Bike to Work: Point Counterpoint!

It’s Bike to Work Day. That may mean nothing to you, or, for the teeny tiny minority of central Indiana residents who ride their bike to work, that may mean a small sense of validation for a lifestyle decision for which we are marginalized and ridiculed by the SUV-driving cycnical masses.

It’s Bike to Work Day. That may mean nothing to you, or, for the teeny tiny minority of central Indiana residents who ride their bike to work, that may mean a small sense of validation for a lifestyle decision for which we are marginalized and ridiculed by the SUV-driving cycnical masses.

CityBeat reporter Mary Milz and WTHR.com web content manager Sara Galer put together a “point counterpoint” list of reasons why we bike to work. Or not, as the case may be.

Here’s Mary:

Why I don’t bike to work.

I work out regularly. I run, swim and during the summer months, I bike, but I don’t bike to work. I feel mildly guilty about that but I have a litany of excuses that I rattle off to my colleague Sara Galer, who rides religiously. Here are my reasons why I DON’T bike to work.

1) I have to go to bed and wake up early to accommodate the extra 25 minutes it would take to get to work. I treasure my zzzzzz’s

2) I can’t fit everything I need for the day in a backpack – make-up, hair dryer, shoes, clothes, towel, toiletries, etc (that’s not to mention getting a suit to work without crumpling it up in a ball of wrinkles.)

3) That means pre-planning – bringing everything to work a day or two before. Heck, I can’t even get my lunch packed the night before!

4) The shower thing – we have one at work, which is great but it’s like a shower you’d find on a small sailboat… Plus I’d have to wait in line for Sara and other colleagues who occassionally ride in.

5) I carry extra gear in my car – hats, gloves, boots, jeans, etc. Just in case I’m sent to cover, say flooding.

6) What if I need to meet someone for lunch – no wheels. Do I show up in biking clothes?

7) I like the Monon but riding downtown can get a little crazy, especially at rush hour.

8) What if the weather changes? It’s fine on the way in, but what if it starts to pour or storm when I’m ready to leave?

9) And, what if my plans change? I suddenly need to be somewhere after work? What if it’s across town? What if it’s after dark? You’re not supposed to ride the Monon after dusk (and before dawn.)

10) I’m sometimes tired after a long day and still have to get home and get a run or swim in – which brings me back to zzzzzzzz’s.

I admire you Sara – you are my hero, but I just don’t think I have the pedal power in me to ride to work on a regular basis.

My reply:

Okay, let’s just get a few things straight here. I don’t do anything religiously, unless it involves eating some sort of decadent chocolate dessert. However when the weather permits, I do enjoy riding my bike to work as often as possible. I would also like to differentiate my bike riding habits from my husband’s, which verge on the fanatical. He rides in the winter, sometimes in snow, occasionally on ice, which results in elbow injuries that take a long time to heal, and relies on me to drive the car so I can pick him up if the weather is really bad. So I might be crazy, but not THAT crazy.

1) It takes me about 15-20 minutes to drive, or about 40 minutes to cycle. If the wind is with me, it can be as short as 30 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer if I have to stand on the pedals! Although it does probably add a good 40 minutes to my commute, I don’t mind the prep time because being outside and getting exercise at both ends of my day makes it worth it.

2) Since I’m behind the scenes here at WTHR, I don’t have to make myself beautiful like the reporters do. I carry a set of clean clothes, shoes and a towel. My office casual look usually survives the bike ride. Unless I forget to bring pants.

3) I usually pack my bike bag the night before and then make a game-day decision after checking the weather forecast.

4) It’s true we have a shower room at WTHR. It’s also true that it’s a little scary. I use it for those 90+degree days. Otherwise I just air dry, wash my face, apply deodorant and hope for the best. I also sit a good distance away from my colleagues in the mornings, something they’re probably grateful for.

5) Again, not being a roving reporter, I know that most of my day will be in the office. Which makes my time on the bike all the more appreciated.

6) If I have to meet a friend for lunch, I either hop on my bike or make them pick me up at work!

7) I get off the Monon at 14th, then make my way through the old North Side to WTHR at 10th and Meridian. It’s not too treacherous. Come on, Mary, that’s a feeble excuse!

8) I won’t disagree with you here. I’ve occasionally asked colleagues for a ride home due to unpredictable weather. Rain is unpleasant, but thunderstorms are scary. We report the news. We don’t want to BE the news. Like that guy in Goshen who went outside to roll up the windows on his truck, then was struck by lightning. Now he can’t even count to ten.

