Friday, February 29, 2008

The Trip, Day Two, Part One

I've got about 36 minutes to kill until my next interview, so I thought I'd jump on here and briefly post my impressions of the Carney, Sandoe and Associates NYC job fair. Pretty much it's an assemblage of desperate semi-professionals (educators can't ever really erase that harried air from their appearances, which is why I say semi-professional; no matter how closely the men hew to the groomed, bluc-blazer-khaki-pants look, the women to the inoffensively presentable (more black pantsuits than, well, an election party hosted by DAR 30-somethings), there's always something askew, like radical, radio-tower jewelry, or suits that fit just a bit too tightly) trying not to appear desperate. There's this whole row of slot-files along one wall, where schools leave interview notices. Everybody, and I mean everybody (me, too), check these "mailboxes" with sickening regularity, all while trying not to appear as if they're checking their mailboxes. Just like their appearances, it lends the giant convention room in which we huddle a nervous, hen-like feeling. I've seen more forced smiles here than at the dentist's office.

In short, it's a pretty sad state of affairs. The interviews attempt to be personable (except for one interviewer, who shouted at me for twenty minutes about his school's history and then, without leaving any time for answer, plunged into a description of the school's benefits. It was like being bought a series of drinks by someone whom you don't know and think you don't like (and the drinks are bad, too)), but are conducted at one of several hundred slim picnic-style tables. People do all the things people do when they're trying not to be nervous but can't pull off any serious work or reading (crosswords, the sports pages, chatting emptily, chewing their nails off and staring malignantly at the floor, blogging). I just returned from a soulless meal at one of those ubiquitous New York "Gourmet" delis, of the botulism-fraught salad bars, where other desperate teacher types rubbed elbows with construction workers who swore happily and talked about money.

The guy in the chair next to me just fronted like he was going to nap (!).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Trip, Day One

Following in the footsteps of blogs such as Mud and Cowbells and Sprinter Della Casa, here's my 2008 cycling trip log. Day one was pretty nondescript: taught all morning at the Put-put, packed for two hours (packing for 16 days, 4 sports, and 10 job interviews=difficult), put the surfboards on the car, the bike in the back (the C'dale is still too young to go on the roof on a windy, salty day), and headed out for a short ski. It was one of those perfect snow days: dry, fast, cold, and beautiful. I could only spare an hour, but I looked longingly out at the trails as I walked back to the house. Then it was in the car and off to NYC, for the first 4 days of the trip and my job interviews. Run-of-the-mill ride down: awful traffic in Hartford (and so many people in the carpool lane passing the jam—people must be getting better about ride-sharing), crazymen on the Merrit, and then that final, always new rush down into Manhattan. Currently residing on the bed-couch of my first cousin, once removed (Harvey, an all-around marvelous guy who likes P.G. Wodehouse (he's already offered any of his library for loan), hiking, and the Wesleyan Cardinal), I'm typing here entry and watching, quizzically and over Harvey's wife's shoulder, some show that's perhaps called Lipstick Jungle? There's a character on it (female) that I swear is acted by a man. Welcome back to New York. Tomorrow: job interviews and a return to one of my old favorite training grounds: Central Park.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The New Dream

This weekend, anchored to my couch and sick, I seriously geeked out on the bike blog scene. Of primary recent interest to the addict-level bike crowd, I learned, was the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show (NAHBS). I checked out a bunch of the pictures on BKW (see previous post), and then went over to the website and plunged into the list of exhibitors. At first I expected to flit through a couple of the framebuilders' websites and then leave the handbuilt bicycle crowd forever.

And I saw these.

It was one of those profound moments, not unlike your first tri, or crit, or cross race, when you realize that this is something you've always wanted, but just hadn't known about yet. When I saw these bikes, I couldn't imagine buying something off the rack. Don't get me wrong, I'm still in love with my (used) Six13 (I'm psyched that it's used, in fact; too much new stuff out there), but the thought of owning my own bike. A bike that no one else has, and has been built for me only. I've suffered through two cross seasons on bikes that didn't quite fit right, and I think I know what I'm gonna do for next season (or the season after that; many of these guys have long lead times for a custom bike).

Dream on.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I'm probably a johnny-come-lately on this one, but Belgian Knee Warmers is a good place to lose a few hours, if you need to do so. In the past few days, I've watched the last 10k of Lance's 1993 World Championship win, learned what PRO really means, and had some external confirmation that Cannondale truly makes a fine, fine product. If you're a cyclist, and love the odd sub-culture of our sport, BKW might be the zeitgeist you've been looking for.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let him ride?

Levi Leipheimer (and various other interests, I'm sure) is pouncing on the election year buzz, using a campaign style website to drum up support to get him on the 2008 TdF. I went and left my name, even though this certainly has a Johan Bruneel kingmaker feel to it. I like Levi, his total lack of affect notwithstanding. I also think that if the ASO keeps kicking people out, we're going to be crowning, like, the guy who comes in 47th.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Never Ceasing

My amazement/admiration at/of the interweb's ability to bring out the crafty in people (or, perhaps, not the craftiness, but the venue though which to dispense that craftiness). A buddy of mine sent me a link to Ikea Hacker (itself an outpost on this particular fiefdom of blogs) the other day, along with the popular interweb admonishment, "You've got to see this." Here's the result of open source thought, focused on affordable Swedish home furnishings:

A bike rack, composed of around 40 Euros worth of materials. Yup, you could head over to Nashbar and pick up the same functionality for the same number of clams, but wouldn't you feel better having "hacked" something, even something as innocuous as a Scandinavian stripper's pole?

