"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Fuck it, Dude.

A tragedy itself, "What Was the Hipster?" at nymag.com, definitively shows that the leading edge of popular culture has run into a brick wall, and is now being crushed to death as the trailing weight of society, full of unstoppable momentum, carreens into it, leaving an unintelligable, unnavigable morass of style, asthetics, and values.

Nothing is new.


Pipe dreams

Tea Party anger is genuine, but very sadly misplaced. It's like watching a trust fund kid run out of money. Except in this case that money is cheap energy - easily obtainable oil and gas.

A half-decent screed on t r u t h o u t was brought to my attention today by some friends on facebook. Author Henry A. Giroux claims that Tea Party vitriol is led by a vast conspiracy of rich people getting greedier and meaner, the result of a collective loss of our moral compass over the last 30 years - since Reagan's election.

I read it, realized he was partly right, and was quickly reminded of the book I just finished a few weeks ago, James Howard Kunstler's, The Long Emergency. We have gone through about half of our total endowment of fossil fuels - specifically oil and gas, Kunstler writes - the cheap and easy-to-get half (and especially our own rapidly depleting supply of gas, and we do not have the infrastructure to import LNG at soon-to-be needed levels). It's all down hill from here. If anything, read the book, written in 2004, for Kunstler's related prediction of the housing collapse and foreclosure crisis will make the hairs on your neck stand up as stiffly as a legion of brownshirts coming to attention.

And many sources would say he's right, showing that global production peaked as late as four years ago. Consequently, Giroux is right, too. Our "ideals" did begin to change once Reagan was elected, because Reagan's election was in fact a reaction to our collective failure to deal with our own national peak oil crisis, in 1970: blaming it on the liberals and Arabs.

What next immediately jumped out at me was Giroux's absolute denial that government solutions don't work; that reams and books and stacks and entire libraries and roomfuls of computer servers of rules and regulations have never worked. His stone-faced failure to acknowledge that the Tea Party is, ultimately, a very real reaction. We're as self-centered as we ever were, 30 years ago, or 3,000. Don't believe me? When has a rule ever changed what you wanted? Needed? Have you ever seen a government RFP? I have. It was 57 pages of ADA, EEO, and DBE accommodations that would drive Bill Gates to become a turnip-farming revolutionary.

That the Tea Party is a reaction seems self-evident at first, because all liberals love to tout how proactive they are. But failing to address the action that caused the reaction you are condemning makes you just as big a reactionary.

Everyone loves to argue these days about who the real Nazis are, who's the real next Hitler. The truth is, who ever is in power the moment the permanent energy shocks and blackouts start is gonna be saddled by that unfortunate historical comparison. Unfortunate because it will be completely out of their control. We'll all slip into a collective psychosis, as Kunstler warns, looking to blame our problems on someone that is not ourselves, very much like the real Nazis and the German people of the 1930s.

You think the Tea Party supports your right to bear arms? Just wait until they're in power when the center starts really coming apart and they suddenly start taking the blame. I got yer second amendment right here. And the 1st, 3rd, 4th...you get the picture. And if Barack Hussein Obama and his crew happen to be the unlucky ones still in power when the shit goes down, then Palin and Co. will be proven right, but only by accident. If only they could be so lucky.

Truth is, labels shift and blame changes with whoever is in power because nobody wants to deal with the truth. It's the reason Palin, Paul, Miller, Angle, and O'Donnell are all part of this current zeitgeist. They're on the outside looking in, claiming to have all the answers. They'll be sorry when they're finally in and want out.

According to Kunstler, the world's endowment of cheap energy has made the illusion of modern economic utopia possible, including the ability for our nation, with all its diverse political views, to tolerate the massive entitlements that come with a modern democracy. But as the energy that underpins our entire, now global, society becomes unaffordable, we're suddenly realizing that we can't afford those entitlements anymore because we've dumped so much national wealth into an unsustainable lifestyle that only runs on cheap gas in our cars (read: the suburbs).

Employers can't afford to keep the payroll what it was. Food prices, for goods shipped in from all over the world, are getting too expensive, especially for the unemployed. Utility shut-offs ("come on, people...gawd, pay yer BILLS!") are the highest since the Great Depression. Freezing in a dark apartment has a sudden chilling effect on your democratic ideals.

But how can we get rid of all the entitlements? Privatization? I have several family members that each lost nearly $100,000 in investments in 2008, all their own private stash, when the market tanked. It's all moot anyway, no one can live on a SSA check alone to begin with.

