And So it Begins… 100 Miles of Nowhere Prologue!

Here we go, here we go, here we go go… go, on the Sickle Court Tasting Room and Grill 100 Miles of Nowhere.

A few months back I signed up for this fun fundraiser at the Fatcyclist website, benefiting Camp Kesem, a camp for kids who have parents with cancer.  Essentially, it’s a 100 mile bike ride, this weekend (or when you can fit it in) and you get to make up the  course as you see fit.  Some folks ride in a window on a trainer, some folks go in circles around their neighborhood and others do something else.  Here are some examples from the website:

*** Everyone who does the 100 Miles of Nowhere has done something ridiculously epic. There are some folks, though, who have truly raised this crazy event to an art form. Here are a few:

Read about how this works here.

I’m going to have to break this up into separate stages, in a manner very very similar different than the Tour De California/France/Italy.  We’re heading to Oceanside tomorrow for vacation, so today was the Prologue!, defined loosely as: “an early morning ride of about 16 miles done prior to the 100 degree temps that are decending upon Northern California out of flippin’ nowhere”.  You can see it here

Prologue strava

So, headed out this morning about 6:15, tried to use the Timelapse App on my phone to capture some of the outing but only got about a mile, stopped when I met up with my buddy Terre.  Off we went, down through the countryside, past the dairy, church we attend, some goats, future hamburger patties and some significant road kill.  A good start to the big race, nobody was injured and the Black Jersey was mine!  Terry tried to hang but since he bailed out early at his house, I won the Prologue!.  Mainly because I’m the only member of the Sickle Court Tasting Room and Grill Racing Team participating.

Arriving to the sounds of thousands of adoring  silence, I proceeded to immediately replenish the calories expended in the Prologue!  A few eggs wrapped in tortilla awesomeness and some coffee. Then the real work began.  Unfortunately, my support crew was still sleeping (hard to find good help these days) and when one awoke, he had baseball practice to get to.  The other one we let sleep, for the good of the earth.  I was therefore left to my own devices to find, assemble and install the support vehicle bike rack and luggage case.  And, once again, my masseuse was unavailable for a quick rub down. Is this how other professionals participants finish Day 1 of their personal 100 Miles of Nowhere?  Probably not.  Finished product here:

100MilesSupportVehicle

And thankfully, I was able to capture the moment of victory on my own podium of one:

100milesprologueWinner

Yes, that’s a flower (no bouquet available) and a lovely refreshment (Captain and Coke).  That’s how the Prologue! finished.  Tomorrow is a travel day and I’m looking forward to getting to Oceanside, finding a soft spot on the beach and praying that the 6 teens that are coming along with us provide the race support that I’m accustomed to,  hoping for.

Monday’s stage:  TBD but probably something like a run up to San Clemente through the Camp Pendleton Marine Base.  Dodging tanks…

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The things you see on a bike…

Thought I’d give some of you out there (all 3 of you) a picture of what you see while out on a bike ride. Or at least what I’ve seen.

Animals: Cats, dogs, dogs that chase you (big and small), squirrels, lots of birds (hawks and owls are cool), turkeys, quail, raccoons (in the city), cows (dairy and otherwise), horses, etc.  The strangest was the racoon that I saw early one morning crossing Franklin Blvd. in South Sac.  Big guy, ran from left to right and climbed a fence as well as any cat. And just the other day I was out by the Stone Lake Wildlife area taking a break and watching ducks fly around when a goose came by and the size difference was similar to a big 747 landing alongside a Cessna.  These are BIG birds.

Dead things: mostly road kill of the rabbit, bird, skunk, dog, cat, rat, possum, snake, variety.  I think I saw a muskrat the other day too. Fortunately none of the human variety.

People:  all kinds, shapes, sizes.  Homeless guy at 5:45am walking around in the street with a cart piled high with cans; people holding signs; moms walking kids; kids walking to/from school (love this actually, better than getting picked up all the time); farmers running cattle through pens; UPS/FedEx guy; runners/walkers/bike riders; gym members getting a very early workout; coffee drinkers.  Lots and lots to see on a bike, as long as you’re paying attention to the road and cars too.

