Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hittin' the books

"When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle."
—Elizabeth West

Wow. It seems to be literary week here at Bicycles and Icicles. First poetry, now a quote from a book. I'm just one deep mofo, I guess. Actually, With more time inside and less time on the bikes, I have been slipping back into the reading mode. My year is usually divided into about six months of steady biking (at least as steady as weather and my schedule allow) and then six months of sloppy weather, some winter biking, lots of trainer rides and catching up on reading. I actually buy books during summer with no intention of reading them until snow flies. I got bored the other night, however, and pulled Richard Preston's "The Hot Zone" off my book shelf. I hadn't read it in 10 years. It'll scare the hell out of ya, but it's a great read. And, hey, nuthin' says appetizing lunch-hour reading like Ebola virus.

Just to keep this bike-related, I managed to fit "Lance Armstrong's War" by Dan Coyle into my summer reading. Fine book whether you're an admirer of Armstrong or not. I happen to be a fan, despite his character flaws, but I get a bit weary of hearing that he's the "greatest of all time." Sure, seven Tour victories is unprecedented, but let's not forget The Cannibal. When you look at the range of races won, Tour stages won, days in the yellow jersey, and grand tours won, it's hard to top the old man, who looks like he could still kick ass on a bike.

I've also been reading more news than I care to admit, and feeling generally fed-up with the state of the world and especially the deteriorating state of this country. Every day that President Dipshit spends in the White House is one more day too many. Maybe next time we can all vote for the creepy dude. Couldn't be any worse than what we have now, that's for sure.

And while we're on the subject of news, I have to rant for just a moment one the most recent example of a reporter writing a story on Alaska without understanding the place. Or maybe he/she simply didn't bother to pay attention to the facts. This story from Reuters (via CNN) describes the village of Shishmaref sinking into the ground as permafrost melts because of global warming. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, global warming is taking a toll on permafrost across Alaska, causing buildings to sink, utility poles to fall over, etc. Unfortunately, for the sake of accurate journalism, the buildings in Shishmaref aren't sinking—at least not into the ground.

Shishmaref is an ancient village built on a barrier island at the edge of northwestern Alaska, and it's being destroyed because rising temperatures are shortening the season during which sea ice freezes agains the shore and protects the island from erosion caused by storms on the Chukchi Sea. Big storm + Open water = Damaging waves. I know this not only because I've read about it (it's well documented and easy to look up), but also because I've been there and stood on the beach as seawater lapped against my feet and I stared at a 15-foot wall of eroding sand and gravel with a house sitting on top of it. Hit that sucker with a few hours of storm waves, and it's bye-bye, house. Yes, in some villages the buildings are leaning over because the ground is thawing. But in Shishmaref, the buildings are falling into the fucking ocean! Much of the village already gone. Not sunk. Gone. As in drifting south toward Hawaii.

OK, that's my editorial rant for the week. Go forth and ride. May your weekend be filled with smooth, silent chains and long, loamy singletrack.

No comments: