Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

In my neighborhood:

I only got photos of about half of this ride before the batteries on my camera gave up the ghost, but you'll get the idea.

Milton, Washinton is town halfway between: with a ZIP code from the 1890's and incorporated 1905, Milton is as old as most anything in the Pacific Northwest. Though it has dipped its toes into the modern world that has built up around it, but hasn't quite given in to strip malls and row houses; at least, not just yet. As of the 2000 census, the population was 5,795, though I rather suspect it's grown since then.

Milton is caught in the middle, and so am I. In one sense I can say I live in a town of six thousand souls, with farms, horses, and white picket fences. In another, I can say I live in Seattle, or at least, near enough: Seattle itself is a quick bike ride or bus trip away. This isn't suburbia, really. I hate suburbia. But, there are so many cities in the Sound area, I can't really keep track of where I am. If I go five miles in one direction, I'm in real-deal farmland, with fertilizer and tractors and some serious produce. Five miles in another, and I'm in just about the worst version of strip mall crap I can imagine.

I don't go that way very often.

Here's the way I went today: Out my door, go left on 5th, which will dogleg into Porter road. Take a left on Kent st, and the road begins to climb.

This is the old Milton Light and Water building. I think it's the oldest substantial construction in town, and so now it's become the police / fire station. The funny part is the neon "Milton" sign -- I think it was more visible in years past, but now it kind of sneaks up on you when you come around the sharp, uphill corner. You're going pretty slowly on a bike...
From Milton Way and Main street, here's the view. Anytown, USA.

If you were training for the Ardennes classics, you'd be right at home here. There aren't any real mountains in my neighborhood, but there are two ridges that make up either side of "the" valley. Carved by a glacial flow, so I'm told, it's about five hundred feet deep, and there's more ways to go up it than I've counted. Some of them are less than mile from bottom to top, so you can get some seriously steep switchbacks.

Monta Vista drive has been here for a long time, and most of the houses are older and modest. The camera flattens it all out, but this section is about 11%:

This is the top switchback. See how much higher than the road the house on the right is? Well, once you round the corner, that house has a level driveway. Ouch.

At the top is an example of the old / modern juxtaposition I'm talking about, although at this point we're technically in Edgewood. There's a water tower, and this blue house here:

Of course, some developers have learned that you can make a lot of money building big houses on the tops of hills. It's one thing, I think, for someone to have their dream house built on a dream plot, but this is kind of the cart leading the horse. There are TWO houses just like this at the top of Monta Vista. They finished them about two weeks ago. I wonder how much they sold for?

They haven't gotten much farther than that, though.

Running along the ridge atop the valley, I quickly forget just how close to very big cities I am.

If you don't know where you are, you can quickly get confused. At the small grocery store I work at, every day or two a completely befuddled commuter comes in and asks something like "Where IS this?" If it's dark and raining, I'm really tempted to make a horror movie joke...

Just take the next left...

I wonder if they have rooms for rent here?

This guy is a beekeeper. In the spring, I really try to avoid going this way, since I ALWAYS seem to end up getting stung.

I'll bet he isn't happy that, about six months ago, they built an office park across the street...

That's all I've got for batteries! I'll try to grab the Col d'Algona, et al, the next sunny day I have up here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Personal to George W. Bush:

His name was Theodor Geisel, but you and I know him better as Doctor Seuss.

There is a little story he wrote when you were a teenager. It starts like this:

"One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax..."


ADD BUSH : Eloquence at its best, Mister President. "If they want to try again that which I've said is unacceptable, of course I won't accept it."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Let's get the good news out of the way first, since it's pretty short. Yours Truly is a newly-minted Cat 2. As they say in geek-land, "Ding!"

Cycling is a weird sport. You win some, you lose some, you kind of sort of win others. Say what? In ball-and-stick style competition, things are pretty cut and dried: one guy or team scores more than the other, and so there's a winner and a loser. It might be a close game or a blowout, but in the end, the column says "W" and that's all anyone really looks at. In motor racing, there's a winner, and usually a podium where the second- and third-place finisher are also awarded a smaller prize -- except in NASCAR, where they don't do that. I think in running races people are more interested in their ability to cover a certain distance in a certain time, like a ten-second 100m dash, or a 2.5-hour marathon, but I'm not quite sure.

