November 26, 2013 § 4 Comments
First, a late submission to Hope Jahren’s #ManicureMonday subversion of the ridiculous social media meme of Seventeen Magazine. I am not fond of bimbofication culture in the least and I am even less fond of it as a parent of female offspring.
So yeah, here’s what my manicure less nails do at work, most days.
On to today’s topic spurred by an epic troll from the DM
Jesus christ on a popsicle stick.
Look, I know this person has a long history of unstable pronouncements on the Internet. And I know this person has been placed in a really, really shitty public position lately.
But that situation is only tangentially (and temporally) related to the issue involving Danielle Lee.
The entire sentence is as follows:
If Danielle wants to leave science and make a career out of the color of her skin, I think it would be a shame for science to lose her, but again, go for it!
This is so ridiculously offensive I hardly know where to start.
As you can tell from the figure above, the color of my skin is categorized, in these here United States at present, along with Danielle’s much more frequently than with that of the author of that ridiculous comment. I point this out so that in the event the intemperate author happens by here she will understand that her comments are not a theoretical issue to me. I am not defending Dr. Lee so much as I am defending my own reactions.
There is no reasonable way to interpret that ridiculous comment of hers in any other way than as a recitation of a pervasive right wing meme that people who are minorities have some fabulous advantage due to the color of their skin. And that they can “make a career” out of this fantastic birthright.
This is false.
Don’t get me wrong, the phenomenon of “Rev Inc” is not entirely a right wing fantasy. There are indeed people who make careers out of defending and promoting the status and rights of underrepresented groups in this country. Including those who happen to share the skin tone that is one of several defining characteristics of the class under discussion.
Does this mean that they are making a career out of their skin color? Of course not. They are making a career out of addressing substantive issues of public policy and civil rights that are specifically relevant to people who share their skin color.
The suggestion that it is about profiting from one’s skin tone is a direct attack on the very substantive issues of equality and opportunity available to different subpopulations in the US. It is a direct attack on the legitimacy of the situation with Dr. Lee and the piss poor response of Scientific American to her blog post calling out some yahoo for expecting her to blog elsewhere for free. It is a direct attack on the notion that the experiences and reactions of someone who is not of majority culture are legitimate and in need of hearing. It is basically telling Dr. Lee, and those like her, to never mention a perspective that is informed by the color of her skin and the way that society treats her because of that feature.
Lest one be accused of making a career on the basis of skin tone.
I don’t ask for an apology from the original author of these comments. I don’t really care one bit if the comment was a result of striking out in anger and pain or whether it betrays a fairly confirmed mindset. I don’t even particularly think anyone should front her all mad-like.
What I do want is for you to forward me any job opportunities that involve easy money on the basis of my skin tone1.
That would be sweet.
1See Figure 1.
November 26, 2013 § 3 Comments
I have never been an early adopter of social media but I am most definitely an adopter. I was not the first guy in grad school to start up with obsessive email, nor to create one of those new fangled World Wide Web Homepages. But I caught on quickly. Blogging had been going on for years before I even grasped what one was….and found my niche for reading them. And eventually writing them. I was a latecomer to Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn had been under operation for some time before I was triggered by an academic colleague to sign up.
The more recent iterations of network-based social media, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter primarily, have presented me with a fascinating question.
I am still waiting for the astonishing, out of the blue, friend-of-a-friend connections to emerge.
What I mean is that I have many circles of social media networks and connections. My family links, of course. Some based on my misguided youth- friends, classmates, etc from primary through secondary school years. Another circle based on my college years. Another one based on my graduate school social connections and yet another that is based around my current profession.
I always thought that over time, I would get some amazing coincidental networking connection. Where someone in my professional life is connected to someone from my childhood or college years in a way that has nothing to do with our shared experience (i.e., not counting people who share both profession and a prior social circle with me).
It hasn’t happened yet.
January 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
July 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It was someplace in the middle of my college years and I was home for the summer. I went to a circuit race that I’d raced a few times over the years. It was maybe a mile per lap, around a park (ok, mapmyride claims 1.1, good memory!).
Normally the circuit race is my game…..crits (under a mile, four corners around a block, typically) were cool, in theory, but I didn’t usually have a team capable of support and I’m kind of a wuss at the high-speed, elbow rubbing, apex cornering mid-pack thing. So a full-mile, maybe 1.5 circuit suited me well. Slightly less importance on repeated, high-speed cornering, lengthier straightaways to group up and the possibility of a short rise. Now, I sucked ass at hill climbs, true, but short power climbs, taken up out of the saddle were doable. Short enough and they were actually an advantage to me.
