Life

isn’t color-coded.  Those who imagine that the value of human lives or whether human lives matter depends on skin color are: racists; have well-below average cognitive horsepower; make their living by ensuring large numbers of human beings see themselves as primarily their skin color.

color_wheel

Do black lives matter?  Not any more than the lives of members of any other race.  And the extent to which human lives matter is best determined by other human beings on an individual basis.

In the world of work as in the larger society, I tend to value human lives according a rule of three.  I ask whether the individual with whom I have contact is:

  1. A person of goodwill;
  2. Oriented to reality;
  3. Competent or moving toward competence.

Obviously a man or woman can be a person of goodwill and still not be oriented to reality or competent.  A human being can be oriented to reality and be a person of ill-will and an incompetent.  A competent person is usually a person oriented to reality, but that person may lack the quality of goodwill.  An individual who meets all three of my criteria, or Christov10’s Big Three, is not often found in media, in politics, in government middle management positions, or really occupying positions prestige in most realms of human endeavor.

I’m reminded again of C.S. Lewis’ address, The Inner Ring.  I’ve either linked to it previously or mentioned it in this space.  I first ran across when working for a largely unknown and strictly small-time (by the standards of modern bureaucracy) state government agency.  It was while so employed that I also developed my Rule of Three, which appears as a numbered list, above.  No imagination should be required to understand why it was that I turned my mind to matters of this sort during that period of my life.  By the way, it was at that time that I first read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Keep your speech free, people of the left, the right, and center.  Resist anyone who tries to silence you and to diminish your ability to think for yourself and experience your own circumstances according to your own perspective and within your own values.  None of that is infallible, but to what extent a genuine manifestation of your real self, to that extent meaningful and of value.

Dos centavos, people, dos centavos.

 

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Alamance County Courthouse Confederate Memorial Rally, Graham, NC

I’m curious, and I want to know things. Can Southerners exercise their God-given freedoms (some few of which are enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America and Bill of Rights) by publicly speaking up and standing for their heritage?  Is such speech inherently racist?  If it’s not racist, is it still offensive and wrong?  Does having one’s opinion contradicted and does feeling offended cause actual harm to a person or group of people?

Monument-Rally-Courthouse-&-Monument

On Saturday 18 July 2015, I arranged my ride through the three towns of Alamance County to place me in the courthouse square at Graham in time for the rally organized to protest demands by the local NAACP chapter for the removal of a monument dedicated to the memory of the county’s Confederate soldiers killed in the War Between the States.  It’s an old monument, and appears to have been standing there for about a hundred years.  Here’s what it looks like:

Monument-Rally-Monument-StatueMonument-Rally-Monument-&-FlagsMonument-Rally-Monument-Inscription

Here’re two declarations from the monument’s base and visible in the photograph above at right:  To commemorate with grateful love the patriotism, valor, and devotion to duty of the brave soldiers of Alamance County, this monument is erected through the efforts of the Graham chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Faithful unto death, they are crowned with immortal glory.  Neither statement do I find offensive, racist, white-supremacist.  Theologically, as a Christian, I find fault with the latter of the two statements I’ve quoted because it strikes me as unlikely that all of the Confederate war dead of Alamance County were numbered among the elect.  The sentiment likely falls into the category of a civil religious statement declaring gratitude and remembrance but makes no salvific claim.  A study of civil religion and its expression in the United States as related to the American Civil War might be an interesting and instructive undertaking.

Monument-Rally-Police-Cordon

Local police and state troopers had roped-off the four street approaches to the square.  People attending the rally left their cars wherever they found parking places.  Most of the people attending wore ordinary, casual jeans-type street clothes, ball-caps, sneakers – about what you’d expect most people to wear on a day they’re not at work.  I did, however, see a lot of people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with patriotic and other statements generally in favor of First and Second Amendment rights.  Some wore camouflage and kepis.  A few members of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans wore reproductions of uniforms worn by Confederate soldiers during the War for Southern Independence.  Many, many of those in attendance carried, waved, and walked back and forth through the crowd around the base of the monument and courthouse steps carrying versions of the “Stars and Bars (actually, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia),” as the flag is colloquially known by some.  I saw two or three men in the crowd wearing flags like capes or, literally, wrapped in them.  That struck me as odd.  Some of the flags bore in their centers the image of a bearded, cowboy-hat wearing person whose identity I didn’t recognize, but who must have been pretty well known to some – maybe a country music personality?

