Sunday, July 06, 2014

Early Summer Velo News

...begins last week in Danville, Virginia where I spent my childhood and teenage years before leaving for college in 1966.  I went back in late June to join my brother bicycling the town.  He rode there a few years back when he stopped overnight en route farther north and mentioned that the ride offered a different perspective as an adult to a place we'd both ridden extensively as kids.  We decided to to the same together at some point.  Last week was our opportunity; my brother was driving to Danville from Atlanta for a high school reunion and he kindly brought a bike for me.

My first ride was a solo one on Friday night. I hit town around 5:00 pm and took off in 91 degree weather along the River Walk Trail which follows the north bank of the Dan River eight miles through town.  When I lived in Danville much of the north bank was occupied by Dan River Mills.  The mill and its 10,000 jobs decamped years ago; the buildings came down in the 00's.  In their place is a very nice bike trail that provides access to the river not available in years past.  I rode about five miles before turning around.  Despite the heat, I was reasonably cool; much of the trail is nicely shaded.  I crossed the river on the old railroad trestle and explored the warehouse district and downtown.  The Danville Knitting Mill building where I worked three summers during college is still standing but completely shuttered.  About half of the commercial spaces on Main Street are empty.  The old Woolworths store at Main and Union Streets is now a church.

We got a late start on Saturday.  My brother's reunion group had an event in the morning so we got out around noon.  We rode over to our old house and checked out the neighborhood.  From there we headed across the river following one of the routes we rode to school.  I am pleased to say that I did not have to walk my bike up the steep Monroe Street grade like I did when I was a kid.  It did kick my ass, though.  We visited the National Cemetery where our parents are buried and marveled at the diverse and eclectic architecture throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.  Some houses were nicely restored while a house next door is shuttered and deteriorating.  Millionaires' Row on Main Street has been largely restored--I recall seeing some of those impressive homes abandoned and shuttered in years past.  We were out for a little over two hours before the heat got to me and we bailed back to the hotel.

Sunday morning we went out early.  The morning was cool and pleasant.  We followed the River Walk Trail, retracing some of my Friday route before continuing farther east toward the airport where we encountered some hills after miles of flat trail.  By the time we made it back to the hotel, the day had warmed up considerably.

In all, the trip was what I hoped for.  Seeing Danville as an adult from the perspective of a bicycle gave me a new appreciation for the town.  The river trail takes advantage of a natural resource that was largely ignored when I lived there.  The varied architecture gave me a new appreciation for the city's heritage.  And it was way cool to do something with my brother in the town where we both grew up.  

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Political events in Virginia caught my attention this week.  Most of the nation already knows everything there is to know about Eric Cantor.  For me this was a moment of high schadenfreude.  I've never trusted Cantor and I always take heart at the difficulties of my political adversaries.  Paying attention to the county and precinct results recalled the years I lived in Richmond.  It's always a nostalgia trip to see names of  places I knew long ago.

But schadenfreude is a bitch!  The day before Cantor's demise, Republicans took control of the Virginia State Senate when a Democratic senator resigned.  The whole scenario had some smarminess to it.  Not uncertain is that the senator's resignation killed any chance of Medicaid expansion in Virginia.  His constituents could have used that program.  Instead the senator's daughter got a judgeship.

The Washington Post has a good summary and analysis of the week's foolishness in Virginia.

And speaking of nostalgia, I will be traveling to Virginia in 10 days to ride bikes with my brother in our hometown, Danville, when he drives up from Atlanta for his high school reunion.  I will also see friends in Richmond, Afton and Harrisonburg. 

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Didn't Fucking Lose Iraq

The Unholy Trio--John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte--is demanding that President Obama let loose with American weaponry in Iraq to stave off the the onrushing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which threatens Iraq's national existence.  They bark at Obama for failing to leave behind a residual force to give the Iraqi army some spine, saying that Obama has squandered the glorious victory achieved by his predecessor and Wonder General David Petraeus.

Fucking bullshit.  If Bush and Petraeus achieved anything, they managed only to tamp down the civil war unleashed by the American invasion and occupation.  It's rather like a fine piece of china that had been sitting safely in a cabinet and tossed about is now sitting on a precipice.  Definitely better than being tossed about but still much worse off than when in the cabinet.

What is especially arrogant of these so called foreign policy thought leaders is their harping on their warnings about a complete American withdrawal from Iraq when, in fact, they ignored the most fundamental warning of all:  DON'T INVADE IRAQ!  Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, John McCain and Lindsay Graham lost Iraq the minute they decided to initiate their splendid little war.