The course had a hill early in the lap after four right angle corners. Then it was about 30 feet of gain from 0.22 mi to 0.37 mi and then it was drifting up, almost flat up to 0.7 mi, then back down to the start line. Just after the course started downhill there was a acute turn, sharper than 90….crank it up to the 1.0 mi mark, bank a 95-100 degree left and it was about a tenth of a mile to the line.
Races were maybe 45 min at that point? I was in the Cat IVs so that seems about right. That would make it on the order of 18 laps or so? maybe 20. Not so far but believe me, you were hauling ass the whole time.
I always loved this course and had managed a prime (intermediate sprints within the race) or two over the years but had never won. My memory suggests that I was never in there for the finish…for whatever reason. Most usually because the climb had me at my limit. I could hang for most of the race, and be at the front enough by the start of the downhill to dice for primes at the bottom of the course. But in the end, someone would light it up enough over the climb late in the race for me to lose contact with the front.
Not this year…..
I was FLYING. I mean, I didn’t feel like Superman, toying with the other riders. I didn’t feel like I was riding a motorcycle. I was working my ass off, dicing it at the front through the danger zones, then sitting in. Chasing down breakaways a few times…. and above all else, strategically climbing the hill. No big deal, I was racing. And I’d get tired….and have to back off for a lap.
But every lap, I was in there. Coming through the left-hand turn that started over the crown of the hill, I would gain places, slip up to the front….shut dudes down. I may even have had to chase down some real climbers on a lap or two. And my HR would spike. But then I’d settle down and catch my breath and get back to where I needed to be.
And there I found myself, last lap. Up the right-hand side as we hit the corner in the middle of the hill…jamming up to the slightly strung out front 10. Slipping into the five just before the turn onto the downhill…and then I nailed it. It was downhill so I don’t even remember the usual dramatics….flat or uphill and my back wheel was typically jumping around a bit when I spooled up a sprint. But I was goooooooone. Flew into the final bend a bit hot and I do remember juuuuuust not clipping the curb on the outside…and then it was up again and across the line.
Of course, I hadn’t been doping, not really. But I HAD been training and racing above 6,000 feet for many months prior to this race. No doubt I had a significant red blood cell advantage over many of my competitors that day. I certainly had one over my own historical races on that course.
This is what EPO does, of course. Increases oxygen carrying capacity. So does blood doping.
Several years ago I started to realize that this is why you see so much explaining and defending out of the cycling dopers that get caught. “Everyone is doing it”. “I had to if I wanted to keep my (domestique) job”. “I had a bad day and needed to stay with the team”. “You still have to put in the work!”.
Yeah….yeah you do. And no, you don’t feel like you are cheating.
What you feel like is …”finally! I feel right. Like I’m where I should be based on my training!”
I can see how it would be very easy to convince yourself it wasn’t exactly cheating.
But it is.
June 28, 2012 § 3 Comments
The Serum Pro is carbon light…haven’t weighed it but the specs claim 22.56 pounds for my 19″ size and I believe it. My old bike was in the 22-24 pound range depending on what was on it at the time for parts and this new ride is right in there.
I have some initial ride impressions to relate after a few miles both off and on road with it. I did end up putting a seatpost with a more normal set-back to the clamp on it which got the saddle back to where it should be for me. I also put a 120mm stem on, but this is still a tad short. I may eventually put a 130 mm on it but I’m waiting to transfer my bar ends over before I get too pissy. I initially hadn’t done anything to the forks except twiddle the dials…I did put the air pressure up to 120 psi for the last couple of rides.
So far, the bike is fantastic. Bottom Bracket and rear stay flex under heavy pedal pressure is probably my starting point for evaluating a frame and this one is rock steady. Jumps out just as you would want with no sign of weaseling or flex. I had been riding the Shimano external cup bottom bracket with SLX cranks for at least a year on the old rig so I’m not attributing it to that at all. Frame is solid.
Interestingly the XT M775 wheelset is a 24 spoke count…I’m used to 32 as a minimum and I was a bit worried. No sign of problem yet. They seem sufficiently stiff under heavy pedaling and under cornering….within the limits of the Kenda Small block 8 tires. This will be an area of interest in the long-term test situation.
My second point of consideration is the frame stability under turning and it is coming though with flying colors. Good design.
The M770 9speed Shimano XT shift train is excellent, as expected. They have seemingly returned to a more “positive” feel to the shifters. This means it clicks and clunks solidly so you know you are making a change. I like this. I did not like the ever-softening and quieting approach they were taking late 90s and into the 00s.