9) It’s true that taking your bike to work limits what you can do with regards to making plans later in the evening. Fortunately, there are many bars and restaurants not far from the Monon that are within reach, if you are desperate for that post-work beer. It also takes planning to make sure you are not cycling in the dark.

10) If I refrained from exercise every time I felt tired, I would probably never get off the couch! I like the challenge of biking to work. Some days are a good workout, other days I’m just slodging through and cursing the wind, dodging stray dogs and chain-wielding teenagers (it’s a bit like Grand Theft Auto in that respect). But I get to observe things I would never see in a car (a red-winged blackbird on a fence, Lilly volunteers painting a mural on community day, KIBI folks watering the little trees along the side of the Monon), and it’s a fantastic stress reducer. And once I’m home, I’ve already put in about 14 miles for the day!

What Mary didn’t say is that she runs marathons and triathlons….something that I would never have the self-discipline for! So Mary, I think you’re the real athlete. I’m just a wanna-be! (I should also mention that I supplement the bike riding with Crossfit, a GREAT way to get in shape!)

Super Saving the day

The “fastest two minutes in sports” proved to be the fastest turnaround in my bank account last Saturday at Churchill Downs.

In 2004, my then-future (now current) father-in-law decided he had to go to the Kentucky Derby once in his life. That was six years and five trips ago. For me, Saturday was the third time and you know what they say about third times and charms.

First off, the Derby definitely is something everyone (and definitely every sports fan) needs to do once. The thrill of picking a winner, even if it’s just $2 at a time, is one thing. Doing it with thousands of your suddenly-closest friends is quite another.

Not into betting?

The people watching alone is worth the $40 general admission fee. Toss in an overnight monsoon and every patch of mud in sight becomes an instant slip-and-slide, be it intentional or not. Curiously enough, even the “forgettable” actions of a few are easily covered over by the atmosphere.

And while TV will show shot after shot of men in perfectly-tailored suits and women in crisp, clean, vibrant dresses (with matching hats, naturally), the true experience is in the infield. Maybe it’s just because that’s the only Derby experience I know, but I can’t imagine the prim and proper protocol of the grandstand can be much more enjoyable. Sure, you can see all/some/more of the race “live” than you can in the infield, but for the most part, we’re all still watching it on TV screens – and I can do it while not worrying about getting a little mud on my shoes.

Now I don’t make a trip to the Derby to get quit-my-job rich and, in fact, it feels a little silly to celebrate a $2.60 win on a $2 win bet, but hey, it’s winning. And it’s 60 cents more than I had 2 minutes earlier. So I take a modest sum into the weekend (Friday, Kentucky Oaks Day, provides similar thrills with a moderately more “family” atmosphere, even in the infield), chalk it all up as a donation to Churchill Downs, and see how much I can win back.

In my first visit, that wasn’t much. I forget the numbers, but I remember coming back with some half-empty (and soaking wet) pockets, figuring I had at least enjoyed the experience. Last year, I paid a little more attention, picked up a few tips on betting smarter and better (trifectas are only worth it if you box them, usually, and even then, only rarely). So I nickel and dimed (almost literally) my way to winning back about half of what I spent. Several $2 place bets were the winner there, along with an uncanny run by No. 7 horses that seemed to finish in the money in every race on Oaks Day.

This year, there was a new goal. I watched the fabulous-but-now-canceled Animal Planet show “Jockeys” to learn a little bit more of which jocks to look for and paid a bit more attention to the races on the “Derby Trail.” In one of those early races, I watched a horse named “Ice Box” come from out of nowhere to win the Florida Derby. He was going to be my breadwinner at Churchill Downs.

Friday was a toasty day with just enough wind to make you not quite miserable, at least until you realize the sunburn your lack of sunscreen planning is going to make your week itchy and flaky and – yuck. I started off the day on fire, hitting the first three races “across the board” and up about $10. Unfortunately, just as quickly, the running total in my race day program turned into a series of frowny faces. By the time Kent Desormeaux rode his horse past defending Horse of the Year (and winless in 2010) Rachel Alexandra, I was headed to the ATM, ready to up my daily limit.

