Archive for April, 2007

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Monday, April 30th, 2007

In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that my 20.2 mph average speed in the Natchez Trace Century was “on bike time only” — that is, not counting stops at water stations  or crashing.  Overall time was about 5:15, I think.  Riding time was just under 5 hours.

While I’m on the subject, here are me, Gerry and Ralph after the ride:

And here’s my damaged arm:

Natchez Trace Century

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

First the bad news: Five miles from the end I crashed.

Next the good news: I set a personal record average speed of 20.2 mph for the 100 miles.

Last year I did this ride at 19.6 mph. It’s just about entirely flat, up the Natchez Trace parkway 50 miles and back again, so I knew it was my best bet for breaking the 20 mph mark. I got in with a pace line right at the beginning, and we made excellent time. There were seven of us at the turnaround point.

On the way back, a couple of guys dropped out when we passed one of the rest stops. At around 75 miles, two more guys dropped out, leaving just three of us. I was feeling pretty good up to about mile 80, when I started to get some soreness and cramping in my lower back muscles. Still, I knew we were well over 20 mph at that point, and I was determined to hold on.

Around 85 miles, I was in the back of the group of three, and the guy in front of me pulled out to the left and motioned me to come up. I asked if he was okay, and he said he was cramping. I told the leader, but he wasn’t inclined to slow up. I thought about it a moment, and decided that I was hurting too much to keep up with the lead guy, who had been clearly in better shape throughout the ride. I dropped back to help the other guy (who turns out to be named Steve).

I led for a good while at around 18 mph, and he recovered enough to pull in front and take a turn. We were heading into the wind on the way back, and even the very slight grades we were encountering were slowing us up a lot. As Steve said at one point, “I’m in survival mode here.” We kept trading the lead back and forth.

At about 95 miles, Steve pulled in front of me again. I don’t have a very clear memory of exactly what happened. It seems like when he pulled in, he cut it too close and his back wheel hit my front. In any case, I know our wheels hit, and suddenly I was out in the middle of the road falling flat on my right side. My right arm, shoulder, and hip hit first, and then my head hit the pavement hard. When I looked at my helment this morning, there was a crack all the way through on the right side. Steve came back immediately and helped me up, and my bike was okay to ride, so we hobbled on in the last five miles.

Actually, we started out slowly, but pretty soon I was able to get back up to a decent speed. Ralph and Gerry were there at the finish line to take my picture, and for someone with a serious road rash, I was feeling pretty good. Even better when I checked my average speed.

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

In today’s Washington Post, President Bush is quoted as saying that “The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment and answered every question he could possibly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.”

Later, in a White House press conference:

“He’s staying,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters when asked about Gonzales. Perino later added that Bush did not watch the testimony but received updates from aides.

So here’s the situation. Gonzales, in his testimony about the unprecedented midterm firing of 8 federal prosecutors, said “I don’t remember” or a variant thereof 64 times. He also went on to assure Congress that the decisions had been made properly, even though he apparently has no idea how they were made. Meanwhile, Bush didn’t watch the testimony, but it increased his confidence in Gonzales.

These people are, ostensibly, running the government of the most powerful country in the world.

My athletic sister

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Gerry, my 59-year-old sister, just competed in her first triathlon and finished 3rd in her division.

Here she is on stage thanking all the little people:

This weekend I’ll be meeting her and her husband Ralph in Ridgeland, MS for the Natchez Trace Century.

Taum Sauk 2007

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Once again, we got a bunch of people together and rode up to the top of Taum Sauk mountain, highest point in Missouri.  The ride starts at Marble Creek campground on E road, and goes up E about 13 miles to MO 21.  That part is mostly gentle upward grade, with occasional hills.

Here we are on E — that’s Rick waving.

Then a couple of miles south on 21, hilly and a lot of traffic.  Then a right onto CC road, and three miles up to the summit.  That last three miles includes about 500 feet of climb, in three major hills.  The middle one, to the top of Russell Mountain, is about half a mile at 9% grade.  I always get my heart rate up near the max on that one.

Here we are at the summit.  From left: John Greenfield, Blake ?, Rick Brindell, ? , Pat Koetting, me, Joel Allison, Cody Nees, ?, Derek Nees.

People whose names I didn’t catch: my apologies.

More pics at my Flickr page.

…But this is ridiculous.

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Tomorrow is the first Taum Sauk Ass-Ault of the year,  so today I thought I’d go somewhere totally flat and do a nice easy ride just to keep limber.  So I put the bike on the rack and drove down to Commerce.  About 30 miles south of Cape Girardeau you get to the old Mississippi flood plain — the beginning of the bootheel of Missouri, geographically.  It was once a vast wetland, but landowners drained the whole area back around 1900, and now it’s dead flat farmland as far as the eye can see.