In bicycle racing, one rider wins. Unless it is a stage race, in which case one rider wins each stage, and a seperate prize goes to the overal winner, who may or may not have won any of the stages. Each rider has a team, which kind of sort of wins if their rider wins. Also, there are usually other things to win besides stages and the overall General Classification (GC,) like a king of the mountains prize, a sprinter's prize, and a best team prize. There are even races-within-a-race for the best rider who is older or younger than a certain stage. Then, in criteriums, there are bonus prizes that don't "count" for anything but can win you more money than actually winning the race!

Simple, right?

The Tour of Walla Walla stage race was this weekend, and I got to sort of lose, sort of win. I didn't race like a loser, but the results sort of make it look like I did. In other news, if I could make a deal with the devil to get tires that would never, ever go flat, it would be hard to turn him down.

So, on a beautful, sunny Friday, I wedged myself into the back of a honda filled with bags, wheels, trainers, and cyclists, and headed north, east, and south to Waitsburg, WA. I like the "charm" of old-style downtowns, with narrow streets and 2-floor businesses, and Waitsburg is cool. I wish I'd have had a little more time to tool around there, but we got there about an hour before the race started, so had to just rush about getting bags and gear unpacked and ready to race, then sign in and track down my race packet. I hate paper numbers, and I especially hate attaching paper frame numbers with twist-ties.

The stage today is a weird one for Category 3 riders, since it is an "optional" stage. What the heck does that mean? Well, for the 1/2's, they've got a three-day, four stage race, but I think the organizers realized that most Cat 3's have careers and families and most were coming from the Seattle area. So, many wouldn't be able to haul their spandex-clad butts to greater Walla Walla if that meant taking Friday off of work. If that was the plan, I guess it worked, since there were only about thirty racers in Friday's field, but the rest of the stage race had its full compliment of 100. The course is short, but my race ends up even shorter. The fun and games start on the first little climb, and I get into a pretty solid-looking move of about eight riders. On the descent of that climb, clocking about forty miles an hour, there is a few bits of gravel on the road, and my tire finds the sharpest-possible piece to run over.

An easily audible pop-hiss makes me curse, and then I realize that it's my front tire going down in a hurry, so I'd better get this thing slowed down quickly or I'm going to find myself on the pavement. I look behind me and see that the pack, such as it is, is completely blown to pieces, and another rider pulls up just beside me, also having punctured. Well, okay then. The wheel truck pulls up beside us, we both snag wheel changes, but decide it's not worth chasing back on. The break is pretty far up the road at this point, and since this stage doesn't count for anything, there's no point in flogging ourselves into the ground just to get back on terms with the remants of the main field. So, we roll it into the finish, and I notice, curiously, that my new front wheel is a Mavic Ksyrium ES. Crap, who puts those wheels in the truck? Those cost about a thousand dollars...

Too bad, though, because it turns out that break stayed away, and the dude that won is as skinny as I am!
Saturday is the big day for this race, and it looks as though the rain will at least mostly stay away. In the morning there's a short time trial, and I laugh at the number of miles we've all had to haul our time trial equipment to do under seven miles of riding! As I'm warming up for the time trial, with about twenty minutes to go until my start time, I notice my rear tire has gone flat. Oh, come on. Because they have different systems on them, I'm using my training rear wheel on my TT bike, and it is the only one I have, so I just whip out a new tube and change it pronto. I look through the tire for glass and find nothing, but then, this tire also went flat on a training ride last wednesday, so I hope there is no phantom shard of glass that I can't see. Once I get it changed, I've got 15 minutes to go, so I just roll over to the start area rather than try to reinstall my bike onto my pain in the butt of a cheap trainer. I really should warm up more, perhaps ride around the street, but since my teammate before me missed his start time doing just that, I park myself near the start area and constantly fidget with my rear tire and hope it holds up.

Is it flat? Nope. Is it flat? Still no. Is it ... well .. is it a little soft? My rear tire does feel a little less inflated than my front. I think. Maybe.

I spend the fifteen minutes until I'm called to the line obessing like this, and then it's time to go. The TT is basically one gradual false flat on the way out, and a gradual descent on the way back. What can you say about a time trial like this? It's short, and it hurts, but it's over before it hurts too badly. I spend the whole thing trying not to look down at my tire. It's hard to get into a rhythm on the way out there -- the grade is just steep enough that I feel like I can't find the right gear anywhere, and then on the way back, I wish I had a bigger gear! Sixteen minutes later, I'm done. That wasn't too impressive of a time. Top quarter of the pack, but outside the top ten, and off the lead by just shy of a minute. I'm going to have my work cut out for me.

