Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two Boston Beauties: Rare Vintage Raleighs

Today I visited the bicycle collector Neal Lerner and photographed some of his beautiful bikes. I am posting pictures of these two in particular - not only because they are rare and stunning, but because the owner is offering them for sale [note: both bicycles are now sold]. Here is more about the bicycles, for your viewing pleasure and for longevity:

The loop-frame bicycle is a 1938 Raleigh Lady's Tourist. This model was the predecessor to the DL-1.  The frame is 22" with 28" wheels. It is a similar bicycle to the one I wrote about here; only this one is in ridable condition.

The main difference between the earlier Tourist and the later DL-1, is that the older bicycles are not quite as long - meaning that there is less distance between the saddle and handlebars. At the same time, they look "taller" than the DL-1, because the head tube extends quite a bit higher. Another difference, is that the older Tourists have a lugged connector between the downtube and the "loop" top tube which is absent from the later DL-1 model.

The handlebars on these older models are quite short and narrow - which makes sense, because of how closely the rider is seated to the bars.

The bicycle is in ridable condition and rolls surprisingly nicely (I've ridden it for a short distance).  The shifting needs to be worked on (the gears slip) and the rod brakes need to be adjusted, but it is a stable and buttery-smooth ride. Sadly, there is a piece missing from the rear of the chaincase; it is so difficult to find these chaincases intact. The shifter, saddle and grips are replacements and are not original to the 1938 model.

Being from the WWII period, this bicycle has some "blackout" components - including the headbadge.

The second bicycle in the pictures is one I'd never heard of before: It is a 1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist. The Dawn Tourist was apparently the predecessor to the Sports. It was lighter and more agile than the original Tourist, and featured a straight step-through frame instead of a loop frame. The frame size of this bike is 21" with 26" wheels.

Unlike the later Sports, the Dawn had rod brakes, just like the Tourist did. However, its handlebars were wider and had considerably more "sweep".

The seat-cluster of the Dawn looks just like that of the later Sports (whereas the seat clusters of the original Tourist and the later DL-1 were bolted together).

The rear fender with original glass reflector are in very clean condition on this bicycle. These reflectors are highly thought after (both of the bicycles pictured have them).

The middle bit is missing from the original full chaincase, but otherwise it is intact.

"The all-steel bicycle" is written on the downtube. The pain on this bicycle is in very nice, even glossy, condition throughout.

It is rare to see even one of these bicycles "in the wild", let alone two - so I felt privileged to take these pictures before these beauties go to new homes. Hope you enjoyed the show and tell.

How to Handle Parents of Players

As a coach, if you have spent any time on the job at all, you know that dealing with parents comes with the territory. It’s unavoidable. But, handling overzealous parents really isn’t covered by most coaches pay scales. In fact, the number one cause of coaching resignations in this country is conflicts with parents.  These are the parents who show up at practice demanding to know why their son or daughter isn't getting more playing time. Or, the ones that come up to you at halftime to let you know the plays you called during the first half aren't working, and they have some ideas that might win the game in the second half. I know, you would just like blink your eyes and make “parent problems” go away, but that isn’t going to happen. The best thing to do is to take some steps to minimize parent problems before they happen. Here are some proactive steps you can take to cut down on parent issues and build positive relationships with moms and dads. 
  • Recognition: Parents are an important part of your team. You need to publically recognize how important a role they play on your team. You need to thank them for their commitment to their son or daughter and everything they do to help them with their team role. Recognize that few people have more influence over your player’s performance on Friday night than mom and dad. 
  • Organization: Get your stuff together. Write a formal program guide for your football program that details all the ins and outs of your program. Print it and give it to your players parents. Cover team philosophies, discipline, schedules, routines, team standards, etc. It puts parents at ease to know you are organized and have a plan. Let parents know that football is simply a context to teach their sons about “virtue” and that your care for their player goes well beyond the playing field. If parents know that you care for their son or daughter as a person first and not just as a body in a uniform, you will have strong parent support. 
  • Communication: Parent meetings are critical. Letters, emails, texts, face book, and your cell phone, use them all to communicate with parents.  Make sure that every parent has complete contact information for each coach in your program. Open lines of communication and nipping parent rumors and back biting immediately at their source goes a long way to minimizing parent problems. 
  • Expectations: A lot of parent and player problems are caused by parents and players not having the same expectations regarding their participation in sports. Son is playing for fun and to hang with the guys while Mom and Dad are anticipating all league trophies, a college scholarship, and a shot at the NFL draft. Most parents only know what they see on TV about sports.  You need to educate them about the real purpose of sports and the realities surrounding their son or daughters athletic career.  Do they know that less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football at a NCAA college?  
  • Education: As a coach, you know more about team participation than a parent will ever know.  You should spend quality time teaching mom and dad how to be “great athletic parents”. Cover topics like equipment, proper hydration and nourishment, rest, and academics. Make sure mom, dad, and son are all on the same page as to what sons “role” is on the team. If mom and dad come to the game expecting to see Johnny starting at QB and his role is to write down the plays called from the sideline, you might have a problem.  Everyone should understand their role, and take pride in it. When determining player roles and playing time, it always helps me to remember that mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, and uncle buck and aunt betty have driven 100 miles to watch Bobby play. Bobby is the pride and joy of their lives and we should do everything we can to get him in the game. 
  • Inclusion and Involvement: Get parents involved with team meals, water, academic counseling, etc. Parents want to help but they often don’t know how.  Give the most overzealous parents something constructive to do and you will be amazed at how quiet they get.
Finally, and most importantly, as a coach, I always tried to treat parents like I would like to be treated as a parent of a player. Over the years I have coached two brothers, four sons, and several nephews.  I think in most parent’s eyes, it’s hard to go wrong when you treat every player with the care you would extend to your own son.

