I owe you two or three posts. First, a shower - then, dinner - then, if I'm not asleep, blogging.

Friday bike blogging

What a fantastic bike for kids. I'm virtually positive there will be brakes on the production version.

From the story:
Three Purdue University industrial designers who tapped into memories of their own childhood cycling misadventures have built a bike that ditches the training wheels but keeps rookies stable.

Called SHIFT, it slowly transforms from a tricycle to bicycle configuration as the rider pedals faster, then returns to trike formation as the rider slows down.

Lead designer Scott Shim hopes the design, which won top honors recently at an international bicycle design competition, can help children slowly gain the skill and courage to pedal off on their own.

The design features a single front wheel and two slim rear wheels that are initially splayed outward to stabilize and prevent the rider from toppling over. As the rider accelerates and leans forward, the rear wheels shift inward, narrowing into a single wheel surface that essentially makes it a two-wheel venture.

As the bike slows, the rear wheels tilt back to the tricycle formation.

Good day

I'm having one of those days where you feel really productive and positive - I had a good response to my lecture this morning (from everyone but the 20-30 students who left once they found out C-lucci wouldn't be teaching), decided to commit myself to working on some publishable things (a book review and a TS analysis of the economic effects of war), and read a really fascinating articled in Wired about international law and the spread of robots (which may find its way into my 316 syllabus). And it's only 2:00! I'm headed outside for one last quick run before tomorrow morning's Crazylegs Classic, and then M.Bro and I are going to something called "Dueling Pianos" at the Nakoma Country Club. Her boss invited us (and paid for our meals) - should be interesting! I'm feeling good and smiley!


I'm blogging from the lectern in Ingraham 22 before my guest-lecture tonight ("Rationalist Explanations of War"). There are about 15 students here and they're all looking at me strangely. I assume they assume the typing is related to something important.

Pinarello Montello

I'm in lust with this bike. At $7200, it's not any more expensive than a used Honda Accord.


I know what you think. You think I'm going to write you a detailed, multi-paragraph review of the Gomez/Cake concert non-wife date ELF and I were at tonight. I'm not your monkey.

Gomez sang Gomez songs and had some trouble pronouncing "isthmus", Cake sang Cake songs and appreciate both running water and 3/4 time signatures, and ELF was quite the humanitarian when we felt the balcony starting to give way. "Well, at least the people below us will be the dead ones," is what she said.

Chiropracter II: Not crackin' for crackin's sake

I'm not sure whether my visit was disappointing, enlightening, or a little of both. My students, who don't like to take a position on anything, lest it not be the secretly correct one, would say both.

The first thing I noticed was that Dr. Futch is a rather large man. Spice, unless you're willing to risk being crushed, I'd look for one of the other doctors. Or do some weight training before you go. I don't consider myself a scrawny guy, but he dwarfed me by several inches and many pounds - his forearms were as big as my biceps. I don't normally break down the guys I meet this way - but this was a situation in which the giant might be yanking on my spinal column. "I seem to have ripped your leg off," is what I pictured him saying to me. "Me sorry."

But the spine-yanking was not to be. He called me "man" a few times, and I told him about the flexibility issues that brought me to his cave office. He told me that he wasn't certified in Active Release Therapy, but referred me to another Madison chiropracter that is - unfortunately, not one in the employ of my HMO. He said, and I think I respect this, that he wasn't going to "manipulate" anything if I didn't have pain. Chiropracterizing isn't risk free, he told me, and he didn't want to risk an injury needlessly.

Instead, we talked about stretching for a while. Now, in theory, I know that my flexibility issues would probably be reduced with a better streching program, but I was hoping for a quick solution. Quick sidenote on quick solutions: I heard a radio ad today that had the following customer testimonial - "I was tired of so-called quick and easy weight loss solutions, so I called the doctors at Capitol Plastic Surgery!"

Dr. Futch "prescribed" 30 minutes of stretching per day for 3-4 months. If that doesn't work, he said, he'd try to set something up with his ART-certified friend through GHC. At the same time, though, he said that stretching has no scientific injury-prevention benefit, and mixed evidence for performance enhancement. And if that wasn't enough to make me want to ignore his prescription, he said some people are naturally less flexible, and that my legs were long enough that he wasn't surprised that I couldn't grab my heels or put my palms on the floor.

That's the sign of a great physician, I think - "You could take this medicine if you want to, but it may not do anything, and you probably don't need it anyway."

But I see other runners doing the splits, or touching their elbows to the floor while standing, or their foreheads to the floor while sitting, and I feel a little embarrassed that I can see my toes but only touch them if I bend them way up towards my head. Shouldn't my legs be all stringy and rubbery? Like a dancer's?

Intro to International Law

Looks like I'll be lecturing next semester. It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm pretty excited. Stoked, even, to use some not-quite-old-enough-to-be-retro slang.
We'd love to have you teach 316 in the fall, and want to thank you again for applying to do so. Tammi will know the full details on the next step, but it will involve a formal letter of offer and then your formal acceptance. She can get in touch if she needs any further information, and do let us know in the meantime if you have any questions.

Best wishes for a great semester ahead!

Catching the worm

Missy's J-Hawk Earlybird race report (along with helpfully illustrative photos) is up.

Active Release Therapy

After complaining about my lack of lower back, hamstring, and calf flexibility for years and year (and years), someone suggested that I talk to a chiropracter. Since my health insurance not only covers it, but allows my to self-schedule appointments (without getting my primary physician's approval) and unlimited visits, I decided to see how many months I'd have to wait to see a specialist. It turns out that the wait is 2 1/2 hours - I have an appointment at 5:00 today with Dr. Futch. According to the person who convinced me to go, I'm supposed to ask about something called Active Release Therapy -
ART is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they often result from injury to over-used muscles.

I'm sure I'll have more things to write about this.

And you can blame Jesus if you get a flat

Pretend you're a Christian group, and pretend that you want to organize a triathlon to pay for a missionary trip. What would you call it?

