Monday, February 28, 2011

Science Impact

The Guardian has a blog post up by three neuroscientists decrying the state of hype in the media related to their field, which is fueled in part by their colleagues seeking "impact."  They write:
Anyone who has followed recent media reports that electrical brain stimulation "sparks bright ideas" or "unshackles the genius within" could be forgiven for believing that we stand on the frontier of a brave new world. As James Gallagher of the BBC put it, "Are we entering the era of the thinking cap – a device to supercharge our brains?"

The answer, we would suggest, is a categorical no. Such speculations begin and end in the colourful realm of science fiction. But we are also in danger of entering the era of the "neuro-myth", where neuroscientists sensationalise and distort their own findings in the name of publicity.

The tendency for scientists to over-egg the cake when dealing with the media is nothing new, but recent examples are striking in their disregard for accurate reporting to the public. We believe the media and academic community share a collective responsibility to prevent pseudoscience from masquerading as neuroscience.
Their analysis of why this happens has broad applicability.  They identify an . . .
. . . unacceptable gulf between, on the one hand, the evidence-bound conclusions reached in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and on the other, the heavy spin applied by scientists to achieve publicity in the media. Are we as neuroscientists so unskilled at communicating with the public, or so low in our estimation of the public's intelligence, that we see no alternative but to mislead and exaggerate?

Somewhere down the line, achieving an impact in the media seems to have become the goal in itself, rather than what it should be: a way to inform and engage the public with clarity and objectivity, without bias or prejudice.

Our obsession with impact is not one-sided. The craving of scientists for publicity is fuelled by a hurried and unquestioning media, an academic community that disproportionately rewards publication in "high impact" journals such as Nature, and by research councils that emphasise the importance of achieving "impact" while at the same time delivering funding cuts.

Academics are now pushed to attend media training courses, instructed about "pathways to impact", required to include detailed "impact summaries" when applying for grant funding, and constantly reminded about the importance of media engagement to further their careers.

Yet where in all of this strategising and careerism is it made clear why public engagement is important? Where is it emphasised that the most crucial consideration in our interactions with the media is that we are accurate, honest and open about the limitations of our research?
Neuroscience is not the only field where the cake is over-egged.

Coming up on the Radio Cardiff Sports Show - 1st March 2011

A Happy St David's Day to all our listeners....

On this week’s show we feature Simon’s regular round up of the Cardiff Devils and all things ice hockey.

Plus we look at England’s dramatic tie versus India at the Cricket World Cup and the views on the tournament so far with Zaheer Haque.

Matthew Eves returns to the show to bring us up-to-date with the latest boxing news and Yousef reports on MMA and UFC.

It’s been an eventful weekend of football and we look at Cardiff City, Birmingham’s win in the League Cup Final and discuss Rooney’s elbow and Ashley Cole’s airgun incident.

And we’ll also have our latest provisional Top Ten Countdown from our Fantasy Premier League.

You can get involved with the show by sending us your thoughts about any sporting issue via text, email, Twitter or by phone.

Phone: 02920 235 664
Text: 07728 758 759
Twitter: @RadCardiffSport

Bicycle Shopping: What Do We Expect?

Last week, I wrote about my sister's search for a basic, comfortable roadbike and in the post I explained that she is looking for a "normal" bike - That is, for a bike that is neither vintage, nor classic, nor lugged, nor artisanal - just a regular bike in the sense that one could walk into a bicycle shop off the street and buy it for a reasonable price. Once again I thank you all for the feedback, which was immensely helpful, and I will post an update regarding what bike she ends up getting. But on a separate note, I was intrigued by the category of replies that "pathologized" the way I described my sister's criteria - a few even questioning whether she ought to be buying a bike at all under the circumstances. Those comments made me think about expectations when it comes to bicycle shopping. And frankly, I think that "we" - i.e. those of us who are "into" bicycles, and especially into classic and vintage bicycles - can be out of touch with what people who "just want a bike" expect. Here are some of my observations about first time bike buyers' expectations that I've gathered from personal conversations and reader emails over the past two years:

It's too complicated
I think it is accurate to say that most people off to buy their first bicycle as an adult initially expect for the experience to be fairly simple. They envision being able to walk into a bike shop, to ask for some advice, and to walk out with a nice shiny bike. And I don't think that this attitude makes them "lazy" or "not committed to cycling." I think it is an entirely normal and healthy attitude. Unfortunately, hopes for simplicity are all too frequently crushed as bicycle shopping turns frustrating. The bicycles suggested at bike shops are often uncomfortable or otherwise unappealing, and the customer does not know how to express what exactly does not feel right. Purchasing a bicycle should be simple. But I believe that both bicycle shops and the industry at large are out of touch with what customers actually need.

It's too expensive
I receive lots of emails from people looking to buy their first bike, and the figure $500 comes up over and over again as the upper limit of their budget - regardless of how well off the person is. While that expectation is unrealistic, I think that from the customer's point of view - assuming that they are not familiar with the industry - it is reasonable. Once they get to know the market a little better, chances are that they will come to terms with spending considerably more on a bike than they initially expected to. I blame this discrepancy on the industry and not on the customer being "cheap." In theory, large manufacturers could churn out attractive and functional bikes for $500, but for a variety of reasons, they do not.

I don't want to be a bike expert, I just want to ride
I hear this one repeatedly, and I agree. Wanting to buy a bike should not require one to become an expert in bikes first. There is a difference between cycling and being "into bicycles," and it is perfectly normal to be the former without becoming the latter.

The fact is, that those of us who enjoy customising bicycles, building up bicycles from the frame up, hunting for rare parts and refurbishing vintage bikes, seeking out unique and unusual bicycles that are only available in specialty shops, and so on... are not in the majority, and I think we need to respect that. Most people - even those who are excited about cycling - just want to go to a "regular" bike shop, buy a bike, ride it without problems, and fiddle as little with it as possible. There is nothing wrong with that, and I think it would be misguided of me to try and convince everyone I meet that my preferences are "better." And in fact I don't think they are better; they are just different.

I would venture to say that a large percentage of would-be cyclists in North America are turned off from cycling by the discrepancy between their expectations and their actual experiences, when it comes to buying their first bicycle. And it seems to me that rather than blame the "victim," it would be more useful to rethink how the bicycle industry approaches potential customers. I have spoken to way too many people at this point who've told me that they'd love to cycle but are having terrible luck finding a bike. And that just isn't right.