I am definitely still working on the fork. It has a lot more travel and compliance (springiness) then I am used to. Some of this may be set-up and some of this is undoubtedly that modern forks specified on a XC race-style MTB are designed for more activity than the old Mag21 I had. Which, btw, has probably been relatively immobile relative to original design for years since I’ve never done any recent maintenance on it. My issues with the Fox 32 F100 R Open Bath is that it is too soft for my (current) taste. The wheel drops down when you pull up on the bars, making quick elevations over bumps and curbs different from what I expect. This is intentional, I should note, as a way to improve bump compliance when you are not trying to lift the wheel. Correspondingly I’m fiddling with the compression damping (big lever, easy to switch on the fly) and the rebound damping knob (not so easy on the fly) to adjust the ride. The other problem of this squishiness is that the front end bobs when standing up out of the saddle on hills. This is something that needs to be fixed for my style of riding. Putting the compression lever all the way up helps and I may have to live with this.
Hey, going from a rigid fork to my original Mag21 took some adjustment too!
The on-road feel is a pretty good way to evaluate a MTB as well and the Serum has been good there too. It doesn’t resonate with the tires or ping or click or anything that I associate with Al frames. The frame is solid on-road too, where tire grip is good and one can really crank in the big ring. Instability in high speed cornering is minimal and right now I’m putting this down to the fork and my unfamiliarity with it / possible failure to set it up properly. The bars and stem are stiff, maybe even stiffer than I’d like. I have a 110 gram titanium bar on the old bike that, amazingly, is still alive and well. It was always a little tiny bit flexy which I actually liked.
The oversized seatpost specification seems to make up for a rather hefty bit of mast I have showing. Let me note that I have never been a fan of the sloping top-tube design. This one has more of it than my last one did which means slightly more seatpost is used. This has the potential to be flexy but I’m not noticing anything. The extra diameter over what was spec’d on my old bike may be the difference here…or perhaps my fears of flex from the seat post were simply unfounded.
So, to conclude from the first few rides, this bike is light, stiff and everything I expected in a carbon frame. I have the fit nearly dialed in so I can get to riding. The only spot of weirdness is going to be the suspension fork although this is down to my tweaking the adjustments and learning to ride with a modern type of fork.
June 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Continuing on from my observations earlier in the week in which I was pointing out that I tend to cheap out on bike frames.
I pulled the trigger on the Sette Serum Pro, which I bought from Price Point. It turned up about 29 hrs after ordering it, at a cost of just over $1,800. To nonbikers and especially spousal units, this is not “cheaping out”. For us normal folks, this is a SCREAMING good deal.
Trolling around the usual suspect major manufacturers like Trek, Specialized, Giant, Jamis, Cannondale, etc you will find, first, that many of the hardtail MTB offerings of any decent quality are 29″ wheelers these days. Being the retrogrouch that I am, I had to peer a bit harder to find the 26″ers. Still, it rapidly became clear that the $2,500-$3,500 range was the entry point. Many of these, especially on the lower end, were Al frames. I am not a fan of aluminum for bike frames, all else equal. I find them to be noisy, as a first fault. Second, I was biased during my enthusiastic mountain biking days in the early to mid 90s when boutique framebuilders were sprouting like weeds. I saw many, many fairly expensive mountain bike frames get cracks. This put me off both Al frames and boutique builders…and reinforced the notion that extra cost did not mean extra quality when it comes to bike frames. I do ride a Al Redline cyclocross bike so I’m not totally biased. Some of my best friends are…..ahem.
Back to the story, my initial read was that the more obvious bikes in my initial price range were specified with a mixture of SRAM X.7 and X.9 drivetrain parts. Some of them came with Shimano SLX (which seems to be a fair enough replacement for the old Deore LX line, even though I think it started out below LX). I was really looking for a carbon fiber frame though, given the great experience I had with a circa ’95-96 Mongoose IBOC Team SX Carbon frame. To get a carbon frame one, I was seeing things on the upper side of the $2,500-$3,500 range, but still finding bikes specified with the same approximate parts bin.
There’s nothing wrong with SRAM, though I haven’t spent serious time with it. From the price points though, it seems that X.9 is slotting in just beneath XT. And, as I said, SLX seems okay and in fact I had been riding SLX cranks for a year or so. The thing is, while I tend to cheap out on frames, I also want the value of the just-below-chi-chi componentry. Off road that pretty much means Shimano XT. At the very least in the derailleurs and shifters. I can manage with lower level hubs and cranks. But the shift-train is kind of important. Especially as I get old, have little time for maintenance and want the bike to work when I have a chance to get out for a ride.
Looking at the XT-spec bikes is what gave me sticker-shock conniptions. The notion of Trek or Specialized hardtail MTBs that run over $6,000 is a little daunting. So I was trolling around the internet trying to find something a little more affordable and I ran across the Sette.
