sunday's race.
The race is held at dawn because the Parks Department, mindful of safety, doesn't want the road to be cluttered with a pack of speeding two-wheelers. And while the permit for the early-morning race is only $25 per park per year, race organizers usually make an annual thank-you donation to the Parks Department, Mr. Van Dunk said.
Rarely is a race canceled because of the elements. Two years ago there was a close call in Central Park following a snowfall. But Mr. Van Dunk and his brother showed up at 3 A.M. and shoveled a stretch where the snow was heaviest, just in time for the 6:30 A.M. start.
This has not been a snowy winter, so bicyclists have been able to ride 100, 200, even 300 miles a week. Still, they seem twitchy up to the last minute. Just ask the bicycle shops that typically field frantic phone calls from bicyclists on Saturday night.
''People are like, 'I need a wheel. I need some lube. I need a Campagnolo seat-post binder bolt,' '' said Stelios Tapinakis, a co-owner of Rock and Road, a bicycle shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn. ''It's ridiculous because it's kind of like Christmas Eve shopping.''
The Spring Series is not the only race around. On Saturday mornings, the Century Road Club Association, a Manhattan organization, holds races for its members; the first this year is scheduled for March 21 in Central Park. There are regional races as well, including a major race in Somerville, N.J., on Memorial Day weekend.
But there is something special about New York City, bicyclists say. Perhaps it is the illusion of ruling the city's biggest playground for a few hours.
Or perhaps it is the serendipitous pleasure of seeing the cusp between the city's night life and its day life. One bicyclist, Rob Neal, a 30-year-old investment banker who works in midtown Manhattan, says he often rides past people spilling out of bars, woozy, at 4 or 5 A.M. He has also glided past pre-dawn photo shoots of naked people posing on the Brooklyn Bridge.
At 5 A.M. last Sunday, Mr. Van Dunk, fully clothed, and a few other bleary-eyed volunteers diligently set up registration tables and dropped orange cones around the six-mile loop to mark the course.
The bicyclists started to arrive in a rainbow of Lycra.
They came from as far south as Philadelphia and as far north as New Hampshire. There were hugs and greetings; it was a reunion of sorts among the mostly male crowd. Some riders inspected the spokes of their wheels the way tennis players fiddle with the strings on their racquets. Some stretched their legs and paced around the parking lot, their racing shoes tapping the dirt with a clip-clop, clip-clop sound reminiscent of horses.
At about 6:15 A.M., the skies began to lighten to a charcoal gray. The sun was absent, the winds were brisk and the mercury was treading a couple of notches above freezing. About two dozen die-hard fans, mainly friends and family of the bicyclists, milled near the starting line, swaddled in blankets and equipped with thermoses of coffee. Mark and Leah Zamir of Framingham, Mass., woke at 1:30 A.M. to drive down and watch their son, Tal, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, who made the trip up from Philadelphia with the university's bicycling team.
Around the course, race marshals were stationed every quarter-mile to warn the few joggers and walkers who had started to trickle into the park. One marshal, Harris Lonergan, had trained all winter to ride in the race. But a few weeks earlier, on Friday the 13th of February, he had been hit by a car while training, not far from his home on Staten Island.
''As I was hitting the ground, I was like, 'Oh no! The season! The training! It's all going down the drain!' '' said Mr. Lonergan, 27, a self-employed chimney contractor. He suffered a bruised tailbone, from which he is still recovering. But he just had to be there on Sunday, he said, because ''it's more than a hobby; it's a total life style.''
Because it was the first race of the season, the registration lines were long and filled with bicyclists who had not paid the $19 entry fee (which is $6 more than the advance fee). As a result, the race started late, forcing organizers to abbreviate the four scheduled races, which were divided according to skill: the advanced and intermediate groups raced for four or five laps counterclockwise around the East and West Drives, while the so-called beginners had their four-lap race cut in half.
At 6:50 A.M., they were off.
The staggered races, starting a few minutes apart, went smoothly, except for a few bicycle crashes on some of the tighter turns. Bicyclists were flying at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, in excess of the posted speed limit of 25 m.p.h. Faces and uniforms were flecked with the, um, equine effluent that had kicked up each time they approached Central Park South.
But for the most part, many said that the effort was well worth it, and that the season was off to a fine start.
''It seemed like the race was fairly hard-paced, and fairly intense,'' said Kurt Cannon, 28, a graduate student studying cell biology at Yale, and the winner of the intermediate race.
A party scene, though, this was not. People spoke in hushed tones, as if worried about rousting residents from their sleep. No one played any music. And then, almost as suddenly as they arrived, the bicyclists dispersed, some riding a few casual laps around the park, others making a beeline toward home, breakfast and a nap.
By 9 A.M., it seemed as if they had never even been there.
Not far from the parking lot was a pushcart vendor, who gave his name only as Gabrle, opening for business. He did not know that there had been 300 presumably hungry and thirsty bicyclists standing in the same neighborhood only a few hours earlier. But he was not moved.''Six in the morning? Six in the morning?'' he said, furrowing his brow. ''I'm still sleeping!''
Sunday, March 02, 2008
OK, I'll admit that I've never been to a bike race that started with those words, but I think you get the sentiment. It's March, and that means that it's the racing season. Finally!! I opened the season with a cold and wet race at the but-crack of dawn in Branch Brook Park, in Newark, New Jersey, the armpit of the Northeast.
Friday night's rain stopped right before the start, but the course was still really wet and muddy. We had a small field, probably about 30, so the pace was slow. Racing was generally pretty negative, with no one wanting to work, so of course I did everything I could to attack and keep the pace high. In keeping with negative racing, every attack was quickly nullified by the peloton, which would then sit on my wheel. On the last lap one guy got away by slowly building a large gap. It was a little like watching a regular attack in slow-motion. Actually, I kept thinking about the scene in "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," when Austin, driving a steam roller at about 2 MPH, drives over one of Dr. Evil's henchmen, who had about 35 minutes to get out of the way before getting smooshed, but for some reason, just stood there screaming. I was the guy screaming.
In any event, this guy never really jumped, per se, he just a slowly built an increasing gap. For some reason everyone let him go. Since no one reacted AT ALL, I assumed that he wasn't actually part of our field. Joke's on me... he was, and he won. Everyone else came to the line together, and I placed 13th or 14th. Not what I was hoping for, but I'm a terrible sprinter.
After driving home and thawing out in a warm shower (and scrubbing the sand out of my hair), I drove to Piscataway to watch Travis race in the collegiate season opener, organized by Rutgers University. He raced the men's B event, with about 70 other racers. Travis didn't have the best day ever, I but I screamed my head off for him anyway, and took a lot of photos:
There were a lot of people watching,
but everyone was hiding from the camera! How rude.
Hold your line!!
See the idiot with $2000 wheel and his inside pedal down in the apex of the turn?
It was cold... look at the snow on the side of the road.
Travis is in the back, hiding from the wind.