Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gary Trudeau nails it.

Yet again...

Poor Al Gore...

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like The Onion?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I have found religion...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, there's no one cooler than Billie Dee Williams.

New electrical meter

I. Want. One...

Top 20 albums of all time

Now THIS ONE will get some people riled up: George Michael in the top 20 and the Beatles not at #1.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cycling log: New Bike City


And so the cycle (pun intended) of expensive bikes begins anew.

For the past year-ish I have been collecting the carefully-selected components of my next bike, which was supposed to be my dream bike. Mostly Shimano Dura Ace components, carefully selected saddle, carbon handlebars shaped to not pinch off the nerves, and so on.

A few such components made their way onto my current aluminum road bike, seen in the blog picture to the right. And now that I've got THAT thing as good as one can reasonably make it...I gotta have better.

So I went into Bike World today and arranged for Steve to bring up their Waterford Cycles fitting cycle, and so I anticipate a lovely evening tomorrow spent spinning in place while Steve looks on with a tape measure. Bike fitting is a very similar process to tailoring a suit, because a little custom tweaking for the individual can make all the difference. Or at least, you tell yourself that...

And as to the frame of the new steed, Moots is the current front-runner, a titanium (Ti) frame from Steamboat Springs, CO which comes highly recommended.

I had originally planned to do this for next year, but with bike prices climbing like Contador, I decided to jump the gun to this fall. Hopefully, I'll have a new bike by my birthday in mid-October.

And if my buddy, Kim, is willing to lend her photography skills, I might just throw together a photo album. How 'bout it, Tri Samurai?

Olympic Swimmer: Under Suspicion

No, not Michael Phelps, and no, not under official suspicion. Just that of professional cynic Jason Whitlock:

(A) few years ago, Dara Torres would’ve received the same free pass Roger Clemens enjoyed until he misremembered in front of Congress. Torres and her trainer would’ve been profiled in an upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated and presented as a shining example of all-American, mother-next-door resilience.

Instead, Torres’ thrilling victory in the 100-meter freestyle and qualification for a fifth Olympic team on the Fourth of July have been hit with a series of suspicious questions and stories....That’s the sports world we live in now — middle-aged women are not immune. There’s no solution for the cynicism. Torres can pass every drug test. We still won’t believe.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Randy Pausch, RIP.

Wow. Just wow.

This video is an hour and 16 minutes long. The theme is, if you had one and only one lecture ever to give for the rest of your life, what would it be?

The lecture was given 20 December 2007.

Pausch died this past Friday, 25 July 2008.

And yes, he knew he was dying when he delivered it...

Bill Maher: Politics and Religion

From 27 September, 2007. Money quote: "If you believe in Judgment Day, I have to seriously question your judgment."

Bonus: Maher's interview with Richard Dawkins.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chuck Grassley barred from Iowa's delegation to GOP convention

Because he had the nerve to tangle with Christian frauds:

Political observers in Iowa saw the move against Mr. Grassley as retribution for his having tangled with evangelical pastors in his state. He initiated a Senate Finance Committee investigation of six televangelists for conspicuous personal spending....Robert Novak on Saturday noted yesterday that the "74-year old Grassley once was considered the leader of the Iowa Republican Party's conservative wing, but has been at odds with the increasingly influential evangelical elements in the party."

A rare, but welcome, happy ending

Missing female soldier found alive after her husband tried to kill her.


John McCain Archive

A few stories from Reason Magazine about Johnny Mac.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Piling on Jesse Helms

Best. Quote. Ever...

"Anyone that far to the right is hiding something. When he dies, they're gonna find the skins of small children drying in his attic. And you'll see his wife on television saying things like, "I always wondered about Jesse's collection of little shoes.""
--Bill Hicks

The Dark Knight

Roger Ebert loved it:

“Batman” isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we come to care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. This film, and to a lesser degree “Iron Man,” redefine the possibilities of the “comic-book movie.”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blogging as therapy

Scientific American:

(B)esides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.
My nephew and I had a prolonged discussion about this over the last few days, which he forwarded to his wife. She remarked how effortless we made the exchange appear, a quality she envied because she is not gifted with natural writing talent.

As I pointed out, we both read A LOT as boys growing up, and the love of the word can't help but rub off. I worked as a news reporter for 7 years and got royally bored with subject-verb-predicate prose. As I've said before here, boredom is the stimulus to propel my mind, and I started tinkering within that narrow framework to suit my creative urges. It's a little like the 8-note scale of music or middle-Eastern paintings. The mind is forced to be creative within a very restrictive environment, making for interesting interpretations.

The downside, of course, is that blogging is addictive because of the instant gratification factor. I find that I have to actually shut the computer off in order to get anything done (like housekeeping...guh). And forget about reading other people's books. I've got a stack that will take me years to finish at this rate.

But it's true: those who think well, write well, and vice versa. The two naturally bolster each other, and there is no element of life I've ever found that couldn't be enhanced by better use of language.

It makes us what we are.

Quote of the day.

"In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind should he impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition of a spirit."

Dr. Frankenstein

(Don't tell the creationists: They'll point to what all that evil, evil science led to!)

Star Wars Bedding is Back!


Someone once said Star Wars looks better the younger your eyes are. True, for me.

Never seen a tombstone like this before..

Made out of glass. Seriously, these are really interesting. It's supposedly as tough as granite.

And yes, it caught my eye because the guy's name is the same as my late brother.

How parents name their children

Now, this interests me more than some might think:

Perhaps, we should just pick a sufficiently popular and sufficiently unique - that strange balance all new parents seek in a child's name - and be done with it. But, identity is all a person is, and name is an overarching part of that identity.
I find this to be an interesting discussion, because I've heard some names in my life that made me scratch my head. Why, for instance, would anyone name their child "Pepsi"? Look, just hand all your money to Pepsico and get it over with, already!

If you're religious, or just plain don't want your kid's name to draw raised eyebrows, you've an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Which begs the question as to why anyone would ever, in a billion years, name a child John. I love all the Johns in my life (insert your own joke there), but it's the Judeo-Christian equivalent of a Muslim naming their son Mohammad. It's the ultimate lack of creative thinking. Nor would I ever give a son my own name...that IMHO robs a kid of a certain identity.

