Saturday, October 18, 2014

Grigg on the Difference Between Us and Our Rulers

I'll just move over and let William Norman Grigg illustrate the important distinctions:

Biden Family Values: Leniency for us, stern prohibition for the mundanes

Asked by Time  magazine last February about the possibility of decriminalizing marijuana nation-wide, Vice President Joe Biden insisted that “smarter enforcement” of federal drug statutes was a better idea.
For “smarter” he apparently means “selective and self-serving.” If this weren’t the case, Biden’s pampered and dim-witted son Hunter would be facing the prospect of prison time.
In 2012, Hunter Biden decided he wanted to join the US Naval Reserve as a direct-commission public affairs officer. Because of a drug-related incident in his background, he was given a special waiver. Last year his dilettante military career was ended when he was discharged after a drug test turned up evidence of cocaine use. A few months later, perhaps as a consolation prize, Hunter was made a board member of Ukraine’s largest oil company, an appointment that doubtless had a great deal to do with the fact that the company is owned by the U.S.-installed regime in Kiev.
Biden, who does not face prosecution, told Fox News that he was “moving forward” with the support of his family. That includes his sister Ashley, who was arrested on drug charges in 1999 but never prosecuted – and is now employed as a “child welfare” bureaucrat in Delaware, where she is probably involved in stealing children from parents who occasionally use proscribed substances but aren’t part of a politically protected clan.
During his decades in the U.S. Senate, including a long stint as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Vice President Joe Biden distinguished himself as among the most militant drug warriors in Washington. He proudly recalled to Time  that he is “the guy who did the crime bill and the drug czar.” He also promoted the widespread practice of asset forfeiture, the use of the RICO law to turn petty drug offenses into federal conspiracy prosecutions, and supported military aid to wage the drug war overseas.
Biden obviously does support decriminalization of drugs, but only on a case-by-case basis. He has done more than his share to ruin countless lives in the name of drug prohibition. Thanks in no small measure to Joe Biden’s efforts, millions of people who have done no harm to anyone but themselves have been fed into the prison and parole system. Hunter and Ashley Biden would be among them, were they not the glorious outpouring of privileged loins. 

Be sure to vote, now.  Voting changes things.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

For No Particular Reason

From the end of Chapter 30 ("The Old Doctor") of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward :
He saw her out, came back into the dining room and sank into a rocking chair of black bentwood and yellow wickerwork, its back worn by the years he had spent in it.  He gave it a pushoff as he sat and let the movement die down.  He did not rock it any more.  He was sitting in the odd position peculiar to rocking chairs.  It was almost off balance but free.  He froze like that for a long time, completely motionless.

He had to take frequent rests nowadays.  His body demanded this chance to recoup its strength and with the same urgency his inner self demanded silent contemplation free of external sounds, conversations, thoughts of work, free of everything that made him a doctor.  Particularly after the death of his wife, his inner consciousness  had seemed to crave a pure transparency.  It was just this sort of silent immobility, without planned or even floating thoughts, which gave him a sense of purity and fulfillment.

At such moments an image of the whole meaning of existence -- his own during the long past and short future ahead, that of his late wife, of his young granddaughter and of everyone in the world -- came to his mind.  The image he saw did not seem to be embodied in the work or activity which occupied them, which they believed was central to their lives, and by which they were known to others.  The meaning of existence was to preserve unspoiled, undisturbed and undistorted the image of eternity with which each person is born.

Like a silver moon in a calm, still pond.

I'm not sure, but I think that might be the best passage I've ever read in a novel.

And now, back to this world's madness ... and my own foolishness and triviality.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Government Wouldn't Mislead Us ... Would They?

So, the Ebola guy in Dallas has died ... and one of his nurses has it.

So far, that is.  We don't know yet how many people from the hospital have it.  Soon, we may know more.

The above-linked CNN story has a cute little animated video with it.  The video tells us that of course you can't acquire Ebola through "casual contact" with someone who's sick with it.  Oh, no, of course not.  You need direct contact with "blood, saliva, mucus, sweat, tears, semen, vomit, urine, feces."  And those icky fluids have to directly contact your cut or abraded skin, eyes, nose, mouth, etc.

Hmmmmm.  Saliva?  Mucus?  Ever hear of ... a sneeze?

This guy's sitting next to you on a bus, or train, or airplane.  If he has something that's transmitted by his saliva or mucus getting into your nose, eyes, or mouth ... you're what is technically known as "screwed."

Now, I'm nothing but a retired physicist.  I don't know how difficult it is to contract Ebola from someone who has it.  It's well outside my tiny little field of so-called expertise.  But the thing is: whether it's easy or hard to transmit Ebola, I'm quite sure "my" government will tell me that it's hard.  They will tell me that because they don't really care the proverbial rat's ass whether I live or die.  What they do care about, a little, is that I, panicked, will be more difficult to manage than I, complacent, would be.

Meanwhile, the Great White Father is asserting, with perfect dogmatic certainty, that this poor sick nurse HAS to have violated protocol  to have gotten sick.  And this disease is so hard to catch ... I guess we're supposed to assume that she foolishly passed the time by making mud pies, barehanded, out of her patient's feces.  Well, like all the rest of you, I don't even know her name, but I'm already pretty angry on her behalf.  I really doubt that she's stupid.  I tend to suspect that Ebola's fairly easy to catch.  I tend to suspect that we're being lied to.  Again.  So what's new?

What course of action am I urging on "our" government?  Well, nothing in particular.  If Ebola transmits easily, it's probably already too late to head it off.  Myself, I wasn't planning on getting out of here alive anyway; I'm pretty sure I'm going to hand in my lunch pail at some point or other, from some cause.  Ebola's probably a bad way to go, especially since, if it becomes widespread, we aren't going to die in modern, antiseptic intensive-care circumstances, attended by a host of spacesuit-clad medics, because they'll all be dying too.  If I were among our rulers, it might occur to me that shutting down air travel, both into the US from foreign lands and within the US, until the situation becomes a little more clear would be a modest and prudent precaution.  That won't happen, because there's money to be made (and lost).  Still, it's instructive to consider a regime that cheerfully slaughters swarthy foreigners by the hundreds of thousands, on the laughable premise that otherwise, Radical Islamists  will take over Peoria, Illinois and start beheading Sunday School students.  This same regime would never jeopardize a few weeks' worth of corporate profits for a small reduction in the chances that 50 to 90 percent of the American people might die hideously from an African hemorrhagic fever.  It's not as contradictory as it might seem; after all, in both cases, there's money to be made (those "defense" industry CEO bonuses won't pay themselves, you know).  Sure is ugly, though.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Promotion in the Roman Army

So, readers, what say you: got one more century in you?  A vicarious one, at least?  I hope so, because I'm here to report on the final one of my season: the Hub City Tour.

The Tour was this past Saturday, September 13.  It begins and ends in Elizabethtown, which is down the road a little way from Louisville, and, more immediately, Fort Knox.  I had assumed that "Hub City" would turn out to be a nickname for Elizabethtown, but I should have asked; a little cursory after-the-fact internet research does not reveal any such connection, and I have no idea how this ride got its name.

I arrived the afternoon before.  The host club is Central Kentucky Wheelmen (an unfortunately non-inclusive name; I saw numerous Central Kentucky Wheelwomen  there also), and their headquarters is a local bike shop, Bullmoose Brothers, where the early packet pickup took place.

Wow, those guys are almost as bald as I am!  Well, not really.  I'm quite a bit balder, I think.
Next morning, the weather was chilly (59°F at the 8 am start time), windy, overcast, and threatening rain.  And, indeed, some rain came during the ride, but not to any troublesome degree.  Many of my fellow riders were better prepared, in terms of clothing layers, than I was.  In my experience, though, moderately chilly temperatures aren't a problem shortly after you get started, as you work yourself warm.

Awaiting the word to go.  Check out the jersey on the guy to my left.  "Are you now, or have you ever been, a Communist?"
The pre-ride bullhorn briefing was given by the president of the Central Kentucky Wheelmen, Jim Lever.  He said the usual things (explaining the Dan Henry system of pavement route markings, reminding us to be safe and observe traffic laws, and so forth).  And, since there was the customary assortment of optional tour distances, ranging from a 15-miler to the century, he referred to those of us riding the century as "centurions."  Cool, I thought.  All this time, I would have thought myself a mere foot soldier in the cycling world, the equivalent of a legionary in the Roman army.  Now I had been promoted to a commander of a hundred!  I tried not to let the glory of it all go to my head, as I wrapped my goose-pimply arms around myself to try to stay warm.  As it turned out, there were several hills in my future that would soon humble me appropriately.

Almost right away, I noticed the contrast between the Kentucky I saw on this ride and the horse country version I'd seen in the two previous centuries.  In and around Hardin County, I didn't see the sprawling, lush bluegrass pastures.  Instead, there was more mixed agriculture, particularly the corn and soybeans so familiar to my Hoosier eyes.  It seemed like a somewhat-hillier version of southern Indiana to me, except for the prevalence of red clay, which lent a Georgia-ish flavor to the scenery.

Central Kentucky presented more of a hardscrabble look than the territory to the east.
 The first SAG stop was about 17 miles in, at the First Baptist Church of Hodgenville.  Hodgenville did not seem like a city of sufficient size to require a church to designate itself as "first."  On the other hand, we're talking about a part of the country that is rather well-provided with Baptist churches, so Hodgenville may well have had several.  The provisions were ample, and I fortified myself accordingly.

My home church has a pavilion, too.  But ours is, well, smaller.

On we went.  The scenery, as mentioned, looked a little different.  But in case I started to forget I was in Kentucky, I was reminded almost constantly by the fact that relatively little of the way was level.

Ah, Kentucky!  Thy name is "hills."  Or should've been, anyway.

At the second stop, 35 miles in, the provisions were the same as at the first.  In fact, they never varied throughout the ride, which was a little disappointing; there were salty snacks, bananas, cookies, pickles, vile blue gatorade, tangerines, and water.  That's okay, though.  They had plenty.  And while I was kind of jonesing for a peanut-butter sandwich, let's face it: as long as there's bananas, I can keep cranking.  And the volunteers who manned the stops were outstandingly friendly.  At three stops, there was a technician from Bullmoose Brothers Bicycles with repair stand and tools, for those who had mechanical issues.  I was highly impressed with the support organized by the CKW club.

I chatted briefly at the second stop with this lady, who's a local radio amateur.  Seeing her reminded me of my Fort Wayne friend Joseph, who has spent many of his weekend days organizing similar safety support at events there.  "Just sharpening our skills," she said.

The route crossed a wooden-decked bridge about 40 miles in, where a painted pavement sign asked us to walk across.  It seemed ride-able to me, but it would have been churlish (and unworthy of centurions) to refuse, so we all walked it.

This bridge didn't have the tire-width gaps that the one on the Redbud Ride had.
The ride unfolded in routine fashion.  There were rest stops at 45 miles and 65 miles; that 20-mile stretch between stops was the longest, and seemed the most challenging in terms of hills.  The route was chosen using some very lightly-traveled back roads, which was nice for not worrying about getting hit.  But there's a downside to that: such roads also tend to have the poorest pavement, and some of it wasn't good at all.  I notice that you often encounter blacktop in which the petroleum-tar component seems to have worn away or sunk, leaving the small-stone aggregate part exposed.  This puts a high-frequency vibration into your bicycle, especially if you're like me and have an aluminum frame that doesn't damp vibration very much at all.  It's the kind of thing that loosens fasteners and causes adjustments to "creep" out of adjustment.  On one steep descent, the pavement was smooth and I could see all the way down, so I "let it rip" a bit and hit at least 39 MPH (at least, that's the number I saw on my bike GPS at one point when I sneaked a quick glance).  It felt good, but there was a minor bridge at the bottom that had an unexpected bit of pavement discontinuity as I crossed from road to bridge deck, and that little bump felt as if it should have relieved me of a few dental fillings.  I was surprised and gratified to see that it didn't cost me a spoke, or a pinch puncture -- not sure why it didn't.  All's well that ends well, I guess.

It wouldn't have been Kentucky without some Horsican-Americans.  The one in the center in the photo below was wearing a cover that, as far as I could tell, wholly obscured his eyes.  I suppose that might have been a veterinary measure of some kind.

The one on the right ... no, I'm sure he or she wasn't mooning me.  Pretty sure, anyway.

