Less color

Before the recent dumping of snow:
i'll get back to you someday soon

I think some of the interestingness would be lost in black and white.  I just couldn’t bring myself to take out the orange glow of the lamp.  It was nice against the original blueish shadows of the snow, but it pops even more now.  Meanwhile, I finally found a shot where I didn’t have trouble departing from all of the colors.  Inside The Met:
why we lie awake

I haven’t shot anything this past week, even though all the snow that fell made for some interesting scenery.  I was too busy shoveling, working a full workweek, trying to be cultured, drinking beer, and then running and riding my trainer to work off that beer.

Speaking of running, I always find that I regret the runs I skip, but I’ve never regretted a run I did, no matter how painful or depleted it left me.  The sidewalks still aren’t clear, so this morning I ran in the street, and stupidly chose a route that led me past a dozen churches, just as everyone seemed to be arriving or leaving.  The (relatively) warm temps meant that I got sprayed with a healthy dose of road slush.  I altered my route home, deciding to go through the park, not factoring in the fact that the boardwalk along the lake would definitely not be plowed.  I slogged through a foot of snow in near whiteout conditions as my heart rate accelerated, and gulped down large breaths of air fresh from the pickle factory.  Worth it.

Relatedly, I finally started hammering out a race schedule for this year.  I don’t know what I’ll do this spring yet, but my “A” race will almost definitely be either a Half Ironman in September, or a marathon in October.  I’m doing both, but it’s a little early to decide which one to fully taper for.  But I like the thought of using a Half Ironman as a “training” race, or a marathon as a “recovery” run.

There is No Santa Claus

I will fully admit that Lance Armstrong is what got me interested in cycling.  I bought the Lance story hook, line, and sinker, and every July as a high schooler I glued myself to the TV after early morning swim practice in time to catch that day’s stage of the Tour de France live.  I continued to believe in the miracle all through his “Comeback 2.0” with Astana.  I suddenly realized that there were other cycling races besides the tour, and followed Lance as he “got in shape” by riding the Giro d’Italia.  Around this time, I started riding my own bike a lot more, and sure, I pretended I was Lance climbing the Alps whenever I got out of the saddle to dance on my pedals, but who hasn’t?  At the 2009 Tour, I still fully cheered for Lance, and felt miffed when Contador proved to be the stronger rider and went on to win.

Fast forward to last May, when Floyd Landis’ emails got leaked and he decided to come clean.  I was shocked a bit by his confessions about his doping past and what he experienced in the peloton, but I was initially unfazed.  “Here was a man trying to desperately grab at the Lance money train”, I thought.  But there was something about his stories that just seemed to work.  Everything fit in place.

I bought a copy of David Walsh’s 2007 book From Lance to Landis and read it over a weekend.  All of the sudden, all of the “crazy allegations” from the French always trying to bring down Lance, America’s hero, started to seem a lot less crazy.  In the span of a few days, the Story Of Lance had crumbled, in my eyes at least.  Santa Claus was not real.  That a 3 year old book could shed so much light on the doping problem in cycling today was an epiphany of sorts for me.  With the internet at my disposal, I obsessed over doping and read everything I could find on the subject.  The evidence against Lance only multiplied (at least from my starting point of near-complete ignorance).

There were urine samples with EPO in them, backdated steroid prescriptions, monetary “donations” to the UCI, and even suspicious public blood samples from Lance’s 2009 comeback, just to name a few.  Even ignoring all the accusations from former riders, or the fact that nearly every single one of Lance’s challengers at the Tour eventually got busted for doping over the years, there’s a sizable stack of evidence that is already clearly pointing in the direction of “guilty”.

Where stories and memories fail, there’s YouTube to the rescue.  When Lance made his heroic climb on Sestriere in 1999, the first year he won the Tour de France, everyone in the press room laughed.  Embedding is restricted because of some copyright, but watch it here (and ignore the techno music): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiCIJ2JewPE]

It was the year after the Festina scandal, when the sport was supposed to clean, and all of the journalists laughed at Lance scaling the mountain like it was a flat country road, because they all knew the performance was too good to be true.  But the die was cast, and the decision to sell the story of a cancer survivor overcoming all odds to win was made, and, well, you know the rest.

