Monday, August 20, 2012

Nine Weeks Later

I've fallen off my bike a fair number of times.

In 2007, I crashed at the Albany Crit, Martinez Crit, Santa Cruz Crit, and Land Park Crit. Four races in a row, and I went down in all of them. I was sitting top 10 in all of them, too. Somewhere, there's a picture of me sprinting in Santa Cruz with blood streaming down my leg.

But I've never broken a bone.

And before this season, I'd never raced a mountain bike.

I broke both streaks this year.

Most Nebraska readers have heard the story by now: Ponca State Park. Lots of climbing. Three weeks after being shamed into racing the cat 2 field in my first-ever mountain bike race and finishing in the middle of the pack, I registered for the same field at Ponca. I'd never even ridden there before. I was riding my brand-new Trek Superfly 100 for only the second time.

It started to rain right before my field started to race. The new bike came equipped with 29 * 2.0 rubber, but every single person who looked at my bike before the race said, "Those are skinny tires."

The race consisted of three laps around a course that ran through thickly forested bluffs along the Missouri River. At the top of a ridge line stood a narrow wooden pedestrian bridge spanning a shallow but steep-sided wash. On the first lap, the painted wood was reasonably tacky. After another half-hour of rain, it was slick as snot, and when I hit the bridge at speed on the second lap, I wasn't thinking about my line. I was chasing for second place. My front wheel slid at a sharp 90-degree angle to the right, slamming my entire body weight and momentum onto the back of my left hand. The shifter and brake lever exploded.

And my some bones in my hand snapped like dry twigs.

Comminuted fracture of the fifth metacarpal and phalanges.
I knew it was broken right away, so I shouldered by bike and started walking out of the woods. I walked for 5 minutes before anyone passed me, so I think I crashed myself off the podium. I still don't know whether I was angrier about losing the race or breaking my hand.

It hurt, but it wasn't unbearable. I waited at the first road crossing I reached, about 500 yards down trail. April Eyberg gave me some ice as I waited for someone to come pick me up.  Roxy tells me I was downright chipper when she reached me.

Jeremy Cook was the first familiar face I saw when I got back to registration. He snapped this image:

Amy Collison and Mikayla Rhone volunteered to drive me the 90 minutes back to Omaha. Amy thought my refusal to lose my mind was amusing:

It was obvious how badly I screwed up when I looked at my hands side by side:

I wore a brace for four weeks and spent the next four weeks waiting for my strength to come back. I was able to grip the bar well enough to ride a road bike by week five, but not with enough hand strength to ride safely in a group. Hitting a bump while riding with my hands in the drops just about killed me, so riding the mountain bike was out of the question.

I tried to stay involved with bike racing; I helped feed my teammates at the Nebraska state road race championships, and I marshaled a corner at yesterday's Papillion Twilight Criterium. But my own road season ended during a mountain bike race.

Today, Abbey and I rode a loop at Swanson, marking my first attempt to handle the mountain bike. My hand was fine, so I'll resume real training tomorrow.

'Cross awaits.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why Don't More Women Race Bikes?

I've ridden bikes with a lot of cool women. Fast women. Bad-ass women. Scared women.

One of the great things about collegiate cycling was its gender equality. The men raced against the men and the women raced against the women, but the results from both races counted equally when determining which team won the Omnium. One of the reasons UC Davis won team omnium national championships was because the women's team time trial squad won their event, and the female road and crit racers were so deep they scored a lot of points.

Now I have daughters. (Well, I had daughters while I was racing in graduate school). One of them is a jock. She plays soccer, softball, and basketball. But she's also a holy terror on a bike, a fact which gives me no end of joy.

I think she caught the bug while watching an acquaintance of mine win a regional criterum in a field sprint while wearing the stars and stripes jersey of the women's professional national champion. She also came to watch a lot of my races. Bike racing excited her, inspired her, and instilled a life-long horror of porta-potties. And through our Omaha Devo program for kids' mountain biking, Abbey has been lucky enough to receive casually structured coaching from a former pro and a number of amateur racers, one of whom is a woman. I've learned to stay away from these weekly Devo sessions and to let the coaches coach. Smart guy, me.