Another wooden-decked bridge turned out to be a railroad overpass (or underpass, I guess, depending on whether you're the train).  In any case, it afforded a look down into a substantial sort of trench cut or blasted out of the rock, through which the tracks were laid.  A cool thing to see.

Another cyclist and I were enjoying this view.  "Somebody used a little dynamite here," I conjectured.  "Either that," he replied, "or John Henry was pretty busy."

The weather kept teasing us.  The sky would look broken, then close back in and spit a little bit more chilly rain.

What's that?  A bit of blue?  Yeah, but it's just funning with us again.
By the time I reached the final SAG stop, 94 miles in, the weather finally broke.  This stop was at the St. John Baptist Church.

The young lady volunteer in blue was quite a NASCAR fan.  To be more specific, she was quite a Jeff Gordon fan.  Her camp chair bears the livery of the 24 car.  She explained to me that this year's version of "the Chase" is very unfair, unless it leads to Mr. Gordon winning the Sprint Cup -- in which case, it will be fully tolerable.
Back into Elizabethtown we rode ... those last saddlesore miles.  Arriving once again at Bullmoose Brothers, I stopped by the Kentucky Century Challenge table to show my Garmin and sign in.  I also got fitted for my Century Challenge jersey.

I admit that it's a cliche.  But I can't seem to write one of these without the obligatory mileage shot.  Note: there are actual shadows on the ground!  The Yellow Face, it burns us, Precioussss!

After I got home, I dumped my bike computer into Garmin Connect.  Now I see where I was.

Looking at the plot on the bottom reminds me that there was quite the steep climb -- and descent -- in the mile 75 and 76 region.  Big fun!  Sort of.
The report isn't over yet, though.  Elizabethtown was holding its Via Colori Street Art Fair, and I took a little time to walk around it before leaving.  Here, a young artist applies some extra touches to her pavement chalk work.

I translate "Via Colori" as "Color Street."  Seems appropriate.
So ends my Century Challenge season.  Not all successful, but pretty satisfactory overall.  Will I go back next season and try to do it all clean?  I don't know.  My tailbone's still a little ouchy today, so it's not a time to decide such things.  I might decide to aim myself at RAIN next season (Ride Across Indiana, Terre Haute to Richmond, "160 Miles, One Way, One Day").  Or maybe I'll join Three Rivers Velosport, the local club here in Fort Wayne, and try to get into group riding in a disciplined way.  But that's next year, and I still have the Individual Time Trials at Tour de Gruene for this year.  One thing at a time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tour de Donut: Bad Comedy and Bad Pace

This past Saturday, September 6, was the 2014 Tour de Donut in Arcanum, Ohio.  And, by the way, I've heard local people there pronounce it as both "Ar-CAN-um" and "Ar-CANE-um."  So I still don't know which is correct.

Let's get the bad comedy and excuses out of the way first.  As I said, the TdD was on Saturday, in Arcanum.  When I got out of bed Friday morning, in Leo, Indiana, I didn't know if I was going or not.  The reasons are somewhat complicated.  Thursday afternoon, about two hours before I was due to depart for my part-time semi-unretirement job at the Home Depot up in Auburn, I was pushing the mower around the front yard, trying to simultaneously harvest the out-of-control grass and ease my conscience.  As I was doing so, I mowed over a ground-wasp colony's front door, not suspecting it was there.  The inhabitants came out and let me know of their displeasure by stinging me multiple times about the left eye, behind the right knee, and on the lower right ribs.  It's funny how, in the space of just a few seconds, life can go from "situation normal" to "what the hell just HAPPENED?".  The wasp stings were painful, but not life-threatening.  However, the main way they hurt me was by inspiring an automatic, panicked, adrenaline-fueled jump and sprint across the yard, all the while trying to brush wasps away from my eye, resulting in the temporary loss of my glasses.  You see, at my age, such a violent burst of speed, without any warmup, is more or less a guarantee of pulled muscles, and by the time I got to the house, my left hip and buttocks had me hobbling very slowly indeed.  I got the stings calmed down a little, took some naproxen sodium (generic "Aleve"), and heroically went and worked my 6 hours at the Depot, where I got some odd looks, probably from my left eye being swollen near-shut.  When I got up Friday morning, I thought I'd better climb aboard my bicycle and see if I could even ride it.  I did so, and was agreeably surprised that, while walking was still difficult, cycling felt close to normal.  It seemed reasonable to expect substantial further improvement by Saturday morning, so I decided to head over to Arcanum.

In past years, I've overnighted at the Methodist church downtown, where they offered a deal: sleeping bag space on the floor, plus a very good spaghetti supper, $25.  This year, they apparently discontinued the deal, and no one had replied to my emails of inquiry during the past few months.  Oh, well.  My fallback plan was to sleep in the space available in the Arcanum Fieldhouse: no charge, no food, no air conditioning.  I arrived there in late afternoon.

Sign-in was in the gym; sleeping space in the hallway alongside.

Having picked an unused bit of the hallway, I inflated my air mattress, deployed my sleeping bag, and had that warm, fuzzy feeling that I knew where I'd be putting my head down overnight.  The remaining problem that we all had was that the building isn't air-conditioned, and the weather was hot and humid.  I simply lay on top of the bag, and sweated.  In the morning, I didn't roll it up and return it to its stuff bag, since I'd left it rather damp.

One thing I didn't notice: I was across the hall from the entrance to the ladies' room.  Bad planning.  There was much traffic in and out through the night, and every time the door opened, the light spilled forth.  I'll try to remember next time.
There was rain overnight, and Saturday morning was cooler, but still very humid.  The overcast was solid, and we did have light drizzle through most of the race, but not enough to be troublesome.  In due course, I put on my bike shorts, my Redbud Ride jersey, and a liberal coating of "Chamois Butt'r" where it would do me the most good, and rode the few blocks from the Fieldhouse to the starting area, which is George Street, just west of Main.  I waited a bit, and soon the kids' races were underway.  Very cute, the kids were.

A young rider warms up for a two-block kids' race.  Good fun seemed to be had by all.
As the 8:30 start time got closer, the street began to crowd up a bit.  As usual, when the start came, the street was so crowded that you basically couldn't clip in and start riding until you were going across the timing mats.  But: no crashes, no problems.