I gotta say I love the idea, and, by extension, the whole site itself. It's like Pimp my Ride for poor homeowners in their thirties. Any cursory examination of its riches will reveal a TV cabinet hacked into a terrarium, dishes that become clocks, and a bathroom designer named splatgirl. Sounds perfect.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Those Sleepless Evenings

Well, the Tour kicked off (for real—a 3.3 km prologue does not a cycling stage make) this morning, Fabian Cancellara and CSC defended the yellow despite crashes in the final few hundred meters...Mark Cavendish, hyped as a future superstar, also crashed in the run into the finish and ended up in the second pack...And a past winner sprinted for the final victory.

Sound familiar? Yup, the script looks like it was basically the same for ToC as is was for that other tour, the one they hold each July in the easiest to conquer country in Europe (a Europe that, depending on who you ask today, swelled by one member). I know this because it's one of those oddly sleepless nights, those ones in which you turn off the light and then sit there with your eyes closed, not a touch of fatigue on your body. Maybe it's because Monday is my day off from training and I'm not battling the standard grind (no classes today thanks to the Dean of Students' office, which wanted to run a drug-and-alcohol survey today), but I've also got a bunch of stuff rattling around in my head, and that's always a recipe for sleeplessness. So I got up, made a small bowl of polenta with maple syrup (gonna miss that next year...), and headed on over to Cyclingnews, which I check out more often than the weather outside my window. Looked over the results to today's ToC stage and thought I feel like I've seen this episode before...

Maybe this tour will be different. Maybe someone will win without backing into first place. Maybe the Rock Racing team (who are these guys? Freddie Rodriguez at 34 alongside Mario Cipollini at 40+, wearing racing kits that look like H.R. Giger and Axl Rose designed them?) will implode into one giant neutron star of carbon fiber, spandex, and sunglasses (actually, it'll be a small star, since they started 3 MEN SHORT due to doping issues BEFORE THE RACE EVEN BEGAN—remember, this is the team with T.Hamilton who, last I heard, was still suspended from cycling), maybe Chris Horner will look around and say "Hey, I can win this, screw you guys" before leaving his boring Astana teammates in the California sunset.

Is that Bono?

O.K., enough vitriol. I don't usually go in for stuff like that, and I'm pretty psyched that the racing season is getting going. But it's now 11:10, and I have to work tomorrow. So why can't I sleep? I don't know...I just spent a blissful weekend in Maine with my sister and new brother in law, writing reports and training around 4 hours a day. My plans to go to Virginia are shaping up, and that's certainly exciting: 12 days with J. Dukes in Charlottesville and Chingateauge (ponies! ponies!), surfing, riding bikes, getting into trouble, cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway (one of the best rides you'll ever go on—you look down on either side and wonder how you've been transported to France (the aforementioned easy to conquer country whose presidents get more and more distressingly wonderful with each new iteration)), and talking about radio and books. So that's on my mind.

I also just found out that PowerBar named me to their elite team, so I'll be getting nutritional help from them this year. I'm still not used to this whole sponsorship thing; it's not unlike getting your license or turning 21. You keep waiting for someone to show up and tell you it's all a dream and that you're in a lot of trouble. But so far the wheels haven't come off, and I'm feeling pretty set for the coming year. Rudy Project for hardhats and glasses, Nathan for bags and hydration system stuff, PowerBar for food, and Craft, my team, for general support.

But beyond that, as I tried to fall asleep, I started thinking about two of my classes for tomorrow. One is reading this great article by Burkhart Bilger (funny name—great writer) about "The Cheese Nun," from a New Yorker a few years old. It's a perfectly crafted article, written in a parallel structure, the two strands being (obvious if you consider the main character) food and religion. Bilger never explicitly crosses the two lines (although he flirts with it in the end, in an uncharacteristic moment), and I'm hoping they pick up on how he makes clear the wonderful, similar invasiveness of these two ideas. My other class, one I picked up from a sick teacher-friend, is reading The Things They Carried, which is a marvelous book. And although the eponymous story often gets the most play, I think one of the other stories, "The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," is O'Brien's masterpiece, an allegory about America's involvement in Vietnam, as well as a canny examination on the truth of storytelling. This is a story so postmodern it practically deserves its own horn-rims, but appears at first blush to be a simple old traditional story about a character's (d)evolution.

O.K., well, I've succeeded in putting you to sleep, I'll bet. I'm gonna try again, but you'll probably see me off prowling the forums at ST, to Janda's dismay.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Month of Reading Exclusively

I'm pleased to report that, with the temperature hovering around 20 F, I just got back from a run in shorts. The kids around campus double-taked and catcalled, but that's what you get for hanging out with teenagers. I'm sure it wasn't earnest, given the pasty complexion of a runner's legs in February.

It's been a hard sell, getting my running legs back this year. 'Cross season still feels like it ended only a few weeks ago, and I'm coming to terms with the truth that, in triathlon, there really isn't an off-season. A few weeks of skiing and then back to it. Problem is, around here, outdoor riding is a bit out of the questions, I swim in a 3-lane pool at a motel (!), and there are about two running routes not totally iced over at the moment. HTFU, you say? It's not a question of toughening up, I think (hey, I just went running in shorts, remember), but it's a matter of retaining my enjoyment for these three sports. I've watched, over the past few weeks, all the Paris-Roubaix races between 1996 and 2002 (Johan Museeuw won three of 'em, but it turns out he had more drugs in him than a Vassar freshman at the Homo Hop), ran on a treadmill twice, and been reduced to using an elliptical machine before my buddy Noah showed up and shamed me out onto the dark roads without a headlamp.

It'll all be fine in a month, when bike season gets going, or when I head south to spend 10 days with J. Dukes in Charlottesville.

Until then, I've embarked, to save my sanity through madness, on one of the great reading months of my life. My juniors, see, are designing their own unit during February. I've got two sections of the little buggers, and it's almost impossible to get 14 sixteen year-olds to agree upon one book, so those two sections split into a total of five groups. Their choices reflect the kind of marvelous schizophrenia of high school juniors:

Dune, Frank Herbert (thank god this is better than the godawful movie—David Lynch's worst)
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (I liked this book better when I first read it, back in HS—now it seems to me that every slightly non-savory character is given a non-white, non-American male differentiation, and that the aliens, the buggers, have a name just a bit too close to another, not-too-distant racial slur)
Ender's Shadow (never read this, but the group reading Ender's Game really needed to read something else, since you can get through EG in about 45 minutes; not sure if I'm looking forward to it)
The Inferno (I told you they were schizoid)
The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks and
Stiff, the Curious Lives of Cadavers, my Molly Roach (yes, Roach).

Yup, those are my juniors, morbid sci-fi freaks. My life, for the moment, has become a pretty awesome monastery of reading, teaching, and training. The best part about the classes, though, is that I only have to read the books; they have to do all the discussing. They're getting better.

Headed off to swim.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The New Bike

I usually like my posts to have some merit or interest beyond myself and what I'm doing, but I've got a new bike. In the (almost) words of Lester Burnham, from American Beauty: "It's a 2007 Dura Ace Cannondale Six13. The bike I always wanted, and now I own. I rule." Pictures.

The 3/4 shot.

The Profile.

The Crankset.

Yeah, white bar-tape, just like the Europeans, just like that kid in youth soccer who showed up with white cleats, when you thought, wow, that kid better be good, or I'm gonna break his ankles.

Tomorrow I'll post something actually interesting.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


A month?! I can't quite believe a month has passed, so much that I just used one of the three exclamation points one is alotted per calendar year. I won't flatter myself by apologizing, just castigate for being lazy.

That said, a lot's been going on: I decided not to come back to Putney next year, since I've lived in the NE for 28 years and it's time for something new (also, Vermont looks like Hoth right now, with the snowdrifts reaching my office windows, and the wind howling, (if you need to go look up Hoth, well, there's not much more we can talk about)), so I'm back in the good old Carney and Sandoe meat-pool, getting referred to schools that I never knew existed.

Two cool things to check out, out there in Blogoland: Sprinter Della Casa, a blog run by Aki Saito, who runs the Bethel Spring Series, a six-race series that kicks off, every year, the first weekend in March. It's the series in which I first raced a road bike, snapping a chain and borrowing a way too small Giant OCR; I also had more fun on a bike than I'd ever had, up to that point. I stumbled across Aki's site and liked it, especially this post, on shaving your legs. He makes a reference to Breaking Away, so of course I'm a sucker. Right now Aki is out in California, crowing about 80 degree days and seven hour rides. Yesterday I geeked out on my trainer, watching the 2002 Tour of Flanders and trying to average 240 watts for two hours. Somebody, please...

Also, check out Swimplan if you're into the whole horizontal-in-the-water game. You enter some information about how much you want to swim, and upon what you'd like to improve, and it spits out good, not-boring workouts. Workouts that go by quickly, even in the three-lane motel pool at which I spend too many hours of the week (read: >0 would be too many).

Finally, my new road bike is built. It's a Cannondale (probably the last one I'll buy, now that it's been bought by a company that owns (insert vomit sounds here) GT, Mongoose, and Schwinn; you can probably kiss that nice "Made in the U.S.A." decal goodbye), of course, just like my last one, but I scored a Six13 frame pretty cheap, with the sweet new cranks, and finally decided that I needed a bike with Dura Ace components on it. In truth, I built my dream bike, and I'll toss some pictures up here tomorrow.

That's it for now; get some rest, people: the Groundhog saw (didn't see? Whichever) his shadow, and we're gonna be shoveling for another six weeks.