The Honest Broker

Among a few climate scientists there is a renewed interest in discussing my book The Honest Broker. To be honest I don't really understand their specific critiques but I think they can be summarized as follows:

1. Scientists should not be in the business of giving policy makers choices (that is, the role of the honest broker of policy options is not desirable), because it gives cover to policy makers who might do the wrong thing.

2. Science dictates a specific course of action, thus to present science to policy makers necessarily compels a particular course of action, rendering advocacy and indeed political give and take, unnecessary.

Needless to say I find both of these positions highly problematic -- from practical and democratic perspectives. This post is for any questions or discussions about the book.
UPDATE 7/31: Over at the discussion of my book hosted by climate scientist Michael Tobis, Tobis presents a clear statement of authoritarianism:
On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed. The more complex the matter at hand, the more weight should be given to expertise and the less it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed.
Wow. And scary.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


I have been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging. I've been very busy reading and interacting with various folks on Facebook. I do this gig when I am not working. But the goal is one post per day which I have not been meeting. I must also admit that coming up with new material has been a chore. I feel that I am in creative stagnation. I don't have anything new to say. I just have new ways of saying the old things. This combined with the fact that I am approaching 40 makes me wonder if I am spent in the creativity department. But I think it is just the fact that I have yet to encounter or embrace any new or compelling ideas in awhile. My personal stagnation may just be indicative of a wider stagnation in the culture.


Julian Assange cause a stir with his data dump of the Afghan war logs on the WikiLeaks site. First of all, I think he is a hero for doing this. The American people need to know what the hell is going on over there in their name. Secondly, I find claims that Assange has endangered the lives of innocents to be without merit considering that he has withheld a lot of documents and gave the White House a change to vet the material through the NYT. Finally, Assange does have an ego. Who doesn't? He should be proud of taking on the governments of the world which will almost certainly lead to his sudden disappearance. Both Russia and Israel have shown no qualms in assassinating people on foreign soil. I can't say the same for the USA, but it would not surprise me if this country did the same sort of stuff.

Governments don't want us to know what they are up to, and their defense is that is for our "safety and security." No, it isn't. It is for sparing them the scrutiny of their citizenry who they claim to serve.


Turns out that Charlie Rangel is a bit crooked. Whoa! Really?

I don't really care about these shenanigans of Rep. Rangel. This is because I am more outraged by what folks like Rangel do in the open and in public like his constant efforts to reinstate the draft. These charges against him are misdemeanors compared to the felonies he perpetrates daily on the House floor. The only thing is that crime becomes legal when legislated.


In a corollary to the WikiLeaks story, I am not as impressed with PFC Bradley Manning who leaked documents to WikiLeaks and now faces a shitstorm and the rest of his adult life in the stockade. This is because Manning was stupid. Assange's motives are clear and mature. Manning's motivations are childish and immature. This is why he got caught. Using the moniker "BRADASS87" and bragging to another hacker about what you did was damn stupid. Assange and Co. go to great lengths to protect sources, but you can't protect the stupid.


The Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field is breaking down. He is both the savior and the damnation of Apple. It's like having Hitler as CEO. He comes in with swagger and brilliance, but you begin to wonder if the fucker is just plain nuts. When Jobs told a customer to not hold the iPhone 4 that way when the customer lost reception, Jobs went to the nut side of the ledger. The fact is that Apple products are aesthetically pleasing, but they fail on the utilitarian side. Consequently, Android phones are gaining market share because they are cheaper, more useful, and more open. We are seeing a repeat of Microsoft vs. Apple.

The debate is a simple one. Should companies be democratic or autocratic? The answer to that question is not so simple. It is also bigger than just companies since the same can be applied to organizations, governments, families, etc. Apple was closed while Microsoft was open. Now, Apple is closed while Google is open. As a libertarian, I tend to favor the open side of things though I admire the sleekness of Apple products. The Nazis were spiffy dressers, too, and they had a logo, dammit. But being closed leads to failure and atrocity. I will have further thoughts on this issue.


I think I am on the verge of rejecting minimalism. This doesn't mean embracing maximalism. The reason for this is because I am torn between two opposite poles. Take music, for instance. You have the maximalism of a group like King Crimson and the minimalism of Brian Eno's ambient work. Then, you have Bob Dylan with a guitar and harmonica. I love Dylan. I find the spareness of Eno and the bloat of Crimson to be equally offensive to my ears.

In terms of lifestyle, minimalism is too austere. My girlfriend says that I am a minimalist, but this isn't true. I can't afford to be a minimalist since I don't own elegant furniture or live in modernist architecture. I just live simply.

The reality is that minimalism and maximalism are joined together. Take Crimson and Eno. Those guys have been collaborators on music. This should not be surprising. The problem is that their respective music is without a soul.

I think music should be simple. I don't think it should be overdone or underdone. Similarly, architecture, writing, art, and lifestyle design should be the same way. I struggle to find this simplicity as opposed to the poles of excess and austerity. For me, the perfect house is an old farm house with wood floors and comfortable furniture but also some modern touches. I am struggling to find this balance.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Okay, Fine, My Father Was Right

