By Tom Demerly for Tom Demerly.com

Only a mile and half at its widest, The Detroit River has been a geographical barrier between opposing tribes, rum runners and nations. Few rivers hold this much history. Globally, the Detroit River shares its historical relevance with the Mississippi in the United States, the Bosphorus in Turkey, the Rhine in Germany, the Ganges in India, the Volga in Russia, Paris’ Seine River, Egypt’s Nile, China’s Yangtze and other globally significant waterways like Iraq’s Tigris and Vietnam’s Mekong.

Last Wednesday, as members of the Detroit History Club, my girlfriend Jan Mack and I sailed the historic Detroit River on the 85-foot long Appledore IV two-masted schooner. Appledore IV transports its crew and passengers back in time as soon as they step on board. It is a fitting vessel for a trip back into the remarkable history of Detroit and its unique river.

Our guide on board Appledore IV was Miss Bailey of the Detroit Historical Club. Her encyclopedic knowledge of Detroit history was matched only by her wit and talent. She delivered a fascinating running narration of Detroit’s sensational history from Native conflicts to daring rum-runners driving modified Ford Model-T’s across the frozen river in an occasionally unsuccessful attempt at defying prohibition.

After casting off from the dock in front of Detroit’s Renaissance Center and General Motors headquarters we set sail on moderate winds and calm waters north and east toward Belle Isle and the Hiram Walker distillery. As we sailed across the Detroit River the strong and delicious scent of baking bread drifts off the Windsor shore from the Hiram Walker complex. The yeast processing for spirits production at the distillery produces the delightful aroma, lost on powerboats to their exhaust smell but blissfully preserved onboard the sail-driven Appledore IV.

Once at the top of the river we reversed course under jibbing canvas sails, ducking under swinging booms and picking up winds that brought us downriver toward the majestic Ambassador Bridge. We sailed under, marveling at the incredible volume of truck traffic engaging in the free exchange of goods between Canada and the U.S. that typifies the relationship between the two countries.

To the south we saw the dark silhouette of the industrial monolith of Zug Island, formerly one of the most polluted places on earth, now in the midst of reform into at least a slightly less toxic habitat. Today foxes, peregrine falcons, feral cats and other unusual species share the island with its heavy industrial tenants like steel mills and coke ovens. A rare species of sturgeon lives on one side of the island because of the deposits of coal cinders that collect on the bottom of the river from the industrial activity.

Mystery surrounds much of Zug Island, a private, manmade industrial otherworld that has produced an undefined loud humming sound to the distress of residents as far as ten miles away. Some say it is the sound of wind through industrial structures on the island. Over a million dollars has been spent on studies to find the source of the bizarre sound but the maker of the mechanical music remains a mystery.

Shipping traffic is a huge part of the Detroit River. During our cruise we saw two passages, one a massive ore freighter and the other a smaller cargo vessel, our radios crackling to life with instructions from the river traffic control as Customs and Border Patrol vessels zipped back and forth. The Detroit River is one of the busiest commercial rivers on earth, and ship spotting along its banks is a popular pastime.

This cruise aboard Appledore IV with the Detroit History Club is a rare and intrinsic perspective on Detroit, and one all Detroiters ought imbibe in. People who live in Detroit and its suburbs often have a deep affection for something undefinable about the city that makes it unique. An intrinsic authenticity and resilience belonging to a place that survived riots, wars, fires and economic collapse. Detroit has produced iron and steel, innovation and art. But few people own the deep historical context of Detroit’s remarkable and repetitive penchant for survival and prosperity.

To join the Detroit History Club and enjoy their many fascinating and varied events follow this link:

 

http://www.detroithistoryclub.com

Media Release, April 1, 2017: “Depends” Brand to Become Official Ironman On-Course Adult Diaper.

International personal health product conglomerate Kimberly-Clark today announced a new strategic partnership with Ironman World Triathlon Corporation. The five-year title sponsorship will feature a new version of the world’s best selling adult diaper, “Depend”, called “Depend Endurance 140.6”.

“This new partnership benefits every participant at Ironman events” Said Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk. “From elite athletes who don’t have time to stop for natural breaks to back-of-the-pack athletes for whom on-course restroom facilities may be inadequate.”

Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman/WTC told media at the launch event on Friday, “The Ironman participant demographic is shifting. Ironman triathletes are graduating to older age categories and creating a new demographic of super-active geriatric participants. This partnership with Kimberly-Clark and the industry leading Depends brand is a natural evolution of the sport. It serves all parties now, and into the future of Ironman.”

World Triathlon Corporation, the parent company of the Ironman brand, is rumored to have sought the co-branding deal as a way to further reduce on-course race production costs at events by reducing the number of portable restrooms, or “porta-johns” that must be rented for each event.

“Our lead portable, on-course restroom vendors are charging from $150-225 per porta-john for single day rental. Those costs add up over the distance of an Ironman event. We typically serve over 150 portable restrooms on-course for the run portion of Ironman alone. If you do the math, allowing participants to manage restroom needs where and when they want to adds convenience, performance and efficiency. This partnership is the definition of win-win for participants, event managers and Kimberly-Clark” said Ironman officials.

As an additional benefit to Ironman participants, the new Depends Endurance 140.6 will be included in entrant goodie-bags and available for sale at race expos, online and from select specialty triathlon retailers. “Athletes will have advanced access to the new, aerodynamic, lightweight Endurance 140.6 version of Depends prior to race day” Depends project managers told media assembled at the launch event.

Along with the new partnership Kimberly-Clark and WTC/Ironman have announced several sponsored pros who will compete wearing the new Depends Endurance 140.6 on-course sanitary garment. Julie Moss has been named official spokesperson for the brand and the captain of the new Ironman/Depends S.H.A.R.T. sports marketing initiative.

At the release event Ironman Hall of Famer and SHART team captain Julie Moss told media, “S.H.A.R.T. stands for ‘Sponsored High-performance Adult Race Team’ and is all about blowing out the personal limitations of aging. The Ironman/Depend SHART athletes will redefine what it means to age in America and participate in endurance sports.”

Ironman athlete Moss, WTC President Messick and Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Clark all quipped, “The Ironman motto is, ‘Anything Is Possible’, and when athletes are wearing Depend 140.6 Endurance, an athlete is ready for anything, and stops for nothing. It equips our participants for a new level of performance.”

 

 

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

You won’t find a bad review about the beautiful film-meditation “Kedi” and rightfully so. Director Ceyda Torun built a dream-like soft documentary stitched together from several storylines, and it fits and flows with elegance and mirth.

This is a kind, gentle and soothing meditation about our relationship with cats and, by proxy, with each other as humans. It identifies something good and meaningful in every person, and every animal, and celebrates it through the reverent monologues of the human supporting cast of the film as they pay homage to the roaming cat population of Istanbul, Turkey.

Kedi is a long time coming, a movie that will likely enjoy decent commercial success with the rise of cat prominence via social media. In an era of increasing social divisiveness posting a photo of a cat to your social media is the modern equivalent of talking about the weather. Everyone can relate, no one is alienated. And that is where Kedi begins, with the universal and oftentimes unspoken confession that we are more connected to our animals than we will sometimes openly admit.

Whether you are a “cat person” or not, Kedi is visually luxurious, a transparent travelogue through Istanbul and an examination of the reality that good is to be found in nearly everyone. Kedi reveals an intimacy in our relationship with animals I’ve never seen in film before, and that is uniting. It is something we need to hear.

A worrisome plot boils under the glowing surface of Kedi, the brief mention of expansion and modernization that threatens both the indigenous stray cat population supported by the citizenry, and also threatens this entire gentle culture, both human and animal. It’s ominous but not obnoxious, and mostly this film is charming, but this inference is unsettling. But that is a story for another documentary. As for this one, you may relax and enjoy this beautiful meditation.

Cat lover or not, Kedi is intrinsic and well made. It is worth seeking out. If you are a cat lover, then this film is an anthem and an ode to why we worship and cherish these perfect, gentle, beautiful animal-lords of our world who are so generous to include us in their lives.

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

Terry Lacroix (left), the driver who killed Karen McKeachie, during a court hearing Monday, March 6, 2017. (Photo Credit: John Counts Photo for The Ann Arbor News)

Terry Lee Lacroix is responsible for the death of Karen McKeachie.

