I don’t always write fiction, but when I do, I post it for all the world to laugh at my embarrassment.

*Author’s note: It’s been almost two years since I did any creative writing. If you’ve got any feedback, fire away. If not, enjoy.

 

The candle light bounced off the room, casting its timid glow across the dusty surfaces. The dim pallor flickered and glinted wildly across the broken glass on the floor. It jumped to life in the eyes of the two people sitting around the shoddy wooden table.

The man on the right considered his partner. He looked upon the figure across him, as the light caressed the folds and creases in the leathery countenance. His eyes narrowed and he sighed heavily as he observed the heavy stubble across the chin. A large, once-white hat was perched on the head, sloughed back at an unusual angle. The green eyes stood out from the browned and dirty skin that held them. He blinked. His eyes diverted to the cave walls, barely able to observe the texture of pick, and shovel, scars in the red dirt.

Outside the bright sunlight lashed the red mountains, and harsh auburn soil. Gnarled brown trees provided scant cover from the daystar. Two horses, lashed under the largest grove, waited in the canyon. The walls corralled the canyon floor to a box shape, and leaped up skyward. They rose with sharp purpose, and marked their height with striations of minerals and multi-colored dirt. Artists had been fond of these hills, when they could speak to the colors and hues for inspiration.

A dirty figure emerged from the hole in the canyon wall. His dark brown hat covered his face in shade. His plain clothes showed a rough texture. Laid across the fibers was a fine coating of dust, muting the dull colors. He snorted, and spit as he saddled up his horse. With an expression grim as the devils of hell, he rode out of the canyon. A thousand thoughts bounced around the crevices and corners of his mind, as they hurried back towards civilization. With each passing gallop, he drifted further away from the desert canyons, and plains. Hundreds of trips allowed the horse to navigate the way, without input from the rider. His mind was free to wander the plains.

He pushed the last thought out of his mind as the horse came to a stop in front of a small wooden building. Men were standing around, staring. He gently prodded the horse to move forward. The animal had made the normal trip, but today was not normal. The pair moved away from the safety of the usual stop, and rode up the street. He stopped the equine beast at the saloon, and hitched it to the post. The dark interior of the bar was an easy adjustment for his eyes. He scanned the room, back and forth.

A woman stood at the top of a staircase along the back wall. Her skin was clean, and adorned in fine silk. Her gaze met his, and she smirked. A small, quick hand gesture bid the dusty man to enter, and climb the stairs. She retreated to her office, and took the chair. The huge desk in the center of the room eclipsed he slight frame. As the man in his dusty coat walked in, her eyes lit with excitement. Before she could utter and excited question, he raised his hand.

“Money.” The word echoed from his lungs. He observed the woman, bursting with energy. His interest, however, was not in the quivering jaw, and bitten lip behind the desk.

A small bag of coins flew from her hand, as she spoke, “You could have steady work here. Stay.” Her tone was not pleading, but not commanding either. She watched the man count his money, and hoped he would consider her words.

He dropped the coins in his pocket, and scoffed. He walked to the door, and paused. Turning, he offered some advice to the matron, “You’re going to lose this war you started, and you’re going to lose this planet.” He left the saloon, and spurred his horse towards the spaceport. He boarded his ship heavier in gold, but a bullet lighter.

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Trying to maintain a modicum of productivity while re-examining your world paradigm.

One of my professors has quite a streak of anti-Establishment. To wit, he has made great efforts to expose flaws in the thought patterns that have been ingrained in us for our entire lives. This is a most admirable task, and I greatly enjoy his jabs at “the man.” If his ideas weren’t propagating and percolating in my mind, there would be no problem. However, I’m frequently finding myself nearly paralyzed by analysis trying to reconcile these new ideas with my once-secure world scheme. Recently he introduced us to Sir Ken Robinson, and is requiring us to view a pair of the knight’s TED talks. Sir Ken is a well-spoken chap, he brings some interesting ideas to the table, and makes some interesting points. Unfortunately, Sir Ken is mum on concrete suggestions.

If we take Robinson at face-value and begin educating children for creativity, what happens? Do we suddenly have a generation of people that are completely delighted with their vocations? How does this emphasis on creativity, over the old order of science and math, impact jobs and productivity? Without looking over the always changing – and likely manipulated – job-demographic statistics, where do all of these, perhaps, wonderfully talented artistic-types go? What contribution to society do they make? Where do they create income? As I understand it, historically artists of all ilks have survived on the coattails of others. To sugar-coat it, artists live by patrons. These patrons, generally wealthy folk, subsidize the artists either by commissioning artwork, or buying art (often at exorbitant prices). In history this has worked reasonably well. Sir Ken cites a choreographer who was identified as a dancer early in life, and came to work with Andrew Lloyd Weber on some of the most popular musicals in history as evidence that his model can be successful. Chapeau to all parties involved in that scenario. Having enjoyed the end results of that collaboration, I can attest to its quality. The first question that springs to mind: “How does that model scale?” The wealthy exist in droves, but few are altruistic enough to keep a non-related human afloat while their potential masterpiece forms. Yes, creativity is wonderful. Rote repetition isn’t a plan for success. Doing things out of passion is far better than doing things out of necessity! How, though, do we create success in following your passions?