(BTW, there are a hundred details that I’ve skipped over for the sake of time and my laziness at re-hunting down sources, but if you ever want to discuss doping in sports, I can go on for hours)

So back to Floyd.  Here was this renegade that decided to break the omerta, to name names, and little by little, I found myself buying into every detail of his side of things.  His story was an Occam’s Razor or sorts – sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.  No need to explain away problems with intricate stories and complicated scenarios.  Today, a very lengthly interview (~31,000 words) with him was posted, and I highly recommend you read the entire thing.  Do it now.  It shows the human side of Floyd, the one that was very often hidden in his trials, and as I read through his story, everything made even more sense.  Not only were all of his doping stories reiterated, but they were told through a lens that made them seem like completely logical decisions to make.  We, as spectators, often can’t comprehend what would drive an athlete to dope, but when broken down to its bits and pieces, it’s hard to imagine not doping in the same situation that Floyd was in.

Currently, there’s no happy ending for Floyd.  His life has been utterly ruined.  Cycling is probably cleaner today, but it’s still broken, thanks mostly to the corruptness of the UCI.  I can certainly understand the rhetoric of “burn it all down and start over”, but that kind of solution would obviously take too many innocent bystanders down with it.  I continue to be a huge fan of cycling year round (anyone else want to join our fantasy league?), and I’m well aware that Contador most likely doped, but maybe Andy did too, and the truth post-Floyd probably isn’t coming out anytime soon.  So it goes.

But I truly believe Floyd is telling the truth and is trying to make things better.  Lance, you’re dead to me.

Spent

spent

Believe me, this is my happy face.  The kind of happy where you’re so physically exhausted that you know you won’t have any trouble falling asleep at night.  This photo is from Thursday, but I looked about the same after my run this morning, only with even more blood coming out of my nose.  For some reason, this dry winter air doesn’t play nice with my sinuses, and so I’ll just continue to spit blood as I impatiently wait for the weather to turn.

I found myself in the middle of a race this morning, which isn’t the first time that’s happened while going out for a long run.  I was a little surprised that there was a race on a Sunday morning in Holland though.  Shouldn’t everyone be in church or something?  I’m used to having the roads to myself on Sundays, but instead saw a continuous stream of runners along South Shore Drive.  It was nice to have the occasional person in a passing van cheer me on thinking I was racing as well, but I wish I’d know about the race beforehand.  It turns out it was a semi-unofficial marathon relay that started and ended at the Curragh.  I say semi-unofficial, because no one had any bib numbers, and there wasn’t even a clock to time anyone, but there was some organization to it.  If you wanted to know your team’s time, you had to check your own watch.  I don’t have anyone to run with here, much less enough people to put together a relay, but I need to start finding events to participate in to break up the monotony of all my solo workouts.

New York I love you, but you’re letting me down

you're letting me down

I was in NYC over the weekend, and it was rejuvenating.  I usually have to sit on my photos for a bit and let them digest, but this one slipped out, and actually, I’m not in love with it like I thought I would be.  I usually open up Lightroom, mess with a few settings, try a dozen crops and filters, undo all the changes, and close the program without anything to show for my time.  This happens 3 or 4 times before anything meaningful starts to materialize and I know what I want out of a photo.  I always have a growing handful of photos that I’ve flagged for later processing, that I assume I’ll get to once I look at the photo enough and finally figure out how to proceed with it.

So anyway, this is from the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center on Saturday morning, when it was surprisingly not that cold and relatively empty.  I like the bricks, but I’m not really sure what the focus of the image is.  My eyes keep getting drawn to the North-South markings, and the skyline is almost too busy.  Maybe I should have gone for a landscape shot, but I know it wasn’t possible because there were too many people on the observation deck and it would have messed with the quiet emptyness of scene.  The sky is pretty boring, and I probably could have cropped it out, but I didn’t like the proportions.  Either way, I need to let my other shots from the weekend churn in my head a bit before I post more.

