Blacknell.net

Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: September 2007 (Page 2 of 3)

Ride Report: Rappahannock Rough Ride

This weekend I participated in the Rappahannock Rough Ride. It offers a number of alternatives – 33 and 58 mile road rides or 20 and 30 mile off-road efforts. Having ridden the short road ride last year, I came back this year for the longer road loop. While it was a lovely ride – all apple orchards and horse farms – I can’t say that it was among the better supported rides I’ve done this year.

So, what went wrong, and how could they improve it?

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Why Should God Bless America?

A question asked at . . . the Republican Values Voters Debate! Check it out in its full glory:

Lyrics here. Opening bit:

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back
On everything that made her what she is

Values voters, indeed. I will note one minor miracle that arises from this mess – black people at a Republican debate!

Brought to light by TPM’s Steve Benen.

No More Laughing at the Canadian Dollar

Yep, for the first time in 31 years, one Canadian Loonie will get you one US Dollar.  The upside, I suppose, is that you don’t have to feel ripped off if you get one of those funny little quarters in your change . . .

DC Voting Rights: Still Angry

The more I look at what happened with the Republican filibuster of the DC voting rights bill, the angrier I get. And not just at the Wish-I-Were-in-Dixie GOP that prefers to preserve the Old Plantation. It’s at the utter lack of interest in the issue by anyone who lives more than 20 miles from DC. And they’re the only people than can do a thing about it.  That’s the very core of the issue.

Short of violent revolution, DC residents do not have ultimate control over those that govern them. Sure, there’s the DC City Council, but that exists at the pleasure of Congress (who has a long history of micromanagement and meddling in DC’s issues anyway, over the objection of the Council). And yet no one really seems all that concerned about it. What little conversation you do find about it on liberal discussion sites seems to boil down to a few desperate voices from DC which are overwhelmed by variations on the following:

  • Oh well, it was unconstitutional anyway.
  • If you don’t like it, move someplace else.
  • DC shouldn’t have as much power as [my state].
  • DC is represented by all 100 Senators and 435 Representatives.

The first can be almost always be ascribed to ignorance and laziness. The rest are ridiculous on their face. But what really really gets me is the underlying theme: that DC doesn’t deserve representation. And my response to that? Best left unprinted, I think.

~

Correction to my piece yesterday – Democrats were *not* unanimous in their support of the bill.  Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) voted against it, reportedly citing worries about it resulting in less influence for Montana.  It’s been reported that he said he would have voted for it, if it would have been the deciding vote.  So much for principles.  Also, on today’s Kojo Nnamdi show, a number of political reporters claimed that Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS), John McCain (R-AZ) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) had each indicated that they were planning to support the bill earlier in the week (this would have gotten the bill the 60 votes it need to overcome the Republican filibuster).   Apparently they “came under intense lobbying pressure.”   From who, the RNC?

Democracy: GOP labels its Export Only

So today, the GOP successfully blocked a vote that would have given DC residents what every other US citizen already has – representation in Congress. Every Democrat (save Byrd, who was absent) voted for it, as well as seven Republicans (Robert Bennett, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch). My Virginia readers will note that our Gosh-Darn-He’s-Such-an-Honorable-and-Decent-Fellow John Warner is not on that list of supporters.

Just stop and think about this for a moment. The GOP just said that some Americans don’t deserve what the GOP is willing to spend thousands of lives and billions of dollars for in Iraq. Unfuckingbelievable.

Martin Austermuhle at DCist.com has been doing an admirable job of following this, and lays out the tactical options as follows:

Amend It: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisted yesterday that the cause of voting rights is as important to him as it is to anyone else. Fine. Let’s hold him to that. If it takes an amendment to the Constitution, let’s propose one, and let’s regularly remind him of the very words he used — “If we want to give the residents representation, then we should begin the amendment process.” [MB: I do not think a Constitutional Amendment is required, but would be more than happy to see voting rights enshrined in the Constitution.]