DePaul's Friday Symposium on Compliance in Chicago

This Friday, the DePaul Journal of Sports Law and Contemporary Problems hosts "A Rule is a Rule: Compliance in the World of Sports." The presenters include Timothy Epstein, Marc Edelman, and myself. 2.75 hours of CLE is available for attorneys and a reduced rate admission is offered for law students from other area schools. Here's the event description:

The DePaul Journal of Sports Law & Contemporary Problems will host its annual sports law symposium, A Rule is a Rule: Compliance in the World of Sports, on March 4th, 2011. During this event, panelists will discuss a variety of legal issues currently arising in the world of sports. In line with our organization’s mission statement, the symposium will investigate the intersection between law and sports with a focus on today's most important sports law issues, and discuss the contemporary problems that result.

Last year, our symposium was a great success. In fact, our symposium was recently acknowledged at the prestigious National Sports Law Institute Conference as being “an excellent Conference.” Panelists at our previous conference included representatives from the National Football League, the Big Ten Conference, the Chicago Cubs, and notable professors from Sports Law academia.

This year we are striving to hold another highly successful symposium to uphold the tradition. Our panelists will include compliance experts from universities, as well as scholars who have written and taught on the subject.

Compliance is a very broad topic. In the legal field, our entire careers focus on compliance with rules, whether they be federal law, state law, or bylaws within an organization. This symposium will explore issues of compliance that are particularly relevant in sports. We will have two panels: the first panel will focus on compliance in college sports, while the second panel will address compliance in professional sports

The event is being held at the University Center (525 S. State), a few blocks south of DePaul's law school.

Oil Prices and Economic Growth

Last week I solicited perspectives on the relationship of oil prices and economic growth.  Thanks to all who emailed and commented.  This post shares some further thoughts.

First, there does appear to be a sense of conventional wisdom on this subject.  For instance, from last Friday's New York Times:
A sustained $10 increase in oil prices would shave about two-tenths of a percentage point off economic growth, according to Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays Capital. The Federal Reserve had forecast last week that the United States economy would grow by 3.4 to 3.9 percent in 2011, up from 2.9 percent last year.
Similarly, from Friday's Financial Times:
According to published information on the Federal Reserve’s economic model, a sustained $10 rise in the oil price cuts growth by 0.2 percentage points and raises unemployment by 0.1 percentage points for each of the next two years.

Jan Hatzius, chief US economist for Goldman Sachs in New York, comes up with similar numbers ...
Today's New York Times sames something very similar:
Nariman Behravesh, senior economist at IHS Global Insight, said that every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil reduces economic growth by two-tenths of a percentage point after one year and a full percentage point over two years.
And adds:
As a rule, every 1-cent increase takes more than $1 billion out of consumers’ pockets a year.
Reuters offers some different numbers:
In 2004, the International Energy Agency calculated that an increase of $10 per barrel would reduce GDP growth in developed countries by 0.4 percent a year over the following two years. It would also add 0.5 percent to annual inflation. The impact was more severe in the developing world: in Asia, growth would be 0.8 percent lower and inflation 1.4 percent higher.

But the IEA’s estimates were made when the oil price was just $25 per barrel. While a $10 price increase today is lower in percentage terms, the absolute level is much higher: at the current price, oil consumption accounts for more than 5 percent of global GDP.
That these numbers seem unsatisfying 9at least they do to me) should not be surprising, as economists have devoted precious little attention to understanding the role of energy in economic growth.  David Stern of the Australian National University has a nice review paper titled "The Role of Energy in Economic Growth" that asserts:
The principal mainstream economic models used to explain the growth process (Aghion and Howitt, 2009) do not include energy as a factor that could constrain or enable economic growth, though significant attention is paid to the impact of oil prices on economic activity in the short run (Hamilton, 2009).
James Hamilton, cited above by Stern and a professor of economics at UCSD who blogs at Econbrowser, explains the math as follows:
Americans consume about 140 billion gallons of gasoline each year. I use the rough rule of thumb that a $10/barrel increase in the price of crude oil translates into a 25 cents per gallon increase in the price consumers will eventually pay for gasoline at the pump. Thus $10 more per barrel for crude will leave consumers with about $35 billion less to spend each year on other items, consistent with a decline in consumption spending on the order of 0.2% of GDP in a $15 trillion economy.
So much for that fancy Federal Reserve model, but I digress.  Hamilton has a new paper out on oil shocks here in PDF.

From this cursory review, it seems that the details of the relationship of energy prices and economic outcomes remains fairly cloudy in the economic literature, with conclusions resting significantly on assumptions and the specification of relationships.  Even so, the big picture is clear enough to draw some general conclusions, such as this prescient assertion put forward by Professor Hamilton in 2009 testimony before the U.S. Senate:
Even if we see significant short-run gains in global oil production capabilities, if demand from China and elsewhere returns to its previous rate of growth, it will not be too long before the same calculus that produced the oil price spike of 2007-08 will be back to haunt us again.
The conclusion that is draw is that regardless of the best way to represent oil prices and GDP in economic models, we need to work harder to make energy supply more reliable, abundant, diverse and less expensive.

Rest week and the upcoming Uddevalla Open LC comp

This week is rest for me. I will do some mobility and a few reps later in the week. With "few reps" I mean few - like 3-5 - hence, it is not an understatement. I am curious to see how it goes - the training suffered some from the bad cold last week. On the other hand, I felt ok lifting Saturday.

I prefer an entire week of rest (though I don't taper down before that). I tried resting only three days once and result got worse than usually. Some people think one week of rest is too much, I guess age and related time needed for recovery plays in there.

Uddevalla Open LC comp
There's a nice crowd gathering at Uddevalla. Lifters from two, or three nations, will be there. At facebook (LINK) there is 13 registered. Then I know of at least two people who have registered directly at the club. Might be some more. Anyhow, if you want to compete but have not registered, please, do so as soon as possible.

If you are coming from out of town, several lifters have booked room at the hotel Sköna rum (LINK) wich is very close to both the train station (ca 100 meters) and the club (ca 200 meters).

More Sports Law Links

As a follow-up to Mike's recent post with a number of sports law links, I wanted to provide a few more, as there have been a number of interesting developments in our field.

1. 60 Minutes ran a story on legendary Vegas-based sports gambler Billy Walters last month. The video clips provide a fascinating look into the world of high stakes "white collar" sports gambling.

2. Did Jose Canseco's admitted steroid use rub off on other MLB players? Eric Gould and Todd Kaplan analyze Canseco's "peer effects" in a forthcoming issue of Labour Economics.

3. Patrick Hruby of explains why lawyers "always get [the] last laugh in sports, as in life."

4. Ben McGrath of The New Yorker asks - "Does football have a future?" McGrath's article looks at the "concussion crisis" in the NFL. In the latter part of the article, he mentions the possibility of imminent class action lawsuits.

