Sunday, 13 July 2008

Weatherford

Yesterday, in Weatherford, Texas, I did my 13th bike rally of the year and my 434th overall. (My goal, for those of you who are new to this blog, is to do 1,000 rallies.) The Peach Pedal (as it’s known) is in its 20th year. This was my 19th. I must have missed only the inaugural version. The rally began from a new place this year, just south of Interstate 20 at Weatherford High School. We used to ride around the Parker County Courthouse at the beginning of the rally, which was fun, albeit dangerous. The traffic in downtown Weatherford has gotten worse by the year, so the organizers (or city officials) must have decided that the rally had to be moved. The rally is in conjunction with the Parker County Peach Festival. (Yes, there were fresh peaches at the rest stops, and they, along with the watermelon and dill-pickle slices, were delicious.)

Several of my so-called friends showed up. (I tease.) Nobody was in a hurry to finish, so we rolled along at a leisurely pace. Much of the route was the same, but in the opposite direction. How different it looked! Hills that I’ve climbed many times became descents. A huge tree that was always on my left as I approached a rest stop was suddenly on my right. The rest stop itself was gone, a victim of change. But hey, change is good, right? So says Barack Obama.

The forecast was for 103º Fahrenheit, and we eventually reached 102º, but it wasn’t nearly that hot during the ride. It was in the low 80s at the 7:30 start and in the low 90s when we finished, shortly after 11:00. It was windy and humid, however, but that’s par for the course at the Peach Pedal. I might add that many hundreds of people—perhaps well over a thousand—showed up to ride. Vehicles were still coming in as I rode around the parking lot on my bike, looking for my friends. Some of the late-arriving cyclists probably got lost, as I did. (I drove about eight miles too far west before realizing my mistake.)

The ride was uneventful in the sense that there were no accidents or mechanical problems. Joe, Jason, Phil, Randy, and I stayed together almost the entire way. (Joe and his son Jason were on a tandem.) We talked, laughed, teased each other, and even whined when appropriate. (Randy has refined his whining technique to a fine art.) Phil rode well for a doddering old fool (I say that endearingly), while Joe and Jason held their own. As Jason gets stronger, it’s going to be increasingly hard to stay with them.

I had an average speed of 18.15 miles per hour after two hours. I averaged 18.40 miles per hour for the entire course a year ago, so I wanted to stay above 18.  Alas, I averaged only 17.34 miles per hour for the final 1:25:27 of the ride. That knocked me down to 17.81 for the day (61.0 miles). The final 10 miles or so were filled with rolling hills, which made it hard to sustain a fast pace. We did hardly any pack riding, so I suppose 17.81 miles per hour is nothing to be ashamed of. My maximum speed for the day was 33.2 miles per hour. I burned 1,810 calories. My maximum heart rate was 150 and my average heart rate 116. That tells me that I didn’t work very hard. But hey, sometimes boys just want to have fun!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Burleson

This morning, in Burleson, Texas, I did my eighth bike rally of the year and my 429th overall. Two of my home boys wimped out. Joe is sitting on his ass in a tent in the Washita Mountains of Oklahoma. Phil is sitting on his ass on a cruise ship off the coast of Nova Scotia. Only Randy and I, plus our new home boys Bryce and Rusty, had the fortitude necessary to ride our bikes. Why oh why do I have such wimpy friends?

A year ago, this rally was washed out by torrential rain. It was rescheduled for September, by which time all of us were in great shape (having just done the Hotter ’n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls). Randy swears he rode in the rain that day. His lie is now a year old. I keep waiting for him to come clean, but he won’t. Today’s Honey Tour was the 10th annual. I’ve done nine of the 10. And guess what? Today’s was the fastest. I’m not getting older. I’m getting faster!

The wind, as usual, was brutal, but luckily we were in a pack during the worst of it. Pack riding is great fun, albeit dangerous. I did more than my share of pulling at the front, because, as you know, my goal is to get stronger each week. If I stayed sheltered the whole way, what good would it do me down the road? Randy also took several pulls, which isn’t bad for an old man. We knew that it was in our interest to stay in the pack as long as possible. Once we reached Grandview, which is the southernmost point of the course, we had a tailwind all the way back. The Grandview rest stop (on main street) is one of the best in any rally. It’s the only rest stop with pineapple. There was also cold watermelon. I gorged on fruit, then topped it off with a large, salty dill pickle, straight from the jar.

I pedaled 18.0 miles the first hour, 19.3 the second, and 18.1 the third. Randy and I took it easy after that, so I averaged only 16.36 miles per hour for the final 15:24. I ended up with 18.30 miles per hour for the day (59.6 miles), which, with the wind, the heat, the humidity, and the rolling hills near the end, is more than acceptable. Did I mention humidity? It was awful. We’ve been lucky this year in having dry air. But now summer is in full force here in North Texas. It will be like this until October. There’s no point in complaining about it; you just grit your teeth and accept it.

In other statistics, my maximum speed for the day was only 30.6 miles per hour. There were many small hills, but no big ones, hence no fast descents. My maximum heart rate was 158 and my average heart rate 128. I burned 2,058 calories. I saw a three-legged dog on the course. Several other dogs (the four-legged variety) ran along the side of the road after us, but none caused an accident. The sun never made its appearance. There was a beautiful woman in our pack. I teased her about her farmer’s tan. She laughed and said she was working on getting rid of it. All in all, it was an enjoyable ride.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Mineral Wells

Two of my friends (Joe and Phil) met me in Mineral Wells, Texas, this morning for a 47.4-mile bike ride. It was sunny and cool when we started, but shortly thereafter it clouded up. The sun came back out just before we finished. Go figure. The wind was stiff throughout the ride, which slowed our pace to 15 miles per hour. It’s a hilly course. I hit 43.1 miles per hour on one of the descents. Afterward, we ate at the small Italian restaurant where we parked. If there’s a better way to spend a Saturday, I don’t know of it.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Weatherford

Yesterday, in Weatherford, Texas, I did my 12th bike rally of the year and my 408th overall. It was my 18th consecutive Peach Pedal, going back to 1990. Where does the time go? There are many things that I love about this rally. The route out of town is fast and furious, with many rolling hills. There are long, scintillating descents. The scenery, including the courthouse in the center of town, is gorgeous. Best of all, there are fresh peaches at the rest stops. The rally is held in conjunction with the Parker County Peach Festival. I saw hundreds of people milling about near the courthouse as I made my way out of town after the rally. It reminded me of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival in Michigan, which I attended many times during the 1970s and 1980s.

My goal, as usual, was to ride as hard as I could without (1) unduly compromising my safety and (2) dropping my friends. Alas, my friends dropped me—twice. Not because I was weak, but because my chain came off. (With friends like that, who needs rivals?) But we hooked up eventually at a rest stop and rode in together. Although I hadn’t ridden in two weeks, I felt strong. I rode 20.5 miles the first hour and 19.1 the second, for an average speed of 19.8 miles per hour after two hours. Then I turned north into a mild headwind. The course was hilly and it was getting hot, so I covered only 15.9 miles the third hour. I averaged 17.44 miles per hour for the final 17:12, which gave me an overall average speed (for 60.5 miles) of 18.40 miles per hour. That’s my fastest Peach Pedal in 12 years! Had I stayed with my friends the entire way instead of gutting it out on my own, I believe I would have averaged over 19 miles per hour. By taking turns at the front, riders save energy, which they can use to go faster.

In other statistics, I burned 1,969 calories during the ride. This allowed me to eat a little extra throughout the day. I love to eat, but I won’t go over my 2,200-calorie limit unless I earn it. My maximum heart rate during the ride was 155; my average was 126. I hit a top speed of 33.8 miles per hour on one of the descents. Yeehaa! The official high temperature for the day, which occurred several hours after I finished riding, was 91º Fahrenheit. It’s usually hot and humid during the Peach Pedal. This year, it was merely warm. I’m about halfway through the 2007 rally season. It has gone fast. It won’t be long before I’m doing footraces in cool weather and looking forward to the next rally season. Rust never sleeps.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