That is a fact.

Had it not been for his willful actions on August 26, 2016 at approximately 10:45 AM, McKeachie would be alive today.

There is no question about the responsibility of Terry Lee Lacroix. He caused her death. That is known.

But what is mysterious is what should be done with Terry Lee Lacroix in the aftermath of Karen McKeachie’s killing? And it is a killing. It is not an accident. Lacroix’s willful decisions directly caused McKeachie’s death.

Emotionally some may want to exact a type of “revenge”, a willful infliction of loss or suffering upon the perpetrator Terry Lee Lacroix for the killing of Karen McKeachie. There may be a circumstance when this is appropriate. If Lacroix were in a position to willfully kill again. Then his capability to do so must be neutralized in the interest of public safety.

How our courts decide to punish Terry Lee Lacroix for the killing of Karen McKeachie will say a great deal about our society. It will place a value on a life. It will demonstrate what we are willing to do to prevent further loss of life, and it will reveal structural insights about our character and intellect.

What was Karen McKeachie’s life “worth”? What is the value of the life of the next victim of a similar killing? And, there will be more willful killings of cyclists by motorists.

To decide you must look in the mirror. Put a price on your life. What would you exchange for it? What is the correct toll for your life’s forfeiture?

I’ll suggest no such comparison; no such valuation can be assessed. The value of your life, and the loss of McKeachie’s, is incalculable.

But what about the next life lost to willfully deadly driving? And there will be more.

As a culture have we learned anything from losing Karen McKeachie? Will we change anything? Will the existing laws be applied as a template, and then reused on the next willful killing of a cyclist?

On Monday MLive.com reported that Terry Lee Lacroix pleaded “no contest” to a “misdemeanor charge of a moving violation causing death”. The maximum penalty is one year in jail. We are, in effect, stating clearly that, “If you choose to kill a cyclist with your car, you may go to prison for a year.” That is the value we place on a bicycle rider’s life. One year of confinement. Three hundred sixty five days confinement and the remaining legal record and expenses. That’s it.

A one-year jail term is not a substantial enough penalty for willfully killing a cyclist with a motor vehicle.

And because it is not substantial enough, because the penalty is not commensurate with the loss, the deterrent value, the compelling reason to drive more carefully, does not exist. Until the penalty fits the crime, cyclists are little more than collateral damage that may cost a reckless driver a year in jail, a prison record and legal fees.

But one year is all. And that is wrong. Your life, the life of Karen McKeachie and the lives of every cyclist are worth a greater penalty to compel drivers to behave more cautiously around cyclists.

 

 

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

racermate_computrainer_booth

According to an e-mail sent to sponsored athletes last night and reports on social media, Computrainer, the innovator of the computerized indoor ride simulator, is closing.

Reports indicate an e-mail was sent to sponsored athletes late last night. Phone calls to the company, Racermate, and its sister company, Floscan, were not returned as of this hour. In a phone call with a representative from sister company Floscan, who asked not to be named, early Tuesday, February 28, this reporter was told “I don’t know what is going on over there [at Computrainer].”

A copy of the e-mail received by tomdemerly.com via social media reads:

“It is with a heavy heart that those of us here at RacerMate must tell you that we are closing the doors on CompuTrainer. Technology and competition from larger companies have both eaten into the marketplace. As a small company with the premier indoor trainer in terms of performance and durability, we have found ourselves in a place where we cannot continue. It has been a marvelous 40+ years and we have enjoyed sharing in the victories and friendships we have made along the way.” [signed]

Chuck Wurster, Vice President

RacerMate Inc.

Seattle, WA

Voice mails left at Computrainer’s extension contained the message, “Please don’t be surprised if it takes several days to return your message.”

Computrainer is related to Floscan, a company that provides aviation and maritime fuel flow monitoring equipment.

The Computrainer indoor ride simulator revolutionized bicycle training by projecting performance telemetry on a screen in front of riders while a load generator varied resistance creating a realistic ride simulation indoors. The system also enabled riders to “compete” with each other in a virtual environment and to ride against themselves from previous performances saved on a computer that controlled the Computrainer.

