Memories of Bike Racing

I raced a bike quite ineffectually from 1992 until 2003: A pretty big chunk of my life. I was never very good, especially at the start of my involvement with the sport, this was because of a certain degree of laziness and lack of discipline on my part, but also because I didn't understand what was required, and it took a lot of time to learn. Around 1999 I started making a larger commitment to the sport and spent lots of time driving all over New England and Quebec going to races every weekend. I upgraded my racing category and got so that I could place in races infrequently. I went through my entire racing career without winning any road races outright, though I did win several very non prestigious local mountain bike events along the way.

I'll write some more about my racing experiences as I go along but the photo is some random memorabilia from along the way (cleaning out my place in anticipation of the move), the big Espoir de Laval bronze medal is from a placing in the hectic sprint at the end of a dead flat road race in Mirabel Quebec in 2002, it was very unusual for me to place in that kind of finish. In addition to the medal, I think I won $20 CDN for my effort which I used (partly) to buy a baguet to snack on while driving home, and also that I managed to lose a contact lens in the run in to the finish (and without correction, I see nothing) meaning that I was cutting around people at speed with only one good eye...


in the "meatspace" / the inadequacy of it all

I continue to live like a deer in the headlights due to my impending move. I was going to illustrate this concept with an image of a deer in the headlights... but Google has failed me: The image search for this term casts up 2170 images, but most are bad, witless pictures of people looking vaguely startled...like a 'deer in the headlights', suggesting that it is just a tired cliche that should be avoided. However I find it difficult to concentrate and am dealing with things by avoiding the task at hand.

This term, 'meatspace', has worked its way into my imagination...and not in a good way. It seems perverse. "Meetspace" would imply 'meeting' in 'space' (physical space? or 'online') but 'meatspace' seems to imply that those doing the meeting are 'meat': Which for some reason makes me think of the scene in Rocky I where Stallone is working out in a meat packing plant, tenderizing sides of beef with his fists. Or worse.

This term, 'meatspace' also, unfortunately, makes me think of Trainspotting where one of the minor (female) characters describes heroin as "better than any meat injection".... ugh. I have my own not quite first hand (but very uncomfortably close, and quite horrifying) knowledge of this subject. If you want to be sickened and horrified sit in a small cubicle in the ER with someone going through heroin withdrawl: Double bonus points if it is a sibling: I had this experience recently and it made my skin crawl, and violently depressed.

And Trainspotting (a term for terminal boredom, relieved only through destructive narcotic-induced sedation) makes me think of think of this screed against conformist, consumerist attitudes, which does have some great, crackling writing to it, even if I don't have much sympathy for aimless, wasted junkies. Also when I started this blog I said to myself that I would not use the F-word in it because I am sick of reading it in all sorts of places, it is too tiresome and certainly isn't distinctive. But I will make an exception here.

Kind of a rambling post that doesn't truly address the topic at hand: The inadequacy of online communication and the need for simple human contact, and the diminishing opportunities for it today: We are all bowling alone (and much, much worse).


Goodbye to all that

My condo sold today. I moved to Burlington after 5 years kicking around central Vermont and living pretty frugally. My 1st apartment in Williamstown (not a pretty place) cost $175/m, it was an office space that was converted to a tiny apartment. I also remember looking at a place in an old building in E. Braintree that was vacant: I seemed to remember reading about an incident there in the Randolph paper.... a shooting. Yep, that was the place, and the shooting was the reason it was vacant.

So I moved to Burlington and put down the money on a brand spanking new condo in Dec. of 1992 for $61,000: Times have changed! $61K won't get you a parking spot in this town today. And, since I have been paying for this place all along... I have a lot of equity in it. I will take a lot of money with me when I move to Waterbury... the question will be: Will it make me happy? I will put a lot of cash into the new place in Waterbury but I will still owe about $100K at the start. Ugh! Debt sucks. But I won't plow all the proceeds into the place. Furnishings, a new mountain bike, a camera, etc. plus retirement funding will eat up what I don't put into the new condo.

Great Range in Winter

A very incongruous picture to upload on the first day of summer. From my first hike ever in the ADKs.


The beginning of the move

When I started this I thought I would write about, if not the great issues of the day, at least I would try to avoid the minutia of my humdrum life. Since I have started this business of buying and selling real estate, however, I am living like a deer in the headlights and can't think of much else.
My condo measures 670 sq. ft. I never was one much for buying furniture so the place never got too cluttered with bric a brac and conventional home furnishings. What did happen, was that a multiplicity of hobbies and distractions filled the closets to the brim and spilled out into the living space. Ugh. A lot of this stuff is just crap that should be thrown or given away. I did succeed in donating a new horrible bike helmet (a door prize from some event) to Local Motion (local advocacy org.) and they were very appreciative.
But to show the place it will need to be kept immaculately! To empty the closets I have rented a 5x5 storage space and have started filling it with my crap...


And we have a deal

According to my realtor, "Had a call yesterday evening. It (the offer) has been signed and shipped. Should arrive today."

So things are happening.

Goodbye to Burlington and city life (or what passes for city life in Vermont). So much to do...


Still waiting

As a follow up to the post from the 14th, today (6/15) I was expecting to hear about the offer I put in on a condo in Waterbury, but the phone did not ring... the owner is in Mexico so perhaps that is the delay. It will be discouraging if the deal falls through at this point.

If I had my preference I would not move but I am driving 400 miles a week just to get to work and I find that it is taking a large toll on me, it is like working an extra work day every week, some people go for long commutes (longer than this), but I don't like it at all. It has hugely compromised my fitness. And I think hard times are coming in Burlington, I don't like the place the city is in at all... there is nothing progressive about the current situation here. But I also think that this is very true of Vermont as a whole.