As start time neared, I joined the flow of people into the street itself.  We still had a while to wait there.
In past years, there were two available distances: the 16-mile "Mini-Donut," and the 32-mile "Full Donut."  (The full, by the way, isn't actually the advertised 32 miles long; it's really 30.77.  More on that later.)  This year, an additional option was offered: the 64-mile "Double D."  That's the one I registered for.  It consists simply of two laps of the Full Donut course, which means that it isn't really 64 miles; it's 61.54 miles.  Not that the distinction is particularly important.  Race organizer Roger Bowersock, in his pre-start megaphone briefing, offered people a way to back off from the Double D; he said that, after completing one lap and arriving at the timing mats, you could either continue with your second lap or stop, have your donut count recorded, and thus compete in the Full Donut instead.  Considering how few people I saw on the course during my second lap, I think lots of people took the bailout option.

I had vaguely planned to moderate my pace for the extended distance, but when the start came, that plan was out the window.  I unthinkingly and automatically assumed "race pace" and tried to pass as many folks as possible, and be passed by as few as possible.   Screw the strategy; let's GO!  Of course, the Tour de Donut is a very odd sort of race.  (For those who aren't familiar, the web site is here, and the basic idea is that for each documented donut that you consume at the two designated donut stops, five minutes are deducted from your time.)  While you're actually riding, people treat it like a race and go as hard as they can.  But, at the donut stops, everyone's pretty sociable and friendly and not in a big hurry, even though the clock's still running; the race aspect seems mostly forgotten.  It is a lot of fun, though.

The first stop is at a place called Bear's Mill, about 12.5 miles in.  Bear's Mill is an old water-powered grain mill, and they still grind some flour there, although it's mostly an artsy-craftsy-antique-y gift store.  The donut stop is in a grassy area across the road from the mill itself.  I revisited the place as I was leaving for home, after the race, and obtained my usual five-pound bag of hard red whole-wheat bread flour, and also a couple of smelly candles for my wife, who unaccountably likes that sort of thing.

The Bear's Mill stop, during my second lap, with only a few riders present.  The mill building can be seen beyond the ambulance.  I chatted briefly with the ambulance guys, while working away at a couple of donuts, and asked them how many "customers" they typically get.  They said usually none, but they had treated someone this time.  I didn't ask what for.  I'm sure HIPAA wouldn't have allowed them to answer.

This year, the other stop was at the Pitsburg Church of the Brethren.  Being a member of the Agape Church of the Brethren, I thought that was kind of cool.  In fact, on that not-quite-31-mile course, we ride by two Brethren churches, the other being the Painter Creek church.  I mentioned this to our interim pastor, Phil Reynolds, at church the next day; he's from that area.  "Yes," he said, "the Brethren are just thick as thieves around there."  I got a chuckle out of that figure of speech.

My bicycle leans against the sign at the second donut stop.  I take a "professional" interest in such signs.  One of my jobs at my church is keeping our road sign up to date.
So, back to the race.  As I mentioned earlier, my pace was unwise in the first lap.  I completed it in one hour, 53 minutes and 36 seconds, which was just a few minutes longer than I took last year when the first lap was also the only lap.  Predictably, then, my tail was dragging some on the second lap.  Besides, on the second lap, both the rain and the wind picked up substantially.  The rain wasn't a problem, but the wind -- of course -- was.  So, my second-lap time ballooned to two hours, 14 minutes, 17 seconds.  I ate seven donuts, and so got a -35 minute adjustment to my time.  Only 40 men in my age category (51 to 99) completed the Double D; of those, I came in 20th, which was a little disappointing.  On looking more closely at the results, though, I noticed that all nineteen men who beat me had ages beginning with the numeral 5.  Of those 60 and up, I came in first!  Cool.  I guess that's how I'll think about it, anyway.  King of the Geezers, that's me.  Click here to see the official results.  It's a 38-page PDF, broken out into all the event, age, and sex categories; I'm under "Double D, male, 51 and up," the 34th page of the PDF.

My wife graciously gave me a GPS bike computer for my birthday last month, which was how I knew that the race was shorter than the advertised 64 miles.

I'm liking my new bike GPS quite well.  Thanks, Deb!

I think next year I'll drop back to the Full Donut.  The 61.5 miles seems excessive to me, as a race distance.  That's edging into endurance ride (or at least pleasure tour) sort of distance.  That will be my plan for now, anyway.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thinking Outside the Hole

The moribund dead-tree Washington Post delivers the conventional un-wisdom for today:
Will journalist James Foley’s beheading be enough to bring President Obama and Congress together on a bipartisan program to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria?

Although the Constitution allows the commander in chief to order the use of force to meet immediate national security threats, both history and political common sense argue that the president needs public backing and thus congressional support to deal with dangers posed by the rapid growth of the Islamic State.
There's more, of course; lots more, ad nauseam.  There's even a sly suggestion at the end that the Congress had better back off its feckless token efforts to reign in the NSA's countless imperial surveillance programs, since the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and Iowa (ISILI, or maybe it's ISISI or some other foolish initialism with a lot of I's in it) will certainly stop the sale of beer in Dubuque unless we all sign up for NSA videocams in our bedrooms.  Which is probably what our smartphones already are, unless we hide 'em in the sock drawer overnight.

But you will scan Mr. Pincus's nonsense in vain for any acknowledgement that ISISI / ISILI / whatever-it's-called-this-week is, like al-Qaeda before it, entirely a creation of good bipartisan US foreign policy.  I wonder what name will be given to the new unintended (?) consequence that will spring forth when we all unite behind our Imperator again?

Folks, we're at the bottom of a fairly deep hole already.  We should be thinking in terms of ladders, ropes, chimneying our way up, etc.  Another spasm of energetic, united digging won't solve the problem.  Toss the shovel up out of the hole, and let's do something we haven't been doing almost continuously for the last three or four decades, shall we?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Training Ride

This morning I took a local training ride.  A short one: 24 miles, in a little under 90 minutes.  Nothing unusual, except that my usual training-ride partner skipped this one, and I went by myself.  As a result, I felt free to stop now and then and grab a cell phone camera picture.  Come along with me!

We start and end at Carroll High School.  Here's the route.
I've ridden this one lots of times.  Go early, and there's very little traffic.  Nice.
When I got there, it was still a little dark to be riding.  I waited until about 6:40 am.