So let's blame Harry Reid and his Mexicans.

As if Nevadans are going to wake up November 3rd and find all the illegals gone before Sharron Angle even takes her oath. Or even the year after. Although, in a few years, Nevadans will wake up to find all the water is gone and no one can afford their AC bills. I'd like to see Angle fix that. If she tries to come to the great lakes with a water pipeline, long a Nevada pipe dream - after they've let private mining operations drain their unreplenishable aquifers at the expense of all those people living a friggin desert (Lake Mead is at it's lowest level since the Hoover Dam made the goddamn lake!)...she'll have a fight on her hands, by god, cause I'm voting local. That's one example of socialism against which I'll join a revolution.

(Plus I love that she got so upset when that fat woman on The View called her a "bitch"...that after she told Reid to "man up." She can dish it out, but can't take it. Gender stereotypes go both ways, Sharron.)

And now that we're trying make things more efficient and sustainable, they call people like me a "socialist." With our bike lanes, VMT-reduction goals, 20-minute neighborhoods. They may be right, because it will still be underwritten by oil. Socialism is only an attempt to keep it all banded together with bailing wire and bubblegum what won't stay together on it's own without a huge endowment, a trust fund of cheap energy - gas and oil.

And don't give me the nuclear power argument - do you think the technicians needed at those plants are gonna get to work in nuclear cars? Nuclear's contribution is currently far too low, and electric cars are barely on the market. The time is now, the danger immediate. By time the market responds it will be too late. You only have to look once at Russia's nuclear situation for a clue as to what our own infrastructure may soon look like. And the "socialist" solution is provoking the very reaction about which I've decided to write.

Is it too late? It depends on your definition of "too late." The reality is probably that renewables will never satisfy our current demand. Kunstler argues that contraction, in that scenario, is the only way. He is proving to be more right every day, and it is a bitter pill for an ever growing number of people to swallow.


Thursday hate

I couldn't wait until Thursday to pull the trigger on this one while the firestorm of idiocy on both sides of the argument rages almost out of control.

By now, even the most internet-challenged of us have seen the infamous video of the Delaware Senatorial debate where Christine O'Donnell appears not to know what the establishment clause is.

O'Donnell is no dummy, and she knew what she was doing. She was calculating, and she was in fact questioning Coons' knowledge of the 1st Amendment's actual wording.

It's a typical tactic by religious fascists to argue that prayer and Creationism in school isn't prohibited Constitutionally. It's of course incredibly disingenuous because of COURSE the intent is to keep religion and the state separate. What the hell else could you take from that? The proof is in the pudding with their pervasive "Moslem" comments. They'd 'd no sooner support Islamic prayer in a public school than support no prayer at all.

These people always want their cake and to eat it, too. O'Donnell and her supporters are the first to cite the 1st amendment when the government is telling religion what to do. But when religion is being imposed on everyone else - via the government in public schools and policy - crickets. No problem there at all.

Anyways, the term "separation of church and state" actually originated from Jefferson's correspondence with the Danbury Baptists. I just re-learned (I vaguely recall my U.S. History), this myself via Sarah Palin's twitter (linked to the link she posted), ironically because I'm quite certain she didn't intend for that piece of knowledge to passed on.

I don't have a problem with Creationism being taught in public school, as long as it is in a Theology class, i.e. Religious Studies, or within the context of a language curriculum. We studied the Bible as literature in high school, and this is completely constitutional. A teacher instructing, or the government requiring, that it be taught as "truth" is another matter entirely. Further, Creationism is not based on deductive reason. It's totally opposite, so how can it be part of a science curriculum?

I'll grant that the way evolution is taught in most schools could fall under the same criticism. However, since I'm not a botanist, a paleontologist, or a mammalogist, I won't argue how to best instruct evolution by employing the scientific method.

Moving on, the United States Federal Appeals Court just upheld the Illinois "moment of silence" in public schools. There was a time when I would've cried "slippery slope." But who am I to begrudge the available time made for someone to utter some incantation to whatever deity they want? As long as my kid can pull out his Richard Dawkins book at the same time, I think that's fair.

The slippery slope argument is admittedly laziness on our part in place of vigilance on when the line is crossed. The court's ruling seems like pretty reasonable middle ground, making accommodations for everyone. The problem is, religious fascists like O'Donnell try to grab yards and handfuls when offered an equatable inch. Make no mistake, however; she and her ilk will try to cross that line and use these kind wedges to open the door for far more pervasive impositions on our freedoms.

So don't be lazy. Be honest with yourself about where that line really is, and guard it with your life.