I dipped a toe back in the black in the next couple races, by which I mean I won about $2 for every $10 spent, but got hammered just enough by Desormeaux to take him out of my plan for the day’s big race, The Kentucky Oaks.

With Blind Luck a 5-6 favorite at post time, I didn’t see any sense betting her straight up with my hard-earned, yet measly, George Washingtons, so I paired her with four horses in an exacta wheel. Then I took Desormeaux’s horse out, because of the aforementioned hammering, and he promptly finished second by a whisker. (Do horses have whiskers? Certainly they’ve got some kind of nose hair, right?) Two more dollars would have won me about $60 on that race.

As an unhappy camper as I could be, I kept my money in my pocket for the day’s final race, but blurted out “8-1-10 trifecta” as the horses loaded into the gate. And wouldn’t you know, that $6 boxed trifecta would have brought home another $60. Instead, I was headed to the hotel with some serious wounds to lick.

Derby Day brought rain. Tons of rain. As I’m sure you all noticed, it was a bit muddy. We skipped the first five races because of all that, opting to stay as dry as we could as long as we could (which wasn’t long) and save a little money for the big race.

It worked.

After some very minor “earnings” in the first five races I bet, it was Derby time. I usually go big with a couple horses, including a $20 win on my boy Ice Box and a total of $30 on Super Saver, mostly because of the amicable, mud-loving, rail-riding jockey, Calvin Borel. Watching him win the 2009 Derby aboard Mine That Bird in the mud and muck at Churchill, and hearing good things about his horse’s prep for the race, it seemed like a good bet.

Boy was I right.

That $30 bet turned into $160+. Then I remembered I had him in the “Oaks/Derby Double,” picking the winner of both of the weekend’s big races for another $56.60.

Then the big one came. With the rainy mess and no clear cut favorite, half my Derby betting turned into blurting out numbers in trifecta and superfecta fashion, trying to turn a buck or two into a house payment. As I sat there knowing I hit two “big” bets, I flipped through my betting tickets like a 9-year-old looks through baseball cards. As if I had found a card of my favorite player, I saw it. Somehow in the flurry of randomness, I had bet $2 on a Super Saver-Ice Box exacta, bringing my total for the race over $350. The trip, including dinner for four on the drive home, was paid for.

Yet despite all that, there was still room for regret. Had Ice Box completed his magnificent dash from near-last to second, my take would have about doubled and covered next year’s “I have to do it once” trip.

What makes your garden grow?

How do you kill weeds that invade your lawn? Please help your friendly web guy in his assault on the dandelions!

I don’t know how or why we went from snow shoveling season almost immediately into lawn mowing season, but I’m not really complaining.

Or at least I wasn’t complaining, until the dandelions took over. Which got me thinking: How do others in central Indiana take on the weeds in your yard? Our house (a very, very, very fine house, I might add) has done a pretty solid, wife-driven job of becoming more “green,” recycling everything from cardboard to glass, reusing milk jugs at the local seed store and, this season, even taking a stab at composting. (It’s not pretty, but I hope it’s working.)

Yet I still reach for the weed killer and fertilizer when the dandelions creep in, then start to move in. Seriously, I think one of them had a suitcase.

For the last two years, I’ve limited the spraying and spreading to the front yard, staying away from where the dogs roam in the back, but this year, I had enough. The sea of yellow took over the matted down brown parts of the lawn, per usual, but when they started to march into soft, thick, fluffy green grass and flower beds, it was time to throw out the rulebook.

But not without some research. I found tons of references to using boiling water, vinegar and other kitchen-type items to attack weeds, but are they really effective? And especially over a solid two-thirds of the yard?

So I gave in and am waiting to see how good of a job the chemical stuff did, but I’m curious – how do you kill the weeds in your yard? Or are you a dandelion fan?

Once I got the dandelion problem (hopefully) under control, I realized there are tons of other things around the house I could probably use input on. And I bet I’m not alone. I hope I can get some of my questions answered here, but also let others get their own questions answered.

I’ll try to make this a semi-regular thing. With any luck, I can get it to grow…like a weed.

Can they do it?

Can the Butler Bulldogs extend their season one more game? Cue Marv Albert….YES!

Doesn’t it seem like a month ago that Butler finally put away Kansas State and cut down the nets in Salt Lake City? (Technically, it WAS last month, smartypants, but you know what I’m saying.) My less-than-normal work schedule gives me a Wednesday-Thursday weekend, so it really feels like forever ago that our BU alum-filled sports department was going nuts over the Bulldogs’ trip to the Sweet 16. Actually, it was a Ball State grad that was most vocally in disbelief, but if Butler really is carrying the flag for the “mid-majors,” he gets a pass.

