Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes

Yes, I've neglected my little corner here. Yes I have excuses. Yes, they are semi-valid. Yes, I apologize. I plan to do a little better, but in a reduced form. This is how it all began. Well, no, just this is the short version of how I'm where I am.

In the past several months I've had the following go on in my life:
Promotion at work
Injury on the bike
Restoring my car
Surgery for injury
Possibly another type of promotion at work
Elected to board of directors for my cycling club
Am hands on team manager for my club's developmental team
Director of all teams for club
Triumph Car Club functions

So, though it's 99% my own doing, I've been extremely busy. This coming year I'm making no real promises. Except to wish everyone a safe and happy new year, and to be well. Politics have me upset, but if I do what I think is right in my circle of life (oh, hello, Simba) then that's all I can hope for.

Will I blog more? Likely not, but I will try to be more consistent. How's that for a resolution? Right! Let's ring 2009's bell so hard it cracks!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Thanksgiving. Take a moment to savor the day and the company. I am.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I really hope I'm wrong

The election is over. I'm not happy, as the plane has rolled over and is starting the downward spiral. I wasn't thrilled with John McCain, either. I wish Mit Romney had made it to the election. But I digress.

I guess no one paid attention to Obama's speech in CA where he said he disliked Israel. Or how he's filling his cabinet with his cronies. No bipartisan "we'll put the best people in the job no matter what" attitude like he stated earlier. Where's the change? I hope I'm wrong, and he decides that nationalizing 401k and pensions is a bad idea, and that we can't afford to bail out every bank and company that's in trouble.

I hope he says "well, many of you have screwed up, and have to deal with it. Some will lose their jobs, others their homes. Some companies and banks are going to go away, and we'll have to raise taxes." I'm sure he'll say that we can fix it, and everyone deserves to be helped, so no one is accountable. Then we'll all be in trouble, because our government doesn't have the money or the power to do it. That is why I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm right.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm actually impressed

Nike has actually done the right thing, which gives me hope for American society and corporate ethics. You see, I was so incensed over the subject of my previous post that I contacted Nike. This was their response:

Hi Mike,

Nike is announcing today that it recognizes Arien O'Connell as a winner in last weekend’s Nike Women’s Marathon with the fastest chip time, completing the full race in 2:55:11. She shattered her previous time and achieved an amazing accomplishment.

Arien will receive the same recognition and prize, including a Tiffany bowl, the full marathon elite group winner received. Arien was unfortunately not immediately recognized as a race winner because she did not start the race with the elite running group, which is required by USATF standards. Because of their earlier start time, the runners in the elite group had no knowledge of the outstanding race Arien was running and could not adjust their strategies accordingly.

Learning from the unique experience in this year’s race, Nike has decided today to eliminate the elite running group from future Nike Women's Marathons. Next year, all runners will run in the same group and all will be eligible to win.

Nike has a proven track record of supporting athletes and we’re proud to be able to honor Arien and other athletes who surpass their goals and achieve great accomplishments.

Thank you for contacting Nike.


It's not often that the right thing is done by anyone. We should all celebrate this and commemerate it by making sure we do the right thing, and holding those accountable who don't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You show up to race, you have the race of your life, you don't win when you're the fastest

Come on, Nike. Really you can do better. Really. Reminds me of the Howard Jones song "No One Is To Blame" where the line is "you're the fastet runner but you're not allowed to win".

Apparently, only the elite ever get to reap the benefits, no matter how undeserved.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Class Act

I'm a little late to the show on this one. Paul Lanier Newman has left the world, and I feel we've lost someone, something special and aren't aware of it yet. I've always liked Paul Newman. The first movie of his I remember seeing was The Sting. Most of his others followed.

Even in his less than popular movies, I always loved how Paul threw all he had into it. The characters he played were part of him somewhere, and you saw it. My father said once "any other actor could be half as talented and still be great", and it applied to to other facets of Paul's life.

Unless you've been under a rock since the precambrian era, you probably have heard of Newman's Own dressings and sauces. I remember the first time I heard about it, and the first commercials aired where I grew up. In fact, he did commercials for Nissan encouraging people to use seatbelts. The local Albany and NYC stations aired them all the time, and sometimes, Paul would be wearing the same thing in both.

The reason was that he was at Lime Rock Park raceway, a tough road racing track in northwest CT near Lakeville. Many commercials were shot between heats or after races. It was neat to see him in his driving suit with cars going by in the background.

The fact that Paul was racing cars made him cool to me, but the fact he won a national championship driving a supposedly obsolete Triumph TR6 and beat the new model TR7, well, that made him a hero to me. That's because my father raced a Triumph, and later on I raced them, too.

But the biggest thing that tells me the class Paul Newman had was the fact he never called attention to his achievements. When he won the national championship in 1977 he said "screw the Oscars, this is better", or something to that effect, depending on who you ask. How many of us truly know how many children and adults his programs have helped? What is the impact on society?

Paul Newman was like a black tux. Always classy, elegant, stylish. Quiet dignity. The world needs more like him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Contemplating Retrospective

I've been busy with a bunch of projects lately, but none too interesting to most people. I get to think while I work on my car, or bike, and reflect quite a bit.

Some reflections are pleasant, like the time I did a winter raly around Michigan in an MG Magnette. Trust me, it wasn't warm, but it was fun. At least now it seems like it was, over a decade later.

Others aren't as good. The time my best friend was killed in a firefight by my side, and I vividly remember trying to put his stomach and organs back into him, and accompanying his body home. We worked differently than the regular Army, and I was with the chaplain and some officers when we broke the news to his family.

Certain experiences are seared into our brains. Often a sound transports me to that faraway place, and tonight it was the most unlikely source. My wife was watching the Sex and the City movie. In the scene where Sarah Jessica Parker is hitting Chris Noth with flowers, she and one of her friends screamed a certain way. And it was exactly the way my friend's mother screamed when we told her he had been killed. Blood curdling screams punctuated by gut wrenching sobs.

I tried to comfort her, but she just screamed at me "HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN TO HIM? YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER!!!! I HATE YOU!!!!" I know she didn't mean it. Two years later she was in the hospital and I decided to visit. It was difficult for me, but I knew I needed the closure, as well as her.

We spoke briefly, and just before I left, she said "I know you did everything you could. The other guys told me so. I'm sorry for what I said to you. Please forgive me, it's been eating at me since the funeral."

"Of course I forgive you. It's ok, I figured you didn't mean it. I'm glad I was able to let you vent." We laughed, talked a bit about how things were, and I watched a woman get to a place where she was at peace with everything in her life. I got up to leave, and she said "I'm glad you stopped by. Thank you. It means a lot to me." We smiled at each other as I left.

She died that night.

I'm a very lucky person. For very many reasons. Sometimes I think about it. But most times I don't. Maybe I should more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shut the hell up about the price of gas

I think it's pretty apparent I'm not the typical American. I served in the army in special forces. I have no clue what football and baseball are about, as I have just enough knowledge to be able to watch a game and only ask several stupid questions. I prefer euro sports, like cycling, golf, formula one and sports car racing to Nascar, MMA, and whatever other modern gladitorial spectacle is invented this week.

I'm getting this out in the open because I'm sick about the whining I hear regarding the price of gas. Also, I'm sick of hearing about the greenines who drive hybrids and how they think they are superior. So, here I go again ( a sub reference to Whitesnake for David Amulet) offering my solutions for a problem that we created.

First and foremost, the price of gas is not going down if you complain. Drive better, ie slower acceleration, a few mph slower on the highway, combine errands into one trip, etc. Watch how the gas seems to last longer. So we've already started to save some cash. Already we're making up ground.

Don't rush out to buy a new, more fuel efficient car. The resources that went into that car will expand your carbon footprint exponentially. Buy a well maintained, fuel efficient used car. I just sold my 1998 Honda Accord coupe and it got 36mpg on the highway. Even an older, well maintained car is better for the enviroment. I'm rebuilding my 1978 Triumph Spitfire 1500. When finished, it'll get about 30mpg on the highway. The earth is thanking me for putting some personal effort forth to not use more resources, and also fill a landfill.

So we've now done what we can on the vehicle front to save money, use less gas, and hopefully stabilize the price for a little bit. But is that enough? No.

I was reading James May's column in the latest issue of Top Gear Magazine and he hit upon a fascinating concept. Basically, he realized that we get sucked in by advertisers and buy all kinds of crap we don't need. Pissed about the price of gas but were one the idiots to stand on line for hours to buy an iphone? That's a few hundred that could have gone towards gas if you were still using your old phone.

I have about 32 year's worth of tee shirts. I'm trying to use them up by working on my car in the oldest ones, then they bocome rags. Of course, it seems I end up with three of four shirts every time I race. So apparently I'm losing ground there. But the point James made was a great one. Why don't we use up the stuff we have, sell what we don't need, and use the savings for gas money?

Think of it. We save money, the enviroment is better off, and those products aren't in as much demand, so less gas and fuel is used. We all end up doing our part. Some will argue the lack of demand is bad for the economy, but that's another topic for another post.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Detective work

I love history. But too many times, that's what it truly is, a story. Lately I've been delving into the actual facts of the American Revolution. Many of those facts are wrong. Or what we think are the facts. Case in Point: Paul Revere. Without the Raiders. (Bad sub reference, but hopefully someone gets it.)

How instrumental was he in warning the colonists the British were coming? Not very, actually. He was caught just a few miles into his ride. Or how about who fired the first shot at Lexington and Concord? We did. Well, a colonist did.

Anyway, I'm considering taking all this compiled info and making it into an entertaining (to a history geek like me) read. Yup, someday I'll sit down and try to write a short, factual as possible account of the American Revolution. Or make it into a series.

I like how even in these info times, so many events are wrongly reported. Which amazes me, because it should be easy to say "Uh, no actually this happened, so let's end the game of telephone." but it never seems to happen. That's alright, I like being able to annoy people when they're wrong. Because I'm spiteful.

Time to eat, but lord knows what that statement could blossom into in today's media...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sumer's Ending, Can You Weather It?