Smells: hmmm.  Let’s start with dairy smells.  When you’re in a car, it goes by fast.  On a bike, not so much.  And normally you have to go by twice, coming and going.  Campbells Soup has a plant in South Sac (closing soon) that would stink with tomato soup, which I can’t stand. Last week I’m pretty sure I got a contact high from all of the folks smoking pot in their cars on my way home. More than usual it seemed.  Fresh cut grass/hay/crops are great, the pollen in them not so much.

And the best:  Sunrise/sunsets if you’re so lucky to see them on a bike.  Add in a moon rise/set and it’s really pretty cool.

Have a great weekend ya’ll.

1st Bike Commute of the Year- An Essay…

Well, that was quite the eventful first ride to work of the year yesterday.  Last year I bought this road bike so that I could save some money and ride to work, getting exercise, save gas and produce less CO2.  Or, if you are this guy, perhaps you think I’m actually hurting the environment by breathing too much.  Whatever.

So, hopped on the bike around 5:20, trying to get out in front of the 5:45 rush down Franklin Blvd. through South Sac.  And I didn’t feel like rushing on the first run of the year.  It’s dark, I’ve got a head lamp on my helmet, a flashing light on the bike pointed forward and then also a red light on the back of the bike.  Whatever it takes to make sure people in cars, and the occasional homeless guy walking in the street with his cart, can see me.  I’ve also purchased a bright yellow vest this year, keeps the wind off my chest and makes me even more visible, day and night.  Safety first, you know.

That being said, over the past year, I’ve ridden close to 1500 miles, about 45 days of riding to work @22 miles round trip.  I’ve been close to cars in the past but nobody has really almost hit me.  Until this morning.  In a residential area, cruising along with all of my bright shiny lightness and yellow clothing, some bozo rolls up to a stop on my right (I’ve got no stop sign here, it’s a T intersection).  Dude slows, stops and while I’m coasting and watching him, it looks like he’s going to stay put.  I keep going and he pulls out.  This is the exciting part, dontcha know.  I’m braking, trying to pick a good spot on his front left fender to hit and starting to skid when he finally stops.  Fortunately, I was able to stay upright and not have to click out of my pedals, rode around in front of him and kept on going.  Needless to say, I was fully awake at that point.

So, lesson is, assume that they don’t see you unless you can look right at them in the eye.  Which I knew already but it really looked like this guy was stopped completely and letting me go by.  It was good to know that I can still handle a bike like when I was a kid, rather than just riding straight down the street.

More to come.  Feels really good to get back on the bike and ride to work, even at 40 degrees. And the contact high I got on the way home from all of the dudes smoking Skunk in their cars helped I’m sure.

Next post should probably be about all of the strange stuff I’ve seen in the morning/afternoon riding along….

My Triathlon training update

So, still need to sign up for it but I’m going to do the Fathers Day Sprint.  Kinda short but that’s fine.  400 yard swim, 8 mile bike and 2 mile run and then I’ll know if I want to do the longer one a month later.  But that might be the max because as I’ve been doing some training, I’m learning that my body is not really happy about this running stuff.  The swimming has been easier so far, what little I’ve done.

Which leads me to a discussion on newbie swimming.  Knowing that I have zero real experience in swimming over distance and that, compared to running (been doing that a while) and riding a bike (same), swimming has some techniques that can make you more efficient.  I’ve checked out the internets to learn more, as I’m that kind of guy, but now I kinda wished I would have done some competitive swimming.  Because…

When you show up at the gym at 5 freakin’ AM hoping that you’ll be the only person wanting to use one of the 3 (3!) lanes at the gym closest to my house and find all 3 lanes full, you’re not sure what to do.  Do I jump in and just follow along, knowing that I can’t do more than about 50m before I need to take a break?  Where does one take a break if stuck against the wall while the other dude in the same lane bears down on you?  And the dudes in the lane next to you are faster.

So I turned around and went home, got some coffee and went to work.  Came back that afternoon and got my swim on.

As for running, my IT bands got wacked pretty badly back in ’04 when I did the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon to raise money for Stroke victims.  And they still don’t like me for it.  Very, very tight legs, even after stretching.  But if one is intelligent (sometimes), one will listen to one’s body and take a day off.  Ta Da!  Much better.

Best part is I got about a 3 week jump on the training schedule so a day off here or there right now is ok.  Basically, I have an 11 week “Newbie Triathlete Training Plan” that the internets gave me and it really starts in 2 more weeks.