My name is Paul Matthew, given to me by my devoutly Catholic parents. They'd had three other sons by that point, and run out of male relatives for the bestowing of middle names. I don't mind it as much as I used to, but Paul has always struck me as being a bit soft (and let's be honest, I need more mental and physical toughness in my life).

To draw a few random thoughts:
  • Saint Paul was a prolific and gifted writer with a talent for persuasion. I'm a gifted and prolific writer with a knack for pissing people off.
  • Saint Paul was a militant persecutor of Christians who converted to one of them. I'm a former Christian with a certain lack of patience with religion, but who is trying to sort out a lot of how I feel about that past.
  • Saint Paul wrote about how women should submit to their husbands. I have enough trouble getting a date as it is...
  • Saint Paul got knocked off a horse. I ride bikes. 'Nuff said.
So, I guess I can see where choosing the name of a child is such a profound responsibility, and just the first of many, when you get down to it.

Yet another reason I'd be a bad parent. I have enough trouble keeping the house picked up.

"Intelligent Design on Trial" from NOVA

One of the best shows on TV, this is the story of the Dover trial that smacked down the ID folks--hard. 96 minutes. Required viewing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

63 year old bikini queen

Holy. Toledo...

That's Dame Helen Mirren, formerly of the BBC series Prime Suspect. She's a fantastic actress, and, really, how many of YOU look that good no matter your age?

Senate passes repeal of HIV travel ban

PEPFAR has passed the US Senate. It's an issue that the bleeding-heart liberal in me is pleased by, but not nearly like this:

I've lived with this awful sense of insecurity, of fear of leaving the country, of visiting my family (in England), of the lingering sense that my virus rendered me potentially deportable, that any roots I put down might be dug up suddenly one day - for fifteen years. The lifting of this threat - the sense that I now have a home I know will be secure for me and my husband - is indescribable.
Congratulations, Andrew Sullivan, and all those others who benefit by this law. Maybe we really do know hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Catholic Church lays ground rules for funerals

Apparently the Catholic Church in Ireland has a document prohibiting secular poems, songs, tributes, etc. during the actual funeral Mass.

On the surface, it seems a bit draconian, but I guess you could say that they could do those at the wake, or whatever.


"(J)azz musician Paddy Cole revealed...that he was not allowed to play at his mother's funeral Mass. "
Folks, a tiny bit of rule-bending in this matter won't hurt anyone nearly as much as being sticklers undoubtedly hurt him. Just saying.


Andrew Sullivan debates Sam Harris

I'm mostly bookmarking this for myself. A civil debate between the Catholic Sullivan and the atheist Harris.

Quote of the day.

"Nothing is more miraculous than this planet and the living creatures on it."

--Andrew Sullivan

"It's a bad night to be an atheist!"

If you're not aware of the origin of that quote, it's from ESPN's Rick Reilly, gushing over the 28-home-run performance of Josh Hamilton in the Home Run Derby last night. (And it's a borrowed quote, too: Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest used it to describe Ben Crenshaw's inspiring 1995 Masters win a week after the death of his beloved teacher, Harvey Pennick).

Of course, Hamilton lost in the finals to Justin Morneau, but nobody on the field really cared, because the story was all about the movie-star handsome Hamilton, who has turned his life around from heroin addiction and made it back to the majors. Hamilton credits dedicating his life to Jesus for the comeback.

I'm sure Hamilton's a nice guy, and--let's be honest--whatever keeps him off the smack, I'm not going to criticize it (if I was a smack-head, and Druidism would keep me clean, I'd be getting Celtic knot tattoos, myself). Nor am I going to, as others have, dog the guy for losing in the finals or make any cracks about Jesus staying in the dugout: truth be told, after hitting 28 home runs, I'm surprised he could lift the bat. Pro hitters aren't used to that much exertion like that in a short time span: they're sprinters, not distance athletes.

But I'm disappointed in Reilly. Come on, Rick, you're better than this.

You're the same Rick Reilly who slammed NFL players back in 1991 for showboating prayer displays at midfield at the end of the games. You castigated Isaac Bruce of the St. Louis Rams a few years back for his holier-than-thou attitude. Remember?

Long story short: Bruce had been in a car accident before his lone Super Bowl win, had called out to Jesus, and had emerged unscathed. Linebacker Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs had been in a similar accident, and had been paralyzed for life (which turned out to be short, as Thomas passed away several months later).

Bruce openly implied that had Thomas called out to Jesus, he would have been spared injury as well; and, when prompted by Reilly, had stated that if golfer Payne Stewart had called out to Jesus in the airplane over Iowa in '99, he'd still be amazing us with that perfect swing. Reilly pointed out that the one girl from Columbine High School had refused to renounce her faith in the face of death, and had been shot by one of the two killer kids, anyway. Bruce parried by saying Reilly didn't know that for sure, Reilly countered that there were witnesses, Bruce pointed out that Reilly hadn't been there to see it happen personally. Reilly left the sanctimony unspoken, encouraging readers to "pray" for Bruce (and, in a different vein, Thomas, who was still alive at the time).

Riles, you're a terrific writer on serious, inspirational issues (the corny metaphors aside). You've broken my heart more than once over the years. But you swung and missed on this one. Not because you made a smart remark about atheists, but because you've come down on taunters of all kinds over the years, religious and otherwise, and made much of the people who actually show their faith or humanity through deeds rather than words. I respect that. Please stick to that in the future.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I miss George Carlin

"It's not even a sin anymore to eat meat on Friday. But I betcha there are still some guys in Hell doing time on the meat rap."


A letter from someone on atheism:

In my opinion, you might as well pray to the wall. When you need something to lean on, it's there! If you're tired, just rest for a bit against it, it's there! And more than likely, wherever you may go... guess what? It's there! Comforting, isn't it? Oh, but wait. You say that's silly? Why would you pray to a wall? You know, that's a good point. Why would you? After all, it's actually easy to prove that it exists. Instead of some formless manifestation of righteousness that we (and when I say "we" I sure exclude me) have concocted to make ourselves feel better about death. There it is, the word everyone is so afraid of. Death. Why can't the masses agree that the real reason they have chosen this self-delusional path is because when they die, they're assured of some other form of life?
Well...there's always the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Republican gay-hater caught with another man.

I know, about as newsworthy as "Dog Bites Man" (sorry for the cross-imagery, folks).

This time, though, he got caught with his aide. By his wife.

Full story here.

HT: Greg Laden.