Monument-Rally-CrosswalkMonument-Rally-FlagsMonument-Rally-Remembrance-Matters

Monument-Rally-Flag-WearerMonument-Rally-Kids-Watching

I showed up on a mutant Jamis Supernova cyclocross bike wearing slightly loud but almost-matching road-cyclist lycra jersey and shorts, helmet, and gloves.  Unlike most of those around me, I was appropriately attired and outfitted for the prevailing climactic conditions –  hot, humid, thunderstorm threatening.  I walked into the crowd pushing my bike up near the monument.  I openly photographed the event.  No one seemed to react with rudeness to my presence, and, for myself, I calmly observed the goings on and listened to a really well-thought out and interesting speech given by one of the SVC members present on the courthouse steps.

Monument-Rally-SCV-Representative

Because I found what the man was saying interesting, I searched online and found a copy of his speech included in the newsletter linked here:  http://scvcamp813.org/images/newsletters/201508scv813newsletter.pdf  The blurry picture above is of the man giving the speech.  I’ve cut and pasted below the newsletter’s text identifying the speaker and reproducing his statement in its entirety, and have taken the great liberty of setting one paragraph in bold print.  Read the speech and let me know whether you think it racist or white-supremacist.  I thought it pretty reasonable, and as I was leaving the event, getting ready to ride through the rain back to my friend’s house, I saw the man walking to his car and thanked him for his effort.

Below is the Speech given by Northern Piedmont Brigade Commander Mitch Flinchum on Saturday July 18th at The Rally for the Confederate Monument in front of the Graham Courthouse

I am honored and humbled to be able to speak before you at our rally for our Alamance County Con federate monument. I feel that in order to do this properly I need to go back into our history, and to share with you some information that you may not have heard in school. Today I would like to share with you my remarks entitled Duty, Honor, and Country.

These are terms that don’t mean much today. But in generations past, the men that answered the call to arms knew a thing or two about duty to country and about personal reputation and honor. They knew that freedom wasn’t free. It had to be purchased with the price of blood.

In 1776 our forefathers faced off against the most powerful nation on earth, Great Britain, in what must have seemed like a futile quest to earn their freedom. After seven long years of misery and sacrifice, they prevailed, and the Southern colonies contributed greatly to this victory. The war had basically been won by the British, but patriot victories at Cowpens, Kings Mountain, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown turned the tide. In the Treaty of Paris which officially ended our war for independence, the British crown recognized each former colony as a free and independent nation. This was the beginning of our basis of republican government and the formation of the United States of America.

The fledgling states were small and weak by international standards. They were rich in land and raw materials, but short on men, capital, and manufacturing capacity. The only real protection they had from any number of powerful European nations was the vast Atlantic Ocean. Our forefathers knew that the former colonies had to band together much as they had during the war in order to insure the permanence of their hard-won freedoms. In order to insure that they could work together for common goals such as protection from foreign enemies and the promotion of international trade, a general or federal government was formed under the charter of a constitution. This constitution ceded some powers to the general government and gave it the power to act as an agent on the behalf of the states. The powers, obligations, and duties ceded to the general government were specific and limited, and there was no misunderstanding that true power and sovereignty remained vested with the states. Southerners understood this for Southern statesmen had contributed a great deal to the writing of the new constitution. North Carolina in particular was one of the last states to ratify the constitution, and she would only do so once the Bill of Rights had been added. Of particular note is the Tenth Amendment which spells out that all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government are retained by the states or by the people.

I could say much on the question of secession. It is my belief that if my ancestors were wrong in 1861 then my ancestors were wrong in 1776. The founders recognized that if secession was specifically not al-lowed under the constitution then the states would not ratify it. In fact, several states specifically stated that their right to secede was retained in their ratification documents. Secession had been threatened by different states many times before and it was thought of as the last defense of a state against federal overreach. It was recognized by most statesmen and constitutional scholars as a given right, up until 1861. As Walter Williams stated in his recent article, upon noting that constitutional amendments were offered in early 1861 prohibiting secession, why should these have been necessary if secession was unconstitutional?