If you're not afraid of a little sacrilege, you'd call it Trinity. Missy and I've decided not to do the same races, so I'm looking for a sprint in early June. Even if this wasn't the only one available, the swim is only 125 meters long (that's 1:45 if I sprint) and the entry fee is ridiculously cheap.

I'm a little worried, though, that they're really just trying to convert me. What if the swim is really a baptism? The website isn't subtle -
Our purpose of Trinity is to have the spiritual, mental, and physical health of the Fox Valley and Waupaca area be lifted up by inviting Jesus to enter more deeply into our community, our families, and our hearts; and, that He might get His work done in us and the world.

Have you ever considered trying Jesus? Is God calling you to consider His Son? Learn more.

J-Hawk report

A race report (with photos) will be posted later today on my training blog, but here's a short version -

Ridiculously windy. Last person out of the pool with a time that would have been fast in other waves. 10th of 15 overall in her age group. Would have been third (with a medal!) if she had entered as an Athena (women >145 lbs). Antsy to race again.

Interestingly (or not), I think I only know one or two women that wouldn't qualify to race in the Athena division, but only one or two men that would qualify as Clydesdales (men >200 lbs). I wonder if that's a function of my friends or a too-low threshold for the Athena division.

Weekend blogging

No blogging this weekend - M.Bro and I are off to Whitewater for the J-Hawk Earlybird Triathlon. It's her first, and I promised to play cheerleader and bike mechanic instead of racing. Race report on Sunday night.

Poker Run 5K

My race report is up on the other blog - M.Bro's will follow shortly. M.Bro's is up now as well.

Short version - 21:03, a personal best, but I threw up in my mouth a little.

A priest, a rabbi, and, uhh, another religious guy walk into a bar

A discussion on Mr. Vertigo's blog made me think of this question - how would you describe your sense of humor?

I'm dry.

Swimming with an elf

ELF and I went to the pool last night so that she could suppress giggles while I struggled valiantly to swim with good form. She gave me some advice from the deck ("Why are you doing that? Stop it. Are you splashing people three lanes over on purpose?") and then from underwater ("Are you having spasms?"). I was getting some pretty serious calf cramps the last 10 minutes or so, but I didn't say anything because I was afraid she would make me cry ("...and what do you want me to do about it, huh? Oh, christ are you gonna cry now? Just get it out of your system, sissy.").

Driving trains

M.Bro is teaching a card-making class at the UW School of Engineering tonight - apparently they're having some sort of "Try Not to be Such an Engineer-apolooza"

Update: I'm disappointed. According to M.Bro, three of the six attendees were experienced scrapbookers, and the other three held their own. They're all part of SWE - the Society of Women Engineers, which just as formal as it sounds. They have a Social Chair. So, the verdict - just like any other class. I'm full of disappointment.

More right-wing t-shirts

I suppose there's no reason the left should have the exclusive right to wear funny/stupid t-shirts, but right-wing rage at liberals always strikes me as kind of phony. You can't rage against the machine when you are the machine, y'know?

Also, is advertising a t-shirt with giant breasts a family value?

From each according to his ability, blah, blah, blah

I'm blogging from the community PC at Michaelangelo's - it's (the computer, that is) in a constant state of flux and I love it. There's always a new background photo or home page, and sometimes people save little Notepad poems on the desktop for me. I'm saving the naval battle photo from the post below to the desktop for the next user to enjoy.

Please enjoy "Poem for Awhile 2" courtesy of the previous anonymous user -
after a belonging was near
things seemed imminent and
soon to become these things
were an acknowledgment of what
was beheld in a smile that
had gone away for a moment
and in the end the closeness
was a dream of fortune and
yet sorrow was a dream of
wandering deserts endlessly
in becoming something that one
was not aware of-these things
helped us to exist
Only in these moments we
were afraid of what could
be finished or accomplished
in a passing illusion of
what had helped me to dream
yet belong
had helped me to want
yet aquire
and in the designation
there were warnings of
something that was not
truthfully a song of feeling
the passing, intangible, and
fleeting gift- song
the darkness was revealing
in differences we had eluded to
the message was in finding


Extreme Christian Clothing store targets youth
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Walk into Lori Devins' downtown shop and it's clear this isn't a typical Christian retail store. First of all, Extreme Christian Clothing features T-shirts. Then, there are the shirts' in-your-face messages.
Along with ones saying "Got Jesus?" and "Fear God" are shirts declaring, "Satan Sucks," "My God can kick your god's butt," and "To Hell with the Devil."
"Our shirts are a little extreme, but I think God is spreading the word and having the youngsters shout out their faith," Miss Devins said. "I think teenagers want to evoke a response."

Sorry, but your religion's not cool, dude - no matter how much you want it to be.

This week on the History Channel

Thank you for joining us for this special presentation of "The Disasters of War: But Not What You Think" -

Two big cycling announcements today

#1 - the Tyler Hamilton ruling was handed down today. Verdict - guilty. Punishment - two year suspension. I was ready to believe his innocence - I'm such a sap.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has announced the long awaited decision of the independent arbitration panel of the American Arbitration Association (AAA)/North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), that cyclist Tyler Hamilton of Boulder, Colorado committed a doping infraction by transfusing another person's blood. The 34 year-old Hamilton received the maximum two-year suspension for a first-time doping offense.

#2 - This July's Tour de France will be Lance Armstrong's last race - not just his last Tour, but his last race (although, honestly, how many people pay attention to any other race he does?). I've never been part of the cult of Lance, but his retirement be a blow to cycling's popularity in the U.S.
Six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will retire on July 24, one day after the Tour de France. At a press conference in Atlanta, Georgia today, 33 year-old Armstrong announced that he would not be continuing for another year, confirming his statements earlier this year that "four months, and it's over."

Armstrong said today, "I have decided that the Tour de France will be my last race as a professional cyclist. July 24 will be my last one after 14 years in the professional peloton. Having said that, I'm fully committed to winning a seventh Tour.


