I hate exercise

I have often said that I don’t ride my bicycle, now for over 40 years, because I like to exercise. In fact I have never seen riding as exercise. My love for bicycles and riding derives from the pure joy of riding. The aesthetics of the machine, the mechanism by which human movement is converted to motion by a bicycle, and the ability to move around an environment, whether urban or wilderness, are the things I love about riding.

Almost every morning I ride my bicycle, at least ten miles. I continue to dress in clothes designed for bicycle riding, tight fitting lycra shorts and tops with back pockets, shoes with rigid soles and special clips to attach to the pedals, gloves and a helmet. I look the part but the motivation is to feel comfortable and maximize the efficiency of the link between man and machine. I ride a mix of multi-use paths and suburban roads. The roads are smoother, but more dangerous. Go figure.

Staying healthy into retirement

I’m not retired, yet. But I have plans. A divorce (in 2019) and a heart attack (in 2020) have altered my perspective significantly. I always believed, sort of joking, I’d die in my university office. I don’t think many academics actually kck the bucket in their offices, but there are a lot of old professors for sure. So I might be retiring sooner than later, for a few good reasons.

The divorce forced me to consider the financial side of retirement. All those Sixty Minutes investigations into the retirement crisis in the United States revealing how poorly so many Americans have planned for their retirement constantly remind us we all need money to retire, and we all probably don’t have enough. Retirement income is certainly lower than when working, but there are fewer deductions from income and expenses can be much lower. Pay off the mortgage and a huge monthly expense evaporates. A pension, and social security, might actually provide enough to live comfortably, if modestly, in retirement.

The heart attack forced me to reckon with my health. A father that died of a heart attack in his sleep at 62 stacked the cards against me, but we all know that lifestyle is the main factor contributing to both the enjoyment of life and our longevity. At my recent one-year followup with the cardiologist he suggested I make a lifestyle change to reduce my “bad” cholesterol from 75 to 70. I was taken aback at this suggestion since I’m pretty much living a total denial lifestyle already. No alcohol, no meat, no caffeine. Regular exercise. Geez, what more can I deny myself? But losing a little weight has been a goal for some time, ever since my dress slacks (non-elastic waist band) haven’t been a comfortable dress choice. So I am now working on the intermittent fasting program with less sugar and processed foods. (I’ve never been a big bread eater.) Apparently losing weight will lower my cholesterol. And make me live longer.

Maybe.

Investing in options – a good idea?

Most individual investors take long positions on stocks within their portfolios. They buy Apple shares (AAPL) and hold the shares expecting (hoping?) they will rise in value (price) over time. At some point in the future the stocks are sold and a capital gain is realized. Fewer investors take short positions, mainly because they don’t really understand the mechanics of shorting stocks, but essentially there is a symmetry between these positions that make them more alike than is nornally thought. Even fewer investors trade options, and of them a fraction understand how options work.

I am constantly surprised that so many people I meet tell me they are investing in options. Options are risky, but through leverage offer the potential for high returns. There are many online shills happy to tout the profits possible through trading options, usually by subscribing to their guides and newletters, or buying their software. They are quick to debunk the myths surrounding options. But the truth of options trading is in the mathematics of the market, which differs from the mathematics of the standard stock market. Options belong to the family of derivate – contracts with value determined by the value of underlying securities. The stock market deals with those underlying securities, including shares in the ownership of publicly traded companies, but the options market deals in contracts written on those underlying securities.

An option is a contract written between a buyer and seller. The buyer gets a right and the seller takes on an obligation. In return for the right (to buy or sell an underlying security), the buyer pays the seller a premium. In return for the premium, the seller has the obligation to fullfil the contract if it is exercised. Options can act as insurance, or a hedge, against adverse changes in a related position in the underlying security. But a lot of options trading is purely speculative and traders are expecting to make money either by selling options that go unexercised, or exercising options that are in the money.

While holding stocks provides positive returns on average, and in the long run, options trading is mathematically a zero-sum game. (https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/052216/4-benefits-holding-stocks-long-term.asp) Every dollar “won” in an option trade is a dollar “lost” by the other party to the contract. Given this fundamental nature of options trades, the only way an investor can make profits in the long run is to be smarter, or luckier, than the other investors. If you believe you are smarter, or luckier, than the average options trader, then I wish you all the best. Otherwise, my advice is to take your money to the casino, and enjoy the free drinks…

Hubris! Again?

Just a fraction of a second after this photo of Julian Alaphilippe, newly crowned cycling World Champiion, was recorded, Primoz Roglic, the Slovenian rider in yellow on the left, crossed the finish line of the 2020 edition of Liege-Bastonne-Liege road race to claim the victory. Ultimately Alaphilippe would be relegated to 5th in the race having deviated from his sprinting line to check Marc Hirschi, the rider just to the right in the photo. While the question remains if Hirschi, perhaps the strongest sprinter of the five riders in the lead at the end, would have won if not checked by Alaphilippe, the victory for Roglic was sweet nonetheless, having lost the Tour de France only two weeks earlier to Tadej Pogacar, the other rider visible in the photo.
I posted a blog entry some time ago with another example of hubris, so perhaps it’s a theme that resonates with me, but the examples of some of the best cyclists in the world celebrating before crossing the line–and losing–are legion, and often entertaining. In this case Alaphilippe did himself no favors, especially as he stole the hearts of cycling fans the week before when he won the World Championships with a characteristically daring solo breakaway, and at LBL he showed other sides of his personality by losing the race twice.

