Friday, July 30

RAGBRAI: reporting from Maquoketa

Top 3 list of things I like to do on RAGBRAI:

3. Draft behind someone who's a good rider into a head wind doing, say, about 20mph.
2. Pass people going uphill at about 15mph.
1. Pass people going downhill as fast as possible (up to 40mph today).

Another good thing: I was feeling so strong toward the end of the 87 miles we rode yesterday, that I persuaded Al to ride 13 more so we'd get in a hundred mile day!

That made things really sore this morning. And we started in rain. Then we had this crazy 3 miles of what was supposed to be gravel that got turned into mud. Then my pedal was breaking again, so I limped into the lunch stop in Olin.

But the afternoon was really nice. The sun came out enough. It was mild and breezy. And I felt less sore and stronger. I rode hard this afternoon, downhill and up, because I could. It was a joyful kind of thing, kickin' it. It was like 75 miles today. I feel like I could do another (fairly flat) 25.

I've had a lot of bike/equipment/needed repair problems, but I'll tell you more about that later. The good thing about them is, they came at pretty decent times. I never got stuck on the side of the road.

Less than 60 miles to go tomorrow to Clinton. If there are no major problems we'll be there before noon. It's been a good ride. It's an accomplishment that I'm proud of. Now to keep this level of fitness up...

Wednesday, July 28

RAGBRAI: reporting in from Eldora, IA

Sorry I haven't been able to report sooner. I have had almost no cell service in western Iowa (excepting a little in Sioux City and a little on I-35). RAGBRAI XXXII has gone really well so far (check out the route). A man who has been on all 32 (RAGBRAI's the same age as me) said that the last three days have been the best of RAGBRAI ever: good routes and amazing weather - like 70 and nice every day. We've ridden about 270 of the 490 miles so far.

What makes RAGBRAI hard?
- headwinds. We travelled south today into a 15 mph headwind. Best when drafting behind someone else.
- perching on that seat the whole way: makes my seat sore, but I'm able to keep it up and get back on each day. I woke up this morning and thought 'Why am I doing this again?'.
- toes. Man, I didn't know I'd have so much trouble keeping circulation in my toes. I've cut the sides out of my shoes, which is making it bearable.

Otherwise, everything's been really good. More later.

Monday, July 19

The War on Terror

An interesting piece in USA Today about the new book 'Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror'. It's by an anonymous CIA terrorism expert. You really should just read the whole thing, but I'll ty to highlight a few items:
The United States has the important questions about Osama bin Laden wrong...Why he's fighting the West, why he's trying to undermine Arab rulers, why he's embraced by millions of Muslims... And that mistake dooms the U.S. to endless wars...While the White House says radical Islamists hate the United States for its values and our freedoms, the reality is very different...Islamists despise our policies in the Middle East. That misunderstanding lures the United States into strategies that benefit al-Qaeda more than the U.S.
The author argues that if we're really going to fight these terrorists effectively, we will have to be ruthless. 'When we have the opportunity to hit someone, we have to be willing to do it without evidence that could be presented in court.'

Q: In a recent report, the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously criticized the quality of intelligence that led to the decision to attack Iraq. What might fix that problem?

A: The president should have the opportunity to talk to a substantive expert. And that is not the case.
I don't think that's the main issue. We have the best signal intelligence gathering capabilities in the history of the world. It's not like Iraq was a secure country, either, from the standpoint of human intelligence. More than access to experts, it's obvious to me that the intelligence was misinterpreted, including the drawing of conculsions based on too little data. I think President Bush had his mind set on regime change in Iraq and he pressured some of the interpretation, both in the US and globally (especially the UK).

Six U.S. policies enable Osama bin Laden to rally his followers against the U.S.
Support for Israel that allows the Israelis to dominate the Palestinians.
U.S., Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.
Occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Support for Russia, India and China against the Muslim militants there.
Pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.
U.S. support for corrupt Muslim governments.
The author says 'Frankly, I don't know what else the Israelis can do than what they are doing, but the perception in the Muslim world is that we are no longer playing any kind of moderating role there.' I don't disagree. I think the Israelis could do more on the issue of settlements. On the other hand, it seems clear to me that the Palestinian Authority, and especially Arafat, are not acting in good faith.