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
-Mark Twain
For most of my life I refused to admit that I was wrong, especially when it came to advice given to me by my father. I now see, with naked clarity, how right and caring and sensible my father's cornerstone advice has been from the very beginning.
Perhaps the most consistently contentious issue between fathers and sons is the question of work and how to be successful in the real world. Right from the get-go, I thought I should start at the top. I was a talented young man and I thought everyone around me should realize this. With an air of entitlement and a growing grandiosity, I did not believe that I should have to pay my dues like other people. As a result, I constantly tried to find a short cut to the big time.
The baseball metaphor my father always used was that I was trying to hit a home run rather than focusing my efforts on getting to first base. In fact, I expected to hit a game-winning grand slam in my first major league at bat, resulting in immediate enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. As most of us have come to learn through the lens of life experience, such ridiculous expectations lead directly to strikeouts and dead ends, failures that take place without the honesty of a nuts and bolts beginning. But my father and I came from very different backgrounds, and that is the genesis of our conflicting outlooks on life.
My father is a prototypical example of the American dream come to life, a self-made man who achieved success through hard work. In Denver, Colorado, he grew up in a middle-class family that often experienced a roller coaster ride of economic ups and downs. Focusing on the promise of college, Dad won a scholarship to Brown University. Digging into his studies while forming a close-knit group of friends, he thrived at Brown.
Upon graduation, my dad married my beautiful mother at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and obtained an entry-level position at a Wall Street brokerage house. As the years passed and children were born, Dad worked with an unswerving determination, becoming a respected partner of the firm and the head of the sales team. He worked hard, but was also innovative, and eventually became a renowned expert in raising capital when others failed.
His most famous effort was captured in the book, Behind Closed Doors: Wheeling and Dealing in the Banking World, by Hope Lampert. Dad is a central character in a chapter on the challenge of raising money for the initial public offering of the computer company Compaq. Nobody thought anyone could go up against IBM at the time. But after interviewing the founders of Compaq, Dad found an angle to use to sell the company to the investors. By 1992, Compaq was the biggest supplier of personal computers in the world.
In contrast to my father's hard-earned success, I grew up as a privileged Upper East Side New Yorker who expected everything to be handed to him on the proverbial silver platter. Like my father and both of my sisters, I went to Brown where I majored in literary theory, and partied until the wee hours of the morning. After college, I headed out to Los Angeles where I fed into the dream of selling a big screenplay. Although my partying became habitual and out of control, I always thought the next big script sale would change everything. If only I could hit the legendary game-winning grand slam home run, life would fall into place and the prison cycle of addiction would end.
Seeing my attitude firsthand, my father told me that there were no short cuts, and that everyone had to pay their dues. I never listened, always trying to convince him and myself that the next big thing was waiting just around the bend. Eventually, I lost my house and my marriage and wound up at a drug rehab facility. Never listening to the sound advice of my father and insisting on following my own path toward self-destruction, I ended up in a terrible place.
My father, however, never gave up on me and has been remarkably supportive throughout my sobriety. When I helped start a nonprofit investment company, my father accepted a place on the company's board and did everything he could to help us get off the ground. Since I had never worked in the past, I made a lot of mistakes. But with the faith 22of my family and the support of my father, I have been able to pay my dues and help get my career as a technical writer and a website optimizer off the ground. Unlike some old friends, I have not won an Academy Award or produced hundred-million-dollar films, but I have discovered my own sense of personal dignity and integrity.
What remains so amazing is that so many of the lessons I have learned have come directly from my father. Listening to him, I have come to realize that none of my successful friends were ever given a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Rather, all of them, whether they were lucky or incredibly gifted or both, paid their dues and worked hard to achieve their success. Like my father tried to teach me from day one, there are no shortcuts. No matter how talented or fortunate you may be, success is the product of sweat in the form of hard work -- showing up each day and doing your job to the best of your abilities.
This may sound like a bunch of awful clichés from a self-help manual. But each of these so-called clichés has been proven to work in the real world. My father still works hard, even after all of his success. Every weekday, at an age when many of his contemporaries have retired, my father wakes up early in the morning and sits down at the computer to see how the market is doing before launching into hours of networking and conference calls. I have such gratitude that my father has stuck by my side and believed in me even when I was unable to believe in myself. Learning from his example, I have finally embraced the challenges of being an adult. Without my father's consistent love and support, this might never have been possible.
BY: John Lavitt
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Excess in the Bicycle Industry: Explanations and Implications

[Aurumania crystal and gold track bike, image via]

A couple of weeks ago, Forbes published an article on "The World's Most Expensive Bikes".  Readers have been sending me links to this article asking what I think, until finally I gave in and read it. 

[Golden Brompton, image via]

Glancing over the pictures, I noticed a strong trend for gold plating, crystals and diamonds - the usual when it comes to "luxury bikes". It made me wonder how much of these bicycles' price was due to ride quality (can they even be ridden?) and how much was due to the decorative elements. 

[KGS custom Parlee bicycle, image via]

I was also surprised to see that I actually know someone whose bicycle is on the Forbes list (not my cup of tea, this bike, but I understand that some people like to race on such things).  Kevin Saunders of KGS Bikes is an acquaintance (now also a sponsor, but initially an acquaintance) and the proprietor of a custom bicycle shop in San Antonio, Texas specialising in roadbikes that promise the "perfect fit." While admittedly high end, I did not think that most KGS bikes fetched the kinds of prices featured in Forbes. So I asked Kevin about it. His answers were pretty straightforward, and I include them here in response to this discussion on Chic Cyclist (see the comments section):
Velouria: Kevin, how do you justify your $32,000 bicycle that was featured on the Forbes list?
Kevin Saunders: The bicycles in that price range that we have created were commissioned as one-offs. (They were also done prior to the Recession that started in 2008.) A price of around $18.000-20,000 is where we find the line between premium (where more expensive components actually perform better) and luxury (where more expensive components may have a special finish or paint job but do not actually perform better). 
V: So special paint can cost over $10,000?...
KS: Yes. Some fringe exotic components and one of a kind paint jobs (that includes not only the frame but all the components as well) can mean the difference between a $22,000 and a $32,000 bike. Our price for this is based on actual cost plus a reasonable markup.
V: And performance-wise, would a client even notice the ride quality difference between, say, a $10,000 bike, a $20,000 bike, and a $32,000 KGS bike?
KS: Performance wise, the difference between a $10,000 and a $20,000 bike is significant. There is almost no performance improvement to get to the next level (up to $32,000 or more). The only value above the $22,000 price point  is artistic.
So, if I understand this correctly, even if you try to build a top of the line bicycle for competitive road cycling with full custom geometry and the highest performance available, the price will top out at $22,000. Anything beyond that will be mainly decorative. Keeping this in mind, consider that some of the bicycles on the Forbes list are priced at over $100,000. 