The wisdom of Dogbert

Or in this case, Wally. This reminds me of someone who shall remain nameless:

"I use experience to answer questions without the burden of knowledge."
Insert your own favorite candidate.

Indian boy dies for writing a poem

As Paul Harvey would say, it is not one world:

A 16-year-old Dalit boy died after he was thrashed in front of other students by an upper caste teacher in a rural higher secondary school of this Himachal district for writing a verse in appreciation of an upper caste girl.

Surjit Singh was beaten up on Tuesday by a teacher in the Nangal Kalan Government High school in public, said the Dalit sarpanch of the village Gyan Kaur. His two classmates said, "When the teacher came to know about the Surjit's love poem, he caned him till he almost dropped dead."
The boy died of his injuries later. The teacher is, presumably, still breathing...and receiving accolades from somebody or another. One thing's for sure:
Local leaders have sought an inquiry into the incident as the police appear to be siding with the upper caste girl's family and the teacher.
Via Sullivan.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Open Letter to My Readers: My Search for the Truth

Dear Family, Friends, and Blog Reader(s),

This will be the 200th post on my Cycle Ninja blog, and I'd like to use it as a way of writing all of you to let you know about a few changes in my life. To wit: I'm no longer being shy or apologetic about the fact that I am not only no longer a Catholic; but am, instead, a professed atheist.

Growing up in such a devoutly Catholic family, this might be seen by many of you as the ultimate no-no. But as Martin Luther himself famously said, "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise."

I've been blogging about this for the past few weeks, because I opened a discussion with an extended (and very dear) family member on this subject. To put it mildly, it came to her as quite a shock and was/is very disturbing. But as I have done my best to explain, my lack of belief in the supernatural doesn't really have anything to do with my feelings toward the Catholic Church. Or rather, let me say that no matter what religion contributed to my upbringing, the outcome probably would have been the same. The conclusions I have drawn have come about as a result of my rational mindset and my critical thinking skills.

Looking back over my life, I realize that I should have taken the road that my friend, Pete, took: I should have gotten into computer science rather than communications (yes, Mom, you were right about that). Because my mind is rational, logical, and skeptical, and well-suited to drawing up contingencies and testing situations. For this reason, my ability to look at the hard facts of the world as I see them, without any prior conceptions or belief systems, leads me to conclude that there is no God, or, as Pete (also a former Catholic) said, at least not the involved God we were taught to believe in when we were growing up. And while it took me a long time to come to this understanding, again, looking back over my life, I now realize the basic skepticism and lack of compatibility with a religious viewpoint were there all along, it just took me a while to recognize them.

Again, I don't know what kind of pre-conceived notions many of you might have about what atheism is, but I think comedian Julia Sweeney made a good point: the word atheism implies you are against religion, therefore most people feel you are rejecting religion or fighting against it out of a sense of rebellion or even vindictiveness. Or as Pete recently stated, the concept of atheism seems too dogmatic (grrr...Pete, we need to discuss that).

This isn't necessarily the case. Most atheists see themselves as outside the realm of the argument. They see the world as full of natural wonder that doesn't need a supernatural creator or a guiding hand. There is plenty of overwhelming evidence that not only could the universe have come into being without a creator, that's exactly what, in fact, happened.

Which is not to say that there aren't atheists out there who hold grudges against religion or work to counter their more nefarious effects. And I'm honest enough to admit I'm one of them. I have plenty of problems with the Catholic Church, and not because I was ever molested by a clergyman (I wasn't). The Church has much to answer for, and I am by no means the only person in the world who thinks it's high time all churches and denominations stop getting a free pass when someone commits a crime under the steeple.

But as I've also tried to point out, the atheism and the anger are two separate points. The one is a recognition that there is no need for a super-being in the universe. All the "evidence" for the existence of a god has a certain amount of "you'll have to trust me on this." Just because it's written down in a "holy" book, or just because billions of people believe it, or just because there's an oral tradition involving "witnesses," it still doesn't make it true.

And no, science can't explain everything. I can't think of a more dull universe as one in which there is nothing further to investigate. The searching for knowledge is the whole point of what makes science so wonderful--literally, filled with wonder.

As to the anger--in my personal case, it comes from a deep sense of loathing whenever I see injustice. And I see the Church as abusing its position of trust and moral authority to take advantage of its followers.

Not that I think the Catholic Church is the ultimate example of hypocrisy. There are plenty of religions out there with which I have a problem. Click on the link for "Operation Clambake" on the right side of this blog if you want the truth about the ultimate religious fraud. But the Church is not blameless by any means.

And what really, really gets me going more than anything is that not only do the religious leaders of the Church not get punished for their involvement in (or at least the blind eye turned to) the ongoing sex scandals, they get rewarded in spite of it. There's a new movie coming out soon called "Vows of Silence," which documents a known pedophile priest who never faced the music because of his close ties to not only Benedict XVI, but John Paul II. I haven't seen it yet, but will post what will be what I hope to be as unbiased of a review when I can. I think it'll be worth watching.

To their credit, certain church leaders are finally getting the message that they need to clean up their act. This is always the case: The rot at the core is always best dealt with from within. But it's still not enough to counter the flaws of the basic premise for the Church's existence:

There is no credible evidence that there is a god.

And again, I hope nobody here takes this as a personal rejection. You are still my family and friends, and you still mean a great deal to me. But I cannot pretend that we hold this common belief. My passion for the truth will not allow it.

The aforementioned family member asked me how being an atheist affected me emotionally--how I was able to find peace, how I was able to be happy with these convictions, how I was able to think that there is no higher purpose to life.

Again, don't confuse the issue. This is a search for the truth. I take great satisfaction in being right (if you knew my childhood, the intellect was really the only thing I had over the other boys, so of course, it's a bit of a psychological hang-up that I have to be right). This isn't about being happy, or at peace, or comfortable with such a chaotic world.

It's about facing the truth without flinching, and being able to deal with the consequences of those conclusions.

To fully answer the question, no, I am not at peace, nor am I happy or contented. I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be. Some people never are. But I am a creature of intellect, and what my mind tells me is that this is the truth.

Here I stand.

I cannot do otherwise.



(PS: If anyone wishes to contact me about this, by all means, feel free.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Demotivational bike posters

Where can I get these in a 5 x 7?