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

~Thomas Paine, 1776

I put up this painting by Norman Rockwell for a few reasons, followed by Thomas Paine's great quote. The painting, "Homecoming GI", is probably my favorite Rockwell. I had heard it was based on a story Rockwell heard where a family had last been told their son was killed or missing in action. They heard nothing more until shortly after when their son arrived.

Even if this isn't true, the painting shows the absolute moment when the family, neighbors, and friends (and secret admirer, now all grown up) release their worry and finally realize it's all over, and they can celebrate. The star in the window shows they never gave up hope or faith.

Not only did the GI have to suffer and endure and sacrifice, so did his family. It was a high price for both. Years of their normal lives lost, stress, the sacrifices made on both fronts. They thought it was worth it. This painting brings tears to my eyes, because just as it shows the elation of this family, many others experienced the depths of despair and heartache learning their loved ones won't be coming home alive.

Thomas Paine actually hit upon a great point. Most of what our generation has came too easy for us. So I urge you to be a bit introspective. I'm not saying what you do isn't hard, or you didn't have to sacrifice to get where you are in life, but how far are you willing to go to make sure the next/younger generation can experience what you did?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fate takes a vacation

I was all excited about rebuilding my cyclocross bike a few days ago. Then I noticed that there was some swelling in an area near the inside top of my right leg. Felt about the size of a ping pong ball.

Good news is that it's just a hematoma. I need to take some time off the bike. The good part is that I'll be able to finish my bike, get lots of work done on my car, and maybe actually go through the extra stuff I have and see if any of it is worth anything.

Ambitious but rubbish. God, I'm off to a great start...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lithium Ion

I've been recharging, refitting, and getting ready. I hope like a lithium ion battery I'm brighter than the earlier version. Or more intense. It's been a bit of a doldrums for me and writing for the last several months. Finally, I feel like I'm hitting stride.

I've had a year of modest satisfaction on my bike. For the work I've done, I have actually done well. If I put in more effort, but I didn't so why wax philosophical? My Triumph Spitfire rebuild is behind schedule, but I do have a goal, and if I work hard it might be running soon. Maybe not well, but at least running.

But I've got other things on my plate. I built up a cyclocross bike for a friend of mine, and he's totally stoked and happy with the result. Now I'm in the process of building mine back up, and hopefully starting next week I'll be hitting a local park to get my off road abilities back up to par. Not hard, since they're minimal.

We all have times when things get stale. David Amulet's awesome blog never showed it, but he mentioned he was tired of posting. Fair enough. Look at how much I slacked this last year. But no more. I'm looking forward to devoting time each week for the things I enjoy.

So look for more rambling posts from me. I won't comment on the Olympics, other than the fact they're elitist and racist. And sport selection and deselection is another post entirely. So I've already contradicted myself.

Excellent! I'm back, and to quote my favorite show's motto "Ambitious but Rubbish!!!" will be my matra. Thank you, Top Gear. And thank you, all 4 or 5 of you who read this drivel. Get ready for more!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When Something Actually Means Something

I'm sure you have had the feeling. A quick look at your life and the question arises: "Have I done anything that mattered?". We can't all be Ghandi. Or a ditch digger. We do have the oppurtunity to make a difference, on some level, somewhere for someone. Sometimes we don't take it, or other times we aren't aware of the impact of what we did. I just discovered one such incident.

Years ago I was deployed to Africa, as a group of rebels had taken UN relief workers prisoner. Since there were Canadian, British, American and other nationalities at risk, the British and US sent troops to perform the rescue. As always, it wasn't a flawless operation, but it got the job done. Here's a small excerpt.

"Shit, Ski, Chart's down, Swick's down, Omera's down, we have no air support on standby, and the Brits are held down on the other side of the highway. We need to get the fuck out now!"

"Fuck, fuck, fuck what the hell is going on? Shit, ok, we need to get over the top of that wall, and set up some supportive crossfire for 3rd squad. Hawk and I will cover, you guys go for that hut when we open up. Keep your fucking heads down!!!!"


"Yeah, Hawk?"

"Look left!!"

"Motherfuck!! Goddammnit! I'll cover you, get to the others, take Rainman and Eclipse and outflank those bastards. Go go go go go!!!!!" Hawk had spotted two hostages being dragged out of the door of a building. It was our first break in a very chaotic firefight and rescue attempt.

Within a few minutes we had shot the rebels trying to move the hostages, and found another three hostages in a building nearby. By this time the rebels got the message that we were there to kill them, not just free hostages and began trying to melt into the jungle. Problem for them was that the British were waiting for them, and all met a bloody end.

As we went through the village, and found the remaining hostages in the surrounding area, we also got them ready to fly out on the chopper we had for them. Most were thankful, though a few were rude and yelled at us and hoped we'd never be able to live with ourselves for kiling other humans. Once the chopper lifted off, we went back to the few wounded and handed them to the Brits, who promptly shot them all.

I felt this was one of the most worthwhile missions I was part of. Yet, I also wondered was it worth it? I never saw those workers after that chopper lifted off. I'd wonder every now and then what happened to them, did they ever get over the trauma they were subjected to? Did life for them and their familes move on, or was it destroyed?