Also consider what Chief Justice Salmon Chase said on the question of bringing Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders to trial for treason:

“If you bring these [Confederate] leaders to trial it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution secession is not rebellion. Lincoln wanted Davis to escape, and he was right. His capture was a mistake. His trial will be a greater one.” Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, July 1867

By 1860 it became clear to many states of the deep South that they were no longer represented by the general government. Since 1789 the general government had grown such in size and scope that it had over-stepped its constitutional mandate and usurped many powers not specifically granted it by the constitution.

Weary of serious philosophical differences on the issues of tariffs, the transcontinental railroad, the homestead acts, fishing bounties, coastwise shipping, the issue of slavery, and the rise of power of the Republican party, many in the South began to see that existence on an equal footing together with the powerful industrial interests of the North was becoming almost impossible. After the elections of 1860, which saw Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln win the presidency even though he lost every single Southern state, the Deep South states felt that they must leave the union in order to have any control of their political destiny.

It was the desire of the Southern states to leave the union peaceably. The new Confederate government sent a peace envoy to Washington in order to discuss such things as the assumption of their share of the federal debt and the fair consideration for former federal property, such as defensive forts. But president Lincoln refused to meet with the peace commission to discuss these items. Unknown to them at the time, the federal government was making a plan to provoke the south into war.

It is here that I do want to speak on the institution of slavery. I do not think there is anyone alive that thinks this was not a brutal institution. There is certainly no one that would ever praise it or wish for it to return. But what I want people to realize is that this institution had been commonly accepted in the world. We did not start it. It had been practiced here under the British flag since 1619. It had been practiced under the federal flag since 1776. If slavery was THE issue of the war, then why did the north propose the Corwin amendment, which would have forever guaranteed slavery in the states that practiced it, in order to entice the seceded states back into the union? If slavery was THE issue of the war then why weren’t all slaves in the north freed before the war was over? If slavery was THE issue of the war, then why was the Crittendon Resolution passed by both houses of congress which stated that the war was being waged to reunite the un-ion, and when that end was accomplished hostilities would cease? Lincoln had repeatedly said that he had no right or desire to interfere in the institution of slavery. He also said that he would do what he had to regarding it in order to save the union. Slavery was only introduced as an issue of the war in order to keep France and England from recognizing the Confederate States as a nation. It was political expediency, and nothing more.

After leaving the union, one of the first orders of business for the fledgling Confederate government was to drastically lower the tariff rate for international trade in Southern ports (the rate was about ten percent versus the U.S. average rate of forty-one percent). Faced with the massive loss of revenue and trade to Southern ports, the Northern industrial interests demanded that Lincoln take action. Lincoln even admitted that he could not let the South go because the North could not do without the government revenue. Thus one can see that the issue of greed, and not slavery, was the real cause of the conflict of 1861-1865.

Unwilling to back down in the face of a determined federal effort to reinforce Fort Sumter, the Confederate forces did fire the first shot of the war. The truth is that both sides knew that a confrontation over the possession of this fort would likely result in war. But it is not always true that he who uses force first is to blame, but he that makes the use of force necessary. In fact Fort Sumter was South Carolina property, and the North had no claim to it. It had never been completed or garrisoned and the federal troops had taken it under cover of night when there was an armistice in place between SC and the federals. This was actually an act of war. Another fact is that Lincoln knew the act of resupplying the fort (with a force large enough to invade Charleston by the way) would draw the Southerners into blocking the action and give him his moral high ground to go to war.

Finally given the excuse to retaliate, Lincoln called for the remaining states in the union to supply 75,000 troops to crush the “rebellion.” Four Southern border states, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee, that had previously chosen to remain in the union, promptly joined the Confederacy rather than provide troops to make war on their brethren. When asked to provide 2,000 troops to march into South Carolina, NC Governor John W. Ellis replied “Your dis-patch is received, and if genuine which its extraordinary character leads one to doubt, I have to say in reply, that I regard the levy of troops made by the Administration for the purposes of subjugating the States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution, and as a gross usurpation of power. I can be no part to this wicked violation of the laws of the Country and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.” North Carolina was faced with the possibility that she would be attacked by the very government that she had been a part of forming, so after twice declining to call a secession convention, Lincoln’s call for troops pushed North Carolina away.

