Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot takes the climbers jersey after being on a three-rider breakaway for most of the stage.

Hope he can stay with the climbers on the big mountains to come!

BikeMonkey Post

One inexorable rule of the jungle…err, savannah, is that the predatory carnivore that takes out the old, the slow and the weak members of the herd is actually doing a favor for Wildebeest kind.

Somewhere in there is a lesson for the study section reviewer.

Read the rest of this entry »

BikeMonkey Post
The sport of cross-country running is a fine one. I mean, who doesn’t get behind a brisk run in the woods for 5 km at a stretch? So much more interesting than going around a 400 m track or running on the city streets.

Cross-country features paths and forest roads, asphalt and grass sections. Up hill and down dale. Sometimes it gets a little narrow and the footing can be slippery or rocky…but for the most part it isn’t all that technical. We’re not talking parcour here.

As with most running, there’s no cheating, faking or room for much strategy. You run your race, you work your pace and you try to outrun the rest of the pack. Guys who were fastest on my cross-country team in highschool were the fastest on the road and the fastest on the track. There was maybe a tiny margin for guys who were slightly lighter to put the relative hurt on in the climbs, for some guys to downhill slightly faster or for the longer and shorter limbed to have slight advantages on the curvy or the straight. But the margins were slim.

Fast is fast in running.

Mountain biking is a different story although the differences from running aren’t as extreme as in road cycling. MTB racing tends to be a bit more of a solo effort with little advantage to be gained from sitting in a giant pack of riders. And as with cross-country running, the terrain varies from asphalt to grass to trails. Wide fire-roads and single-track paths, smooth, rutted or rockey. Sustained miles of mountain ascending, short power-climbs and flat terrain. What is up must come down and you have to be good at getting a little sideways now and again.

I always was about 10 pounds over the top end of the ideal range for running and biking competition from highschool through college. Ascending climbs of any duration was never my strong suit. The MTB racing phase came along later in life and I’d put on a good 8 more pounds by that point. So the sustained climb of anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes duration that occurred in the typical MTB course was a big hurdle.

I was not usually in contention to win MTB races. Top 10 finishes tended to be my goal. Sometimes you just have to be realistic about your individual abilities within the competition you have chosen to join.

One race day we faced a course that started and finished with a paved park road, maybe a mile long. On the out-leg, the course jumped off the road to a track-and-a-half with a creek crossing right before the main climb. Which was steep. Being a MTB race, the pack rolled out kind of slowly on the paved road. No sense in pulling the peleton along with you in a MTB race, right?

About 300 m from the start of the trail section, I just nailed it. Like a sprint finish, I mean. I’m sure everyone else thought I was insane…but there wasn’t anyone near me until I was well into the climb. Per usual, the climbers eventual caught and passed me and I kind of lost track of how many folks were in front of me. With multiple start groups on the same course, it can be hard to tell when you are just buried trying to go fast. The downhill section was pretty technical and I am sure I passed some folks here and there, some with flat tires. But still no idea what the race looked like until I crossed the line first.

It turned out the hole shot was everything in that particular race. The most important thing was getting a big enough lead at the start that my deficits at climbing were minimized. Anyone smart enough to get on my wheel at the beginning couldn’t get by and took a big face full of creekwater and a bad line. Climbers who reacted too late, or were caught up in the pack, let me have a few extra precious minutes on the climb. Then, in the rest of the course the matter was decided by the other parts of the MTB racer’s skill set. Descending, handling, power climbs and the final hammer to the finish on paved road. Some of those things were to my advantage.

Minimize the impact of your deficits so that your strengths can carry your through. Sometimes this requires advance planning* to pull off. It almost always benefits from full commitment to the initial move.

Somewhere, between cross country running and MTB racing, there is a lesson for science careers.
*yeah, I’d planned the holeshot when I previewed the course earlier.

BikeMonkey Post
Once upon a time I used to try to go fast on a mountain bike. Now and again. The picture here is not of “some random white guy you pulled off the internet” as a certain ex-intern once remarked to me. This is towards the end of a race held on a ski mountain where the cross-country course was basically UP, across, DOWN and zig zagging down the ski slope face was always a blast. I don’t do the stupid stuff anymore. In no small part because of mini-waccaloons that will depend on my brain functioning more or less normally for another several years. But…..I never was an idiot and if you look at this picture with an educated eye you’ll see that I have the rear locked up a bit too much and could have been making better time. Oh, hell, take a listen and I’ll meet you after the jump

Read the rest of this entry »

Ass umptions in science

August 8, 2013

BikeMonkey Guest-Post
I’m attending a small-ish scientific meeting that includes quite a number of scientists that I do not know very well. So take this with a grain of salt… I would hesitate to blame the person making the screwup for anything beyond that.

As with many meetings this one includes a very overt and obvious attempt to both include a more diverse population that might otherwise be included and to engage the trainees. The former goal is evidenced in part by the specific mention of several travel awards that were designed to diversify the place. The latter goal is evidenced by overt pleas from the organizers for senior faculty to chat up the youngsters and the instructions to the session chairs to prioritize the questions and comments from trainees.

The representation of women in the podium presentations and session chair slots is good, so I’ll assume some behind the scenes concern with such factors.

So far, so good.

Admittedly, the attempt to take questions and comments from trainees first during the discussion period after each and every talk is a bit awkward, to say the least. But it comes from a good place and is addressing a worthy goal.

Then a session chair make a small mistake. He identified someone in the audience as a trainee and handed the mike over for the first questions.

The scientist in question was not a trainee.

Mistakes happen, right?

Except this is the only one I’ve seen happen so far* and there are certainly a number of youthful-ish looking faculty here. Perhaps they are all well known to the session chairs and this particular commenter is not.


It will not surprise you one bit to learn that this person misidentified as a trainee was a woman.

It will not surprise most of you to learn that this person dresses in a rather put-together and more fashionable than average manner.

She also happens to be rather attractive….some might say rather significantly so.

but she’s also not by any stretch of the imagination young. In fact this person is at least a scientific generation above me, although I do not know for sure what her age is. Admittedly, and in the session chair’s defense, this person looks quite a bit younger than she probably is, particularly on quick glance.

But still. It boggles my mind that anyone would immediately think “trainee” rather than “faculty”.

This person is, as it happens, of a very recognizable ethnicity that is underrepresented in science. Of an appearance that might be readily assumed to be the subject of the aforementioned travel awards designed to enhance diversity, not just at this meeting but at numerous others ones.

It’s kind of a thing to see a bunch of underrepresented trainees at scientific meetings.

As I said, I don’t know everyone here well and I do not know the session chair in question at all.

What I do know is that it looks very bad when some old guy assumes that an underrepresented minority and female member of the audience is a trainee when she is very clearly of an age in which the proportion of trainees is low and the proportion of faculty is high.

*this is most of why I haven’t stopped fuming about this.

BikeMonkey Guest-Post
Most of you have been following, I presume, all of the anti-woman legislation being pursued by Republicans at the State level. It reached a bit of a fever pitch recently with the State Senate filibuster of an anti-abortion bill by Senator Wendy Davis. More recently the North Carolina legislature has been trying to enact draconian anti-abortion legislation as well. They did so, cravenly, by first shoehorning the policy into a bill launched (entirely un-ironically, apparently) to combat Sharia law and then putting it into a motorcycle safety bill! Resourceful these folks certainly are.

In this political conversation the occasional wag has been seen to refer to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. For those who are unfamiliar, the Wikipedia:

…a movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” launches a revolution and suspends the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order.

They were quickly able to take away all of the women’s rights, largely attributed to the financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender. The new theocratic military dictatorship-styled “The Republic of Gilead”, moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily cult-Christian regime of selectively skewed Old Testament-inspired social and religious ultra-conservatism among its newly created social classes. In this society, almost all women are forbidden to read.

The story is presented from the point of view of a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred, however not a patronymic as some critics claim). The character is one of a class of individuals kept as concubines (“handmaids”) for reproductive purposes by the ruling class in an era of declining births. The book is told in the first person by Offred, who describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as “The Commander”). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Through her eyes, the structure of Gilead’s society is described, including the several different categories of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.

Ahh, you hyperbolic feminists and liberals. Such a bunch of sensationalists! Surely the GOP wouldn’t try to cause any such thing. Totally different!

This country, the USA, reaching far back to it’s genesis as a European Colony, was not originally a slave country. In fact, it was formed under English common law which explicitly prohibited slavery at the time. It was formed by peoples who were at war with a country which did, at the time, have a legal slave tradition….that would be Spain.

The English common law did provide for indentured servitude. The indentured service arose from the 1562 Statute of Apprentices and subsequent English Poor Laws which allowed poor people to be indentured to work for a richer person for a period of time, 7 years and/or up to the age of 24 was in the original Statute. All considered perfectly reasonable so for discussion purposes, sure, let’s start with that assumption.

When Jamestown, Virginia was established (early 1600s) as a profit venture, it originally struggled. Mightily. Somewhere around 1616 the Virginia Company realized they should leverage indentured servitude and started shipping over poor individuals as cut-rate labor. It worked in various ways with first the plantation owners in Virginia pre-paying “passage” and then apparently devolved into captains loading up in England with passengers on spec, and then auctioning them off to the plantation owners upon arrival in Virginia. Auctioning of their indentured service interval. Let us be clear. These folks (some around these parts like to start spouting about the Scots and the Irish at this point in the story, we can roll with that) were eventually free colonists. Eventually. And maybe they were freed into a life of struggle and poverty too. Who cares? They were free.

The first recorded boatload of 20+ black people arrived at Jamestown in 1619 under the same deal. Sure, they’d been pirated off the Spanish who held them as slaves but originally they were treated under English common law. They were indentured for the “passage” costs between when the English pirates stole them from the Spanish and delivered them to Virginia. And as per this Wikipedia article:

After working out their contracts for passage money to Virginia, each was granted 50 acres (20 ha) of land (headrights) after completing the indenture. This enabled them to raise their own tobacco or other crops.

So far, so good, right? Just as the fake-equality defenders of the poverty stricken, Scots-Irish descendent Appalachian white folks of modern day would have it, the original black people arriving in the English colonies of America were treated as well or poorly as the in/voluntary poor indentured white folks.

The trouble is, shit happened.

What happened thereafter, from the early 1620s through about 1655, was that a gradual series of critical practices, laws and legal decisions were made that favored the interests of greedy individuals who were entirely callous to the rights of other people. This was against a backdrop in which rich English folks back home were making bank from high seas piracy of the Spanish slave trade. They did so for clear monetary gain, apparent personal convenience and, one must conclude, a considerable amount of ‘othering’ for people not like themselves. At first the clues that permanent lifetime indentured servitude existed in Virginia are scant. The William Wood essay reviews a 1643 case in which the valuation of white (700 pounds of tobacco) and black (3,000 pounds of tobacco) children as part of a decedent’s estate made it clear their indenture was of different durations. Also a 1649 case in which the two white runaway indentured servants had their indenture extended by several years whereas the black one, John Punch, was rendered to lifetime servitude. John Punch is thus often considered the first legally enslaved person of the American English colonies. Fascinatingly, a genetic and genealogical analysis suggests that John Punch is an ancestor of Barack Obama through his mother.

Slippery slopes, people, slippery slopes. What was the harm of a draconian punishment of just one criminal? (He’d run away from his indenture, after all, tch, tch, tch.)

Next up was the fascinating case, in 1654-1655, of one John Casor, indentured to Anthony Johnson, this latter was curiously enough one of the first 20+ black arrivals indentured in 1619. Mr. Johnson had worked free of his indenture, set up as a farmer and became prosperous enough to require indentured servants of his own. John Casor was one such and demanded his release after working 7 or 8 years for Johnson. Johnson refused, claiming he was actually indentured for life (remember those kids?) and Casor somehow ended up working for his neighbor. Johnson sued said neighbor for “detaining his Negro servant”. The court of Northampton County upheld Mr. Johnson’s claim to Mr. Casor which formalized the permanent enslavement of Casor as well as the right of a free black person to own a slave. From this perspective of property rights rather than punishment for a crime, some might claim that Casor was in fact the first formally, legally sanctioned slave of the Americas, rather than Mr. Punch.

Like it matters that much. I’m sure certain folks around here will be happy that the first slave was Obama’s relative through his white mother and others will be tickled to think the first slave was owned by a black farmer.

Oh, and we’re not done with the slippery slope. Not by a long shot. (Just like each abortion restriction isn’t the end of the modern GOP’s goals and attacks, people.)

In 1662 Virginia adopted partus sequitur ventrem which meant that children of black women slaves would be similarly enslaved. This ran counter to English common law which held that the status of a child was tied to the status of the father. Gee, I wonder what that was about….oh yes:

The change also gave cover to the power relationships by which white planters, their sons, overseers and other white men took sexual advantage of enslaved women. Their illegitimate mixed-race children were “confined” to slave quarters unless fathers took specific legal actions on their behalf. The new law in 1662 meant that white fathers were no longer required to legally acknowledge, support, or emancipate their illegitimate children by slave women. Men could sell their issue or put them to work.

Of course it was not just about keeping more black people as slaves, but also about maintaining the ability of rich white dudes to rape women who they quite literally owned. And you know, to force them to bear children for whom the father would take no responsibility whatsoever. (Sound familiar?) The span from 1662 to 1863 was two hundred friggin’ years of free rapin’ rights on the part of wealthy white Southron men in these here lands.

Initially the children of a free white mother and a black man would be free but they soon fixed that loophole. As of 1691 these kids were also indentured (for a mere 30 years!) and the mother had to pay a fine of 15 pounds sterling. If she couldn’t pay, she went into indenture for five years! Then, after having furiously imported lots of black slaves to work the plantations over a few decades, Virginia colony “deported” all free blacks in 1699. Thereafter, if you were black in Virginia, you were enslaved. And the oppression was complete.

A full conversion from the English common law, which banned enslavement, to full lifetime, permanent, cross-generational enslavement.

But naah. Couldn’t ever happen right? No way the current assaults from the GOP on women’s bodies, autonomy and rights could ever slide into the nightmare of The Handmaid’s Tale.

I would recommend reading the Wikipedia entries on:
Anthony Johnson
John Casor
Nat Turner

and in particular the 1970 William J. Wood essay The Illegal Beginning of American Negro Slavery (HeinOnline, GoogleBooks).

Props if you rode today!


January 21, 2013

Against my usual principles in such matters, I’ve been reading pro-cyclist Tyler Hamilton’s confessional book. It isn’t the finest writing in the world, as you might imagine. There are also a lot of specifics about particular races, events and participants/characters that will be of interest only to those who followed pro cycling during Tyler’s career.


There is a great deal of parallel here for the top level ranks of competitive sciencing. A great deal. And if we do not clamp down hard on where the Glamour Game has been taking science lately, this is where we are headed.

A place where “everybody is doing it, so we’re just leveling the playing field by photoshopping bands” is true, if not an excuse.

I suggest you read Hamilton’s book with a constant eye on science fraud.

I barely have to change the leadin for this reposting. Last time I said “Sports doping is in the news again this week.” It was a previous round of Lance-fest. Well, he’s finally confessed to doping through his 7 TdF wins and a lot more besides.

Doping has been with cycling since forever.

I put this up at the original DrugMonkey blog on 8/21/2007.

We’ll start off our discussions on sports doping with the classic psychomotor stimulants, the amphetamines. You know, good old “speed”. A class of drugs primarily considered indirect dopamine agonists because they bind to the dopamine transporter with good affinity (dopamine reuptake inhibitor) and also act to facilitate dopamine release from the terminal. As with similar compounds they also tend to have some affinity for other monoaminergic transporters and will thus modulate norepinephrine and serotonin. Nevertheless, the major action usually under discussion is to increase dopamine levels in the synapse. Read the rest of this entry »


December 24, 2012

I much prefer, in these multi-victim random shooter events, when the perpetrator ends up dead by his own hand.

The recent news about Lance Armstrong and his numerous teammates, who are now confessing to having doped, raises parallels to cheating in the profession of science. I suggest you read the linked stories which all contain a fair bit of excuse making from the confessed cheats. “Everyone is doing it”. “I always wanted to be a cyclist”. “I was ambitious” and “They told me I had to if I wanted to survive at this level”. You will also notice that to a rider they appear to say that they made it all the way into the professional ranks without cheating. The hard way. With work and talent. So far the cycling doping stories are free of anyone claiming that they started out as a cheat from day one as a 15 year old amateur. And larded up with stories of long, hard hours on the bike as a teen.

Sounds a lot like academic scientists who make excuses for their scientific fraud, doesn’t it?

Another consideration which fails to emerge is the very nature of the top level competition, 20 days worth of hard racing, 4-8 hrs per day in the Grand Tours. Not clear it is possible for feats of sustained excellence to occur without doping, is it? Do you wonder about what it takes for a record of sustained excellence represented by multiple Cell, Nature and/or Science publications year in, year out from the same lab? You should.

Anyway, I thought I would revisit this personal observation, reposted from my blog.

BikeMonkey Cross-Post
It was someplace in the middle of my college years and I was home for the summer. I went to a circuit race that I’d raced a few times over the years. It was maybe a mile per lap, around a park.

Normally the circuit race is my game…..crits (under a mile, four corners around a block, typically) were cool, in theory, but I didn’t usually have a team capable of support and I’m kind of a wuss at the high-speed, elbow rubbing, apex cornering mid-pack thing. So a full-mile, maybe 1.5 circuit suited me well. Slightly less importance on repeated, high-speed cornering, lengthier straightaways to group up and the possibility of a short rise. Now, I sucked ass at hill climbs, true, but short power climbs, taken up out of the saddle were doable. Short enough and they were actually an advantage to me.

