Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eat this, not that

I recently watched Jamie Oliver's new TV show on ABC, "Food Revolution" - or I should say that I tried  to watch it. It was horrendous. Oliver, who made his name in the U.K. as the Naked Chef, is trying to help tackle the obesity problem in the U.S., starting with a a re-vamp of the school lunch program at an elementary school in Huntington, West Virginia. After winning the title of the fattest city in the U.S., you'd think Huntington's residents would at least be mildly concerned with their health, their children's health and the fact that the people of Huntington look like they're slowly being consumed by giant marshmallow bodies. I saw only one or two people in the first episode that actually had necks. The rest were - to put it bluntly - overweight and fat.

But the great people of Huntington showed Oliver that he'd have to pry their frozen pizzas, chicken fingers and chocolate milk from their cold, dead and fat hands before they'd covert to a diet of only "lettuce." They were rude, close-minded, and resistant with anything to do with changing their diet. The school lunch workers were more interested in doing their job than actually thinking about the ramifications of what they were doing to the kids.  Apparently diabetes, heart disease and seeing your children balloon into slobs aren't enough to convince people to put down the fries. If the we really wanted to get people to care about obesity, the connection between being overweight and having erectile dysfunction should be at the top of the list. Want to have a good sex life? Lose some weight.

Poor Jamie Oliver. He's up against the worst of the worst. And things are so dire that a man who wrote a book titled "How to lose friends and alienate people," is giving Oliver advice on dealing with Huntington.

Some of Huntington's kids may never taste real chicken as what they're being served in the school cafeteria might list the first ingredient as "chicken" but then has a novel's worth of chemicals on the ingredients list. These kids probably consume more high fructose corn syrup than corn.

I work in a public school in a low-income neighborhood and see what the kids eat: fried chicken patties served along side ranch dressing, chocolate milk, burritos, deep-fried egg rolls and maybe an apple or pear (which as Jamie notes, always end up in the garbage). And the school uses Styrofoam plates. It's depressing.

But some places are doing it right. There's group in Berkeley, California doing the exact same thing as Jamie Oliver. The Berkeley School Lunch Initiative is teaching kids about nutrition, cooking and healthy eating. And the contrast between Berkeley and Huntington is vast. But before the old argument of Berkeley having its leftist hippie-now-wealthy parents take care of their food program, watch the video. Nearly 40% of school kids in Berkeley are living below the poverty level. And they still get feed fresh, healthy and delicious food.

This is proof that change can happen. Food doesn't have to be fake and kids can be healthy. Adults should have necks and not need to request the special fat chair without arms at the Olive Garden. Hopefully Huntington, West Virgina figures that out.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pour your self a cup of strong coffee

I'm starting off the day with some Enter-the-Dragon bad ass-ness:

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. (from this rad website for quotes).
Time get things done!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Domo - Arigato, Mr. Merckx-aboto

It was probably only inevitable that my bike's purity would become comprised. I started out with Shimano as the gateway components but over the years Sram has worked its dirty (and cheaper) little parts into my gruppo. Campy bikes won't even lean against mine, and when I told my mechanic that I was into parts-swapping, he said he wouldn't judge me. But he raised his eyebrows, and spent a lot of time washing his hands after working on my bike.

But with all things kinky and bike-related, I like to know what I'm getting into. Sure, "Sram" sounds like an Eastern European pastry while "Shimano" is more like how the Japanese might describe a natural break as in "excuse me, I must shimano before we get to the feed zone." And "Campagnolo" is Italian for "I've got a  shiner legs than you and wear as much white as possible."  Campie also infers that you prefer wool jerseys, sometimes fashion your hair into a mullet as to get a better wind blown look, and might still have toe straps and leather shoes.

Eddy would never use anything that wasn't made by a Giovanni or a Leonardo.

Getting down to the gritty details of my gruppo, Sram wins in the sense that  its marketing departing chose real words to describe its products. Sure "Force" and "Rival" are simplistic but they're creative strong images like this of Jan Ullrich's gut-busting face. Now that is a picture of FORCE.