Into the woodshed

I don't think I've ever experienced such a battle in the final lap of any race as I did Sunday in Carpentersville, number 5 in the Chicago Cross Cup series.

After the typical first lap disaster on probably the most technical of courses yet this season, in which I went into the tape twice and endoed once, not to mention getting passed at each barrier remount, I found myself in a knife fight for a top 15 placing among three other riders, Sasha Reschechtko (Tati), Justin Merkey (Rhythm Racing), and Tyler Avery (Pegasus). We constantly stole and gave up lines to each other turn after turn, or tried to drop each other in the pitted and rutted straightaways.

(Bill Draper)

As we raged into the final sweeping arc before the last u-turn to the line, it was Justin, me, and Tyler. I shifted to the big ring and tried to pull away but immediately we were elbow to elbow. I stupidly was still trying to move up on right, but that would've sent me into the tape and a tree on the final right u-turn - or would've crashed all three of us out, so by time I dropped back to reposition myself, it was far too late. Tyler broke free at the same time, and I crossed the line 3rd out of that group for 16th place.

I was pretty pissed at myself for misplaying the end, but once the High Life was cracked open and I was watching the 4Bs negotiate the pump section, all was again right with the world.

Overall the best day yet spent racing this fall. I had my best placing yet in the 30+ (22nd) - even while washing out on the first lap heading into the pumpers and face-planting in a turn - and the long-awaited Chubby Spud found its way into my hand once again:

Incredibly, I've moved up two places in the overall standings to eighth - wait, are we rewarding mediocrity here? I'm gonna have to start red-baiting this obviously socialist series?!? Don't worry, my much-harder-working call-up mates; I'm traveling the next two weekends in a pumpkin-carving, cider-drinking, corn-maze-claustrophobia-panicked fury, so that current placing will drop with the November temperatures. While Bryan Lee is getting his call-up dressed as Lady Gaga in a raw-meat skinsuit, I'll drinking all of my dad's beer while handing out Halloween candy on his porch wearing a wrestling mask.


Falling in love

This is the best time of year to be a commuting cyclist in Chicago.

The vivid colors of turning leaves on my neighborhood streets stir almost instinctual feelings of change.

Post marathon, the throngs of runners are gone. The weather is cooling off. The wannabes have put their bikes away and are driving again. The path is once again ours.

That cool north wind pushes you and the dry fall air keeps you almost sweat-free.




Thank you BBVP, Team Pegasus, and Chicago Cross Cup, for another stellar race in the 2010 series. Last year, Dan Ryan Woods was a vicious kick to the baby-maker, and renaming it Elvis Cross changed nothing. Well, almost nothing:

(Bill Draper)

It was hard to get out of bed, harder to get to the office today, and hardest to even stay awake once there:


My placing in this category has trended downward since opening at 23rd in Jackson Park. The races have gotten more technical and hillier (or obstaclier, in DeKalb) and the competitive top half is getting stronger each time out. I started mid-pack, but then moved back quite a few places while trying to ride up the left-side singletrack: the first time I got caught behind teammate Paolo who had just taken a rear wheel on the chin, upending him; next time I lost traction all by myself, then locked up the front and endoed, finally getting back on once out in the sunlight only to start spinning my cranks madly, not going anywhere. Through the depths of my tunnel vision and frantic gasping, the cacophonous clanging of cowbells, I hear off to my left, oh so casually, “chain’s off.”

Thanks, guy.

Passed a bunch of dudes, ran up the hill on laps 3 and 4, and they all passed me again. Then I passed them again, and I said, “screw it” and decided to try one more time up the singletrack. FAIL w/endo again.

The race was still tons of fun however, mostly because a Team Tati rider in an old U of C kit wouldn’t let me pass him the last time of the second hill, cutting off my line and then opening a gap. I couldn’t quite close it through the final switchbacks, but didn’t let it get any wider by time we were hitting the last barrier. He phoned in the last 200m and I sprinted past him at the line for 33rd. It's the little battles that count for crossers like me.

After some recovery, I staked out some turf by the first 180 turn for the start of the Cat 3s, and nearly became the first off-the-bike relegation in racing history. Mr. Knauf approached to let me know it was Elvis Cross, not Dice Clay Cross. Sorry if I offended anybody.

I promise, later on I had some very clever, PG heckles.