Pharungula solidarity

Dr. PZ Myers of the U of Minnesota/Morris has been in the news lately. And it seems he's received a certain amount of attention from the Catholic League (and a few death threats, I might add). Myers asked for people to write his boss and tell him to ignore the bigots calling for his head (he's a tenured professor making a comment on a non-university blog site, people, don't hold your breath). My letter follows:

Dear President Bruininks,

I would like to take a few moments to weigh in on the recent controversy surrounding Dr. PZ Myers of the Morris campus. (dryly: I'll assume you know the one to which I'm referring...)

I have become a fan of Dr. Myers' in recent months, and have become an avid reader of his blog. In light of his recent declaration that he would desecrate a consecrated Catholic Communion wafer to make a statement about Catholic intolerance (a declaration I hope to be in the realm of the metaphorical), my admiration did not prevent me from taking him to task for acting like an attention-seeking juvenile. My exact words follow:

You're out of line, Dr. Myers.

The idea, in case you've forgotten, is to point out the illogical and irrational stupidity of the right-wing-nuts in the Catholic Church, NOT to try to out-do them and make us look bad as a consequence! My best friend on Earth is a Catholic, and I can assure you, he's as disgusted by these hysterics as anyone.

I'm having a rough enough time convincing my Catholic family that being an atheist doesn't make me a puppy-killer without YOU trying to attack the Church's own rituals.

And don't forget: attacking an organization's rituals in this way only strengthens their determination, because you're playing into their hands in terms of persecution. They thrive on that. Hammer them on how unchristian they are being by threatening this kid with death, and leave it at that.

Please note that while I agree with Dr. Myers on the principle that intolerance should be challenged whenever we find it, I suggested there were other ways to go about expressing his outrage. And since a great many people read his words, he should be more careful in choosing them.

Having said that, I still support Dr. Myers' right to say whatever he wants to on his blog site, Pharyngula (short of, ohIdunno, death threats like the ones he's received). I know that Pharyngul ais not supported in any way, shape, or form by the U of M, and that Bill Donohue and the "Christians" at the Catholic League (among other entities) have called for an investigation on what action should be taken against him. Please ignore these blowhards. I also noted that the link to Pharyngula was taken down from Dr. Myers' profile on the U of M. I would like to think that this is a coincidence and not a response to a challenge from without, but I am forced to conclude otherwise. I am disappointed, but understand your reluctance to get the University involved in such a scrum.

I would also like to think, however, that you recognize the real prestige that having a man such as Dr. Myers brings to your institution. His knowledge of his chosen discipline is unquestionable, and his willingness to defend the scientific method with passion, however scornful it can become, is admirable in the extreme. I hope that my dissatisfaction with his choice of words in this instance is not construed as a denunciation of the scientist himself. he provides more than ample insight into the wonders of science the the joy of discovery, and why we need to cultivate those characteristics into our children. Please recognize this incident as the minor fracas that it is, and keep Dr. Myers' contributions in the larger context.

Respectfully yours,

Paul Lundgren.

PS: Please make sure the link to Pharyngula is put back once this all blows over. Thank you.

I can haz Starbukz?!

So it's the day you're supposed to wear your MS Bike Ride jersey to work, in which case you get a $10 Starbucks card. Cycling and coffee, what more IS there to life?...

As you can see, my face is made for wear, not for show. Sigh...

"The Lords"

My new desktop wallpaper:

HT: Pete Thompson-Yezek.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

John McCain "jokes" about killing Iranians

A classic case of a good commenter making the "shoe on the other foot" argument:

I hope the Iranian government gets the correct tone-of-voice in the translation, especially if what Senator Jackie McJokeman and his neocon wack pack are saying about Iran's impending nuclear arsenal is true. I can only imagine how the Cheney-ish warhawks would react if Ahmedinejad cracked a similarly unfunny zinger about killing our citizens -- or the citizens of Israel.
Bob Cesca of Huffington Post. Full blog here. Money quote:
And that's the problem. If he doesn't have the judgment to discern between appropriate, tasteful jokes and indiscriminate, Tourette's outbursts then why should anyone trust him to be the commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful military?

Those whacky folks at the America Patriarchy Family Association...

They're going after McDonalds for (couldn't see this one coming) promoting gays.

This is as fine a piece of wise-ass journalism as I've ever read.

Interview with Leonard Susskind

I really hate it when people use terms like "quashed" and "war" and "battles" to describe scientific striving, but I guess they have to sell books.

Anyway, this quote better describes the gestalt:

What was the final outcome of your competing theories?

The short answer is that Stephen was wrong and I was right. But that is a tremendous oversimplification and I would not like history to see it that way. Stephen asked an audacious, bold, and very brave question —do black holes erase information? Just realizing that there was a question took profound insight. It was enough to make anyone’s reputation.

In other words, my theory proved correct, but my honorable opponent has nothing to be ashamed of.

This isn't the first time Hawking has had to--literally--pay up. He had a wager with Kip Thorne of CalTech a few years ago which he conceded. "I bought (Thorne) a year's subscription to Penthouse, much to his wife's disgust."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why I'm an Atheist: Part 3

Post 1 here.
Post 2 here.

I'm finding these posts on why I'm an atheist to be increasingly personal, and consequently increasingly difficult to write. They've morphed from a discussion on why I think a certain way to why the depth of my feelings are so intense. Truth be told, I should probably be talking to an expert about those feelings, if you get my drift.

But for now, I'll stick to blogging-as-therapy.

Since I wrote those last two posts, I've run across two very different ways of criticizing a religious doctrine. One of those was PZ Myers, biology professor of the University of Minnesota/Morris. A recent incident at the University of Central Florida sparked his outrage, namely where a student made off from a Catholic Mass with a consecrated wafer in his possession. He subsequently received anonymous death threats, among other things.

Others have blogged about the significance of the act to Catholics, and I'll let those speak for me. Myers' outrage was directed at the downright disgusting reaction of several parties, namely Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Donohue is a professional outrage-monger in the great tradition of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or Sean Hannity of Fox News. Anyone so much as looks at the Catholic Church funny, he accuses them of being discriminatory (while remaining blissfully unaware of the psychological term "projection", apparently). In this case, the shoe Donohue proceeded to chew boiled down to this: the act of stealing the Eucharist was "beyond a hate crime." (My take: shut up, you goon).

Myers opened up with all guns blazing, noting that what happened to Matthew Sheppard was a hate crime; this was desecrating an object (spare me the theology, people; I know it's supposed to be the literal Body of Christ. I'm immune to the argument).