There is a brief mention that “being wrong is not the same as being creative.” Sir Ken never elaborates on that point, and continues his speech exhorting more creative thought processes. Essentially, he makes a minor concession and then continues to ram home his point that being creative is more important than being correct. He mentions “fear of being wrong,” and elaborates that children don’t have a phobic response to incorrect answers. He insists that the education system mongers a, very nearly compulsive, desire to be correct. Is this bad? Robinson seems to think so. Without any explanation of the difference between the constituents of creativity and the constituents of right and wrong, it is impossible to know exactly what conclusions to draw.

Is that the only option of reconciliation? At what point does one have to understand they will not achieve success in their desired field and move to another? What effect does a near-continual exploration of abilities and talents, including the lack there-of, have on personal growth? If all of society operated that way, how vastly different would the landscape look? Is Robinson’s ideal congruent with reality? Robinson misses several points of worry: what of people with no remarkable talent or desire? What about people who possess no desire to follow their talents? What of the people who desire, but have no talents? Robinson, the Pangloss, implicitly states everyone has talent, of some sort, which must drive them to pursue it.

Being a cog in the machine that Sir Ken describes, I lack any ability to grasp his proposed paradigm. I am “successful,” in that I’ve achieved a college degree (Note: these are now worthless, according to Sir Ken.) and I am pursuing a Master’s degree in science. I have no idea if I have the talent at my proposed job to make a successful lifestyle. And that seems to be the sticking point in my response to Sir Ken. His example of a successful individual operating out of a creative paradigm has a near-zero chance of replication. So I can only envision a world where the vast, unwashed heathens  are still struggling to exist – perhaps more so than they would under the current paradigm – with a modicum more pleasure in their everyday jobs. Sir Ken’s suggestion to follow talents and desires is approaching the border of hedonism. The current ideas, ideals even, present a very binary decision:  one can follow dreams, and never make a dime (supposedly to great internal, or moral, reward), or follow money at the cost of misery. Some people have apparently mastered this paradigm, working several jobs, creating a hodge-podge existence with more “moral” (for lack of a better word) reward than misery.

In order for Robinson’s ideals to work, there must be a complete cultural shift. Though I don’t take offense to his suggestions (indeed my artistic side yearns that he be immortalized and his ideals thrust to the highest lofts and most revered places-held-on-high), they stand in such stark contrast to what I know of reality, and what I’ve experience from others’ paradigms. It would seem, that short of anything revolutionary, there is no feasible chance to implement these ideas. Unless, like a Gangnam Style-viral video, the idea spreads from person to person, such thoughts have nary a chance of survival.

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Things I forgot about cyclocross

Since CX season starts next weekend, today seemed like a reasonable time to start preparing. I had forgotten a few things, namely:

  • The exact feeling of gagging on your own intestines.
  • Just how annoying grassy, off-camber sections are because you’re just – CRASH! – because you just lose it so suddenly.
  • RAILING corners is AWESOME!
  • 26PSI – No lie, 26 PSI kicks ass.
  • Chopping wheels – Pretend you’re Paul Bunyan, and take everyone-else’s lines!
  • The incredible feeling of taking the sketchiest line in a corner, and going really, really fast because of it. (This has a negative correlation to the second item on this list)
  • Finding how hot you can cook a corner without brakes.
  • The self-congratulatory arrogance of a perfect set of barriers.
  • The exact feeling of gagging on your own intestines. (I know I already said that, do you understand EMPHASIS?!)
  • The funny arc and pendulum characteristics of drool.
  • How easy it is to create new metaphors of suffering.
  • That ripping sound tubulars make when you’re doing it right.
  • Nailing a downhill-uphill transition, and realizing you segue’d the free-hub buzz into motorcycle sounds.
  • The buzz of a loud-ass free-hub screaming through corners.

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Velodrome

Last weekend I traveled to Rock Hill, South Carolina to experience the Giordana Velodrome. I went in to the day unsure of what to expect. I’d watched a handful of track races on YouTube, and pedaled a track bike around my parking lot – maybe 3 minutes – and read about some of the big names in the sport. However, like anything new, until you try it, you will always be woefully unprepared.