[Montante gold-plated bike, image via]

So what are the implications of such bicycles existing?  The "designer bicycle" not only goes beyond the typical prices of custom builders, but specifically presents itself as a luxury good - incorporating costly decorative materials and accessories from haute couture houses. The "Fendi Abici Bike" I wrote about last year is one such example. There have also been similar products from Hermes and Chanel. Based on the feedback I have read about such bikes so far, cyclists in the blogging universe tend to be critical of excess in the bicycle industry. And this applies to accessories as much as to the bicycles themselves: When ecovelo wrote about a Brompton leather briefcase that retails for $600, some readers questioned that such an expensive bicycle accessory was allowed to exist.

[Formigli track bike, image via KGS Bikes]

My view however, is that the trend for "luxury bicycles" is great. Bring on the gold-plated framesets, the diamond-encrusted derailleurs, and the haute couture panniers! Even though I would not buy any of it, I am glad it is there. The trend for cycling-related luxury goods is a positive one, because it successfully combats that stereotype we all know: The stereotype of cycling being something people do because they either cannot afford a car, or are part of some weird fringe subculture. Rather than making people feel guilty about materialism - which is after all, a basic trait of human nature - this trend takes advantage of materialism to make bicycles appealing for people who otherwise would not have been drawn to them. Think about that the next time you curse that luxury car cutting into the bicycle lane. Wouldn't you rather they were riding a luxury bicycle?

Bedeviled by conflict among your team?

I think it's safe to say that organizational conflicts can distract athletic institutions from being their most effective. That was clearly the case at the University of Southern California, with Pete Carroll locking heads with compliance officers and other USC administrators, and it probably happens in less dramatic ways in other athletic departments and in sports agencies and front offices.

I know we have plenty of readers from those types of institutions and some of them might be interested in attending a short course that's devoted to improving an organization's ability to manage conflict. Such a course will be held in the Woodstock Inn and Resort (Vermont) on October 14 to 16, 2010: Transforming Distressed Systems: Tools to Manage Conflict and Resolve Disputes.

I learned about the course from one of the instructors, Sean Nolon, who's a friend and colleague here at Vermont Law School. After hearing about it over lunch, I thought it would be valuable for a lot of folks in athletic organizations. It should be a very interactive program and sounds like a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to attending.

Click here for more details and registration information.

Man City's New Signing

Enjoy the above and have a nice weekend to all!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Computer Games

I have never liked computer games, but with the influence of the Co-Habitant I am finally starting to get into them.

Here he is, taking a break after a particularly heated round.

What you need to play: an open road and a fast bicycle. Challenging hills can be introduced after you pass Level 1. Oh yes, and of course you'll need a computer.

After I mocked the Co-Habitant for putting one of these on his own bike, he decided that I was just jealous and got me one for Graham (my Rivendell Sam Hillborne). I reluctantly agreed to try it, and quickly grew to love it - much to my dismay, as there is really no attractive way to attach these things to a bike.

For those not familiar with it, a bicycle computer is basically a speedometer with some extra features. Mine tells me: distance covered during a trip, current speed, maximum speed during a trip, average speed, and total distance covered so far (since installing the computer). There is also a clock, which is handy since I don't wear a watch and extracting my mobile phone requires stopping the bike. If you are training yourself for touring, the bicycle computer helps you measure your progress in terms of how fast you are able to cycle. Keeping track of the distance you have covered is also useful. My top speed so far is 27.4 mph (44.1 km/h), which I reached the other day on the hills in Maine. I know that to the roadies out there, this is far from impressive. But for me, it was shocking to learn that I was capable of cycling this fast. 27.4 mph is of course a downhill speed, but on flattish ground I was consistently cycling at 16-19 mph.

The Co-Habitant is faster, so I guess he won the computer games - and probably will continue to win for a while. But who knows, maybe someday I will catch up.

The main thing that makes me lose speed, is fiddling around with my shifters. I don't shift gears on my usual rides outside Boston, so whenever we go to an area with real hills it takes me a while just to get comfortable with shifting. The Co-Habitant thinks that my friction shifters are an affectation, and if I got "brifters" (brake levers that contain indexed shifters within them) it would solve all of my problems. I feel attached to my wonderful silver bar-end shifters, but I do see his point.

For those interested in touring or in cycling for sport, the bicycle computer can be useful and fun. But beware: Once you have one, it can also get addictive! I know some people who have one on every single bicycle they own and are incapable of cycling without knowing their exact speed or distance covered.  I am not likely to suffer this fate, but I am glad to have a computer on Graham.  And a question for the randonneurs and roadies out there: What speed should I be working toward for touring and for club rides? It would be great to know where I stand.

Can you say heckler's veto?

I need to find a better explanation behind this: A fan wore a LeBron James Miami Heat jersey to a Cleveland Indians game at Progressive (ne Jacobs) Field last night and, when fans in the area began chanting shouting profanities and throwing debris at him, he was escorted from the stadium. Fortunately, in the days of pervasive video, we can watch it happen (although I did not see any debris being thrown).

