My superpower is Excel combined with an unseemly attachment to numbers.

When I was first riding pretty seriously as an adult, back in 2014, I tried to keep up a hundred-miles-per-week goal, and I tracked it in Excel.

Obviously, that 2014 sheet is kind of depressing now, since it shows me doing exactly that for weeks on endf — rom June until the week I got hurt in November, and then a loooong sequence of zero mile weeks starts up.

When I started riding again, after rehab in spring of last year, I started a new sheet. I was weak, obviously, and was turning in at best one or two rides a week for a long time. My first ride in that sheet was in the week ending 3/29/15, but I didn’t get over 70 miles in a week until June, and I didn’t top 100 again until the week ending July 19, when I rode my first significant distance post-injury at the Katy Flatland ride. I skipped the century in favor of the “metric century,” i.e. 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. So that week’s a bit of a holiday for me.

In all, I had 15 weeks at 100 miles or better in 2015. I finished up with a shade under 2,800 miles for the year, which I’m kind of proud of given the slow start and the fact that I missed the entire first quarter.

I’m back in the thick of it now. My goal is still 100 a week, but now I have a long term goal, too: I want 5,000 miles in 2016. I’m on track for it, too — slightly ahead, even. For the year, I’m at 1,714 miles, with an average of about 97 per week.

Anyway, it occurred to me to check what my actual mileage and average was since that Katy ride last summer, and now i know: In the 42 weeks since then, I’ve ridden 3,806 miles, averaging about 90.6 per week.

I’ll take it.

As predicted: More law enforcement overreach

The illegally collected NSA eavesdropping data will soon be used for normal policing despite earlier assurances that the information was being collected only for “national security” reasons in “terrorism” cases.

As wise people have been pointing out since, well, 12 September 2001:

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

Forget EGOT. The new hotness is MacPEGOT.

What’s EGOT? It’s when you’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s a rarefied group — think Richard Rodgers, or Rita Moreno, or Audrey Hepburn, or Mel Brooks.

What’s a MacPEGOT? It’s an EGOT winner who’s also bagged the MacArthur and the Pulitzer, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is well on his way.

  • Miranda won two Tonys in 2008, for his first musical In the Heights.

  • He picked up his first Grammy the next year, for the show’s soundtrack album, and then got another this year, for the soundtrack to Hamilton.

  • He wrote a song (with Tom Kitt) for the Tony Awards in 2014, and won an Emmy for it.

  • And, of course, this year he’s picked up the MacArthur and the Pulitzer.

Turns out, the only one he doesn’t have is an Oscar. But he’s doing the music for an upcoming Disney animated feature (“Moana”), and a filmed adaptation of Hamilton seems inevitable, so…

Oh, we should probably mention that “MacPEGOT” isn’t actually a thing yet, because no one’s done it. (Only Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch have added the Pulitzer to their EGOT.)

(There’s obviously a Wikipedia page about the EGOT, which helpfully includes lists of folks with 3 of the 4 EGOT awards.)

Dept. of Turnabout-Is-Fair-Play

You may or may not be aware of the fact that Antoine Fuqua is remaking the 1960 classic The Magnificient Seven; he’s pulled together a hell of a cast for this retread — Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, D’Onofrio — but at the end of the day it still makes me ask “um, why?”

However, in discussion of this on Facebook, something actually interesting cropped up. I’m assuming anyone reading this is aware that the original Magnificent Seven was itself a US retelling of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1954 film Seven Samurai. Remakes are one thing, but cross-cultural adaptations can actually be interesting.

Such adaptations are mostly east to west, at least heretofore, but turns out, Japanese cinema can do it, too. In 2013, they made an adaptation of Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar-winner. Ken Watanabe stars; it’s also called Unforgiven, at least in English (in Japan, it’s apparently “Yurusarezaru Mono”).

Here’s the trailer:

I think I need to see this.

So, I did a thing again.

In cycling, we talk about the “century” ride, which is 100 miles. The first day of the MS150 has three starting points, so you can choose your own level of difficulty. If you start in Waller, you do 75 miles. If you start in Katy, it’s 85. And if you start at Tully Stadium on the west side of Houston proper, your first day is a century.

When I did my first MS150 in 2013, that’s where I started, and on that day I notched my first century since the Reagan administration. I rode from there in 2014, too, on my second MS; here’s the summary of that ride:

Screen Shot 2016 04 17 at 12 45 51 PM

My time two years ago was better than my time in 2013, but not substantially so. After that ride, I got much more serious about cycling. I started going to regular rides with people who’d kick my ass, and I got strong enough to hang with them. I lost more weight. I even bought a fancy new bicycle to facilitate go-fast behavior. I averaged in excess of 100 miles per week for most of the year.

Then, of course, there was the crash. In November of 2014, I had a little mishap that resulted in pretty serious broken bone, surgery, two hospital stays, and the inability to walk for three months. I was off the bike for six months, and I was weak as hell when I got back on it.