So, get off your butt and go tri (see that, right there?) something new.  Your body will thank you for it later.

Jackass, Ridiculousness and my (your) son- a blog

“Hi, my name is John and I enjoy watching Ridiculousness”

I just spent the last 2 hours watching Ridiculousness with my son and loved it.

First of all, let’s clear this up. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a female (girl/woman) do something so stupid that it showed up in a video on Ridiculousness.  Girls/Women are smarter than boys/men.  Clearly.

That being said, upon watching this show for about 5 total hours now, happily, I’ve come to the conclusion that it does not “give good kids bad ideas”. In fact, it gives relatively intelligent 13 year olds a window into what might happen to them should they attempt something stupid. The relatively (see how I use that word) intelligent ones are able to perform a rudimentary cost/benefit analysis based on what they’ve seen on TV/YouTube and at least not get seriously injured. I hope.

This type of insight was unavailable to me and my idiot friends (Mike K., Steve and Jeff B., Mark B., my brother, etc.) when we were putting a bunch of 2×4’s and a piece of plywood together with no nails and making a bike jump out of it.  It always ended well.

In the final analysis, I’m not doing that kind of stupid stuff anymore and it’s fun to watch on TV.  Better than Dallas, The Good Wife and Squatch, that’s for sure.

Watching Jackass in Italy now and loving it.  I might have to call my sponsor after this episode. Or the next…

Triathalon? Are you nuts?

I’ve done it. I’m desperate for another idiotic challenge and have joined the Elk Grove Triathlon Club. I even attended a meeting and everything. They served beer. And pizza. Very sneaky of them, luring me in with crack  pizza & beer.  These are smart people.  So the next step would be to actually sign up for a triathlon, you might think.  Which is correct except that I’m trying not to spend too much money and of course the deadline for the current price isn’t until May some time, for the July event.

Hello Mr. Procrastination…

So I guess I’ll actually sign up for one tonight.  Jake said he would do the Fathers Day one with me, a 400 yard swim, 8 mile bike and 2 mile run.  I’d love to take him up on the offer but the little bugger might beat me, which would be humbling and lead me to acknowledge the obvious:  that I’m not 21 and fit anymore.

I also need to check to see what my Fathers Day will be, since I’m not usually in charge of that day.  (ahhh, Mr. Procrastination returns).

Back to signing up… Maybe I’ll do two, the Fathers Day and the July one.  Hmmm.  $140 for both.

Shoot gosh darnit.  What to do?  I’m not a good swimmer but I’ve already been in the pool a few times back in December and I’m sure I can get enough work in to swim .5 mile.  What’s that, 650 yards or so?  I can do that, right?

Let me know if this sounds like you (sorry, a friend of yours).

Ok.  I’m in. Now if I can just figure out what Speedo to wear that will most embarrass my kids….

 

Calbuzz, Fox News and Authortarians

Just got done reading the Calbuzz article on “Why watching Fox news will, in fact, rot your brain” and this quote at the end popped out at me, from Walter Lippmann:

“It is only when we are in the habit of recognizing our opinions as a partial experience, seen through our stereotypes, that we become truly tolerant of an opponent. Without that habit, we believe in the absolutism of our own vision, and consequently in the treacherous character of all opposition.”

And he wrote that in 1922, before we ran into Carl Rove’s “say it enough times and it becomes true” strategy.  Read the full article, it’s pretty good.

Kind of ran home the concept of getting out of your comfort zone, traveling, talking to people who look, act, worship and dress different than you do. It comes up in many forms, from the kids at the local high school who “look” like thugs (but are AP students) to the buttoned down Baptist/Methodist/Presbyterian who attends church on a regular basis and votes Democrat, always.  Lots of different examples, insert your own here, because you just never know who you’re talking to…

If you believe that your world view is the only one and it’s always right, then there is not much we can do to make things better.  But when you acknowledge that perhaps, just one time, you might be wrong and the world will not come to an end, maybe there is still a chance to find common ground.

With regards from the couch, coughing up a lung or two…

Standardized Testing in School

I love how my kids are becoming more insightful, both of them have shown a lot of that lately and today Jake dropped a great bomb.