Our department has three funding resources available - research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and course lecturer positions. The first is usually filled by first-years or upper-classmen with connections, the second by everyone else, and the third by those willing to take a financial hit in order to pad their CV. This financial disparity between TAs and lecturers is due to the fact that the latter aren't part of the TA/PA union, so lecturers don't receive tuition reimbursement or receive proportionally higher salaries. This, unfortunately, is what led to the much-blogged-about C'lucci situation - no grad student was willing to take the lectureship, so the department had to go outside the department to fill the spot.

Today, however, the Associate Chair sent an e-mail to four IR grads that including this interesting paragraph. As he notes, the salaries are still out of line with the increased amount of work that goes into a lectureship, but the International Law course they're looking to fill also comes with a grader position to take some of the burden off the lecturer.
Graham has been in touch with South Hall about this strange state of affairs, asking that it be addressed. We have yet to hear from them, so we have decided to take action on our own with departmental funds (limited though they may be). To be more specific, we plan to provide all doctoral student lecturers from the department with $750 in flexible research funds. That helps to address some of the inequity in salaries between lecturers and TAs, and more than covers the differential cost of tuition. Experienced senior TA’s receive $5499, but do not pay tuition. Lecturers receive $5999 but need to pay $986 in tuition (for a net salary of $5013). The flex funds bring effective lecturer reimbursement up to $5763. I recognize that there’s still an inequity, given how much more work it is to lecture a course, but unfortunately we are working in a context in which all we can do is try to make things a bit fairer.

I replied to say I was interested, although I'll probably be competing with sometimes-poster T-Bone for the position.

The Orange County

Pitchfork's review of Music from the O.C. - Mix 4 has some insightful things to say about the indie-ness of indie music. Specifically, you hipsters are going to have to find a new image if you want to stay out of the mainstream.
I think "The O.C."'s boogeyman role has more to do with indie fans' perception of themselves than their worry for the eternal cred souls of the bands getting national exposure. That pang you're feeling when you hear the Walkmen on the show is the realization that indie lifestyle, in all of its anti-mainstream fervor, is just as commidifiable an identity as any high school hallway archetype, fit not only for the personality of an ensemble cast member but a whole slew of show-related they have "O.C." hoodies yet?

So if this throwaway compilation has an underlying message, it's this: You're not special. That complex, detached, artfully depressed persona you've cultivated isn't unique; in fact, it's so easily simulated, the network that also brings you "Life on a Stick" can replicate it. But don't let it bring you down, it's only castles burning. Accelerate the inevitable: Embrace your lack of the unique, stop liking bands for their scarcity, enjoy the full spectrum of music, not just the portions with credibility directed prefixes. And don't forget to thank "The O.C." for saving you some time along the way.

That's good advice, Mr. Hipster-guy.

Interestingly, Google's image search turns up a lot of lingerie when I search for "hipster".

Complex passwords - counterproductive?

There are at least two very computer-geeky people that will read this, but everyone else should feel free to chime in as well. It strikes me that complex password regulations (must contain uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, no less than eight characters, be changed every 30 days, and not be the same as your last 10 passwords, for example) invite users to write their passwords down rather than go through the hassle and/or embarrassment of calling IT support to admit they forgot. Which is more secure - a less-complex password that a user can remember or a hard-to-hack one that ends up on a post-it on their monitor?

It's Jason Day!

An also-named-Jason friend just e-mailed to say that our name is the name of the day at Pedro's Mexican Restaraunte - that's a free lunch, baby!

More evidence

As I noted previously, commercials are using increasingly hip music. More evidence, freshly gathered this evening -

VW Jetta - Kings of Leon - "Molly's Chambers"
Pontiac G6 - Kasabian - "Club Foot"

Some companies still haven't got the memo - witness SBC. "We paid $2.4 million to use these Eric Clapton songs and we're going to milk it!"

El Saga de Casa de Brozek continues

A couple hours after mountain biking today, we had an appointment to look at some apartments near M.Bro's store. They were nice, but much more convenient for her than me (not necessarily a deal-breaker) and just a hair outside of the price range we decided to stay in. During the walkthrough, one of our questions was whether any of the available apartments were wheelchair-accessible. The apartment manager's response was (roughly), "Well, I think there's one that's completely accessible, but most of them only have a few stairs, so they're pretty much wheelchair accessible." What's that, manager-lady? I'm a little confused, and M.Bro is ready to lecture you. That's not the only reason why, but I think we're taking these apartments off the list too. We have 2 1/2 months left to find either a new place or a mattress small enough to fit in the back of our truck!

Can't get enough futures market action!

Election outcomes, terrorist attacks, NCAA tourney tickets - why not the next pope?
For now, the Intrade speculators are expecting the white smoke to signal an Italian pope. The futures contract that pays off in the event any Italian wins was trading at one point yesterday at 41.9, which means the traders gave Italy a 41.9 percent chance, followed by Nigeria at 13. The individual favorite was Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, at 23, followed by Francis Arinze of Nigeria, at 14.

Many of the traders probably know little about Vatican politics and are basically recreational gamblers, perhaps sentimentally betting on their local contender. But these amateurs serve a purpose in the ruthless ecosystem of the market.

Bonus bike blogging

Doesn't your dog deserve the finest food dish that carbon fiber engineers can manufacture? If you love your pooch, you'll shell out the 65 clams.

Friday bike blogging: avoiding a serious faux pas

The stock bars on my bike were risers, which means that I couldn't put bar ends on them. For an explanation of why no self-respecting mountain bikers would run bar ends on a riser bar, I'll defer to the often-offensive R.Cate:
The sweep and width of a riser bar is supposed to negate the need for bar ends the position becomes more natural and the width provides the leverage offered by bar ends. But racers like to take it in the butt so they enjoy the ergonomic shape of these shorter straight bar ends for giving a mid ride pooper session.

Naturally, since I enjoy a good mid-ride pooper session as much as the next mountain biker, I ordered a pair of flat bars and bar ends. Fortunately, I have connections, so I can get these parts for well under retail. The parts were delivered yesterday and I'm nothing if not a prompt installer:

Get a little cooler next Thursday

I just learned from the handy Ishthmus that M.Ward will be playing at Cafe Montmartre next Thursday. The show starts at 9 and tickets are $11 advance/$12 day-of-show. M.Bro and I will be there - will you?

