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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Another Morning, Another Ride in the Country

I rode out to Rocafort from Valencia this morning to have coffee at one of my favorite cafés, La Bodegueta de Rocafort. After that I humped around a few local villages trying desperately to take at least one decent photo. That’s asking a lot from me so what you see is all that I could manage. I didn’t ride very far but I tried to do some sprints, something I used to be quite good at back in the day. I still have more of a sprinter’s body than that of a skinny road cyclist. This is something that I should practice at home on my spinning bike.

Monday, May 16, 2016

La Ruta Fluvial del Turia

Just once I'd like to make a good video of my bike rides in and around Valencia but this one isn't it. In this video we have a fairly shitty depiction of a pretty great little bike ride that I do regularly.

I like using the local trains and the metro to extend my day trips out of downtown Valencia where I live. I get bored of doing this route round-trip although it seems a little like cheating to only do the downhill part. I actually love going uphill so sometimes I go up and take the train home.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Today's Special

“Today’s special is traditional Fettuccine Alfredo with farm-fresh butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan. The second course is a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet with broccoli in a blue cheese sauce.”

“I’ll just have a plain green salad with vinegar and lemon juice. No oil, please,” the chubby guy says to the waiter.

“Wow! You’re really serious about your new diet,” says the chubby guy’s friend as the waiter walks away from the table.
“Yeah, I need to lose about 50 pounds, at least. I’m sick of wearing only white clothes because they make you look thinner. All of my clothes are white. Evidently, this white suit isn’t white enough because I look like a tub of guts in it.”

“White? Black makes you look thinner, you idiot.”

“Really? Shit!” 

The chubby guy immediately leaps to his feet to get the waiter’s attention with absurdly frantic gesticulations worthy of someone with semaphore flags signaling distress on the bow of a sinking ship in high seas. The startled waiter returns to the table expecting some dire emergency.

“Can I change my order?” the chubby guy begs.

“Of course.”

“I’ll have the special.”

Monday, April 25, 2016

¿Sic Transit Gloria Mundi?

En una tienda de segunda mano al lado de mi casa vi una estantería con libros y una pila de casetes de VHS e inmediatamente pensé en muchas cosas a la vez. ¿Hay una persona en todo el planeta que aún use VHS? ¿Son los libros tan arcaicos como los casetes de VHS? ¿Si defiendo los libros es igual que defender la tecnología antigua como la de los casetes de VHS o los trenes de vapor? ¿Cuánto tiempo pasará antes de que los libros digitales se vuelvan obsoletos? Y ¿Es la hora de comer? Esto último parece no estar relacionado, pero está siempre entre mis primeros cinco pensamientos no importa qué hora sea.

Después de pasar tanto tiempo buscando libros de segunda mano me parece increíble que haya dejado este pasatiempo, como el tabaco o morderse las uñas, aunque nunca he dejado de fumar o morderme las uñas (he guardado todos mis malos hábitos). No quiero saber cuánto tiempo he pasado husmeando libros en las tiendas, rastrillos, y contendores. Mi obsesión por los libros continúa pero hoy todo lo que busco se encuentra en el gran vertedero virtual de internet. Mucha gente lamenta la pérdida del mundo de los libros. Yo no soy sentimental para la tecnología. Celebré el día que regalé toda mi colección de discos de vinilo. Odiaba desde el principio los Cd y los DVD. Me imagino que hay pocos individuos que hayan comprado más libros que yo en la vida. He dejado bibliotecas enteras y ciudades de mi pasado al trasladarme a otra ciudad o continente. La próxima vez que me vaya, tendré toda mi amplia biblioteca en la palma de la mano.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince: 07JUN58 - 21APR16

My favorite Prince moment.

It seems that absolutely everyone has weighed in on the passing of this rock icon. I'm not the overly-emotional type that feels the need to express my grief over the death of complete strangers yet I have found myself unable, incapable, unwilling, and not-quite-ready to accept the fact that Prince won't be around to reinvent himself yet another time. I was just warming up to the new piano and microphone version, Prince as a crooner. I think that he probably had an opera or two in him somewhere. Maybe he left one behind to be discovered. 

This article asks why Prince, in spite of being a virtuoso, didn't base his career on the guitar. I don't think they answered it entirely or entirely satisfactorily. I never quite understood that myself. Granted, he was loaded with talent not only as a musician but as a song writer and performer but, damn, the guy played the guitar like it was a part of his body. It just seemed like he could do absolutely anything he wanted with a guitar to a degree I’ve only seen in Hendrix. There are lots of great guitarists out there but Prince had a sense of rhythm that few possess, like he could step in and out of the groove effortlessly and turn a song in a completely different direction at will.

Although I admired the hell out of him I wouldn't say that I was ever a huge fan of Prince yet for some reason that I can't explain I'm taking the news of his death rather hard. For many years of my life Prince was the soundtrack. His music was ubiquitous in the bars and dance clubs in Greece where I passed some of the best years of my 20s, if not my entire life. I liked all his music but it was like his stuff couldn’t be contained within the confines of whatever little apartment I called home at the time; his tunes where meant for wide open spaces. His songs never counted among my favorites yet I had a respect for everything he did and every weird piece of clothing he wore.