This is more like it. Carbon frame, XT kit (shifters, derailleurs, cranks, wheels)…disc brakes that look to be a decent line (Avid Elixer CR. heck, I wouldn’t have sneered at cable actuated ones). I was previously riding an old Mag21 that hadn’t been touched in many years so the fork selection was going to be better no matter what. The XT is 9-speed, not the current ten speed introduced in 2010 or so. I was uncertain about how dated the components are but figured it was a good place to save some money, even if this stuff is a couple of design years old. It sure as hell was going to be an update on my old bike, even if the XT was from the 2009 design year.
Reviews online were a bit hard to come by, you can Google them yourselves. Not hard to find but there aren’t very many of them. Nevertheless, the available reviews all seemed to conclude the bike was “as good as advertised” . One check of the geometry spec for my size frame (19″) and I was pretty much good to go. As I said, it came in a day.
First impressions are excellent. The double-box referred to elsewhere is an impressive way to ship. You will definitely need some basic bike mechanical skills, as with any bike you buy in a box. If you can’t break down and reassemble a bike then I suggest you don’t really have much call to be mail ordering. Unless you have a bike buddy who can help, I suppose.
This was a straightforward job of installing the seatpost (seat already mounted), stem (bars already mounted) and front wheel. It comes without pedals, the assumption being you’ll have your own clipless pedal preference. I do and am using my old ones.
There were only two problems I noted with the preparation. First, the front brake caliper was off and I had to re-adjust it. I am not too familiar with discs so I may have to play with it a bit but I got it in working order pretty quickly. Without referring to any manuals…so it’s pretty damn obvious what to do. Second, the bars were mounted in the stem at a smidge of the wrong rotation. This is an easy fix and almost comes under the personal adjustment clause.
Personal adjustment: These are things that you can’t blame on a mail order bike, but that you might possibly have fixed at a local bike store at the time of purchase. The stem is not right for me, I’m going to need a different one. This is totally typical and the one on the Sette is pretty neutral (about a 100 mm, 6 degree rise)…presumably designed to fit the larger number of riders. Second, the seat post may not allow enough set-back as the clamp is directly over the post centerline. At some point this became popular with off-road posts, replacing the traditional look that included the clamp centered behind the post. I’ve had to go with set-back models in the past so again, this is expected. Posts run anywhere from $20 to $120 (and up) and stems go from $20-90. So there’s $100 or so that you might possibly have saved in the bike store purchase as they will occasionally do a size swap. That’s a long ways from the thousands of bucks differential in bike purchase price, don’t you think?
The only thing to criticize here is the Kenda small block 8 tires. As I read in one of the available reviews, these are a pretty good road tire. Since tire preference is so individual , I’m giving the Sette Serum Pro a pass on this. Still, you can add another $100-$120 bucks to the cost to get yourself a set of decent skins.
Initial verdict is, just as good as advertised. And a screaming good deal.
June 28: This post has been edited from the original, mostly for readability and to expand on some things I left too abbreviated in the original version.
June 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
When it comes to bikes, my philosophy has always been to cheap out when it comes to the frame. Well, more like my reality.
In the day, I just couldn’t afford the top line stuff from the serious makers. Not the established Euro brands and for damn sure not the boutique builders.
Heck, I couldn’t even afford the best the mainline brands (Trek, Cannonwhale, Specialized) had to offer.
So I’d go looking for deals. The less popular brands which had to try harder and couldn’t upgrade the sticker price based solely on the name plate. Ones that had to figure out how to compete within a component-spec level of the market.
This is the way I ended up with a Schwinn road bike in the late 80s. It wasn’t awesome but the components were Sante, priced above Ultegra and under Dura Ace. With a very….unusual finish. Still, I got the whole thing for under what most mainline Ultegra level bikes were going for at the time.
This cheapout plan is also the way I ended up on a series of Mongoose MTB frames in the early 90s. In this case I bought into some racer contingency program…they sent you the frame for something like $225. This was when the burgeoning small-manufacturer offerings were running at least $500 for the frame, and likely much more. For welded Al frames that hadn’t been optimized for durability….I remember a ton of cracked frames leading to arguments over replacement from the builders.
So I scored a decently light Al frame with the weird Toblerone top tube…slightly long in the reach but a pretty decent ride. Eventually it cracked and I got the company to replace it for free. This was at least a year later and Mongoose’s top offering was then a carbon job. AWESOME.
This was early in the mass-production carbon frame days and quality was not assured. Clearly this one was being produced on a factory line…on the cheap. No big-name designer was identified so who knew how the geometry would work out.
It worked out great. The frame was a fantastic ride, super light and durable. The first one had the bottle bosses come unstuck after maybe a year and I fought them into giving me another one for free.
The replacement lasted 18 years. Or thereabouts.
Finally, the seat tube cracked off the BB shell.
So I went looking for another MTB.
Simple hard tail XC race design, front suspension only…nothing fancy. XT componentry level…maybe STX if necessary.
Yeah, I STILL can’t afford the bikes I want to ride.