But I worry about her future in the sport. I don't have any hopes for her making a career out of riding. I just hope she enjoys herself and carries her love of games, the outdoors, and physical fitness into adulthood.

But what if she does want to race, even at the regional level? In the Midwest? Will she find support? Races? Opponents?

Yesterday's blog post was designed to encourage discussion about the ways in which scheduling conflicts serve as a microcosm for larger schisms within the Nebraska cycling community. Now I'd like to stir the pot about women's racing. At most events in Nebraska, we see no more than 5-10 female participants. At road races, the Cat 2/3 women sometimes race with the Cat 4 men. (I once watched my friend Brooke terrorize a field of Cat 3 guys. But then again, she was the reigning National Champion) 'Cross seems to fare better, drawing a slightly smaller field for women. We all know the barriers to entry are much lower in 'cross--but why? In other words, why is road racing so off-putting to women? And how do we mitigate those elements of the sport that turn women away? How do we find ways to make it more appealing to women?

Cyclingnews has a piece up right now about building the professional side of women's racing. But if local scenes were more developed, maybe the pros wouldn't face such a hard time receiving pay and attracting sponsors.

I love watching women race. I think the disparity between the aesthetics of male and female competition is smaller in cycling than in any other sport. I'm the father of girls, so I'm biased. But I don't enjoy women's basketball nearly as much as men's--even if women's volleyball is staggeringly athletic and kind of awe-inspiring. Yet women's cycling looks and feels just as fast to me as men's cycling does. I'd really like to see more women pinning on numbers and toeing a start line. So, women, what are the barriers to entry? How do we (a cycling community at large) remove those? How do we find things to market that might outweigh the barriers?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cycling Tribes and Event Conflicts

Mike Magnuson has published a new book: Bike Tribes: A Field Guide to North American Cyclists. So far I've only skimmed it, but I liked what I saw.

He defines and satirizes several different types of riders: the Masters Sandbagger, the Cat 3 Douchebag, The Century Rider, The Triathlete, the Fast MTB Racer, etc.

Last week, I sat down to do some work at a local coffee shop and happened to eavesdrop on a bunch of 60-somethings talking about their own bike rides. They complained about how the "gear heads" and "spandex jerks" ride too fast on the Keystone trail. They told stories about being  startled when roadies whiz by "like it's the Tour de France!" (That's always the critique of racers, isn't it? In media comments sections, irate motorists always complain about having to wait behind a group of "Yahoos acting like they own the road and having their own private Tour de France")

Why the hostility toward racers? Could it be that some of us DO act like jerks when we get stuck behind a trio of old farts slowly easing three-wide down the trail? Damn Strava-killers, that's what they are!

I've always tried to live and preach the notion that all cyclists need to stick together. We collectively suffer from the derision, negligence  and outright aggression of irate drivers, oblivious roller-bladers, and suicidally unleashed basset hounds -- so shouldn't we look after each other? Can't we all just get along?!?!

But there's even conflict between wearers of the spandex. This weekend in Nebraska, two pretty important events are being held on the same day: the Papillion Twilight Criterium, hosted by Midwest Cycling and the Trek Bicycle Stores of Omaha, and the Gravel World Championships, hosted by the Pirate Cycling League. And yeah, it's a conflict. There are several folks who might have done both events if they were held on different weekends.

Cross-scheduling local cycling events pisses me off. Surely we (Nebraska cyclists) could make sure a gravel race doesn't happen the same day as one of our only local criteriums. 

And don't tell me about different demographics--I think that's part of the problem. If I hadn't broken my hand (trying to bust out of my roadie rut) by racing a mountain bike for the first time, I would've liked to participate in both the crit and the gravel race. I like meeting guys who shred dirt and guys who wax hair. I even like bullshitting with alley-cat delivery guys.