A very humid morning, but not too warm.
Northbound on Bethel Road, a photo stop.

The corn's height is a little short of "elephant's eye."  Unless it's just a little elephant.
Westbound on Hathaway, we encounter a tiny bit of traffic, oncoming.

"Car up!", as we cyclists say.  Actually, a pickup truck.
Turn north again on Hand Road.  Let's document the agriculture.

It isn't just corn in Indiana.  We also have soybeans.  Plenty of soybeans.
So we ride on for a while, turning northeast on Shoaff Road, then north again on Old Lima, then west on North County Line Road.  Let's pause momentarily at Critter Haven Farm and greet the inhabitants.

This llama is large and in charge.  We'd best mind our manners.
Reaching the town of Ari, which appears to be population about 25 or so, we turn south on Wappes Road.  We soon encounter a few fairly steep "rollers."  If you put your mind (and quadriceps) to it, you can hit close to 35 mph at the bottoms of these.

This is steeper than it looks.  The short focal length of the cell phone camera has a flattening effect.
When we reach Hathaway again, we turn briefly east, then turn south on Johnson Road until we get to Dupont Road.  Here, Dupont has little traffic.

Those who live around here might say, "That's Dupont Road?"  You know, the Nile probably looks kind of small, close to its source.
Later on, approaching Lima, Dupont's a little less pleasant and more traveled.

We appreciate the motorists' concern for our safety.  The ones who just went by, though, didn't really have to move over that far.

Turning north on Lima (State Road 3, a real divided highway), we come to my church.  I hope you don't mind if I stop for a minute ... I need to check my mailbox.

Doing the sign is one of my jobs.

After turning west again on Carroll Road, we return to the high school, and our loop is done.

Not so dark now.  And it didn't even rain!

Thanks for coming along.  You're more than welcome, any time!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Even More Enduring Freedom

In the fourth term of the Dubya Administration, Avatar Obama unleashes New & Improved Iraqi Freedom 2.1:
Two U.S. fighter jets bombed Sunni militant forces in northern Iraq on Friday morning, launching the first major U.S. military action in the country since combat troops left three years ago.
In a statement issued Friday morning, the Pentagon said two F/A-18 Hornets dropped laser-guided bombs on artillery that had fired on Kurdish forces near Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital. Militants of the Islamic State, a breakaway Al Qaeda group, have been advancing toward the city in recent days. 
The fighter jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a "mobile artillery piece," being used by the militants, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
The attack occurred only hours after President Obama announced he had authorized airstrikes to protect about 100 U.S. military advisors in Irbil and to halt the advance of the Islamist militants.
The Islamic State "was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, where U.S. personnel are located," Kirby said.
"As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities," Kirby said, referring to the militant group by an acronym for another of its names, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
He did not say if the artillery had been destroyed.
How much more hopey-changey can we get than that?

An aside from the Department of Delicious Irony: we're currently launching feckless air actions against an allegedly Sunni organization. Iran's a Shia state.  So, America's Finest Mercenaries are serving the horrible, hideous, unspeakable Iranians.  This should not, however, make those Iranians smile.  After all, that just makes them the next target.  The only consistent winners are the balance sheets at Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, General Electric, and so on.  Oh boy.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Services of Our Supervisors

From the non-bicycling news:

In a decree signed Wednesday, Putin banned food and agricultural imports from countries that have imposed sanctions against his country.
The retaliatory move comes more than a week after the United States and European Union increased economic sanctions on Moscow for supporting pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine government forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along the border with Russia.
A list of specific products and food bans is still being worked out by the Russian government, according to the decree, which describes the order as a special economic measure "aimed at ensuring the security of the Russian Federation."

Russia is Europe's largest importer in value of animals, meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, according to the European Union.
Remember high school economics?  The benefits of specialization?  The plumber plumbs, the doctor doctors, the farmer farms, the teacher teaches.  They trade freely and voluntarily with each other, and everyone's better off than if the doctor's installing her own faucets, skinning her knuckles and getting it wrong, and the plumber's squinting at WebMD and trying to guess why his kid's forehead feels hot.

The trouble with these free-and-voluntary arrangements is that there's no demand for the services of the "defense" contractors or the costumed mass murderers.  These folks might have to learn to weld, and get their brows all sweaty and their hands grubby.  They might have to know something useful, that someone would be willing to pay them to teach.  They might have to learn to cook, quickly and well, and keep fifteen breakfast orders accurately in their heads at one time -- some of the hardest work there is, that last.  And that would never do.  So we get these crises.  Obviously, the little people can't be allowed to trade freely with each other.  Especially across international borders (defined as lines drawn by thug gangs to separate one gang's turf from another gang's).  So ... sanctions.  Ideally, these are the prelude to shooting wars.  Not, of course, any sort of all-out wars.  Since there still exist strategic nuclear weapons, the wrong people could be endangered by wars of that kind.  But maybe our supervisors ... the people who make nothing, and do nothing, that anyone will pay for ... can arrange more of those agreeable, limited wars.  The kind that chew up the domestic underclass, and that add handsomely to the corporate bottom lines in the "defense industry."

By the way, I do not mean to suggest that there is complete moral symmetry between our noble supervisors and The Wicked Putin.  Both are playing the do-not-trade game now.  But The Wicked Putin didn't start this round; our boys did.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Preservation Pedal: Redemption and Weird Love

A new month is nearly over, so it must be time for another blog post.  My personal productivity never fails to amaze me.  No, wait, I'm sorry -- I should be truthful; my personal productivity constantly fails to amaze me.  But anyway, let me bore you with my tale.