My view of New York City itself changed a bit over the weekend too.  I take back my previously held belief that it’s a great city but I couldn’t live there.  I could definitely live there.  Sure, I’d miss some outdoorsy stuff, but it just seems like a place where important things happen.  Holland is the opposite.

winter blues

i thought i would be the only one

A week or so ago, during yet another day full of grey skies and flurries, I made my way out to the beach to see what there was to see.  The truth is, I was just entirely too sick of sitting on my bike in front of the TV and pedaling squares, and I didn’t want to sit on the couch all evening, so I grabbed two pairs of gloves and headed out.  I froze anyway, and was surprised that I wasn’t actually the only person who decided to brave the windchill just to be outside.

In processing the shots from my walk, I realized that I’m really not very great at black and white photography.  I think it’s mostly a personal bias I have with my photos, and that once I see them in color, I have a hard time letting go of it.  In the above photo, I resisted cutting out all the color, and instead left a slight blue tint.  The black and white version was too flat, and even after playing around with different s-curves, I couldn’t make anything that I preferred more than the blue tint.  It makes the photo seem cold and dark, which I think goes well with the falling snow and a little vignetting.

I’ll try to keep my eye out for more opportunities for black and white photos, but I don’t think it’ll happen fast.  I’m going through a phase where I really like muted colors.

Fructose is Poison

I often dispense nutritional advice that I know is sound, yet fail to follow myself.  Do as I say, not as I do.  But this time I’m changing my food habits permanently.  Let me explain.

I still generally eat better than most people around me (especially my coworkers and roommates (SICK)), but there are enough times when cooking for one seems unappealing and I slip and either eat whatever limited sweets I keep in the pantry, or go out to eat and grab something easy.  My diet at home is almost strictly vegetarian, not for any moral or allergenic reasons or anything, but mostly because it’s cheaper and I’m a lazy cook.  It’s even rarer that I’ll have red meat at home, usually it’s fish or chicken.  I mostly follow the rule of thumb that says to shop around the edges of the grocery store – where the fresh fruits/vegetables/dairy/etc. are  generally located – and stay away from the center aisles where everything is boxed and loaded with preservatives.

Anyway, I’m sure everyone’s heard how High Fructose Corn Syrup is ruining our food supply and making us obese, but without ever digging too deep into things, I just bought the Corn Refiners Association argument (check out the FUD they’re spreading) that it’s no different from having sugar in food.  It kind of makes sense, and is easily forgotten about by reminding yourself to take everything in moderation and not worry so much.

But take a closer look at the science and it’s pretty clear that fructose really is to blame.  I know it’s long, but take the time to watch this lecture:

I think the reason it resonates with me so strongly is that it appeals to my rationally geared brain, showing the biochemistry behind what is happening with fructose, and backing it up with medical studies that pound the point home.  Whereas half of the books I’ve read promoting vegetarianism and movies like “Super Size Me” and “Food, Inc.” are more focused on connecting with the audience emotionally (Note: I’ve never actually seen “Food, Inc.”, but that’s just what I perceive it to be like), this lecture spelled out everything I wanted to know and kept me engaged, without the need for fancy production values.

I’ll be honest, before watching the lecture I spent too much time trying to balance the mythical “calories in vs. calories out” equation, I didn’t know that fructose was processed by the body much differently from glucose, and I generally (falsely) assumed that “low-fat” products were better.  It’s not every day that I come across something that genuinely makes me rethink the way I live my life.  I hope I’m not the only one who just got a healthy dose of sense knocked into them.

Also, obese people offend my eyes.  So… let’s have less of that.

Detroit Auto Show

not grey, silver, graphite, tungsten, etcetera

I went to the Detroit Auto Show yesterday with Brad.  I’ve only been to the Chicago Auto show before, so this was a new chance to gawk at brand new engineering and styling from a different and more “close to the source” setting.  When I was younger, in the days before the internet brought all the latest auto news to my browser minutes after a story broke, I would try to collect as many brochures and posters as possible from every manufacturer.  Audi and Porsche panoramas graced my walls through much of high school, as did a large Corvette.  Not because I like Corvettes.  They are unattractive cars, but a free car poster was a free car poster, so there it hung.