Our state supplied more men and materials to the war effort than any other state. Having 1/9 the population of the entire confederacy, she supplied 1/6 of her troop strength, and bore ¼ of her losses. Over 125,000 of her sons marched to war and over 40,000 never returned. But our TarHeel Boys were unmatched in the field. “First at Bethel, Farthest to the Front at Gettysburg and at Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox” was touted and emblazoned on the Confederate Me-morial at the Capitol in Raleigh.

Facing overwhelming odds against an enemy possessing every advantage in manpower, manufacturing capacity, and monetary wealth, the men of the South fought bravely for four long devastating years. Finally the South was crushed by the invading army that was willing to win at any cost, including the making of total war against a civilian population. The court historians will tell you much about the noble aims of the federal soldiers, but they will tell you little of the murder, rape, arson, theft, plunder, and destruction of civilian property. The fact is, the only way they could win their war was by making total war on civilians. That sounds very noble.

We remember the sacrifice of the men of Alamance County, the State of North Carolina, and the entire southland that answered the call of their country to arms in the struggle for Southern independence in the great war of 1861 to 1865, and gave their lives in that conflict.

We come here today to pay homage to these men; to recognize the strength of their character; to offer the thanks of a grateful nation for their service. We remember a time when the words “duty, honor, and country” really meant something and were not just words. We remember that these valiant men did not die in vain, even though their cause was eventually lost, succumbing to an overwhelming enemy that would have victory at any cost. We praise these men, who fought and died honorably, on fields purchased with their patriot blood, all over the South and in northern prison camps like Elmira, New York, Point Lookout, Maryland, Camp Douglas, Illinois, and many others.

Why honor these men? These men fought for their families, community, state, and country, willing to protect hearth and home with their blood and treasure. They were willing to give their all for honor and principle. They were patriots, certainly not traitors. After the war the question of state’s rights was put to rest, decided by the sword. But might does not always make right. We honor these men who rest in the earth because no one is left to speak for them. As sons of Confederate soldiers we take up the charge left with us by General Steven Dill Lee in 1896 to protect the Confederate soldier’s good name and to champion the cause for which he fought. Those of us from Southern heritage know the truth and strive to see that it is told. Consider what one man saw in the future “Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be im-pressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.” — Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864, writing on what would happen if the Confederacy were to be defeated.” The victor of a war not only gets the spoils, he also gets to write the history. Our purpose is to see that our history is told correctly, without shame, so that our children can be proud of their heritage and can know that our ancestors did not shed their blood in vain.

Although we can never thank them enough for their sacrifice, we can make sure that they are not forgotten. That’s what a memorial is; something that insures remembrance. We remember the valiant Southern soldier, the patriot that marched off to war to defend his home and family against an invading army. There are many that would try to bring politics into the reasons they fought. Today we seek no political controversy. Today we only wish to say to our fallen brethren “Sleep on Brothers and take your well-earned rest. Know that we will not forget the price you paid. Know that we know all too well how high was that cost. Know that you are honored among men. Know that we will never forget.

Based on the law of the United States, Confederate Veterans are to be treated as veterans of the United States. By Public Law 85-425, May 23, 1958 (H.R. 358) 72 Statute 133 states – “(3) (e) for the purpose of this section, and section 433, the term ‘veteran’ includes a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and the term ‘active, military or naval service’ includes active service in such forces.” As a result of this law the last surviving Confederate Veteran received a U.S. Military pension until his death in 1959, and from that day until present, descendants of Confederate veterans have been able to receive military monuments to place on graves from the Veteran’s Administration for their ancestors. A Confederate Veteran should therefore be treated with the same honor and dignity of any other American veteran. If you tear down this monument you are destroying a piece of history and a place that honors those “American” Veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I’d like to offer you a quote from the Bible. Proverbs 21:28 Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set. People need to remember why memorials were placed in the first place. Why were the events they commemorate important?

This monument was not erected as a symbol of hate, or for the glory of the confederacy. It was erected as a symbol of love. Love for the fathers, the sons, the husbands, and the brothers that never came home. It was not done by the government, but the money for it was raised by private donations. It is often said to us as Southerners “that war was over 150 years ago, you lost, get over it.” I would like to say to those that oppose us in honoring our ancestors that I have never owned a slave, and no one alive today has ever been one. You cannot judge nineteenth century people by twenty-first century standards. No one today wishes to see a return of that institution and no one believes it was a good thing. I would say that it has been over 150 years since anyone has been a slave in the U.S. and while we can’t change that ugly past, we can only hope to be a better society in the future and maybe it is high time that we all should get past that. Who gets to decide what history needs to be erased? What is divisive, derogatory, bigoted, or racist? What happens when something you love gets taken away? Where do we draw the line?

