Sunday, 27 July 2008


Here is a scene from today’s ultimate stage of the Tour de France. Belgian cyclist Gert Steegmans won the stage in a ferocious sprint. Spanish cyclist Carlos Sastre won the Tour by 58 seconds over Australian Cadel Evans, with Austrian cyclist Bernhard Kohl finishing third. Sastre is the third Spaniard in a row to win the Tour (following Oscar Pereiro and Alberto Contador). Here is the New York Times story.

A Year Ago



Here is your entertainment for this Sunday evening. The song has haunted me for many years.


Yesterday, in Cleburne, Texas, I did my 14th bike rally of the year and my 435th overall. It was my 16th Goatneck (as it’s called) in the past 19 years. A year ago, you may recall, I did my fastest Goatneck ever, averaging 19.75 miles per hour on the 69.5-mile course. (The course has not changed in all these years, except for the replacement of a decrepit and dangerous bridge.) I certainly didn’t expect to ride that fast again, but you never know how things will go (or how you will feel) when you start riding.

It was warm and sunny at the 7:30 start. (I rose at 5:10.) The announcer said that 3,000 riders were expected, which was a record. I used to be able to park near the registration building. Now, even though I arrive at the same time (6:45), I have to park in a field across the road. Cycling is alive and well in the Metroplex.

Several of my so-called friends showed up. Phil couldn’t be there, so Joe, Randy, and I knew that (1) we wouldn’t be slowed waiting for him and (2) we wouldn’t have to put up with his infernal whining. He has wimped out several times this year, usually because of some “family obligation.” Randy has been working a lot and therefore not training properly, so he wimped out by doing a short course. We rode with him for about one mile before he turned off. That left Joe and me, and later Julius, our bad Czech. The forecast was for a high temperature of 105º Fahrenheit, so it was in our interest to go fast and beat the heat. It’s important on days such as this to stay well hydrated.

I rode 19.9 miles during the first hour. We were in small packs for some of it, and there was a headwind. (The wind is almost always out of the south during the summertime, so rally organizers tend to send riders south at the outset. That means tailwind—glorious tailwind—for the second half of the ride.) I started to feel good after an hour. This is normal. I don’t warm up before the start. I warm up during the ride itself. I always love riding through Glen Rose. It’s a gorgeous town, with stone houses, stone fences, large trees, and rustic shops. I did a rally in Glen Rose in early 1990, with my friends David Loggins and Eric Grundman. I wonder what happened to them. What would they think if they knew that I’m still doing rallies, in 2008?

I rode 19.2 miles during the second hour. Again, we were in small packs for some of it. Just before I hit two hours, I stopped at the rest stop in Nemo (“omen” spelled backward?). Julius was already there, and Joe rode up a few minutes later. (We got separated on the run-in.) After comparing notes and refreshing our bodies with cold water, fruit, and cookies, we set out with Julius’s friend Mark. We had some headwind left, and some crosswind, but eventually we would have the wind in our favor. Julius, who is 61 years old, rode like an animal. I hope I’m in that good a shape 10 years from now. Because of the wind and hills, I rode only 17.6 miles during the third hour. This knocked my average speed down to 18.9. I thought I’d be able to get it over 19 before the finish, but I didn’t quite make it. I averaged 19.07 miles per hour for the final 40:16 of the ride and ended up with 18.93 miles per hour for 69.5 miles. It’s not quite 19.75, but I’ll take it. It’s my third-fastest Goatneck of 16.

I burned 2,288 calories during the ride. My maximum heart rate was 157 and my average heart rate 127. My maximum speed was 37.7 miles per hour. During the ride, the temperature ranged from 82º to 93º. The official high for the day, a few hours later, was 101º (at DFW Airport). It’s supposed to be 105º today and tomorrow. What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods? How many of you are tough enough to withstand Texas heat (and humidity)? If you’re not tough enough, we don’t want you down here.


Here’s one of the symptoms of baseball fever: Two teams you hate (the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox) are playing on Sunday Night Baseball, and you can’t wait to watch the game.


My friend Kevin wonders whether Our Savior is being covered properly by the press. Why has this not been reported, for example?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “It’s the Economic Stupidity, Stupid” (column, July 20):

Referring to Senator John McCain’s self-admitted computer illiteracy, Frank Rich quipped, “Perhaps he’ll retire his abacus by Election Day.”

I must say, I resent that aspersion cast upon a venerable computing device. I use an abacus daily for everything from simple addition and subtraction to multiplication and long division.

It has some advantages over a computer/digital calculator. It is lightweight, completely portable, needs no batteries (quite green, this device) and one big plus: after some experience, the user can visualize the rows of beads and move them around in the mind doing all the calculations mentally, rendering the physical abacus superfluous!

This is much like the person who can play chess without a chess set, but much less taxing on the nerves.

I say we should bring back the abacus. They are not just for Luddites. Thanks for reading my words. Now I have to finish blending my ink for the week, then get out my penknife so I may sharpen my quills.