Riding simply

It is commonly known that the bicycle is one of the most efficient mechanisms for converting energy into motion. A bicycle uses about 10-20 times less energy to cover a kilometer than a car, and it consumes about 100-200 less energy to manufacture. It might not be 10-20 times more fun to ride a bike than drive a cool car, but it is fun. For me it’s also rewarding. I find the notion of propelling myself, using only my body and a simple mechanism, over distances up and down hills, making progress at my own pace.

I’ve had a lot of bicycles in my life – way more than the cars I’ve owned. Nearly all of them have been multi-geared bikes, starting off with 10-speed road bikes all the way to my current 20-speed bike (which at over ten years old is no longer “up to date” by any means.) Modern road bikes have wireless electric shifters, hydraulic disc brakes, and easily fall below the UCI weight limit of 6.8Kg.

But the last couple of years I’ve been riding my fixie. It’s a single speed bicycle with no freehub and no brakes. It’s the most simple a bicycle can be: frame, cranks and pedals, two gear cogs, chain and wheels, handlebars and a seat. But simple in structure and function doesn’t mean simple in design or composition. It is mostly made of carbon fiber, which is both strong and light. I have a couple of fixed gear bikes, but this one is a pure track bike, with tight frame, steep angles, and a very short rake for greater stability. It’s a bit slow out on the road, but immense fun!

This version of the fixie is all-carbon fiber. The tires are Continental GP5000. The bike weighs 14lbs – not super light, but a good weight.

My presence on social media

I have been absent from my website/blog for a long time. I’m sorry!
The reason for my neglect is my activity on Facebook, and to a far lesser extent Instagram. Since beginning to collect precision spinning tops, and then make them, I have been active on the many Facebook groups that support the general interest in pocket tops and each maker of tops.

My Instagram posts are meant to archive every top and station I have made. It doesn’t go back to the beginning, so there are many missing, but it is current.

My Facebook group Spin In Style is the main portal to my work. There I post works in progress, finished tops and stations for sale, and I host a weekly live video every Friday afternoon.

You can follow me on Instagram as @drphilgandini, and you can join my Facebook group called Spin In Style.

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Outdoors, unplugged

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 12.45.36 PM.pngI go out riding in the mornings, before work. I get on the road and trail about 7am. My route takes me along the edge of a golf course where there is a dual-use bike and pedestrian path. People also walk their dogs on it.

I often come up behind people running or walking, and I ring my bell to warn them of my approach. Yes, I have a bell on my handlebars, and I use it all the time. It is made of brass and has a very pleasant ring. And most of the time–nearly all of the time–nothing happens. By which I mean the runners or walkers have no reaction. There is no reaction BECAUSE THEY HAVE EAR BUDS IN THEIR EARS AND THEY CANNOT HEAR ME OR MY BELL. They are listening to music, or NPR, or a podcast I guess. They are not hearing anything from their surroundings. They do not hear the cars going to work, they do not hear the construction workers beginning their days, they do not hear the lawnmowers on the golf course. I get that those noises interfere with their enjoyment. But they also don’t hear the birds chirping their good morning songs, or the wind whistling through the trees. They don’t hear the squish of their feet on the path, or their breath as it enters their lungs.

When I go outdoors to exercise, I want to see and hear as much as I can. I am out there, IN the outdoors, and I want to experience it all. The last thing I want to do is to shut it out, or block it off, by plugging things in my ears and blasting music or listening to someone talking. When I am outside I want all my senses enjoying the outdoors.
It’s also safer to be able to hear your surroundings. When I am riding I can hear cars and trucks, and dogs, and other riders coming up behind me. I use those sounds to stay safe. I also use sounds, like my voice and my bell, to warn others of my presence, in order to keep them safe.

When the people I share my morning exercise outdoors with are plugged in and tuned out, I feel less safe, and worry about frightening these people into doing something stupid by surprising them as I pass them. I just wish they would unplug and enjoy the morning.

 

An Artist

A man who works with his hands is a laborer;
a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman;
but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.

Louis Nizer, Between You and Me, 1948.

My father shared this with me, but I doubt he knew the attribution. Thanks to Google and the internet, now I know who first said it.

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5:19:55

I’ve long been a fan of lap times on the Nurburgring Nordscheife. The fastest lap ever recorded was in 1983 by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956C at 6:11. That was in qualifying and stood for 35 years until now. In June, 2018 Porsche took their unleashed LMP1 race car, the Porsche 919 Evo, to the track with team hot shoe Timo Bernhard, and smashed the lap record. They didn’t just go under six minutes, they almost took one entire minute off Bellof’s record. The in-car video is incredible, looking more like a video game than a real driver in a real car on a real track taking real risks…

In-car video

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1160HP, 850kg, Power to weight ratio: 1.366.