I would worry more about what is in the hearts of the people I see around me every day. People can do harm, but that statue of marble and granite cannot. Do you feel threatened by people, or by symbols? If I felt threatened by people in this community, then I would not want to live here. Symbols cannot harm you, and if people did not erect them for the purpose of intimidation, then what is the reason for removal other than a general purge of past culture? Before last month, there had been no controversy over this statue. Strife is being sewn where there was none, and there is no need for this. It really is like the novel 1984 where items from our history are being thrown down the memory hole to erase who we are as a people.

I will leave you with this quote from Robert Lewis Dabney, a chief of staff to Stonewall Jackson. “Sirs, you have no reason to be ashamed of your Confederate ancestors, make sure they have no reason to be ashamed of you.”

That’s a good word.

So, in answer to the questions I asked at the top of this post: 1) Yes; 2) No; 3) No; 4) No.  I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post discussing culture.

http://www.scvheritagedefense.org/

What’s Going On

A Friend Died in December

Not somebody I’d ever actually met, but someone with whom I’d corresponded frequently over the years, Rodford Simon Barratt.  We’d both contributed to the online forum at www.foldingkayaks.org – Rodford had an Alpaca Pack Raft and, if I remember this right, another folding kayak.  We and another forum member had collaborated on a ridiculous thread about trains, Chattanooga, dancing, The Great Powers, espionage, and so forth that got about 250,000 views before the forum’s owner made its sub-forum viewable only by registered users.  Rodford was a professional dancer on stage and in film; he went online with Men Who Danced, and for some reason included me in the mailing list.  Oddly enough, since childhood and like the Rex Harrison character in The Honey Pot, I’ve wished I was graceful enough to dance well and acrobatically.  Rodford additionally started other online groups – Paddler’s Liberation Front which morphed from a blog to a Facebook group, and another for inline skaters.  Rodford and I exchanged emails about fatherhood, athleticism through the lifespan, numerology (about which I think he published two or three small volumes), waterways of England, dance, bicycling, and other subjects of interest to us both.  I wish I’d had the chance to meet the man in person.  He died in late December 2015 and I learned of his passing in January 2014.  One of Rodford’s friends reported that he died at home of heart failure while exercising – not a bad way to go.  I’ve felt a little depressed since learning of my unmet friend’s death.  He was somebody I liked.

In April of last year, another friend died, but I haven’t wanted to write about it.

I Haven’t Felt Much Like Writing

Probably related to my depressed feelings about Rodford’s death, my annoying holiday illnesses and injury, and sometimes trying workplace, I haven’t felt much like writing so far this year.  I’ve been spending most of my energies in the workplace and with family.

I Haven’t Been Spending Much Time Using Facebook

Controversies and conversations I could join, memes to mock, statuses to comment, and I’ve mostly abstained; don’t recall the last time I updated my own Facebook status.  I do recall changing my profile picture to the Alternative Universe Good-At-Being-Evil Dr. Doofenshmertz.  I have a school-aged son and a Netflix subscription – we watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb together.  It’s probably the best kid’s TV show you can watch with a First Grader.  I like the Alternative Universe Doofenshmertz because he’s a competent evil professional.  In the event I ever go badly off the rails, I’d continue to shoot for competence even though the empire I envision ruling would be a lot more interesting than Doofenshmertz’s.

Since writing this post, I have updated my Facebook status.

WWJD

While driving to work on a Tuesday or Wednesday, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a bumpersticker on the back of a truck and noted the word, Jesus, on it.  I thought it would say something about Real Men loving Jesus or something similar.  For some reason, though, I looked at the sticker and read it.  It’s vulgar and irreligious message cracked me up; in fact, I laughed out loud intermittently over the next couple of minutes.  On audio CD in the car, however, I’d been listening to Matthew’s gospel and it had got to the second chapter – the part about Herod having the male children, age two and under, in Bethlehem slaughtered to ensure that he who had been called by the Magi “The King of the Jews” would never arise to threaten his reign.  The juxtaposition in my mind of vulgar humor over against the seriousness of the incarnation of deity gave me pause.  Instead of making a long blog post about all of this, I talked about it with friends at our congregation’s Wednesday evening meeting.  I’m finding that I’ve been interacting more this year with people face to face than electronically; it seems fitting to me.