If there is a concern for violence, the police are supposed to halt the people who are threatening violence, not the guy who is doing nothing more than engaging in speech that pisses them off.  And, yes, this guy was no doubt being deliberately provocative; free speech exists so people can be provocative. Unless there was something going on (and I cannot find more-detailed accounts explaining security's decision or action), this looks like a living example of a heckler's veto.

Update: A report from a Cleveland sports blogger about the incident, including a conversation he had with the fan (a Florida-born, Sandusky-residing factory worker named Matt Bellamy).

When Your Players Are not With You

I dropped off two of my wrestlers at Jeff Jordan’s State Champ Camp Sunday evening up in Urbana, Ohio.  It’s a tough camp!  The kids go hard against great competition for four full days.  It requires total courage, total patience, total focus, total perseverance….and as much help as you can get!

Earlier in the summer I stayed with my wrestlers when we attended, so I could help them, personally, through the week, but this time I was going back to Cincy and would not be there to motivate them.  As I drove Moges and David up to Urbana, I thought, “How can I help these guys, even though I won’t be here?”  I came up with a few things.  I think these things helped my guys this week and might be an aid to others who want to “encourage” loved ones when they are away from your personal care.
1. The first thing I did was talk to both my guys, individually.  I told them one-on-one, that they could do this week.  They had the strength, they had ability to make it.  We went over goals, what they needed to focus on, and I tried to convince them to enjoy themselves.  This camp was about getting better and just by being there, they were getting better.  Relax and enjoy the experience!
2. The second thing I did was talk to the coaches at Jordan.  I enlisted their help.  I explained to them that I wanted my guys to really push themselves.  Could the coaches make sure my guys pushed themselves?  Could they “watch over” them?  I needed people looking out for Moges and David, encouraging them when they were struggling, praising them when they were performing.
3. Thirdly, I decided I would pray for the guys.  I would ask God every day to watch over them.  Give the guys fortitude, courage, perseverance, faith, patience, etc…  I would not ask God once, or twice.  I must pray for the guys, UNCEASINGLY.  I would pray in the morning, I would pray in the afternoon and I would pray in the evening.
4. Finally, I decided I must sacrifice and suffer with Moges and David.  They would suffer this week.  They would have doubts, they would hurt, they would want to quit.  God let me participate in their suffering to help them through it.  This way, it would be like I was at camp with them.  So I got up and ran Monday morning, Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning.(I will get up and run tomorrow morning too!)  The runs were tough but I felt good about it.  
Then, WHAM!, God decided to really give me some suffering, He decided my leaky kitchen faucet needed to be replaced.  After 24 hours and $500, the faucet and kitchen sink were replaced by my wife, ( Krista), me and friends Jeff Sweeney and Craig Filipkowski.  If you know anything about me, I have no idea how to fix anything around the house and I don’t like parting with money that we don’t have, boy what suffering!  But God helped us through it and I KNOW that it helped Moges and David.  I can only imagine the pain they went through!
I can’t wait to see the guys tomorrow on their last day, to find out how they conquered the week.  I want to see the glow in their eyes, the confidence in their voices, the poise in their step.  I know they will have grown as men, I know they will have done something difficult and succeeded.  I know they will be more ready the next time they have a difficult challenge.  And I know that I helped them through the whole ordeal.  What a joy!  May God grant you the same opportunity!
Coach Willertz
Winton Woods Wrestling:  Wisdom is gained only through suffering!
“Character is what you do when nobody is watching”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michael Oppenheimer Responds

[Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University has graciously offered this post in response to several comments made earlier this week on his recent PNAS paper on climate change and Mexico-US immigration. His contribution is much appreciated. -RP]

Our article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Linkages among climate change, crop yields and Mexico–US cross-border migration" by Shuaizhang Feng, Alan B. Krueger, and Michael Oppenheimer“, has drawn criticism in this blog. Before we respond in detail, let us point out that the problem of climate-driven migration has resisted quantitative analysis for decades. To contribute to filling this gap, we proposed a line of modeling drawing on empirical evidence about responses to past climate variations, which may be informative about responses to future climate trends. If others have better ideas for estimating how climate change affects migration, they should publish them.

Richard Tol argues that our paper “confuses decadal weather variability with climate change”. We were not confused and I doubt anyone who read the entire article would be confused either. Using the response to historical short term variability to estimate the response to a long term trend is a common first approximation in climate impact analysis when quantitative process-based information is lacking, such as for the processes underlying the immigration response. We state in the paper,
“Such a method implicitly assumes that the response to changes in the climate variables is linear and symmetric, and that migration responses to 5-y changes in climate conditions can be applied to longer run trends. We acknowledge that, in actuality, the response to a trend may differ from the response to periodic variability...”
... particularly because climatic variability during the study period has not been of a magnitude or duration comparable to what is projected in the future under various climate scenarios.

Richard further argues that the study
“fails to control for other determinants of migration that may well be correlated with weather during the sample.”
First, in terms of estimation, our approach (fixed effects IV) controls all time-unvarying state effects through state dummies, and addresses (controls for) other determinants of migration that are NOT correlated with climate through using climate as the instrument. If some of those determinants are correlated with changes in climate (other than fortuitously), then the estimated semi-elasticity would be affected, but we would be just attributing some of the impacts of climate on emigration through other channels to the crop yield channel (as the two cannot be separated anyway given the data).

Second, in term of prediction, we emphasize from the beginning that our study is a “ceteris paribus” one. In the language of economics, it is a “partial equilibrium”, not a “general equilibrium” study. The objective is to examine the “marginal” effect of climate change on migration, holding everything else constant, not to forecast the “total” number of emigrants in the future.

