Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How To Talk To Cops

This is not a political blog, but I can't help but add my comments to the many editorial remarks that have been made following President Obama's reaction to the arrest of Harvard professor and historian Henry Louis Gates.

I feel that those who have discussed this issue (if you can really call it an "issue"), have really missed the boat. It's all about how you talk to people -- how Professor Gates talked to the cops that came to his door, and how the Press treated the President's reaction.

1) Some guidance for Professor Gates: Rule Number One, Professor, is don't antagonize them... unless you already know you're getting ticketed/arrested/written up. All reports about the Gates incident -- including Gates' own account -- indicate that Gates began talking back and being rude before they cuffed him. In my older and wiser years, I have found that being nice gets much better results. Like, for example, one time I got pulled over for running a red light. (For the record, it was definitely yellow... and I was in a rush.) However, I didn't get into that discussion. Instead, I apologized, promised I would be more careful, and was completely polite and respectful. The officer let me off with a warning. See, Professor? Don't be a jerk! Of course they dragged you in.

2) A president of the United States told the people what he thought. Then we roasted him for it. Thanks a lot, Media and Press types! Don't expect him to ever give us a straight answer again. And that's what it was: "Sounds stupid to me," was basically Obama's remark. But I'm sure he's learned his lesson; long-winded, circular answers get much better results from our Press than straight answers. It's a bummer. Regardless what you think of his policies, he was a straight-shooter. Mr. President, if you're out there reading this, take note. I appreciated your honesty. Sorry you got dragged through the ringer because of it. There was a recent comment on a radio show that asked a question. "If the President and Sgt Crowley (the policeman who arrested Gates) have made up and moved on -- and they seem to have -- can our Press?" Get on with your lives, people! Please!

Monday, July 27, 2009

25th Colchester Triathlon

I am sure that everyone made note of this weekend's significant event in sports history: it was the 25th running of the Colchester Triathlon.
I have lost count of how many Colchesters I have run. I did not participate during the event's inaugural year (I had never heard of a triathlon at that point), but I was there for the 2nd year as a 13-year-old ironman (that's what we called people who did the entire half-mile swim, 12.6-mile bike, and 3.5-mile run). I crashed my bike at Mile 1 that year, got up, and finished, covered in blood. With a first experience like that, it's surprising that I returned the following year.

But I did, and I'm thinking that I have run about 16 Colchesters. Some years I trained more than others (and some I didn't train at all). One year I participated on a team. One year, my gear bag got caught in my bike spokes (a bike on loan from Leigh Mallory) and I crashed on the way to the start. I got up from that crash too, but my helmet was cracked and the bike broke, so I never raced. I did, however, do the entire course later that day with a very sore shoulder and a wicked headache. Most years, however, things went -- thankfully -- uneventfully, like Sunday: a fast swim, a solid bike, and a quick 5K to finish feeling good with a respectable time.

I saw some familiar faces Sunday: Leighmo, as always, directing the whole event, Anita Dayvies, serving as head timer for the 25th year, Dave Bahrenburg, heckling runners -- I mean, doing the announcing -- Diane B. timing, Mr. Pecor all over the course doing everything, and, of course, Kathy Baumann, Amy Baumann, and Judy Robinson running the refreshment table as they have every year of the 25 year-old event.

Another face that is becoming familiar to the Colchester crowd is Alison Aiken, who returned for this 25th anniversary year after putting in some serious training in the off-season, particlularly in the water. I was worried that the heat and a little chop in the lake could conspire against her, but no. She kicked booty! No "leisurely finish" this year, was there Dave?

Posted by Picasa
Sunday's Colchester Triathlon was every bit as exciting as ever. It's a great community event, run by the best organizers ever. Can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Call For Help!

You may notice a new feature at the lower right-hand corner of "AikenAction" -- my new hit counter. It's designed to tell me how many visits this site receives. But since its installation, it seems to be stuck at one hit. I guess I'm the only person who ever checked out this site, and, apparently, I only ever visited once.