The course had a hill early in the lap after four right angle corners. Then it was about 30 feet of gain from 0.22 mi to 0.37 mi and then it was drifting up, almost flat up to 0.7 mi, then back down to the start line. Just after the course started downhill there was a acute turn, sharper than 90….crank it up to the 1.0 mi mark, bank a 95-100 degree left and it was about a tenth of a mile to the line.

Races were maybe 45 min at that point? I was in the Cat IVs so that seems about right. That would make it on the order of 18 laps or so? maybe 20. Not so far but believe me, you were hauling ass the whole time.

I always loved this course and had managed a prime (intermediate sprints within the race) or two over the years but had never won. My memory suggests that I was never in there for the finish…for whatever reason. Most usually because the climb had me at my limit. I could hang for most of the race, and be at the front enough by the start of the downhill to dice for primes at the bottom of the course. But in the end, someone would light it up enough over the climb late in the race for me to lose contact with the front.

Not this year…..

I was FLYING. I mean, I didn’t feel like Superman, toying with the other riders. I didn’t feel like I was riding a motorcycle. I was working my ass off, dicing it at the front through the danger zones, then sitting in. Chasing down breakaways a few times…. and above all else, strategically climbing the hill. No big deal, I was racing. And I’d get tired….and have to back off for a lap.

But every lap, I was in there. Coming through the left-hand turn that started over the crown of the hill, I would gain places, slip up to the front….shut dudes down. I may even have had to chase down some real climbers on a lap or two. And my HR would spike. But then I’d settle down and catch my breath and get back to where I needed to be.

And there I found myself, last lap. Up the right-hand side as we hit the corner in the middle of the hill…jamming up to the slightly strung out front 10. Slipping into the top five just before the turn onto the downhill…and then I nailed it. It was downhill so I don’t even remember the usual dramatics….flat or uphill and my back wheel was typically jumping around a bit when I spooled up a sprint. But I was goooooooone. Flew into the final bend a bit hot and I do remember juuuuuust not clipping the curb on the outside…and then it was up again and across the line.


Of course, I hadn’t been doping, not really. But I HAD been training and racing above 6,000 feet for many months prior to this race. No doubt I had a significant red blood cell advantage over many of my competitors that day. I certainly had one over my own historical races on that course.

This is what EPO does, of course. Increases oxygen carrying capacity. So does blood doping.

Several years ago I started to realize that this is why you see so much explaining and defending out of the cycling dopers that get caught. “Everyone is doing it”. “I had to if I wanted to keep my (domestique) job”. “I had a bad day and needed to stay with the team”. “You still have to put in the work!”.

Yeah….yeah you do. And no, you don’t feel like you are cheating.

What you feel like is …”finally! I feel right. Like I’m where I should be based on my training!”

I can see how it would be very easy to convince yourself it wasn’t exactly cheating.

But it is.

Watch this video. If you are anything like me, you have essentially zero understanding of what this guy is talking about. To start with. It very rapidly devolves into technical jargon and insider references to things that I don’t really understand.

But you know what?

After awhile you probably kinda-sorta pick up on what is going on and can kinda-sorta understand what he’s telling his audience. I think I am impressed at that part.

Watching this through also makes you realize that a computer-geek presentation really doesn’t differ much from the talks we give in our science subfields. And if you skip through to the Q&A about two-thirds through, you’ll see that this part is familiar too.

I think I may just make this a training video for my scientific trainees.

Is it just me or does the average “free thought”, skeptical / atheist blog comment thread resemble 20 Jack Russell sized dogs simultaneously attempting to ineffectually hump the same person’s leg?


from gawker:

At the June service, Ticha sang a hymn while Stella accompanied him on piano. This harmonious expression of devotion so disturbed the delicate racists of Pike County—the 98% white home of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud—that church leaders spent the next five months locked in debate. In November they took a vote and agreed to ban interracial couples from public worship.

I’m sure this is all the fault of snooty rich elite liberal New York Jewish Democrats though. You know, what with their sneering. And their Hollywood movies that offend RealAmerica.

Couldn’t possibly be the fact that these pseudo-Christian hate mongers are racist to the bone. Naaah.

Kentucky.com report says it’s only a 9 to 6 vote in favor of the ban…phew, just a dinky little church. No biggie. Must be an outlier. Right?