November 20th, 2008 |
MPR has a page online showing a few of the challenged ballots in the recount for the MN Senate race. The latest tally has Coleman in the lead by just over 150 votes, and the trend has been that Franken is steadily gaining ground from recount and count clarifications.
The overwhelming message from these ballots is how bad people seem to be at following simple directions. Minnesota uses an optical scanner ballot: it’s exactly the same idea as the standardized tests that every school-age kid has taken for the last several decades, it’s NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. You fill in the little oval, you don’t make other marks. If you make a mistake, you request a new ballot and start over. HOW MUCH SIMPLER COULD IT POSSIBLY BE? Sheesh people, sheesh.
This shouldn’t be surprising. While waiting in the short line for a voting booth, the two people behind me were talking about voting procedure. Not critiquing it, mind you, they were wondering how it was supposed to work. This is after we’ve checked in and received a ballot along with instructions on what to do. They were adults, probably in their 40s, were communicating with each other in a normal fashion, and seemed reasonably intelligent, but at the same time baffled at how to handle the ballot. You fill in the little circles, period. That’s it.
It’s true, there is nothing in the world that is idiot-proof.
November 18th, 2008 |
The best radio show ever, Radio Lab, just began their 5th season. If you haven’t heard it yet, you’re missing one of the most intelligent and interesting programs EVER. I’m not kidding. Go, listen, grab the podcast if you aren’t near a radio.
November 15th, 2008 |
24th of 55 overall in the B race, 8th place out of 19 for singlespeeds.
heading around the pond at the 2008 State Champ CX race
photo courtesy of skinnyski.com
After racing both days last weekend, i uncharacteristically took an entire week off the bike and drove to work. Oh, the shame. I was tired, the weather was crappy, wacka wacka wacka. So i just called it a hard taper for the last ‘cross race of the season.
My main race prep was washing my bike. It hadn’t been more than hosed down once over the whole season, and the chain was a rotating mass of goo. So last night i set it over the basement drain, filled a bucket with warm water, got out the dish soap and went at it. At least the bike would be ready to go this time.
The state course was much different this year than the past 3 years. There’s no escaping the long staircase runup, but other years it has centered around and maximized the hill for pain and spectating pleasure. This year the start/finish was across the park near registration, and they really made full use of the park area. The result was a very long (~2 mile) and much flatter course than before, so they threw in a ride through the very loose sand volleyball pit just for fun. It made up for an otherwise dry and merely cold day.
The sand was not an issue for me, i was able to power & float through it pretty well, enough to pick up a place or two over riders who were slower or running it. I would lose a bit of ground on the long straightaways, but there was very little passing around me after the first lap. Unlike my other races, this one went 45 minutes, so i tried to pace myself a bit more. The race consisted of singlespeeds and men’s 45+, so there were some A-race singlespeeders there and some very fast old guys. I spent most of the race hovering near a Kenwood guy, unable to put him away for any length of time, and he couldn’t open the gap much either.
I felt well enough for most of the race to hold good lines and keep good form, including bunny-hopping some of the rougher sections of the long descent. I bogged down on lap 4/5, getting really tired and feeling a cramp starting in my left foot. I could see that i had a clear 100 yards or more behind me, but i was focusing on the 2 riders within 20 yards ahead. On the last lap, just starting the trip around the hockey rink i was able to jump ahead of the Kenwoodie and hang on for one more place. I bunny-hopped the finish line just for good measure.
November 14th, 2008 |
With the money flying around to save the banking industry, it’s no great surprise that other industries are going to try to pile on to the brand-new teat that that government grew this fall. The latest of these is the american auto industry, who have proven time and time again that they can’t hack it on their own in the modern marketplace. Chrysler has been bailed out at least once, with money to retool their operation, and they pulled themselves up just enough to be bought up by Daimler Benz.