So a week has passed since an improbable, but apparently not impossible, three-day stretch of basketball where Syracuse, Kansas State and the hoops world learned all about “The Butler Way.” Count me as a believer now, too.

Not saying I didn’t think they had a good, possibly great, team at Hinkle Fieldhouse, as that much has been evident for the better part of a decade now. But while several co-workers were touting their pick of “Butler to the Final Four,” I brushed it off as home cooking and moved on. But to me, the Bulldogs proved in roughly 48 hours in Salt Lake City that they not only deserve to be in the Final Four, but that they can probably win it all.

In a pair of very similar games, the Bulldogs built a lead with solid shooting, held on with tough defense, then used both to put a couple top 10 caliber teams away. So now, with a week off and a trip home the Bulldogs are rested and have had time to plot the Attack of the Butler Way on a hobbled Michigan State team. And just like the two games before (or heck, why not the first rounder against UTEP that several “experts” gave them no shot to win?), Butler has a chance to play their game and, I think, beat the Spartans – and after that, who knows?

Win or lose, I’ve enjoyed the excitement of the past week-plus. Who knew when I headed south to Roberts Stadium in Evansville in late November to watch the Bulldogs nip the UE Purple Aces, I could have been watching a national champion?

Oh, and for those doubters that think this Butler team is a one-trick pony? You might not want to look at the “Class” column of their roster.

Excitement builds on the Butler campus

Guest blogger and WTHR intern Jillian Deam writes about what it’s like on campus this week as the Bulldogs gear up for their Final Four appearance.

Jillian Deam with the Butler mascot

When I came to Butler from Illinois in the fall of 2006,it didn’t take long to realize just how big a deal basketball was around here. That year the Bulldogs made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and the campus was full of excitement.

Fast forward four years and that “excitement” pales in comparison to the atmosphere on campus today. As the clock counted down the final seconds of last Saturday’s regional final against Kansas State, students stormed Hampton Drive in celebration. Even days after this historical moment you can’t walk through campus without hearing talk about the team’s magical journey through March Madness and the possibility of Butler winning a national title right here in our own backyard.

In fact, I’ve given up on trying to pass through the bookstore during the day, as it’s continuously packed with Bulldog fans, young and old, buying t-shirts. But I don’t mind. The team’s advancement to the Final Four is what college basketball fans dream of… and it’s certainly the perfect way to wrap-up my fours years at Butler!

Many are calling this a “Cinderella Story” – something straight out of the movie “Hoosiers”.  However, no matter how this story ends, this team has not only captured the heart of the Butler Nation, but of the entire nation.

– Jillian Deam, WTHR intern and Butler senior

Bracket, bracket…we all fall down!

Who can help answer the health care debate? Ali Farokhmanesh, that’s who.

Talk about a weekend of Madness! (With apologies to the ’80s band, I’m talking hoops and health care. Although “Our House” *is* the ringtone on my phone.)

Even if Butler’s appearance in the Sweet 16 isn’t too much of a surprise, how they got there is pretty impressive. Upstart Murray State gave them a handful, but the Bulldogs fought through it and are halfway toward the exciting 50-block trip to the Final Four.

And who thought Purdue would be the Indiana surprise in the Round of 16? Talk about gutting out a win! Even though having two teams advance makes for a logistical nightmare for the sports department and coverage on the web is increased, it’s cool to have local teams still going after it. And technically, as we speak, IUPUI is alive and well in the CBI, tied in overtime with Princeton. Update on that before this post is over.

Everyone’s talking Kansas, of course, and I’m just about as guilty as anyone for getting on that train. It’s odd, because as they announced KU as the top seed of the tournament on Selection Sunday, I thought “Don’t pick Kansas. They always flame out. DON’T pick Kansas.”

So I picked Kansas. On several brackets.

In the flurry of mostly-for-bragging-rights brackets I picked this year, I think five of six end up with the Jayhawks on top. Fortunately, in the WTHR Bracket Challenge, I’m the only “expert” on our staff to NOT have KU as my champion. But watch out, Kentucky. My jinxability knows no bounds.