Fast forward to recently. I was talking to a customer at work, and as her husband was trying a bike we talked about various things. One thing was Africa, and her daughter was a relief worker taken hostage, who was then rescued by British and American soldiers. We quickly figured out I was part of that mission. Almost in tears, she turned to me and said "You rescued our daughter. Thank you, thank you thank you so much. Thank you for your service." With that she hugged me and sobbed a little.

I know I'll never figure out why I was sent to most places I was, and that I'll never know if what I did, and sacrifices many of us made were in vain or not. But I do know that this particular mission had a great impact on a famile's life, and 12 years later, that made it totally worth it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sometimes we expect nothing, and end up being blown away

Ever look at something and think "well, this looks like it's going to be mediocre, at best" but then end up being absolutely stunned at how amazing the result is? Well, that's what's happened with this year's Tour de France. I won't bore you with details, but in my over 20 years of following the traveling circus of professional cycling, I've only seen one other that was better. 1989, when the final outcome was in doubt until 200 meters from the line was a nail biter. This year is almost as close, and I can't wait to see who's on top this coming Sunday.

But what makes this race so great? Honestly, the racing has been beyond superlatives, but the coverage has been great, too. I wish I taped this year's race, as the scenery has been stunning. Makes me want to go to France for vacation, especially with my bike.

I've been considering posting about politics, the enviroment, bad plastic water bottles, or gas prices. I won't. I'm just going to say this much: try to drive less, get every ounce of info on all the candidates, and get some stainless steel water bottles. That's all I got!

Friday, July 04, 2008

4th and Gruene

So, happy 4th! Today 13 friends and I rode down to Gruen, TX since we all had the day off. 60 miles on a bike with friends and some light hearted moments (drinking beer at 10 am-a 6 pack was split amongst us) is always a good day. Weather, everything went really well. Topped off with a tasty meal at the Gristmill, and it was great.

In between the sprints for road signs, and enjoying the ride, I got to thinking. We're a lucky people, us Americans. Today I was free of the fear that police would swoop upon us, take us away, and we'd be gone. Or that someone would start shooting at us. True, it is TX, but mostly they play by the rules.

I won't regale you with some of the lack of rights I've seen in other parts of the world, or the measures we sometimes (as in the USA) took to rectify the situation. That's a post for another time. I just want all of you to take a second or two and reflect on just how good you truly have it in this country.

Now enjoy the weekend, be with your families, friends, or whomever is important in your life. We have that luxury. Take advantage of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

People, gather round!!!!!!

So a coworker (and dare I say it, a friend as crazy as I) and I were talking today. We were joking around, and bandied about the idea of me just getting up on a mailbox or streetlight pole and yammering away. Like in the days of yore in the English Empire. I'll talk about whatever I want to, but it has to be pertinent. Maybe the same time, every week, at the same place. I'll make speeches like you hear in the House of Lords and Commons in England on C-Span. Yes, I really watch it, and look forward to it.

"People gather around!!! We are in dark times, but not the hour of darkness, nor our darkest hour. It is merely the darkest of hours before the dawn. The light is fast approaching, and we shall head into the light!! The price of gas isn't going to break us, it is us continuing to pay the prices asked of us that will break us!! Don't let yourself be broken!!! Don't blame the oil companies, blame yourself!!! Give them hell, I say. Give them hell!"

"All great empires have collapsed from within. Rome, Greece, Persia, China. Look within yourselves and ask these simple questions. Why have I stopped caring about my country, my fellow man, my world? Why is it that my way is more important than the good of others?"

Not like I really said much, but the style in which these words are delivered would define their impact. So think about that. It's how you deliver the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.

Lastly, I was away on vacation, but needed to mention Father's Day. I hope all of you have a good relationship with your fathers. I'm more impressed with mine the more I learn about him. So happy belated Father's Day, to all the fathers out there.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I'll be clear and concise. This coming Monday is Memorial Day. The day set aside for us to remember and honor the fallen servicemembers of our nation. I hate Memorial Day. It reminds me of friends who are gone, who left early so others wouldn't have to.

Freedom wasn't free for them.
Freedom isn't free for me.
Freedom isn't free for their families.
Freedom isn't what you want to do.
Freedom isn't easy.
Freedom is doing what you know is right.
Or needs to be done.
That's because you have a choice to do it or not.
That's freedom.

Nothing worth having is free. Deep down inside I know all of my fallen comrades would do it all over again, as would I, just so you'd be free from fear, oppression, and most of all, the horrific experience of combat. That is freedom.

I don't care about your beliefs and politics. I fought for your right to think what you want. I will gladly die so that we may disagree.

This Monday, take a moment. Think about those of us who aren't here. Thank those who are. It might make it easier for all of us. You just might feel better. Or don't. After all, it's a free country.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Waxing sentimental

For those of you who are unaware, I have a huge array of interests. In no particular order, the main ones are cycling, trains, model trains, photography, sports cars of all makes and vintage, particularly British, movies, golf, politics, well you get the idea. Since I am interested in these fields, I also tend to do much research, and a few of them also lend themselves to aquiring things.