Way back when the spring was young, I resolved to make a trial of the Kentucky Century Challenge.  That's four 100-mile single-day rides in hilly terrain; complete 'em all, and you get a free jersey.  Accordingly, in April, I went down to London, KY, and rode the Redbud Ride.  There, I was successful, in what I was told is the most difficult of the four, and I thought the Century Challenge was pretty much in the bag.  I found out differently over the Memorial Day weekend, at the Horsey Hundred in Georgetown, where I failed, a leg-cramp casualty 72 miles in.  But I learned some lessons there.  I learned that just because they claim the ride is supported, and there'll be food and drink at the rest stops, it ain't necessarily so, and the wise cyclist stuffs his jersey pockets with emergency rations and maintains a strict "keep full" policy with respect to his water bottle.  After the Horsey, I was bitter and disillusioned about the Challenge, and actually toyed with the notion of skipping the Preservation Pedal, even though I'd already paid the registration.  The registration, you see, was only $35 (compared to the larcenous $65 extorted by the Horsey).  The Preservation Pedal departs from Winchester, which isn't far from Georgetown, so I figured I could expect the same sort of terrain, and -- truth to tell -- I wasn't all that eager to see more of that.  But a few weeks went by, and I thought, well, I've already paid, let's go see if we can complete another one; don't want those Kentuckians thinking that this northeast Indiana flatlander has run away, tail 'twixt legs like a whipped dog.

So I headed down there.  And I went nice and early, the day before.  My friend Joseph had suggested that I conduct a driving reconnaissance of the course, so I'd at least know what to expect and where.  The course wasn't available online (else I could've used Google Earth for the purpose).  When I got there for the advertised early packet pickup, when I should've gotten my route map and cue sheet, I discovered that a severe thunderstorm had dismantled the organizers' tent, and the packets were unavailable until event morning.  So I went and checked into my lodging, with a familiar sinking feeling: it's a surprise party, and the surprises are usually disagreeable.  This time, I had my (lockable) cap installed on my truck, so I required my trusty mount to sleep out in the truck.  It did not complain.

So, event morning.  The forecast called for rain all day.  This required me to make a mirror-related decision right away.  My rear-view mirror mounts to glasses (any glasses will do).  At the Redbud, on a bright sunny day, I wore my contacts and a pair of sunglasses, and that worked fine.  At the Horsey, another clear day, I opted for my prescription glasses, which worked pretty well although I had to rinse dripped sweat off the lenses several times.  But, if it rained, I didn't want to wear my glasses, which would be constantly collecting water.  So I opted for the contacts, and no mirror, although I didn't feel good about it -- that mirror has come in handy at times.  It seemed like the best solution at the time.  I slipped into my water-bearing hydration backpack, filled my frame bottle, and stuffed three Special K protein bars and a Milky Way into my jersey pockets, and was about as ready as I could be.  It wasn't raining, but the sky was solid-overcast and the relative humidity felt like 99.9%; it was one of those fairly cool but clammy sort of mornings.

We started from the courthouse square (Winchester is the county seat of Clark County).  The official start time for the century was the usual 8 am.  At 7:40, I was leaning on my bike in front of the courthouse and was fairly shocked at how few cyclists I saw -- few enough for me to make a rough count.  There were certainly no more than a hundred of us.

See all the cyclists?  Neither do I.  That's because most of them are already on the course.

A couple of minutes before 8, without announcement or ceremony, people started riding out, so I zeroed my bike computer's mileage, clipped in, and joined the meager pack.  Between one thing and another, this seemed like an inauspicious start, and I must admit that my heart really wasn't in it.  The event kind of smelled like another fiasco, or at least a hundred miles of drudgery, to me, and part of me was wishing I'd stayed home.

But, you know, exercise is the best antidepressant, and after a few miles I was enjoying the ride.  It got hilly right out of town and pretty much stayed that way the whole ride.  The first fifty miles or so was very reminiscent of the Horsey, with some big, long, punishing climbs followed by steep, brake-heating descents; after that, it was pretty much rolling hills that are easier to handle (if you can see what's coming up, you feel free to go downhill as fast as you can, carrying some kinetic energy that you can trade for gravitational potential on the following uphill).  When I was at the second rest stop, I did hear a witness's account of how one guy crashed out on one of the steep, winding descents only about 7 miles in: he couldn't make a switchback turn, and he and his bike slid under the guardrail, and he left part of his face on the bottom edge of the rail.  That's why I get passed a lot on downhills of that sort; if I don't know what's coming, I use my brakes as necessary so I always have a decent chance of dealing with the unexpected.  I need to live forever, so as to cost my former employer as much as possible in pension payments, you see.

The first rest stop was 17 miles in.  I was, of course, vitally interested in the food situation, and what I discovered wasn't promising: trail mix was the only food on offer.  I wasn't hungry yet, but you have to eat proactively, so I threw down a bag of trail mix, and added a second bag to my jersey-pocket pantry.  Tanked up on water, and off I went.

Toward the left, it seems that my phone/camera might have been wet.  It was, along with everything else.  A clammy morning.

 I grabbed a few pictures between the first and second stops:

A bottom-land creek.  Muddy, probably because of the previous day's rain.  May've been dry before that.

And some higher terrain.  Still lots of water in the air.  Pretty state, Kentucky is.

32 miles in, the second stop was hosted by the Allansville Baptist Church.  Initially, I had that "here-we-go-again" feeling, as the only food on offer was more trail mix and mini-pretzels.  At least, water and reconstituted Gatorade were plentiful.  I used liberal amounts of water to wash down a little bag of mini-pretzels.  But, just as I was about to mount up and go, reinforcement food arrived.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (PBJS)!  PB-and-honey sandwiches!  Bananas!  Orange quarters!  Cookies!  All that heart could desire.  So I did a PBJS, a banana, a couple of orange quarters, and a cookie, topped off with water, and set off down the road (Muddy Creek Road, in fact) with a little more cheer.  Things were looking up.

Between stops two and three, the weather started to break:

The sun ... I knew it had to be there, somewhere.

The third stop was at 50 miles, at Bethlehem Church.  It was lavishly provisioned.  I ate and drank there in the same way, and in the same quantities, as the previous one.  I didn't feel hungry, and initially felt a little over-full when I was leaving, but I have learned one lesson very well: if it's a century, and you're at a stop, eat!  I was encouraged by words I overheard at that stop from a guy who'd ridden the route before: the "big climbs" were pretty much over, although we could expect "rollers" constantly for the rest of the way.  This turned out to be correct.

