License to kill

August 28, 2014 § 59 Comments

Welcome to America, kids, where justice is for those who wear a badge. Everyone else, your life isn’t worth squat.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney just released its report on the death of Milton Olin, Jr., who was killed by L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood. Olin was riding his bike in a bike lane on Mulholland Drive when Deputy Wood, instead of following the curve of the road, drove straight into the bike lane and spattered Olin all over the pavement.

Deputy Wood was typing a message into his mobile digital computer at the time, responding to a non-emergency query from a fellow officer. Prior to the accident, a witness following Deputy Wood had noticed Olin in the bike lane. After killing Olin, Deputy Wood stated that he never saw Olin and didn’t even remember what he was doing prior to killing him.

With no one to contradict him, Deputy Wood then offered up the explanation that Olin had swerved into his travel lane, claiming that Olin “appeared” to have driven in front of the patrol car. Dead men don’t testify, and neither did Olin.

Deputy Wood, however, had been actively texting up until the time he hit Olin, so it’s no surprise he “didn’t see” him.  With nine text messages to and from his wife, beginning at 12:51 PM, the final text message sent by Wood at 1:04 was just before the moment of impact, 1:05. Neither Verizon nor Deputy Wood’s computer record seconds.

If you or I had been texting at the moment we mowed down a cop, we’d be sitting in jail right now awaiting trial on felony charges for second degree murder. Deputy Wood, however, faced no such danger. The district attorney investigated this as misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, but Wood needn’t have worried.

The prosecutor declined to believe the text records showing he was texting at the moment of impact, and instead accepted Wood’s claim that at the time of impact he was typing on his mobile cop computer. This of course shouldn’t absolve Wood from looking at the road, since it was a non-emergent, routine response to another officer asking if he’d finished his earlier run.

Ignoring the fact that one of the witnesses saw Olin, ignoring the fact that Wood was going 3 mph over the speed limit, ignoring the fact that he was texting non-stop leading up to the accident, ignoring the fact that Wood was not responding an emergency, ignoring the gentle curvature of the road, and ignoring the fact that Woods’s claim of Olin “driving in front of him” was self-serving and not in keeping with the road or the experience of the rider, the district attorney declined to file charges. Click here to see the putrid whitewash of a report penned by Assistant D.A. Rosa Alarcon.

Deputy Wood can breathe a sigh of relief while Olin’s family picks up the shattered remnants of their lives. The rest of us should also get the message: Your life is worthless if it’s taken by a cop.

Is this how people feel in Ferguson?

I’m guessing it is.

And really the only question is, “Are we going to take it?”

END

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People over money

August 26, 2014 § 23 Comments

Matthew O’Neill was an extraordinary man living an extraordinary life when he met his death in the most pedestrian of ways. A 16-year-old driving a pickup and hauling a horse trailer struck Matthew from behind, killing him instantly. The driver, son of local politico Abel Maldonado, may have been breaking the law at the time. He was carrying an 18-year-old passenger, even though state law forbids youth drivers to have such passengers unless an adult driver, minimum age 25, is also in the car. For his part, Matthew’s reflectors and lights made him “lit up like a Christmas tree.”

In addition to being one tough guy on a bike — Matthew was riding a 1,200-km randonneuring event at the time he was killed — he was a force for good in the world. Whether advocating for the handicapped in Los Angeles, or advocating as a Ph. D. student working on his degree in special education, or simply mentoring riders who were trying to finish their first 1,000-km “rando,” Matthew lived his life in the service of others.

For his fiancee Jennie Passwater, his parents, his fellow students and teachers at the Gevirtz Graduate School of education, and his cycling buddies, the trade was horrific: The convenience of some careless punk in a pick-up in exchange for the life man who bent his back to make the world a better place. No amount of rational thought will ever make sense of it.

The things that we’ve all become accustomed to as we seek to find a word less frayed and tattered than “tragedy,” are all here. There is a memorial ride on September 7; a memorial service is being planned by the graduate school; and there’s a memorial Twitter account to which you can donate money.

These are all important ways to express your support for his friends and family. But the most important thing you can do is also the hardest: Be a person with a voice.

Here’s what I mean.

Matthew’s parents, his fiancee, his friend Stacey Kline, and some of his rando buddies have decided to use this awful occurrence as an opportunity to do what Matthew would have done: Educate people. And what they need to be educated about is the 3-foot passing law that goes into effect on September 16, 2014, CVC 21760. Had Matthew’s killer given himself adequate room to pass, Matthew would be alive today.

When we think about help and advocacy, especially political change, we think about asking for and making donations. Money is the way we’re taught to express our desire for change. I’ve donated money to all kinds of causes, and have solicited on behalf of others and on behalf of my own pet projects. And while money is important, at best it’s second best.

Why?

Because people are more powerful than dollars. That’s why a thousand angry letters to a congressman means more than $10,000 from a lobbyist. It’s why the political system whispers in your ear that your vote doesn’t matter, your voice doesn’t matter, your pen doesn’t matter — all that matters is money, and you don’t have enough of it.

This message of counter-democracy is a lie. One person calling, or writing, or showing up to talk in person is worth a thousand dollars in advertising, or more. Matthew made change in the world as one person, as a person with a voice. He helped people not with donations but with his voice, his mind, his spirit, and his time. He reached out, and there’s reason that “reach out” is such a powerful metaphor: It is a human hand holding another, it is the essence of giving, it is the soul of humanity.

The times that I have seen change happen, it has happened because people dropped what they were doing and went out and made themselves heard. Whether it was Greg Seyranian and Gary Cziko and Ron Peterson riding two-by-two on PCH, or Ralph Abernathy refusing to be silenced, change is at its most powerful when people speak their voice to those who are, by law, paid to listen to it.

Change happens on a personal level too, when you take the time to tell people what you think. In this case, California has a new 3-foot passing law that many cyclists don’t know about, and hardly any drivers are aware of in a state where cagers and the other minions of motordom regularly shout at cyclists to “Ride on the sidewalk!”

Your voice matters, just like Matthew’s did. His friends and family are committed to getting the word out about the 3-foot law, even if it’s one person at a time. You can talk about it with a friend, a co-worker, or another rider. Every voice counts, every person you make aware is a potential saved life. People over money.

Old time rock-and-roll

August 24, 2014 § 14 Comments

I got invited to hear a band play on Friday. They started at 3:00 PM, which is a perfect time for replacement hip-sters like me. The days when I could sit around until ten o’clock waiting for Foghat to come on and get home at one in the morning? Those days are long gone. What really works now is for the music to start in the afternoon so that I’m in bed by nine.

To make matters better (worse if you’re under 50), the band was a biker band. Not the leather-clad, knife-toting Hell’s Angels type biker band, but rather a mostly clean and wholesome lycra-clad bicyclist band. When I saw Foghat in 1978 at the Houston Coliseum with Marcello, I was in 8th Grade. Marcello was in 8th Grade, too, but not by choice. For some reason the school system thought that the best way to handle a very tough guy and first-class drug dealer was to hold him back year after year so that he wound up in classes with small, hairless, easily frightened kids much younger than him.

Marcello had a deep voice, he shaved, and from the locker room I had visual confirmation that he was what we all aspired to be: A man. I had gotten tickets to the Foghat concert from my brother, who had been grounded for selling drugs, or for stealing the car late one night, or for getting straight “F’s” on his lack-of-progress report.

Marcello would have never gone to the concert with me were it not for the free tickets. I remember my dad dropping us off out front as the long-hairs, freaks, and dope merchants streamed in.

“What kind of band is this, anyway?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” I lied.

“Well, have a good time. When should I pick you boys up?”

“Midnight?” I said, praying it didn’t sound like a question.

“That’s pretty late.”

“I’ll be fine. I’m with Marcello.” Marcello nodded and smiled politely.

“Okay, then.”

We got out and he drove off.

The concert, which started at eight, started at nine when Judas Priest came onstage. By then we’d had a solid hour to smoke Marcello’s concert goodies and the haze was so thick we could barely see the stage. Foghat followed and played until midnight. I don’t remember anything about it except that when we got to the car Marcello said, “Snap, man!” and jabbed me in the ribcage when my dad pulled up. Somehow, I snapped.

How times have changed. As I entered the Stag & Lion in the middle of the afternoon, the crowd thickened. My biker pals on stage were completely sober, and the cyclists packed into the bar were sipping at the one beer they would be drinking all day. No one was smoking, of course, as it was a no-smoking establishment and a bar, an impossibility back in the 70’s on a par with squaring the circle.

At three o’clock sharp they started to play, and at five o’clock sharp they stopped. The music was phenomenal, the band was tight, and on top of that the songs were original. In fact, the music was better than any concert I had ever attended during the heyday of 70’s rock and roll — ZZ Topp, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, the Stones, even Foghat. Then I remembered that I’d never actually heard any of the music at any of those concerts, or if I’d heard it, it had been through the 100-yard concrete brain filter that comes from being inside the THC equivalent of an oxygen tent.

“Wow,” I said to Mrs. WM. “Music sounds so great when you can hear it!”

She gave me a funny look and kept sipping her margarita.

My buddy’s biker band laid it down for two solid hours and not a single song was off the “B” side. Afterwards we went out and had dinner. One of our group, Surfer Dan, had ridden down to San Diego from LA, a solid little 100-miler so that he’d be sure to get his ride in before the festivities.

At dinner it was a typical bike racer dinner. Calories were counted, low-cal menu options were selected, and everyone finished in time to hurry home, put on the leg compression devices, and rest up for the big Saturday ride.

The band’s name? HTFU, of course.

I told you they were cyclists.

It’s black and white

August 22, 2014 § 30 Comments

Bicycling in Southern California is not always fraught with racial issues. They exist, but cyclists from different backgrounds spend most of their time talking about bikes rather than race.

But even though this topic isn’t addressed much while riding, it sometimes makes its way into the cycling community via current events, which are then “discussed” on fora like Facebag. The discussions follow a familiar pattern. Someone remarks that an action (shooting an unarmed kid in the head) is racist. Then someone says it isn’t. And things go sideways from there.

No resolution is ever reached, it seems. The black person remains convinced that the event in question was racist, and the comments of the white person usually end up coming across as racist as well. The white person denies being racist and gets furious at being called one, even as he suggests reasons why black people are “the way they are” or why they are in “the situation they are in.” For good measure he might say “you people.”

This hurts our cycling community, some of whose most successful and illustrious riders are black, and injects doubt and suspicion into relationships.

I don’t think it has to be this way.

Part of the reason we have such a hard time resolving racial issues is because we — and I mean we white people — are not very good at talking about race. Most white people, whether they believe we live in a racist society or a fair society, when they talk about race they talk about black people. They analyze black communities, they criticize, the explain, they give advice, they compare statistics of blacks versus whites, they talk about black culture, and they may even talk about black history. The worst ones will quote Martin Luther King to try and prove some essentially racist point.

This to me is bizarre for two reasons. First, white people really don’t have anything to contribute to the analysis or understanding of blacks. Whether you think racism is rampant or whether you think this is the most equal country on earth, as a white person you don’t have anything to add about what it means to be black. So when you talk about black behavior, you’re already losing the battle of discussing race. You’re talking about something you’re unqualified to speak on, and you’re talking in way that is offensive to the very people you’re supposedly trying to convince.

As a white person, the thing you should have expertise about is being white. But white people are strangely unable to articulate how their race affects their life. Unlike blacks, who seem keenly aware and articulate when it comes to talking about their black experience, I’ve never heard a white person talk about what it’s like to be white.

So the conversation is terribly one-sided, with blacks talking about their racial experiences, and whites talking about blacks’ racial experiences. It’s ineffective and it’s insulting.

How can you start to understand race as a white person? It’s pretty simple. Ask yourself what kinds of things happen to you because you’re white. Everyone’s experience is different, but here a few that apply to me.

  • Because I’m white, I’m not afraid of the police if I’m not breaking the law.
  • Because I’m white, people assume I’m a law-abiding citizen.
  • Because I’m white, people assume I’m hard-working and smart until I demonstrate otherwise.
  • Because I’m white, I can buy or rent a home in almost any place that I can afford one.
  • Because I’m white, potential clients trust me.
  • Because I’m white, when I lived in Asia I was treated well.
  • Because I’m white, when I travel in most of Europe I blend in until I open my mouth.
  • Because I’m white, none of my forebears in this country were slaves.
  • Because I’m white, my great-great-grandfather was a slaveholder.
  • Because I’m white, I’ve always been free to vote and encouraged to do so.
  • Because I’m white, no one ever called me a racial epithet.
  • Because I’m white, I graduated from a good college and a very good law school.
  • Because I’m white, I live in a neighborhood with lots of other whites.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. “Those things didn’t happen to you just because you’re white. They happened to you for other reasons as well. You worked hard, your parents helped you, you’re financially responsible, etc.”

And you’re right. There are lots of factors that have made my life the way it is, dumb luck being the biggest. But we’re not talking about those things, remember? We’re talking about race, and we’re trying to understand its importance for ourselves. How has it helped us? How has it hurt us? Has it hurt us? How has our racial identity been used to hurt others? Would our daily experience be the same if we weren’t white?

The best explanation of white racial identity I’ve ever seen was the satirical blog, “Stuff White People Like.” It was good because it talked about race from the standpoint of white culture — making fun of it, to be sure, but couching the discussion in terms of what white people think, how they are treated, how they behave. Although much of it was silly, all of it was racial without pretending to talk about what black people like, or how black people are, or worse, how black people should be.

It viewed the world from the satirical perspective of how being white shapes our lives. It was wildly successful because of its rarity. Thinking about our advantages and disadvantages from the lens of being white was out of the box.

Unfortunately, most white people take their race for granted because it’s rarely an issue. Instead, they use “race” to mean “other people’s race.” And when terrible things like Ferguson or Trayvon Martin happen, what’s needed is for all of us to try and understand how our ethnicity plays a role.

Rodney King asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Apparently not. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

END

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Double punch to the face and groin

August 20, 2014 § 4 Comments

For a long time I have been telling LA and Orange County wankers to get off their asses and go do the Swami’s Ride, which leaves every Saturday from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas at 8:05 AM. Finally, a whole bunch of them listened, and last Saturday night as I watched one of the fastest masters racers in America do backflips off a cliff into a swimming pool wearing a thong while a 200-lb. long-haired pig rooted around the pool area and people started taking off most of their clothes and jumping into the pool after drinking a keg of Lost Abbey BWR Ale … what was I saying?

Oh, yeah. So, there I was at Phil’s 40th birthday bash and it turned out that many of the attendees had also taken the Swami’s Challenge and done the ride. Here’s what they had to say:

“Very hard ride.”

“Hardest group ride ever.”

“Hard. That was a hard ride.”

“Man, that was hard.”

“Super hard.”

And of course, my favorite comment, “Hard.”

So now that everyone from outside North County San Diego agrees with me that yes, the Swami’s Ride is hard, it’s time for me to introduce two painful punches, an old friend and a new one.

The old friend is the SPY Holiday Ride. I blather about it all the time because it, too, is a very hard ride. That’s “hard” as in “very painful and difficult.” As in “You will get shelled.” As in “Not easy.” The next SPY Holiday Ride is on Labor Day. It leaves at 8:00 AM from RIDE Cyclery. There are lots of good reasons to do this ride, but the best one is that most of the fastest riders will be at masters nationals, which means you might not get dropped immediately.

The next-to-best reason is that this ride symbolizes grass roots riding at its best. Beer primes are given away (a case per prime), and it’s the result of a company — SPY Optic — supporting bicycle riding on a community level. You don’t have to race or have a license, just a bike, a pair of legs, and the desire to shrink your ego down a few dozen sizes.

The second punch, and by far the more painful one, is the SPYclocross Series. The series starts on September 20 and has six races. In past years, SoCal cross series races have not qualified for USA Cycling upgrade points, starting positions at nationals, or juice boxes because, money. SPY has stepped up (*note to self: let’s find a better verb. “Jumped up.” “Drunkenly staggered up.” “Raged to the fore like a crazy man with aliens in his undergarments.”) and donated the extortionate, ridiculous, bullshit fees that USAC demands in order to ensure that the grass roots are not only mown as short as possible, but dug up as well.

Whatever. Thanks to SPY the series now “counts,” which is kind of a bummer because I always used the “no staging points for nationals” as my excuse for not going.

The series has everything that the road season doesn’t. Great and exciting venues. Spectators. A minimum of shattered braincases or the likelihood thereof. And although it is not allowed and I will personally report anyone caught drinking it, beer. Fortunately, since there are no craft breweries in San Diego (the site of the first race), sobriety should not be a problem.

Cyclocross is a growing sport, in part because studies show that if you are crappy as a road racer, you will redefine suckery in ‘cross. However, it allows the purchase of new equipment, you never get pulled, it sounds vaguely hipster, and if you take it seriously and train for it you will get to say things like “Ryan Dahl only lapped me twice.”

Swami’s Ride? Holiday Ride? SPYclocross Series? Pick yer poison.

Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing

August 19, 2014 § 11 Comments

People are so darned lonely, and it’s not hard to see why. They fart. They smell bad in the morning. They leave skid marks in their shorts and whiskers in the sink, and they forget to flush and to put the cap back on the toothpaste. And then of course they have their bad habits, too.

I have noticed many unhappy and lonely bicycle riders, and in order to help fix them up I have developed a new web site that uses the patented Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing ™, or “WACT,” pronounced “whacked.” You can find it at www.wact.com.

The web site uses a sophisticated logarithm (that’s a really thick algorithm for all you non-math majors) to match bicycling personalities so that they can find the perfect person with whom they can enjoy a happy-go-lucky coffee, casual conversation, and boning.

First, answer these questions:

  1. I like cycling because:
    1. Exercise
    2. Health
    3. Hairlessness
    4. Tight shorts
    5. Boning
  2. After riding with my friends I enjoy:
    1. Sitting at CotKU, sipping coffee, and chatting about the ride
    2. Going home and reading the product write-ups on CompetitiveCyclist.com
    3. Comparing my Strava stats with those of my pals
    4. Zooming in on the FB photos of women’s crotches standing on the podium
    5. Boning
  3. Cycling and craft beer go together because:
    1. They are both healthy and natural
    2. Strong beer gives you a good buzz after a hard workout
    3. You can enjoy local, hand-crafted beer while riding a local, handmade frame and saving the environment plus smugness
    4. Biker chicks at brew pubs get sloppy drunk after two DIPA’s and start rubbing their breasts against you
    5. Boning

If you answered “E” to all of the above, or if you answered A – D while secretly thinking about E, then you should consider signing up for the Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing ™ dating site. Here’s how it works:

You input a link to your favorite Strava segment and the time that you will be on it. Then you check one of the following boxes next to your segment:

Coffee

Sitting on his/her/its wheel and ogling

Boning

If another cyclists “likes” your segment and the time you’ve designated, he/she/it (usually “it”) then selects a radio button. However, he/she/it can’t see which button you’ve selected. If he/she/it/Stathis selects the same button you selected, you’ve got a “Wanky Match.” Your cell phone will then emit a high-pitched, ear-piercing sound reminiscent of someone whose toe got caught in a meat grinder, and the contact information of your “Wanky Match” will flash across the screen.