If reports are accurate, contributing factors may include an unusual, non-retail sales model, low profit margins, service intensive products and the introduction of other computer controlled ride-simulation “smart” trainers into the competitive space from companies like Tacx and Wahoo Fitness who have a dealer network and existing distribution at the consumer level from brick and mortar retailers.

While this report remains unconfirmed from Computrainer as of this hour, the inability to receive or return sales and service inquiries throughout the first half of Tuesday, and reports of the e-mail announcement sent to sponsored athletes have surfaced on social media.

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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Disc brake road bikes, new tire sizes, new brake caliper brake placement, new models, new categories, new components.

The cycling industry has a spastic obsession with newness

The belief is that, to keep cycling compelling for consumers there must be a continuous flow of new products, exciting products.

But not necessarily better products.

In an incident today in Stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour top professional rider Owain Doull of Team Sky told reporters his left shoe was sliced clean through by a disc brake rotor in a crash. Doull sustained additional cuts he attributed to the sharp-edged disc brake rotor from the racing bicycle of sprinting sensation Marcel Kittel of the Quick-Stop Floors pro team. The two were involved in a crash near the race finish; a common occurrence in fast, bunch sprints.

Disc brakes on road bikes have been a new feature for three years. The jury is still out if they are better. This latest exhibit does not bode well for the future of disc brakes on road bikes, and it isn’t the first time.

Gregor Brown of Velo-News.com wrote this today following the Abu Dhabi incident:

“It was not the first time a rider has accused disc rotors of inflicting damage. At Paris-Roubaix in 2016, Movistar’s Fran Ventoso claimed that a large cut on his lower leg was caused by a disc rotor used by the Roompot team. That assertion has been disputed, but Ventoso stands behind the story.”

The sales pitch is often something like, “Everything is going to disc brakes!” and “Cars use disc brakes, discs work better in wet weather.” But there is a contrarian argument to be made that disc brakes are a feature without a benefit, or, at least, not a benefit commensurate to their attendant drawbacks.

In a balance sheet format, disc brakes look something like this:

Advantages:

Better wet weather stopping performance than caliper brakes. Greater tire clearance at fork and rear triangle facilitating wider tires on disc equipped bikes. More frequent use of structural thru-axle wheel design for better lateral stiffness. Removal of braking surface from wheel rim allows new rim shape designs.

Drawbacks:

Reliance on disc-brake specific wheels. Difficulty maintaining adjustment of brake calipers relative to wheel brake disc. Slower wheel changes compared to caliper brakes. Difficulty moving wheels from one bike to another due to tight tolerances. Heavier weight. More expensive. Fewer wheel options for disc brakes. New maintenance requirements, especially with hydraulic disk brakes.

So the question for consumers is, do the drawbacks outweigh the benefits? Another attendant question for consumers is, “Was there anything wrong with caliper brakes?”

In fairness, road calipers have had decades to evolve. Brake surfaces, rim profiles, brake calipers, brake levers, brake pad materials and brake cables for caliper brakes have been evolving ever since they were invented in the late 1920’s. That is a century of technological evolution in favor of calipers.

Conversely, disc brakes are new to road bikes compared to calipers, and the technology is not quite ready for prime time. If it were, the incidents with rider injuries, complexity surrounding wheel changes and maintenance wouldn’t exist.

During the past two decades when the bike industry introduced a few ideas that made it to market when they arguably were not mature we saw an increase in service and warranty related inquiries. These included, most notably, bottom brackets following the move to press-fit bottom bracket formats.

And the bike industry has a dismal record of owning its bad judgment unless compelled to do so via litigation, usually in the form of mandated recalls or personal injury lawsuits. Until those things happen the pedal is to the metal on selling new innovations with an often-subordinated regard for technical merit, let alone safety or integrity.

Solution: Do a Better Job of Selling What Already Works.

While the bike industry has done a great job of introducing “new” it has mired itself in an increasing number of sales narratives.

For every new innovation there needs to be a new sales case, new sales materials, new web assets, new sales and distribution channels and new marketing materials. It takes time and resources to develop those assets, and they cost money. It makes sales conversations longer on the floor of the bike shop on Saturday morning. It may not increase sales, but it makes it longer to complete sales. There is simply more to talk about.