Of course, the whole idea that Iraq is America's prize to win or lose is a pretty offensive concept to me.  That suggests that Iraqis are of no consequence compared to America's interests.  I'm not at all surprised that my country deigns itself to be the arbiter of all interests--as the leading capitalist hegemon on the planet, I expect no less--but I consider this viewpoint an unfortunate national character trait.

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

Almost Summer Velo News

Saturday's ride was my first this year to begin with me wearing a t-shirt.  I've ended up in a t-shirt on on one or two rides this year but on Saturday the weather made the choice easy.  Olympia's had a run of sunny dry weather for the past week with a forecast of more to come for the next few days.  Not only would a t-shirt suffice but I didn't even carry rain gear. This is classic Olympia spring weather with mixed clouds and open sky with lots of sunlight.  We don't get this kind of weather every year so when it happens, it's a gift.

My route was a familiar one:  Olympia-Woodland Trail to the Chehalis Western Trail where headed south.  First, though, I inspected the Pacific Avenue overpass.  The most notable change these days is the steady rise of the serpentine incline that lifts the trail up to the deck of the overpass from the south.
Lots of people out on this beautiful sunny day.  I get a view of Mount Rainier, still mantled in snow, brilliantly white.  More often than not I am riding through a shaded tunnel, feeling the cool breeze. 

I turn around at the Golden Spike monument commemorating the completion of the Chehalis Western Trail and return the way I came.  I'd planned  to head west and north from the Yelm Highway but that puts me in traffic and on a laid back day like today I don't want traffic so I just re-trace my outbound route on the trail. The day ends at 26.7 miles.  That gives me 516 for the year.



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Sunday, June 01, 2014

Happy Blogiversary to US

This humble blog first appeared 10 years ago on June 1, 2004.  Cleverly titled, "At the Beginning" Unsolicited Opinion's initial post promised "interesting commentary on events".  One thousand six hundred eight posts (not counting this one) later, I definitely lived up to the commentary part.  Events varied in significance--from war, economics and culture to rants and bike rides.  Whether it's been at all interesting is your call.


The early years at Unsolicited Opinion featured many more long form essays than these days.  Back then I had more time to read and comment on other blogs which stimulated my own thoughts.  I particularly enjoyed the writing since it helps me clarify and understand my thinking.  More recently, working full time in a job that involves a fair amount of computer work and writing leaves me disinclined to spend even more time on a computer during my non-employment hours.  I still write and use a computer outside of my job but I keep it limited.

All that said, expect more of the same on whatever schedule I maintain from here on out.  Most of all, thank you to all who have visited, commented, linked, or otherwise noted his humble blog in the past decade. 



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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My 2 Cents on the VA

In the late 70's the Richmond Mercury ran a story about dire conditions at the local VA hospital.  The story described neglect and poor care.  I recall something about having to bribe orderlies to change bedpans.  Safe in my employer-based health plan then, I hoped I would never be so destitute that I would have to rely on VA for health care.

 
Twenty years later the VA  was running a much-improved health system that served me well beginning in 2003.  Imagine that.  Scheduling appointments can be challenging at times but for the most part, I'm satisfied with the care I receive from VA.  But then, I'm reasonably healthy and my health care needs have been minimal.   I have employer-based health coverage these days and see a private doctor for my routine health care but I also see a VA primary care physician once a year to keep current.  A friend who is a member of my VA doc's Quaker community tells me that my doc says his supervisor complains about him taking too much time with patients.  VA care can be a backstop but I hope never to need it again.

Working with veterans at Coffee Strong tells me that the VA experience is different if you need intense or extended service, especially for mental health problems.  I hear stories from stressed-out vets of long waits for and between appointments.  When they finally get an appointment the result is often drugs (usually added to what they are taking already).

I bring all this up as some context to the current VA scandal.  The VA has been a troubled organization in past decades as well as the most recent.  The current scandal is not exactly brand new; previous investigations raised red flags.  If Shinseki never saw them, he is clearly out of the loop, relying on senior administrators unwilling or afraid to speak truth.  If he did see the reports, he didn't take effective action or relied too heavily on subordinates whose concerns were more about themselves than the veterans they supposedly served.

The system is broken--at least for those who need it most--and it's nothing new.  Any student of organizational behavior and VA history can easily learn about the department's dysfunctional culture.  Apparently General Shinsheki missed that lesson along with the various warnings about problems.  As much as I admire him for his willingness to speak truth to CheneyBush about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq and his genuine compassion, I think he's unlikely to ever again have much credibility as VA secretary.
 

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Among all of the fine patriotic speeches today, you will probably not hear that "war is a racket".  Something to think about as you remember these honored dead.



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