Cycling. The mother of all equipment needing activities. So all my uniforms, helmet, parts, frames, wheelsets, shoes, pedals, are all over the place. My long suffering wife didn't know that there are certain uniforms I won't get rid of because of what they mean to me. Good race, I was captain for a season, you get the picture. I even have a frame that I haven't ridden in almost a year.

My Schwinn Paramount OS is a hand built, custom steel frameset I ordered in 1990. It was my second race bike, and my first top line frame. I rode it for 16 seasons, and had my fair share of greatness on it. A decent number of wins, trips to the Olympic Training Centers with it, riding with some of the greatest American cyclists with it. The list goes on. So if it's not even built up right now, why keep it?

It means a lot to me. I named it Horse. We've been together for my entire adult life. Through the bad seasons, the good ones, the illnesses, crashes, Horse never wavered. Always waiting, always ready, always willing. So much of my life involves him that I'll never get rid of him, even though I could sell him for much more than I paid for him 18 years ago. (It was a $1300 frameset back then.) I'll never get rid of him. Someday in the near future Horse will go back to Waterford, WI and be restored where he was built. To like new condition.

I have quite a collection of model cars and Hot Wheels and Matchboxes, too. The scale models are all of cars I've owned or raced, and the the toys are a mixture of what I had since childhood and ones I've raced. I will rid myself of many of these in the coming weeks, but again, there are some I can't part with.

My trains, oh how my wife doesn't understand. I have way more than I can possibly use right now, but this is one of those hobbies where the future is always brightest. Enough said.

As if the physical side isn't bad enough (I should be thankful my real car is away from home and I can store those parts there) I have all the afiiliated literature with these hobbies. Now the bike racing stuff, I usually read it and give it to someone at work. The train magazines are actually like reference materials, and the car magazines the same. I am going to have to pare down again shortly. It's hard to get someone like my wife to understand why I need to save this stuff.

It's part sentimental, part technical need. I'm sure we all have the same problem. Too bad we can't just keep what we need and rid ourselves of the rest.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Sometimes I need inspiration. For my car, my racing, this blog, everything. For my blog, the news, a debate about politics, economics, and David Amulet's writings are always a help. But inspiration isn't always enough. I need to feel like I have something worth writing about. What isn't worth writing about these days? Truthfully, lots of things.

So on to the stuff that's worthless, and my theory behind why we think we care. Celebrity gossip and reality tv. Back in the days when cable was channels 2-13, there was only the Enquirer for the reality and celebrity stuff. As cable expanded, channels were formed and they needed filler. I mean, Bad Girls Club? Celebrity Rehab? It's like there's all this space and there was nothing to fill it, so instead of sitting back and coming up with some culturally worthwhile programming, we get all this drivel.

Yes, I like some reality tv. Gene Simmons kills me with his dry humor and the fact that he's actually a caring, involved parent. Bruce Jenner is much the same way with the Kardashians. Sometimes he has that look of "What in the hell have I gotten myself into?". Very funny.

Sadly, more people care about shows like these as opposed to the earthquake in China, the cyclone in Myannamar, or a bunch of other garden spots of the world. Guess reality tv is all a matter of what you want to admit.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cars as metaphors

I can see the eyes rolling already. But stick with me on this one. I was working on my Triumph today. I decided to drain the oil, etc. I'm trying to get it on the road by summer. Trying. Anyway, apparently a previous owner fancied themself a mechanic. Well, they rounded off the oil plug, so I need a new one and will have lots of fun getting it free. This is just one of many issues I've been buttoning up as I work through the car.

Now it strikes me that rebuilding a car is like being in politics. No matter how much experience you have, you never totally know what you're getting into. Once you're there, you spend a good amount of time just getting everything back to a good starting point. Then you try to improve on that. So, let's look at the Presidential race as a car restoration.

You aren't sure what you're getting, even if you listen to the experts. It always takes more time and money than planned. And not everyone will appreciate what's been done.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mike's View on Taxes and the Economy

Guess what? The economic stimulus rebate checks are coming a week early!! Oh, happy day!!! Is this a good thing? Not really, in my opinion. What will most of this money do? I'd be willing to wager that credit card companies are salivating right now. This money will put off the inevitable.

Let me explain. Credit card companies (or any industry that grants credit, think real estate) gave way too much credit. Especially to those who really shouldn't have it. Before the meteoric rises in the cost of living the past 12 months, these people were already financially maxed out. Now the government wants to take my money to bail them out. What do I get out of it?

So these handouts are arriving soon. Really, what can $600 do? Most people will pay bills, which won't help the economy. Those services are already used and the producers of said services have already laid out their money, so no one wins. If you're on the ragged edge with your credit cards, you'l get what, a month's reprieve? If we all take our money and go buy something new, that would help the economy. Give the consumer the power to spend and the economy picks up.

