Monday, May 30, 2005

It's Great to be the King

As Big Brother encroaches upon us from every direction, I find it quite fascinating to talk to people about where they would like to draw the line upon this encroachment. There seems to be this sense that if things go to far, we the people will have the ability to roll things back if the majority disapproves. Yet there is no real evidence that we have the ablity to roll anything back.

The Federal Income tax started as a temporary fix to fund a war. Most americans detest it and the way it works. Yet, everytime it has been attempted to be fixed, it gets worse.

So, with some amusement I find it interesting to see that we now have traffic light cameras to catch violators so that citations can be issued, and cameras for catching speeders are on the horizon. These cameras have the ability to do something that we have not been able to do: apply the laws equally to all citizens all the time. Race, color, creed, red car, green car, male, female, blonde, brunette are all subject to the same camera and same enforcement 24 hours a day.

Recently, I asked someone if they were enthusiastic about such technical intrusions, would they be as enthusiastic if each time they broke a law that they were cited. I also asked do they break common traffic laws now on a regular basis. Do they really want to live in a society where everything done is under constant scrutiny and subject to prosecution? The answers are terrifying to me.

They were for the traffic light cameras but against the speed monitoring cameras. There was the constant assertion that there must be some sort of reasonableness decided by society overall. Yet society has not really shown the ability to agree on what reasonable it. The deciding factor usually seems to be that what is reasonable is what I agree with, and unreasonable is what I disagree with.

Then there is the concept that if we the public find it unreasonable, we can change it. That has not proven to be true either. Each day we become less and less significant in as individuals in America, and indeed, the world. Each day I have less and less impact on the laws that are passed, on the representatives I cast votes for, and who is president. Indeed the individual is at risk of becoming totally insignificant.

As the population grows, and we become more and more segmented, protecting the rights of the individual become less and less important. Suppose a law can be passed that takes away the rights of 1 % of americans. The other 99% will not be affected. Suppose that this law is for the greater good of the entire nation. Do you really believe that there will be an uprising amongst the 99% in support of that 1%? Or will the concept of greater good combined with the knowledge I am not affected effectively silence us?

I was once a very strong advocate for the death penalty. Recently though, I have changed my view. Scores of inmates that have been wrongly convicted have been released through dna evidence. Putting an innocent man in jail is something we as a nation once believed to be the worst thing ever. So terrible that we would have rather let a guilty man go free rather than imprison an innocent one. That believe seems to have changed.

How can we pursue the death penalty, when in some cases, we are not completely sure of the guilt. In each of the cases that have been reversed, the innocent were indeed found guilty. Yet they were not.

And in spite of this terrible wrong, we do not have a national revolt against the death penalty. Why? Because I believe all of us who are generally law abiding do not think it will happen to us. If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. Yet how many not doing wrong have been placed in jail, forfeiting years of their life, or worse been executed?

If the rights of the individual are surrendered to society there is no one to stand and defend us. There may be no one to defend you. Of course the odds are against you, but long odds do not keep things from happening. The odds are very long against winning the lottery, yet someone will indeed win. And even with the long odds, look at how many are willing to take that chance for winning. Are we also not taking that same chance at losing rights as an individual?

People expect the enforcement of laws to be reasonable. If the speed limit is 55 and you are going 56, then most people think getting a ticket for 56 is unreasonable. Yet that is the law. And the closer to the law that they broke, then the more unreasonable they feel it is when they are ticketed. If you are caught doing 85 in a 55, you are not likely to think it unreasonable to get a ticket, unlike the first case. But our laws are not designed to be that way. They were meant to treat all equally, and breaking the law is, basically breaking the law.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Sense of Loss

Staying in shape is never an easy thing. When one has to back off training for reasons beyond our control, the added weight and the loss of our hard earned gains can be frustrating and depressing to say the least.

But I want to tell you that it is not as bad as it would seem. If you can get the training back into the groove, the gains you can experience will amaze even the most seasoned of us.

Over the last year, I fell into a slump. For numerous reasons I lost the desire to push myself. Physically, my body had started revolting. But in early February, as my weight peaked at a 5 year high, and my pace for running at a five year low, I had enough. Pants I had bought at the beginning of January were way too tight. I was making jokes about how fast I was gaining weight. Running had become a struggle.

So I enabled myself to be able to change that direction. Even though I joined the gym, I purchased dumbbells so that I could do at least a complete upper body workout at home. I bought some dvds called Spinnervals, and I road on the trainer if I could not get outside. I took my watch, and started using the workout mode so that it would push me if I ran too slow. Just a gentle kick in the ribs to pick it up a tad.

Here I am, just over three months later, and things have turned completely around. Having lost 9 pounds, those pants I purchased do not fit yet again. They are way too large. I have taken an average of 45 seconds per mile off of every run I do, and that is with increasing the monthly mileage. On the bike, I have never been stronger or faster. And the number of times I have to look twice in the mirror because I do not recognize the person that is reflected.