Then Myers lost me: (Update: Note, this is a quote from Myers, not my own words)

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.

Then I was re-reading the story of Anonymous. This is the group of Internet hackers who has been such a thorn in the side of the "Church" of Scientology lately.

Brief recap: after the wacko video of that wacko Tom Cruise surfaced (without CoS permission), the "Church" ham-fistedly threw lawyers at all the sites which had posted it, demanding it be taken down immediately. Anonymous, being a bunch of people who were used to saying and doing what they wanted online without supervision or censorship, were outraged. They effectively declared war on the CoS, launched a dedicated denial of service (DDOS) attack against the CoS main servers, and basically gave CoS what ANY religion really relishes: a chance to play the martyr card.

Until one man told Anonymous to cut it out and grow up.

Mark Bunker (aka "Wise Beard Man" to Anonymous), a long-time critic of Scientology, posted his own video on YouTube, telling Anonymous that they were completely pulling the rug out from under every painstaking piece of work he and other courageous souls had done over the decades in exposing CoS for the monstrosity that it is. He told them that if they didn't CLEARLY demonstrate the moral high ground, Scientology would have grounds to claim it by itself.

Anonymous listened.

I've had to think about that, and to consider the venom of my earlier posts about the Catholic Church. And honesty compelled me to admit that, as much as I respect Myers for his knowledge and loved reading him for his scathingly funny posts, I couldn't get on board with him this time. I wrote Myers back on his blog and told him that he was out of line, that he was making things worse, and that throwing gas on the fire was only going to make things look better for the Church. I told him that he should attack the unchristian attitude of those intolerant Catholics (not all of them, mind, just the hysterics), because that would be more effective. I'm not holding my breath.
My best friend once told me that if I ever felt the urge to rejoin the Church, I would be welcomed back. I told him in a quiet, firm tone of voice that such a course would never, ever happen. First, as I've iterated several times, I literally am incapable of accepting their point of view. Second, the anger is still there. I'm naturally angered by injustice--of which the Church is guilty in countless ways--and that will never change, because I don't want to stop being outraged by injustice.

But maybe I was deficient in defining the limits of my anger.

As I mentioned in my reply to Dr. Myers, my best friend and his wife are still Catholics, still attend Mass weekly, and serve on their parish council in some capacity. He respects my dissents, I respect how he uses his faith to be a better person. I work with Catholics and other Christians on a daily basis. Hell, I work with a Wicca priestess, for crying out loud. The only one I really have a problem with is the guy who likes to hang overt religious posters on his cubical wall and carry on like his shit doesn't stink. In short, it's the person, not the religion, that is the ultimate deal-breaker for me.

My former girlfriend, Heather, and I never really had any discussion about religion. Being a writer, the only thing I've ever heard from her on the topic of her own belief is, "God and I are good." Have no idea what that means, don't care. I love her as intensely as ever because of who she is. Even if she's warped enough that she actually dated a troll like me. :-)

As someone once said about the US Navy, the system sucks, but I admire the people trying to do a good job within the system. But again, I can't help but ask, why not leave the system behind? It's irreparable, inconsistent, and literally fantastic (in the less-than-complimentary sense). If you're fully comfortable with the room you inhabit which will never expand, never hold any new wonders, and always close back in upon itself, that's up to you. I prefer to be the kind of person who punches out a window to see what's beyond.

And maybe these posts have provided an outlet for some of the anger. Maybe I'll stop stoking the coals, it was getting hot in here for a while.

Tony Ortega: Church of Scientology's Worst Defeat

I might have mentioned it before, but these people are a seriously twisted kind of evil, as noted in the Village Voice.

HT: Ed Brayton.

Update: Another article on the topic by Tony Ortega.

Discovery Institute attacked by--John Derbyshire?!

You know, when a hard-right-wing chowderhead attacks you for being dishonest...

Helping to defend creationist school boards in federal courts is not the Discovery Institute's game. Their game is to (a) make money from those spurious "textbooks" they put out, and (b) keep creationism in the news so that they don't run out of lecture gigs and wealthy funders. So far as those legal bills are concerned, Discovery Institute policy is: Let the dumb rubes fund their own stupid lawsuits.
Remember, Derbyshire is the same guy who took a potshot at the victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech last year for not giving a better accounting of themselves. This guy is calling BS on the Discovery Institute for being a bunch of kooks.

Remember kids, Intelligent Design is code for "dishonesty."

Greg Laden on Christianity

Couldn't have said it better myself:

There are a lot of Christians that I trust, and love. But that is because of who they are. If I just know that someone is a Christian, especially if they are the sort of person to wear their Christianity on their sleeve, uttering "praise god" and telling me "bless you " and "I'm so blessed" and so on, then I tend to not trust them.
(Italics mine).

Mr. Laden was blogging about the Mass--er, mess--involving the University of Central Florida student who snuck a consecrated communion wafer out of a church down there. There are all sorts of Hell--I'll stop with the bad puns soon, I promise--coming down around this kid's head as a result, including accusations of hate crimes and death threats.

Chill, people.

And PZ Myers, whom I normally adore, isn't helping the fracas:
Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.
You're out of line, Dr. Myers.

The idea, in case you've forgotten, is to point out the illogical and irrational stupidity of the right-wing-nuts in the Catholic Church, NOT to try to out-do them and make us look bad as a consequence! My best friend on Earth is a Catholic, and I can assure you, he's as disgusted by these hysterics as anyone.

I'm having a rough enough time convincing my Catholic family that being an atheist doesn't make me a puppy-killer without YOU trying to attack the Church's own rituals.

And don't forget: attacking an organization's rituals in this way only strengthens their determination, because you're playing into their hands in terms of persecution. They thrive on that. Hammer them on how unchristian they are being by threatening this kid with death, and leave it at that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why I'm an Atheist: Part 2

Post #1 is here.

OK, so I'm an atheist, and now you know how I came to that path. Simply stated, I'm the son of an insurance salesman who was also a gunner's mate--guns on a destroyer in WWII. The guy knew people, and had a fine detector for BS. I like to think it rubbed off on me.

But anyway, back to where I left off: "Why do you hate the Catholic Church so much? " To which I reply, "Don't take it personally...I think all religions are full of it." But in fairness, my other posts on the subject have been awfully bitter, so I feel I owe a bit of an explanation of my feelings toward Mater Roma.