Pitchfork gave M.Ward's new Transistor Radio an 8.2 -
It's artists like M. Ward who make me contemplate why I write about music. I get my skin tingling to the acoustic guitars and I'm just thinking "Jesus, is this what it's about?" I'm trying to put the feeling this music gives me into words in an attempt to understand it, to convey how great it is and why, and maybe convince you that it's worth your cash or your bandwidth, and it occurs to me that I'm unsure why I do it-- why I need to do it-- and that, in the end, it's because I'm enjoying this and I want you to enjoy it, too.

Heaven knows you don't build cred or a reputation as a trend-breaker boosting a guy like M. Ward to the rafters with acclaim, because he's not one of those musicians who bothers with belonging to a movement or a trend. He's just going on with that beautifully flawed voice of his (a high, hollow tenor with a fringe of grit) spinning melodies that remind you that, though you're weary of the world, you're not alone. His last record, 2004's magnificent Transfiguration of Vincent is at once sprawling and intimate. It's grown on me like strangling vines in the last year and I can play it anytime around anybody without a worry. This one is just a little tiny bit less perfectly imperfect than that album, but it's still got all the warmth and gentle disorganization of its predecessor-- with a few more oomphy tracks standing in for Tranfiguration's most introspective meditations.

I also just found out that Cake is playing the Orpheum in a couple weeks. M.Bro has already said that she has no interest in going. Is it worth $30? I think ELF likes Cake, though - ELF, wanna date me for a night?

You didn't have anything planned for tonight did you?

If so, call it off. Could you imagine a better way to spend a Thursday night than trying to escape from a crimson room? Or maybe trying to escape from the more challenging Veridian Room?

Note: they're pretty flash-heavy, so they take a little bit to download. Nowhere near as long as you'll spent spitting at the screen in frustration though.

What a Shinny evening!

Last night was the Brunettes/Shins at the Rave in Milwaukee - in a word, hands-down-best-concert-I've-ever-been-to.

The evening started with a quick dinner at Noodles & Co at some strip mall 20 miles out from Milwaukee, immediately after which we saw a Noodles employee drinking beer in his car next to us in the parking lot. We presume he was on his dinner break.

At the Rave, we found a free street parking spot right next to the $15 official lot - bonus! We were there about 45 minutes before the show, so decided to check out the merchandise table on the second floor before going down to the club. Since I had unused parking money begging to be spent (and no desire to spend it on the 1.5 glasses of beer it would buy me), I picked up an album by the opening band - The Brunettes. For $10 of what would have just lined the pockets of the parking lot attendee, I decided it was a good deal. Although I didn't know it at the time, this was a good move on my part.

As we were leaving the merch table, some girls behind us mentioned that the floor was getting really crowded. "Ack," M.Bro and I said to each other, simultaneously. We scurried down to the main floor, only to find that "crowded" means "probably not more than 200 people scattered pretty randomly around the room." We "pushed" and "shoved" our way through the "crowd" and found spots about 10 feet back from the barrier at center stage.

After 30 minutes of listening to a (drunk?) girl behind us try to sing the entire Shins catalog, The Brunettes started bringing their instruments on the stage. And then they left - but then they came back with more instruments. And then off for another instrument-collecting trip. I have three comments about The Brunettes.

1) I think this is a band you'll hear more about. They've got most of the elements of a winning formula - they're from another country (New Zealand) but not one so foreign that they're inaccessible to a wide audience, one of their two lead singers is quite attractive (hi Heather!), the other lead singer is male and M.Bro assures me that he is attractive as well, and they play east-to-digest pop. I'm almost never impressed with opening bands (Zutons aside), but I really enjoyed The Brunettes - well done, The Brunettes!

2) Musically, every member of the band is ridiculously multi-talented (except for the drummer, who frankly, should be ashamed of himself). There were seven band members, and I counted no less than 29 instruments on stage. At one point, one guy had a banjo strapped around his neck while he played the trumpet with one hand and a keyboard with the other - then he put the trumpet down so that he could get funkee on the slide guitar. At another point, I made up an imaginary instrument - seconds later, the cellist/castanetist was playing it with her left foot.

3) In a Never-Before-in-the-History-of-Rock Moment, Frank Lloyd Wright got a sustained "wooo." One of the band members commented that they all considered themselves amateur students of architecture and that they were very excited to be playing their first show in FLW's home state. And, yes, we woooooed.

The set change only took about 15 minutes, and most of that was due to the multiple trips needed to haul all 314 instruments off stage. I have four things to say about Albuquerque's finest - The Shins.

1) Anyone that came expecting The Shins from the Garden State soundtrack were saying to themself things like, "Why do they have to be so loud? TWO guitars - isn't that excessive? Iron & Wine doesn't need two guitars." The Shins rock pretty hard. Not as hard as Modest Mouse, but c'mon, this is about expectations, not objective measures of rockingness. They rocked though. Pretty hard.

2) James Mercer may be the lead singer, but oddly, he doesn't really seem to be the leader of the band. Instead, that would be bassist/guitarist/keyboardist/but-not-singer Marty Crandall. Mercer stood off to the side of the stage and left the audience chatting, of which there was a substantial amount, to Crandall. Crandall introduced all the songs, often with an explanation of what record they were from or something else about their origin - and did it all in the most comprehensible rock-show voice I've ever had the privilege of being on the receiving end of. This was no, "Mmmmrrph Umphst Roooooo maddymorch!" - but rather, "Hey, thanks Milwaukee - we appreciate it. I wrote this next song [Young Pilgrims] so that I could take a break during the concert [only Mercer and guitarist Dave Hernandez play. And Crandall didn't write it]."

3) They're very funny. One example - after coming out after the encore break, Crandall commented, "Backstage just now, James told us all to close our eyes and imagine that you were actually a thousand people being slaughtered." Ha!

4) When I get a little balder, I hope my receding hairline can look like James Mercer's.