Don't use the bathroom after Jan. He doesn't light a candle.

But what about Ultegra? Dura-Ace? Tiagra? Sora? I did some research and all Shimano tells me is that Ultegra is "a solid performer," which also sounds like an Ullrich bowel movement.  Dura-Ace gets all the quality marketing attention with this campaign of Shimano-Yumeya. According to the website, "yumeya" means "dream workshop," which may be another phrase that is lost in translation. Or maybe Shimano HQ pipes in some Gary Wright songs to inspire creativity. However, looking up Dura-Ace in an online Kanji dictionary I got "hairpiece or wig."

I think I'll stick with what I can understand. Unless I decide to pervert my new Sram gruppo with these colorful KCNC brakes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Green Thumb of Death

What's the opposite of a green thumb? Death thumb? Black thumb? Anti-life thumb?

As with children, I've never been good with plants. I don't understand them and they seem to despise me. Outside of the water and sunshine requirements, my plants seem to be exceptionally needy and always on a hunger strike. Or maybe they have eating disorders from being around too many cyclists? I should give the Cytomax and sprinkle their soil with some Probar crumbles, since Molly Cameron seems to be all over that stuff. And she's pretty fast.

I planted a small back porch garden last summer. Living in the city, I have minimal access to sunlight and I learned that my north-facing balcony doesn't get enough sun for tomatoes, broccoli and other leafy plants. The plastic pot my spinach was in overheated and fried that crop, so I'll have to switch to clay if I try those again. But root vegetables did very well and I even shifted my onion and garlic plants indoor for the winter. Currently, they are setting a streak for "most days living."

But what I'm really growing this spring are drugs. A couple of weeks ago I heard a radio interview with James Wong, an ethnobotanist. Wong has both put out a short BBC TV series and now a book about turning your garden into a medicine cabinet. But the best part?
''Most herb species live in poor environments with low water and low fertiliser..."
It's the perfect garden for a person like me if the herbs thrive under an ill-educated and harsh gardening regime!

Other links that have been helpful:

Life on the Balcony - a perfect starting point and reference

Inhabitant has a good starter's guide to urban gardening as well (with lots of pictures!)

And of course, before you even get started check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map and USDA Plant Hardiness Indicators. This will give you an idea of what you can plant.

This rosemary plant tried to die but I've coaxed it back from the edge

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This aggression will not stand

Like most people, I went out on the town last night. And like most people, I woke up with the taste of bacon in my mouth and the Scorpions on repeat in my head. But nothing sets your head straight like seeing the shit storm that's blowing up on Twitter (pre-NCAA tournament) about the comments ESPN radio host Tony Kornheiser made about cyclists. Apparently the fact that Kornheiser was slowed or just unamused by cyclists in the bike lanes was enough to set off a fire storm of ignorant commentary.
"Let them use the right, I'm OK with that. I don't take my car and ride on the sidewalk because I understand that's not for my car … Why do these people think that these roads were built for bicycles? ... They dare you to run them down."
My first question was - where were Kornheiser's fact checkers? There's got to be some young college kid dying to break into the sports radio industry that would at least make sure Kornheiser wasn't going on the air, spouting totally inaccurate statements, right? Right??  Otherwise, he would have had to craft a much more sophisticated argument of hatred about cyclists. But instead he went the old route, resorting to: why do these people think that these roads were built for cyclists? Well, Tony, if there are bike lanes or bike markings on that road then yes, they were built for cyclists. Those white lines and that white figure on a bicycles? That was explicitly designed for cyclists so that you don't drive your car there. Maybe it would help if the car lanes had pictures of cars added to reduce the confusion that Kornheiser seems to be suffering from.

I'm a cyclist and a driver. I vote (and pay!) for taxes, levies, etc.,  that improve the quality of our streets because I use them for a variety of types of transportation. I'm sick of this mindset of "I should only pay taxes for the things that I use." We live in a civil society which means that some of your tax dollars go towards funding programs that benefit other populations and the greater good.