5. The conventional wisdom in sports gambling is that sports books try to set their poinspreads (sides) and totals (over/unders) as a conservative/guaranteed way to profit. Steve Levitt (co-author of Freakonomics) cast doubt on such strategy in an oft-cited 2004 paper published in The Economic Journal. Rodney Paul and Andy Weinbach provide empirical support for the "Levitt hypothesis" in a new article in Applied Economics Letters.

6. Was Congress complicit in connection with baseball's antitrust exemption? Neil Longley examines Senate voting patters in a forthcoming Applied Economics Letters piece.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


It is the last day of February 2011. It feels weird that a month should be over so soon. Spring is in the air here in South Carolina which means pollen and allergies. I have spent the previous evening researching the paleo diet, the Atkins diet, Dean Ornish, etc. Basically, the conclusions that I reached in my article "Why You Are Fat" hold firm. Both the vegetarians and the carnivores lose weight on their respective diets, but no one cares to do them. Vegetarians are hungry all the time while the carnivores want to put a potato with their steak. The answer I have found is to blend the two by going low fat and slow carb. This means a grilled chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun. And if carbs are a killer, the Japanese should be dead because 90% of what they eat is white rice.

The thing I am finding endemic in the American culture is a tendency to go extreme. We binge on burgers, fries, soft drinks, and processed foods. Then, we purge by eliminating entire food groups. There is no middle ground. And don't even get me started on supplements. There are two things every diet quack offers. The first is a book. The second is a bottle of pills. Yet, the biggest and best results are had with modest changes.

This contrast between going extreme and going simple is best exemplified by the differing approaches of Tony Robbins and Leo Babauta. Tony is the typical American with his cheerleading and motivational books and seminars. For Robbins, the answer is to have passion. Then, he whips his acolytes into a froth. They all decide to unleash that giant within. So, they go out and join a gym, make resolutions to change, and blah blah blah. Within a month or two, that giant is back to being a midget.

Leo is the mirror opposite. He tells you to go small and modest. Simplify your life. Focus on one or two goals. Take small steps. Ironically, his Zen approach beats the extreme approach of Tony Robbins because you end up making real changes in your life that last. The whole self-help motivation industry is a colossal joke, but Leo cuts through all that with his simple approach to things.

People believe that in order to change they have to defy their limits. They must expend tremendous energy to accomplish great things. But this is so much bullshit. People think the road to wealth is to get a bigger and better paying job when they could more easily accomplish the same goal with thrift. They go from the couch to training for a marathon when all they need is to go for a walk each day. They buy all these time management systems when all they need is to turn off the TV and the internet.

This extremism is the product of maximalism, and Americans are fundamentally maximalists. We do everything bigger and bolder here in the USA. The result is ambition, exhaustion, and failure. There is a better way, and this way is to go simple. Quit wasting resources on a hundred different things. Acknowledge that your failures are not the result of a lack of ambition but a lack of follow through.

I thought about this as I was editing the feeds on my Google Reader. I have 724 subscriptions, and this was after a purge. I am fixing to purge again. If I were to actually read every article that comes in on a single day, it would take me a year. Basically, I spend 95% of my time scrolling through shit I'm never going to read. What a waste. This is information gluttony. The first purge was easy. This second purge is way more difficult.


Australia Carbon Tax Poll

The Flip Side of Extreme Event Attribution

I first noticed an interesting argument related to climate change in President Bill Clinton's 2000 State of the Union Address:
If we fail to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, deadly heat waves and droughts will become more frequent, coastal areas will flood, and economies will be disrupted. That is going to happen, unless we act.
Taken literally, the sentences are not wrong. But they are misleading. Consider that the exact opposite of the sentences is also not wrong:
If we reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, deadly heat waves and droughts will become more frequent, coastal areas will flood, and economies will be disrupted. That is going to happen, if we act.
The reason why both the sentence and its opposite are not wrong is that deadly and economically disruptive disasters will occur and be more frequent independent of action on greenhouse gas emissions. If the sentences are read to imply a causal relationship between action on greenhouse gases and the effects on the impacts of extreme events -- and you believe that such a direct causal relationship exists -- the sentences are still misleading, because they include no sense of time perspective. Even if you believe in such a tight coupling between emissions and extremes, the effect of emissions reductions on extreme events won't be detectable in your lifetime, and probably for much longer than that.

Why do I bring up President Clinton's 2000 State of the Union in 2011?  Because I have seen this slippery and misleading formulation occur repeatedly in recent weeks as the issue of carbon dioxide and extreme events has hotted up.  Consider the following examples.

First John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama:
People are seeing the impact of climate change around them in extraordinary patterns of floods and droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and powerful storms.
He also says:
[T]he climate is changing and that humans are responsible for a substantial part of that - and that these changes are doing harm and will continue to do more harm unless we start to reduce our emissions
It would easy to get the impression from such a sentence that if we "start to reduce our emissions" then climate changes will no longer be "doing harm and continue to do more harm"  (or more generously, will be "doing less harm"). Such an argument is at best sloppy -- particularly for a science advisor -- but also pretty misleading

Second, Ross Garnaut, a climate change advisor to the Australian government:
[T]he systematic, intellectual work of people who've spent their lifetimes studying these things shows that a warmer climate does lead to intensification of these sorts of extreme climatic events that we've seen in Queensland, and I think that people are wishing to avoid those awful challenge in Queensland will be amongst the people supporting effective action on climate change.
It would be easy to get the impression that Garnaut is suggesting to current Queensland residents that future Queensland floods and/or tropical cyclones might be avoided by supporting "effective action on climate change."  If so, then the argument is highly misleading.

It is just logical that one cannot make the claim that action on climate change will influence future extreme events without first being able to claim that greenhouse gas emissions have a discernible influence on those extremes. This probably helps to explain why there is such a push to classify the attribution issue as settled. But this is just piling on one bad argument on top of another.

Even if you believe that attribution has been achieved, these are bad arguments for the simple fact that detecting the effects on the global climate system of emissions reductions would take many, many (many!) decades.  For instance, for an aggressive climate policy that would stabilize carbon dioxide at 450 ppm, detecting a change in average global temperatures would necessarily occur in the second half of this century.  Detection of changes in extreme events would take even longer.

To suggest that action on greenhouse gas emissions is a mechanism for modulating the impacts of extreme events remains a highly misleading argument.  There are better justifications for action on carbon dioxide that do not depend on contorting the state of the science.

Climate Science Turf Wars and Carbon Dioxide Myopia

Over at Dot Earth Andy Revkin has posted up two illuminating comments from climate scientists -- one from NASA's Drew Shindell and a response to it from Stanford's Ken Caldeira.

Shindell's comment focuses on the impacts of action to mitigate the effects of black carbon, tropospheric ozone and other non-carbon dioxide human climate forcings, and comes from his perspective as lead author of an excellent UNEP report on the subject that is just out (here in PDF and the Economist has an excellent article here).  (Shindell's comment was apparently in response to an earlier Dot Earth comment by Raymond Pierrehumbert.)