There were 15 people in my certification class, mostly hipsters from Florida with obscene tattoos. One kid had his face, and half of his head inked. Rad, bruh. Obviously I can’t rag on anyone for being tattoo’d, but your face? Really? There were also two kids from the U25 BMC-Hincapie development team. One was kind of a punk, but the other seemed like a cool enough cat. To say the talent levels were varied is an understatement.

I won’t bore you with rote, minute details of the day, but suffice it to say, I learned a lot. If you are like me, and frequently find yourself soft-pedaling during an effort, find a fixed gear. The forward-driving wheel will remind you to pedal in much the same way that a bronco will remind you it doesn’t need a rider. I very nearly took flight (more times than I’d like to admit) when I forgot. That sensation of complete control of the bike through your legs, however, gives a rider phenomenal feedback when riding in a pace line.

Without brakes, you must become more aware of what you’re doing. Personally, I tend to over-accelerate when closing gaps in lines. There are several problems here, first the acceleration opens another gap, and when you get on the wheel, you have to slow to match pace. Jump, brake, jump, brake, jump, brake; that’s the refrain of the yo-yo song. With no mechanical means of speed control, the rider is forced to use their brain, plan ahead, and observe.

Riding on the velodrome is like riding the biggest berm you can imagine. I sort-of expected it, but track standing is so much easier on a track bike. I realize that’s a stupid sentence, but it could have gone either way. Track bikes are difficult to dismount. I want a ‘drome closer to home so I can practice and play around.

I left with a super-positive experience. I already want to go back and experience some actual races!

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Snippets of thoughts.

Occasionally, I like to explore ideas in a deeper scope than Twitter provides. Occasionally, I make entire blog posts devoted to a few of these ideas. Today is one of those days.

I’m not going to lie to you and advertise myself as a guru of American domestic bike racing, but I know one thing. Kenda Pro Cycling is a pretty impressive squad. They’re also continually skipped over for invitations to large races. They rode the Amgen Tour of California a couple of years ago, without much fanfare. Last year they rode with good results. This year, however, those men have been on fire. On Fi-YAH, beh-bay!  The team Twitter account (whom I’m assuming knows far more about the team’s successes and failures than I do,) claims 46 victories, and 116 podiums for their 2012 season. They’re fourth on the NRC standings. As a race promoter, you want the teams with the best athletes at your races. You want these athletes because they draw spectators. Spectators draw advertising dollars. Advertising dollars are the only way you make money yourself. How, exactly, do you pass over a team with 46 victories? I don’t understand. The conspiracy minded amongst the Twitterati have suggested the Lance Armstrong effect damning the team. Frankie Andreu is the Directeur Sportif, and Medalist Sports (the company that promotes/manages/puts-on – whatever your verb of choice is – the AToC, Tour of Utah, and the USA PRO Cycling Challenge) is a beneficiary of Lance Armstrong. Ergo Medalist is assisting in the campaign to screw ANYTHING any enemy of Lance Armstrong. Several posts were made lamenting the possible demise of the KPC squad, and placing the blame squarely on Medalist Sports.

In light of their lost deal worth $250,000 last year due to an AToC snub, I wouldn’t doubt that at all. Make of the situation what you will. I refuse to partake in the near hysterics, but(!) I also can’t fathom promoting a major race where I don’t invite the fourth ranked team on a national calendar. If you feel the urge, or better still, the need, to indulge your inner conspiracy theorist, I suggest you memorize this chart. http://www.cyclismas.com/2012/06/lance-armstrongs-business-links-a-flowchart-by-dimspace/.

Anyone watching the Tour can see that, short of disaster, the 2012 Tour winner will wear a Sky jersey. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the United Kingdom. They’ve never had a Tour winner. Tom Simpson, the last great hope for the Union Jack rode himself to his grave, geeked on amphetamines, in 1967. What a dramatic reversal of fortune to claim (possibly) two steps of the podium in cycling’s “greatest” event.

