Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Food and Iraq

I just finished a couple of books. Morgan Spurlock's Don't Eat this Book and Peter W. Galbraith's End of Iraq. Both skewed left, though had very different styles.

Don't Eat This Book was a one sided attack on McDonalds (and fast food in general). It was written in a very casual style, with a lot of "stream of conscious" commentary. The style was interesting at first, but soon grew tiring. Though there were plenty of factoids and anecdotes, the book was so one-sided, it almost begged for a response from McDonalds to form a true balanced picture. It felt similar to the "objective" one-sidedness of O'Reilly and Fox News.

End of Iraq is also driven by the author's personal experiences, though it is done in a more balanced, formal way. It presents many first hand stories from the Saddam era of Iraq as well as the US occupation. It does a good job of pointing out the positives as well as the negatives. (One observation was striking - most [other than Sunnis] are now better off than they were under Saddam; However, the US is worse off - due to the driving up of radical Muslim insurgents, strengthening of Iran and poor image on the world theater). The basic thesis is that the Bush administration was extremely arrogant [hmm... typical Texans!], and just by listening to some of the local people and area experts, they could have had a successful middle-east experience. He also presents alternatives for the success in the future - essentially allowing Iraqis to do what they want, even if that means a partition of the country with an Iran-leaning Shiite theocracy in the oil-rich south. The focus is primarily on Iraq and the Iraqis, with little attention given to the external 'needs' of the US. (After all, wasn't the war about 'Iraqi Freedom', rather than US oil.) No mention was made of the macroeconomic costs of oil and other factors critical to Americans. However, these were not missed. Overall, it was a very well written book.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stolen Specialized Globe and a new Breezer Bike

On my first day at work at Stanford, my bike was stolen (sniff sniff). My 2005 Specialized Globe had a few thousand miles on it and was showing its age. The fenders were beat up and in need of replacement, and the drive train and bottom bracket just about had it, but it was my baby. I guess that's what I got for parking it outside with only a cable lock in a "bike heavy zone".

Since I was looking at getting a lot of repair work done, in some ways it is a bittersweet loss. (If it had happened after I'd sunk another $500 in to the bike, then I would have been really mad). It was also annoying to use the Chariot and Trail-a-bike attachments, as well as the Dynamo light, and nice rack and paniers - and the bungie cords in there. At least I remembered to remove the GPS.

It did accelerate my decision to buy a Breezer folding bike. I was amazed at how well it runs. (It has been fun to keep up with and even pass guys on their super fancy road bikes.) However, it is kid of annoying folding up the bike and bringing it inside. Lack of storage capacity is also an issue. (A rack is a possibility, but getting the bags on top of it could be a pain.) It was nice that Stanford had the $100 promotion for the bike.

After seeing it missing, I've filed the police report and scoured the campus. No sign of my bike, but I did notice someone else with the same model of Globe. Dark blue and all, though in much better condition than mine. I'll miss that bike.