A few pancakes later, it's time to get ready for the road race. As I look over at my time trial bike, I notice the tire is flat. Crap. Was that soft during the race? Did it cost me time?

It doesn't matter. I am where I am, and my teammate is where he is, which is fourth place, and that means I will have a job to do in the road race, 75 miles over rolling hills and farmland between Walla Walla and Waitsburg. There is a 3-kilometer, 5% climb to the finish, and we'll do it once halfway through the race as well. Those climbs are frustrating to me, since I can go hard and string things out, but it mostly hurts the people at the back; there's still plenty of draft. When we get to the climb, I get to the front and ride a hard tempo, keeping the group pinned but basically together, which works out okay. From then on I patrol the front of the race, and when a move goes, I go with it. Eventually I start a few digs of my own, and one of them pulls a couple of guys away from the field.

Some other strong racers, after the event, told me they thought I'd have had a better personal result if I had conserved more energy instead of attacking so many times. In some ways, it felt good to tell him that I had a job to do for the team, though in another since it would've been cool just to race my race.

The break that I get into quickly develops a weird character. There's three of us, with myself and one other racer able to really do any work. We stay out front for a few miles solo, then two others bridge up to us, and at first I think this is great, since a 3-man group probably isn't going to have the firepower to stay away. It's a tough course for an escape, with long, open roads, constant low-grade undulations, and a fair bit of wind. Well, you can't commit halfway to a break, and I'm not going to sit on, but it looks like a couple of other guys are. One of the riders who just bridged across claims he's on the team of the GC leader, and so can't work.

This would be understandable, except for he's not really on the GC leader's team. A bunch of these kids came down from Canada, including the winner of the time trial, who is all of 16 years old. That's just not fair! They are on two seperate teams with seperate jerseys, but they basically consider themselves one team and race like it. Anyway, as soon as the GC leaders' sorta-teammate is sitting on, one of the other strong riders that I'm working with says that, since his team has the second placed rider on GC, that he won't work any more, either. That doesn't make any sense to me: you don't ride for second place. The GC leader's dude isn't riding in the break because his team is on the front chasing! I really don't think the 2nd-placed rider's team is chasing. But, whatever.

Because of all of this, the break doesn't really gain tons of ground -- a couple of minutes -- and changes character a few more times as two more groups bridge up, but a bunch of other riders get dropped. In the end we've got seven, maybe eight riders, with four or five working. It's not quite cohesive enough, either -- riders can't figure out when the rider behind him is or is not going to pull through or sit on, and people swing FAR to far to the right or left when they pull off. Most people get the "pull off into the wind" thing, but some don't. The GC rider's teammate does a slick job of getting the break pulled back, too, taking a few crappy pulls that just disrupt the flow of things.

So, just past the 10k to go sign, we get caught, and I am absolutely cooked. I let myself sift too far towards the back of the pack because of this, as everyone ramps it up for the last sprint point in town before we head to the finish. If there is one thing I could've done differently in the race, it would've been to stay in the front there, no matter the pain. As we round the corner onto the climb, I'm probably two thirds of the way through the pack, and I can see a front group attacking, with my teams's leader tagged on. Good deal. It's also got the yellow jersey in it, which is expected, but not such a good deal.

The little loser voice in my head tells me that the race is done anyway, so, why bother hurting yourself for nothing? Screw that. There's no reason to save anything. I push out onto the gravel, pass about 30 riders, and set out after the attackers. My team's leader, a bigger dude, gets popped about halfway up the hill, and I pull along side him to see if I can't encourage him to go any faster. I ride the hardest tempo I can, dragging a small handful of stragglers up towards the lead group. I'm honestly feeling pretty angry at this point, because I love hills, and I'm a pretty competent climber, but this is all the faster I can go and it just ain't that fast. Where's my speed, my snap? Of course, I left it on the road 30 miles ago when I committed to making that break work.

Then, it's over, we're at the top. The skies have greyed over, and it's pretty cold coming down the hill. I try to tell myself that it's all right, that I did everything I could, and teammates and opponents alike congratulate me on a strong race, but, crap. This is that weird part of bike racing.

Sunday is the criterium, in downtown Walla Walla, which is even cooler than downtown Waitsburg. WW is a quite a bit more happening of a town, what with Whitman College and all, so the downtown area isn't just a mostly shuttered collection of old buildings. The loop is a six-corner course over bumpy, rough pavement, with manhole covers and other obstacles. to contend with, and a section of bricks in corner six, leading into the finish line.