I got a call up for 9th overall, and was 5th wheel into the first turn, but I took it really wide, found the crowd coming up inside, and then after the chaos of the mud (WTF, is this the triathlete division?!) it jammed up terribly and I went through the 180 nearly at a trackstand. I was 8th or 9th coming up on the hill behind a little bit of a gap, when teammate Nick Venice came past like I was waiting to put my bike on the 147.

(Bill Draper)

And that was the only thing interesting about that race. Dropped my chain again. It’s funny how you can hear certain voices amid all the heckling, cowbell, and moments of singular pressure. Kirby’s voice cut through my brain like a knife.

I always lost places on the hill. There was one high point I’ll concede, when a VCS passed and tried to drop me on the second hill the second lap, but I wasn’t having any of it, and stayed right on his wheel. He was slower in the turns and that was the last I saw of him. Oh, and the Elvis sighting after coming down the hill, he passed me fast, with a, “on yah raght, brother! A-huh-huh!”

It was a good feeling to know that my 8th time up that hill was the last. 13th place. I'm still 10th overall and in line for a call up next race, but I won't be spending the entire weekend driving out to the suburbs, so I'll just be racing Carpentersville on Sunday. I can only hope and wait through Saturday's race in Waukonda.

Note the ethereal mood of this picture:

(Sue Wellinghoff)

Heaven will always be post-race. The endorphins will freshly flowing, the cooler will always have one more cold beer inside, and a new field of 4Bs will be just about to start. Oh, there's a cupcake...


(Sue Wellinghoff)


Thursday Hate

Fly-by-night Halloween costume superstores.

I hate these places that are filled to the ceiling with Chinese plastic stuffed inside Chinese plastic bags. But, do you ever see anyone at Halloween parties wearing this stuff? No, because they’d look like the unoriginal tools the models are, on the packaging of these costumes. Dracula? Are you kidding me? Bride of Frankenstein? Ooo-o-o-o-o-o! Nobody – and I mean nobody – wears a costume straight out of the bag except for den mothers, Junior High principals, and these people.

So why are there 10,000 of them in these stores every October and where the fuck do they go?


The people at Cracked must’ve taken a header before writing this one. I was alerted to this article by Chris of I Go With Fergus, and it is actually spot-on until #3, specifically, with this gem:
“…there are multiple studies showing that bicycle helmets, in the long run, don't actually reduce the number of injuries.”
No shit…you mean a full-body energy field doesn’t emanate from the helmet, letting me bounce of the pavement and car bumpers, right back onto my bike?

A helmet is a crash-mediator, not a crash-preventer. Statistics such as cited in this article do not distinguish between head injuries and non-head injuries. A more accurate picture would be told by correlating head injuries to crashes with regards to helmet-use. I've had three crashes that did not involve vehicles which cracked my helmet instead of my skull; once I was probably going only 13 mph.

However, the article cites an interesting study that found drivers drive less safely around cyclists when they are wearing helmets. I’d buy that. Further, there is no helmet-law in Illinois due to large efforts by Active Trans and other advocacy groups. Studies show that helmet laws discourage cycling, and fewer cyclists make for a less safe and bike-friendly environment.


Finally, I want to say something about the Tennessee firefighters who let a house burn to the ground over $75. I had a discussion over Google Buzz on this yesterday, and the opinions expressed ranged from cold analysis of economics and civic policy to much deeper philosophical outrage. My own take on it was summed up as follows:

I wonder if it was less "grasping the golden rule" and more lazy and mean-spirited enough when presented with choices A and B to let somebody's house burn to the ground because they owed $75.

Again this all goes back to the issue of taxes that pay for essential services. Since when is it the Fire Department's job to collect and enforce a fucking service fee? Apparently, when the entire town has become so self-interested that local politicians are afraid to raise taxes to pay for the fucking service.

Maybe that has something to do with people living in homes they can't afford in suburban sprawl where they need cars they can't afford to drive to places to buy shit they need that they can't afford.

Choices and free will. All of it. Fuck 'em. I'm with Jeff. Let it burn.


Flyover Country

It was a 7am departure on Sunday morning with teammate Evan to Dekalb - far west farm country - for the second race in the Chicago Cross Cup series competition, Hopkins Park.

That's a long way to drive just to ride your bike and drink beer, and I skipped this race last year. Two things convinced me to go this time. First, I'm a bit more dedicated to the discipline now, looking to stay active and have a lot of fun, if not experience great results. I've got a cyclocross bike now, so I might as well use it. With the four races, plus practice I've already been able to get in, I'm seeing better technique, new fitness, and getting to know and hang out with a lot of cool racers.