It's complicated, but here goes. Yes, I was born and raised into a Catholic household. My mother was born, bred, and raised Catholic to the point where she's a true believer. She wouldn't be able to see any other point of view if she wanted to. Doesn't make her good, bad, or indifferent, that's just how she is.

My father was different. He was born and raised Lutheran, and converted to Catholicism upon marrying my mother. I've known a lot of converts of all denominations who embrace the movement with both arms, and then there are those who are "in the picture," but not necessarily the true believer. I'm not really sure which type my father was; he died when I was 15, well before I came to understand my beliefs better. But I know this: he was clearly the more open-minded of my parents, and I looked up to him for that reason (and again, I'm not trying to disparage my mother in any way; she's a fine woman. But we all have one parent with whom we have a closer relationship).

Part of the reason I rejected Catholicism is practical: it's staggeringly boring, period, full-stop. I can't tell you how nauseatingly intolerable it became for me reciting the rosary. What was worse, my mom used to like to do it in the car driving up to see her mother and sister in Marshalltown. With me at the wheel. And I have a tendency to fall asleep while driving; great combination.

And I'm convinced that the droning nature of Catholic ritual is deliberate: it goes back to simple conditioning: the more an organism is subjected to a stimulus, the more accustomed it becomes to that stimulus. Furthermore, humans are creatures of habit and community. They take comfort in routine and like-minded individuals (more on that later).

But there are those of us whose minds cannot be stilled. I'm one of them. One of the reasons I love bicycling so much is that it's a captive environment in which my mind is so benumbed it is forced to flee to more creative endeavors. And when this type of person is confronted with the seemingly illogical, eventually you start to chip away at the face value of what you're being taught. I would go over pieces of doctrine in my mind and think, "What does that really mean?" Then it progressed to "That doesn't make any sense" to "That's illogical" and finally to "You've gotta be kidding: you expect me to believe that?"

Of course, it didn't help that my brother, Greg, died when I was very young, the summer before my 6th birthday. Seeing my entire family grieving (of which I did more than my fair share, trust me) planted the seed of confusion and dissent in my brain, to flower years later. To wit: If Greg's spirit was supposed to live on after he died, and if he was supposed to have been taken to Heaven to begin an eternity of bliss, why was everyone so heartbroken?

Of course, as one of my still-church-going family members said, the promise of eternal life doesn't automatically override the sorrow of losing someone near and dear. True. But my point is this: that was the first time I became aware that unquestioning belief was not always possible.

Of course, this is all seen through the lens of the past, with my current critical thinking system. At the time, I internalized the grief. I'd been taught that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-everthing. If I was suffering, it was for a specific purpose. And maybe, just maybe, Greg's death had something to do with me.

Preposterous. Absolutely. But how else is a 5-year-old supposed to think?

It didn't get any easier. Like I said, my father died when I was 15, right smack in the middle of adolescence. I needed him, and suddenly, he wasn't there. Why? What had I done that was so awful that my father was taken away when I needed him so badly?

By this point, I couldn't so much as hear the opening strains of certain hymns in church without my throat closing up. "Let there be Peace on Earth," "The Prayer of St. Francis," and others make me cringe to this day. I'd heard them too much after Greg died, and the bad association has never left me. I not only couldn't find comfort in ritual, it had been turned on its ear and become a source of agony. Classical conditioning. Pavlov's dogs started drooling at the sound of the bell. I start tearing up at the sound of hymns.

By the time my brother, Tim, died when I was 24, I'd had enough. I realized (several years before, actually) that where the Church wasn't boring the snot out of me or bringing up bad associations or confusing me with its whacko doctrine, it was downright disgusting me with its hypocrisy. This is an organization that is supposed to be about forgiveness, compassion, the Golden Rule, you name it.


Tell that to gays, women, and altar boys, just to name three.

I've already vented about the Church's stance on sexuality, so I won't repeat myself. But simply stated, the Church is out of touch with not so much the modern world as the real world. George Carlin:

As soon as (members of the church heirarchy) have gone through their first pregnancies and their first labor pains, and raised a couple of children on minimum wage, I'll be glad to hear what they have to say about abortion. But in the meantime, they need to tell these priests who took a vow of chastity to keep their hands off the altar boys!
Of course there are good deeds done by the Catholic church and by individual Catholics who use their faith as an affirmation of goodness. And of course there are other institutions who are using their social status to commit crimes against their followers. Cult of Scientology comes readily to mind (RUN, KATIE HOLMES...RUN!). And one of my favorite columnists, Dan Savage, has a regular blog feature called "Youth Pastor Watch", in which he blogs to news articles about ministers and priests of ALL denominations who are getting their freak on with the underaged.

But it just grinds on me that so many people are willing to buy into the Church's bullshit apologies when nothing of substance really changes. I guess it's a case that I despise hypocrisy and false piety with a passion, and while there are plenty of examples, the Church is the target with which I'm most familiar.

This post has gone on too long. If you're still reading this and you still give a damn, I'll have more on the source of the anger next time.

Why I'm an Atheist: Part 1

Seeing how a few blog posts back, I answered one of those MySpace-style surveys on what I believe about atheism, I realized I don't have any actual posts on WHY I'm an atheist, so I figured I'd correct that oversight.

Simply put, I believe atheism is the lack of a belief in what most people call the "supernatural." I don't believe in a god, true. But I also don't believe in ghosts, fairies, spell-casting, ESP, dowsing, etc. Some of these items I dismiss out of hand because they are simply untestable (a god, f'rinstance). Others I reject because of a lack of credible scientific evidence as to their existence (ESP, ghosts, etc.). And others, such as UFOs, I simply sit back and say, "Show me the evidence and let me judge on its merits." Same with folk remedies or homeopathic medicine: There are clearly-established protocols for testing whether essence of tiger teeth is able to provide you with whiter teeth yourself (I prefer Crest White Strips (tm), personally).

So, that's all atheism is to me. If you were to ask me, "How did you arrive at this belief system?" I'd say the process was sort of inevitable. I'm an extremely skeptical person by nature (one of my favorite songs is "Show, Don't Tell" by Rush, but that's another post). I'm the type of person who flat-out needs to see evidence in order to believe the claim. Or at a bare minimum, accept that there was a logical process by which the claim came about. So for me to look at any type of religious dogma, be it the parting of the Red Sea, the resurrection of Jesus, or Mohammad wrestling with the Angel Gabriel, I just shake my head and think, "These people need to take a class on comparative religion. I find Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology just as entertaining as the next person, but keep it in context."