In contrast, Caldeira invokes long-term climate change to defend the importance of focusing on carbon dioxide:
If carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases were not building up in the atmosphere, we would not be particularly worried about the climate effect from the short-lived gases and aerosols. We are concerned about the effect of methane and black carbon primarily because they are exacerbating the threats posed by carbon dioxide.

If we eliminated emissions of methane and black carbon, but did nothing about carbon dioxide we would have delayed but not significantly reduce long-term threats posed by climate change. In contrast, if we eliminated carbon dioxide emissions but did nothing about methane and black carbon emissions, threats posed by long-term climate change would be markedly reduced.
Presumably by "climate effect" Caldeira means the long-term consequences of human actions on the global climate system -- that is, climate change. Going unmentioned by Caldeira is the fact that there are also short-term climate effects, and among those, the direct health effects of non-carbon dioxide emissions on human health and agriculture. For instance, the UNEP report estimates that:
[F]ull implementation of the measures identified in the Assessment would substantially improve air quality and reduce premature deaths globally due to significant reductions in indoor and outdoor air pollution. The reductions in PM2.5 concentrations resulting from the BC measures would, by 2030, avoid an estimated 0.7–4.6 million annual premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution.
There are a host of reasons to worry about the climatic effects of  non-CO2 forcings beyond long-term climate change.  Shindell explains this point:
There is also a value judgement inherent in any suggestion that CO2 is the only real forcer that matters or that steps to reduce soot and ozone are ‘almost meaningless’. Based on CO2’s long residence time in the atmosphere, it dominates long-term committed forcing. However, climate changes are already happening and those alive today are feeling the effects now and will continue to feel them during the next few decades, but they will not be around in the 22nd century. These climate changes have significant impacts. When rainfall patterns shift, livelihoods in developing countries can be especially hard hit. I suspect that virtually all farmers in Africa and Asia are more concerned with climate change over the next 40 years than with those after 2050. Of course they worry about the future of their children and their children’s children, but providing for their families now is a higher priority. . .

However, saying CO2 is the only thing that matters implies that the near-term climate impacts I’ve just outlined have no value at all, which I don’t agree with. What’s really meant in a comment like “if one’s goal is to limit climate change, one would always be better off spending the money on immediate reduction of CO2 emissions’ is ‘if one’s goal is limiting LONG-TERM climate change”. That’s a worthwhile goal, but not the only goal.
The UNEP report notes that action on carbon dioxide is not going to have a discernible influence on the climate system until perhaps mid-century (see the figure at the top of this post).  Consequently, action on non-carbon dioxide forcings is very much independent of action on carbon dioxide -- they address climatic causes and consequences on very different timescales, and thus probably should not even be conflated to begin with. UNEP writes:
In essence, the near-term CH4 and BC measures examined in this Assessment are effectively decoupled from the CO2 measures both in that they target different source sectors and in that their impacts on climate change take place over different timescales.
Advocates for action on carbon dioxide are quick to frame discussions narrowly in terms of long-term climate change and the primary role of carbon dioxide. Indeed, accumulating carbon dioxide is a very important issue (consider that my focus in The Climate Fix is carbon dioxide, but I also emphasize that the carbon dioxide issue is not the same thing as climate change), but it is not the only issue.

In the end, perhaps the difference in opinions on this subject expressed by Shindell and Caldeira is nothing more than an academic turf battle over what it means for policy makers to focus on "climate" -- with one wanting the term (and justifications for action invoking that term) to be reserved for long-term climate issues centered on carbon dioxide and the other focused on a broader definition of climate and its impacts.  If so, then it is important to realize that such turf battles have practical consequences.

Shindell's breath of fresh air gets the last word with his explanation why it is that we must consider long- and short- term climate impacts at the same time, and how we balance them will reflect a host of non-scientific considerations:
So rather than set one against the other, I’d view this as analogous to research on childhood leukemia versus Alzheimer’s. If you’re an advocate for child’s health, you may care more about the former, and if you’re a retiree you might care more about the latter. One could argue about which is most worthy based on number of cases, years of life lost, etc., but in the end it’s clear that both diseases are worth combating and any ranking of one over the other is a value judgement. Similarly, there is no scientific basis on which to decide which impacts of climate change are most important, and we can only conclude that both controls are worthwhile. The UNEP/WMO Assessment provides clear information on the benefits of short-lived forcer reductions so that decision-makers, and society at large, can decide how best to use limited resources.

Moultons, Modern and Vintage

Local bike shop Harris Cyclery has begun carrying Moulton bicycles, and I had not seen one up close until now. They had a dove gray one in the window that called out to me, so I took it outside for a closer examination and test ride.  Jon Harris then brought out another Moulton - one of his personal bikes made in the 1960s, that had once belonged to Sheldon Brown. It was informative to see the two models side by side.

The new Moulton is the TSR 9 model, manufactured by Pashley-Moulton.

Moulton bicycles have a complicated history. Production initially began in 1962, then ceased in the 1970s and resumed in the 1990s - with some models produced under license by Pashley.

This bicycle has a Moulton headbadge on the head tube and a Pashley headbadge on the seat tube.

The frame design is called a space frame, and it allows for greater rigidity and lighter weight in comparison to traditional steel frames.

Moultons are not folding bicycles, but are "separable" and can be disassembled for travel.

In addition to their unique geometry and small wheels, Moultons are distinguishable by their suspension system - which they had originally implemented decades before it would become common.

Components on the Pashley-Moulton models are modern and off-the-shelf, which keeps the price "reasonable" (this one is just over $2,000) compared to the higher-end models.

My impression of the space-frame Moulton is somewhat confused. I find it architecturally interesting and beautifully constructed. However, I do not quite understand what makes it a good bicycle. I mean, is one expected to buy it because it is unusual looking and has a cool history, or does it have unique characteristics that make it superior to other bicycles? By moderns standards, it is not a lightweight bike by any means (26 lb without pedals), which somewhat defeats the small wheel construction. And the complicated frame structure - while beautiful to look at - makes me worry that I'll get my foot stuck somewhere in there while attempting to step over it. It just doesn't seem like a very practical design to me. Also, to my eye the handlebar set-up on this model clashes with the frame, and it seems to me that some effort could have been made to keep the price down while finding more elegant components.

I tried to ride the bicycle, but the front suspension felt so powerful that I did not feel comfortable test riding it in the winter. The Co-Habitant rode it briefly and did not feel stable on it, which may have to do with the suspension as well - neither of us is used to it. The conditions on this day were not ideal for properly test riding bikes, so I'd like to try it again when it gets warmer. But on first impression, the Moulton space frame bike did not feel entirely welcoming.

