Sunday, March 30, 2008


On Saturday, Alina and I did our very first century. For those of you not hip to cycling slang, a century is any ride that entails 100 miles or more in one day. Our century ended up being around 103. Positive Pedalers, a cycling group for people living with HIV / AIDS, sponsors a century ride every year from Santa Clarita to Ventura and back in the memory of cyclist and activist Paul Hulse. Almost everyone who participates is part of the AIDS/LifeCycle in one form or another: they are planning to ride, they work for the organization, or they plan to be roadies. It was a beautiful and relatively easy ride (meaning that when there were hills, they were rolling hills as opposed to steep climbs). Our scenery included orange groves, mountains, and beaches, which was awesome. It all would have gone without a hitch were it not for a few factors:

1) Alina and I had never ridden more than 65 miles in a single day and we didn't ride the previous weekend due to that wedding of ours.
2) Alina suffered from 3 flat tires during the ride. It turns out that her back wheel had a sharp object lodged in the tire-wall and her rim-tape was cheap. Curses!
3) The vegetarian lunch was incredibly low in protein.

Oh well. Due to the protein issue, my energy level crashed beyond repair around mile 80 (well before my fellow riders). I suffered from much more fatigue than anyone else in my immediate riding circle and it wasn't until I realized that my lunch was lacking that I stopped feeling shame about it.

Strange things happen on centuries. All of the minor quirks of riding have the potential become major discomforts. Many people complained of numb wrists and... uh... nether regions. I was lucky enough to have my discomfort limited to fatigue and some slight tension in my neck. Everything else, like muscle soreness, rapidly disappears with rest. My right knee did not give me any real problems which bodes well, I think, for riding 545 miles in 7 days. Now, all I can say is that I'm really thirsty.

I've learned something important in my training process: every time I break through some new threshold, say riding a lot of nasty climbs in a short period of time, or riding more days for longer distances, it always feels more difficult than it actually is. One of the training ride leaders explained to me that it's that anxiety of newness that contributes to one's perception of difficulty more than the energy required to complete the task. And from what I can tell, centuries will probably be the same for me. When I got home last night (yeah... centuries are all-day events), I wanted to fall asleep... at 7PM and I was really thirsty. So yeah... Newness.

Now to return to that gallon of water...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Awareness Test

Do you ever want to know why nearly every time a motorist hits a cyclist they say, "but he/she came from out of nowhere!" Check out this cool awareness test from Transport for London.

And for the record, I failed miserably and kept looking beyond the group. Tells you how safe I am as a cyclist...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Memory of a Student

As graduate students, we often don't feel very connected to the undergraduate community. I know that my interaction with the major constituency at UCLA is extremely limited. But in my time at UCLA, I got to know Elias Ibrahim, a physiological science major who once took History of Rock n' Roll. For those of you who don't read the daily bruin or who don't notice major uproars on facebook, you may have missed that this extremely bright and warmhearted student recently passed away. Elias distinguished himself as being that brave student to ask a funny, but somewhat inappropriate question in an extremely large lecture hall. My colleague, Erica, had just given a guest lecture about Bob Dylan during the early 1960s and Elias asked, "But why does he sound so stoned?" Twenty minutes later, the professor of the class, Robert Walser, shot back, "So do you, dude!" It was a funny moment and he took it well.

Since that class, I had seen Elias everywhere around school. It seemed like he was always on campus getting involved in something. He always acknowledged me when he passed me on Bruin Walk even if he didn't remember exactly how he knew me. (This is all too common to TAs... students often don't recognize us outside of that teaching context.) I had my last conversation with him at the UCLA Bike Shop, where he and I were both doing some minor maintenance on our bikes. I had seen him there before, and we struck up a conversation. After a few minutes, he realized that I had been one of the TAs for the Rock n' Roll class. He told me he enjoyed the class, that it wasn't what he expected ("We learned the entire history of American Popular Music! We really got the big picture!), and that he was looking forward to medical school. As a teaching assistant, I rarely get that kind of affirmation years after the fact.

I didn't know him well, but that brief conversation with him in a different context, where I wasn't his teacher but a fellow bicycle commuter, allowed me to see how deep his involvement was in the UCLA community. Everyone in the Bike Shop knew him. And I'm pretty sure that his reach into campus life would have continued had he survived this last weekend.

I wish all who mourn for him the best. He will certainly be missed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blogging Hiatus

I feel that I have to apologize in advance, but I won't be posting much if at all in the coming weeks. Not only is it crunch time for a certain second dissertation chapter (which I was supposed to complete 3 weeks ago), but it's also that time of the year when certain conference abstracts are due as well as the last round of fellowship applications. But more important than any of these things, my partner and I are having a commitment ceremony in 12 days out in the desert.

So while I may still be riding my bicycle (in increasingly larger quantities by the week) and thinking critically about musicology, I really can't spare the emotional energy to blog about it all.

I'll see you all on the other side.

Cross-posted on Musicology Matters