When Michael Jackson died it was sad but it wasn't a huge surprise. David Bowie's passing at age 69 was also sad but although 69 isn't old few people would consider that "cut down in his prime." Prince always seemed the picture of health and vitality. How could he play a piano concert one night and then drop dead a few days later? He left behind a bunch of questions as well as an entire encyclopedia of music to be rediscovered.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Plea to Car Drivers

It’s almost been ten years since I’ve driven an automobile. In this decade I’ve rarely even been in a car and those have mostly been short hops in taxis to and from rail stations. When I see people in American movies driving around suburbia I shudder in fear of having to live a life in which a car plays an important role. I see people in cars here in Valencia and for the most part they look angry, stressed, and in a huge hurry. It’s so strange to see drivers taking insane risks just to get wherever the hell they are going a few seconds sooner. If I never drove a car again I’d die a happy man and probably not in a car accident.

I have a simple rule in life: I’m never in a hurry unless I can do something about it, something that doesn’t jeopardize anyone else. If I can walk faster or ride faster to bridge the gap between on time and late then I will do that. Driving like a complete asshole because you weren’t bright enough to leave five minutes sooner seems like a terrible plan for everyone involved, and unfortunately I may be involved if I have the grave misfortune of crossing your path. So maybe you should do everyone a favor and leave ten minutes sooner so you don’t kill any innocent bikers or bystanders. I don’t want to be part of your collateral damage.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Health

I read another book about health called The Great Cholesterol Myth which tells how what we have been told for a generation about heart disease is basically a lie. I first read about this two years ago, about how there is no link between cholesterol and heart disease, that the whole low fat diet boom was not only unnecessary but supremely unhealthy. The low fat foods we consumed as a substitute for saturated fats were 100 times worse than the original items. Margarine instead of butter was probably the worst choice made by health-conscious people in America. I never bought into margarine thing but I used a lot less butter because of this scare. Trans fats were practically invented because of the low fat revolution.

I first started making my own mayonnaise after I moved to Spain. For perhaps a couple of decades mayonnaise was vilified by American doctors as some sort of heart attack contained in a glass jar. Some new Frankenstein versions of mayo were invented in the lab and unleashed on the trusting public. The low-fat or no-fat labels subbing for natural fats was sort of like how meth was seen as a substitute for marijuana. What is in mayonnaise that is so poisonous to human beings? As it turns out mayo is simply an egg and oil emulsified with a pinch of salt and lemon juice. It’s sort of like how we were made to fear the mighty Soviet Union for so long and it turns out it was a third world country that couldn’t even produce enough toilet paper for its citizens.

I suppose my point to all of this is that you’re kidding yourself if you expect the doctors to look out for your health. That would be like expecting bankers to look after your investment portfolio. I have developed my own strategies to manage my personal well-being and I’m adding new things constantly. I thought that I would share a few of these things with anyone who cares to listen.

First of all, about 99% of what I eat I prepare myself in my kitchen. I despise eating in restaurants as I have no idea of exactly what is on the plate in front of me. I know precisely the amount of sugar and salt I ingest because I am the one buying the sugar and salt I use in my cooking—and I use very little of both. I know what kind of fats used to cook my food. I have substituted butter for vegetable oils in most foods that require high heat for cooking as saturated fats handle high heat better than other fats, at least this is the current conventional wisdom. I could go on about my diet but suffice it to say that my eating reflects the Mediterranean diet.

I have been an avid cyclist my entire life. This has meant that I cycle for exercise but also that I have used a bicycle to effect the vast majority of my transportation requirements. I no longer own a car and even when I did I rarely used my internally-combusted vehicle in my day-to-day outings. So in addition to getting out 4-5 times a week for sport I ride a bike somewhere every single day, and when I say "ride" I mean standing up on the pedals and humping for all I’m worth. I would guess that I reach my heart’s maximum capacity—or close to it—at least 3 days a week, perhaps more. I also walk quite a bit and I’m not shy about walking up and down the four flights of stairs that separate my flat from the street below. Generally speaking, if I enter my building and the elevator isn’t there waiting for me I hump up the stairs. If there is another tenant waiting for the lift I will take the stairs. I almost always walk down the stairs unless I have a load of trash I’m taking out. I will also use the elevator if I am using one of my bikes, the one that actually fits in the elevator; with the other, bigger bike I carry it up and down the stairs—a huge pain in the ass after a 60 kilometer ride.

I think one mistake many Americans make is to think that going to the gym for an hour is enough in the exercise department. This could mean one hour of exercise surrounded by 23 hours of inactivity if you drive everywhere with little walking. I think the key is to be active throughout the entire day. I also have found that for me the sweet spot as far as my bike rides go is that a two hour ride is optimal. Anything longer and I think that I hit very diminishing marginal returns.

For my upper body maintenance I have relied on push-ups and pull-ups. Pull-ups seem to work best for me and I only wish that I would have discovered this earlier in life, back when I was lifting weights in the gym with not much in the way of visible results. I have better upper-body musculature now than at any time in my life, even at my rather advanced age of almost 58 years. Suck on that, younger version of me!