Publicize It: Let’s force the voting rights message on to everything the District owns, controls or has even the scantest of influence over. The new baseball stadium? We’ll call it Taxation Without Representation Field. The Wilson Building? Let’s get a big sign out front tallying how much in federal taxes we have paid, how many residents we have lost in foreign wars and for how many days the injustice has continued. Let’s partner up with local businesses to have them display signs supporting District voting rights. Whenever members of Congress come back to town, they should know that the cause is still alive. Whenever tourists come to visit, they should be forced to ask what the ruckus is about, and then ask their own members of Congress where they stand on it.

Change It: One of the biggest impediments to effective lobbying for District voting rights is a law Congress passed that forbids the city from using its funds to lobby for the cause. This has to be changed. Our shadow delegation should be paid so they can make this more than just a part-time gig. If the District wants to hire a lobbyist to incessantly push the issue on the Hill, it should be able to.

I’m not about to let Democrats off the hook on this. We’re NOT waiting another two years for this bill to come back up. If Senate Democrats can roll over in a heartbeat to legalize the Administration’s illegal spying, they can get their asses in gear to do this again. Soon. Please help me – and our fellow disenfranchised Americans – by contacting your Representative and Senators about this.

(A modified version of this was crossposted at DailyKos and RaisingKaine)

Arlington’s Ron Carlee Gets the Immigration Issue Right

A recent DC Examiner piece noted that Ron Carlee, Arlington’s County Manager, recently submitted a memo to the Arlington County Board on the impact of immigration on the administration of government in Arlington. From the memo (PDF):

“Much has been reported lately of an immigration ‘problem’ in parts of Northern Virginia. There is no such ‘problem’ in Arlington County,” County Manager Ron Carlee wrote in a Sept. 11 memo. “Much of what is being said about immigration is political rhetoric during a hotly contested campaign season.”

This is exactly right. Mr. Carlee goes on to lay out the facts:

 During a time of rapidly increasing diversity, we have experienced the following:

  • The lowest crime rate in our history.
  • The most rapid increase in property values in our history – now stabilized.
  • Some of the best schools in the nation.
  • Some of the highest incomes in the nation.
  • Full employment resulting in labor shortages.
  • Extensive private commercial investment.
  • Expansion of retail and leisure activities.
  • Lowest tax rate among major jurisdictions in Northern Virginia.

I’d like to see more local governments taking the time to make similarly honest and public statements about the actual impact of immigration in those jurisdictions.

Why I Ride: Reason #127

Browsing around my usual cycling sites this evening, I came across a link to this old Nike commercial. Watching it – especially the part where the kids rush to the window to wave to the rider as he goes by – reminded me of the highlights of this weekend’s ride out in Berryville. Or of any ride, really.

As much as I enjoy the self-reflection that hours of solo cycling can bring on, or the sheer physical pleasure of a good hard ride, I have to say that many of my best moments on a bike come from those fleeting moments of connection that you get when you wave to a perfect stranger who waves back as you pass by.

On this Sunday’s metric century there were, of course, the kids. Three little girls on a porch who jumped up and down waving as I waved that hand-cupping wave that you use for little kids. Then there was the Duane Allman lookalike who returned the slight extension of my hand as I flew past his trailer. But my favorite one, the one I just happened to catch, was the fellow sitting in a chair near his house a bit off the road through the hollow. Most of us were concentrating on the upcoming climb, and looking straight ahead at the road. I just happened to look over, and noticed this gruff looking (much) older man in a Stetson who looked just as likely to be annoyed with us invaders as anything else. I raised my arm in a speculative wave and much to my surprise, he raised his, too. Even with a bit of a grin, as best I could tell through the trees.