But lately whenever I do something in Burlington I wax nostaligic because there are things I will miss about living here for sure.... like going to Borders to steal a promo copy of the VT Guardian and the retreating to Uncommon Grounds to read it and other papers.... Working my way through the rather funky and dated (but good) video collection at the Fletcher Free Library... The bikepath...



The legions of readers of this site will observe that I have not posted anything since Sunday, and even Sunday's post was just a trivial little mindless squib spurred by my being forced to download some useless Microsoft system software.
It is not that there are not things to write about: Over at Seven Days 802 Online there is discussion on the nature of online community and the need & desire for f2f contact in the unfortunately named "meatspace". I have my own opinions about this but it will have to wait.

The reason I have not been commenting on this or other topics is because I am at major transition in my life: After living in the People's Republic of Burlington since 1992 I have put an offer on a condo in Waterbury which I expect will be accepted on 6/15.... This means that I need to sell my 670 sq. ft. of luxury penthouse living (not) in Burlington, pronto.

This has sparked a frenzied spurt of housecleaning on my part -- the picture is of my living space after a frantic couple of hours of housework. It certainly raises questions like "Where did all this stuff come from?" and "What was I thinking?". My new place will have a garage which means that I will not need to keep bikes, bike parts and tools in my living space. This will be a big change, the bike shop aesthetic has defined my living space for a long time.


Search for an open source OS

I have a newish laptop which I bought from Dell (from Dell Outlet, on sale, and they refused to tell me when the item would ship. After several fruitless phone conversations with workers in call centers on the other side of the world, the price was reduced an additional $60, and the laptop showed up shortly thereafter). The machine, for the most part, has performed well.

This laptop came with WinXP media edition but I did not load it with much Microsoft application software. I have had quite a bit of success running open source programs on this machine: Avast Anti-virus; Open Office suite; Gimp as a photo editor; I use some of Google's free utilities (particularly Google Earth); GPS Visualizer is a very cool web site; and Yahoo has some interesting utilities as well. I still use MS Explorer/Outlook but this is mostly laziness on my part.

The next step, however, would be to get an open source operating system and give Windows the heave-ho altogether. A few years ago I think Wal-mart of all places was selling cheap PCs that came with Linux with a GUI... I wonder what became of this initiative. I don't need to download a notification tool to tell me that my copy of Windows is genuine (it is). The Windows interface is clunky and provides features I don't want or need, and conversely, there are features I could use that are not available. I have never seen Microsoft as a particularly innovative company and I don't understand its hegemonic position in the marketplace. I am sure that most users don't use 90% of the features in Word or Excel...

Software resources:

  • Open Office
  • Avast
  • Gimp (Gimp is a complicated program, and it comes with an open source manual. It takes patience to learn. But the MSRP of Photoshop is $599 so I am willing to invest some time.)
  • Google Pack (Google Earth is one of my favorite applications, especially when used with the excellent GPS Visualizer site)


Champlain to offer credit for "Social Networking" Course!

Today's' BFP reports that Champlain College is going to offer some short one credit courses for 'busy professionals' on various topics... Including a class on "Social Networking".

What does one learn in a course about social networking? Will there be a final project? If so, what will it be? Put up a page on myspace even if you're over 18 and try and collect as many new 'friends' as possible? Join a dating site and entice someone you encounter online on a 'date'? Participate in usenet forums where anything goes? I am curious....

This is appropos both because this blog is partly an attempt see what this is about: What online community? Is there anyone here? And also because I have some experience with Champlain College and online education there. After participating in online discussion forums while obtaining a professional certificate in E-business, I swore I would never do something like this, ever -- the discussion was so unfocused, diffuse and rambling.

This is actually a nice transition as I do want to start writing about how this project came to be and some of my (not very coherent) thinking behind it.


French Renaissance, or Jack Kerouac and Me

Today's New York Times has an article on how French is being rediscovered and taught again in Maine as part of a larger process of cultural rediscovery. Both sides of my family are of French origin (Gauthier, strangely pronounced "Goatchie" in Maine, & Bernard on my mother's side -- though my mother's family also includes some Sicilian blood: Which may explain the attraction that the Godfather saga holds over me). But neither of my parents speak any French, and one of the very few overtly French (or Quebecois) traditions left in my family is my mother's annual production of meat pies around the holidays which are frozen and shipped by FedEx to her relatives around the Northeast.

As an adult living in northern Vermont, close to the Quebec border, I have increasingly felt slightly ridiculous and out of touch with my past with the fact that the extent of my French knowledge is "Je ne par francaise" and even that is probably mostly wrong. So the NY Times article does make sense to me and I can understand the impulses driving the re-emergence of French culture in Maine.

This blog, I suppose, is partly an attempt to come to come to terms with the past (and the present!). For example, why is it that I, a fundamentally repressed, conflicted, indecisive (I am no actor but I would be great at playing Hamlet) person, identify strongly with Jack Kerouac? I don't smoke, do drugs, and own property, hold a job, put money (not enough) aside for retirement and generally live a rather crabbed, non-beat, bourgeois existence. On one level, this identification is a small attempt to break out of the mundane routine of day-to-day 9-5 (or more) life... but it is also partly cultural, in that Kerouac was a French Canadian (spoke French) from Lowell, Mass, someone with a background that is quite recognizable to me, some of the same influences are there, even across time.

This post only touches upon some ideas I will try and develop as I continue this project.


The inside of a decaying locomotive

guts & innards
Originally uploaded by jg_adirondack.
I spent Memorial Day afternoon photographing a couple of decaying locomotives on Burlington's Waterfront. The color in this shot is quite interesting, not what one would expect for an engine compartment. There are more photos on my flickr stream.