There are a lot of people that think like Kornheiser. And while I can't compensate for the bad experiences he may have had with bicycles or bicyclists (learning to ride a two-wheeler can be scary Tony, we know), I can put forth a positive image every time I get on my bike wearing "the little water bottle in the back and the stupid hats and their shiny shorts." 'Cause nothings lamer or more disgusting that athletes that wear body-hugging clothing or hats (which eliminates football, baseball and a couple more popular sports).

And last but not least, Kornheiser pissed off Lance Armstrong. Really Tony? You want to tick off a dude who's won seven Tour de Frances, is one of Nike's premium athletes and has nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers?

If you want to leave a comment for Kornheiser, here's the link to ESPN's page.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What exactly is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

I was watching tv awhile ago when I saw this commercial with two mildly attractive (if you're into the "mom with the tucked in pants"-type) women talking about high fructose corn syrup. The ad looked to be a well-financed commercial endeavor unlike most political ads, but the bitch factor was high. One mom accused the other of not caring about her kids by letting them drink colored juice-like product that had high fructose corn syrup which was met by a retort of "do you know what high fructose corn syrup even is?"

Oh, snap!

But the sassy momma's comeback stung. In truth, I didn't know what high fructose corn syrup was and had just assumed like anti-matter or New Coke, I didn't to really understand it to know that it wasn't good. And I also wanted to know why the Corn Refiners Association was spending nearly $30 million to convince me that I shouldn't abandon their product  Unfortunately the ad didn't reach an important demographic - executives of huge corporations - as companies like Pepsi and Snapple in the past  year have moved to distance their product from HFCS.

Here's that industry-paid-for commercial on You Tube

What the heck exactly is HFCS?
My journey began on the internet. And it turns out that tons of smart people - some with "doctor" in front of their names! - had already researched and written on HFCS! Specifically one Dr. Will, whose delicious bars I have sampled at many cyclocross events, had a good article breaking down the difference between corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup. High fructose corn sweeter is both a sweetener and a preservative for foods making them cheaper to produce and easier to transport. The process of creating HFCS sounds as simple as creating cold fusion in your bathtub, a complex chemical breakdown that starts with basic corn syrup and ends with product about as "corn" as Heidi Montag's new plastic body. Quoting from a 2006 article in the New York Times, Michael F. Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest,"says that unlike sugar molecules, which reside in the stalks of sugar cane or the beets that are used to make sugar, high-fructose corn syrup is artificial because it is not found anywhere in corn." Dr. Will's blog noted that they use corn syrup in their product as opposed to high fructose corn syrup to provide a "health risk free sweetener."

What the heck does HFCS do?
More specifically, what does HFCS do to me? Michael Pollan called out sweeteners like HFCS back in 2002 for links to diabetes and obesity among other health issues. Since then, research has proven some of Pollan's claims to be true, like this 2008 study linking a diet high in HFCS to obesity in rats. While the Corn Refiners Association has toted the  "all things in moderation" tagline for HFCS, a $30 million ad campaign coupled with somewhere between $40 to $200 billion in government subsidies over the past twenty years seems to suggest otherwise.

After all I've read, HFCS sounds about as appealing as a Heidi Montag album. While it might be good for some huge food corporations, I'd think I'll go through my refrigerator and make some edits.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frank and Andy Schleck should not play poker

March 10, 2010: Andy Schleck tries to reinforce his and brother Frank's faith in Bjarne Riis finding them a sponsor after Saxo-Bank pulls out.

March 13, 2010: Marc Biver announces he's trying to put together a cycling team that would be made up by the entire population of Luxembourg, i.e. the Schleck brothers.

Any day now: Bjarne Riis attempts to sell kidney/first born child in exchange for money to keep the Schlecks with him.

Take notes from the Brad Wiggins-Sky-Garmin debacle; professional cyclists are bad at acting.


The real secret to winning Olympic gold? Bill Demong and teammates put in lots of practice on the bike, like racing Gila and Tour of Utah. Before winning a gold medal in Vancouver, Demong was also known as "the dude Chris Horner hauled to the top of Mt. Bachelor at the Cascade Cycling Classic in 2008."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finally! Google gets on the bike!