The rain does not hold off. I'm not a criterium expert, by any means. In truth, I kind of suck at them. This has been exacerbated by me basically not racing any criterium I could avoid in the season and a half of bike racing I've done so far. Again, a big chunk of my head doesn't want to suit up at all, but I'm not DNFing this race, not for anything. Plus, there is actually a best team prize at stake, and they call up our whole four-man contingent to the line to point out that we're leading that classification. Well, that's something, at least.

I suck at this crit, too, but not as bad as I usually do. The pace is pretty easy, and though there are two big pileups, no one is seriously hurt, and I avoid them. Also, though it is wet, there have been groups riding on the closed course all day, so it has a surprising amount of grip. I only slide my rear tire a couple of times, and the bricks aren't so bad. I keep it upright, finish in the pack, and we hold onto our team GC lead.


You win some, you lose some, and you kind of sort of win some, right?

I would've liked to leave Cat 3 with a big win, but I don't think I embarassed myself and the team too badly out there. I did a lot of work, got into the moves, it just didn't come together.

Next time...

Two other quick notes: One is to say I feel really bad for K-man, who got the Flat Tire Curse in the road stage that DID count, and then got crashed in the criterium, though he later remounted.

Also, a Gigantic thank you to the family that hosted our team for the time we stayed in Walla Walla. You have no idea how nice it is to have a bed, and a shower, during races, not to mention a real kitchen to use. You guys make bike racing able to actually happen...

Friday, April 20, 2007

To whom it may concern:

Team tactics in OBRA racing WSBA!!!!

Blocking passing drafting blocking sprinting paceline fnord fnord sporkle!

Watch no 31415 like a hawk!

Wines are Byrneing through the roof! TicycleshagensbermanfirstratemortgagezokatherapeuticcapitolsubarucmgO/GSCrubiconsecondascentexcelgarageaxleyinnoparticularorder!!!!
I'm on a guest internet connection here that's painfully playing the turtle, so I'll keep this one brief.

The Anointed Ones --

Did you ever notice how many different ointments, oils, and other liquids bike racers need? It's kind of weird. Sunblock for exposed skin, pre-race warming oil for the legs, with an extra coat of petroleum jelly if it's really raining. Chap stick. Chamois cream. I've got to throw in contacts, too, and I usually add some Clear Eyes for good measure. Why does the stuff that's supposed to prevent your eyes from irritation sting like hell when you put it in your eyes? Seriously, it does, but at least it goes away.


The "real season" of bike racing is here. Prime Climb Time -- let's go stage racing. The Tour of Walla Walla kicks off tomorrow. It's a 3-day, 4-stage deal. Walla Walla will be my last race as a Cat 3 -- from next week on out, I'll be racing in the Cat 2 field. This means, at 95% of races, I'll be going wheel-to-wheel with the pros. I'm excited for this race, but not nearly as stoked as I am for the dragon that makes this race look like a newt:

The Mt Hood Classic stage race. I really don't know what I've gotten myself into, but I'm signed up. In the Pro/1/2 field, at that. The flyer advertises: 6 stages. 350 miles. 30,000 feet of climbing. At Hood, there will be entire TEAMS of professional riders, with directeur sportifs and team cars and mechanics and everything else.

When I thought I might try out a bike race just on two years ago, I never thought I'd be here now. Whatever else I should or shouldn't be doing with my life at the moment, this is cool.

Time to crash. I've got to wake up early to hunt down some breakfast before we hit the road. Brett just told me he generally didn't eat breakfast.

How do people SURVIVE without brekky?

It's beyond me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's all over the news. You've seen it. "Worst shooting incident in US history." I can't figure out what to make of it, how to react. Can I react at all? If I want to, I can empathize all I want; after all, the victims here are not so much different than I am. But, if I think of it another way, it's all so far away. I have never been to Virginia Tech, and it's thousands of miles from Seattle. Should I care less because of this? Can I afford to care?

Afford. That's a funny way to put it.

But, really. It goes like this: every day, a lot of people die for a lot of stupid reasons. People are fairly fascinated, even if it is a morbid fascination, with the deaths of others, and so this becomes a top news headline. In a nod to ethnocentrism, if the dead are American, our own media provides more coverage than if they are from somewhere else.