On the other hand, I was surprised by how friendly and accessible the vintage "F-frame" model felt in comparison. This is one of the original models, introduced in the early 1960s - the Major Deluxe. It came with a 4-speed hub, front and rear rack, and a large bag mounted on the rear. Here is a neat promotional video from when these bikes first came out.

Despite being somewhat heavier than the currently produced space-frame, I found the vintage f-frame easier to lift and carry.

The step-over is considerably lower as well. In other ways too, the vintage Moulton just felt like a better fit for my proportions; it felt very natural.

And of course the classic components are absolutely charming.

The North-roadish handlebars are more comfortable than the straight bars on the modern production bikes.

The fenders and racks are extremely useful, and the bag is huge. In essence, it is a small, practical bike - not as visually striking as the later space-frame, but more user-friendly.

I appreciated the opportunity to have a closer look at the Moultons, and would like to properly test ride the modern production bicycle once Spring arrives. While I can see myself owning and riding the vintage F-frame model, I find the newer space-frame model intimidating and somewhat impractical, though visually compelling. Moulton owners and enthusiasts are welcome to contribute their impressions.

Sunday Sports Law Links

* Mark Cuban wonders why more superstar U.S. teenage basketball players don't go play professionally in Europe, where players can be as young as 14 and earn lucrative contracts. The NBA, as we know, requires that U.S. players be 19-years-old and one-year removed from high school before they are eligible to play.

The European route was clearly successful for Brandon Jennings, who played professionally in Italy for one-year before becoming eligible for the 2009 NBA draft.
Jennings earned about $1.2 million in Italy between salary and endorsement income -- obviously more than he would have "earned" while playing as a freshman in college, assuming he had overcome his eligibility issues.

The international experience has been much less successful for 6'11 power forward Jeremy Tyler, however. Tyler skipped his senior year of high school and struggled playing professionally in Israel in 09-10. Then again, Tyler has been much more impressive this season while playing in Japan's pro basketball league--a league which has former NBA players in it, including Bruce Bowen and Jerold Honeycutt. Tyler is averaging an efficient 9 points, 6 rebounds and 14 minutes per game while drawing consistent praise from his coach. Tyler is eligible for this year's NBA draft -- his recent improvement in play, not to mention impressive size and athletic ability, probably will land him on an NBA roster next season.

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* Shira Springer of the Boston Globe has an excellent preview of this week's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference (hat tip to Warren Zola). I will be speaking at the conference on the Sports Labor Relations panel.

* * *

* How would you like to study international sports law in Florence, Italy over the summer and get law school credit for it? The South Texas College of Law is sponsoring a study abroad program in Florence between June 3 and June 25 that will focus on two courses: international amateur sports law and international professional sports law. NFL agent/attorney and former NFL player Ralph Cindrich is one of the instructors, as is South Texas College of Law prof James Musselman. Sounds like an awesome experience to me.

* * *

* Last year I wrote a guest column on Torts Prof Blog on the tort implications of "game presentation" -- the various things stadium operators do to keep fans interested during games, including on-court and on-field promotions -- in the context of Coomer v. Kansas City Royals, a lawsuit filed by a guy who while attending a Royals game was injured by a hot dog that had been propelled by the Royals Mascot as part of a promotion. A couple of weeks ago, the Royals lost a motion for summary judgment in the case. Carla Varriale of Athletic Business Network has the story on the Royals' inability to get rid of the case and what it means for game presentation.

* * *

* I was interviewed on the Dennis and Callahan Show on WEEI Boston last week to talk about legal issues involving Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and DJ Henry (a Pace football player who was shot and killed by a police officer in a terrible misunderstanding of a situation). I also spoke with Drew Forresster of WNST Baltimore about Bonds, Clemens and the NFL labor crisis, and how NBA players might be in a better position than NFL players when it comes to being locked out: some NBA players, particularly the stars, will have opportunities to go play in Europe and earn considerable $$, while playing with and against legitimate talent (while European basketball may not be as "good" as the NBA, it's far better than the D League or some other minor league).

* * *

* NBA Deputy commissioner Adam Silver claims that three-quarters of NBA teams are losing money, even though NBA television ratings are way up this season.

* * *

* UConn men's basketball coach has been suspended by the NCAA for the first three games of next season. The Hartford Courant's Paul Doyle has the story and interviews, among others, Connecticut Sports Law's Dan Fitzgerald.

* * *

* Do Male Athletes have Body-Image Problems? Admittedly, that's not a question I've thought much about, or maybe at all, but Libby Sander of The Chronicle of Higher Education explains why it's an interesting topic and why new research on the topic may shed light on behavior issues with male athletes.

* * *

Before the Red Sox offered 29-year-old outfielder Carl Crawford a 7-year, $142 million contract this past off season, they obviously did their due diligence on him. After-all, the contract is fully guaranteed and the financial commitment being made is enormous, especially for a player who will turn 30 this season and whose game is based to a large extent on his speed. As Gordon Edes of points out, the Red Sox took due diligence to a such a point that it creeped out Crawford:
[Red Sox Assistant GM] Allard Baird, who oversees the club's pro scouting department, was assigned to scout Crawford for most of the second half of the 2010 season.

"I knew they were scouting me," Crawford said. "Coaches would tell me this guy asked about you, or that guy."

But he said he had no inkling they were monitoring him off the field, too.

"I definitely look over my shoulder now a lot more than what I did before," he said. "Just when he told me that, the idea of him following me everywhere I go, was kind of, I wasn't comfortable with that at all.

"I don't know how they do it, how much distance they keep from you when they watch you the whole time. I definitely check my back now, at least 100 yard radius. I'm always looking over my shoulder now. Now I look before I go in my house. I'd better not see anything suspicious now."

Kind of reminds of me when the NBA "ordered its security forces" to more closely follow NBA players off-the-court.

The Weakness of Karen De Coster

Karen De Coster is a bad ass. She is a libertarian, an accountant, a writer, an activist, and a devotee of the paleo diet and exercise regimen. Plus, she looks hot holding a firearm. She is also very opinionated and does not hesitate to say exactly what she thinks. You can get a taste of that here.

There is much to like and admire about Karen. She is awesome in so many ways. She was on my heroes list. Then, she did something very unheroic. She disgraced herself by being mean to someone weak. This is a no-no with me. I'm cool with people bashing on me. I'm not so cool with people bashing on the defenseless. Karen isn't a proud individualist. She is simply a gun toting bitch with a fragile ego.