There it was

Donations? No thanks - we're good.

Apparently The Current no longer believes that as my demand for online music increases, so does their cost for bandwith, because Mary Lucia no longer comes on to tell me so.

A band made up entirely of child stars is not beyond reason

In addition to lead singer Jenny Lewis having formerly starred in The Wizard with Fred Savage and Troop Beverly Hills with Shelley Long, Rilo Kiley's guitarist, Blake Sennett, was apparently a regular on Spice-favorite Boy Meets World. He acted under the name Blake Soper and played John Adams Junior High bully Joey "the rat" Epstein.

He's the one standing in the top photo and second from the right in the lower pic. Spice - ring any bells?

Edited to add: Now I think the two guys I pointed out are, in fact, different people. There's very little information members of Rilo Kiley that aren't Jenny Lewis - maybe it's because the three guys look pretty interchangeable.

What - are you trying to insult me?

I often wish I was in a situation that warranted calling another person a chicken so that I could say "cok-a-cok-a-cok-a-caaa" while clapping my hands, or "chee-chaw chee-chaw," while wiggling my hand on top of my head, or "a-cookle-doodle-deew" while flapping my arms like wings. If the other person watches Arrested Development, I imagine we'd both find this very amusing.

Music: not just for listening to anymore!

Sometimes I get bored. This usually happens in those periods of time too short to get anything worthwhile done, but too long to fill by checking my e-mail. Sometimes I fill them by checking my e-mail anyway. Sometimes I read your blog. And sometimes I remember a website that I haven't visited for months and months and months. A post by Mr. Vertigo reminded me of one of those websites, and specifically of a very humorous music-related article on it (note: feel free to deride me for the snobbery of my comment on his post. I have thick skin.)

From SomethingAwful, I present to you: How to Fake It (not that)!

From the intro:
If you want to impress people with your boundless wit in the field of popular music, all you have to do is convincingly fake it. It’s not hard at all. Just like anything else worth knowing, from tying a necktie to building a nuclear bomb, you can learn to do it just by reading a single stupid article on some two-bit Podunk website. I’ve been watching people do this for years; it’s impossible to have conversations about music frequently without running into quite a few sly bastards who have mastered the art of faking musical knowledge and quite a few more who are at least half-assedly attempting it.

There are a couple of main aspects to seeming more pop-savvy than you really are. First of all, you have to break through the more-indie-than thou barrier: sometimes, people are going to bring up a band that you know nothing about, and you have to be able to beat them at their own game. Secondly, you’re going to have to create an air of pretentious snobbery in order to assert the superiority of your taste (and who would know more about that than me?). Finally, you must fake a sick obsession with some sort of musical cult figure. Once you’ve done these things, you’ll be virtually indistinguishable from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

Here's an snippet of the advice:
Suppose someone says this: “Hey, have you heard of Flop?” Obviously, we’re also going to suppose that you haven’t heard of Flop, because you haven’t. How would you react to this? Your first instinct might be to say “Yeah, I’ve definitely heard of Flop.” This is bad idea for many reasons: first of all, it might be a trick. There might be no such band as Flop. Worse yet, your interrogator might have all manner of follow-up questions about Flop, and they’re going to be increasingly difficult to weasel your way out of. It might also be tempting to say “I’ve heard of them, but I haven’t really heard their records.” This is a wishy-washy compromise, and it’s an essentially meaningless answer. Basically, the only way to win at this game is to play it like Double Dare. You supposedly know everything about music. They ask you about Flop: dare. It’s time to put them on the defensive. “Hmm, Flop… what label were they on?” Double dare. Chances are, they don’t know. For all your opponent knows, you might know all about Flop, but he has failed to give you enough simple information, such as the name of their record label, for you to correctly identify them. Even if your opponent does know what label the band in question was on, you still can’t lose. “Ah yes,” you can say “I am almost certain that I have a compilation released by that label that has a few Flop songs on it.” This at least buys some time; the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to go home and look up Flop on the internet (this is known as the “Physical Challenge”). Your opponent is foiled, and you live another day.

How to like music:

D) If anyone’s heard of it, it’s crap.
Nothing can possibly get on the radio or on MTV without being watered-down for easy consumption by frat-boys, hicks, and teeny-boppers. Anyone who owns a radio and has it tuned to anything but the local pirate radio station or college station is a reprehensible consumer whore who wouldn’t know art if he ran face-first into Michelangelo’s David. Pop music is for children and yahoos.

E) If nobody’s heard of it, it’s crap.
The kids who do shows on the local pirate radio station or college station are a bunch of idiot scenesters with an infantile and ridiculous fear of pop music. Unable to appreciate pop music on its own terms, they turn instead to tuneless indie crap and ridiculous obscurity pissing-contests. The shit they play has no standard of quality; maybe that’s why only fifty people bought it.

cross-post from other blog

This has been one of my favorite threads on Slowtwitch. The question was whether people finishing an Ironman at 11:59 (or anytime that bumps up against the 17-hour cutoff) deserves the same admiration at someone that finishes in 8 hours, or 10 hours, or 12 hours, or whatever.

Some highlights:
i know several people who finished IM's near the end of midnight...some had diabetes, some had one leg, some were 75 years old, some were dads who just wanted to prove to their kids that they could do anything in the world.

all i know is that anyone who steps up to the line has balls. anyone who finishes before 17 hours is an Ironman.

This post reminds me of the story a friend recounted to me.

He had just finished a marthon in 4.30 hours when he encountered the winner. He congratulated the winner and said how he wished he could run 2.15 (or whatever). The winner then turned around and said how much he admired the back-of-the pack-gang, saying that there was no way he could run for 4+ hours. Bottom line, its all relative.

How the 16.59 finisher chooses to live the rest of their life is their business. But for that fleeting moment, they were just as much of an Ironman as was the winner.

I resolved at mile 1 of the marathon never to do another IM. At mile 25.5 I resolved to do many more. I believe that one reason that the race is so successful is that anyone who can get to the starting line has a shot at becoming something extraordinary. Those that cannot see the merits of that I feel are missing the point. We should feel some kinship for those that have aspired to similar goals, not deride them for not meeting our expections.