One other lesson I've learned: take the "1 pm" warnings with a grain, or several grains, of salt.  On the Preservation Pedal cue sheet, as at the Horsey, there was a stop designated as a bailout point: we were instructed, if we reached the Sewell Shop stop at mile 57 at 1 pm or later, to make a 10-mile direct return to Winchester on a couple of designated roads.  When I got there, it was five minutes past one.  I wasn't about to punch out: there were a bunch of people behind me, I was going to finish that ride, and they could just close the roads and arrest me or whatever they wanted, but I was going on.  So I did.  And, for the record, I finished at about 4:50 pm.  Looking back, I cannot explain their thinking behind that, unless it was simply to provide an excuse to people who were exhausted and despairing of completion anyway.  I did, however, skip the stop at Sewell Shop; it was only seven miles past the previous one, I was full of food, and my water was still full as well.  It worked out fine.  Sometimes, you just have to keep your own counsel.

On my way to the North Middletown Christian Church stop, I encountered a couple of groups of Horsican-Americans who were near the road and seemed agreeable to the idea of my photographing them.

These horses seemed to find a low, muddy area of their pasture agreeable.

One of this group came right up to the fence.  I'm guessing that he or she was thinking, "Just let that goofball stick his hand through the fence; see what a hell of a bite I'll deliver."  I didn't.

Look at those horses.  Look at that sky.  Now tell me that northern Kentucky doesn't lavishly repay the effort involved in a hundred-mile ride.

At mile 83, there was a stop at the Clintonville Church.  As with all the stops all the way to the end, it was generously provisioned.  There, my bicycle shared a leaning post with a recumbent that I'd been sharing a pace with for most of the ride.  A few of us were talking to its owner.  I asked him how long it had taken to become comfortable riding it.  His answer: "About 1500 miles."  I think that must be a pretty different skill set.

Yes, the owner says there's a lengthy learning curve.  He also says there's no butt soreness involved: he has a "seat," not a "saddle."  He's got a point there.  I bet he goes through more Phil's Tenacious Oil than I do, at chain-service time.

An odd thing: after that stop at mile 83, although I was conscious of feeling tired, I felt no tiniest bit of "bonk," nor any ghost of a leg cramp.  I realized along about then that I'd been riding scared: afraid my legs would cramp, I'd been gearing down more, granny-gearing up every hill that seemed significant, not pushing.  But now I had growing confidence that they wouldn't cramp, and I started pushing myself.  My pace picked up substantially, and I began to lead my local "pack" of riders, more often than not.  And, as it turned out, I had nothing to fear.  Going back into Winchester, on near-level roads, I was cranking out 20 mph and feeling much the same as I normally do on a 25-mile training loop near my home.  And, in due course, I rolled up to the courthouse once again, and checked in at the Century Challenge table.

The official cue-sheet distance was 101.6 miles.  I'm fairly sure the cue sheet is correct.  Looks like I have a ~1.6% calibration issue.
It felt good.  It felt better than good.  I think I fell in love -- weird love -- with my own legs.  They're short, fat, stumpy things.  There's a scar or two, here and there.  I don't shave 'em.  But all they require is some food and water, and they'll just crank away as long as you ask them to.  Good boys, they are.

I still have a decision to make.  I can no longer get a "free" Century Challenge jersey, having whiffed on the Horsey.  But here's the deal: ride all four, free jersey; ride three of the four, get one at "cost" ($30); ride less than three, can't get one at all.  I'm thinking that, if I end up riding 3.72 out of four, which will be the situation if I complete the Hub City Tour in September, I could wear that jersey with a sense of honor, especially since that Horsey 0.72 of a century was partly their fault.  So, I may ride the Hub City after all.  I have a while to think it over, before I must decide.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Horsey Hundred: Century Failure

Let's go straight to the bottom line: my Kentucky Century Challenge campaign is over.  To be successful, you have to complete all four constituent rides.  You can't miss on any of them.  And I've missed on the Horsey Hundred.  I completed only 72 of the 104 miles of the century route there.  No free jersey for me!

How did this happen?  Well, it's a mixture of my stupidity and some non-performance by the Bluegrass Cycling Club.  I'll tell my side of it.  I'm guessing they won't tell theirs.  But let's start from the beginning.

This time, I lodged in a palatial Courtyard by Marriott, thanks to a Priceline deal.  The ride started out from Georgetown, but my hotel was in north Lexington, about 10 quick miles away by I-75.  No matter how posh the facility, though, it just wouldn't be the same without my two-wheeled aluminum and carbon fiber roommate.

We both slept well.  I used the bed, which was excellent.

The century and the 78-mile riders went off at 8 am.  Here's the street, in front of several Georgetown College buildings, about 15 minutes before that time.  The weather was flawless: about 70 degrees, clear skies, practically no wind.

A few minutes after I collected this image, a car inched its way through this crowd.  Very, very slowly.

The first rest stop was only about 13 miles in.  Seemed odd to me.  It had plenty of food.  I should have had more appreciation for food being present; later, that wouldn't be the case.  This rest stop was at a church in the small town of Midway; adjacent was an old cemetery.  In hindsight, that was a little bit of an omen, too.

One of these stones MUST say "Jim Wetzel's 2014 Kentucky Century Challenge, RIP."

Lexington, Georgetown, Frankfort: this is the heart of the bluegrass region, thoroughbred country.  I rode past seemingly endless rolling green pastures, bordered by very neat four-rail wooden fences and elderly-looking stone fences.  Many Horsican-Americans were present.  They tended to be far away, though, as the vastness of their pastures allowed them to keep well aloof from the two-wheeled human pests who infested the roadways, wearing goofy-looking helmets.  Here are some horses, out enjoying their morning ...

Yes, these were full-sized horses.  But they were far away, and the focal length of my phone camera is ... well, very short.

... and here's one of my fellow cyclists, likewise documenting them.

I think she had a more reasonable camera.

Mile 25, and a second rest stop.  The last one I saw with anything to eat.  Also cemetery-equipped.

I didn't check these stones for my name, either.  Should've.

About 42 miles in, we were routed past the front of the Kentucky Statehouse, in Frankfort (of course).  It's an attractive building.

I must admit that I was so busy keeping track of the pavement route markers that I didn't realize the city I had ridden into was Frankfort, until I got here.  Obliviousness, thy name is "Wetzel."

Third rest stop, 51 miles in.  Notice the great bounty of food available.  There were ... pickles.  Also pickles.  And some pickles.  Nothing else.

The line in the background is for water and pseudo-Gatorade.  It is a long line, the end of which is well out-of-frame.  Notice also the tiny little table which allegedly held food before they "ran out."  Anyone ever been on a supported ride?  Ever see so little space for provision?  Yeah, me neither.