Finally, Tol states,
“they extrapolate beyond belief... their largest yield change is -48% between now and 2080. If technological progress would bring about a 1% yield increase per year, then the two effects cancel each other out. 1% may be too low, -48% is probably too high.”
We are careful to acknowledge the impact of other factors including technological progress in the paper:
“estimate of the elasticity of migration is conditional on many factors specific to Mexico for the period under study, such as the macroeconomic situation compared with that of the United States, the population share of youths (who are more likely to migrate), farming practices, the relative importance of the agricultural sector, and agricultural policies including responses to droughts and other climatic events that adversely affect crop yields.”
However, note that we are estimating the “marginal” effect of climate change. If technological change produces general increases in productivity and partially offsets effects of climate change, then predictions of “total” migrants would change, but the “marginal” effect of climate change would not.

With respect to the observation of Harrywr2 that at the upper end, our projections exceed the current size of the agricultural labor force: First, people not employed in the agricultural sector would also be affected by declines in crop yield, due to a well known and substantial “ripple effect”, and these would also be represented in our empirically determined semi-elasticity. Furthermore, the projection of between 1.4 to 6.7 million Mexicans migrating to the U.S. due to climate change applies to a 70-year time period. Thus, more than one generation would be affected.

Second, the projection is based on the assumption that Mexican adult population would stay at today’s level of 70 million. The projected numbers are significant but not necessarily “alarming” if they are put into the right context. The recent annual Mexican emigration flow to US is about 500,000. If in the future this is cut by half on average due to factors such as declines in fertility, to 250,000 emigrants, the total number emigrating due to all other causes would be 17.5 million in the 70 years.

...Michael Oppenheimer 28 July 2010

Remembering Reggie Lewis and the Sports Law Issues that Followed his Death

Yesterday marked the 17th anniversary of the death of Reggie Lewis, an all-star Celtics guard/forward who died from a heart attack on July 27, 1993, at the age of 27.

Growing up right outside of Boston, I was a big Reggie Lewis fan. He's still one of my all-time favorite Celtics, maybe my favorite. In addition to terrific defense and all-out hustle, he averaged 21 points per game in each of his last two seasons (91-92 and 92-93) and in the 91-92 season did something that Larry Bird never accomplished -- he led his Celtics team in scoring, steals and blocked shots per game. As CelticsBlog highlights, Lewis, who was 6'7, also famously blocked Michael Jordan four times in one game.

Lewis had the unenviable task of following Bird as the next great Celtic. It was a task that, had Lenny Bias not died from a cocaine overdose the night the Celtics made him the 2nd overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, Lewis would have shared with another potential superstar and the Celtics probably would have gone on to be one of the best teams in the 90s.

But that didn't happen.

On April 29, 1993, Lewis collapsed during a playoff game in Boston against the Charlotte Hornets. A "dream team" of 12 Boston cardiologists concluded that Lewis had cardiomyopathy, also known as "athletes heart" and a potentially fatal condition whereby the heart becomes too thick and beats irregularly. I've written about cardiomyopathy in the context of Eddy Curry and Alan Milstein addressed it when he argued on behalf of Curry that the Chicago Bulls had no right to insist on a DNA test as a condition of Curry's employment.

The doctors told Lewis that his basketball career was over.

Lewis then received a second opinion from Dr. Gilbert Mudge, a cardiologist who as Time Magazine reported, diagnosed Lewis with neurocardiogenic syncope, "a fairly benign fainting condition caused by nerve irregularities during or after peak periods of exertion." At a press conference, Mudge said, "I am confident that under medical supervision Mr. Reggie Lewis will be able to return to professional basketball without limitations." Mudge's opinion was later supported by other cardiologists, though some disagreed and supported the original diagnosis instead.

Lewis did not return to play for the Celtics, whose playoff appearance ended with a 3-1 first round loss against the Hornets, but he did resume a limited amount of practicing. Less than three months later, he would collapse and die while practicing his jump shot.

The death of Lewis raised two legal disputes.

First was a malpractice case against Mudge. The lawsuit was filed by Lewis's widow, Donna Harris Lewis, in 1996, shortly before the statute of limitations would expire. The case took three years to litigate and with a jury unable to reach a verdict, was ultimately declared a mistrial. Mudge's key line of defense was that Lewis admitted to Mudge that he used cocaine, but the admission came months after Mudge's diagnosis:
Mudge had testified that Lewis admitted shortly before his death that he had used cocaine, making an accurate diagnosis impossible. Harris-Lewis adamantly denied the charge.
Second was a threat by then Celtics owner Paul Gaston to sue the Wall Street Journal for $100 million for a front-page story it ran on Lewis in 1995. The story, which Gaston called libelous, suggested that the Celtics deliberately misled their insurance company as to the cause of Lewis' heart condition and that Lewis may have used cocaine. An autopsy of Lewis did not find any evidence linking Lewis with cocaine use.

Here is what Peter May of the Boston Globe wrote on March 18, 1998:
It has been a shade more than three years since Celtics chairman of the board Paul Gaston threatened to sue the Wall Street Journal after the newspaper suggested drug abuse and team negligence may have contributed to the death of Reggie Lewis.

At the time, legal experts said the threat sounded more like bluster than substance and predicted it would never be filed. They turned out to be correct.

The statute of limitations for libel in Massachusetts is three years - and the three-year anniversary of the Journal article passed quietly last week without so much as a piece of paper emanating from the Celtics' legal team.

"We spent quite a bit of time with a libel litigator, and as much as I hate the fact that some injustices go unpunished, I decided that this was one that was going to get away," Gaston said yesterday. "I don't see my job to go on a personal crusade against one of the foremost newspapers in the country. My job is to help rebuild the Boston Celtics and run the company which oversees them."