Though I always thought Google was ahead of the trend, it took a long time for them to roll out their bike map feature on maps.

I decided to take the maps for a little test drive versus some of the other mapping websites, like Map My Ride and see how they compare. I picked a short route that I ride very often from my house to the Nike campus using bike paths, bike lanes and busy roads. Here's what I got from both.

Map My Ride
  • Total ride distance:8.53 miles
  • Auto-routed to bike paths? Yes
  • Shows elevation: Yes
  • Pros: Picking own route
  • Cons: Having to plot every point.
Google Maps
  • Total ride distance: 8.6 miles (estimates that it'll take me a little over an hour to get there. A nice feature but not very accurate)
  • Auto-routed to bike paths? Yes, and shows paths on "bicycling" filter
  • Shows elevation? Well, shows terrain and I guess I could use that to see how hilly it is.
  • Pros: easy, like all other Google maps.
  • Cons: probably best for commuting and getting around town.
I'm going to keep playing with routes but according to the feedback on, Google seems to have gotten in right.

Glad to see that cycling is being supported on this level especially in light of all the public transportation cuts that are happening/planned.

Monday, March 8, 2010

To Paris-Nice via Twitter

Favorite Twitter feeds for cycling stuff (non-Lance Armstrong).

@Steephill for non-Versus coverage of cycling events. This guy has the best live feeds.

@allencolim, Garmin's former docter headed to Radio Shack is usually in the follow car giving some good play-by-play (or pedal-by-pedal).

@andy_schleck and @schleckfrank are the best for Euro semi-English tweets. Even better is when Jens Voigt takes over their feeds and goes renegade.

@bradwiggins. Subtle f-bomb usage.

@pro_cycling. Neither Cycling New or Velonews.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rim to the road

Someone in the rubber industry hates me. This is the only logical way to explain the rash of flat tires I've had recently. And like all kind of rashes, this one is driving me a  bit crazy. I spend more time on the side of the road using a pump the size of a tampon and looking like I'm giving a handjob to someone than I do actually on my bike.All this pumping action is going to give me biceps like one of those dudes on "Jersey Shore."
Here's the part where most people say things like, "you should try new tubes/tires/not riding through fields of glass," but in truth I've been a rubber-whore. I've tried out Continental, Schwalbe, Vittoria, Specialized, Panaracer, Michelin, chewing gum, etc. I've booted, patched, replaced what at last count I estimated to be about 423 tubes over the past couple years.

Coincidentally some one at this PDX company must have had me in mind when designing the Magic Flute, a stylish bike pump made for those down on on their tire luck. If only they needed someone to product test...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Life on the cheap

Is there anything more satisfying that saving yourself some money? Unless you're the Canadian hockey team and just waking up from your Molson Ice-gold medal hangover, probably not. And I just saved myself some money this weekend. Here's how:

Cheap Car Repair 101:  I live in a place with a lot of rain. I only like to be wet when I'm outside and/or racing cyclocross. I do not like to be wet in my car. So when my car rack started to wear through my weatherstripping (which kind of sounds like the name for a hippy stripper), I was not happy. No one likes to be wet in their car. No one should be wet in their car. And so with a swiftness and decisiveness that would make the Obama administration jealous, I found a quick and cheap fix as opposed to buying and installing new weatherstripping.

Solution: old bike tubes. I might not have created cold fusion but I found a use for my old bike tubes and reinforced/repaired my weatherstripping.

Cheap Coffee 101: I'm new to drinking coffee. It was only in the past couple of years that I discovered the manic wonderfulness of being caffeinated. But there's a recession going on and creamy lattes are only for those getting Goldman Sachs-type of bonuses. A barista filled me in on how to enjoy frothy coffee on the cheap.

Solution: French press lattes. With instant coffee or French press coffee, some flavor (if that's what your into) and milk, you can make a decent latte. Heat up the milk, add it to the French press and froth. So easy. So cheap. Other people might have figured this stuff all about before me but I am pretty darn pleased.
Not bad, matey?