Kansas is bracket death. To steal a sports cliche, “You have to make them beat you.” They either win the title, or seem to flame out dramatically. Why would we think this year would be any different.

Thankfully, with the pool hopes destroyed, I can root unabashedly for the slew of mid-majors left in the tournament. Butler, St. Mary’s, Cornell and, of course, bracket-killer Northern Iowa. Speaking of, how…um.. “extremely bold” is Ali Farokhmanesh? And who thought “Farokhmanesh” would become a household name in just 36 hours?

Game-winning three? He’ll take it. Game-sealing three with no one around and 30 seconds to kill on the shot clock? He’ll take that, too. Need to buy a vowel? Ali’s on it for ya.

Seriously. This guy has probably collected more phone numbers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa than a census worker this week. Butler and Purdue have uphill climbs in the regional semifinals, both facing #1 seeds, but Farokhmanesh has shown that seeds aren’t nothing but a number. As for the Panthers’ matchup, they meet Michigan State, so unless you’re a Spartan or one of those Big Ten fans that think “wins are good for the conference,” it’s pretty easy to root for Ali to continue to shock the world.

********

So then, after a weekend of nail-biting hoops action, we turned our attention to CSPAN and a historical vote on health care.

(BTW, IUPUI lost in double overtime to Princeton tonight.)

I don’t know enough about the bill, the pros, the cons, or which states are getting ponies out of the deal, but I know one thing: That 7th grade Civics class taught me nothing. I had absolutely no clue what was going on during any part of the “process,’ except that it was taking so long. I’m just glad Jimmy Stewart never showed up with his copy of the Constitution.

In the end, it all worked out nicely from a TV standpoint, though. The vote came in just before the 11pm news, giving us fresh news for the Nightbeat. True “breaking news,” if you will.

One of those weekends where you just exhale at the end and race home to your pillow.

Busy times in sunny Vancouver

Greetings from sunny Vancouver! Temp: 52 degrees!

Greetings from sunny Vancouver! Temp:  52 degrees!

This morning, we traveled to Grousse Mountain, temporary home of the Today Show.  What a great morning to visit!  We interviewed Evan Lysacek, both U.S. womens snowboarding medalists, Matt Lauer, Meradith Viera, Al Roker, and many many more.  We will have Evan’s story tonight at 5pm and the snowboarding medalists at 6pm.  Tune in next week for a “behind the scenes” tour of the Today Show at the Vancouver Olympics. 

We are having a great time in Vancouver.  This is an experience I will never forget.  It is alot of work, but well worth being able to tell stories on a world stage.  It is awesome!  We might check out some of the sites and slopes around Vancouver this weekend.  Last weekend, I was a nerd and stayed in my hotel room and watched the Daytona 500.  GO GORDON!  (except that he crashed on the last lap)

More to come this weekend!

Fun expressions in Canada…

– cheers!

– for sure!

– no worries!

– and….eh!

Wiz

Beware Facebook scams!

If you’re on Facebook, you need to be aware of a not-so-new scam where hackers get into your account and hit your friends up for cash.

For better or for worse, probably worse, I’m somewhat addicted to Facebook. I probably check it daily – sometimes a few times a day – to see what my friends are up to, to laugh at their witty remarks, to gape at photos of their last vacation, lovely children or pets, you get the picture.

I’ve noted the various scams related to Facebook and Twitter, but never paid them much mind – until this week, when I discovered a couple of Facebook friends had been hacked. Scammers got into their accounts and started IM-ing whichever of their friends were online, claiming they were stuck in London and needed a quick infusion of cash to get home. In both cases, nobody fell for it, but the incidents were embarrassing. They had to explain to business contacts, family and friends that it wasn’t really them, they’re just fine. Facebook suspended their accounts for a day, took them through a security protocol and they reset their passwords.

Even the FCC chairman is not immune from the ignominy.

One article claims that Facebook can’t do much to prevent the hackers. Um, really? Another talks about the social implications of getting hacked.

The first line of defense is knowledge. The more people who learn about this scam, the better to foil the scammers. It does make me wonder why they’re willing to spend so much time hoping for the one or two suckers who fall for it when they might, oh I don’t know, put that time into getting real jobs? Well, I guess it’s the same mentality behind playing the lottery…

Make sure your antivirus software is up to date, change your password often (and make it hard to guess) and follow these guidelines for keeping your time on Facebook as safe as possible. Another good link for Facebook privacy settings.