Saturday, May 28, 2011

An E-Book: Praise from a Future Generation

Some very witty wag once defined a liberal as someone whose interests aren't at stake.

This applies to more than just politics.

Elsewhere on this blog, I railed against e-books and e-readers. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

My publisher recently contacted me to see if I would like to prepare an e-book version of Praise from a Future Generation, my account of the "first generation" critics of the Warren Report. A conventional hardcover version appeared in October 2007.

I would very much indeed like to prepare an e-book version, I replied.

I still don't care for Kindles, and all the other e-readers out there on the market. But I can't deny the realities of the marketplace. According to an item I saw in the paper recently, Amazon is selling more e-books than printed books, including books for which there is no electronic edition.

This development gives me an opportunity. There are some little grammatical errors throughout the print version of the book, and in the months ahead I'll be ferreting out and correcting as many as I can. And I'll be adding some new material, too. Not a hell of a lot, but some stuff that should have been there all along. Just enough, perhaps, to justify calling the e-book a revised, second edition.

There is no formal publication date yet. Probably sometime in the fall, I'm told.

By the way...that witty wag who defined liberals also defined conservatives: in their case, as those with two perfectly good legs who refuse to walk forward.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Litterbugs, Part 12: A Farewell, Sort Of

There are only so many ways you can say, "I went for a walk today, and picked up a bunch of litter along the way."

I know that now.

I began my Great Litter Pickup around the first of this year, and recorded its stunning details in a blog post right around that time. I got so charged up, so enthusiastic about it, that I made regular posts about picking up litter and disposing of it properly. And I got so enthusiastic about that, that I began compiling these posts in their own blog.

But as the expression goes, I guess I bit off more than I could chew. It really proved to be too much. I haven't posted anything new to the litter blog in a couple of months, and don't foresee doing more anytime soon. For one thing, another project is demanding much of my writing time (it was a lull with it that got so hot on blogging to begin with). And for another, as I said...there are only so many ways you can say, "I went for a walk today, and picked up a bunch of litter along the way."

I'm still taking walks and picking up trash, and still railing against anyone so piggish and disrespectful of our shared environment that they litter. That won't change. But I'm running low on ways to write about it.

I'm not officially ending the trash blog, but don't really see how much more stuff I could put there. Whatever there is left to say will probably go in this curious little blogspot.

I'll end here by urging you to never, ever litter, and to urge everyone you know to never, ever, ever litter.

It's good sense, good vibes, and good karma.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bike Race

There was a bike race in my town a few days ago – the "Sonic Boom" criterium. It was actually a series of races, and they lasted all day. The races were broken into a number of different categories, mostly the age of the riders.

I stopped by for about half an hour. A criterium is a close-course race. This particular criterium was in a big figure-8. I'm not sure how many city blocks it covered.

There were hundreds of riders in all. I watched them whizzing by from several different locations. In this top photo, riders are cornering from Front Street onto Walnut. On the left, outside the frame of this photograph, is our wonderful local library.

The photo below is basically a reverse angle of the above picture. These two riders are comin' 'round the corner from Front Street onto Walnut.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong probably did what his accusers say he did.

He probably used performance-enhancing drugs, and these drugs probably helped him win seven consecutive Tours de France in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The allegations that he did are in the news again, with former teammate Tyler Hamilton telling 60 Minutes that Armstrong used banned substances and encouraged others on the U.S. Postal team to do so.

Armstrong has, yet again, denied it. Another teammate from the same time period backs him up. So does the International Cycling Union. And it bears repeating that Lance Armstrong has undergone numerous drug tests over the years, and never tested positive.

But I think he probably used performance enhancing drugs – he “doped,” to use the vernacular. I have no first-hand knowledge of this. I can't prove a thing. But it appears doping was part and parcel to the culture of professional cycling during the years Armstrong was establishing himself as the premier cyclist of his generation.

If this is correct, then it follows that cyclists of that era may have had the sense that they had to use drugs, just to level the playing field.

I think too many are too quick to use the term “cheated,” when it comes to this. I object to the characterization as a gross over-simplification. Yeah, there are athletes who cheat. Sometimes the competitive drive brings out a misguided, win-at-any-cost attitude. I can't know for sure that Armstrong is not like that.