Re: the second and third bullet points, I think a greater US military presence in the Middle East has been one of the goals of this operation from the start. Steven den Beste's been writing about it for a long time.

Re: the fifth bullet point, I often write about the problem with our addiction to oil.

And the sixth bullet point isn't pretty, either. Saudi Arabia leaps most readily to mind. And I just heard colloquially on Saturday about the corruption in Jordan.
The director of intelligence and the president say al-Qaeda represents the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world, which, on the face of it, is absurd. But there is no one talking about Islam as a motivating factor for war... We do a lot of analysis by assertion rather than by reality.
I've been saying many of the things is this article for a long time: that our foreign policy brings some amount of terrorism on us [9-11 post 9-14 post], that our unconditional support of Israel is a problem [1st of many], that al-Qaeda is not the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world [1st of 3 consecutive days of posts]. Being right, in this case, is not very comforting.

Religion and politics

Gerald Zeliezer writes in The 'God gap': A political myth in USA Today about the varieties of religious voters. I found his citation of John Green's work most interesting:

Potter is among those voters whom scholars such as John Green of the University of Akron have identified as "freestyle evangelists" — "mostly white, living in suburbs in the South, Midwest and Northwest, attending megachurches and sending their kids to public schools." They are theologically conservative but politically independent, interested in social welfare and the environment and ripe for the plucking by a Democrat who will reveal how his faith informs his political decisions.
That describes me and some of my friends pretty well.

Sunday, July 18

Peak conditioning in cycling

An interesting article on the effect of conditioning on the Tour de France by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's coach. In it he contends that Iban Mayo peaked too soon and Jan Ullrich is peaking too late. Lance, of course, in Carmichael's estimation, is peaking at the exact right time. Hard to argue, at this point.
Some people criticize Lance because he basically trains year-round for the Tour de France. However, cycling has produced such elite athletes that you have to prepare all year and peak at the right time if you want to win a particular event. Lance has done this consistently. Sure, he trains mmostly for it, but, on the other hand, he's facing greater competition than at any time in history. He has surely earned a place among cycling's greatest.
Does this peak performance issue apply in sports with seasons, like basketball or football? I wonder...

Saturday, July 17

Wow! Price Tower!

Christine and I really like Frank Lloyd Wright's work. So do Shawn and ('interact' correspondent) Kathy. They surprised me (Christine was in on it) Tuesday night with a night's stay to be enjoyed Thursday at Price Tower, FLW's only built skyscraper and only an hour north of Tulsa in Bartlesville, OK. If you're interested at all in the building, you should start here.

Obviously, since we stayed there, much of the Tower has been turned into a hotel, The Inn at Price Tower: 'The only place in the world to book a hotel stay in a building designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright'. Our room was very cool. S and K got us a suite that included two floors: the bottom full floor (on 13) was almost exactly like Wright's drawing. They've taken out the build-ins in the renovation, which is tasteful, spare, and works very well. The second (14th) floor was a sleeping loft, pretty similar to this picture.

Some notes from our tour:
  • I didn't know there was a list of 17 buildings by Wright deemed most important by the AIA. We've seen 1, 4, 8, 15, and 17. We were in Scotsdale once but didn't make it to Taliesin West. Since my current employer is headquartered in Madison, WI, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to take in Taliesin III soon.
  • Wright designed Price Tower to be a mixed use facility, which is good urban planning, and more sought after these days.
  • Zaha Hadid has designed a new exhibition space for the Tower. It reminded me of a more horizontal Guggenheim, in terms of traffic flow, but that could be a mistaken impression.
  • The Tower itself is so small and cute: you turn the corner and you've reached the end of it.
  • We had the real FLW experience: dripping water. Water dripped all night from the 15th floor balcony onto ours on the 14th. It bothered Christine when she was trying to sleep more than me.
  • The design of the restaurant, Copper, was fine. The food there was very good. I had the blackened salmon. We didn't stay for the musical act 'Snooty Jazz', but I heard them perform 'Misty' (for real. We could hear them on 15 through our floor. Thankfully, they stopped at 11.).
  • We ate our complimentary continental breakfast on one of the two 16th floor terracitos (is that a word for 'little terraces'?). That was fun.
It was a great stay. Also, Shawn and Kathy kept the twins, and we haven't had a free night out like that in a long time. So a big thanks to Shawn and Kathy. You should have such friends. We can't repay them.