But despite my genial efforts at a grassroots campaign, mountain bikers often hate roadie scum. Roadies shun sketchy Freds. Charity-event riders always proclaim "this isn't a race" when a racer gets angry that they've been wheel-sucking for 17 miles. Racers dismiss charity rides. Taco-riders drink so much they love (or hate) everybody. 

Next year, let's reach out to all the tribes. Let's try to find a way to build the sport in Nebraska by making our events accessible to all types of riders. Let's share a calendar, drink some PBR (or single-malt, or Pinot), and prevent these kinds of conflicts. 

Saddle time is too brief to have to choose between events. Or tribes.

Friday, April 27, 2012

re: Brady Murphy's "Ack, Thpppt!!!" Post

Brady's touched a nerve, and not the one inflamed by his "tennis elbow."

Stay with me now, gang--it's about to get all meta up-in-here. Self-referential, postmodern, pastiche-riddled.

But it'll both shame Brady for his recent absence and make him giggle. Maybe.

"Ack, thpppt!!!" he says? I respond thus:

Okay, back to Milton for me. I'll post something next week about my cleanse, crappy Twin Bing road race, and decent (first EVER!) mountain bike race. But I gotta solve my Milton dilemma first. Like my man Byron said, "Since Eve ate the apple, much depends on dinner."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Another Intersection

Why am I continually surprised by these things? Of course the people in X and The Replacements would know each other. But John Doe might be uniquely qualified to deliver this song, one of Paul Westerberg's finest laments for lost moments and blown chances. I usually think of "Skyway" when I'm beset by winter, but this tune has been on my mind a lot today.

A drinking buddy HAS moved on "to another town"; a year ago, we all gathered at his place to watch the Super Bowl.  Now he's on another coast. At least we had a year's stopover in Omaha to share before he left again.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Aesthetics of Hand-Built Bicycle Wheels

photo by Jonathan Neve
My friend Jonathan Neve is a mechanic at Greenstreet Cycles, an independently-owned shop in NoDo, the newly redeveloped swath of land just north of downtown Omaha.

Jonathan's probably 15 years younger than I am, and he seems to have embraced the DIY ethos that I find so inspiring in many folks his age. In this picture, he has assembled the materials he'll use to build a new wheel for a customer. (I stole the shot from his Facebook page. Let's hope he doesn't object)

He called the image "Respect the Process." That imperative sort of inspired me.

See, I have a lot of nice cycling gear: a fast carbon-fiber road bike, a fast aluminum time-trial bike, a steel cyclocross bike, and an aluminum mountain bike. Yesterday, I wrote an inane post about am absurdly expensive bike computer.

But until last summer, every piece of cycling equipment I owned had been mass-produced in Asia. I selected bikes and components and wheels for their value. I wanted the most bang for my buck, which is a pretty common desire among cash-strapped collegiate racers. I had a chance to buy a gorgeous Colnago CX-1, a carbon road bike hand-built in Italy, but I just couldn't justify writing that check when I could buy a Japanese Fuji that was almost as fast for half the money--even though it wasn't nearly as beautiful.

I just couldn't afford to make aesthetics a primary concern--although I did refuse to accept a red rasta-colored replacement for a warrantied frame. I wouldn't buy a fluorescent yellow bike, but I satisfied myself with plain-jane white. That's as aesthetically-conscious as I could afford to be.

I also couldn't afford to buy locally-made stuff. Almost the entire bike industry manufactures in Asia now. I believed that supporting my local bike shop in Davis was the best I could do--and their willingness to sponsor my collegiate team made shopping there just as easy as going to a national chain.

What I loved about the local bike shop were the relationships. Guys there knew my name. They knew me well enough to bust my balls about how poorly I'd done in a TT the night before. They knew the kinds of gear I liked, and they knew me well enough to talk me into something that I couldn't appreciate until after I'd ridden it for a few weeks.

But builders and manufacturers remained a distant mystery. I had no idea who designed or assembled the gear I bought. I met Gary Fisher, sure, but who the hell knew if he actually had anything to do with the bikes bearing his name? Who was "Fuji?" The bike said "Made in Taiwan." Hmm.

Some brands have a face or a name that serves as a sort of synecdochal stand-in for the larger company. I wouldn't know Mike Sinyard if he walked up and bit me, but I know his name and that he founded and runs Specialized. Lance Armstrong WAS Trek for years and years. Eddy Merckx is Eddy Merckx.

Yet the industry is regional, too. You see A LOT more Specialized bikes on the west coast, more Treks roll through in the Midwest, and Cannondale seemed to dominate the scene when I visited Philadelphia. That regionalism may be a legacy of these companies' corporate pasts; each is headquartered in that particular area. But almost none of their bikes are built there.

I moonlight at the Trek Bicycle Stores of Omaha, the inheritors of the shop where I bought my first real road bike the year before I left Omaha for graduate school. Contrary to some local perceptions, the Trek stores are locally owned, by Kent McNeil and Jay Thomas. Kent fit me on my first road bike in 2001. They have expanded into the Kansas City and St. Louis markets as well, and they now own VeloGear, an internet distribution site. They sponsored Mark Savery's remarkable quest for the podium at Cyclocross Master's World Championship. They are fierce and devoted advocates of cycling in their communities.  Working there made it possible for me to buy a Trek road bike, one that was actually designed AND manufactured in Wisconsin by guys I could go meet if I wanted to, guys my managers have met and looked in the eye.  

But I still enjoy stopping into Greenstreet every now and again. Jonathan isn't the only wheel-builder in town; Jake and Paul at the Trek Store also do a fine job with custom-built wheels. But what struck me about Jonathan's photo was its aesthetics. One of the guys who commented on it on Facebook called it "rideable art."

Art vs. product. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," if you will. Art, for me, retains the mark of its maker. Not of its builder, nor of its assembler or designer, but its maker. When one looks at a painting, one looks for a name. Without nomenclature, a painting is mere decoration. With a recognizable name, paint can transcend product.

The wheels Jonathan builds won't have his name on them. He neither designed nor made the rim, hub, spokes, nipples, or oil he's using to build them. Once they go out the door, they're product. They may be more beautiful than some factory-built wheels, but aside from their reliability, they have no inherent Jonathanness embedded within their form or shape. They lack what Heidegger might've called the "earth" from which they arose.

That's why I like actually going into a bike shop. Sometimes, you get to watch these sorts of things as they happen. And THAT'S what infuses the finished wheels with some essential remnant of Jonathan: the process. Watching him work. Looking him in the eye. The wheel becomes a metonymic reminder of a human relationship, even if that relationship only lasts as long as it takes to look someone in the eye. Looking the maker in the eye infuses a piece of gear he's made with an organicism, a vestigial humanity. It shortens a supply chain, and it supports a local business--but that's only half the battle. What really counts for me is that the piece of gear I'm riding has a life that I can trace not just from its delivery to me, but from a time before it even existed. The life arises from the process of construction, from a process I can witness. It's like watching a wheel being born, somehow. And that humanity imparts some soul into the wheel, some soul that maybe only I can see. But I can share it with others in narrative form. I can tell the story of the wheels being built or talk about the taste of the beer we drank while they were being trued.

The major premise of my dissertation is that 21st-century farmers markets and locavore diets are utilitarian manifestations of Wordsworthian poetics. Looking the farmer in the eye recreates an interpersonal exchange first promulgated by Wordsworth's poetry. The human interactions between consumer and farmer that happen at a farmers market bring the consumer one step closer to the "permanent beautiful forms of nature," to the rural scenes where the "essential passions of the heart" are far more "deeply interfused"---to where and how the food is grown. It scrapes away the industry and scale from the food, which makes it feel more human, somehow.