Now, I don't know about you, but when my fuel tank is empty and I'm looking for some energy food, pickles are always the first thing I think of.  Or maybe not.  This rest-stop famine situation struck me as a Bad Thing, since we'd had 26 medium-tough miles since the last stop, and another 21 miles (of unknown difficulty) to the next.  Oh, well, I thought, nothing I can do about it; might as well get going.  I should add that, while there was both powdered imitation Gatorade and regular-type water available, there were long lines for both.  There was also a sign saying that if the time was 1 pm, and you were there, you would no longer have time to finish the century and should start following the 78-mile route markers.  The time was five minutes to noon when I read this.  I was bewildered; I'd started on time and had been keeping a decent 16-to-18 mph pace (when actually rolling), and I would have thought I should have an ample time margin in hand (as in, more than a mere hour).  Between the sign and the long water lines, I looked at the two-thirds full bottle on my bike and thought, that's enough to go 21 miles on; I'm getting out of here.  This turned out to be a bad mistake.  Live and learn ... or, sometimes, die and learn.

The next 21 miles were all hills.  None of them were quite as steep as the toughest ones I'd seen at the Redbud Ride, but they were pretty steep (I'd say up to 15% slopes in places), and they would climb constantly for long distances, often approaching a mile.  Then you'd get a steep, scary downhill, and then immediately start another long, punishing climb.  Basically, no level road to give you a chance at recovery.  By mile 60, I had drunk all my water, and by mile 65, I had "bonked:"  dehydration, loss of electrolytes, probably low blood sugar, no energy.  I kept having to make roadside stops (at which I'd ordinarily drink water, but I was out) just to catch my breath and occasionally take a picture like this one.  The route was still very scenic, but I was ceasing to be able to appreciate it.  I was starting to get leg cramps and making very slow progress indeed.  The thought of the rest stop at mile 72, presumably with abundant food, kept me moving ... sort of.

Again -- this is absolutely knock-your-eyes-out gorgeous country.  I'd have enjoyed it much more if I'd actually been alive.

I limped into the 72-mile rest stop with my left leg cramping almost continuously.  I got down in the grass and did a lot of stretching.  Then I went to the food area.  There were orange quarters and ... you guessed it, pickles.  I drank the powdered Gatorade mix as if it were good, which it wasn't.  I ate the equivalent of several oranges in the form of quarters.  I ate a pickle.  I filled my water bottle.  I sat around for a good while, stretching and resting and trying to convince myself that I could make it without the bananas and peanut-butter sandwiches I'd been hoping for.

The fourth stop was the Jack Jouett house, built in 1797.  Mr. Jouett was a hero of the American Revolution, credited with saving the lives of a number of Virginia legislators, including Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.  I just wish he'd left me a bunch of bananas somewhere.

I got on the bike, and had the left leg cramp up on about the second pedal stroke.  I stopped and rubbed it for a minute, and started out again.  Less than a tenth of a mile down the road, both legs cramped at once and I nearly dumped the bike.  At that point, it was obvious: to ride like that in the vicinity of any automobile traffic was too stupid an idea even for me.  I can just see having both legs lock up while screaming down one of those 35 mph downhills, with maybe a car coming the other way ... much potential for ugliness there.  So I walked the bike back into the worthless rest-stop area and made the call for the SAG vehicle, so that (for the first time ever, anywhere) I could make the Ride of Shame back to the start.  Which took quite a while, by the way; the driver had been asked to make a backward sweep of the portion of the course we'd already traveled, to check for any riders who might be broken down or injured at the roadside.  Of course, he did it much faster by car than I'd done it by bike, but 72 miles still takes a couple of hours to drive.

This really was a completely new experience to me.  I know about being winded.  I know about being tired ... very tired, even, as I was at the end of the Redbud. Those are conditions that are subject to one's will.  You can tell yourself that you need to crank a little bit, and you can do that.  You're not happy about it, maybe, but there's no question that it can be done.  But you get yourself dehydrated, and low on blood sugar, and it's a very different situation.  It no longer matters what you think would be a good thing to do.  Your motivation is irrelevant.  You've become a machine, with an empty gas tank.  The machine doesn't run, and that's all there is to it.  I'd read about "bonking" before, but had never experienced it.  It's very different from anything else.  Having now bonked, I know now what it is; it's a condition nearly as definite as a broken leg.  Absent the cramping, I could and would have finished the ride, even bonked, although it would have taken me several more hours.  The difficult hills, I was told, were behind me, and from the Jouett house back to Georgetown was (net) downhill.  But, even as much as I hated to quit -- and I hated it pretty comprehensively -- leg cramps aren't something you can argue with.  They don't listen.

Now, here's the thing: a lot of this is my fault.  Even given the rest-stop famine, most of those who set out to ride the century finished it.  I believe these were the folks who carried multiple water bottles and their own fuel, in the form of energy gels, energy bars, and suchlike, on their persons.  I should have been doing the same.  I also made a severe error in judgement by leaving the mile 51 stop without filling my bottle (and my belly) with water.  However ... the Bluegrass Cycling Club, as the sponsoring organization, collected the unprecedented sum of $65 from each rider as a registration fee, and that's about twice what any other ride I've been on does.  They claimed they would provide rest stops with food and drink, which they failed to do.  A "supported ride" is supposed to include food, drink, and SAG support; this was both the most costly and most poorly-supported ride I've ever experienced, and that is a disagreeable combination.  The riders I talked to were all angry about this; the ones who'd ridden the Horsey in previous years said that the provisioning of the stops had been excellent in the past, and that this was also the first year of the high registration fees.  In my mind, the BCC bears at least half the responsibility for the end of my Century Challenge campaign, and I cannot feel well-disposed toward them as a result.  It certainly increases my appreciation of a club like the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club, which puts the Redbud together for half the registration fee, provides plentifully-provisioned and fun-themed rest stops, and even manages a complimentary, advertising-laden T-shirt.

So, where do I go from here?  Well, I'll likely ride the June 21 Preservation Pedal anyway, because I'm already (non-refundably) registered for it.  The fourth Kentucky century, the Hub City Tour,  looks unlikely to me at this point: I mean, what for?  But I'll decide on that later; it's scheduled for, I think, sometime in September.