Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“In the basement of the Ivory Tower”

A good title for an interesting article in the June 2008 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The tease asserts that “The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a ‘college of last resort’ explains why.” This rather overstates the breadth and cogency of the article, but it is a good reminder that not everyone is suited for education that (to me, anyway) seems easy.

One of the scary and little reported trends of post-industrial society is the widening income gap (and even health-measures gap!) between the educated and the not educated, with educated now meaning some post-secondary schooling. The usual solution is to make secondary and post-secondary education more accessible and more necessary (as Professor X writes about). I’ve often wondered, though, if (at some point) post-secondary education is pointless, if what we’re seeing is, at least in part, a gap between the educable and the not.

Even to wonder that feels, to me, uncomfortably elitist. I often say that everything good that ever happened to me happened because I went to university, and I went to university precisely as the beneficiary of a huge and expensive programme of making post-secondary education broadly available to Ontario school-leavers. My parents were high-school drop-outs, but I have a graduate degree and the income to match; shouldn’t these same benefits be available to other unfortunate folks?

Of course. But being available to someone doesn’t mean they should avail themselves of it. The most poignant part of the article Professor X’s description about one of his students:

“I can’t believe it,” she said when she received her F. “I was so proud of myself for having written a college paper.”

She most certainly hadn’t written a college paper, and she was a long way from doing so. Yet there she was in college, paying lots of tuition for the privilege of pursuing a degree, which she very likely needed to advance at work. Her deficits don’t make her a bad person or even unintelligent or unusual. Many people cannot write a research paper, and few have to do so in their workaday life. But let’s be frank: she wasn’t working at anything resembling a college level.

In her own mind, Ms. L. had triumphed over adversity. In her own mind, she was a feel-good segment on Oprah. Everyone wants to triumph. But not everyone can—in fact, most can’t. If they could, it wouldn’t be any kind of a triumph at all. Never would I want to cheapen the accomplishments of those who really have conquered college, who were able to get past their deficits and earn a diploma, maybe even climbing onto the college honor roll. That is truly something.

The lies of wide-angle photography

Doesn’t that look nice? That’s the rooftoop pool at my hotel—as shown on its Web site.

I should’ve known better, of course. That gorgeous-looking pool is just over 9 paces long, call it a generous 9 yards. And the adjacent “Fitness center with treadmill, exercycle and free weights” actually lacks an exercycle; it has, instead, two treadmills and an elliptical trainer.

The fitness facilities in his hotel are awful sad for a “four-diamond luxury boutique hotel”. Maybe guests here are content tubboids.

So no swim and no bike today. I’m wondering if my wonky knee could take doing yesterday’s work-out: “Run 60" relatively easy and light, with 3 x 4" at goal race pace (2" RI)” on the streets of downtown Los Angeles after my meeting with the high-up lawyers.

In Los Angeles

I’m in Los Angeles to give a three-hour briefing to my client’s lawyers in their 55th-floor ærie downtown.

This is my second stay in downtown L.A. in a month, and I’ll admit I rather like the mix of old and new skyscrapers. I’m staying in the Checkers Hotel (pictured), which is now operated under the Hilton label. It’s listed as a “four-diamond boutique hotel”, which bodes well for a luxury stay, but it’s under $200 a night, and the room is nice but not spectacular. It doesn’t seem a lot different than the Hilton I regularly stay at in unglamourous Burnaby, British Columbia.

As always, work-outs suffer. Yesterday I didn’t get a chance to get out at all before I headed to YYZ. Part of the problem was that I set aside an hour or so to get my TN visa renewed at the U.S. Bureau of Customs & Border Protection’s office at the airport. I guess I should’ve read the Wikipedia article I link to; for the first time in almost ten years, my routine, well documented petition (sic) was the subject of a somewhat aggressive interrogation. It wasn’t that the officer was probing my petition that bothered me—that’s happened before—it was that he was needlessly aggressive, cut me off as I tried to answered and told me what I was trying to tell me, and accused me of trying to pull a fast one on him. It was all rather sad and irritating because, for strong personal and professional reasons, I want to keep my U.S. entry status totally clean. My petition is almost three pages long, full of detail, and I seem to have gotten into trouble by giving him so much information he took a hook and told me I didn’t understand my own business.

It was clear, however, that he’d painted himself into a corner: if his interpretation was correct, I qualified for a visa-free entry! He decided to grant the visa because his colleagues had already granted me one for the same work; but to do so with “notes on my file”. He reminded me of the incompetent cops you can see on Cops or sometimes run into, who jump to conclusions, are aggressive whatever the situation, and assume everyone has a secret agenda. (Let me hasten to add that I’ve often enough run into cops—and CBP officers!—who do listen, don’t jump to conclusions, and do their duty in a helpful manner.)