If I let myself actually care about every person that died unjustly, I wouldn't even be able to function. How in the world am I supposed to balance emotions and empathy with the scales of my conscious mind? When it comes down to it, I am not that much different than the resisdents of Sudan or Baghdad. Those places are pretty far away, too.

Who do we shed tears for, and who do we allow to slip silently into the black?

I can't fathom it.

I see a lot of sides of humanity, stocking groceries in the middle of the night. A few weeks ago, at about two in the morning, a woman walks into the store, shaking her head and sobbing to herself. I've seen her before, and I'm pretty sure she's an alcholic. If I had to guess her age, I'd say forty-five, but it's really impossible to tell with someone who looks so weathered, so terribly tired. It seems like it's been a long time since she's cared about anything.

Tonight, though, she seems in pretty bad shape. I ask her if she's all right, and she manages to mumble "no," and turns over her wrist, to which she's holding a wad of paper towels. She removes the towels to reveal several long, red cries for help, suicide-threat cuts from someone who has wants help more than death, at least for the moment. She's lost her job, she tells me, her daughter won't take her calls, she's lost everything. What's the point?

I just talk to her for a while as I stock boxes, pretending I didn't see the cuts. I think that's the best way to deal with it. I talk to her about jobs, about life, about walking in the park. As she goes to leave, I let her know I'm not going to be able to let her walk out of there alone, so she'd better sit down. I call nine-one-one on my cell phone, and the sheriff's deputies are there in about ten minutes, the ambulance in another five.

Last week, the store's owner gave me an envelope. "Hey, some lady left this for you," he said, looking puzzled. "She said it was kinda important, but not urgent." I flip it open, and inside is a hand-written note on a torn out sheet of yellow notepad:

"Thank you for being my guardian angel. I've been in the hospital since. Just got out today. Thanks for saving my life."

Is her life truly saved? Yesterday I saw her again. Her back is a little straighter, and it looks like she's had a good nights' sleep for the first time in months. But she still walks across the store, without seeing me, to the same bottles of Old English.

Tonight I'm going to go race my bike. What else can I do? I promise, I'll at least take a moment to appreciate that I CAN do this.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Somebody Kill the Loser:

Somewhere inside me is this loser, and sometimes he takes over my legs when I go bike racing.

Today was a day like this.

The race was called "Tahuya-Seabeck-Tahuya," but saying that makes people want to reply, "Gezundheit!," so everyone calls it TST. I heard all sorts of stories about this epic race, and how I, as a far better climber than sprinter, was supposed to do well at it.

Ha! Cue the loser.

I just pedalled my bike from Tahuya, to Seabeck, and back. There were 99 other riders there, doing the same thing. The infamous hills are pretty tame in the dry, actually, and as you have to go back down them all to get to the finish, no major selection naturally occurred. There was some stringing out, but the elastic never really snapped, so it all just kind of wound back together.

I've got to kick that guy to the kerb, because there's no reason to even bother to go to a race if I am going to do that. When you are at the front on all of the climbs, and finish a race in the lead group, and aren't even tired, something has gone very wrong.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Here's that more lighthearted post I referred to yesterday -- A bunch of unrelated observations:

1 ) Cable game. I've got two iPods, a Nano and one of the new Shuffles. The shuffle is that little postage stamp-sized one with a clip integrated into the back of it so you don't lose the thing. So, I have two sets of the iconic white headphones, and it was only a couple of days ago that I realized that they are different lengths. One has what seems to be the standard three feet of cord, and one is longer, probably just shy of 4 feet.

You have no idea how much of a difference that foot makes. Three feet is JUST long enough to go from a front jeans pocket to my ears without binding. Barely. It doesn't work well running from my back jersey pocket, down under the front, and into my ears, or a back jeans pocket, or any other arrangement. I think Shaq would be SOL. With the 4-foot cable, all of those things work fine. Except perhaps Shaq, but you'd have to ask him.

I wish I knew what the deal was with that. Is one the old version, and the longer version on newer ipods? Vice-versa? Does the little crippled cable come with the neo-shuffle, some kind of tiny little cost-cutting measure?

2 ) Stuck on Band-Aid (brand) -- These guys have done a great job of convincing us all that self-contained adhesive bandages are what everyone needs. Seriously, how much blood does that pathetic little pad absorb? I just have a roll of that athletic adhesive tape stuff, it was a few dollars for a very large roll. Throw over minor cuts on its own, or add some gauze if you actually need to soak anything up. But, if you must use a self-adhesive bandage, certainly don't buy an off-brand band-aid style bandage. Those stick for about five seconds.

And, yeah, Tegaderm is great stuff. It is also pretty darn expensive. I hear DuoDerm is even better. It is silly expensive.

3) Hotmail -- I use Gmail for almost everything these days. Evil or not, it's by far the best system of the free e-mails. None the less, I maintain the hotmail account I have had since hotmail FIRST came out, since it's the contact information for me that a lot of old friends have. Besides always lagging behind yahoo, gmail, et al., in programming slickness and memory capacity, it seems like the sucker is down half of the times I try to use it. C'mon, Microsoft. You can do better than that. Likewise, for all of you people with MSN spaces blogs, I don't even bother with yer clunky comment system.

4) Goodbye moto -- I had, up until recently, a Motorazr flip phone; the "Razor" that everyone seems to have. I got it probably for the same reason as the rest of them: I liked its sleek looks and metal frame, and I presumed that, due to its popularity, its general functionality had to be about the same as everything else. It was not until the thing was stolen a couple of weeks ago that I really realized that it wasn't. Being stolen from always feels like an invasion, and my phone becoming someone's drug money is a frustrating proposition. Still, I don't miss the thing. I've switched back to my old brick of a Nokia, and I've realized all the stuff that was not so great about it:

* The battery life was pathetic. Seriously, you got about an hour and some of talk time. If I didn't plug it in every night, I'd be out of juice the next day. A sacrifice to make the sucker thinner, I know, but that was just sad

* The front screen was just illegible. It just didn't light up. Hoo-ray for TWO color LCD's, which I'm sure added to the price, but if you were outdoors you had to hold the thing into your cupped hand to even read it. Swell.

* Predictive text dictionary had about 10 words in it. Seriously, text messaging on this thing was an absolute bear. Combine the sad, sad little dictionary with the flat Star Trek-style keypad, and it was a frustrating endeavor to text anyone. The "delete" button was just beside the "hangup" button, the latter of which would abandon the text message entirely. Great. That's what I needed.

There are more little details, too, like the fact that it had a camera, but it was impossible to use properly because of the angle that it was set at when unflipped, or the whisper-quiet little speaker, but, sheesh. I'll keep on with this Nokia for a while, and maybe buy another Finnish contraption when it goes.

For the moment, let me avoid the subsidized-with-contract issue on cellphones entirely.

Finally, what's going on with this whole racism-on-the-radio debacle? I don't listen to Don Imus, so I didn't hear it live -- as a matter of fact, I had never even HEARD of Imus before this whole bruhaha, or however you're supposed to write that word. Is it related to brujah -- "witch" in spanish? In any case, it seems like the problem is his reference to a collegiate womens' basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." It seems as though the protests center around "nappy-headed," which they feel is a racist insult as most of the team is african-american.

I'm confused. Is "nappy" really an racist insult? Am I just out of the loop? I worked in natural foods stores for several years, and I frequently heard the term bandied about. Almost always, it was a reference to hippies and their "dreadlocks," the owners of which were mostly caucasian. Personally, I'd be more offended by calling a bunch of student-athletes "hos." From the sound of it, too, isn't the whole gig with Imus's show that it is insulting? I don't know.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Requiescat In Pace

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Kilgore Trout wrote a lot of bad science fiction novels.

Enjoy Tralfamadore, old man.
This was supposed to be a fairly lighthearted entry about ipods and cell phones, but I'm going to have to hang onto that one for a moment. I think this is worth reading. A reader of my previous weblog entry posted a response I published more thoroughly below. It's pretty closed-minded, for one, but more importantly he told me the same unproductive thing that I told myself for, oh, about fifteen years:

"Secondly, stop blaming everything on ADD, it's insulting to people who have real problems"

Look, were you just waiting for a chance to be aggressive, or what? Did you read what I wrote, or did you just want to rant about all the times since you were fifteen that you have heard "this story"?

"Real" problems. So ADD isn't a REAL problem? It is a FAKE problem? I'm making this up?

What choices are you talking about? Again, am I really blaming "other things?"

I said that I screwed up, and I meant it. I didn't use third-person references like "ADD screwed me up." I said "I." I never shouted "I was wronged," like the people you're spitting so much venom at. Come on. Likewise, I didn't "get my priorities wrong." That was the the most painful part -- I knew what my priorities were, but I didn't know how to act to make the goals that were priorities a reality.

I am sevety-two inches tall. I will never be an NBA center. I will never be a Breeders' Cup jockey. Those seventy-two inches are aspects of me. Some of them are genetically determined, some of them are due to the excellent nutrition I had as a young child, but, at twenty-five, they are simply a part of me.

I am color blind. No matter how hard I TRY, when I look at that little card of dots, everyone else sees the number eight, and I can stare and stare at it and, guess what, an hour later I will STILL only see dots. I will never be allowed to pilot military aircraft.

I have ADHD. I can finish scantron tests in absolutely blinding speed, with two pencils. I start at the bottom AND the top. But, when I read a textbook, I can read the same line sixteen times and still not remember what I've read. I will never be an accountant.

I am not BLAMING ADHD, color blindness, or seventy-two inches for restricting my choices. Square pegs don't fit round holes, and they never will. But all of those things are part of my biology, and accepting them, instead of pretending that they don't exist, is the only way I'm going to learn what the next productive step is. Yes, I believe I could've learned that lesson a little sooner in life than I did.

When I was in first grade, I was actually ashamed of the color blindness. I really did take one of those little cards home, I really did stare at it for an hour, TRYING to see the 8. Nothing. Dots.

Just because the biology of ADHD is not well understood does not render it nonexistent or irrelevant. It is not the cause of my problems. It is not to blame. It is not "IT" at all. It is me. My neural biology works like that of many others, but not like that of most. Humans are all mostly alike, but in some ways they are different.

This is one of them.

Deal with it.

Here's the response I'm referring to:
...For starters, I HIGHLY doubt that if you could go back and talk to yourself it would make a difference in the slightest. If you were honest with yourself I have no doubt that you would agree. When you are young, well THAT young, no one can tell you anything.

Secondly, stop blaming everything on ADD, it's insulting to people who have real problems. You need to man up, and admit you fucked up, yes you did fuck up. You got your priorites all messed up, and then you failed some classes.

Since my mother deals with crap like this all the time, I can tell you I've heard your story atleast once a year since I was 15, the kid with financial aid who was "wronged". Well, get this, I also know how hard it is for someone to lose financial aid, so it isn't going to work on me.

And finally, Boo hoo, you made your choices, now you need to deal with them. But as long as you keep blaming other things, that will never happen.

Finally, I pitty you.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mid-Youth Crisis:

On Thursday, 12 April 2007, I will be exactly twenty-five years old. I have this thought that it's at about four o'clock in the afternoon, but that could be four in the morning, I really don't remember.

They say twenty-five is the new eighteen. I'm not sure who they are, of course, and I really don't quite know what it means, but I think it applies to me pretty well. I don't know where I am, and I have no idea where I am going.

Am I happy with where I'm at? Sometimes. I'm in the best shape of my life. I can do things I would've never thought possible. I spend most of my free time riding my bike, drinking coffee, or reading something that was written before I was born. I think I get more fresh air than I can handle, and I sit around at coffee shops in seattle writing stories in journals with a fountain pen. Yes, I am that cliche.

We're not supposed to have regrets. We're not supposed to bother with hindsight's auto-correction feature. "If only" doesn't get us anywhere.

Twenty-five. I'm not supposed to be a kid anymore, right? Most of my friends have college degrees. Some have several. Some have been all over the world, some have careers, some have families. I've got a blue-collar job, half of a degree, some debt, and a bicycle. Some days, I think that is all right. Other days, I get too caught up in what might have been. Some days, all I can do is ask the world for another chance.

I used to think that this whole "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" was a myth, a joke, a facet of the over-medicated, for-profit pharmaceutical industry. Well, maybe. But when I tell people that I took a year and half between high school and college, I tell them I wanted to "find myself." Or, I tell them I wanted to work, experience the real world, save some money. But the honest-to-gods truth is that, towards the end of high school, when it was time to apply for college, I was mostly tripping over my nose trying not to drop out of the thing. The prospect of researching colleges, sending applications, and all of the rest seemed too daunting; I didn't really know where to start. Okay, I knew exactly where to start, but it was too hard to get going. So I simply did nothing. I will admit it, too, that I was afraid of applying and being turned down, since my can't-get-my-homework-done-to-save-my-life self didn't even meet the minimum grade-point requirement for state college. Never mind the part about having fourteen-whatever on the SAT's and nearly every AP class in the book. Only at a place like the upper-class suburb I grew up in would I have the opportunity to take all those classes, and only there would I be in the bottom third of my class for having a 2.7 GPA.