This brings me to another issue. I hear people saying the price of gas is too high, and the government should do something about it. Newsflash!! They already have in many areas, and it's called mass transit. I propose a mass transit tax that would be levied on any vehicle that can't get over 18mpg for it's average mileage. Not highway. I can get 36mpg with my 98 Accord, but usually my mileage per tank is about 26 because of around the town driving. If you drive a gas swilling truck or SUV, you have two chioces. Pay up or sell your car. Your amount of tax could be offset if you choose mass transit. A whole prorated table could be devised.

I keep reading the cronies saying if gas were cheaper, the economy could recover. Maybe, or maybe it's time to realize we need to be more efficient. Alternative energy sources are sorely needed, but please don't bring up windmills. Talk about ugly, and if they're in the flightpath of migratory birds, it can be disatrous. Bats have problems, too. The current solution is to drive more efficient cars. Just drove a Smartcar yesterday around the work lot. Impressive.

We can always raise minimum wage, right? HAHAHA!!!!! All that does is make the cost of living go up quicker. Imagine if we made minimum wage $9.50/hr? Well, the value meal at McDonald's would be about $12. I doubt all of us making more than minimum wage wold get raises...think about it.

Back to the whole oil issue. Why not drill on the north slope in Alaska? It's in a protected wilderness. What's funny is the argument against it is that it'll spoil the beauty. Well, guess what? You and I, as normal citizens of the US, aren't allowed to go in there legally anyway, so why not build a road or railroad and utilize a resource we have? Don't get me wrong, I love animals, and I don't want them to lose their homes and feeding grounds. But if it's done responsibly (look at how things are done in the Adirondack Park) it can work.

Finally, back to taxes. Yes this is a circular post, but it's been over a few hours I keep coming back to it. I firmly believe that the upper class pay enough taxes. Why should they pay even more? Do you know the current tax code for federal taxes? Let's just say this. If you make 1 million dollars a year and are single, you pay $524,164.00. Don't forget state taxes if you have them. And FICA, etc. Is that fair? You can argue they make more money, so they don't feel it as much.

Why be punished for being successful? Married filers for the same amount pay $517,296.00. Of course deductions come into play, but you get the idea. If you make $50,000.00 a year, you get to pay $22,461.00 as a single person. Married it would be $30,763.00. The lovely marriage penalty.

These are rough figures on very basic tables, but you get the idea. Yes, lower income brackets don't have as much money to spare. But when a majority of the nation's taxes are paid by the top few percent of taxpayers, who's getting the deal? Let's just taxe everyone at 44%. No refunds, etc. That would make it more fair, right? Or a value aded tax on goods at 23%. Works for Europe.

No one has all the answers. Too bad our presidential candidates can't admit it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I definitely am not anemic right now

This week I'm definitely stocking up on irony. I'm sure it's pretty apparent I love ironic situations. So let's feast on this bit of fun.

Nigella Lawson has been on the tele for quite some time, and as time goes on, she's gained weight. This is pretty normal as our metabolism slows down with age. So why are many fans and Food Network people upset with this? I mean, Nigella hosts a show that's all about making and eating food that's nowhere near calorically low. It's what the show is about.

Let's put this into perspective. Americans are one of the more out of shape populations in the world. Why should we care if a British tv cook has gained weight? No projection there, I'm sure. Besides, Nigella has never been small. So maybe if we enjoyed the tele, and paid attention to real life more, we'd be in better shape. In all meanings of the phrase.

And let's be honest, not everyone watches Nigella for the food.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

History is for everyone no matter how ironic

I've been lacking in motivation lately. Maybe due to several bouts with illnesses. Sinus infection, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, they all take a toll. So now I'm way behind in my training for this season, but I'm sure that after a short break I'll be able recover and start anew. I have a few goals this season, and then I can take stock of racing from there. Almost 20 years of racing down, so it's getting time to step it back a notch.

So, onto something totally semi related in a random way. Related in that there are wheels on bikes, and wheels on cars.

I read a car magazine from England called Octane. It's chock full of great photos, interviews, features on awesome cars, etc. One of the columnists is Jay Leno, a first rate gearhead. Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame is another columnist, but that's immaterial today. Jay always has interesting views, and this month he hit on something really cool.

Back in the stone age of sports cars, Britain was a sportscar superpower. Aston Martin, Lotus, Jaguar, Triumph, Austin Healey, MG, Morgan, AC, and many others. One thing was certain: the cars almost always looked great. Those were the days when an artist would design a car, and an engineer would then be like "right, this looks good, I think I can pretty much make it work, see you Monday.". Now it comes down to an engineer designs the car, and a group of yahoos approve or disapprove it. So what is my point?

Leno mentioned how when he drives his white Jaguar XK120 coupe, women are always drawn to it. Recently Penelope Cruz was visiting Jay's garage, and she was walking around, past the Lamborghini "Countach, the fire truck, and then all of a sudden she shouts, "What's that?!" She just ran to the white Jag and sat in it. I find it ironic that she has lots of money, has traveled all over the world, and yet didn't recognize one of the most iconic cars of the postwar era. Most people my age have no idea what many cars of the past are, and when a new car comes along, they ooh and aah over the new design, the features, etc.

