Archive for August 2009

Shreveport’s New Traffic Circle

August 31, 2009

It’s at the bottom of “Thrill Hill” on Gilbert Drive. I can hit 35 – the speed limit – on my bike going down that hill, so it’s fairly steep, especially for Shreveport. Unfortunately, lots of drivers also hit high speeds going down it. To slow speeds and protect the walkers, bikers and kids of the area, the city just built a circle at the bottom.

To me, this is a great idea. By forcing cars to slow down to navigate the circle at the bottom of the hill, it will eliminate the buttholes who fly through this residential area at 40, 50 or even 60 miles an hour. But it will do so without making anyone stop or forcing anyone to bounce around in their cars over a speed bump. Lots of cities use these things in residential areas for “traffic calming.” I wish we had several in our neighborhood along Anniston Avenue.

Still, this is a car-centered town. When I saw the circle, my first thought was “I give it two weeks before the complaints are so loud that the city gets rid of it.” People around here would much rather save two seconds on their commute than have a safe street for children and other pedestrians to use. Driving is more important than living. Sure enough, every comment I’ve heard has been negative.

Then I read today’s story in the Times about the circle, the comments to the story are priceless. Promises of death, comparisons to terrorists, many mentions of lawyers; it’s amazing how many ways people can complain without saying what they really mean: “I want to drive faster!”

Like I said, it’s a good idea. But it probably won’t survive and it definitely won’t spread.

My New Favorite Riding CD

August 27, 2009

I never listen to my iPod while on group rides. Not so much because it’s dangerous, though it is, a little. Mostly because it’s jerky to ride with a group but spend the ride oblivious to anything they might say. Nor do I listen to it on the MTB. Trails are bumpy, and even something as small as an iPod annoys me when it bounces around in my jersery pocket. It also seems sort of wrong to be all wired up while riding through the woods. Ruins the whole communing with nature thing. That sounds flaky, but it’s true.

The only type of ride I routinely use the tunes are rides like I did tonight: Solo road ride for a short distance at a high speed.  Both those latter terms are relative, of course. For me, what that means is twenty to thirty miles at an average of 19-20. To do that, I have to hurt myself. To make myself ride even when my lungs ache and my legs burn, I need inspiration. Thus, the iPod.

Of course, it can’t be any music. It has to be loud and fast. It’s easy to make a great playlist to meet those requirements. Finding a complete album that can go all the way, though, is much harder. I don’t want to have to reach into my back pocket and skip songs. Hence, the whole thing has to rock. That’s rare. So most of the time I listen to a playlist.

There are exceptions. When I find one, I usually wear it our. Previous default albums have included Rage Against the Machine’s debut, DBT’s A Blessing and a Curse, Galactic’s From the corner to the Block and Franz Ferdinand’s first album. My most recent standard has been Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.

Now I think I’ve replaced that one with Flogging Molly’s Drunken Lullabies. No idea how I made it this far without ever hearing this band. If you like punk and you like Irish music, they are unreal. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to get drunk and rowdy. Or ride until your legs fall off.

Here’s the title track:

And my favorite:

Truly outstanding.

My New Favorite Local Blog

August 27, 2009

As Seen In Shreveport.

I can’t tell you how many times I’m riding my bike or driving or walking around town and think “shit, I wish I had my camera.” Well, this dude does and he has smart ass commentary to go with it.

Politics In The Classroom

August 26, 2009

During my debate class today I explained to the students that part of their grade depended on how well they behaved while not debating. In other words, they had to be quiet and respectful while in the audience watching the other teams debate. To encourage this, I also threatened to make them alphabetize the list of presidents found in the back of their text book and then copy the list five times if they could not remain quiet. At that, several looked over the list. One student then said “Oh good, Obama’s not in here.” I cringed expecting exactly what came next, angry looks accompanying accusatory shouts of “What’s wrong with Obama?” Alright, I thought, this is a debate class, so this could be positive. But then the first student offered two responses: 1) He has the same middle name as “some terrorist,” and; 2) he wasn’t born in America.

What was I to do with that? On the one hand, you’re told over and over to leave your personal beliefs at home. The teacher must remain neutral. On the other hand, how could I, as an educator, allow someone to hold such absolutely ridiculous beliefs? Surely I would be failing my calling if I let this student think either of his “reasons” were legitimate causes to oppose Obama.

I had a similar dilemma last year around the time of the election. Most of my students were, and are, strong Obama supporters. When I asked them why, however, most had little or no idea. One time I had a student give me a definite and clear answer. When I asked what was so great about Obama, that student said “He’s black.”

Again, what to do? In that situation, I asked them why that mattered. As a history teacher, I quickly steered them to the historical importance of the election. No doubt, everyone can agree that in a county which only fifty years ago segregated the races, electing a black president is an amazing thing. But then I pushed them past that by asking if the fact that he is black has anything to do with whether or not he’ll be a good president. Eventually I think most of them got the distinction.

Back to today. I had to correct that student. There just isn’t anything to debate about Obama’s name or place of birth. Letting the student “make up his own mind” about those things would be like a science teacher letting a student make up his own mind about whether the Earth is round. Or a math teacher leaving the multiplication tables up to each student’s opinion. I could not let his little mind be stolen by the nutcases.

Of course, for his sake and the sake of all the Obama supporters in the class, I pointed out that even though those reasons were bunk, there are genuine reasons to oppose Obama. I used his call for longer school years as my example. No controversy there; we ALL agreed that was a bad idea.

Cycling Gets You High, Too

August 25, 2009

Interesting:

Writing in the medical journal Behavioural Neuroscience, the researchers found that a desire to get off the sofa and shed a few pounds can quickly become as compulsive as Class A narcotics. So mild exercise like jogging can develop into a serious triathlon or marathon habit. “Although exercise is good for your health, extreme exercise may be physically addictive,” they warned. . . .

The cocktail of drugs the body produces include the pain-relievers endorphins and dopamine (also produced during orgasm), the anti-depressant serotonin and the “fight or flight” hormone adrenalin, which increases strength and concentration. It’s quite a cocktail.

I’m nowhere near the extreme level of some of the folks mentioned in the article. You won’t see me running 150 miles across the Sahara or anywhere else. When asked by other cyclists with kids, though, how I manage to get in so many miles I give the same answer my wife does when she’s asked how she can let me be gone on my bike for four hours every weekend morning: I turn into a real ass if I don’t get my rides in.

Seriously. After a few days without hard core exercise – either a tough ride or run – I’m depressed, lethargic, and short tempered. On the other hand, I am happiest for the few hours immediately after each ride. So, the choice is either all day Saturday with grumpy Dad, or three quarters of the day with happy Dad. We’ve all made our choices.

Is that an addiction? Probably. But if I’m going to be an addict, it beats the alternatives. Sometimes literally. I stayed up drinking until midnight Friday. Then I got out of bed at 5:30 and road 70 miles, putting the hurt on everyone I rode with. Only half joking, I said the reason I got up and road is that I’d be an alcoholic if I’d skipped the ride and slept in. In other words, if I’d stayed home, I would have suffered all day with a hangover, feeling guilty and moaning about how I would never drink again, by riding, though, I cleared my head and my conscience. Why not drink if I can still go hammer the next morning?

It’s What They’re All Thinking

August 25, 2009

Anyone Into Bike Touring?

August 24, 2009

This is for you: