Monday, May 28, 2007

A few thoughts on War and Peace

This post is a book report about War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace, as is commonly known, is long, so I won’t discuss the entire thing. My opinion is that if you read the Bible and War and Peace, you’d have an essentially complete picture of what life is about. Interestingly, both of these books are long, and this report is probably too long also.

Intertwined with the main plot, Tolstoy attacks the historians of his day. I only took one history course in college (at UC Berkeley – so you can take that with a grain of salt), so I can’t say for sure if their opinion is still commonly held. Probably not. Their view was that heroes, or great individuals, shaped history. Tolstoy uses the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, the military genius extraordinaire, to illustrate his point. Historians claimed that Napoleon by the sheer force of his will conquered all of Europe, northern Africa, and Moscow. Tolstoy argues that Napoleon was merely allowed to do what he did by the will of a higher power, namely God. He possessed no inherent greatness. Tolstoy gives an interesting analogy about sheep to support his view. Suppose we’re all a bunch of sheep, and we observe that one of us is getting extra food so is getting very healthy and fat. If we’re like the historians, we think that sheep must be a genius. If we want to be fat and happy, we should try to emulate that sheep as best as we can. Clearly, this thinking is nonsense because the fat sheep did nothing of itself to reach this enlightened state.

This idea has changed the way I view our current political situation. I thought that the President and his cabinet was driving our response to terrorism, rogue states, etc., and I felt some bitterness towards them. Taking the view that God is directing the world’s affairs removes some stress from my mind. And that’s all I’ll say here.

One of the key characters in the book is a rich aristocrat named Pierre. Pierre spends a good deal of effort worrying about what he’s going to do with his life. He joins the Freemasons, implements major reforms for his estates, and plans an assassination of Napoleon. However, he still feels that his life is purposeless. During the war with the French he is captured and spends several months as a POW. While his freedom to decide even mundane things such as what to eat and when to sleep is removed, he realizes that freedom is not based in externalities.

Smartly, I’m doing my best to avoid any sort of prison. I use bike racing to learn suffering in the hope that I can apply some mental dexterity to the rest of my life.

In conclusion, War and Peace is a good book.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Our friend the Olympian

This weekend the Special Olympics New Mexico Summer Games were held here in Albuquerque. Our friend Shaylene competed in track and field and volleyball. She took home three gold medals and a silver. Congratulations, Shaylene!

Shaylene (middle) leads the Parade of Athletes during the opening ceremonies along with the other New Mexico athletes who'll be representing the U.S.A. in the World Games in China this October. Shaylene will be competing in swimming at the World Games. You can read her bio on the Team USA page.

Shaylene's team wins silver in the 4 x 100m relay.

Shaylene's team takes gold in Unified Volleyball. Shaylene also won golds in both of her individual races on Saturday!

"Let me win, but if I cannot then let me be brave in the attempt."
--Special Olympics Oath

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Thanks, Mom!

For Mothers' Day this year, Mom came from Indiana to visit us. She kept doing our dishes, taking us out to dinner, scrubbing our floors, washing our windows, and then complaining that there wasn't much work to do. Thanks, Mom!

Mom rode the Suteki while she was here -- to church, to the library, to the bank, to our local pizza place. She joined me in one of my favorite pastimes: ride to restaurant, buy a Coke, sit and read a book while sipping Coke, ride home.

Here's Mom and Dad last summer in DC. Sorry you couldn't come this time, Dad. We missed you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Race #2: Belen

Race number 2 for the year was Saturday in the ruralish town of Belen (emphasis on the 'en'), about 40 miles south of Albuquerque. The 45 mile course was mostly flat with a few rollers here and there -- very good for a large (170lb) man such as myself -- or so I thought ... Small bunch spring finish in the end -- I felt okay, getting right behind guys surging to the front. Then there was only Luke the Los Alamosian (orange jersey two riders behind me) to pass, but he had enough speed to beat me by about a wheel length. Good job by him. Luke weighs 130 lbs-- how does he sprint so fast? For the sake of my pride -- this is my story after all -- let it be known that I beat him up the Thursday hill climbs on a number of occasions last summer.

During the race, I was really trying to help my friend Chris (blue jersey right behind me (the man in the yellow hat)). Partly because he's a really good climber and partly because on a reaper ride a few weeks ago, he went to my office to get my badge that I accidentally left behind. That kept me from getting a frowny sticker on my record.

I must warn you, my fans, that this will likely be my best finish for the near future. I will be moving up a category for the next race, and it's a hill climb.

Nothing eases the sting of a close loss like a green chile cheeseburger, rasberry phosphate, and chocolate malt with wife and mom-in-law (taking the photo). Note the cyclist in the background who was playing some groovy music on a boombox while riding on the wrong side of the road. Sweet, ABQ!

I might even post more often now that I've gotten started.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Of bike travels past

As of today I'm freed from medical watch. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!!

I'm looking forward to doing some travelling by bike this summer. Here's a collection of some of my favorite bike-adventure pictures.
2003, on our most ambitious and memorable bike tour: 10 days, 700 miles mostly in Michigan and ending in Indiana (Oops! Chad thinks I've exaggerated both time and distance in retrospect, and that it was actually 500 miles in 7 days). We rode from one relative's house to another to another and so on, receiving heroes' welcomes everywhere.

June 2005, river crossing near Pojoaque, on the way from Los Alamos to Taos. A good argument for biking in sandals.

One of my favorite pictures. I'd follow that guy anywhere, but there looks especially nice. This is September 2005, just uphill from Arroyo Seco, a little town between Taos and Taos ski valley. A great place to bike, and worth going just for the Taos Cow Ice Cream.

July 2006. We encounter some mud on the last leg of a three-day Los Alamos/Jemez Springs/Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Los Alamos loop.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ain't hardly nothing better than spring

The happy little front yard of our happy little house is blooming like mad, thanks to our kind landlord who planted beautiful things years ago, and to Chad's dad who whipped the yard into shape a few weeks ago. And thanks to God who sends the rain, and to Chad who collects the rain in big trash cans.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

City Bikes, City Routes

Last week we got to hang out a bit with Tarik (of Moscaline fame). He came for dinner on Thursday on his folding bike --ingeneous and fun!

On the weekend, Chad and I rode around town:
Saturday's first destination was the IHOP, and we made a city-riding day of it, including stops at the mall, Tricentennial Park, Route 66 Malt Shop for lunch, and Lowe's for something Chad needed to attach a fender. Here's that route.

On Sunday after church we went with the Polkadot Family to lunch at Fuddruckers, ate good burgers (if you're keeping a burger count, yes, that's 2 in 2 days), played tabletop napkin football, talked for a couple of hours. This was the farthest that I'd ridden on my mixte, the Suteki (and in a skirt). On the way home I picked up a big ol' goathead thorn around the area of the highway crossing-- thorn resistant tube was no match for this guy. These thorns are the reason we generally avoid bike paths and stick to the roads, where cars do us the service of sweeping debris away. See map here.