J. J. C. Smart on Political Philosophy

Another branch of study which has traditionally been regarded as part of philosophy is political philosophy. Once more this may be for the historical reason that many great metaphysicians and epistemologists have also written about politics. Of course they have often written about mathematics and physics too, but the fact that these require special mathematical and experimental techniques and expertise may partly explain why they are not taught within philosophy departments. Another reason, no doubt, is the high proportion of conceptual questions which arise in the writings of traditional philosophers who have discussed political theory. However, my own opinion (for what it is worth) is that on the whole there is not much new conceptual work to be done in this area, and what there is can be done with quite an elementary knowledge of general philosophy. Political philosophy is concerned with the best ways of organizing human society and requires empirical more than conceptual ability, and I tend to think that it is probably best done within politics departments of universities. However, this preference is a practical and undogmatic one: there certainly are political philosophers who are fun to have around, and I do not wish to lose their company if they happen to be in my own department! Another reason why I do not want to be too dogmatic about whether political philosophy should be regarded as philosophy proper is that the extension of the term “philosopher” is one of the things which philosophers do not agree about. I have no more academic right to object to a philosophical colleague lecturing about politics than he has to object to me if I encroach on physics. My proposal is pragmatic only and in accordance with a general view that tight departmental boundaries are unjustifiable.

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 70)

Saturday, 7 July 2007

J. J. C. Smart on Ethics

So far I have not said much about ethics. Ethics is part of philosophy not only for obvious historical reasons (because Plato, Aristotle, et al., wrote about it) but also because it gives rise to many conceptual problems. Suffice to say that I have been interested to defend act utilitarianism, which has the sort of universality and generality which can appeal to one who is concerned with the world sub specie aeternitatis. Its supreme principle would be as applicable if we had to deal with beings from Alpha Centauri as it is in dealing with members of Homo sapiens, as well as horses, dogs, etc. Act utilitarianism appeals as a possible “cosmic ethics.” (It is, of course, not necessarily the only system of ethics that does so.)

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 69-70)

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

J. J. C. Smart on the Aim of Argumentation

[Y]ou cannot refute another philosopher merely by a priori argument, but you may use argument in order to push him into having to rely on premises which he (or others) may feel to be unplausible [sic] in the light of total science.

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 66-7)

Sunday, 1 July 2007

J. J. C. Smart on Religion

Besides being influenced by [Gilbert] Ryle, I was also much impressed by F. Waismann and G. A. Paul, and by the sort of second-hand Wittgensteinianism which was in the air generally. This second-hand Wittgensteinianism was partly characterized by talk of “this is the language game” and by a certain unacknowledged verificationism. Unacknowledged and even consciously denied presuppositions are of course the most insidious ones. This sort of Wittgensteinianism helped me to avoid facing certain important issues for some time, and in particular the question of whether I could honestly continue the practice of religion, to which I was emotionally very drawn despite the fact that another side of my nature craved an austerer metaphysics. What finally made me break with religion was getting interested in biology, largely because of the excellent biological discussion group which centered on the zoology department of the University of Adelaide. When one comes to see man as a zoological species, a lot of the Christian story seems most unplausibly [sic] anthropocentric. Moreover, how can one think biologically of immortality and of prayer? Could there be an information-flow model of prayer? Such questions could no longer be blocked by evasive Wittgensteinian talk about language games.

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 64)

Note from KBJ: This is bizarre. Smart admits that he was “emotionally very drawn” to religion, so you would think that he would abandon it only if he had to, i.e., only if it were logically inconsistent with something else he believed even more firmly. He says it was biology that made him “break with religion.” So he must think that certain biological propositions are inconsistent with religion. But how could they be? Biology is about the natural world. It has nothing whatsoever to say about the supernatural world, including whether there is a supernatural world. A fortiori, it has nothing whatsoever to say about whether the Christian god exists. Something is not right here. Either Smart is being dishonest in reporting his abandonment of theism or he’s irrational (in the sense that he gave up something he wanted without having to).

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

J. J. C. Smart on Obfuscation

I have argued that activities which most of us would regard as “philosophical” occur in mathematical physics. Since mathematical physics is generally regarded as a highly respectable subject, this suggests that philosophy is a respectable subject. However, when we look at the profession of philosophy itself, we may begin to doubt this supposed respectability. This is because there do not seem to be any agreed standards in philosophy. Consider the writings of a certain sort of phenomenologist or existentialist. To many philosophers, including myself, they seem to be not only incomprehensible but to be utter bosh. Whether such writings really are bosh or not, it does seem to be an empirical fact that there are groups within the philosophy profession between whom dialogue does not seem to be possible. It almost seems, sometimes, that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 59)

Note from KBJ: Take a look at Smart’s final sentence. He could have said this:

Though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Smart weakens this bold statement in three ways. Here is the first (boldface mine):

It seems that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Here is the second:

It almost seems that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Here is the third:

It almost seems, sometimes, that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Talk about obfuscation!