The sense of loss of those pounds off of my body and those seconds off my splits bring a feeling of satisfaction to me. It is a sense of loss that I am able to enjoy. I will never be a super athlete. I will never be a winner in the medals sense. In fact, I am smiling, knowing that I am a great loser.

EJ Moosa

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Demise of the Yankees

The Demise of the Yankees

Yes, it is still early in the season. It is not even the middle of May yet. I do not even live in an American league town. But, I cannot help but smile each time I see that the Yankees have lost yet again.

I like Joe Torre. I think he is a great manager. I like the site of pinstripes. They have always implied a sense of class.

But the unbridled spending of George Steinbrenner has had me secretly cheering for the demise of the team. It is not because Steinbrenner has spent so much money. It is because he is spending so much money so inefficiently.

In our society, there has never been a problem that those that wanted to solve that problem would state the need for additional funds. When was the last time that you heard of a school system, a community, a cause of any kind, that ever stated it is not money that we need more of, but heart? Or change of behaviors? It does not happen that way.

And were Steinbrenner and the Yankees to spend more than anyone, and dominate the world of baseball, then it would only serve to reinforce the concept of money being the cure for what ails you. I simply do not believe that is true.

With it being so early in the season, it is possible that the Yankees start winning. Not even far-fetched that they can still win the division. It’s why they play 162 games. But it is refreshing to see the general manger of the Yankees fly to Tampa Bay because this is such a serious issue. Steinbrenner is one unhappy owner at this time. It is refreshing because they are having to take a hard look at their line-up and admit perhaps that they were wrong, and that they are not getting the bang for the bucks that they are spending.

1 st in Spending
New York Yankees

30th in Spending(last)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

For the 11 wins by Tampa Bay so far, they spent 2.669 million dollars per victory For the 11 wins by the Yankees, they have spent $18.9 million per victory. That is a lot of money for one win. Steinbrenner has spent a lot of money to win. More than anyone else. Win at any cost may not be such a good idea after all.

Perhaps someone in the front office should have spoken up and reigned in the spending. Then again, we are talking about rich owners where they normally do what they want regardless of whether it makes sense financially.

But for now I will enjoy seeing the losses add up as the Yankees continue to struggle.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

View of the Century Part 2

It has taken me a long time to get where I am. Seventy-five miles or so is a long way on a bike. In Atlanta during rush hour, that could take you 3 hours at times. Yet the sense of accomplishment is not there at mile marker 75. There isn't even a mile marker 75. You just know it because you, the rider are watching the miles click by.

But with 31 miles or so left, you start to do the math in your 20mph that will be almost 1 1/2 hours of pedaling. But then I look down and see that the digital readout says 14 mph. Better make that two more hours of pedaling.

Then you realize that they have saved the hilliest of the ride for the last part of the century. The downhill parts are great. Until, you see ahead that you have a 3/4 of a mile climb with a 12 % grade. The first one was a challenge. The second one I encountered I told myself I was buiding character. The third, and I was cussing the course planners loudly and frequently. On the fourth, I needed that breath to get up the hill.

That's when I decided that they must have closed the rest stops early for the protection of those voulunteers working them. Without them, that left the conveniece store as the place to get a Powerade and a snack before finishing.

One of the positive things about cycling is that you get to wear a lot of form fitting clothes around others that also dressed as you are, and so there are no concerns about appeearnce. One of the bad things about cycling is that you wear a lot of form fitting clothes and get to go into convenience stores where there is no shortage of people staring at you and wondering what sort of nutcase is coming in here with gloves and a helmet and spandex shorts.

When you are dehydrated, tired and hungry, you really do not give a rat's ass about what they think. Fortunately there are two other cyclists there leaving as I enter. At least I know that I am not the only one.

Getting some liquids and food, I am ready to ride the final stretch. Hoping that the end of this ride is easier than the last part has been, I keep my fingers crossed. As an intersection approaches, I think that it surely looks familiar. Then I realize, it is the same intersection where I waited for my friend. Rout planners, please make a note: It is unusually cruel to bring century riders back to a point they were at at mile 59 or so. It makes them question why they took the long way to a point that they were already at.

At least now I know that I am on the same route as the others who took a shorter trip, and I tell myself that I can consider this the icing on my cake. I have learned that it is a requirement to play a lot of mind games on long rides. This is one of them.

Another of the tricks I do is to attempt some simple math, and in doing so, convert the miles on the bike to where I would be if it was a marathon. Mile 100 on the bike would equal 25 marathon miles, I tell myself. This is where it counts. So finish strong.

I wanted to do just that. I promise you. But the route planners had other ideas once again. I feel certain that the planners sat around a map, with highlighters and carefully laid out the course. I even imagine that they drove it several times to make sure everything was as good as it could be. I am not sure that they rode it, however.