Blogger has added a lot of features for control of text. That's great. However, I wonder if it will lead to poorer design as people mix and match what looks good to them, but is really too busy. What's the right amount of differentiation?

I like the new 'insert link' interface.

(The new interface has 'upload an image', but it only works for FTP or BlogSpot Plus users. However, don't forget, Windows users can use the Hello Bloggerbot for free, and it works pretty slick. Google recently acquired the makers of Hello Bloggerbot, Picasa. Not sure what that does for Google, besides help Blogger. They say:

"Picasa enables users to easily manage and share digital photographs, and its technologies complement Google's ongoing mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," said Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president, Product Management. "Picasa is an innovator in the field of digital photography, and we're excited that the Picasa team is joining Google."
Not as excited as the Picasans are to be joining Google before the IPO.)

Thursday, July 15

Robert Smith tells all

That's my sensationalist title, anyway. Remember the stud running back for the Vikings who retired at the the top of his game after the 2000 season? He's written his biography: 'The Rest of the Iceberg: An Insider's View on the World of Sport and Celebrity'. It's going to be published on-demand, and I'm sorely tempted. Seems like he really has his head screwed on straight:

  • "Our society needs to stop focusing on athletes as role models or as being heroes."
  • He keeps in touch with a few former teammates, but he rarely pays attention to the NFL. He's more concerned about getting people to look past the tip of the iceberg - hence the book's title.
  • "They'd rather take the shortcut and take what you hear and believe at face value," Smith said. "It's easy to do, but it can be very misleading."

Tuesday, July 13

More posts...

We're staying with Bryan and Karen for a week here in Tulsa (HOT!), and they have DSL, too. Bodes well for posting...

Twinkle, twinkle, Toys R Us

Matthew's got a funny post about babies and consumerism. Don't know how our parents raised us without all of the modern baby stuff...

Great Rest Day post

Great Rest Day post

Go Cubs?

Here's hoping all of the Cubs' injuries are a blessing in disguise: that they'll be fresher after the break and for the postseason.

Our movie reviews

Run, don't walk, to see 'Spider-Man 2' in the theaters. You know I'm not a gusher, right? Well it was a great movie!

We'd watched 'Two Weeks Notice' on DVD two days before and Christine rightly noted that you don't need to see that one in the theater, but you do need to see 'Spider-Man' there. I said 'Spider-Man' was a good reason to get a plasma tv, but she didn't agree ;-)

Thursday, July 8

Matthew, again

Have you laughed out loud today yet? It feels good. To indulge, read On The Ball.

Why the flood of posts?

I got to my sister's DSL.

Kottke redesign

Did you see that Jason Kottke redesigned? Interesting commentary.

More Cory Doctorow at Micro$oft

Did you see that Jason Kottke created an mp3 of Cory's talk? Cool.

TrackBack tutorials

How TrackBack Works

TrackBack Explanation

Tour de France weblog

Tour de France weblog. One place to keep up (via Anil).

Go Lance!

(Incidentally, Macon gave me one of the wristbands:

I'm using it for inspiration while I train. Click on it to learn more about his foundation.)

My day with Jason

Got to spend an afternoon with Jason and his wife and son, along with my wife and twins. We had a good time. Jason and Candy brought quite the picnic, but we got rained out and just stayed at the farm. The kids had fun jumping on the trampoline, playing baseball and soccer, digging in the sandbox, and just generally going nuts. I sure appreciated them making the drive down. Fun was had by all...