But I kept at it.

And here we are. Yesterday, I rode my first century since day one of the 2014 MS150.

Screen Shot 2016 04 17 at 12 46 08 PM

I’m still not a speed demon, but I’m pretty damn happy about turning in a post-injury time over an hour faster than my 2014 effort. I’m not super excited about yesterday’s performance; I didn’t feel particularly strong, and felt like I was capable of better — maybe it was nutrition, or a failure to taper properly; I dunno. But I’m happy about the trendline. And I couldn’t possibly be more thankful for the people who helped me get here: Erin, first and foremost; my team at Karbach Brewing; and my friends from my Tuesday/Thursday rides.

Now: when’s the next ride?

(PS: If you’d like, it’s still possible to donate to the 2016 MS150; this is my fundraising link — I’d be much obliged!)

Remember my post about Mississippi?

Well, Talking Points Memo has noticed the same thing:

The economy in Mississippi is different from those many other states that have recently addressed legislation impacting the LGBT community. The state, which has one of the lowest GDPs in the country, is not home to any Fortune 500 companies, lacks a significant tech sector, and has no major pro sports teams.

With relatively nascent LGBT movement, Mississippi was not ripe for the kind of backlash the country has seen recently in Georgia and North Carolina, where Atlanta and Charlotte house major national corporations, more established LGBT communities, and cosmopolitan attitudes. Mississippi has no major metropolitan area.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a LGBT advocacy group that does work in Mississippi and North Carolina, told TPM that Mississippi lacks the “nexus where the corporate world meets the political world meets the cultural world” that exists in states like Georgia and North Carolina.


“The political climate in Mississippi remains quite conservative on the whole. We are seeing increasing levels of support for LGBT issues around the kitchen table and anecdotally in families, but when you look at, say the public discourse say around the Confederate flag issue, I think that’s a very accurate barometer of how conservative the rhetoric and discourse in the public square continues to be in Mississippi,” Beach-Ferrara told TPM.

In which I’m nerdy about keyboards

So I have a great keyboard, but it turns out one of the things that I really love about it — fantastic mechanical switches that feel really nice under my fingers — also makes it kind of loud, and even though I work at home, turns out I’m on the phone a LOT. And even though I use a headset most of the time, the Kinesis is clickyclacky enough that people ask me to mute ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Well, since the Kinesis — which was a gift from a pro bono client ten years ago, which shocks the hell out of me; who makes keyboards that last ten years? — really needs some TLC, I figured I’d try out one of the more well-reviewed other ergo keyboards in the interim: the Microsoft Sculpt.

Yeah, I know. But, turns out, lots of Mac nerds love it, and it’s cheap (or, at least, it’s cheap compared to the Kinesis, and so now I’m typing this on one.

It’s true: key feel is, while inferior to the mechanicals on the Kinesis, still far better than I’d expected. But it’s a different beast. All ergo keyboards have some idiosyncrasies; my Kinesis has for years been the functional equivalent of typing on an RPN calculator. Guests just can’t use it. But it’s not just the radical shape of the thing — even though the keys are essentially in a standard Qwerty layout, the modifiers are all over the place. I’ve been hitting enter with my right thumb for a decade.

Space is there, too. Backspace and delete are under your left thumb. Control, command, and alt are thumb keys on the Kinesis layout, too. That’s not all, either; the arrow keys are split between left and right (below the bottom row on the left) and up and down (same position on the right). To describe the Kinesis as eccentric is to understate things rather dramatically, but holy hell is it comfortable once you get the hang of it. (Obviously, all this assumes a pretty complete committement to touch-typing; the last time I checked, I was somewhere north of 90 words per minute.)

Microsoft’s entry here is almost quotidian compared to my Old Reliable. It’s still goofy compared to a flat keyboard, but it’s far closer to the norm than the Kinesis. It’s got a normal (but split) spacebar. The arrows are in an inverted T on the right, as you’d expect. The biggest shocks for me, in terms of adaptation, are doubtless to be

  • The placement of control/command/option on either side of the space bar, which isn’t terribly comfortable, and is especially hostile to the motions I’ve learned on the Kinesis for Cmd-Tab and such; and
  • The utterly baffling choice they’ve made with the number row.

Of the second point, let me explain. On the old keyboard the split was logical: 1-5 on the left and 6-0 on the right. This allows the keyboard to be used just as a traditional touch typist would, and it’s a critical thing.

Microsoft has, once again, gone its own way for no discernible reasons (and have apparently been doing this since their first “Natural” keyboard back in the 1990s). The numbers are unbalanced; the left hand handles 1 through 6, with 7-0 on the right. This might seem like a minor change, but as I noted it’s like nails on a chalkboard for anyone that actually knows how to type.

Plus, numbers aren’t the end of it — obviously, if the number row is shifted left, so too are the shifted versions of those keys; shift-8 is asterisk on most any keyboard, but now the eight and the asterisk are in the wrong spot. Plus the keys to the right of zero are now in the wrong spot, too (hyphen/underscore and plus/equals).