An alternative solution exists in other industries where price maintenance, dealer cooperation and better marketing of existing products along with more judicious management of the supply chain has maintained product quality, profit margin and customer satisfaction.

Perhaps the best example of maintaining profit and demand for a static, non-evolving product is the diamond industry. Despite the rising supply of diamonds (there is actually a surplus) and the introduction of nearly indistinguishable synthetic diamonds, prices for diamonds have consistently risen. The diamond industry has created an emotional perception of worth although all other metrics suggest diamond prices should be falling.

The bicycle industry has not mastered any version of this perceived value equation. It is consistently undercutting price and negotiating a seasonal “surplus” of inventory that has conditioned consumers to buy previous model years at discounts. While some bike brands have reduced the emphasis on model years this has resulted in sometimes-stale offerings since the marketing narrative was not supported vigorously enough within the bike industry. They forget to sell. But they remember to invent new shiny things.

When the bike industry begins to focus on the job of selling rather than the novelty of making shiny new things then product quality will improve and profit margins will follow. And, most importantly, consumers will get a better, safer, more valid product instead of just the latest shiny thing.

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

vice-admiral

We got him because no one else would take him.

Malcom the Cat was in a crowded foster home with dogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits. Food was competitive and the population changed frequently as new foster animals came in, and older ones were (hopefully) adopted.

The lady from the animal foster home told me, “He’s a… handful.”

The arrangement seemed somewhat odd. The lady would bring Malcom to us, we would not go to the animal foster home to meet him. She asked me, “If I bring him there and it seems like it may work out, are you willing to keep him then?”

I said “Yes”.

Malcom was big, even before he turned one. A large, sturdy male cat, tall and long with powerful limbs and a large head. He was bright white with unusual striped spots and a dark striped tail. And claws. Very, very big claws.

We took him.

I am the first to admit that it did not go well at first, and that I was concerned. Our other cat, MiMi, is a gentle and polite girl with soft fur, one eye (she lost the other to a snake bite in the Arizona desert next to an air force base before she was rescued) and kind disposition. She’s a lap cat.

Malcom was a competitive, territorial predator. A fighter.

One day, when the house was torn up, MiMi was hiding somewhere terrified and I was losing blood through another series of scratches on both arms, I sat down and spoke with Malcom.

“You know Sir,” I told him, “This is a cooperative home. Every cat has to get along here, do his share, and be a good cat.”

Malcom stared at me.

“I know you are a fine cat, you just need some time.”

Time went by. One day I picked Malcom up and he didn’t tear me apart. He started purring. One night I felt something heavy on my leg. He was in bed with me.

Soon after a little cat named Chester showed up outside our window. And Chester moved in. Now there were three.

viceadmiraladministers

The Vice-Admiral oversees the delivery of new equipment.

I sat them all down one morning, as well as you can do that with three cats (which isn’t very well). We laid some ground rules: every cat must get along with the other cats. Meals are in the morning and the evening. Everyone eats together, served in order, from their own bowl. Everyone gets up at the same time. Everyone is allowed to sleep where they want but no fighting over sleeping places. There were more rules.

The three cats listened, seemingly interested, likely indifferent as cats are.

Finally, I appointed Malcom as the de facto leader, largely because of his physical prominence, but also because of his experience in an animal foster home. Apparently he used his size, strength and razor-sharp talons to enforce a kind of martial law there. Hence, he became Vice-Admiral Malcom Fredrick Davis III. Named from a number of sources, the third in an honorable naval lineage of cats who rose to equal prominence and distinction from the crucible of adversity.

Today the Vice-Admiral, as he is formally known, presides over nearly every activity in the house. He is served first at breakfast and dinner, eats in the highest position and in matters of cat politics, is subordinate only in seniority to MiMi, who is several years his senior and hence the wiser.

It took time to understand Malcom. It took time for him to become comfortable with the rules and procedures of a house with three very different cat personalities and two people. But with guidance and compassion and patience he has become a very fine man, a leader of cats, and an example to all cats. That every cat can rise above a difficult past, learn to stop scratching, accept and show affection, behave in a gentlemanly manner and enjoy the many things that cats take amusement in.

It’s just matter of patience and understanding.

viceadmiralportrait