Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pre-Tour Required Reading

Tim Krabbe wrote The Rider in 1978 in his native Dutch. It's a bestseller in Holland, but was only translated to English in 2002. It's a small little book about a smallish little bike race through some French mountains, but it captures the grandness, the largeness, the everything-ness of the sport of cycling unlike anything else I've read. Of course, it's about cycling, but cycling is about so much more. Pain, suffering, perseverance, strategy, allegiance, betrayal, speed, fear, geography, the elements, psychology.

Today, Krabbe is The Rider, a man who wants to win this race. He's never won a major road race before. Once you're through you will reread this book's first paragraph and understand it.
Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26, 1997. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.
Krabbe's writing is so taut and carries such velocity that I was through with this gem before I knew what hit me. I'm looking forward to reading it again ASAP.

Phantom Limbs Explained!

The New Yorker hits another home run with an absolutely astounding piece about itching. You'll just have to read it to learn why people feel pain in amputated limbs (and what to do about it), or why your lips feel puffy when you're doped up on dentist drugs. The "holy sh*t" moments come every few paragraphs:
The account of perception that’s starting to emerge is what we might call the “brain’s best guess” theory of perception: perception is the brain’s best guess about what is happening in the outside world. The mind integrates scattered, weak, rudimentary signals from a variety of sensory channels, information from past experiences, and hard-wired processes, and produces a sensory experience full of brain-provided color, sound, texture, and meaning. We see a friendly yellow Labrador bounding behind a picket fence not because that is the transmission we receive but because this is the perception our weaver-brain assembles as its best hypothesis of what is out there from the slivers of information we get. Perception is inference.

The End of Christmas?

Did you hear about the North Pole? Probably.

I trust this coal man.

My parents moved to North Carolina a few years ago. They had a home built in a new subdivision just north of Charlotte. The road to their house passes a giant Duke Energy coal-fired electricity plant. I'm told it's a part-time plant, only used periodically, a fact that only partly dispells my general uneasiness about it. Ever since that first drive up toward my parents place, I pay attention when Duke Energy is the topic.

The funny thing I've found, counter to my expectations, is that the folks at Duke Energy seem to have their heads distinctly out of the sand and their eyes on the horizon, and they recognize what's likely in the future. That's why when I saw the headine "A Green Coal Baron?" I guessed correctly that Duke Energy was the topic. The baron in question is the company's CEO Jim Rogers.

He's a bit of an anomaly: a coal man who supports the regulation of greenhouse gasses.

Unlike many of his peers, Rogers has been operating like a man with foresight. Maybe the difference is his background:
If Rogers is keen on the idea of cap and trade, it’s because the acid-rain fight was one of his formative experiences as a C.E.O. His first job was a three-year stint as a journalist in Lexington, Ky. — “I was a journalist, so I’m allowed to be a little cynical at times,” he likes to joke — before heading to law school and working as a public advocate in his home state of Kentucky. In 1988, by then 40 years old, he switched sides — the Indiana electrical utility PSI Energy teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, and Rogers was offered the job of turning it around.
What's most interesting for me is Roger's criticism of the Leiberman-Warner climate bill bouncing around Congress. Usually I'd take any energy exec's blathering on the topic with a grain of salt of world-record proportions, but I really get the impression that this guy is seeing the situation more clearly than most:
As the Lieberman-Warner bill took shape last spring and summer, Rogers ought to have been feeling triumphant. Instead, he was increasingly uneasy with what the senators were doing. He was particularly alarmed by the way they planned to hand out co2 allowances.

. . .“Politicians have visions of sugarplums dancing in their head with all the money they can get from auctions,” Rogers told me last month. “It’s all about treating me as the tax collector and the government as the good guy. I’m the evil corporation that’s passing through the carbon tax so Senator Boxer can be the Santa Claus!” If the government was going to collect cash from carbon auctions, Rogers figured, at least it ought to invest that money in green-tech research. “A billion dollars for deficit reduction,” he vented. “A billion dollars! What is [Boxer] smoking? I thought we were solving carbon here.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Captain Chaos

These are the four news headlines on my homepage. I take particular pleasure in the third.

Top News - Associated Press Jun 22, 4:39 am ET
• Obama raps McCain on flood prevention programs
• US energy chief: Low oil production drives prices
Everything seemingly is spinning out of control
• NHRA driver Kalitta killed in horrific crash

Follow the link to the story.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dick Ish En Drama!

A certain bike race across France is right around the corner.  Not this corner.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Left Foot.

My Left Foot.
Originally uploaded by J.Knecht
I've been tough on the old dogs lately. They're not used to the minimal footwear concept. I think that's why my left foot failed me last week. I was walking and it was tender already, but then I felt somthing pop.  Felt it right in the middle of my foot. I thought I had broken a bone, but as this xray shows, it's not that bad. Still, I'm walking around like Dr. House with my cane and with ice bandaged to my foot. I'm feeling pretty useless, so I blog, and try to play a little guitar along with M.Ward.

"New School" Is Now Old School

Remember 1995?  Detroit?  Warehouses?  Funky Acid House?  If you answered yes, you will be pleased to know that Terry Mullan's classic Old School Fusion mixes have been making the rounds on the web for a minute now.  For me these mixes brought back some good memories.  Be careful, though; after a few listens you may be inclined to put on the the Oscar the Grouch backpack and don the widest legged pants you can possibly imagine.  Some classics here, well mixed, and well funky.

Right now Curb Crawlers hosts a download.  

Rush Hour in Chicago

Tribune Photo By Mike Tercha

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Comeback Is Probably An Appropriate Term, Actually

Watch This Space! (but I won't bother you if you don't)

I've been posting more lately on my Myspace page, and now I worry that it's often enough to be annoying to people who see the urgent red notice "You Have New Blog Posts!" and who may click on such a high-priority type of alert just to be exposed to another random thought (actually, it's been all bikes lately), or a link to some high-fallutin' magazine article or youtube arcanity from yours truly.

I imagine the reactions generally ranging somewhere on a spectrum between anger and pity. I'm hopeful enough to fantasize otherwise, but grounded enough to know that not everyone always want to be notified every time I commit some half-formed rumination to electrons. My posted cogitations are sometimes just ways to sort out my thinking, to take the brain for a walk, to remember what it's like to put sentences together, or just to dust off the good ol' synonymy.   Sometimes I fancy that they may be of value to others, but mostly I find them to be of value to me. While my bruised and beaten ego is nournishd by the notion of an audience, at the end of the day I'm still allergic to any conscious pretense or self-promotion. In a nutshell, I'd like to write more often but don't want to put up a bright red alert everytime I do.  

Or course, there are also many instances in which I really have no original thoughts to share, but simply want to share something else of interest to whomever cares to pay my little blog a visit, and at times like these, alert is even less appropriate.  The little boy cries wolf when he sees a wolf, not when he wants to show someone the neat looking rock he just found (or whatever the little boy might have a desire to share at that particular moment that didn't involve a wolf), which is a very clumsy way of saying that I'm interested in speaking more often, and in softer tones.  No RED required.

So until my inspiration dries up to a trickle again, or until I find another friendly set of eyes and ears toward which to direct my insights/witticisms/pointless bits of drivel/musical and film suggestions/German velobike videos,   I will decompress by spewing my thoughts by means of ten manual digits into this less personal, colder, more permanent-come-back-to-embarrass-you-sooner-or-later electronic receptacle before me, open to you and the world and your praise, scorn or indifference.