(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Camel’s Backbone Under The Tent Edition

The fable of the camel’s nose should be familiar to most of you. Twenty-four years ago, after the passage of the Brady bill that the NRA had protested as “the camel’s nose in the test,” the president of Handgun Control, Inc gleefully noted that “Today we would like to tell you what the rest of the camel looks like.”

President Trump’s efforts to curb abuse and overuse of the H1B visa program, a program that even the Huffington Post admits was designed to lower wages and keep Americans out of tech jobs, have provided a new metaphor, which I will call The Camel’s Backbone. Prior to Mr. Trump’s election, the media generally repeated the factoid that H1B visas are limited to 65,000 per year. You couldn’t find an American media source that would even hint at the real numbers behind H1B.

Now that Trump appears poised to significantly restrict the program, the gloves are off and we are seeing the whole camel, so to speak.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Less-Than-Great Santini Edition

What follows is both setup and excuse: On Saturday night, John and I went to Ray’s MTB Park in Cleveland. I brought two bikes with me: my 20″ wheel skatepark bike and my 20″ racing bike. The park bike was just there as a backup, so I didn’t prep it before loading the truck and heading out.

When we got there, John and I headed for the “pump track”, which he’s been using to practice for his BMX races. I went around a few times myself on the race bike and felt pretty good — until I pushed it a bit too far, lost traction in my front wheel, and crashed. I’d put brand-new tires on that bike a few days ago and I guess they were imperfectly scuffed and/or overinflated. Another run through confirmed that I didn’t have as much traction as I wanted. So I swapped back to the park bike.

A three-hour ride in the back of my Silverado had brought the pressure on the park bike’s tires pretty far down, to the point that it felt sluggish and difficult to ride. I should have gone and aired-up the tires but at that point we were running short of time and I didn’t want to waste ten of the remaining twenty-five minutes going out to the truck and getting the pump.

John asked me to take a GoPro video of him riding the pump track. Which I did, and I gave him a headstart so I wouldn’t run him down. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I couldn’t quite catch him. When he continued for a second lap, I fell behind to the point that the video wasn’t any good. I had to call a halt to the proceedings and start again, leading to the footage you see above.

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Weekly Roundup: Rip Van Winkle’s Christmas Edition

“Alright,” I asked the men standing next to my Accord, “where did you do your time?” The surprise both of them affected in response was, I felt, at least partially genuine. How did the long-haired guy in the Turnbull&Asser three-button-cuffed shirt recognize their state-issued post-release mufti of grey crew-neck sweatshirt, dark-grey sweatpants, and blue watch cap? After a moment that stretched a bit longer than any of us wanted, the stooped and greying white guy said,

“The Wall. Mansfield. Just did fourteen years. But I ain’t been out more than nine months in a row since I was nineteen.” His companion, a broad-shouldered black fellow with blue ink tattoos on his hands and an expression made owlish by the state-issued aviator-style plastic glasses, nodded.

“Yeah. Mansfield for me, too. Ain’t been down as long as all that, though.”

“Well,” I responded, “let me see if I can figure out where that McDonald’s is.” They’d stopped me as I was getting into my car, asked me if I knew how to find the nearest McD’s. They didn’t say why, but I could guess: along with the grey sweats, they’d been given a meal card of some type. Surely they were hungry. We were standing outside a line of hipster-friendly lunch spots, full to bursting with self-consciously vibrant and diverse locals, but I could see the suspicions behind their eyes. After a few years at Mansfield, they’d have a native antipathy to the deliberate darkness and crowding of those restaurants. Their instincts would tell them that places like that were good places to be invisibly and unexpectedly hurt. Three things any prisoner wants: a wall or empty hallway to your back, clean bright light on clean surfaces all around you, and free space, measured by two steps and an arm’s reach. Then you can ratchet down from the immediate animal responses of violence and scuffle to the merely human ones of observation and conversation. A drone hovering overhead would have remarked on the neat triangle of our respective positions, each of us more than an arm’s length apart.

“You gonna call them?” The white guy was confused, because I had my phone out and was poking at it.

“No,” I said, “I’m looking up directions.”

“Jesus,” he replied, open-mouthed. “You can do that on a phone now?”

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Weekly Roundup: And All The Mortgages Are Above Average Edition

Although I was a homeowner before my thirtieth birthday, I’ve never felt that the mortgage-interest deduction was a particularly good idea. It’s led to higher house prices, decreased economic mobility, and higher levels of debt across the board. The fact that a HELOC is also tax-deductible verges on madness. I could buy a Viper with a HELOC and deduct the interest. Does that seem reasonable to anybody besides, um, Viper fanatics like me?

