Tuesday, 20 November 2007

... And Taking Names

Things are absolutely rolling along here at the Hotel No Tell. A week ago, I would have said you were nuts to hope we’d be where we are today. As it is, we have pour 1 (about 35 trucks worth of concrete) scheduled for next Friday, pour 2 (a full 70 truck pour) scheduled for Thursday after that, and the tower crane going up on the 8th. Every step that we get underfoot gives the concrete contractor more room to run and get their job done. We’ll get our faces bashed in another couple dozen times before we get out of here, but for the moment it’s all on like Donkey Kong.

Another thing that kicks ass is training with power. After training using a heart rate monitor, this is just another world. Shifting gears is instantaneous – you start an interval when you are supposed to be at 225 watts and you go to 225 watts and there you are. When you do an interval based on heart rate, you work about as hard as you think you need to in order to achieve the desired heart rate, then wait for your heart rate to respond, then adjust the amount of work you are doing to get in the correct range, etc. It will be really interesting to do some group rides and races with the power meter. Normally in a race, for a given exertion level, my heart rate will be almost 10% greater compared to during training. I have no idea whether this is because of nerves or the stress of responding to situations or what, but it’s all academic now anyway. Instead, I will do the ride or race and afterward be able to compare it to a similar wattage-measured-effort workout. Perhaps the best thing about the whole deal for now is that it makes riding indoors just a little more tolerable. I don’t mind riding on rollers too much but when I have to do a harder workout or intervals or something I have to use the mag trainer, which I just hate. Having the power meter at least adds some interest to the whole thing.

Does anyone out there have an Elite trainer? If so, is there some special skewer you need or some nifty technique for having the bike sit straight and level in the trainer? I can’t deal with the whole leaning to one side issue. Similarly, does anyone find that Speedplay Zero pedals take some breaking in? My new pedals (Zero stainless Team CSC edition) are pretty money with the adjustment but man you need a pretty good stomp to get into the suckers. It could be that I have the cleat plates too tight but I don’t think so. I’ve had Z-series and knew how to adjust those.

Last weekend, we went to my cousin’s wedding and I got to hang out with my brother for a while. He’s a really smart guy, and the reason why I got into the whole finance/economy deal. He worked for brokerages/investment banks for like ten years, interrupted by a stint at Wharton, then ran a small hedge fund for a brief time, then retired when he was maybe 34. He works again, but he doesn’t really need to. Anyway, I hadn’t discussed what’s been going on with him for about two months. His read on the deal is the same as mine. We are going to have inflation (which can actually be a good weapon for us to use – or as my brother puts it, “inflation is our greatest “fuck you” card to play against the rest of the world”), and the Fed will raise interest rates to keep this in check, and we will have a recession. Maybe a depression. There, I said it: depression. It could easily happen.

The markets are clearly taking some stock of the situation. After yesterday’s bloodbath, it seemed that things were on the rise this morning, but soon enough the bus headed south despite some good news. People don’t see an end to it, and the markets seem to take on an ever more speculative stance. Companies are valued for their stock’s potential, not for the company’s potential. Huge difference. When stocks get whacked across the board like that because of a general malaise in the market, opportunity knocks. I bet we will see “value investing” come back into serious favor before very long at all.

Lastly, I saw a thing on Wal-Mart last night, some documentary about how evil the company is. No doubt they are as evil as that. They go into a town and drive out a lot of other businesses and drive down local wages. Their labor practices suck, but their employees can always go on public assistance. These are documented to happen pretty much wherever Wal-Mart goes. The local wages get so low that people can only afford the low prices at Wal-Mart, so the town and its people become enslaved to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has pretty thin margins, but when you have punishing market share your margins can be thinner, plus they are constantly sourcing stuff cheaper and cheaper all the time, so their margins aren’t that bad. Meantime, they are sending a wrecking ball through the rest of the businesses in a community. People can only afford their crap so they forget what paying for quality is all about. The whole circle gets reduced to this subsistence level, with Wal-Mart taking a steadily increasing slice of the pie and people settling for whatever Wal-Mart will give them – either as employees or customers or both. Yes, I think the place is that evil. Probably my description doesn’t do an adequate job of conveying my point. Perhaps I will try to elaborate further, maybe even with charts and graphs.

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