Or, look at it this way: archaeologists found the ruins of the city of Troy in the late 1800s, if memory serves (1870, thanks Wikipedia). But just because the city of Troy actually existed, that doesn't mean I take the tales of the Olympians and their human pawns at face value.

Now, having said all that, one of my relatives rightly pointed out, if you look up my posts on Catholicism, there's enough venom to give a snake-charmer pause. I think such gems as "I hate the Catholic Church" might have been the first clue. Why do I feel that way? I'll leave that to my next post on the subject.

Inane Headline of the Day

"Pet owners prefer McCain over Obama."

Makes Jeremiah Wright look downright relevant by comparison, doesn't it?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tony Gonzalez saves man from choking to death

Guy does the Heimlich Maneuver for a guy in a restaurant. How cool is that?

Oh, and he can play a bit of football, too, as I understand it.

Another Catholic molestation cover-up

From PZ Myers:

You knew this was coming, right? How else to honor World Youth than for Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, to cover up an incident of child molestation by a Catholic priest? It's traditional!
I have nothing further to add. But I will anyway: I'd like to take out an ad in my local newspaper calling for a boycott of Child Rape Incorporated until they show me some integrity, because they have none.

Bernard Hinault's body check.

As in cross-checking a nitwit protestor...

Don’t say the Bernard Hinault has lost any of his punch with old age. Just as Samuel Dumoulin was stepping atop the podium to accept his prize as the day’s winner, a protester dressed in a neon yellow vest jumped in front of the pint-sized and raised his arms in defiance. Hinault — who works with the Tour organization and appears daily on the podium to present the day’s awards — quickly sprung into action and shoved the hapless protester off the front of the stage. Tour goons swarmed and shuttled him out of the way. The five-time Tour winner received a rousing applause for his quick thinking.
What do you want to lay odds that if the protester was German, the result would have been a lot different? (Yeah, I know, I'm a bad liberal for perpetuating stereotypes.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cut and paste--OLD school.

Fascinating piece here in the L.A. Times on Thomas Jefferson. Apparently, he once literally cut up the New Testament to remove the miraculous stories he didn't like (such as the angel appearing to Mary, the loaves and fishes, the resurrection of Jesus, no less). And then he took what was left and looked at it as a work of philosophy rather than religious dogma. Really interesting stuff.

Thomas Jefferson is an increasingly interesting figure to me. Yes, he was a bit of a hypocrite in many ways, but I'm of the opinion that hypocrisy is the default human condition, and that the only difference is that some of us are more aware of it.

Anyway, this is a man who once said, "Question, with boldness, even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." And (paraphrasing), "Anyone who touts his belief in Jesus above the teachings of Jesus is a false Christian." I can't help but think of money-grubbing Evangelicals whenever I hear that last one.

Could you possibly imaging such a figure being elected today? Not a prayer (sorry).

HT: Pharyngula

Scientific American on the Tour de France

Nothing new here, but still an excellent summary of bike technology for the layman.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I miss Molly Ivins

I've been blog-hopping while on vacation this week. I blogged a few days ago about George Carlin's death. That man was as viciously honest as anybody, and I respected the hell out of him for it.

Molly Ivins was his polar opposite. Not because she wasn't honest, but because for all of her bite, she had grace and class I'd give my left kidney to possess. This piece on her cancer is mandatory reading. For everyone, regardless of cancer status.

Neil deGrasse-Tyson's take on Intelligent Design

An oldie but a goodie from Pharyngula. Money quote:

"Allow intelligent design into science textbooks, lecture halls, and laboratories, and the cost to the frontier of scientific discovery--the frontier that drives the economies of the future--would be incalculable. I don't want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don't understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity. The day that happens, Americans will just sit in awe of what we don't understand, while we watch the rest of the world boldly go where no mortal has gone before."
Take a bow, sir. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thought for the day

Never piss off someone who owns a backhoe...

Via my nephew, Tim.

Styx to play Ames for RAGBRAI

From Road Bike Rider Online:

"---When the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) reaches Ames on July 22, the 20,000 riders/partiers are in for a special treat -- and so are Iowa's flood victims. The veteran rock group Styx and a popular homegrown band called The Nadas will play a benefit concert with all proceeds going to the state's flood relief fund. Admission is $5 for registered RAGBRAI'ers and $10 for everyone else. For details, click"

Yglesias on John McCain as a "regular guy"

OK, so Matt Yglesias is no Mark Twain, but he definitely understands satire.

"By contrast (to "elitist" Barak Obama), John McCain is an all-American regular guy who, like most people, earns his keep by marrying an heiress. Like average, everyday folks the McCain's rely on credit cards to make ends meet month-to-month "Cindy McCain charged as much as $500,000 in a single month on one American Express card and $250,000 on another, while one of their two dependent children had an AmEx card with a monthly balance as large as $50,000." Yes it's true, one of McCain's dependent children spent approximately the median annual household income of the United States in a single month and that's how McCain knows how to connect with regular people."
That sensation you just felt was the needle being driven home.

And it reminds me about a Bill Maher commentary a couple years ago when he was blasting people for using the term "liberal elite" as an insult. He said elite is supposed to be a good thing, not a point of contention. He said if I get surgery, I'm going to want an elite surgeon. And he said the problem right now is that the country is being run not be elites, but rather by hayseeds.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Velonews interview with Taylor Phinney

I can't help it, I just love this kid.

Quote of the day.

"Golf is like bicycle shorts. It reveals a lot about people."
--Rick Reilly, ESPN, formerly Sports Illustrated.

Christopher Hitchens undergoes waterboarding for Vanity Fair.

Any American who can watch this video to the end and can still claim waterboarding is not torture should be stripped of their citizenship.

We are Americans.

We are supposed to be above this.

(Side note: Anybody who claims waterboarding is not torture should be immediately given the opportunity to undergo the procedure themselves. Cowards.)

Textbooks for Iraq

Could I donate a copy of The God Delusion? How about The Satanic Verses?

Joking aside, it's a great idea. There is no greater aid to civilization and tolerance than education.