It’s a little thing, but it may well be enough to have me send this thing back. I can’t even fix it with remapping software, because there aren’t enough keys on the top row to shift things right (backspace is to the right of plus/equals).

The tl;dr here is that yeah, once again, I’ve run into a place where Microsoft subverts an agreed-upon standard for no good goddamn reason. What IS it with those guys?

No, YOU’RE a two-rotor wankel

Even people who aren’t gearheads tend to be at least provisionally aware that the Mazda RX-7 and RX-8 used a very different sort of engine than pretty much every other car. While the rest of the auto world had long since settled on a piston-and-cylinder design, the RX cars used something else: the Rotary or Wankel engine.

I knew this, too, and even had a vague idea how it actually worked — just a lot MORE vague than my understanding of conventional cylinder engines. However, if you’re curious, this excellent video runs down exactly how rotaries work by walking you through the actual parts involved (in this case, from a 1985 Rx-7). It’s pretty awesome.

You may have also noticed that, well, not only were the Mazda RX cars the only cars to use these things, but not even Mazda makes them anymore. Why is that? Well, fortunately, the same guy also made a video about why the rotary engine is dead. Again, I knew some of this, but not the underlying causes for them. Great, very accessible work here.

The tl;dr here, though, is kind of simple: because of the way the engine works, there’s an irregularly shaped combustion chamber, and that leads to inefficient combustion. A rotary is absolutely going to end up emitting unburnt fuel, which is terrible for fuel economy and terrible for emissions. The problem is exasperated by the fact that combustion only happens on one side of the chamber, which leads to enormous temperature differentials, which leads to problems in sealing, which means inefficient combustion, which means bad emissions and bad fuel economy again.

But watch the videos. He explains is really well.

Mississippi, Goddamn.

I grew up in Mississippi. It’s not a secret; most people know this about me. It’s also not a secret that I left as soon as I was able. I always knew that I would. I attended college out of state, and have made my home in Texas since soon after college. Mississippi was never an option for me.

I cannot say their governor’s enthusiastic adoption of a discrimination bill surprises me at all; that ship has sailed. Once the issue was raised, there was never any doubt in my mind that Mississippi would lead the pack rushing to adopt such a measure. Sure, other states did it, too, but the Magnolia State was right in the thick of it.

Then some interesting things happened. In Georgia, the governor — realizing just exactly what a shitstorm their bill would produce in terms of litigation costs and lost revenue — vetoed the measure, and reasonable people in that state breathed a sigh of relief.

Not so in North Carolina, where the aggressively retrograde governor beat Mississippi to the punch by approving a law perhaps even worse than Mississippi’s. As anyone with two brain cells could predict, the reactions were swift and furious. The law will absolutely not survive challenge on Constitutional grounds, but they’re already losing millions in tax revenue. PayPal cancelled a planned office there. Film and television productions are relocating. More costs will follow. Eventually, those costs, together with the growing litigation bill, will force the law in North Carolina off the books — perhaps even sooner than later, and perhaps even without a Federal court ruling. There are enough people there who will stand against bigotry. There are enough business interests who realize that hate isn’t a good business plan.

This is exactly why I find the Mississippi development more horrifying than the North Carolina one: North Carolina will reap the whirlwind and likely correct course. Mississippi will not, because they have very little to lose.

They do HAVE some industrial investment — Nissan has a factory north of Jackson, for example — but the kinds of investments that the tarheels are now losing really don’t consider Mississippi very often, and the ones that do aren’t the PayPals of the world because there’s no tech corridor to join.

With no immediate and obvious financial repercussions, it’ll stay on the books until it’s litigated away, which will take years (and millions that state doesn’t have). And when that inevitable happens and the law is struck down, the bigots there will moan and cry about “activist judges” or some shit, and the whole aggrieved idiot class will count themselves martyrs, and in the meantime more and more companies will have investigated Mississippi — land IS cheap, and cost of living IS low — and then passed them over because of the law, the workforce available, the lack of amenities in the metro areas, the more appealing locations in Alabama or Georgia or whatever, etc.

I’ve wondered, ever since I left, what it would take for Mississippi to make a real and substantive recovery, and leave the bottom of every list that matters. I even had hope about it at one point. Not any more, though; the leadership there is aggressively telling every smart kid with options that it is not the place for them, especially if they’re gay or trans or even a little weird. (I mean, good CHRIST I was a white, straight, upper-middle class preppy kid BORN THERE, and I never felt especially welcome 30 years ago. And it’s worse now.)

The Mississippi GOP has decided bigotry is a hill they’re willing to die on — they’re keeping the Treason Flag, and they want EVERYBODY to know how much they hate the queers, and that it’s legally okay to do so. I have no fucking idea how they pull out of this. I really, really don’t. It looks like a death spiral, which breaks my heart because I have family there, many of whom cannot leave for various reasons.