This weakness of hers was put on display on Facebook when she started a thread bashing on some fat chick she saw at Walmart wearing Under Armour. Now, I admit this is poor fashion especially if you are overweight. But Karen took some special delight in denigrating this person to hell and back. When I suggested to her that maybe this was being less than magnanimous in the Aristotelian sense, she proceeded to call me a pussy, question my manhood, call me a fat ass, or what have you. Her surrogates joined in as well. Now, I like this kind of thing. I love mean people because I love hurting them. This is because meanness is a form of weakness, but it is the best kind of weakness. You get to hurt them back and feel no guilt.

Karen was bashing on this fat chick because she is a fragile person. Like the bully who eventually gets his ass cut on the playground, Karen preys on weaker people because she is weak herself. This is what one Facebooker said about her, "She is incredibly high-strung. And you're right, she glories in a sort of macho bitchiness, but goes berserk when challenged."

Someone like Karen is a fat ripe target for someone like me. I can't help myself. I often wonder if I'm just like her, but I have a high tolerance for people bashing on me. In fact, I get a little thrill from it, and I like to turn all insults directed at me into self-deprecating humor. I have learned that strength comes from self-acceptance and humility. Karen has not learned this. I tried to tell her about this, but this is when I got called a pussy. Oh, well, so much for diplomacy.

This is the sort of hypocrisy you can expect from KDC:

My style is a direct result of how I think. I make no effort to be of any particular temperament, or otherwise. It just is what it is. My writing is me, my passion, and my desire for the truth, no matter what the consequences. I could easily kiss ass (like many of my libertarian colleagues) and moderate my ideas, and the result would be that I would get more “mainstream” libertarian jobs. And you all know some of these folks who have sold out to soft-peddling in order to make the appropriate friends and alliances. But I can’t sell out like they do.

Karen portrays herself as a shit kicker. She isn't "soft." Yet, she has a meltdown finally on Facebook and defriended me because I wrote, "A non-date date is when a chick does not put out, and they split the check." Granted, there was some lead up to this. I failed to kiss her ass on numerous prior occasions. But I never insulted her though she never failed to insult me. I was merely blunt in the same way that she is. But I think this comment I put on her post sums up my thinking about her:

Truth is a two way street. If you can dish it out, you need to also be willing to take it. Unfortunately, many of the “heavy hitters” are this way because they have a glass jaw. Their aggressive style is camouflage for weakness. They can be merciless to others, but they have a deep well of insecurity. They can give the hits, but they can’t take them. When you can take your own medicine, you are truly fearless.

Karen can't take her own medicine. The fact that she defriended me shows this. My initial impression of her proved accurate. She is brittle and breaks easily. She never understood what I was trying to show her. When you do great things, this makes you a great person. When you shit on other people to make yourself even greater, it only disgraces you. You don't get stronger by being mean to the weak.

The quality we must all strive to attain is what Aristotle called magnanimity or the "greatness of soul." The magnanimous person knows his or her own greatness. The great souled person is neither vain nor self-loathing. The great souled person refrains from pettiness and being mean spirited. The magananimous person bears all insults and criticism with a lightness of being. Or as Aristotle put it, "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self."

I can be as critical and as mean as Karen is, but I try to have a point with the meanness. I sharpen my arrows for the arrogant and the vicious. This is what I mean when I say these people are "ripe." Christ knows I have been ripe on a few occasions. But I take solace in the proverb that says, "Faithful are the blows of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." Karen will probably never see it this way, but I am trying to be her friend. I see her as someone who wants to be strong, and I am simply showing her what true strength is. As it stands, she has a glass jaw. It is up to her to fix this.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

No Car, Must Travel

It has been two and a half months now without the car - pretty much the entire winter. For the most part we did not miss it. But now that the blizzards have subsided, it is time to get things done. We'll start going on photoshoots and other trips again soon, and there are other ways in which we will need it as well. This weekend was our first experiment with alternative options.

I needed to get to Harris Cyclery (10 miles away) to drop off a bicycle along with some extra wheels and rims, since they'll be building new wheels for the Bella Ciao Superba prototype and also replacing the headset. After considering various options, we decided to take a taxi there with all the stuff, then take the commuter train back. Ordering the taxi, we specified that there would be two people plus a bicycle. Nevertheless, they sent a small sedan and great fun was had by all as we stuffed both me and the bicycle in the back seat. Still, we managed to fit everything in and arrived at Harris without incident. The fee for the taxi was reasonable. Total time for the trip, including calling and waiting for a taxi, wrangling in the bicycle, and the drive itself: 1 hour. Had we rented a car, it probably would have taken longer than the taxi, as a result of having to first go and get the rental. Had we driven our own car, it would have taken 30 minutes.

After getting done everything that we needed done, we had several hours to kill before heading back. The Saturday train schedule limited our choice for when to travel considerably: There was basically one train in the early afternoon and another late at night. So we test rode some Moultons and wandered around the three shops on the Main street, before heading for the Commuter Rail station.

We arrived several minutes early. The station is outdoors and the train was 7 minutes late. In freezing temperatures, that wait is more difficult to endure than it sounds. The other people on the platform looked miserable as they paced back and forth to keep warm and cursed the train's (apparently habitual) lateness.

But finally it arrived, and thankfully it was warm inside. The numbness in my face began to subside as we headed toward Boston. Once in the city, we transferred to the subway, then walked home from the station.

Total time for the trip, including waiting for the commuter train, transferring onto the subway line and walking home: 1 hour 15 minutes. But if we include the time wasted because of the spotty train schedule, then the return trip was really over 3 hours. Had we driven our own car, it would have been 30 minutes. In other words, an activity that would have taken us a total of two hours had we used our private vehicle, wound up taking up half of our day - which is not exactly a success story. Next time we will give car rental or zipcar a go, but it is too bad that public transportation in the greater Boston area is not more convenient.

Lccj-session at UKC

Lccj 2x20kg: 10
Lccj 2x24kg: 5, 40/8min, 10
Lccj 2x20kg: 5
Lccj 2x24kg: 5
Lccj 2x28kg: 3

Jerk 2x20kg: 30, 10rpm

Oa swing 24kg: 20/20/15/15/10/10/5/5

BU cleans 20kg: ca 50sec/50sec

Did the last session before the comp on Saturday up in Uddevalla. Now will be a week of rest with some few reps in Wedensday, or Thursday.

Bringing it Home

Writing at MIT's Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Charles Petit breathlessly announces to journalists that the scientific community has now given a green light to blaming contemporary disasters on the emissions of greenhouse gases:
An official shift may just have occurred not only in news coverage of climate change, but the way that careful scientists  talk about it. Till now blaming specific storms on climate change has been frowned upon. And it still is, if one is speaking of an isolated event. But something very much like blaming global warming for what is happening today, right now, outside the window has just gotten endorsement on the cover of Nature. Its photo of a flooded European village has splashed across it, “THE HUMAN FACTOR.” Extreme rains in many regions, it tells the scientific community, is not merely consistent with what to expect from global warming,  but herald its arrival.