I need your help! When you next visit AikenAction (ie now), please click the "Comment" button at the bottom of this post. Enter the date and time of your visit. Hypothetically, the counter will register your visit. If it doesn't, I will have your comment and I'll know my shiny new counter is stuck -- or worse, defective.

Or worse than that, I don't know how to turn it on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Deadline and a Visit

Nothing gets things done like a deadline.

On another, however closely related note, our house in Richmond was in disarray last Saturday. We had just stayed at the Aiken Camp in North Hero for 8 days, and the lawn -- as a result -- was a hayfield and the gardens weedbeds. All of our stuff was strewn haphazardly around the house in heaps -- duffel bags, laundry baskets, water jugs, bike gear, cat carriers, a round carpet from the camp that Jill had replaced with an ungrade, and a cooler.

And we were expecting company at 10:45am. There's your deadline.

Let me tell you, Alison and I sprang into action. By 10:44am, the grass was cut, the gardens tidied up, and the house organized. I even went out to Richmond's On the Rise Bakery to pick up bagels and other assorted morning goodies. When our company arrived, we acted like the house and grounds always looked this way and nothing out of the ordinary had transpired that morning. I'm pretty sure we had them fooled.

The company, incidentally, was my grandmother Caroline G. Aiken, my Uncle Dave Robinson, and my Aunt Judy Robinson. The Robinsons were visiting from Atlanta, Georgia, and they were on a tight social calendar with a schedule not unlike the US President's recent visits to Russia, Africa, and the Middle East. We were very excited that they could fit Richmond in.

We snacked for awhile in the front room admiring the view and catching up. Then we walked around and checked out the gardens (see photo above, provided by Aunt Judy). I received some very positive feedback about the vegetable garden: my grandmother -- a prolific vegetable gardener from Springfield, Vermont -- called it "perfect." My Aunt Judy, an expert in all matters of plants and flowers, informed me as to what flowers we have in the flowerbeds (I have no idea what's in there as I can't even tell the difference between a flower and a weed). The problem, however, was that she rattled off the names and types so quickly, all I remember was "primroses" and, unfortunately, didn't retain which ones those were. And before I was able to ask for clarification, my Uncle Dave -- like the Secret Service -- whisked them both into the car and onto their next stop (which, I believe, was lunch at cousin Suzie Shattuck's). Now I know how the smaller nations of the world feel.

It was a really nice visit. Next time, though, I'm going to have a notebook and pencil ready. And I may just skip the snacks and bring my aunt right out to the flowerbed. I need to know what I'm supposed to keep and what needs to be thrown away.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Article in Livin' Magazine

Pick up the latest issue of Livin' the Vermont Way magazine in order to see my most recent article about the effect that college students have on local economies. Or read it online here at Livin's website.

After the article's deadline, one of my sources, Amy McGlashan, director of the Vermont Campus Compact, who had been on vacation, came back with some interesting data. Check it out: according to a survey by the National Campus Compact, 46% of Vermont college students volunteer an average of 96 hours in their schools' communities. That comes to over 2 million volunteer hours -- valued by the organization at $46.6 million. Those hard numbers indicate quite a contribution! Bummer that we couldn't get that info into the article.

But cool that Livin' continues to print a wide range of articles spanning a broad political spectrum. Keep it up Livin'!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Brief Word About Saving the Earth

As Independence Day nears, I think everyone should be thinking about what they can do to make the world a better place. Like riding your bike, bringing your own grocery bag to the store, eating food out of your own garden or local farmstand, and so forth.

As for me, I am drying my laundry on my brand new retractable clothesline. No dryer, no hassles. (Except that I still have to fold it.)

Have a great 4th of July!

Latest Article About a Wild Ride

You want crazy? I'll give you crazy. How about riding 100 miles through Vermont forestland -- much of it under cover of darkness -- on horseback? That is the topic of my latest article in Woodstock Magazine (once there, click on "Featured Story"). Check it out!