Done with Iphone

I ditched my wireless telephony carrier data-plan to save some money – turns out I’ll save over $300 per year switching back to the provider’s 99-cent flip phone.  I’m wasting a lot less time now that I’m not carrying around a tiny, Internet-connected computer with me.  The change has resulted in decreased photographic effort, although the new cell-phone does have a camera.  Things I miss about the Iphone?  Alvio Cyclemeter, camera function (Iphone takes better pictures than the flip-phone and files are easier to transfer), ability to waste time with Facebook and email, weather reports when the power’s out at home, easy to manage reminders, calendar, contacts from any computer.

I bought another Pentax Optio W30 to replace the one I gave my son when he was four years-old and has since that time knocked about enough that shutter speed and a couple of other features are no longer what they once were when I bought it as NOS.  The factory refurb I got for about $44 will now accompany me on my adventures in the real world.  My Jamis bike came with a Planet Bike cycling computer, but I hate it.  I’m planning to get a Magellan Cyclo 315 to keep track of my mileage and to keep me from getting bad lost in Tennessee hills and Midwestern farmland.  Because  I don’t care about all that heart-rate-and-cadence-monitor hokum, I’ll get the base-model.  It should be compatible with some of the Magellan topo maps that came with the Explorist 710 I got (used) to try out as an all-in-one cycling computer, GPS, and camera.  I found the 710 unsuitable for my purposes and, because the unit I bought was defective, I sent it back.

The one-time expense approach to cycling and photography appeals more to me than the data-plan subscription approach necessitated by the Iphone.  My Iphone 4 now sits in a desk drawer sans recharge.  I think it’ll stay there for a long time.

Interesting Workplace

This semester, I’m doing an internship in the locked psychiatric ward where I did my practicum placement last semester.  I’ve pretty much gotten over my fear of the features or manifestations of mental illness.  A large number of our patients are very old, so I am also learning about the dementing process and various types of dementia.  I’m tired by the time I get home in the early evening; my coworkers tell me this is normal.  The work is largely enjoyable, and I like both patients and coworkers.

Upper Body Strength

Since I’ve had less time for cycling than previously, I’ve been trying to improve upper body strength with pull-ups, push-ups, dumb-bells, medicine ball, and so forth.  My hope is that increasing muscle mass will help burn more fat.  When cycling, here lately, I’ve pedaled with my son so he can get out of the house, too.  We both need to be outside and if I fail to take advantage of this time we have to spend together, we’ll both regret it as we get older.  For Christmas a few years ago, I got an Iron Gym and a couple of weeks ago, I got a Power Press push-up board.  I’ve redoubled my efforts with the Iron Gym and have taken to the Power Press with some intensity.  We’ll see if I start building muscle and shedding fat.

How Do I Learn Stuff?

How Do I Learn Stuff

How It Works

Usually what happens is that something piques my interest and I begin to acquire information about the subject.  A lot of the time, what interests me is technology, and when that is the case, I learn everything I can about whatever the thing is that interests me.  Curiosity is the starting point.  My interests are not limited to things, but this post is about things.

I scour discussion boards, old catalogs in portable document format, reviews, purveyors of new old stock, and consult with those known to me who are more expert than I.  Sometimes, I decide I’ve got to have whatever it is I’ve been studying about.  Usually, then, what I decide is that the cost of the latest version of whatever it is cannot be justified, so I buy (when I can find it) an upper mid-range or top of the line item that is several years old.

For instance, I bought a 1981 Miyata 610 that was in nearly new old stock condition, and have put the bike to constant use.  I obsessively researched the manufacturer and the model for a month or two before making the purchase.

Except for the Power Mac 7600 I bought in the Nineties, I’ve never purchased a new computer.  All of our computers were refurbs and supposedly obsolete when we bought them, but they serve us pretty well.  My smartphone is the version of the Iphone that my provider was giving away at contract renewal time.  My Pentax Optio water proof camera was several years old, but new in box, when I got it.