Requested Tech: Universal Calendar Feeds

This last entry reminded me of one of the great unfilled gaps in technology – universal calendar feeds.  By that I mean the ability to automatically receive and process date-specific events from any given organization.   Ideally, every organization that produced regular events could offer a standardized feed (XML seems perfectly suited to this) that I could subscribe to through an aggregating client (which would then offer me the option to export selected events (e.g., to my Outlook/Google/iCal calendar)).

I really don’t understand why this hasn’t been done.  Upcoming.org provides a somewhat serviceable approximation of what I’m looking for, but it relies on the initiative of individuals to 1) promote an event and 2) get the information right.  You’d think that organizations would want to make it easy for their members/constituents/interested public to reliably follow their offerings.  It isn’t easy, though.

As it stands, I take at least an hour or so every month to search the calendars of my favorite music venues, local think tanks, professional associations, alma matter, cycling clubs, and cultural venues to find events I might be interested in.  It’s not the most exciting way to spend my time, and I often get annoyed with it and decide to quit before I’ve actually made my way through all of these calendars.  And, of course, I then miss events I’d really like to make.

Why?

Fall 2007 DC Area Cycling and Adventure Race Calendar

The (comparatively) cool air of today has reminded me that summer is over, and that soon I’ll be dressing in layers and spending too much time daydreaming about permanently avoiding winter with a move to Grand Cayman or Dubai. It also reminded me that most of the racing calendars will be tapering off, and that it’s worth reviewing what’s left. (And no, I’m not even going to talk about cyclocross, because I don’t have any room for anymore bikes. For a good cross listing (and all of your road racing needs), go here.)

The calendar I threw together earlier this year turned out to be useful to a number of people, so I’m updating and sharing it again. As before, this listing is not at all comprehensive – it’s just a list of DC area cycling or amateur athletic events that I either want to participate in or go just go watch. There are less actual races, and more organized recreational efforts. If you’re in the DC area, I hope that you’ll give it a read and see if something catches your interest, either as a participant or spectator.

Historic Back Roads Century – September 16, 2007
Berryville, VA
The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club (which you should join for the cue sheet library alone) is sponsoring this supported century. There are full, metric, half, and quarter century options, so something for everyone. It hadn’t been on my radar, but it’s 1) in a part of VA I’ve not seen, and 2) put on by a club I like to support. See you there.

RABA Heart of Virginia Bike Festival – September 15 & 16, 2007
Ashland/Hanover County, VA
The Richmond Area Bicyclist Association is putting on the Heart of Virginia Century and Bike Festival this weekend. It offers 25 and 40 mile “Historic Rides”, along with two metric centuries and a full English century course. I really should have posted about this earlier. I think it’s the first year they’re doing it, and it would be great to hear that it was a success. If you live in the area, consider giving it a shot.

Rappahannock Rough Ride – September 22, 2007
Little Washington, VA
I did this last year – a great ride in the foothills of the Shenandoah, amongst apple orchards and horse farms. It’s not an easy ride, but it’s a rather enjoyable day trip. My aim for this year is the 57.9 mile ride. Map here. As you can see, there are plenty of other options – either short road rides or off-road efforts. This raises funds for the Fauquier Free Clinic.

Southern MD Amish 100 – September 22, 2007
Leonardtown, MD
Patuxent Velo club runs this century, taking riders through a part of southern Maryland that offers great rural cycling (watch out for the speeding buggies, though). I’m opting for the Rappahannock Rough Ride this year, but will probably try this ride next year.

MS150 City to Shore Bike Tour September 29 & 30, 2007
Cherry Hill, NJ
I’d been thinking about doing this for a couple of years, but as with the Schuylkill Century, it turned out to be a continuing casualty of my other ambitions, so I’m putting this here in case anyone else might think it’s a nice way to spend a weekend. Named by Bicycling Magazine as the “Best Cycling Getaway in NJ,” the flat terrain takes you “through the blueberry fields and the NJ pine barrens and into the sweet smells of salt water taffy and ocean air in historic Ocean City, NJ.” This ride is fully supported with catered rest stops, bike support, and SAG transportation. If a group wants to do this, they could drive out Friday night, and drive back right after the ride on Sunday. Cyclists collect a minimum of $250 in donations to participate – if you do this, you can count on a donation from me (just email me). More here.