If you’ve looked through the tax plan then you’ve probably figured out that it amounts to a declaration of war against the State of California. For a couple of decades now, the Golden State has taxed its residents at rates bordering on criminal, and those taxes have been deductible against Federal taxes. California was basically stealing federal tax money for its own purposes. Well, ask anybody who was a pre-teen member of the Branch Davidians, assuming you can find one alive: you never know when Uncle Sam is gonna burn your house down.

The new tax plan is good news for me. I am largely self-employed and I earn a fairly modest income nowadays. I expect it to put the equivalent of a Tudor Black Bay watch back in my pockets every year. And the only way my house will ever be worth $750,000 will be if I put two Aventadors in the garage. Let’s take a look at what I wrote last week and see if I’m ever going to earn those Aventadors through sheer weight-of-pages.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: C-130 On The Taxiway Edition

I haven’t discussed it yet on this site, but my son has joined — and I have returned to — USABMX racing. So far, he’s doing very well. As for me… well, out of six total motos I’ve only finished DFL in three of them. I also find it to be exquisitely painful in all sorts of ways that weren’t apparent to me at fourteen or even thirty-two, which is how old I was when I retired from BMX.

In truth, the only reason I’m racing is to avoid the dreaded “BMX DAD” syndrome where grown men obsess over the accomplishments of their children and live pathetically through them. If it was just John racing, then this whole thing would be a lot of pressure and hassle for him. The way he sees it is that his Dad is racing and he just happens to be coming along. The fact that he’s winning races and I’m losing them has yet to change his perspective on it, and I hope that change, in the words of Sam Cooke, is not gonna come.

While I’m busy bringing in my 280-pound bike-and-rider combination in for a short-runway landing, we can round up last week’s contributions.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Chinese Discount Democracy Edition

Today on TTAC a reader responded to my “hit piece” on the Chinese-made Volvo S90 by saying that I had “solidified his decision” to take advantage of a lease offer on the Chinese-made Volvo S90, thus enjoying his Chinese-made S90 for at least three years to come. When I heard that there was a great lease offer on the Chinese-made Volvo S90, I decided to go see if there was also a great lease offer on the Swedish-built Volvo V90.

Turns out that the Chinese metal is already being discounted. We’re about 60 days into the 2018 model year, mind you. If you want a real deal on a Chinese-made Volvo S90, you should wait until later in the year. The market will continue to adjust. Trust me on this.

Alright, let’s get the wheels of the time machine spinning and see what I wrote last week.

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Weekly Roundup: The Chicken Edition

Brother Bark and I have our birthdays just a couple of weeks apart. I don’t know what to say other than the known fact that our father is a fellow who sticks to a routine.

Happy forty-sixth to me. Here’s Jaco on his 30th birthday, playing a concert for his friends and family. It seems unfair that I’ve outlived Jaco by a decade. The less you accomplish in life, the longer it takes for you to do it.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.

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Weekly Roundup: Ladies’ Night Edition

“Why are all these women riding around here?” John asked. “Just because they call it Ladies’ Night and then women come out for some reason?”

“It’s more than that, John,” I replied, as another trio of Millennial girls in yoga pants wobbled past us on rented Trek dirt-jumper bikes. “It’s only fourteen dollars to ride tonight if you’re a girl. Normally it’s thirty bucks on Saturday nights.”

“Why would anybody ever do anything just to save fourteen dollars?” He was legitimately puzzled.

“Let’s hope that’s never a problem you have,” I laughed. It made me think about a couple of weekends in the winter of 1987 where I didn’t have the eight bucks I would have needed to go race — or my bike needed parts that I couldn’t quite afford in order to be ready. They say that sort of thing builds character but I don’t recall feeling characterful sitting in the house while my friends were racing. There was no character-building involved in sitting in the school cafeteria on Monday morning listening to the other kids brag about running both races on a weekend. Sixteen dollars!

For our Saturday trip to Ladies’ Night, I built a new-school Haro Master reissue more or less from scratch. Just to amuse myself, and because I can afford it, and because I have enough character to last a lifetime when it comes to self-denial stuff like that. Fuck character. Let’s stack the living room with bikes. Let’s buy a 6.2-liter truck with ventilated seats and use it just to drive to the indoor MTB park. Let’s have handmade English shoes and Brioni suits and let’s put the dinner tab for eighteen people on the Platinum Amex. And let’s hope that my son always remains slightly mystified as to why you’d change anything in your life to save fourteen dollars.

(Oh, and let’s hope he grows up to run down the yoga-pants college girls just like he does in the video.)

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Weekly Roundup: The Winter Of Our Discontent Edition

The racing’s over / the tracks are closing / they’re waving people / out of the ocean. I was caught a bit unprepared by the first frost, but luckily for me silver is softer than glass so there you go. This past week was all about recovering from our race weekend and getting the Island Of Misfit Wheeled Devices squared away for winter. Why does my son own a total of nine motorcycles and bicycles? How did I let this happen? Some of this is going on Craiglist pronto.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall…

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