The Journal article appeared on March 9, 1995. It suggested, among other things, that the Celtics may have withheld medical information to collect on Lewis's insurance policy. There also was the suggestion that Lewis abused drugs.

Gaston immediately threatened to sue for $ 100 million, calling the article "defamatory and libelous." He said any proceeds from the lawsuit would go to the Reggie Lewis Foundation.

Several libel specialists contacted by the Globe expressed doubt that a suit would be filed. One said it would be an "uphill battle," and another added, "The last thing the Celtics want to do is bring this to court."

Gaston said a suit would have cost millions of dollars to pursue and that he felt the money could be more efficiently spent. "But, personally," he added, "I am equally disgusted now as I ever was by what appeared. That bitter taste will never leave my mouth."

Dick Tofel, vice president for corporate communications at Dow Jones, the Journal's publisher, said yesterday, "We said when we published the article that we were confident the article was fair and accurate, and we feel the same way three years later."
For a really good video about Lewis, here's this tribute I found on Youtube:

The Nuclear Option

[UPDATE 7/29: Just one day later E&E News pours cold water on the nuclear option.]

E&E Daily Reports that the White House has floated the idea of adding cap & trade provisions to energy legislation in conference.

Cap-and-trade provisions that likely cannot pass the Senate directly this year could be added to a narrower energy package during a House and Senate conference, a White House spokesman suggested yesterday.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters he "certainly wouldn't rule it out" that a House-Senate conference committee would reconcile differing versions of energy legislation by adding climate provisions left out of a narrow package the Senate is expected to take up this week.

Gibbs said he does not think a climate bill is dead for the year, despite the decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to drop greenhouse gas emission limits from the scaled-back oil spill response and energy bill unveiled yesterday.

"The House passed a very strong and very comprehensive energy bill last year," Gibbs said. "The Senate is going to take up a version that is more scaled down but still has some important aspects, particularly dealing with how we deal with oil spills in the future. But I don't think that closes the door -- once a bill passes, each house doesn't close the door to having some sort of conference."

Briefly, here is what this means in the context of US congressional politics: when legislation is passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, it often contains substantive differences. These differences are worked out by a small committee of members of Congress (called a "conference committee") from both chambers in what is called "conference."

Republicans are taking steps to prevent cap and trade from slipping into legislation through a back door. For reasons that I have already discussed, I don't see this effort getting very far, but I am surprised that the White House even raised it as a trial balloon. Maybe they are hoping to distract or otherwise confound the Republicans. If so, playing with bombs is a risky strategy.

Not Just Tim Tebow

You can only imagine how proud I was to read this. Mike is an assistant wrestling coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati studying to be a doctor. He was captain of the Harvard University wrestling team. What a great example for your young men.

"...had a doc tell me today to be careful because when I get married my wife will take half of my money when she divorces me.  I replied that I wanted to get married once and then just stay married.  He then literally told me, in colorful language, to have sex with as many women as possible before getting married. 

In my head I just started thinking I could laugh it off or I could be a little more bold in my stance and, tired of seeking the approval of men, I told him I was one of those guys who is waiting until marriage to have sex.  

To my surprise he said good for me.  It just showed me how crass and careless the world is.  And to keep me humble, the Lord brought to mind my own failings, to remind me that "but for the grace of God, there go I."   Let's keep preaching his grace so that men can enjoy life with him eternally and enjoy the fruits of a life that is pleasing to him now."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fastrider Deluxe Shopper Pannier from Bicycle Muse

I received this Fastrider Deluxe Shopper Bicycle Pannier from Bicycle Muse (a sponsor in July-August 2010) as part of an equal value exchange. Prior to trying this bag, I was not a big fan of single panniers and have never found one that I liked. But when I received the Fastrider, I changed my mind.

Here is a front view of the pannier. You can see that it does not interfere with the lines of the bicycle, which I like very much. The setup allows me to leave the beautiful custom rack on this bike unobscured, while enjoying the benefit of a roomy container that can be attached or removed in seconds.

To my eye, this pannier has a classic, timeless look to it that will go nicely with any vintage or classic bicycle. The style may be too quaint for some, but it suits my taste perfectly. One reason I have not been able to find a pannier I like, is that they tend to be either too industrial looking, or too "girly" - in the sense that they come in bright colours and highly stylized patterns like florals or polka-dots or paisley. Now, imagine showing up to a dinner and discovering that you are wearing the exact same outfit as one of the other guests. If it's a grey suit you are both wearing, the coincidence is not even noticeable. But if you're both wearing the exact same brightly coloured print, it's embarrassing. That is more or less how I feel when it comes to bicycle accessories, which is why I like mine to be subdued. Plus, a neutrally coloured pannier will match your outfit no matter what colour it is. A pink paisley pannier will not.

The pannier material is water-resistant woven pine. The surface is tactile, yet smooth. The colour is a warm caramel (there is also a lighter colour available). Underneath the flap (which secures with velcro strips allowing for different degrees of fulness) is a zipper opening. The flap and zipper together pretty much ensure that the closure does not let in water. (These panniers are made by the Dutch company Fastrider, so I am guessing water-proofing was a top priority.)

Not sure whether my pictures portray this adequately, but this pannier is huge.  Dimensions are: 15.5" width, 14.5" height, 6.3" depth. The fabric-lined interior is enormously deep, and has what I initially thought were dividers for compartments, but are in fact stiffeners (I nonetheless use them as compartment dividers and find that they work in that capacity!). There is also a large, zippered internal pocket (large enough to fit a medium notebook and other accessories) and a smaller pocket that will fit a wallet or phone. You can see how much room is left over inside the bag after I place my Macbook Air inside it. If you are compulsive about your laptop, you will probably want to get a sleeve for it, as my makeshift "dividers" do not reach all the way to the top. That is the one drawback to the design - but then, it was meant to be a "shopper,"not an office bag. Otherwise, everything is fantastic for my purposes. This bag will easily fit my laptop, work-related documents, and a few days' worth of groceries.