The Nation’s Triathlon – September 29, 2007
Washington, DC
Getting past its somewhat obnoxious name, I think that this tri could be a lot of fun, both for participants and spectators. A few hundred brave souls will jump into the Potomac at Georgetown Harbor, get out and ride down around Hains Point, and then run around the Mall. Normal registration is closed, but I think you can still bribe your way in with a $300 “charity” registration. If we get to next summer, and everyone who swam 1500 meters in the Potomac is still alive, I might take a crack at it.

Venture Quest AR September 30, 2007
Fountainhead Regional Park – Fairfax Station, VA
Unfortunately, I’m no longer planning to do this. It’s a “Long Sprint Adventure Race (Sport Level)”, which means 28-35 miles over 5-9 hours. As usual, it involves trekking, paddling, mountain biking, and navigation. Teams of three navigate a course with segment breakdowns ranging from 3-8 miles of paddling, 8-13 miles of trekking, and 10-16 miles of mountain biking. As with Rocky Gap, competitors are broken into teams of three & solo racers in women’s, men’s, masters, and co-ed divisions. Info here.

Seagull Century – October 6, 2007
Salisbury, MD
Probably the most famous century ride in the Mid-Atlantic area. Last year’s storm resulted in less than a third of the usual participants, but I’m sure they’ll all be back this year. Riders have metric century (100k, 62miles) and century (100 miles) options, which they can decide on at any time until the 20 somethingth mile of the ride. See this for more info. Also, note that decent pretty much all lodging fills up quickly, so reserve your room now, if you’re thinking about doing it. Most of the hotels in Salisbury are booked already. I’ll be in San Francisco this year, so have fun without me.

Monster Mash Mountain Bike Race – October 13, 2007
Annandale, VA (Wakefield)
Benefiting the Trips for Kids Foundation, this cross country MTB race at Wakefield is probably your last chance of the year to participate in an easy local MTB race. Classes for everyone, and registration is $35. I’m in.

Backyard Burn Trail Running Series – 10/21/07 – 12/02/07
Triangle/Annandale/Fairfax Station/Clifton, VA
I really don’t enjoy running at all, but if ever there were a competitive running even that could pique my interest, this would be it. I’ll probably give at least one of these a go. Put on by the good folks at EX2 Adventures, you have a choice between 5 and 10 mile off-road loops through metro area parks.

  • 10/21/07 – Prince William Forest Park, Triangle, VA
  • 11/4/07 – Wakefield Park, Annandale, VA
  • 11/18/07 – Fountainhead Regional Park, Fairfax Station, VA
  • 12/2/07 – Hemlock Overlook, Clifton, VA

18 hours on the Farm – November 17 & 18, 2007
Goochland, VA
Rescheduled from August 18th to November 18th. Man, this MTB relay race will be cold. The idea is that you and three other riders take turns on a 9.5 mile course for 18 hours. The registration page describes the course has having a “1500 foot elevation gain per lap, open fire roads to technical climbs and twisting single track[.]” As I sit here considering it, I’m realizing that I’d really like to do it. And if you’re reading it and getting a feeling that I might have *you* in mind as a teammate, well, consider yourself recruited.

A number of the late season events I listed in my earlier calendar have been canceled – no Powhatan Tour de Vin (wine sales down?), WABA Booth’s Escape ride (I understand that it requires traveling along some rather unfriendly highways . . .), or Buff Betty Adventure Race (boo! c’mon, girls!).

Am I missing something? Have you ridden one of these events and enjoyed it? Let me know.

Community

It’s strange, community.  The things that can connect people who, on the face of it, wouldn’t seem to have any connection at all.  But Keith and Tara?  Part of my community.  Remember Keith and wish Tara the best.

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