Last year at Ironman-Lake Placid there was a man who finished at 12:04...missed the official 17-hour cutoff by 4 minutes but he finished. We all beat the walls, yelled his name and someone even gave him their medal and t-shirt.

I was at a party a while back and my girlfriend mentioned to some of her friends that I do triathlons--these guys start "bragging" and talking about how they do triathlons etc etc(sprints,Olympic)--I pretty much checked out of the conversation as I don't like to bring it up too much

I never said I did Ironmans- they found out later that I did IM and their attitude totally changed and they couldn't believe I didn't say anything as they were going on and on about the tri's they did

be humble but proud

Edited to add: The thread continues, and I also like this post:
One year at Ironman New Zealand a woman name Kain Bivens finished just behind the cut off. Ken Glah [ed. note: a triathlete that's famous in the way famous political scientists are famous] gave her his medal because he was proud of her achievement. This year she came back - finished the race in 16:14. At the awards banquet she called up Ken and gave him the medal back - because she had earned her own.

Mountain biking - not for the pain-prone

Before I write about mountain biking, I should tell you that the promised swimming-lesson post can be found on my training blog under Being 11 All Over Again.

On to Kettle! After two days of 2 1/2+ hour rides at Kettle, I'm beat - exhausted - spent - but all in a good way. And even better, M.Bro reminded me that I used to come home from mountain biking completely shattered - laying on the couch for hours afterward, mumbling semi-coherently about exposed roots and sharp rocks. So I'm better than I used to be. I'd probably be better off doing shorter rides, but Kettle Moraine state forest is a 50-minute drive, and I'd feel ridiculous spending more time behind the wheel than on my bike.

The trails weren't as busy as I expected - last Thursday was the first day they were officially open, but it may just be so early that a lot of people assumed they're still closed. Sunday's traffic was about twice Saturday's though, so maybe the word is getting out. A good deal of that traffic was made up of entry-level riders - who I'm not only glad to see on the trail because I like to see more people in the sport, but because they make me feel like a total stud. I was a little nervous for some of them though - witness the following overheard conversation:

Woman: "Are you sure I'm going to be OK with these tires?" (referring to the 1 1/2 slicks on her hybrid)

Man: "I don't know - I've never been on these trails before."

They had a lot of walking ahead of them, but I didn't have the heart to ruin their fun before they even started.

Sunday's ride also made me feel pretty confident about the 3-hour race on April 30. The race format is pretty simple - ride as many times around the orange loop as you can in 3 hours. There's a similar format, but different loops, for the 6-hour and 12-hour races. I checked last year's results, and the winner did 4 loops in 2:34 (ties are broken by the amount of time you completed the laps in)(I've e-mailed the race director to make sure last year's race was on the same course as this year's). I rode the orange loop three times - first slow for recon (29:55), second really pushing it (26:20) and third slow because I was tired (31:00). The technical sections, especially the rock-strewn climbs, really slow me down, but I have a good aerobic base and I can make up a lot of time on the less-technical fire roads. Under 1:30 for three laps would put me in a pretty good position to do well on the 30th - I just need to work on my upper body endurance for the last half of the race.

The question now is whether I stick with my plan to run the 5-mile Crazylegs Classic the morning of the 30th before I drive to Kettle - I'd like to do both, but would I be unneccessarily wearing myself out for a race that I could do well in?

Edited to add: Ack - I forgot to mention my bike! After fixing some shifting issues and brake drag (things tend to work less well on the trail than they do when they're not being banged around), I was nothing but pleased. It climbed like a goat, felt rock solid on the descents (even technical ones), and dove into corners. I may eventually upgrade to disc brakes for better modulation, but other than that, I have nothing but good things to say.

red trail / orange trail / blue trail

Damn, Kettle - why you so good to me, baby?

Zaskar Expert

There's nothing like shaking off the nerdiness of an academic conference by building a mountain bike the next morning. Do you know what Gary King is doing this morning? I assure you - it's not building a Zaskar Expert, which he'll be taking to Kettle Moraine state forest later today!

The assembly and adjustment took about two hours, which is slow by bike shop standards. Oddly, it's exactly equivalent to my personal average for assembling mountain bikes. "Are you even qualified to do this?" you may be asking. To which I would reply, "We'll find out, I guess."

A pre-assembly Zaskar Expert. Someone at Pacific needed the box, so I missed out on that picture.

Removing the substantial-but-not-excessive packaging material, including the many warning stickers.

Still removing

Clamping the bars in the stem

Swapping the stock tires for the Kenda tires from my sponsor

Proud papa

My blog is now the #7 hit when you google "zaskar expert".

Back in the midwest after the Midwest (also in the midwest)

The blogging has been nil the last two days because of ye olde Midwest Politice Science Association conference in Chicago. M.Bro and I drove down Thursday afternoon (after swimming with D.Kap - see post to follow) for my Friday afternoon panel. I presented a paper called blah, blah, market-cakes. You don't care about any of that.

The trip did give rise to a number of questions that I now pose to you, my readers:

1) Are building copyrighted? And if so, does the Marina Condo Association get royalties whenever a copy of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is sold?

2) Is there such a thing as a "spring handbag"? Was I in the wrong for giggling at my wife when she said she wanted to look for one?

3) Am I an irresponsible academic for thinking every paper other than mine (and, sometimes, mine too) is boring as all get out? I feel like I have an academic responsibility to find other people's work interesting, but I just can't muster up any enthusiasm for it.

4) Do you think that publishing companies staff their conference booths with young, attractive women on purpose? "Hello, nerd - I'm the hottest woman you've ever talked to. Would you like 300 copies of this book about the Iranian nuclear program? How about if I show you a little cleavage? 400?"

5) Who blesses the pope when he sneezes? Isn't that kind of presumptuous? I mean - he's the pope, and you're going to bless him?