Sometimes, I’ll buy something on the used market that may be suitable, but isn’t what I really want.  The reason for that is that I never do want to spend a lot of money.  I have qualms of conscience about spending money, and because, as a married man and a father, what I really want more than things is to husband the family’s resources.  I recall buying a Power Mac 8500 for a video project in college – several years old at the time, but I got the project done and got to monkey around with video.  I got the 8500 because I thought the used 9500 was too expensive.  Sometimes what I buy on the used market that turns out to have problems that require correction or upgrade which may have a learning curve and require spending more money.

I learn how to cobble stuff together out of necessity.  Sometimes I find I am able to tackle learning projects that seemed impossible to me when I was younger, before I had learned how to learn in the need of the moment.  Necessity promotes learning.

Who Needs a ‘Modern’ Bicycle?

I figure, back in 1981 or 1985, cyclists were doing cool things with their then-new bikes, so why shouldn’t I be able to do cool stuff with those same bikes that are now old.  Having old bikes, I learned how to operate downtube friction-shifters, ride fairly heavy bikes, ride where I want to ride, ride hills that intimidated me, outrun (for the most part) trailer-dwelling pit-bull dogs, ride in traffic, and so forth.  No worries, right?  So, why would I want an index-shifted, lightweight road-bike?  I don’t know for sure.

I have been intrigued by purpose-built cyclocross bikes because there’ve been times I’ve ridden my road bikes down gravel roads and through mud and on dirt tracks, experiencing their limitations.  Pavement ends, and I want to keep going.  Limitations including clearance at brakes, forks, and stays for mud; road tire (even the venerable Continental Gatorskin) inability to maintain much traction on degraded small town alleyways, mud, sand, gravel; road bike lateral drift on dry, loose dirt and gravel.  Frame geometry has not been a problem with my old lugged-steel bikes, nor has ride comfort.  Modern cyclocross bikes appear to have similar slack frame and fork geometry to my ancient Razesa (a sport-tourer/racer) and the older Miyata (primarily a tourer).  Additionally, I don’t want to abuse the Miyata – my favorite bike – during the winter months.  Something newer might hold up a little better in Southern Middle Tennessee cold-and-wet-season conditions.  I ride all year long.

Without regard to harsher climatic and road surface conditions, having joined a cycling club and occasionally participating in group rides, I listen with envy to guys talking about their 65 to 75 mile rides.  I wish for a sufficient number of cogs at the rear wheel to address the varying terrain in this part of the state, as well as the ability to more effortlessly shift between them while riding.  I’ve gotten tired of unexpected goofy cable maladjustment causing the chain to bang down to smallest cog in back when trying shift into a lower gear to climb a hill.  I hate walking up hills and, although I could  be a stronger cyclist, some of the problems are due to an erratic funkiness inherent in the old equipment.  Heck, next year, I’d like to ride the BRAT – that’d be greater challenge than necessary on a 33 year-old tourer with the original 15-speed Suntour groupset.  Actually, I could probably do the BRAT on the Miyata, but I’d rather ride it on an Orbea Starship.  Heck, I grew up watching reruns of Star Trek on a 13” black and white television in my room when I should have been doing homework.  Starships are where I come from.

So, regarding a modern bike – a choice of two types of bike:  a premium road bike, or a cyclocross bike.

Bike versus Upright Freezer:  Freezer Wins

We got the upright freezer my wife has been wanting for months, and that was the right thing to do.  Got the freezer at about 60% of the item’s on sale price because it had some cosmetic imperfections; that’s fine with us because the appliance resides in our garage.

About the bikes, then.  The one I wanted was a 2003 Orbea Starship (Columbus aluminum) tube frame with carbon seat and chain stays, full Campagnolo Record Ultra 10-Speed gruppo, Bontrager wheelset, Bontrager carbon fork and seatpost, and Bontrager seat, bars, stem.  Truly a beautiful bike, right down to its tan bar-wrap, which reminded me of the steering wheel wraps we had on our cars back in the 70’s.  Pretty much the-best-money-can-buy build in its class.

My wife told me to go ahead and make an offer on it, and I, the expressionless man whose dial rarely registers anything that could be interpreted as enthusiasm, was visibly excited and happy about the prospect.  Then, I woke up in the early a.m., the day I was to drive out and test-ride the bike, and I had this sense that the amount I was prepared to spend was out of all proportion in terms of what is important to my family.  With real regret, I emailed the bike’s owner and explained that I would not be able to look at the bike.