Ford, Chrysler and GM, in general, have been making crap cars for around 30 years now, and the imports have been gaining on them. Despite the recent push to sell Cadillacs to jerks who want to elbow their way through traffic can’t save the company. The only thing that has sold in any numbers are SUVs, which is perfect and ironic in the “polishing the brass on the Titanic” sense. How many people are going to buy a Yukon now just because they’re discounted and gas is temporarily again below $2/gallon?
The Big Fear, of course, is that the loss of the auto industry will lead to a general collapse of many sectors of the economy that rely on them, not to mention the thousands who will directly lose jobs at their plants. With Honda and Toyota and even VW building cars in the US, it may not be such a big hit, just a different name on the paycheck.
These companies have fought regulations for cleaner, more efficient cars that European and Asian builders take for granted. They’ve ignored market trends toward smaller high-quality cars and more efficient cars. Their big response is hybrid SUVs, which truly is a matter of putting lipstick on a pig and only shows how deep the cranial-anal inversion goes.
Auto workers don’t deserve to lose their jobs. Auto executives DO deserve to lose their jobs if they can’t make a product that sells and keeps the company afloat over the long haul. If they’re really in this much trouble now, then they’ve pissed away the profits they’ve made on the temporary SUV craze when they should have been spending it on real innovation. Instead, it seems that they’ve spent their money on lobbyists trying to squeeze a few more years out of a dead system rather than joining the fray of real market competition. If the conservatives are right, and the marketplace demands cars from an American company, then someone will step up and do it. If not, we can happily welcome our new overlords
the dolphins Honda.
Happily, the treasury has already rejected the idea of a direct bailout, but it’s certainly not the end of the story. I do like the idea proposed by some that as a matter of policy the government demands ever higher standards for its fleet vehicles. Nothing pushes innovation quite like a customer who demands it. In this, the government can take the lead at a time when consumers aren’t going to be buying enough cars to send a strong message.
November 9th, 2008 |
I doubled up this weekend to make up for missed races and take advantage of the beautiful ‘cross weather (32 and flurries).
I missed last year’s inaugural run of the Velodrome CX, so i didn’t want to miss it this year. We didn’t have the standing water bonus of last year, but the cold and snow helped make up for it. The course was twisty, wet and grassy, and predictably, crashy. I got a decent position on the holeshot and steadily made ground from there. The trouble spots quickly became apparent: the plywood heading into the track, the climbing switch back on the west end, and the edge-of-the-tires line along the ditch ridge. Not to mention every other grassy switchback. I easily gained a half-dozen places simply by not crashing and getting around those who did. My only bobble was catching a pedal on the 4th lap at the start of the ditch run, but i managed to keep rubber side down.
It was a great course for singlespeed; flat and fairly low speed. And short – i think we did 6 laps in 30 minutes. I finished 10th for the Cat4s out of 41, total field of 58. Nice job to Dan for finishing 2nd, fun to see lots of rodents out that day.
2008 Velodrome CX, photo from skinnyski.com
Lake Rebecca was my first ‘cross race getting back to it 4 years ago, and i like the race a lot. The last 3 years it was one of the first races of the year, and this year it’s 2nd to last. At least the swans were still on the pond, that’s always nice to see. It’s not the greatest singlespeed course with the steepish runup and long straightaway, but it has enough roots and slippery spots to keep it interesting. It’s a long course too, just 4 laps for the C race. Like on Saturday, i got a decent start, but lost a little ground on the long straight, spinning out at 23mph. I lost a handful of places on the first runup as i just couldn’t grind it out with my one gear (and couldn’t run it fast either), but i steadily gained ground on the rest of the course. The interesting thing about this race was that the advantage of singlespeed stood out in different ways. Not a lot of chain drops (like at Wirth), but i could consistently gain ground and pass people on the hills. It’s a tough enough course that most riders downshift for the hills, but i can only go so slow, so i’d get ahead. That strategy backfired when i worked to pass another singlespeed rider who had the same advantage so i had to pass him the old fashioned way.