Again, however, the conspiracy theorists are hard at work, manufacturing strife among the ranks. Apparently, since Chris Froome can accelerate abruptly on an incline, he’s FAR STRONGER than Bradley Wiggins. Wiggo, the undisputed team-leader rides like Ivan Basso, meaning he likes to have teammates pacing him at a consistently high pace, rather than many changes in pace. Don’t infer any doping allegations from my Basso comparison, lest we send Mr. Wiggins in to a profane frenzy. Several pundits (far removed, and far more knowledgeable that a mere punter like myself) have commented that the true contest in this tour will be between the two Englishmen. I am confused by the seemingly intelligent people who have lost their minds over this Wiggins v Froome debate. Both men are gifted athletes, bolstering ridiculous genetics with the requisite mentality to create phenomenal performances. Watching the stage today, however, did not leave me with any thoughts that Froome would be trying to snatch the overall from his team leader. Sure he attacked when the group up the road was caught. It only makes sense that when you cover your rival’s attack, you counter with your own. Again though, Wiggins doesn’t like the violent changes in pace, and was dropped from the group. If anything, I worry that Wiggins and Sky aren’t taking ENOUGH time out of Nibali, and the other competitors. Especially in the world of sport, you must press your advantage when you have it.

With the better part of a fortnight left, including several more mountains and a 50km time-trial, we’ll see what happens with Sky and the rest of Le Tour.

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Witty title referencing months of non-blogging.

They say “Silence is golden.” The news media, bloggers (LOL THAT’S ME! LOL!), and Twitter would beg to differ. To be silent in the age of social media to be non-existent. Ergo, based on my blogging, I’ve been non-existent lately. But, bro, that’s totally cool. I got a lot done. I got a degree. I had one of my most enjoyable semesters of school, ever, and I managed to get some serious training in. Aren’t brief summaries great?

Also a side effect of the social media age is an over-emphasis on being concise. Rather, it would seem curt is the new norm. (See what I did there? That’s how nerds make jokes. We use definitions. (See what I continue to to do, using short sentences? OH THE LULZ!))

Joking aside, it would seem that my long-form exploration of nothing, everything, and anything is long overdue. My last post was marked with a December time stamp. Hark! For, lo, it is June! In only the clearest of observances, we must realize that this intrepid blogger hath not the experiences worthy of reportage. Shocking, right? The life of a hermit is uninspiring for a(n amateur) scribe. Perhaps the only tragic part of this story is the frequency of stories half-wrought, partially written, mostly envisioned, or otherwise abandoned in various states of completion, roll around in my head. Words dance across the brain’s synapses effortlessly while the feet dance atop the pedals. In cruel, ever so, cruel reality these precious words lumped together in thoughts, occasionally spanning so far as to become ideas, are ripped from the conscience with the cessation of the feet. And so it is that any natural creativity occurs only in the most inopportune moments.

Because I forget anything interesting I was going to write before I can get to a thought-collecting device, I haven’t written anything.  I could certainly berate you all with a handful of forced anecdotes, or some rote parroting of peer-reviewed literature, or some other hum-drum drivel, however I wouldn’t be proud of that. Even something as utterly-inconsequential as a blog requires a sense of pride and accomplishment. I read the advice of famous authors. They claim things like “never travel (anywhere!) without a pen and paper!” and “write, even when it is physically painful to do so.” Alas, I am but a hack. My dedication to the art of the written word is not such that I would choose to endure such trials.

Suddenly, “silence is golden.” makes much more sense.

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On vehicles.

There is a two-lane road.  It is well marked with a white line on the extreme edges of the pavement, and two yellow lines in the center.  There are three cars travelling south, and one car traveling north.  There is also a bicycle traveling north.  The bicyclist sees the oncoming traffic.  The bicyclist also knows of the car behind him.  There is fear.  He reaches down to grab a water bottle.  He gently slides about three inches towards the center of the road, to avoid a hole.  The oncoming cars are close.  A quick glance over the shoulder reveals a hood ornament no more than a meter from his shoulder.  Fear was justified.  The car slowed slightly as the driver realized he wasn’t able to pass between the cyclist and on-coming cars.

That was Tuesday.  This was a couple hours after some jerkoff in a 1998-ish Dodge Avenger sedan needed to pass me in a tight, blind corner.  Just for good measure, he wanted to make sure I knew he was there.  So while his front quarter-panel was trying to investigate the depths of my colon, he honked his horn.  Clearly, I am at fault here.  I’ll just abandon my dreams of athletic success, and take up beer drinking, NASCAR watching, and lobotomize myself so I can be just like you.

Ah yes, hateful rhetoric.  It complements my coffee so well.  I don’t have any actual solutions to the problem.  I just felt like bitching about near-death experiences.  I’ve also come to accept the reality that as my hours on the bike increase, getting clipped no longer becomes and “if” statement.  “When,” is the new operative word, as in:  “I’ll be super-PRO when I get hit by a car.  Levi Leipheimer and teammate Tony Martin have both been hit this year.  Neils Albert, the 2-time cyclocross world champion was hit last year.”

(Just so we’re clear, I’m writing on a plane beyond sarcastic in that last sentence.  Facetious isn’t emphatic enough to describe that tone.)

Fatalism, breakfast of champions!

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