You then swipe the app and it takes you to “Steamy Wanky Revelation” where you will see all the of the juicy details about your Wanky Match, such as:

  • Vegan
  • Bathes weekly
  • 110 watts FTP
  • Favorite pastime: WKO+ Training Peaks
  • Di2
  • Divorced (5 times)
  • Employed (once, in 1987)
  • Loves romantic evenings with that special someone in an oxygen tent
  • Favorite place: Mom’s basement

[Note: These are merely sample personal details of your Wanky Match. Actual personal characteristics and hygiene will be gnarlier.]

Unlike other dating sites, with Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing ™, you only pay when you get on your partner’s “leader board.” If you help your member reach the summit in record time, he/she/it/Stathis will award you a KOM which then goes in your Wanky Match profile. The more KOM’s, the more confidence you have that your Wanky Match knows how to pound out the watts.

Due to the early developmental phase of the project, interested participants are asked to send an email to the project director, Mr. Divad Zerep, zerep@gmail.com. Please include a valid credit card number with expiration date and CVV, as well as your Social Security Number, DOB, and a house key.

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 8: Annual Review

August 18, 2014 § 22 Comments

The most important part of your season comes now: After your season.

If you have been following the Wanky Training Plan ™ since January, you will have a solid season of results to carefully review. Your performance in each race will provide key insights into aspects of your racing that need improvement, as well as those aspects in which you have excelled, and will therefore seek to replicate next year.

The most crucial aspect of the Wanky Training Plan ™, and the one that has likely been hardest for you to implement, has of course been the high cadence pedaling style. If you stuck with it, you have likely seen a revolution in your performance as you have metamorphosed from a plodding clogstacle into a graceful, speedy, gazelle.

To help you properly review your season, I’ve selected some of my best results from 2014 so that you can see how a proper evaluation will lead to analysis of strengths and weaknesses for 2015.

Boulevard Road Race: The season began with a powerful and impressive DNF, in which all of the successful strength and high rpm-training exercises in the off season came to fruition. Although I did not actually finish the race, I got to test several electrolyte replacement fluids for ease of digestion and ease of puking them back out on the climb.

Red Trolley Crit: My first crit of the year featured a strong moral victory in which I went to the front and spun very hard. Although I did not actually finish the race, the key objective of not falling off my bicycle was achieved 100%.

UCLA Road Race: This was a super hard race and marked the first time in 2014 that I finished a race, so it was actually considered a first-place finish (by me) even though the technical placing was 29th. Out of 30. By spinning very quickly I was able to not over-tire myself, meeting another key objective, i.e. looking good on the finish line.

CBR Race #2: In my second crit of 2014, I achieved an impressive finish by finishing. Spinning played a key role in my ability to achieve 26th place out of 37 racers, a massive improvement of three placing from the week before. Simple math showed that in a mere eight more races I would mathematically be guaranteed to finish in first place.

Chuck Pontius Road Race: This was a blustery and challenging race where all aspects of the Wanky Training Plan ™ were utilized, including the refusal to cry. It also showed how continual spinning and recovery can lead to amazing results. I earned an impressive top ten finish, finishing 10th place out of ten finishes and 13 starters. Good things were clearly just around the bend as I was now peaking.

San Dimas Stage Race: Putting together all the pieces of a complex, 3-day stage race, I spun my way to 31st in the time trial,  39th in the road race, and 37th in the crit for an overall GC of 38th. This devastated the two racers who came in 39th and 40th, respectively, and showed that high cadence racing allows you to conserve until the end.

It was at this point in the season that things really came together — 22nd in the LA Circuit Race, 28th at the District Championships (29th place is still sobbing over his bitter defeat), and 146th at the Belgian Waffle Ride made this unquestionably the strongest spring campaign I’ve had in 30+ years of bike racing. But the best was yet to come.

Although I did not finish either Saturday or Sunday of the 805 Crit Series, we successfully rented a motor home and did not drive it off a cliff or get arrested. Thanks, Wanky Training Plan ™!

 

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