I finished out 5th for the C4s out of 28, total field of 43. My best finish of the year! With the change this year to stricter race groupings, i think i’ll aim to upgrade to c3 next year. There have been a couple of races where i know i could go more, and wished for another lap or two to pass the next guy ahead. Thanks for all the great cheering, it was a great weekend of racing.
November 7th, 2008 |
Say what you will about Newsweek, but there’s a really interesting series of articles they’re publishing; Secrets of the 2008 Campaign. It’s a 7-part series where a handful of Newsweek reports were given full access to the candidates on the condition that their stories would not be published until after the election was over. It’s a great insight to the inner workings of each campaign and some good alternate perspective on many of the news events of the past couple of years.
One thing that strikes me while reading this is that of the 3 major candidates in play this time, only Hillary Clinton unreservedly and nakedly desired the presidency from the start. Obama struggled with finding his voice and reconciling the long campaign hours away from his family even though he had their full support (something i’d have struggled with too). McCain’s true maverickness came out not in his policy stances, as his campaign promoted, but in his inability to focus his energy on campaign strategy rather than his own free-floating conversations with reporters.
McCain seemed to be reigned in again and again to try to keep the campaign on track, though a lot of his charm and intelligence was quashed in the process. Meanwhile, Obama only continued to improve, both as a candidate and as presidential material. Truly with Obama the campaign process shaped him and will make him an even more effective leader.
The back stories of the campaign staff are telling too, with serious infighting in both the Clinton and McCain camps, staff rotating through and serious ambivalence about their message. Obama’s staff wasn’t immune from strife, but was markedly more cohesive throughout and the whole campaign was much more stable. The idea of building from the grassroots-up worked remarkably well, and that broad, solid base was the foundation for victory at crucial points along the way. As the campaigns went into the final stretch, Obama was like a freight train gather steam while McCain was a jalopy, lurching his way to the finish line, a trail of greasy parts in his wake.
November 5th, 2008 |
Here’s the preview of the 2nd version of my generator-driven LED bike light:
It’s a bigger case than the first one because this model has a 1F capacitor to supply a standlight function. I haven’t had it on the road yet, but in my bench (dining room table) testing, about a minute of spinning the dyno wheel to charge the supercap provided at least a couple of minutes of light from the LED after stopping. Flicker seems about the same, and speed to steady light seems about the same. Hopefully i’ll put a few miles on it in the next day or so for some better numbers.
The case was a PITA, frankly. It’s soldered together from copper plumbing parts, and the problem is that copper is so very good at transmitting heat that soldering one end tended to heat up the other end enough for things to break loose. It was also more labor-intensive than i’d planned and weighs a lot (120 grams on my kitchen scale). And i don’t have a back on it yet, haven’t figured that out.
I decided to include a mount tab on this one too, though i haven’t figured out the best way to put that on the bars yet. It’s a piece of copper-plated steel strap, and unfortunately the holes got mis-aligned while in the vise for soldering. It’s pretty stiff though, hopefully strong enough to last.
November 4th, 2008 |
November 3rd, 2008 |
November 2nd, 2008 |
9/12 in singlespeed category
This is the race that last year triggered my first bout of pneumonia. My lungs hurt after the race (more than usual), and the next morning i had a 103°F fever. No illness this year, thankfully, and not too bad a race.
I got a terrible start, worst one so far this year. I lined up closer to the front, behind just one guy, but that one guy started slow, then faltered when we rubbed tires a bit and i was off the back before we even started.
This was not the greatest singlespeed course, with a long back stretch that i’d spin out on every lap, but i was able to gain ground every lap, and i would have placed at least 3-4 places higher i we had one more lap to work with. I should really be racing the B race, i think, but the singlespeeds were in the first 30-minute group. I felt like i had another couple of laps in me, but couldn’t pull out a sprint after the runup to make the final pass.
Planning to double up next weekend, with the Velodrome CX and Lake Rebecca CX coming up!