Arriving back in Madison would have been a real pleasure, were it not for the fact that fatigue was a major factor, and they threw us into a wonderfully historic area, with plenty of cars and stop signs. As soon as you got going, you either had a light or a stop sign and had towork around the traffic. It would have been wonderful to start the ride that way, but not to finish it.

Fearful of making a mental error, I watched the cars instead of the scenery and decided maybe there will be another day when I look at historic Madison.

Finally, I see the area where we started. There are no finish line markings. There are no crowds to greet you. There are no medals or awards. I did not care about the bandana any longer. I did not have the energy to try and hunt it down.

The century is a great thing to do. It is about a hundred things and one thing at the same time: one hundred miles and what I can do when I desire to.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Someone's Getting Their Ass Kicked Tonight...

Someone is getting their ass kicked tonight and it better not be me. I have had my ass kicked so many times the last several years, physically and emotionally, and to be honest, I have grown tired of it. I have trained my feet off running mile after mile, only to show up on race day, doubting if I could finish. I always have. Where that thought comes from, I have an idea, but that is for later.

I have started cycling over the last two years, and know that I have become stronger, strong enough to tackle two century rides, and yet I still will not commit to group rides, for this inate fear of failure. That is going to end now.

I have had my ass kicked emotionally. End of that story.

And I have had my ass kicked in ALTA tennis for a long time running now. I have been the one on the team to play with just about a different partner each week. Make no mistake, I have never been that good at tennis. But I work hard. I hustle. I play each and every shot as if it might be the last I make. Ever.

Something happens though in those matches. I lose focus. I start daydreaming. I kick the hell out of myself for making errors. The truth of the matter is that you can make a ton of errors and win IF you kick their ass when the opponents make the errors they will make.

But when I take the court tonight, you need to know I am going to kick your ass. You might win. We still need to decide that outcome. But you will not intimidate me with your incredibly powerful serve. You will not hurt me at the net. You will not scare me into hitting chicken-shit tennis shots. Go ahead and try.

You see I am tired of losing. And I know that half of my losses are because the other guys are just better. But half are also because I am afraid of doing my best. Well, that is a thing of the past too. So I am going to hit my shots, and if I miss it, then I do. But I will try it again with the very next ball. And harder. Soon, you will realize that I am NOT giving up. Not on any point. Not on any game. Not on any ball.

So bring your A game. Challenge me. Give me your best. I will never be in the box with two out in the ninth playing in the major leagues. But I will be on the court with three others, and it will count just as much.

So bring it on. And be ready to have your ass kicked.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

We Interrupt this Story...

Live from the village of Duluth, Ga, where we are searching for the monster that escaped the castle. Villagers have been combing the countryside seeking the monster....

Wait a minute, there is not a real monster. There is a woman that ran away from her spouse- to- be and family. But in less than 24 hours from the time she left her hometown, the local villagers made it a national story greater than one could have imagined. Is it a surprise she came up with the idea of being kidnapped by the time she contacted family? It was the media that backed her into this corner.

Jennifer Wilbanks had no obligation to inform the local authorities that she was planning to leave town. She did not ask for search parties and sniffing dogs to hunt for her. The only thing the locals were missing were the pitchforks and the torches.

And now that everyone knows that she is fine, the locals want to crucify her. "Make her Pay", they scream. "What a selfish person", then repeat. But where is their responsibility for their overreacting?

They were ready to lynch the groom to be when he would not take a polygraph. "He must be guilty", they murmurred. "What is he hiding?"

"The greatest love ever", people were saying in front of the cameras. "Just let us find her alive". And they did.
Now, they want to prosecute her. They want to lynch her. And who are the "they" in this equation? People so hell bent on doing the right thing that they have no trouble finding the wrong thing to do if the mob is large enough.

Yet it was her parents, her fiance, and others who seem to have been completely disconnected from Wilbanks that should be held to task. They are the ones that jumped so quickly to the conclusion that something foul had occurred. Or is it possible that the parents, with so much invested, wanted to get her back as fast as possible to save the expense of a very large wedding scheduled for Saturday? We may never know all the details, as we really have no business in most of this, do we?

If she does not come out and apologize soon, and enough, with real tears in her eyes, and with sufficient volume to appease everyone from the cajun restaurant owner in downtoan Duluth, to the mayor of Duluth, to guest number 487, then there is going to be hell to pay and we will find something to charge her with. Everyone wants to hold her accountable, yet no one is stepping up and saying the response to her missing was a grand overreactionI imagine they will storm the castle, or run her out of town, as if she really is the Frankenstein monster.

"Not enough remorse", said one cop. I guess she should beg. Though once again, why should she be remorseful for? Leaving town without telling anyone where she was going? The only remorse she should have is for panicking and telling her fiance she was kidnapped. That is between the two of them. The rest, well they brought this on themselves.

This sounds like a modern day witch hunt to me. No, she did not make good choices. But neither did a lot of other people in positions of responsibility.

As for the cost, let the media pick up the tab. They are the ones that made this story. And they are the ones that profit as well.