Sunday, 16 September 2007

Twenty Years Ago

9-16-87 I had an interesting discussion with Tom Senor and Ann Levey this afternoon. (Both are teaching assistants.) I don’t know how it started, but we ended up arguing about rock and roll music. Tom claimed that heavy metal music (such as Quiet Riot, Ratt, and Judas Priest) isn’t rock and roll. Obviously, this startled me, so I reacted with an equally extreme claim. I said that rock and roll is exhausted by heavy metal music. “That’s just what rock and roll music is,” I said: “heavy metal. Bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Rolling Stones, and George Thorogood aren’t rock and roll bands. They’re rhythm and blues bands.” Needless to say, this drew some attention. But that was my goal. I wanted to argue about music and this seemed a good way to get into it.

We also argued about hippies (specifically, what it is that makes someone a hippie) and whether the Beatles, for example, were hippies. I’ve never thought of the Beatles as hippies, but Ann said that they became hippies later in their careers, and that many hippies came to like their music. I guess she’s right about that. To this day, though, I despise hippies and all that they stand for. I associate hippies with dirty, faded bellbottom jeans, long, scraggly hair, flowers, acoustic-guitar music, spiritualism, free love, and laziness. By the time I came of age, musically [in 1973 or so], the hippie movement was dead. I always thought of it as something that preceded me—something from the past. I was no more a hippie than I was a 1950s greaser. I always thought of myself as a modern rocker, and I still do. Terry Mallory would have loved our discussion.

Alas, my article on Robert Bork [“Should Robert Bork Be Confirmed?”] won’t appear in The Arizona Republic. Bill Carlile, the editor of the Perspective section, called to tell me that he wouldn’t be using the piece. I thanked him for calling. Now I can concentrate on other newspapers and periodicals. Also, I learned today that Joel Feinberg [1926-2004] wrote a scathing letter to Dennis DeConcini, Arizona’s Democratic senator, opposing Bork’s confirmation. DeConcini is officially undecided on the matter. According to Lois [Day], who typed the letter, Joel told DeConcini that Bork would set back the civil-rights movement and cause other bad results. Gosh. What if my article supporting Bork’s confirmation shows up in The Wildcat or some other newspaper in the next few days? Then I’d be officially and publicly opposed to Joel, my mentor. But he’d probably get a kick out of it. I’m just surprised that Joel would take such an unprincipled approach to the confirmation hearings. If nothing else, he’s principled.

The [Detroit] Tigers keep rolling along. Tonight they won their fourth consecutive game. But Toronto [the Blue Jays] is also winning, so the teams are in a dead heat for first place with 88-57 records. The division leaders as of today are Detroit and Toronto, Minnesota [the Twins], St Louis [the Cardinals], and San Francisco [the Giants]. Only the Giants appear to have wrapped things up. Nobody in the American League West seems capable of catching strugg[l]ing Minnesota. St Louis is trying to hold off a charge by the defending champion [New York] Mets and the upstart [Montreal] Expos. The next few weeks should be interesting. As for the batting races, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn (who else?) are leading their respective leagues. Neither race is close. [Both Boggs and Gwynn are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.] George Bell and Mark McGwire are tied for the lead in home runs with forty-five. Andrew Dawson of the [Chicago] Cubs has forty-four. It’s the year of the home run, no doubt about it.


Richard John Neuhaus thinks the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is exceeding its authority (or going beyond its competence) in calling for an end to the war in Iraq. He says the bishops are authoritative on matters of faith and morality, but not on public policy.

Orenthal James

He’s already gotten away with murder. Why should anyone think he won’t get away with robbery?

The American Mind

If you’ve read Allan Bloom’s book The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), you’ll enjoy this essay. If you haven’t, I recommend that you do so.

Statistical Analysis

I’m a number cruncher. Always have been, always will be. If you’ve read any of my blog posts about running or bicycling, you know this. That doesn’t mean I believe numbers are everything, because they’re not and I don’t; but they’re something. By analyzing my performance over time, under similar conditions, I gain a better understanding of my progress toward goals and of the effect aging has on such things as heart rate and speed. Here is a review of a new book by Yale law professor Ian Ayres.


Yesterday, in beautiful Greenville, Texas, I did my 19th bike rally of the year and my 415th overall. The weather was gorgeous. Although the temperature reached 90° Fahrenheit later in the day, it was mild (with low humidity) when we departed downtown Greenville at 8:30. At least twice over the years, the weather during the Cotton Patch Classic has been bad. One year, it was cold, wet, and windy, so I did a short course (45 miles). Another year, it rained so hard for so long that police officers pulled riders off the course. Even the wind cooperated yesterday. The average wind speed for the day was 6.7 miles per hour. I don’t count it as windy unless it reaches 10 miles per hour.

None of my home boys showed up. They’re wimps. They act like other things matter besides bicycling. At the start, I met a young man named Chris (from Denton), who said he was in his first year of rally riding. I chuckled and told him that it was my 415th rally. I added that my goal is to do 1,000 rallies. He told me that he had ridden 100 miles in Wichita Falls three weeks earlier, which surprised me, because he didn’t look like a serious rider. Boy, was I mistaken. I went out hard, falling in immediately with a number of other riders. We had a slight headwind going out of town (to the north), so it was in my interest to ride in a pack. About 30 minutes into the ride, I noticed Chris. He had been with us the entire way! When I got next to him in the pack, I said, “You’re doing great, Chris!” I figured he’d be dropped soon.

Nope. Even though we covered 21.9 miles during the first hour, Chris was still there. We were flying. At one point, we caught—and passed—the women’s Category 4/5 racers, who had left several minutes before the rally riders. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t supposed to happen. The race organizer must have assumed that the women’s racers would go faster than the rally riders. At about the one-hour mark, I was dropped by the pack. (Phil, the master of euphemisms, would say that he “let them go.”) I was gasping for air. I hadn’t planned to ride hard in Greenville. In fact, knowing that my friends wouldn’t be there, I brought my Zune music player (loaded with 7,086 songs) so I could listen to music. No sooner had I put my earphones in than one of my old riding acquaintances, James, came alongside. He, too, had been dropped. I asked how far he was riding. He said he hadn’t ridden 63 miles this year, so he’d better do 54. I talked him into riding 63 with me.

The first thing we had to do is get up the Leonard hills. This is a series of increasingly steep hills just north of the town of Leonard. They’re not long, but they’re steep. When we got to the first ones, I told James they were appetizers. “The main course is yet to come.” We got up the hills shortly thereafter and rolled into Randolph. At this point, we picked up a quartering headwind. Another acquaintance of mine, David, happened to be near, so the three of us decided to take turns pulling. I suggested half-mile pulls. When we picked up another acquaintance, Keith, there were four of us. What it meant is that each of us got to rest for a mile and a half between pulls. We weren’t trying to go fast; we were trying to save energy. It’s estimated that riding in someone’s slipstream uses 70% of the energy it would take to break the wind. You can do whatever you want with this saved energy. You can either go faster now or save it for later, or some combination of the two.

My first and only stop of the day was in Bailey. I used the porta-potty, ate the PowerBar I had carried, ate a handful of purple grapes, ate a handful of cantaloupe chunks, ate a slice of watermelon, sipped a cup of cold water, and, just before departing, gulped a small bottle of pickle juice. As the four of us were leaving, I noticed Chris. He must have rolled up shortly after I did. He looked as though he was ready to leave, so I called out to him to ride with us. By then, I knew two things about him: first, that he’s a strong rider; and second, that he has good bike-handling skills. He hustled to his bike and rolled out with us. As it turns out, he was a valuable addition to our phalanx. We fought the wind for another seven miles before turning south. I covered 17.2 miles during my second hour of riding, which gave me an average speed of 19.55 miles per hour.