(HT: Sullivan)

Stradavarius meets Science

An interesting look at why the Stradavarius violins sound so good. Short answer: the evenness of the wood fibers. Go here for more.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cycling log: Bikes, Pain, and Poetry

An odd title, and maybe not as catchy as "Chocolate, Waffles, and 'Cross," but permit me to explain.

My friend, Jen, is a fine arts major finishing up her Master's dissertation, and has undertaken a project to blog about poetry on a daily basis (full details here). She said she was inspired to write about one of my own blog posts on MySpace last year after my mother broke her arm. I was touched, so I figured I'd re-post the original blog that led to her own piece.

Here's the message Jen sent me on MySpace:

"Heya Mr. CycleNinja,

Yesterday, my magic poem bowl put forth a line from a poem I wrote about you and your mother some time ago. I'm not sure why I never shared the poem with you before. I suppose I was/am hesitant to reflect back any more grief about her and her health than you've already got on your plate. But, that is the job of the poet, no?

In any case, the poem was in response to one of your first blogs/posts about her. I was touched by what you were going through, and I'm just hoping that I'm not adding insult to injury by having you read this.

So when you get a minute and are in the right space, check out the artblog from Day Five.

And know that you are cared about. By all of us.

And for the record, I'm again humbled that people like Jen think I'm worthy of being their friend. I don't deserve them.

My original post:
It's amazing how the term "suffering" is so relative.

For those of us who are relative newcomers to the world of cycling, we hear the term all the time to describe the exploits of the great riders who have come before. It's a word thrown out almost casually in cycling circles. Lance Armstrong made a point of how the capacity to suffer on the bike is one of the most important criteria for a professional cyclist. And there are a lot of cycling-as-zen pieces written about cleansing yourself on the bike through "suffering."

They're all bullshit. Here's what REAL suffering looks like.

I called my mother before I went riding tonight. To recap, she's 78 years old and has had MS for 20 years. She fell and broke her shoulder this past Saturday, and had it replaced yesterday. When I called her, she was really out of it from the painkillers, and was still VERY uncomfortable with that metal grafted to the bone. I was standing there, straddling the bike for 5 minutes, listening to her talk about how difficult it is to eat soup left-handed when you're flat on your back, and how the medical staff said tomorrow would probably be even worse for her. I hung up feeling completely helpless. So I did what I could...I pounded out a training ride for the MS Bike Ride this coming summer. And I mean pounded. 12.5 miles in 45 minutes. That's a 16.5 mph pace for those of you keeping score.

Did I mention I weigh north of 325 pounds?

This is why we ride.

Spin easy, friends.
Jen's piece:
fold & break
-for Paul

your mother in a nursing home
your mother wiped blank, clean
your mother broken

will is
a strange blue flower
folding delicate
folding in on itself
in the end
the will is being drawn

you will break
over this soon,
fold and
Mom's doing lots better now. She's in a nursing home in Johnston, I see her quite a lot, and she's still coherent. She is now confined to a wheelchair because of her MS, though. And I ride all the harder in that knowledge. I still have two functional legs. I won't waste them.

And I won't be broken, either.

Spin easy friends. And kiss someone you love.

Vacation: Republic of Boulder

For those of you who don't get the reference, Boulder, CO is one of those towns that has an "atmosphere." Simply, it's an ultra-left-wing type of place, with a lot of hippies, a vast number of free spirits, and a lot of people in the main town market with clipboards and petitions asking, "Are you a registered voter of the State of Colorado?"

Oh, they got bikes, too. Boulder is perennially listed as one of, if not the best bicycle-friendly city in the U.S. for its population (source, Bicycling Magazine). The evidence is everywhere, not the least of which is at Vecciho's Bicycles.

For those of you not in on the story, I've been pining for a Moots road bike for about a year or so. I'm out-growing the capabilities of my aluminum Trek and am looking for a sleek Titanium frame. Why not carbon-fiber, you ask? Simply stated: Ti is more durable and a smoother ride, for all that it's a bit heavy. But then again, I'm more than a bit heavy, so the few extra grams on the frame will go unnoticed. I'm the one who needs to lose the weight, not the bike.

Vecchio's is an official Moots dealer, so as long as I was in town, I stopped in to quiz the main guy there with a few questions. The paraphrased questions and answers are listed as follows:

Q: Should I get a standard frame, or a compact? Is there any real difference in characteristics?

A: The only reason to go for a compact is if you have problems standing over the top tube of a conventional bike. Giant did the compact frames a few years ago because they said a single frame could accommodate a wider-range of rider sizes, and therefore they could get away with producing fewer frames, saving themselves money.

Q: Moots offers custom geometry for an upcharge. Is it worth it?

A: Again, only if you're shaped funny. If you get yourself measured at your local bike shop, Moots will be able to make a frame size recommendation. And they DO take your size into account when determining what tube sizes/diameters you need. They don't just grab one off the assembly line, they build the bike once they get the order from you, so there is some customization that takes place, even if the geometry is stock.

Q: Do you have one I could test ride?

A: Sorry, no.

They DID, however, have one on the showroom floor that was either a demo or an employee's bike. You can't appreciate how beautiful Titanium is unless you've seen it and touched it up close. Luscious.

Joe Lindsey of Boulder Report noted a few posts back that the price of bikes will likely jump next year.

"You will definitely deal with some pricing increases from 2008 to 2009, many of which are uncontrolled by the bikemakers - labor costs are rising, commodities costs are rising and so are transportation costs."
With that in mind, I might make this my birthday present to myself (October) rather than wait a year. We'll see.

One thing else I know: when I get that bike, I want to take it home to Colorado. There are some mountain roads that are just incredible. Now about that weight loss...

Spin easy, friends. And dream of brushed Ti.

Touched by an Atheist


George Carlin: Long Overdue

I was out of town last week when all the tributes to George Carlin were going on. I actually was in a hotel room in Colorado Springs watching Larry King Live for the retrospective. I was suffering (bad) from a rib-cage injury from falling off the bike a week prior to that, and believe me, watching a guy that funny with damaged ribs HURTS.

But it was worth it. More than one commentator (including Robin Williams) called Carlin "the living embodiment of the First Amendment." Nobody called anybody on their BS with greater skill, more humor, or less fear than George Carlin. He paved the way for so many comics and commentators (not the least of whom is Keith Olbermann, in my book) that we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

These are the kind of people whom I hold in the greatest respect: those who speak truth to power.

And now, ladies and gentlemen...George Carlin, one last time. (First two NSFW, final one safe)