Most don't know that such "new" features like self dimming headlights (Caddies from the 50's), disc brakes (1955 Triumph), all independent suspension (lots of sports cars from the mid 50's), have been around well before we were born. Now, this isn't terribly important, except that if we aren't aware of automotive history, what other history don't we know? What history are we bound to repeat? My father loves to say "history doesn't repeat itself, people repeat history" and he's right. I cringe at the thought of appeasement, and "Peace in our time". (Bonus points to who can name who said that quote.)

So here's my challenge: learn some history. You won't be fooled into thinking something old is actually new. You won't be fooled as politicians make the same mistakes again and believe it's a good thing. Being aware of the past will help you decipher the future. Besides, you might gain some insight into human behavior.

As a closing note, here's a picture of a white Jaguar XK120 coupe. Another bonus question: why was it named the XK120? Enjoy the trip through the past.

Special thanks to Jay Leno for his always entertaning and insightful columns, and especially Octane Magazine for publishing them. Go check out their website at:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Grow Up

Do we have any problems for real? Not compared to most of the world. I read a few forums on a regular basis., a Triumph Spitfire page, etc. Aand guess what? Bike racers are by far the whiniest of the lot. Of course, I'm wasting my time reading lots of this stuff, so I'm just as bad.

So that's it, I'll hopefully be racing sometime in May. Maybe later this month. But I need to get some other things taken care of. Like my car. The boomerang is about to turn, which means I wil begin reassembly soon. Not much more to write about. When there is, I'll be back.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ride, Fatboy, Ride

I did my first races of the season this past week. I headed down to the local weekly race series and was thumped. Hard. It was about what I expected, since I have about 1/3 of the miles that the other guys have. It's what happens when you're sick. So I rode it out, worked on finding the line around the track, and refined my cornering technique.

Saturday I headed to my first real race of the season, and it went pretty well. My goals were to stay upright, finish in the top 3/4 of the field, and not get dropped. It was easier than I thought, but it was a bit of a battle. I hung on each lap up the climb. Finally after 6 times up that hill we were charging to the finish. I was in the mix for the field sprint, but got boxed in and ended up 23rd. A little bit more fitness and being a bit farther towards the front would have helped my cause. I met and exceeded all my goals. Guess I need to raise the bar for myself.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Post Secret

We all have seen or heard of the blog Post Secret. We look at it pretty regularly. Over the last few days I've been thinking about what I'd say if I sent anything. Since I believe in being accountable I decided that they'd be posted here if at all. So here you and they are.

All the years I looked up to my brother I didn't see my father, the real hero.

I wish I never joined the Army. I never would have met the guys I served with. Never would have seen them suffer and die, and never would have outlived them. Some days I wish I were dead, with them, as they are at peace. I'm in a living hell at least a fraction of every day when I tell them I miss them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

300 Million but not enough

We were out to dinner the other night with some friends. The husband was also in the Army in Special Forces. He said somethng interesting. "It kills me that we have 300 milion people in this country, and most aren't willing to cross the line and protect it and say "not on my watch"".

This was brought to mind because I just watched ABC News run some experiments in social behavior. One was where a Muslim woman was discriminated against in a bakery. Because she was wearing a veil. Most people did nothing, quite a few spoke up, and a few encouraged the discrimination. Another one was a group of girls tormenting another girl in a park. Again, not enough people did the right thing.

It's pretty sad when we as a nation feel that everyone other than ourselves will solve our problems for us. It's time for us to step up. Is that step too high for us? Maybe we need to retrace our steps as a nation and look for the spine America lost.

Monday, February 25, 2008


So here I am, thinking of something to write. I could write about the Serbian issues, the raging debate about Team Astana not being allowed into the Tour de France, the presidential snorefest, or something else of the thousands of things I think about.

So, you know I love cars. No secret I hate gas swilling SUVs, etc. Yet I love all kinds of high performance cars. Resource eating, highly impractical massive carbon footprint Ferraris, Astons, Lotuses, Jags, Porsches, and all my vintage cars. So here I sit, sometimes preaching about being enviromentally sensitive, about riding my bike, or trying to follow the line of morals and ethics.

Let's look at this a little. I love cycling. But high end race bikes eat up a lot of resources. Races devour resources. But they raise awareness of cycling, and of course, the sponsor's raison d'etre. So let's say the race inspires some people to ride, commute, maybe a handful will race. So the benefit offsets the voracious eating of the resources. That's going on the theory that those who do get inspired will become healthier, more productive, and more enviromentally conscious. So am I a hypocrite?

What about my love for cars? Yes, I love my high end cars I'll never afford. I also love my more reasonable, older small displacement British cars. They don't gobble up gas, they sometimes aren't as clean with emissions. Leather was used for most of them. I can hear the forests roar their displeasure at the wood dashboards. So, though I drive a 98 Accord coupe right now, is it bad for me to be bringing my monster out of hibernation? Is it historic preservation? Living history? My way of connecting with a bygone era? Connecting with my dad? (He used to race a Triumph TR3a when it was new, and we've spent who knows how much time talking about various older sports cars.)