Fixed up

There was a good article on fixed-gear riding today on the Wired site, of all places -
"If you are an intelligent cyclist, it makes you far more aware. Instead of looking a car or two ahead of you, you have to look three to four blocks down the road and have to scan left to right constantly to look for escape routes."

"It's a Zen thing. Once you get used to traffic, then you can float through the chaos," he said.

TurboTax? Turb-NO-tax!

Yesterday, M.Bro and I spent a lovely evening at Atlanta Bread Company doing our taxes. We had partially completed them on TurboTax already, but were concerned when it didn't ask us about some things we knew we should be asked about. The manual forms are not really all that hard anyway, and we didn't want to give any more money to the Bush administration than we absolutely had to. It turns out that TurboTax had calculated a federal tax bill significantly higher than the one we calculated with the old-skool paper forms. And we're even getting a small (very small) refund from the State of WI, rather than paying them a small (very small) amount.

Fearing the IRS, this made us nervous. What did we screw up? After multiple trips through the 1040 and supplemental schedules, we convinced ourselves that we were right and TurboTax was skimming money off the top or something.

We were predisposed to think that, however, since TurboTax calculated high for us last year too. A last-minute trip to H&R Block to file our 2003 taxes a year ago revealed that the TurboTax software had overestimated our taxes due that year as well. Unfortunately, the H&R Block fee wiped out the difference, and we were only beter off because we at least knew we weren't overpaying.

Next year - all on our own, from the beginning.

Such an idiot

F&*K - the Horribly Hilly Hundred is full. It hasn't filled the last three years (the only three years of its existence) - you could walk right up to the registration table the morning of the ride and demonstrate your lack of reason/intelligence/sanity. Should I poach it? There's no way they're going to check 1000 people for race numbers in a mass-start event, are they?

Edited to add: If I thought I could poach it without using any of their rest stops, I would. Also, if I rode without paying, I'd have to skip the final climb to Blue Mound park. Neither option sounds reasonable, so I'm not going to poach.

Fortunately, there are two other reasonably good alternative races that weekend - the Verona Triathlon (1500m/40k/10k) and the WORS Big Ring Classic mountain bike race/trail run. I should decide and sign up pronto.

Are you an Odelay or a Sea Change?

Listening to Beck while riding the bus to campus this morning, I realized that you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite Beck album. Then I realized that's total crap - no, you can't.

Zaskar Team - International-only

Is this frame prettier than mine? The international market always gets more models than the U.S. market, and this is my frame with different paint/decals and a different component group. One of the other guys on the team works in the parts department and nabbed one of these framesets out of international warranty supply. Is it prettier than mine?

Zaskar update

After a sizing-related conversation with some more-experienced mountain bikers this morning, my Zaskar has been ordered. I pulled some strings, and sped up the whole process - it's coming by van on Friday instead of by FedEx in 7-10 days. I also picked up the tires Kenda is sponsoring us with, and our team kits should be here in a week and a half.

The sizing-related issue - I couldn't decide whether I needed a L or XL frame. The L has a top tube close to what I ride on my road and tri bikes, but the XL has standover closer to the really nice full-suspension bike I did a race on last fall. Here's what the GT product manager had to say -
The XL is friggin’ huge. Not as big as I thought it would be but with the long head tube and 130mm stem it was quite the stretch. Coming from a Tri back ground and also being new to the mountain bike even a large will stretch you a lot for technical sections. An XL will probably not give you the weight to keep the rubber down and the fork down when you do steep uphills.

My first race is 25 days away, and I don't have a bike nor have I been on the trails (which, in my defense, aren't even open yet) - should I be worried?

Gettin' sweaty

Eating large amounts of pineapple makes my face sweat. As does ketchup.

Bike Blogging - Fargo St Hill Climb

At two blocks long, LA's Fargo St hill is pretty short. At a 33% grade, however, it's also pretty painful to ride up. The LA Wheelmen, a cycling club, sponsor an annual Fargo climb where the goal is not only to get up Fargo St, but to do it as many times as possible. Within a time limit, you ask? No - just until you can't ride anymore because you're throwing up and/or dead. Some photos from this year's event -

Looking at Fargo St from two blocks away:

Dave Wyman - former record-holder (26 climbs)

Apparently a lot of riders take tandems to the climb, but ride them solo - they're heavier, but the front wheel stays on the ground.

This picture gives you a better perspective of how steep Fargo is

Finally, here's the patch you get for climbing it once.

Selling or modeling?

Do you want to buy, or do you want to look? That's what I thought, baby.

Plagiarism update

Per UW guidelines, I met with the student this morning. Her excuse was that she turned in the wrong paper - that she had copied and pasted information from websites to use as research, and must have accidentally handed that in rather than the paper she had written using that research. She was crying and shaking while she told me this.

I don't buy it for a second (a title page on research notes? A bib with misleading citations?), but I gave her 15 minutes to go back to her dorm and e-mail me the "correct" paper.

This should be interesting - I predict that correct file will have "mysteriously disappeared" from her computer.

Update: I had another TA read through the paper, and he thinks the plagiarism is so obvious that her story might just be true.

Update: I have the paper now, and a preliminary skim-through gives me the impression that it's basically the same paper. The first two pages (the non-plagiarized sections) are exactly the same, many of the same (plagiarized) sentences are still in the paper, and some small changes have been made to the language in other sections - changes that would make an undergrad think, "I changed it, so now it's not cheating!"

From the paper she "meant" to hand in:
Second, the United States has zero tolerance for the suppression of the Palestinian people by Israel, and that Israel's 30-year-old occupation of the Palestinians must end. These two fundamental propositions must occur together; one without the other is empty persuasion. Palestinians will not give up what they see as their natural right to resist their occupiers if they believe that their occupiers have no intention of ending their occupation. Once the principle of viable Palestinian statehood has been clearly acknowledged by Israel, the process toward its accomplishment requires a complete end to all forms of violence. Israel will be among the prime beneficiaries of the ultimate defeat of al-Qaida and its affiliates in the Middle East and elsewhere.