Eliot Camaren
New York, July 20, 2008

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 52

Chapter 4, Youthful Propagandism. The Westminster Review

The occupation of so much of my time by office work did not relax my attention to my own pursuits, which were never carried on more vigorously. It was about this time that I began to write in newspapers. The first writings of mine which got into print were two letters published towards the end of 1822, in the Traveller evening newspaper. The Traveller (which afterwards grew into the “Globe and Traveller,” by the purchase and incorporation of the Globe) was then the property of the well-known political economist, Colonel Torrens, and under the editorship of an able man, Mr. Walter Coulson (who, after being an amanuensis of Mr. Bentham, became a reporter, then an editor, next a barrister and conveyancer, and died Counsel to the Home Office), it had become one of the most important newspaper organs of liberal politics. Col. Torrens himself wrote much of the political economy of his paper; and had at this time made an attack upon some opinion of Ricardo and my father, to which, at my father’s instigation, I attempted an answer, and Coulson, out of consideration for my father and goodwill to me, inserted it. There was a reply by Torrens, to which I again rejoined. I soon after attempted something considerably more ambitious. The prosecutions of Richard Carlile and his wife and sister for publications hostile to Christianity, were then exciting much attention, and nowhere more than among the people I frequented. Freedom of discussion even in politics, much more in religion, was at that time far from being, even in theory, the conceded point which it at least seems to be now; and the holders of obnoxious opinions had to be always ready to argue and re-argue for the liberty of expressing them. I wrote a series of five letters, under the signature of Wickliffe, going over the whole length and breadth of the question of free publication of all opinions on religion, and offered them to the Morning Chronicle. Three of them were published in January and February, 1823; the other two, containing things too outspoken for that journal, never appeared at all. But a paper which I wrote soon after on the same subject, à propos of a debate in the House of Commons, was inserted as a leading article; and during the whole of this year, 1823, a considerable number of my contributions were printed in the Chronicle and Traveller: sometimes notices of books but oftener letters, commenting on some nonsense talked in Parliament, or some defect of the law, or misdoings of the magistracy or the courts of justice. In this last department the Chronicle was now rendering signal service. After the death of Mr. Perry, the editorship and management of the paper had devolved on Mr. John Black, long a reporter on its establishment; a man of most extensive reading and information, great honesty and simplicity of mind; a particular friend of my father, imbued with many of his and Bentham’s ideas, which he reproduced in his articles, among other valuable thoughts, with great facility and skill. From this time the Chronicle ceased to be the merely Whig organ it was before, and during the next ten years became to a considerable extent a vehicle of the opinions of the Utilitarian radicals. This was mainly by what Black himself wrote, with some assistance from Fonblanque, who first showed his eminent qualities as a writer by articles and jeux d’esprit in the Chronicle. The defects of the law, and of the administration of justice, were the subject on which that paper rendered most service to improvement. Up to that time hardly a word had been said, except by Bentham and my father, against that most peccant part of English institutions and of their administration. It was the almost universal creed of Englishmen, that the law of England, the judicature of England, the unpaid magistracy of England, were models of excellence. I do not go beyond the mark in saying, that after Bentham, who supplied the principal materials, the greatest share of the merit of breaking down this wretched superstition belongs to Black, as editor of the Morning Chronicle. He kept up an incessant fire against it, exposing the absurdities and vices of the law and the courts of justice, paid and unpaid, until he forced some sense of them into people’s minds. On many other questions he became the organ of opinions much in advance of any which had ever before found regular advocacy in the newspaper press. Black was a frequent visitor of my father, and Mr. Grote used to say that he always knew by the Monday morning’s article, whether Black had been with my father on the Sunday. Black was one of the most influential of the many channels through which my father’s conversation and personal influence made his opinions tell on the world; cooperating with the effect of his writings in making him a power in the country, such as it has rarely been the lot of an individual in a private station to be, through the mere force of intellect and character: and a power which was often acting the most efficiently where it was least seen and suspected. I have already noticed how much of what was done by Ricardo, Hume, and Grote, was the result, in part, of his prompting and persuasion. He was the good genius by the side of Brougham in most of what he did for the public, either on education, law reform, or any other subject. And his influence flowed in minor streams too numerous to be specified. This influence was now about to receive a great extension by the foundation of the Westminster Review.

Note from KBJ: (1) One’s first publication is always special. I vividly remember my first letters to the editor, when I was a college student, and later, in 1982, my first scholarly publication. (2) Mill has high praise for his father, calling him “the good genius.” (Compare Descartes’s evil genius.) Ordinarily, one would discount such praise on the ground of bias; but Mill wasn’t given to false praise. He seems to have been concerned to get things right: to praise the praiseworthy and to blame the blameworthy. This is the virtue of justice: giving people what they deserve. Mill believed, rightly or wrongly, that his father deserved praise—and he did not shirk from expressing it.

Shapiro on Language




Addendum: I like the Dilbert comic strips. For the past two weeks or so, I’ve been embedding the code into my posts, which makes the strip itself—in all its glorious color—appear on my blog. I thought this might be slowing my blog down, so I deleted the posts and began linking to the strips instead. If you like Dilbert, you may click the link to read the strip. If not, please ignore these posts.

Addendum 2: On Sundays, the comic strip has more than three panels. To see all of the panels, you must click the arrow on the right side of the strip. It will scroll to the right.