Second, was this:

And by that, I meant this:

(photo by Luke Seemann)

Yes, an honest-to-God flyover. I love cyclocross.

Masters 30-plus

We arrived with enough time to watch the Men's 40 plus field finish up their race and even then I heard it was a somewhat rough transition from the ramp to the grass. So by time I was at the line getting the pre-race instructions from Dave Fowkes, "have one foot in and be off the saddle" the ramp was already in my head. I have a hard time getting in my clips and I was imagining my feet being jarred off the pedals and being castrated before the first lap was finished.

And sure enough, each time up, there were people laughing and heckling me and screaming at me to "just go!!!", still other racers behind me - shoving to get past or jeering. It was about as embarrassing as any number of personal events involving puberty and hygiene in front of the classroom from 6th through 9th grade.

There is new entry to the Heckle Hall of Fame: "Next race I hold your bike for you!" by Michael Kirby (xXx Racing). Thanks, Kirby.

(Upper-left, by Larry Stoegbauer)

I passed riders, the same ones, multiple times, because they would come flying fearless past me again at the top of the ramp, while I flailed to get my foot in the clip before rolling. As well, even the straight sections of the course were riddled with hidden dips and potholes in the grass, preventing me from really attacking to close all the gaps I was giving up. No big-ringing it like at Jackson Park.

Thankfully I wasn't so slow to get pulled and I was able to get the full 45 minutes of pain and suffering in. 6 laps in all. I was somewhat disappointed with my effort, all the same, as I didn't have that same queasy feeling and retching from that last Masters race, two weeks ago, probably from six dead-stops at the top of the flyover, helping me to recover.

(Larry Stoegbauer)


While waiting for the Men's Cat 1/2/3 race to start, I took about five or six practices of the flyover and down the other side, enough to where I felt comfortable jumping back on and rolling immediately. It was good to get that out of the way, and let natural ineptitude in the hole-shot sprint fuck things up, per usual.

I actually had a decent line coming out of turn 2 onto the bike path pavement before trying to make up ground on the left dirt shoulder, and then losing five or six spots coming back up over the pavement lip. Even worse, in mid-hurdle over the subsequent barriers, I smacked my head into a tree-branch, knocking me off-balance and catching myself in a Twister-like pose over my bike before righting myself, losing another three or four places. Then, I settled down, and into my usual cyclocross routine of playing catch-up and holding off those trying to do the same to me, and getting back into that top ten.

The flyover obstacle was much more fun this time around; I took it two and three steps at a time, and comfortably hopped back on and roared down, back up to speed with no issues, save for a few late clip-ins that prevented me from hammering right away.

(Sue Wellinghoff)

I was really deep in it this race, hacking and grunting, out of the saddle and in the drops, just trying to catch Tony (Beverly Vee Pak), Jonathon (Courage) and John (Main Street Bicycles). I really had no idea where I was, but catching them, and then seeing teammate Nick Venice in my sights (in 6th overall) I knew it was close to the front.


After coming down the barrier the last time with Tony right behind me, I suddenly heard the crowd roar in surprise: "Oooooooooh!" and looked back to see my pursuer off his bike. I found out later his carbon seat post snapped at the jarring transition back to the grass.

I am practically under contractual agreement to only say that you all know how I feel about carbon fiber components and a five-figure salary. Moving on.

The thing about the catch is it teases you forever. The rider ahead of you barely seems to be getting any closer for minute after interminable minute, and then suddenly, you are on top of him and passing quickly. Nick was still way out in front of me with only six turns to go, but then with with just three, he was behind me.

Based on some shouts from the crowd to a rider behind maybe a lap earlier, I was positive I'd just moved into 7th place. The last turn was a treacherous 180 around a tree, right in front of the crowd, over jarring, exposed roots. It was very easy to take it too narrowly and find yourself through the tape, or lose your traction and slide-out. Thankfully, I took it perfectly and sprinted as hard as I could, keeping the gap open behind me.

That effort was much harder than the 30 plus in the morning. That is what motivation will do for you. That kind of pressure in front and behind you will have you dry heaving in grass, struggling to catch just one more gasp of air, all with a smile on your face, because by yourself, it just isn't possible. We race because it's impossible to push yourself that hard any other way.

I had 11th place. Exactly the same as two weeks prior in Jackson Park. Hey, consistency is a good thing. The other top 10 placings were quite different this time around, and as such, with a couple of earlier upgrades to the 3s by others, I'll be getting a call-up this coming Sunday at Elvis Cross, Dan Ryan Woods, for 10th 9th place. (upgrades -woot!)