Friday, August 28, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


To entertain myself and keep my brain from becoming a big blob of fetid gelatin I have recently actually started giving a shit about U.S. politics and policy again. I know, I know, my cynical side dies hard, and I still think we're mostly powerless over lobbyist and special interest groups. However, I am intrigued by the health care debate, and the seeming lack of actual real information available about what the hell is being proposed or fed to the general public.

One thing is certain; people continue to act like irrational windbags spewing ridiculous hyperbole all over the place, and here's an article to prove it!

+1 for sociology. If you're too busy to read the whole article this blurb about one of the studies sums up people's irrationality quite well.

Article by Jeanna Bryner
Senior Writer

"Just about everybody is vulnerable to the phenomenon of holding onto our beliefs even in the face of iron-clad evidence to the contrary, Hoffman said. Why? Because it's hard to do otherwise. "It's an amazing challenge to constantly break out the Nietzschean hammer and destroy your world view and belief system and evaluate others," Hoffman said.

Just the facts you need

Hoffman's idea is based on a study he and colleagues did of nearly 50 participants, who were all Republican and reported believing in the link between the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Saddam Hussein. Participants were given the mounting evidence that no link existed and then asked to justify their belief.

(The findings should apply to any political bent. "We're not making the claim that Democratic or liberal partisans don't do the same thing. They do," Hoffman said.)

All but one held onto the belief, using a variety of so-called motivated reasoning strategies. "Motivated reasoning is essentially starting with a conclusion you hope to reach and then selectively evaluating evidence in order to reach that conclusion," explained Hoffman's colleague, sociologist Andrew Perrin of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

For instance, some participants used a backward chain of reasoning in which the individual supported the decision to go to war and so assumed any evidence necessary to support that decision, including the link between 9/11 and Hussein.

"For these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war," Hoffman said. "People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war."

Their research is published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry."

That is all, now go USE YOUR BRAIN and do some objective reasoning.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Film Crews, Races, and Flannel

Yet again I have been neglecting posting... so this is long overdue. However, in my defense I have been overworked and under-slept. Regardless, what follows is a bit of randomness mostly covering things that have happened over the last few months that I didn't get around to writing about.

Since I've been here I've seen a few film crews come through and take a ride with Gravity: several months ago Ben had a crew from the BBC, about 2 months ago I had a Brazilian TV crew, and shortly after that ESPN Brazil took a ride with Steve. While it is somewhat of a novelty being interviewed and having cameras on you all day, it can become a bit tedious. It is also quite weird when you have a camera hovering, literally, about 14 inches from your face and you're trying to ignore it and keep talking to the person interviewing you.

Me offering instruction with the camera at a more comfortable distance. I'm making sure the guy from the station (eventually he dons a helmet cam) understands how to get down the road without major incident.

Film crew at the point where the asphalt ends, unfortunately for them it was pretty cloudy for most of the day.

About two weeks ago I competed in a downhill race in La Paz. Not surprisingly, it was poorly organized, but still quite fun. I had never seen the course before, so it was definitely more challenging and a bit nerve-racking trying to memorize and get a feel for it just an hour before I raced. The course wasn't even marked out when I got there so I spent my practice runs only riding about 2/3 of what would eventually be the official course.

All geared up in full body armor. At 5' 9" (on a good day) I am not a big guy, but I look huge next to German!

I placed really bad on my qualifying run because there was a major section of the course I hadn't seen. Rolling up on a blind left-hand drop slowed me down considerably. I had to scope the drop and two jumps afterward, eating my time up and placing me 34th out of 37 racers. (Of course I can't be sure of the time because supposedly the fastest qualifier finished 35 seconds faster than is even possible, at least that's what some locals told me)!

I didn't get many photos on the practice runs because I was too busy trying to figure the course out. But I did get a shot of Osmar, who works in the office, about to come up WAY short on one of the gap jumps. I hit this first, told him it was easy, and that he just needed lots of speed... not enough speed. To be fair though, his bike was a rental and the shock wasn't set up for him. This was the first practice run, on the second Osmar crashed again, and that time he tore ligaments in his shoulder and couldn't continue on to the qualifier.

Since there were so few racers nobody was cut from the qualifier and we all raced in the final heat. I never received my official standing, but I think I finished somewhere near the middle of the pack. People were racing bikes ranging from hard tails to full on $8000 downhill rigs, and my little old all mountain Kona Coiler (with about 2.5" travel in the fork, apparently something didn't go back together right when I rebuilt it...) labored with some of the terrain. Even if I did have a better bike it would have been pretty tough cracking the top 10; first, because I didn't know the course well, and second, because the top 5 guys are literally the best racers in all of Bolivia, and 4 out of the 5 work for Gravity!

All in all it was a great day, and hopefully more races get organized while I'm still here!

I found another photo from our last Sorata trip of me riding in a flannel shirt I inherited from my Dad. I'm pretty sure he bought it when I was about 2 years old, I bet he never thought it would be riding singletrack in Bolivia!

It's really old and beginning to wear through, so after this trip I officially retired it. In my closet it will stay until I leave Bolivia. Who needs high tech synthetics when you can rip in flannel?!

Last but not least. I have been amassing quite a few photos and I'm still toying with the idea of trying to be/make extra money as a photographer. So I am looking for feedback from anyone reading this site. Is anyone interested in purchasing photos that may look something like this one...

comments or an email to the wanderwideawake(at)gmail account would be greatly appreciated.

That's all for now. Get off the computer and go outside!