From the research notes she "accidentally" handed in (lifted from
Second, the United States has zero tolerance for the subjugation of the Palestinian people by Israel, and that Israel's 30-year-old occupation of the Palestinians must end. These two fundamental propositions must occur together; one without the other is empty persuasion. Palestinians will not give up what they see as their natural right to resist their occupiers if they believe that their occupiers have no intention of ending their occupation. Once the principle of viable Palestinian statehood has been clearly acknowledged by Israel, the process toward its accomplishment requires a complete end to all forms of violence. Israel will be among the prime beneficiaries of the ultimate defeat of al-Qaida and its affiliates in the Middle East and elsewhere.

One says subjugation where the other says suppression - that's not plagiarism!

In addition, I'm not convinced that the paper she initially handed in was, in fact, research notes. It contains the same introduction and conclusion as the paper she handed in this morning, as well as retaining the same organizational structure, section headings, and section intro sentences.

Sell-outs, one and all!

When did commercials start playing good music? The first song that I sought out explicitly because I heard it in a commercial was by "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet. Or maybe the Gap ad with "Jump, Jive and Wail" - although I may have had that on a Brian Sezter CD before the ad came out. Then there was "Pressure Point" by The Zutons in a Levi's commercial, and "Gravity Rides Everything" by Modest Mouse in a Nissan ad. in the last few weeks I've heard "Jerk it Out" by The Caesers on an ipod shuffle commercial, "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand on a Sony PSP commercial, a little snippet of "C'mon, C'mon" by The Von Bondies in a Pepsi ad, and some unnamed song by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on an Adidas 1 commercial. I'm sure there are more that I've missed (and that you'll point out).

What's going on here? Is my taste in music getting crappy, or are ad agencies really that hip?

Ooh - I found an interview on the Matador Records site with someone who's in the business of ad music.
Matador: Yeah, some commercials are incredibly well-crafted and amazing to look at . . .

But the music is way behind, so I'm pushing to get more of the people who write and produce hit records involved in music for commercials, too.

Plagiarist, or just a student who hasn't made up an excuse yet?

Prof. C is "hesitant" to let me give the student a zero on the paper below. His involvement in grading has so far been nil, and I imagine he's afraid failing a student after the drop deadline will reflect poorly on his evaluations.

From his e-mail, "If she immediately comes clean and gives you a credible reason for her action, high F would be in order (you make the call, perhaps a 50)." I responded to ask what exactly qualifies as a "credible reason" for copying and pasting four pages of text from nine different websites - no word back yet.

What's up? Pope's dead.

I'm disappointed that Spice beat me to that e-mail - I'd been waiting two days to send it. I strongly opposed Pope John Paul II's position on birth control, abortion, and same-sex marriage, as well as his relative silence on abuse within the church, but I respect him for things like this (from the New Catholic Times):
The Pope worked tirelessly to convince leaders of nations on the UN Security Council to oppose Bush's war resolution on Iraq. Vatican sources claim they had not seen the Pope more animated and determined since he fell ill to Parkinson's Disease.

This is also a fantastic photo -

Boys apparently have plenty of self-esteem

I think this sounds like a good organization, but I'm not sure they'd take a male coach/volunteer, and I can't find any mirror organization for these girls' male friends.
Girls on the Run® is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that uses the power of running to change the way girls see themselves and their opportunities! It is an innovative, health education and wellness prevention program that uniquely combines training for a 3.1 mile run/walk event with life-changing, self-esteem enhancing lessons. These lessons are designed to encourage healthy habits and an active lifestyle for girls 3rd through 5th grade.

Girls participating in the program learn to stretch themselves - physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally - and, in the process, are inspired to a lifetime of self respect and healthy living.

You're no Henry Siegman

Plagiarism is such a pain in my ass - why, oh why, would a student think that she could pass of sentences like, "These two fundamental propositions must occur together; one without the other is empty persuasion," as her own? And why would she copy and paste from the fucking COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS?!?

Update: Oh, wait, there's more! Another three paragraphs lifted directly from! Holy shit - she left the fucking hyperlinks in her paper! That's hi-laaaar-ious!

Final tally: 4 of 6 pages completely plagiarized, with text lifted directly from nine separate websites. I could have graded another 5 exams in the hour it took me to do that!

Maxwell's silver hammer came down

Well now, this is quite a blow to Herr Goebbels' credibility.
While at the moment all indications seem to point to the "struck with a silver hammer" claim as belonging in the realm of lore rather than in reality, we await the Vatican's pronouncement on the subject before moving this one squarely into the 'False" column.

Urgent message to readers:

Stop reading passively and validate my decision!

Zaskar Expert

Over the past three or four months, I've been slowly financing my new mountain bike by reducing, via ebay, the amount of bike stuff I have in my basement. I had accumulated an embarrassing amount of stuff over the past six years - much of it relatively valuable, including a never-built titanium frame, an old-school Trek track frame, and various never-used parts and components. There's a market for just about everything on ebay, and I've slowly been able to clean up my bike area and save money for a new mountain bike simultaneously.

I just made a big paypal transfer, and I'll going to call Pacific tomorrow to order the Zaskar Expert pictured above. I've never not ridden on a borrowed mountain bike - sometimes it was an entry-level pig of a bike from a friend, other times it was a top-of-the-line-and-way-out-of-any-price-range-I-can-fathom prototype from work, but I didn't ever have consistent quality, function, or fit. The shipping process from the Pacific Cycle warehouse in Illinois is relatively quick and I should have it before my first race on the 30th of this month.

Feel free to tell me that it looks fast and/or sleek and/or gorgeous and/or fast again and/or rugged.

Being able to pay for it in cash is also kind of satisfying - which, god, probably means I'm turning into some sort of financially responsible adult.

April Fo..........whatever.

My wife's dislike of dressing up for Halloween is closely followed by her refusal to pull pranks on April Fool's day. It's not just that she doesn't like to or doesn't think she'd be good at it - she gets annoyed and flustered if you even suggest that she should. Psychologically, this is interesting to me. What does M.Bro have against deception?