What's the appeal of these activities? Am I hypocritical posting about closet gas guzzler cars, then telling you about all the stuff I'm doing to my Spitfire? Or how about all the gas I use just going to and from bike races? Or the number of tires I wear out on my bikes over the course of a season?

Or is it that I just enjoy some activities that aren't quite mainstream? I've always been a bit of a free spirit. Maybe that freedom goes into my racing mind sometimes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So, here are two things I love

If you haven't guessed by now, I am pretty passionate about cycling, cars, trains, and all the related topics they spawn. One other thing I love to death is to be antagonistic. That's right, you guessed it, it's time to combine a few of these things into a post that will hopefully get a few people to think (a longshot given the state of American mental ability) and others to laugh and even a few more to try and discount what I say.

So let's start the fun with this article I just found on Car and Driver.

Pretty cool, I think, and a bit surprising for a few of the list. Oh, and I apologize that I'm not as good as everyone else with links and getting words to light up, etc, and be the link. It's probably faster, but I digress.

What I find cool is that some classes of vehicles, ie the crossover SUV, basically do nothing well. Really no more usable space, mileage is terrible, off roading not that good. Can anyone explain to me why you'd want one? Get an all wheel drive station wagon. This reminds me of the 5 cylinder Audis, Acuras, etc. We used to joke "all the power of a 4 with the mileage of a 6". Again, why want one?

So then you're probably wondering what I drive. Am I some type of journalistic hypocrite? Well, no, because I'm not entirely a journalist. I drive either my wife's Honda Civic 4 door, or my Accord 2 door coupe. Both very economical cars, to say the least. Yes, though I live less than a mile from work I do drive more than I should. I concede that. But I try to ride my bike when I can, and I even walk sometimes.

Yes, you in the back. What? Oh, yeah, what about my polluting Triumph? Glad you asked, I was waiting for a cornball like you to pop. Right now it's a very efficient car, as it doesn't run yet. That's right, 0 emissions! Not bad for a 30 year old car. Followup? Sure. Actually, it uses unleaded gas, gets about 24mpg around town and over 30 on the highway. Plus it's crazy fun, and cheap to repair. Try to say that about your toxic disaster on wheels hybrid.

So let's throw some pics up of my Triumph again. Or parts of it. Because I can. The parts are my master brake and clutch cylinders, which tonight will be rebuilt while I watch the Tour of California, and the other pic is a row of Spitfires at my last Triumph club meeting.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's Official

I'm now a licensed USA Cycling official. So that means I am one of the refs or judges at races. Kind of excited, as now I can be involved with races and even get paid. At least it's guaranteed money, unlike the lottery of trying to place well. Hopefully on Tues I can go for a short, easy ride.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I feel the pian of this guy

We've all had mix ups in our lives. But what Philly does is pretty un brotherly. I had a similar situation. I had the same first name, last name and middle initial of another guy 2 years older than I. Even in college, he got my gi bill plus his, and I never saw any of it, and he never got in trouble.

I guess I'm saying watch your back, and if you're in a position to correct something, do it. Not only is it the right thing, it might be you someday.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I'm sick again. Same type of illness as a few weeks ago. I woke up feeling bad and hurting all over yesterday. Fever of almost 104, down to 100 today. Looks like racing is on hold until at least mid March. I am bummed, but more concerned that this is similar to relapses of CFS or E-B. Time to just rest and get better. Might be a bit quiet on this end for a bit.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chills, car progress, and project managers

This is chilling. A woman laughs at what her friend says when she called him from jail about her killing a cyclist.

I don't get it sometimes, but I guess not all people are beyond the troglodyte stage of evolution.

On a much happier note, race season starts soon, but I need to begin the long process of getting in shape. I'm better this year than last, as at least I've ridden over the winter instead of taking 2 months off completely. Plus, this year I'm going to become an official, so I can help run the races and score them, etc.

The work on my Triumph is going well, just that it's been cold here, and I was really sick for a week when the weather was good. Of course. Right now I have basically gutted the interior, other than the dashboard and passenger door panel. I brought home the clutch and brake master cylinders to hopefully rebuild them, depending on condition. I guess the next step will be the electrical system since I have nothing in the way right now. Thankfully, everything but the horn and washer pump work, so with some cleaning and love, I'm optimistic.

After that it's on to the suspension, at which point it'll be made ambulatory again. Then we cross our fingers that it passes inspection, then heads to the body shop for paint. Last step is the interior again, all new and pretty. It's a log way away, but I can see the finished product right now.

As always, we have two pics of the project managers, Samantha and Harley, doing what they do best. Sleeping on their bed. Oddly enough, they don't try to get onto it at the same time very often.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hey, Golf Channel, it's the 21st Century

What the hell was up with the Golf Channel? They haven't really done anything to Kelly Tilghman for saying today's young golfers should "lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley." Send those racist jerks an email with what you think. Like, "hey, maybe we should lynch your prejudiced blueblood Brooks Brothers wearing hides behind the clubhouse!"

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy new year!! On a 52 mile ride I saw this bumper sticker: God bless everyone; no exceptions!

Pretty succinct message. I'm not especially religious, but I agree.