I’m certain I made the right decision about the Orbea, and if I come into a providential windfall while the bike’s still for sale, the first thing I’ll do is buy it.  Christmas is on its way.  Who knows what will happen.

A Less Expensive Compromise
This bike in this condition was not worth what the seller was asking

This bike in this condition was not worth what the seller was asking

I did travel to Murfreesboro to test ride a 2003 Bianchi Reparto Corse Alu-Lite SL in my size, celeste green with Campagnolo Centaur 10 speed gruppo.  According to the seller, he bought it from the original owner, a Chattanooga physician who’d put a lot of miles on it; seller said he’d only ridden it about 2000 miles.  If the bike had been in better condition, it would have been worth what he was asking.  I actually offered him more than I’d originally wanted to because I did like the bike, and now that I’ve been super close to buying a top-end European bike with top-end groupset, I would have settled for a less expensive, lower-end European bike.  The seller, however, said, “For that, I’d just as soon keep the bike.”  So, I let him keep it.

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What I wound up getting was a 2007 Jamis Super Nova cyclocross racing bike.  I’d seen the ad on Craigslist for about the past month, so had plenty of time to research it.  The photos above are those the seller used in his ad.  The 2007 Jamis catalog can be found here.

The biggest complaints I’d read on various Internet bulletin boards were:  Avid Shorty brakes provided inadequate stopping power; strange seatpost brake cable routing; heavy wheelset.  The 2007 Jamis catalogue lists the Supernova as the company’s top-end cyclocross bike that year (but, there were only two cross-specific models).  The Craigslist seller had addressed the brake problem by installing a set of Kore brakes using Kool Stop mountain bike pads, added Dura Ace rear derailleur and shift/brake levers, Ultegra front derailleur, Ritchey carbon fork, RaceFace alloy stem and 44 cm bars, SRAM rear cassette with a large cog for hills, cheap SRAM chain, Mavic Ksyrium wheelset with cheap Continental Ultra Sport tires.

I probably paid $50 to $100 too much for the bike, considering the seller had built up the frame (purchased on Ebay in 2009, he said, from an Oregon bike shop that probably stripped a complete bike that didn’t sell) using components he’d already had or bought, like the frame, on Ebay.  On the way home, I agonized over not having bargained better.

I've got ideas

I’ve got ideas

Because I felt chagrined, when I got to the house, I added some air to the tires and rode the bike around the neighborhood deliberately hitting every rough patch I could find, and then rode it around my yard a few times, hitting roots and holes on purpose.  What I discovered as a result of this caveman-level emotionally motivated activity was that the frame is supremely comfortable; that even with low-end, treadless road tires, the bike handles all manner of lousy (but dry for this experiment) surface conditions in a manner that left me feeling confidently in control of the bike.  I began to like the bike in spite of my stupid bikesnobbery.

Bike Learning

This bike’s a little like those second and third hand computers and videography equipment I bought back in college for projects, only I have no project to justify the bike’s expense.  I’ve already bought a 90 mm stem to replace the 110 mm unit that came with the bike.  Tried that out today, along with some cage-pedals.  Stem and pedals are fine, but I’ve got to reorient the bars for a little better long-ride comfort and control.

I do like the orange and white color scheme.  I like the fact that the bars are wider, but hate the drops – they aren’t long enough at the ends.  Or, rather, they don’t sweep back far enough to comfortably grip for longer periods of time.  Maybe Salsa Woodchipper or Short and Shallow bars?  I hate the black bar tape and switch to white when I get a set of bars I like better.  Okay with me that the white will become dirty-gray before long.  Adds character and still matches the bike’s color scheme better than black.

It did turn out those Mavic hubs are either in need of service or replacement – they don’t spin as freely as they ought.  Getting the bike up to speed requires real effort.  I ordered a set of Continental Tour Ride 2 tires for winter riding here at Stepford.  They arrived today.  I’m not sure about them, but will try them out after I get the hubs sorted.

Here’re some pictures I’ve taken of the bike while out on rides since last Thursday’s purchase:

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Lazy-Jamis-Lakeside

Set the bike down here to snap some photos of wildflowers, nearby. That’s not really my house in the background. No, really, it’s not….