The pannier attaches to a bicycle rack with a system of 3 plastic hooks on metal spring hinges. They are quick and easy to attach and remove; the process takes just a few seconds.

Here is a close-up. The middle hook curles under to firmly clasp the rack's tubing and can be adjusted to be tighter or looser. The two outside hooks act as extra weight supports. Plastic hooks are another reason I had been staying away from single panniers - they all seem to have them. But again and again I am told that these types of hooks are safe and are designed to withstand the weight. So - fine. I like this pannier so much that I am ready to believe that. (Any words of assurance or admonition?)

View from the non-pannier side. The handles flop to the sides, but they are not long enough to get stuck in the spokes, so leaving them that way is fine.

Pannier in motion. It attaches firmly to the rack, and there is no jiggling or movement, as far as I can tell.

It is pretty clear at this point that I love the pannier. Bicycle Muse offered me a choice of products, and I am glad to have selected this one. My plan now is to transfer the contents of my work-bag to the pannier, and share it between several bicycles. Of course, time will tell how the pannier will hold up, and I will update regarding durability once sufficient time passes.

edited to add: It is 6 months later, and I love the pannier. To my embarrassment, it took me a while to figure out that what I thought were dividers were in fact compartment stiffeners, and I've changed the text of the review so as not to mislead. Having gone through the rainy Autumn and part of winter with this pannier, I am pleased with how waterproof it is and how resistant to abuse. There is some minor fraying of the "wicker" near the hooks, but I think that is to be expected. I wish there were a smaller, equally classic version of a Fastrider pannier available in the US that would fit bikes with shorter chainstays.

edited to add: Over 1 year since the review, and the bag is no worse for wear. It survived a New England winter unflinchingly and the hooks are holding up fine so far. I own a couple of other panniers now, but this one is my designated "shopper."

Silly Science

A new paper is out in a journal getting a reputation for silly science that predicts that climate change will lead to a massive influx of Mexicans across the border to the United States. Here is how the LA Times breathlessly opened its news story on the PNAS paper:

Climbing temperatures are expected to raise sea levels and increase droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires.

Now, scientists are predicting another consequence of climate change: mass migration to the United States.

Between 1.4 million and 6.7 million Mexicans could migrate to the U.S. by 2080 as climate change reduces crop yields and agricultural production in Mexico, according to a study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The number could amount to 10% of the current population of Mexicans ages 15 to 65.

A reporter emailed me an embargoed copy last week asking for my reactions. Here is how I responded (and I pulled no punches):
To be blunt, the paper is guesswork piled on top of "what ifs" built on a foundation of tenuous assumptions. The authors seem to want to have things both ways -- they readily acknowledge the many and important limitations of their study, but then go on to assert that "it is nevertheless instructive to predict future migrant flows for Mexico using the estimates at hand to assess the possible magnitude of climate change–related emigration." It can't be both -- if the paper has many important limitations, then this means that that it is not particularly instructive. With respect to predicting immigration in 2080 (!), admitting limitations is no serious flaw.

To use this paper as a prediction of anything would be a mistake. It is a tentative sensitivity study of the effects of one variable on another, where the relationship between the two is itself questionable but more importantly, dependent upon many other far more important factors. The authors admit this when they write, "It is important to note that our projections should be interpreted in a ceteris paribus manner, as many other factors besides climate could potentially influence migration from Mexico to the United States." but then right after they assert, "Our projections are informative,nevertheless, in quantifying the potential magnitude of impacts of climate change on out-migration." It is almost as if the paper is written to be misinterpreted.

Climate change is real and worthy of our attention. Putting forward research claims that cannot be supported by the underlying analysis will not help the credibility of the climate science community. Even with the voluminous caveats in the paper, to conclude that "climate change is estimated to induce 1.4 to 6.7 million adult Mexicans (or 2% to 10% of the current population aged 15–65 y) to emigrate as a result of declines in agricultural productivity alone" is just not credible. The paper reflects a common pattern in the climate impacts literature of trying to pin negative outcomes on climate change using overly simplistic methods and ignoring those factors other than climate which have far more effect.
One of the paper's authors, Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor and lead author of the forthcoming IPCC report on extremes explains his motivation with the paper:
Our primary objectives were, No. 1, to give policymakers something to think about and, No. 2, to give researchers a spur to start answering some of the more complicated questions
One of the climate impacts scholars whose work was relied on in the PNAS paper was critical:
Diana Liverman, a University of Arizona climate researcher, criticized the new study for basing its forecasts in part on research that she worked on in the early 1990s that looked at crop yields in only two central Mexico sites.

In reply, Oppenheimer said the Princeton study found similar results in a second crop-yield study, and the crop reductions predicted for Mexico are typical of what has been predicted for other countries in that latitude.

Liverman said that while she believes climate change could cause widespread migration, she has seen no study documenting it. Having studied the problems of Mexican farmers for two decades, she said she has found that a bad economy, the government's withdrawal of agricultural subsidies and the North American Free Trade Agreement have caused problems far greater than climate change.

Nature also has a set of critical reactions. The LA Times article recovered from its breathless opening with a well-buried lede:

Philip Martin, an expert in agricultural economics at UC Davis, said that he hadn't read the study but that making estimates based solely on climate change was virtually impossible.

"It is just awfully hard to separate climate change from the many, many other factors that affect people's decisions whether to stay in agriculture or move," he said.

In silly science however, nothing is impossible.