This is a good deal more immediate than saying, as people have for some time, that glaciers are shrinking and seas are rising due to the effects of greenhouse gases. This brings it home.
We recently published a paper showing that the media overall has done an excellent job on its reporting of scientific projections of sea level rise. I suspect that a similar analysis of the issue of disasters and climate change would not result in such favorable results. Of course, looking at the cover of Nature above, it might be understandable why this would be the case.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


I've had a heck of a week at work, and I have been tired lately. I have not had the energy to post my usual slew of shit here at the C-blog. The ideas are there, but I find it difficult to sit at the keyboard and express them. This comes from a decision on my part to catch another gear on the job. I had a friend many years ago who I lifted with who taught me that your job can be turned into your cardio workout. We both were in college and worked at the same pizza place. Basically, we ran harder and worked harder. We would lift, skip the exercise bike, eat, and go into work which we turned into an aerobic stimulus. It was a time management thing considering we were full time students. Needless to say, it works. I thought I was going to blow some chunks Wednesday.


Apparently, Charlie Sheen has been fired. This may change, but this shows the hazards of trying to work with an addict. I know what Chuck Lorre is dealing with from personal experience. This was also the problem Gene Simmons had working with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Those two guys will call Gene an asshole, but Gene is right. People who like to drink, do coke, and party all the time have a shitty work ethic. This is why I eschew alcohol. I like living on the straight edge, and I'm not ever going back. Besides, I am a wild motherfucker without the substances. I don't need chemical pollution to have a good time.

3. OIL

With all the unrest in Libya and the Middle East, nobody is noticing the uptick in gasoline prices. I predict gas prices going up significantly this summer.

4. CNN

Cable news really sucks. I despise Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann. Fox News is so laughably propagandistic that I have to switch the channel. MSNBC is the same on the other end of the spectrum. This leaves CNN except I have to deal with that shitbag Eliot Spitzer at 8 and the narcissist Piers Morgan at 9 who does absolutely shitty interviews. CNN's only redemption is Anderson Cooper at 10 o'clock.

CNN sees themselves competing with MSNBC and Fox, but I don't see why. Those other networks are not journalism but commentary. But as CNN has learned with the recent events with the Middle East, when people want straight news, they turn to CNN. The network needs to run with that. Fire Spitzer and Morgan. Get some real journalism on the air and market it that way. Substance matters.


Qadaffy needs to die. KKKadafi needs his body dragged through the streets of Tripoli. Qkuadaffy needs to swing from a noose and have his balls shredded. I want to see this fucker DEAD.


In right to work states, unions are unpopular among working class people. That should tell you something. Meanwhile, in places like Michigan and New York, unions have killed private businesses. But public employee unions have taxpayers by the balls. Union fucks can show their asses, but the taxpayers are with the union busters.


At this point, Wikileaks is done. They are so crippled by the efforts against it that they can no longer function. But it doesn't matter. Other sites are rapidly popping up to fill the void. It is a new world, and government should be afraid. As for Assange, he will go through a lot of shit, but I predict that he will win even if he gets extradited to the US. The US government can only succeed in making him a martyr. They should drop their case and go on with adjusting to the new world of leaks.

Eagles Players Help Boy Nearly Bullied to Death / SportsLeader Testimony

An excellent piece by Rick Reilly of ESPN ... We need more NFL players to step up like this to help save our youth. 

Do your athletes help get rid of bullying at your school?

Maybe your athletes could go to a school and give a jersey to a bullied boy ...

Let's be part of the solution. SportsLeader helps coaches develop great young men like Mike Cook:

* - Please remember in your prayers Todd Brechbill and his wife Jennifer and family. They unfortunately lost their baby to a miscarriage. The baby was 10 weeks old.

By Rick Reilly

Among the burdens of a married American male are to provide shelter, put food in the cupboards and occasionally sit through showings of "The View."

Which is what my wife and I were doing last week when we saw something that made it hard to speak, much less drink our coffee.

A 13-year-old boy named Nadin Khoury told about how he'd been attacked by seven bigger schoolmates, kicked, beaten, dragged through the snow, stuffed into a tree, and hung on a 7-foot spiked fence, all while adults watched.

The boy was only 5-foot-2, but he'd made up his mind to stand tall no matter how much of his pride bled out. As the brutal video played on a screen behind him, his collar stayed buttoned, his spine straight, but his bottom lip quivered.

"Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me," he said, loud and clear, like the Marine he wants to be someday. "Maybe next time, somebody could really get hurt."

That's when host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said, "There are some guys here who want to tell you just how brave you are."

Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed. Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder.

From behind the curtain came three Philadelphia Eagles -- All-World receiver DeSean Jackson, centerJamaal Jackson and guard Todd Herremans.

Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed. Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder. He looked like a kid who'd forgotten it was Christmas morning. He wept without wiping his tears. Jackson sat as close to him as possible, as if to make the two one. He praised the boy for his bravery and added, "Anytime ever you need us, I got two linemen right here."

Nadin's mom cried, Whoopi Goldberg cried, my wife cried and I cried.

Why would a superstar athlete up and fly to NYC from LA with one day's notice to support a kid he's never met?

Rewind four months:

Eighth-grader Nadin has just moved to the Philly suburb of Upper Darby with his sister. Their mom Rebecca had lost her Minnesota hotel-maid job. That makes him the strange new kid at Upper Darby High School. That makes him prey. Walking down a steep hill to catch the bus, kids start taunting him about his mother, an African refugee who fled bloody Liberia in 2000.

"They were calling her names," Khoury told me. "Talkin' about her 'booty.' I didn't want to hear that so I told them to stop. They pushed me down and dragged me down the hill. I got up and fought one of them. ... The next day the other kids got on him about 'How you let a little kid beat you like that?' And I could see that it really made him mad. It bottled up in him until he was ready to explode."

Nadin Khoury hugs his mother, Rebecca, who has supported him through his fight against the bullies.
The bullying gets worse. Alley ambushes. Pushes and slugs and draggings. And then comes the attack on Jan. 11 by what Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood calls "a wolf pack." "I was afraid for my life," the boy recalls.

When one of the pack posts the video on YouTube, Nadin's mom has her proof and presses charges. The Upper Darby police ask if the family will bring the case public.

Rebecca thinks about the rebels in Liberia. Thinks about how they found her family hiding and dragged her father into the streets and murdered him there. Thinks about standing up to bullies, even the ones with AK-47s.

"I say to my son, 'Are you ready for this? This is not going to be little. This is going to be big.' And he says, 'Yes, Mommy.' And I say, 'Are you ashamed of anything?' And he says, 'No, Mommy.' So we do it."