Katie: “Oh, we’ve got a rally today at school.”

Jake: “What makes them think that a rally is going to make us ‘excited’ about CST tests this week?”

Atta boy.  He get’s it.  Rally’s DON’T get kids excited to spend the next 4 days this week bubbling tests in a quiet, boring, static environment.  NOTHING get’s kids motivated for these tests, unless they have some intrinsic motivation or competitiveness.  But the reality is that by 6-7-8th grade, all kids have been beaten over the head by these tests and the “test prep” that happens year long but ramps up the week prior (or longer).

And when the kids are told that these are “the most important tests you’ll ever take” because it will determine what college you get into, that’s BS also.  But that’s what the principal’s and teachers are asked to say, because they need the scores to be as high as can be.  Doesn’t matter if they stress out some of the kids or turn off many, many others with a transparent lie.  These are NOT the most important tests and they know it.

Here’s the thing.  These tests (in California) only measure Language Arts (English), Social Science, Science (but not in every grade) and Math.  California’s test are what are called “criterion referenced”, which measure, in the words of the California Department of Education, “the California content standards in ELA, mathematics, science, and history-social science.”  That means they only measure what California thinks is important (but this may change soon). Read more here.

Almost all of the questions are multiple choice (maybe all, it’s been 4 years since I saw one) and most competent humans understand that multiple choice tests do not come close to effectively measuring knowledge or ability.  “Life is not a Multiple Choice Test”.

Beyond the arguments about how good/bad the actual test is, let’s talk more about how school districts use the test and how scores on the tests are used by districts, state departments of education and the Feds.

It fails from the top.  Tests are used by the Federal Department of Education (www.doe.gov) to evaluate the effectiveness of a state.  The state Dept. of Ed (DOE) then uses those test scores to evaluate and grade school districts and individual schools.  The school districts put immense pressure on principals to “get your scores up”, even as the state cuts funding, class sizes increase and teachers are laid off.  I feel sorry for the principals in this situation, they get heat from above and also from the teachers that they almost are required to badger to improve scores.

Here’s a situation:  Teacher A has been teaching for 15 years, has a good curriculum, knows the material and engages the students.  Because this teacher is able to handle a tough class, sometimes (a lot) the principal may drop a few extra “difficult” students in the room.  These students can be a challenge but let’s say that this teacher is able to reach most of them because the class is active and they are motivated by the teacher.  Then comes this 4 day testing thing, which the kids can’t stand because it’s “boring”.  Which it is.  They are told by the principal that “these are very important tests” but the kids know that they won’t be graded on them and that the tests are only important to the adults.  So, without real motivation to do well, many of the kids, difficult and not so difficult, just flow through the test and don’t put a lot of effort into it.  Can you guess what happens?  Yep, scores are not as high as perhaps they should be, principals catch heat from above, teachers are asked to do more “test prep”, which is only teaching to the test (and usually not fun or motivating, because the kids know what you’re doing), etc.

In the near future, that teacher may be given a “grade” based on the scores of the students on these tests. And even though this teacher succeeds in improving the reading/writing/science/math/social science knowledge and ability of his/her students, it won’t be reflected on the test.  Regardless of the reality, the teacher may be labeled “ineffective”.

Oh, wait, that already happened in NYC and Los Angeles.  And one teacher in LA actually committed suicide after his name and test scores of his students were posted online by the LA Times.  And Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education for Pres. Obama, applauded the publication of scores for teachers.  Until he thought it was a bad idea and pulled back.  Figure it out Arne.

It’s a bad situation and it’s only being made worse. Everybody wants “accountability” and a simple, “standardized” way to grade students, teachers, principals, schools and districts.  But that is not possible with a multiple choice test.

I agree that we need some form of testing, so that we can evaluate what is happening in the classroom.  But teachers do that every day, every minute when they are walking around the room, asking questions, “checking for understanding” and, yes, giving tests.

Solution:  trust the teachers and principals to run the school, have district level assessments that include reading, writing and analysis rather than multiple choice tests and provide the funding for the administration and grading of those assessments.

By the way, you can also “Opt Out” of testing for your kids.  Here’s some information on that:  Opt Out

Information on California’s tests here.

*** New info:  Schools may get scores back in a few weeks rather than months.  Which is good.  *****  Read about it here.