Is doping unethical? Absolutely. Is it cheating? Too simple, too pat. I think that the entire culture participated, from riders to trainers to managers and doctors. With the shit hitting the fan, the cyclists are the ones left twisting in the wind.

If Lance Armstrong suffers the fall from grace he may well suffer (to say nothing of other potential consequences), it will be a great blow to the sport of cycling. But it may be a greater blow to cancer patients, and anyone who ever took inspiration from his remarkable comeback from what looked to be a certain death sentence.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Old School

This post is, quite literally, about an old school. Not about something traditional, or old-fashioned, or whatever it is people mean when they say, "I'm old school..."

Although it is, in fact, a school from an earlier era.

The school is along one of my several default bike routes. I've been meaning to take its picture for the last five or six years, but my regular camera is this expensive, bulky thing that is not a good companion on a bicycle. And my cell phone takes really shitty pictures.

We got a new camera recently, though. One of those low-budget, go-to cameras that takes pictures rather than photographs. Thin and lightweight. Slips easily into the pocket of my cycling jersey.

And so, voila! Here it is. The old school.

The school is one hundred years old. The year "1911" is chiseled in stone above the front door.

It's called the Valmont School, and it is no longer in use. Unfortunately this picture does not do it any justice. I took it around 1pm, just as shadows began falling over the building's front. An early morning picture would be far better. I intend to get one when we get a little further into summer, when I like to take rides earlier in the day.

There's a "No Trespassing" sign affixed to the padlocked fence surrounding the grounds, and an extra wire at the top of the fence that might be electric. Probably not, but I wasn't about to test it.

Anyway, I've been passing this school for years. It's on 61st Street on the outskirts of my town. I'm worried the place is doomed, since it is certainly not in use as an educational facility, and as far as I can tell, not used for anything else, either.

Here's a close-up view of the stone inscription above the door:

Valmont School, Dist. No. 4, 1911.

An antique.

And at last, in its centennial year, I've finally managed to get its picture. I'd prefer to get it with my other camera, which has superior optics.

There are other photos I've been meaning to take on my bike rides, but haven't, for the same reason I put off taking this one. Like the farm with a sign advertising "organic manure – we help you load" – that one will be good for a laugh!

But that farm is way the hell north of here, along one of my mid-summer routes. I only go up that way later in the cycling season, when I'm in better shape. If I took that route now...ouch, I don't even like to think about how much it would hurt these poor ol' legs of mine.

But with this sleek new camera, I'll be getting it before too much longer. Try to contain your enthusiastic anticipation.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Freedom Riders: an Update

Ordinarily, I do not urge people to watch TV. But there is something coming up soon that I think it worth the time.

A few months ago I wrote a little bit here about a documentary called Freedom Riders. The film tells an important story of the civil rights movement in the United States. My post described how it was screening locally but had sold out. I wound up not seeing it.

It's in my Netflix cue with a DVD release date of May 17 – just ten days from now, as this is written. But it will be broadcast on PBS the day before. Here's the official website.

You might want to check it out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm Not Rejoicing

The headline of my local newspaper this morning declared, "U.S. rejoices over bin Laden's death."

That's been the prevailing sentiment since Sunday night, when the news was first made public.

Probably like a lot of other people, I heard about bin Laden's death as I watched a baseball game on TV. Immediately, I began flipping around to the major networks. Most of them – well, all of them – had their designated blow-dried baritone saying only that bin Laden was dead, and that President Obama would shortly speak from the White House. (My network check included a quick stop by Fox News, whose on-air graphics inexplicably stated "Usama" was dead...with a U. Bright boys, those Fox hounds.)

I flipped back to the ballgame. By then the news had spread among its spectators, who began cheering and chanting "USA! USA!"

Back on the news channels, live shots from in front of the White House showed a few hundred people gathered, crowing the same "USA!" chant, waving flags, and mugging for the TV cameras – some even doing that weird forefinger-pinky wave I associate with rock concerts.

"This is historic," one of the talking heads asserted. Not since Hitler's suicide, he said, has the death of one individual been greeted with such enthusiasm.

I found the entire spectacle sickening.

Make no mistake: I don't excuse the perpetrators of the horrific events of September 11, 2001. But I hope I am never so self-debasing as to celebrate the death of another person.

Not long ago, in a context not so far removed from September 11, a friend observed, "Until the life of the terrorist is held to be as sacred as the life of the terrorized, the terror will continue."

Hear, hear.