After the turn in Wolfe City, our speed increased significantly. Our little group continued to grow as we picked up stragglers. Before long, there were eight to 10 of us. I was feeling strong, so I did plenty of work at the front. Chris continued his fine riding. I covered 18.2 miles during the third hour, which gave me an average speed of 19.10 miles per hour. I’ve averaged over 19 miles per hour in only one rally this year (Cleburne), so I was determined not to lose it. When we reached the final rest stop, with about seven miles to go, most of the group, including Chris, stopped. James, David, and I continued. We didn’t have a pure tailwind, so we had to work hard to keep our speed up. Somewhere along the line, a man in a black jersey fell in with us. He never took a pull. Every time we rotated, I saw him out of the corner of my eye, sitting in our slipstream. What a parasite, I thought. He had to be strong, or he couldn’t have stayed with us; but he wasn’t doing any work. Then, with a couple of miles to go, he rode around us and left us behind. What gall! I have too much self-respect to do that sort of thing. If I can’t share the work, I have no business benefiting. This is not something that’s distinctive to bicycling. It’s a general principle, applicable to any life situation. It’s why we have terms such as “parasite,” “leech,” “moocher,” “free rider,” and “freeloader” in our language. You will note that all of them are pejorative.

Our hard work paid off. I averaged 18.94 miles per hour for the final 20:16 of the ride, which gave me an overall average speed of 19.08 miles per hour for 63.7 miles. That doesn’t count the time I spent at the rest stop in Bailey. See how much my home boys slow me down? When they’re not present, I go faster! Downtown Greenville was crowded with people because of the Cotton Patch festival, so I didn’t hang around. (Among other things, there was a go-kart race taking place on city streets.) I wanted to get away from the madness. I’ll see Chris at some other rally. Who knows? Maybe he’ll join our little gang. Unlike Joe, Phil, and Randy, he doesn’t seem to suffer from wimpiness. I hate wimps. I hate wimps almost as much as I hate the New York Yankees. I hate the very idea of wimpiness.

Here are some statistics. I burned 2,005 calories. That meant guilt-free eating the rest of the day. My maximum heart rate, which occurred early on (while I was in the fast-moving pack) was 157. My average heart rate was 126. My maximum speed was 33.2 miles per hour. The drive to Greenville and back is pleasant. I live two miles from Interstate 30, which connects Dallas and Fort Worth. Once I get on I-30, I stay there for 75 miles, passing through Dallas. When I exit, I’m two miles from where I park. (I’ve been doing bike rallies in Greenville since 1989.)

Two things marred an otherwise fine day. First, I came upon an accident during my ride. Someone in front of me—perhaps one of the racers—had crashed. An emergency vehicle was on the scene, and several others came roaring past me as I rode, sirens blaring. I hope the injured rider is all right. Second, I saw several dead raccoons on the road during my ride. These animals know nothing of high-speed automobiles. One minute they’re going about their business, as raccoons have done since time immemorial; the next they’re dead. I also saw a dead armadillo.

Max H. Fisch (1901-1995) on Science and Scientism

[W]hile philosophers of science have doubtless contributed in the past to the understanding the natural scientists have of their own procedures, and have perhaps even contributed some refinements to the procedures themselves, these are now well established and it does not seem probable that in future the natural scientists will greatly need philosophy in their own proper business, though certainly they will need it whenever they attempt to turn science into metaphysics or to erect a metaphysics on the conclusions of science, with an imperfect realization of the institutional character of science, and of the necessity of bringing institutions other than scientific into the metaphysical scheme.

(Max H. Fisch, “The Critic of Institutions,” chap. 8 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 135-51, at 146 [essay first published in 1955-56])

Safire on Language


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Bad News Puts Political Glare Onto Economy” (front page, Sept. 8):

I am getting very tired of hearing how the Fed can raise or lower interest rates in order to solve our economic woes.

A lot of us have just plain dropped out of the bottom of this economy. My hourly salary is equivalent to 1 1/2 gallons of whole milk as sold at the store where I work.

Why don’t we fix the economy where it really hurts?

Elizabeth Fisher
Laconia, N.H., Sept. 8, 2007

Note from KBJ: You need to develop some marketable skills, woman. Nobody owes you anything, much less a living.


How many of you would like to see Newt Gingrich run for president? See here for an interview with Newt.

A Year Ago