Now, it’s about sitting in as many cars and getting a feel for the entire car in 15 seconds.  Here are some quick thoughts:

  • Ford – Still haven’t become a fan of the MyFord Touch system, but I could see it working well after overcoming a slight learning curve.  As always, I love the new Fiesta and Focus.
  • Subaru – The Outback just keeps getting bigger (bad), while the Forester actually grew much less than I’d previously thought (good).  Still love my 2001 Forester, and would definitely buy another.
  • Chevy – The Volt was the absolute biggest disappointment of the show.  I thought the exterior styling – the window trim, the rear reversing light, plastic grey grill – was terrible, and then I sat inside.  I guess I haven’t paged through many recent press shots of the Volt because it’s been talked up forever, but I was abhorred with the center console.  I don’t want the Volt to fail, but wow, I would never even consider one.  I breezed by the new Sonic, much like the designers apparently did when they got to the rear end and must have run their budget dry, just slapping a tailgate on it and calling it a day.  I was impressed with the new Cruze, but as my perceptions and the crowd gathering around them reinforced, its target is 30-50 year old married couples.  New Corvettes and Camaros – blah.
  • Fiat – I thought the new 500 was sharp.  If there’s a market for the Mini Cooper, there’s one for the 500.  Related note: we half-intentionally missed the Chrysler area, and so I can’t give any further scathing first-hand impressions of the new 300.
  • Porsche – Set apart from all the grey models they had on display, that green Cayman R certainly looks hot.
  • VW – The first thing I remember about the VW area of the show was how unbearably hot it was.  They were using 3 times as many spotlights, and the added heat was noticeable, especially stepping into the new Passat that had been left to bake like an oven.  I liked the Passat, but only because my expectations for it were quite low.  They cheapened it up quite a bit and dulled the exterior styling, but I always love me some German interiors, so I couldn’t hate on all of it.
  • Audi – Absolutely stunning as always.  My life goal is to own one.  Quattro is a must.
  • BMW – I’m starting to fall out of love with Stuttgart.  Aside from the 1 and 3 series, everything seems bloated, and I definitely don’t like the direction things are headed if the X6 actually catches on.  At least they are slightly more interesting than Mercedes.
  • Mercedes – Snooooooze.  At least they don’t offend my eyes like…
  • Toyota – I didn’t spend much time here, because their products make my eyes want to punch kittens, but I’m confused by who exactly is in the market for the new Prius V or Prius C.  They’ll sell because of the Prius name, but that doesn’t mean I’ll understand why anyone would want one.
  • Honda – I was thoroughly unimpressed with the new Civic.  It’s just, meh.  Honda seems to have no direction with their design, but they need to figure something out eventually.  Just please stop making the Crosstour.

when will they bring the pepsi?

After seeing the entire show in one extended run, Brad and I were starving, so we walked through the food court.  Thoroughly unimpressed with the $10 burgers on offer, we hit the quiet downtown streets of Detroit in search of Coney Island dogs, as recommended by Ian.  The chili dogs hit the spot, but the Pepsi was phenomenal.  It’s easy to forget how dehydrated you can get just by being on your feet all day, and the Pepsi rejuvenated us.  If refills hadn’t taken 10 minutes to get to us, I would’ve sucked down a gallon.

All in all, the 6 hours spent driving to and from Detroit were definitely justified.  A good weekend adventure.

Hello World #2

It’s time to move on from blogging under pseudonyms (and using robots.txt) in the dark backwaters of the internet to something a little cleaner, more mature, and with better content in the posts.  I’ve been debating with myself a lot about what topics to actually cover in future posts, but finally decided that it’s too much to worry about at this point in the game.  Most of the blogs I frequent are either written by people I know in real life, or focus on a niche, I figured I’d rather let my writing and images decide where to take things and follow them, than plan everything in advance.  Will that limit the appeal of this blog to some readers?  Certainly.  But as I learned through Twitter and Flickr, when I try to censor/filter myself to build some mythical “brand”, I just end up with extended periods of radio silence.

After all, what people really want are good stories, whether through words, images, or videos.  They want a connection to the composer, a glimpse of their vulnerabilities.

So here’s a self portrait I took last weekend.  The snowy scene outside acting like a nice big light box, bringing out all the contrasting colors at Lemonjellos as I sipped coffee and enjoyed the relative silence that is surely gone now that classes are back in session.