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes a piece. A staffer at "The View" reads it. She finds out Jackson is Nadin's favorite player and reaches out to the Eagles. The Eagles call Jackson.

Jackson thinks of his childhood in South Central LA. Thinks of the bullying that went on in his childhood, the kind that ends in mothers flung across coffins. Thinks of Desmond, his 13-year-old brother.

"He's a small guy too," Jackson says. "Nadin reminded me of him. When I thought of kids doing that stuff to my little brother, man, that really got to me. Made me want to get my hands on those kids."

Next thing you know, Nadin is on a couch with his favorite NFL player at -- and on -- his side. Jackson takes the jersey he's wearing off his back, signs it and gives it to the kid. Then he gives him his cell phone number to back it up.

It only gets better from there.

Jackson starts an anti-bullying nonprofit -- DeSean Jackson Against Bullying. The family receives Eagles tickets, 76ers tickets, jerseys, T-shirts.

The director of admissions at Valley Forge Military Academy, LaToro Yates, sees "The View." He thinks of the bullies in his childhood. Thinks of the boys who terrorized him for the way he looked, the way he talked, the way he dressed.

Next thing you know, Nadin is being invited to the VFMA campus, where men like General Norman Schwarzkopf and J.D. Salinger and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald once walked.

"I admire this young man's courage," Yates says. "It takes courage just to come to school the next day. But to step up and go public with it to help other kids? Wow."

The academy is "working diligently to make the young man a cadet at Valley Forge Military Academy starting this fall," says Yates. Free.

The Upper Darby police, meanwhile, do a little dragging of their own. They walk into Nadin's school and drag the alleged attackers off in handcuffs. Eventually, charges were dropped against one but the others will pay for their bullying of Nadin. Their cases and final charges are still pending.

The fear isn't entirely gone in Nadin's house -- his mom still sleeps in the living room at night in case "somebody's coming to get my son," she says -- but for Nadin, stepping up for others has been the best thing he's ever done for himself. He's already turned down $1,800 for the jersey. "I'm going to give it to my son and he'll give it to his son."

I keep thinking about why I cried that day. I think it's that when the biggest and fiercest and most famous of us takes time to stand up for the smallest of us, it makes me proud to be a sportswriter, proud to cover these athletes, these men.

But I'm prouder still when a young, poor boy like this stands up with no idea any help is coming.

(Oh, and a note to the wolf pack: If you think Eagles players shouldn't be messed with, wait until you meet the Marines.)

Waters lifts Principality award

Darren Waters with Pontypridd Principality
branch manager Andrew Clark
Pontypridd flanker Darren Waters has won the Principality Player of the Month award for January.
Darren has been instrumental in Ponty’s recent good form on three fronts with the club sitting at the top of the Principality Premiership, and in the quarter-finals of both the British & Irish Cup and SWALEC Cup.
Waters, a very popular figure with the Pontypridd faithful, has scored four tries in the Principality Premiership this season, the latest being at home to Aberavon on January 7.
The Beddau product who joined Pontypridd two seasons ago said, “On a personal level, I’m pleased with how the season has gone so far, and from a team perspective, it’s been superb. I don’t think anyone expected us to be doing so well in three competitions at the start of the season, but that is down to the coaching and the strength we have in the squad this year. We seem to be thriving on the pressure at the moment with everyone stepping up to the plate.”
Pontypridd head coach Dale McInotsh is full of praise for the player, who only switched from scrum half three years ago. He said: “Darren’s performance against Aberavon was outstanding getting over the gain line on every occasion he carried and his destructiveness in collision meant Aberavon found it difficult to gain any continuity.
“He backed this up with a great all-round performance against Doncaster in the British & Irish Cup with a superb defensive game making no less than 17 tackles and four successful jackals.  He is a young dynamic player who has unbelievable energy levels and is relentless in everything he does.”
Darren Waters factfile:
Born: 14.06.85
Nickname: Shark Eyes
Most admired sportsperson Richie McCaw
Motivation: Drive to play for my country and make it as a rugby player
Education: Apprenticeship at Pontypridd College
Occupation: Bricklayer

For further information, contact Liz Jones WRU communications manager / tel 07736 056669

On Handmade Bicycle Shows

Continuing with the theme of framebuilding, today is the first day of NAHBS 2011 - the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, held this year in Austin, Texas. I received a couple of invitations this time around and for a brief moment considered going... then remembered the state of my finances and swiftly came down to Earth! Besides: To tell the absolute truth, my feelings about NAHBS are mixed.

[image via YiPsan Bicycles]

On the one hand, NAHBS is a great thing. An enormous trade show where many of the best framebuilders and component manufacturers showcase their newest work, it is a spectacular multi-day event. If you are into bicycles, attending the show will enable you to see numerous framebuilders all at once, compare their work, and chat to them about their process. There is also media coverage, which gives exposure not just to individual framebuilders, but to the culture of custom bicycles at large.

New designs, accessories and components are shown off at NAHBS, making rounds on the bicycle blogs and giving us all something to talk about for weeks.

[image via J. Maus]

So, what's the downside? I think there are several issues here. First off, it seems to me that the culture that has developed around the show creates unfair pressure on framebuilders to exhibit, which in turn is a huge financial strain for most of the builders. The fee for a booth at NAHBS is quite a large sum. Add to that the price of airfare and housing, plus the transport and insurance of numerous expensive bicycles, and the cost of exhibiting quickly adds up to several thousand dollars. Most framebuilders I know - even the "big names" - can hardly make ends meet as it is, and feeling compelled to exhibit at NAHBS every year and swallow the expenses involved makes life more difficult still. While it is true that no one is forcing them to go, there is implicit pressure. With NAHBS positioning itself as the biggest/greatest handmade bicycle show, potential customers who follow all the hyped up coverage start to expect framebuilders to exhibit at NAHBS. It is as if exhibiting in itself is perceived as a sign of industry recognition - which in actuality it is not: Any framebuilder with appropriate credentials can pay for a booth.

The other major issue for me, is that I am simply not a fan of centralised and grandiose anything. I don't like the idea of there being "the" handmade bicycle show, which is how NAHBS presents itself. Instead, I'd prefer numerous smaller, regional shows, where the framebuilders exhibit on their own turf and visitors get to see not just the bikes themselves but also the flavours of the local framebuilding cultures. To me such a system seems more interesting, more diverse, and less wasteful of resources than what we get with NAHBS. I know that many may not agree with me, and I mean neither to offend nor to push my views on others - but that is how I see it. We do currently have some regional shows, and my wish is for them to grow stronger and more influential in the years to come. I heard great things about the Philly Bike Expo last year, and will try to make it to the New Amsterdam Bicycle Show in NYC this April. While I follow NAHBS with interest, I do not consider it to be a fully representative display of framebuilding talent.