I tell people that the reason I am not "taking classes this term" is because, again, I'm trying to save up for classes. I'm an economics major. I'm a junior. I don't have that much left, right?

But the truth is it's a long road out of this hole. I was going to school with the very generous financial assistance of both my parents and the Financial Aid department. Unfortunately for me, there are certain benchmarks you have to meet with both in order to maintain your aid. Did you know that if you do not pass enough classes that your financial aid will be retroactively revoked? It's true! So, in order to go to school again, I'd have to pay off a pretty solid chunk -- what seems like an impossible amount at my current income level -- just to get back to zero, and then I would need to, you know, dredge up the money for the classes that I would take.

The shame is probably the worst part of it for my fragile little head. I'm a middle-class caucasian kid from the suburbs of America. I had every advantage worth mentioning. When you can have inspriational stories about inner-city kids working hard to make ends meet and rising to the top of their classes anyway, the tales of all these folks who didn't have it so easy and still kick ass, how is it even possible that I screwed this up?

So, I race my bike. I work. I train. I exhaust myself enough that I scarcely have time to clean up my apartment, let alone think of this kind of thing. When I am riding, I can't really care about what kind of stupid job I am working, or the successes or failures of the past. If I do think of that on the long, lonely road, all I've got to do is find a hill and push down harder. The blood pounding through my ears shuts out all of the voices.

It's so easy, how could I do anything else?

Twenty five.

It's more complicated than I thought.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Requiem for a bike:

I was just thinking about my Paramount. This was a really nice bike. It was my first road bike, and I really chose it because, of the bikes I found in my price range, I could have a fairly standard "entry-level" aluminum roadbike, or this. We went on a lot of nice rides together; I rode it almost exclusively my first year on the road. I raced a few times on it, despite it not being a "modern race bike."

Picked it up in the spring of 2005, and though those first few thousand miles took a long, long time, it really seems like I rode it for more than I did, which is a bit under a year. In february 2006, a car made short work of the 853 steel tubes.

In a sense, the Paramount taught me an interesting lesson about the permanence of life, or something. You see, I have always had the ability to get oddly sentimental, even about inanimate objects. I can personify them very easily, I get attached to them, and in some sense I enjoy taking good care of a machine. I did this for my first car, which I always regretted selling for cheap when I was desperate, and I got some satisfaction out of meticulously cleaning (and even waxing!) the Paramount. In the end, it quickly proved irrelevant.

Now I think of my race bikes as means to an end, tools. I like them, I enjoy having them, but I know they will get scratched up, laid down, beaten up, used up, and next year it will be time for something else. But one day, when I can afford to have a bigger stable of two-wheelers, I'd love to have a bike that really felt like "mine" again. I still have the damaged frame in my closet. I hang onto some hope of maybe getting it repaired one day...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

So, I have been kind of grumpy for the past few days because I raced like crap over the weekend. I was just on a couple of bad days, I'd done too much in the days before, whatever. Today was finally what I needed to feel better. I went and rode out to Seward Park, which takes a bit under 2 hours to ride to, and then did the p/1/2/3 (that's a lot of slashes!) race there. It was great -- I swear it must've been 70 degrees out, I rode out to Seward with no gloves, no arm or knee warmers, and was still a bit too warm while sitting in traffic thanks to my messenger bag. I'll take "a little too warm" any day!

The race itself was pretty chill. I just put it on cruise control and got a feel for riding with the fast guys; I wasn't supposed to have a very hard day anyway. But compared with the previous Cat 3, and 4/5 before that, races I've done, the sketchy factor was almost nil. Everyone just pointed there bike in the right direction and rode it. I had a brief moment when I pulled my rear wheel halfway out of my dropouts and was met with a sudden screeching of tires, but I got it sorted out and stayed upright.

OAD was there, too -- I didn't actually think he was going to make it out! I didn't even recognize him unti the race was basically over, but he looked to be riding well.

I'm going to go watch the 3 days of de panne, or however you say that in Flemish, on now.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Back in black.

Well, the website is black, isn't it? And AC/DC is cool. Anyway, Comcast FINALLY turned my service back on. I guess apartment next door moved out and they turned off the wrong unit. THANKS, guys.

So, we now return to your regularly scheduled blogging.