So now I’m in my hotel room, my daily review done. I have two conference calls, my client is coming over to preview the presentation, and of course I have my big briefing this afternoon. Will I get to work out? Let’s hope so!

Monday, May 26, 2008


That’s me in my new—and how appropriate?—Poseur jersey, after a ride Sunday afternoon to the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station (& back). This was the first time the weather’s been mild enough to wear a short-sleeved jersey on a ride.

You can read a highly amusing account of the Poseur team here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quest for bike helmet

Over on my personal blog there's an article and some pictures about the quest for a new bike helmet.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

“I am Doobie Kajoobie, Super Space Traveler”

Like Pig, I too bought a new helmet recently, a Giro Atmos (where do they get these names?) in white & silver. I’ll confess I feel more like Pig than I do like Alberto Contador (seen here wearing an Atmos at last year’s Tour de France):

Friday, May 23, 2008

Davis Phinney v. Parkinson’s disease

I’ve always been a fan of Davis Phinney, and one of my long-range fantasy, perhaps for when I’m done pursuing an Ironman finish, is to ride one of the Phinney-Carpenter tours of Tuscany.

Leslie Holton of the Tri-Deads forwarded this link, which I (uncharacteristically) watched all the way through. (Leslie is on Phinney’s right in the Medtronic jersey; Medtronic developed the technology that’s helped Phinney.)

The saga of Angelica-Leslie continues, with a dark turn

This is one of those cases where an ongoing mystery might be best, but that mystery is close to being dispelled. The Toronto Star reports today that a married couple of thirty-year-olds have been charged with abandoning and abusing her. The whole story is here.

This is one of those stories that always attracts my attention. (And others’, too—the Star listed it among the top 5 read stories of the day.) I think it’s because I love being a dad so much I can’t imagine abandoning my child: it seems perverse.

How a track meet can be dangerous

From Yahoo News:
Ryan McGeeney of the Standard-Examiner was spared serious injury in Saturday’s mishap, and even managed to snap a photo of his speared leg while others worked to help him.

“If I didn’t, it would probably be my editor’s first question when I got back,” McGeeney said later.

The 33-year-old McGeeney, an ex-Marine who spent six months in Afghanistan, was taking pictures of the discus event and apparently wandered into off-limits area set aside for the javelin throw.

Striking just below the knee, the javelin tip went through the skin and emerged on the other side of his leg.

“It wasn’t real painful. ... I was very lucky in that it didn’t hit any blood vessels, nerves, ligaments or tendons,” McGeeney said.

Much of the javelin was cut off at the scene. The piece in McGeeney’s leg was removed at a hospital, and he received 13 stitches.

The javelin was thrown by Anthony Miles, a Provo High School student who said when he saw what had happened, “my heart just stopped.”

“One of the first things that came to my mind was, ‘Good thing we brought a second javelin,’“ Miles’ coach, Richard Vance, said Monday. He said Miles was “in a little bit of shock,” but he assured the athlete that it was not his fault.

With a subsequent throw, Miles went on to win the state title in javelin for teams in Provo High’s size classification, 4-A.

Tip of the hat to Becky Ryder of the Dead Runners Society.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Victoria’s Duathlon

Monday was a holiday in Canada, and the acknowledged opener of southern Ontario’s multisport season is held that day: Victoria’s Duathlon (run 4 km, bike 24 km, run 4 km), in the hilly country northwest of Waterloo, Ontario, about a 90-minute drive from my home in Toronto.

It was a challenging day: 20-knot winds from the west (so we faced into them for the first half of the bike), in the single digits Celsius (so in the 40s for our American neighbours), with scattered rain, even a touch of hail and snow.

Tri-Dead John Green was there & did well, 17th out of 70 in his AG. Other non-Dead friends of mine were there; my friend Paula even won her AG.

I raced according to plan: hard & steady from the start. The wind was dispiriting, and my legs got trashed, but I kept at it, and with the wind to my back I was able to bring my HR back up. On the last run I went as hard as I could, and the HR profile supports this feeling.* The finish-line photos (one shown above) show me suffering, which is good. :-) At the end of the race I had some dry heaves, and then sat in our car with the heater on full, shivering. All signs of a race worked hard.

I looked at the results when I got home. I was DFL in my age group!!! On the bike I made up more than 30 spots—I was passing people constantly—yet I was last in my AG even on that leg!

Yes, I’m not a “fast” guy, and a sub-2-hour event is never likely to be one where I do well, but I’ll admit I’m very disappointed. I feel fit, I fell I “suffered” in the race, but I didn’t do well in any comparative sense.

* My coach asked me to run my HRM so he could review it. I didn’t race “to” it—my effort was to feel.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Swim, May 10

We both went to the pool at Settlement House for a workout. My description and pictures are here.

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