Well, I intended to take it easy, but it’s such a treat to ride on flat pavement that I couldn’t help pushing it a bit.  I figured I’d ride south into the wind for an hour, then turn around.  As it turned out, that took me almost 20 miles, to Charleston, MO.  When I got there, I realized that I’d arrived on the weekend of the Dogwood/Azalea Festival.  I couldn’t very well leave without touring the old mansions and gardens a bit (a number of landowners got quite rich after draining all that worthless swamp…).

So when I turned around to head back, I already had about 24 miles on the trip meter.  I was cruising along at a good clip, and coming up to a small cemetery with a giant stone crucifix.  I was thinking how a crucifix, with Jesus actually hanging there, seems much more Catholic than a plain cross.  So I was wondering if I could identify any likely Catholic last names on the tombstones, and looking at them as I went by.  All of a sudden, I felt a bump as something went under my front wheel.  I looked down, and had a quick impression of reddish fur and something scrabbling at my ankle, and then there was a second bump as it went under the rear wheel.  I looked back to see a squirrel running like hell for the nearest telephone pole.

The family has a history of squashing wildlife recently, but come on.  On my bike?

Virginia Tech

Monday, April 16th, 2007

There’s not much that I can say about the events of the day, but it seems trivial to blog about anything else at the moment. The only thing I do know is that it is far too easy here for a disturbed person to take a lot of others with him. It’s a mystery to me why we continue to insist on making guns as widely available as cell phones. The founders of our country, for all their wisdom, never imagined the kind of firepower that technology would put in the hands of individuals. It’s a far cry from the hunter’s rifle to the automatic or semiautomatic 9 mm pistols used by this killer.

Oh, and no, I don’t really think that things would have turned out better if everyone on campus had been armed.  Professors?  I know a lot of them, being one, and I wouldn’t want most of them to be carrying a gun.  Students?  I shudder to think.  Look, what other developed country has this sort of incident on a regular basis?  What other developed country allows you to buy a gun at Wal-Mart?

Lock-in

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

For the second year, I helped Robin by serving as a chaperon at the Spanish Club lock-in at the high school.  It’s interesting to me how easy it is to stay up all night; I got there at 8 PM Saturday and left at 6 AM Sunday.  While I was occasionally a little sleepy, I didn’t really feel bad at any time.  The other interesting thing is how completely debilitating it is the next day.  I slept from 7 to about 11; I would have slept longer, but I just don’t sleep well when it’s light.  Then I got up and graded exams, and lay around all day doing very little.  Even some really nice sunny weather didn’t induce me to go for a bike ride.  It’s now almost 10 PM, and I’m beat.

As for the lock-in itself, there was a treasure hunt that didn’t really go very well — some of the clues were indecipherable, and people wound up not following directions, and there were some hard feelings.  It wasn’t helped by the fact that Robin wasn’t feeling well and was in a bad mood.  I’d say the best part was playing Spanish Scrabble.  I was kicking butt until I had to go pick up the food about 11 PM.

Rain!

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Aarrgh.  Just because of a measly 100% chance of severe thunderstorms, they’ve postponed the Natchez Trace Century for two weeks.  So, after getting all packed and ready to drive to Mississippi for the weekend, here I am sitting at home.  The worst part is that my sister Gerry and her husband Ralph were going to come up from Louisiana to meet me, and now I won’t get to see them.  They may or may not be able to make the rescheduled ride, as they have a wedding to go to that evening.

And on top of that, it’s raining and raining and raining.  I really want to go for a ride of some sort tomorrow, but I don’t know if it’s going to stop in time.

And even worse, since I won’t be out of town this weekend, I have no excuse to get out of helping Robin with the Central High School Spanish Club lock-in tomorrow night.

More idiocy in the Missouri legislature

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Genetics Exam 2:

1. Explain the process of rho-dependent transcription termination in E. coli.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster pulls the RNA off the template with His Noodly Appendage.

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If the legislature gets its way, I won’t be able to count off for this answer.

The state House has given initial approval to an “intellectual freedom” bill that would require all state educational institutions to establish policies to ensure that students aren’t coerced into beliefs they disagree with.

Here’s an excerpt from the bill (HB213):

2. The coordinating board for higher education shall require each public institution to report annually to the general assembly detailing the steps the institution is taking to ensure intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.

(1) The report required in this subsection shall address the specific measures taken by the institution to ensure and promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom. The report may include steps taken by the institution to:

(e) Include intellectual diversity concerns in the institution’s guidelines on teaching and program development and such concerns shall include but not be limited to the protection of religious freedom including the viewpoint that the Bible is inerrant;*

Now, I teach a science and religion class in which I work very hard to be respectful and accommodating of different beliefs, but I insist that students deal with the scientific evidence in a reasoned way.  With the legislature breathing down my neck, I don’t know that I could teach that class.  For that matter, the introductory course for biology majors is an evolution class.  Can we set any standards at all for intellectual rigor, or is “diversity” going to trump everything else?

I’ve taken the liberty of writing a draft University policy to meet the requirements set out in the bill explicitly.

*Yeah, I know that (e) has syntax problems. The least of our worries, OK?