I like to think of my hand-made Trek and Jonathan's hand-built wheels within those same terms. They're human, because I could see them being made by human hands. That's a process that should be respected.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quarq CinCo SRAM S975: first impressions

After a year spent fighting with my Powertap SL+, I've made the leap.

That's a snarky allusion to SRAM's ad copy from a few years ago, when they first introduced their road bike componentry. But it's true: I've traded in my Powertap for a crank-based powermeter built by SRAM.

Powermeters (for the three of you who don't know but are inexplicably still reading) measure the effort a cyclist expends. Unlike speed or heart rate, which can vary dramatically from day to day, power provides a constant frame of reference. A 15 mile-an-hour ride into a wind is much harder than 20 mph on a calm day, and the powermeter's ability to keep track of how many watts a rider has expended will reflect that increased effort.

I use one because I'm always trying to cut just a few hundred calories a day from my diet, and watts are much more accurate than heart rate when I try to calculate how much energy I've expended on the bike. If I eat too much (always a probability) I don't lose fat, but if I don't eat enough, I can't recover from training and I get sick.  But my hart rate varies A LOT with hydration, fatigue, temperature, etc, yielding wildly inaccurate measurements of how many calories I burn on a ride. Watts, again, provide a constant measure of energy expenditure.

Training with power also helps keep me honest. My ego often tries to convince me to chase my training partners up the hills, but since I'm supposed to be riding relatively easy right now, the powermeter's wattage display give me an excuse to ease off a bit and go slower. Luckily, my skinny friends are usually kind enough to wait.

Powermeters can be built into the hub of a bike's rear wheel or into its crank. Strain gauges measure how much force is being inflicted on the the chain. I have no idea how they work; my sense of physics is even worse than Bryan's. But as I pedal along, a computer on my handlebars tells me that I'm producing 200 watts as I roll along a flat trail, 300 as the road tilts upward, 450 as I climb a steep hill, or 1200 when I sprint as hard as I can without puking.

When I bought my Powertap sl+ last year, what arrived was only a rear hub, to which my local mechanic laced a DT Swiss 415 rim, using 28 Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes. I broke 4 spokes within the first few weeks of riding, and the wheel continually developed lateral wobbles. Then we rebuilt the wheel using stouter, straight-gauge spokes, but those eventually pulled out of the holes in the rim, causing it to crack.

I tried replacing the rim with a Stan's Alpha 340 tubeless rim, but that build was simply too flimsy for my sizeable, uhh, ego. It flexed from side to side under hard pedaling, so my friend Ryan and I made a Christmas present out of the wheel. The recipient is a 120-pound climber who loves it. The technology is great, but it's probably not the best choice for a 195-pound guy who's hard on wheels.

One of the reasons I originally bought a Powertap was its portability; I thought I would be able to easily move the wheel from my road to my cyclocross to my time-trial bike--but the wheel was too heavy to race on the road and too light to ride on cyclocross courses, so it ended up staying on my road bike only for training. I never used it in a road race, a time trial, or any gravel rides, so I robbed myself of the most valuable power data.

Ironically, my new Quarq Powermeter crankset is freakishly easy to move from bike to bike to bike. Because my Trek Madone uses Trek's BB90 press-fit bearings--and my 'cross and TT bikes use standard English outboard bottom bracket shells--I can simply loosen one bolt, remove the two-piece crank, slide it into the other bike, and re-tighten that same one bolt with a torque wrench. It literally takes less time than moving the old Powertap wheel from bike to bike. Since I run SRAM components on the road and 'cross bikes, the GXP bottom bracket on the 'cross bike is already compatible with the crank. I had to change the bottom bracket on my TT bike, but that was a $40.00 upgrade. Easy. So, rather than taking off the wheel and/or changing the tire for road training, road racing, or gravel riding, I just move the crank.

My old powertap wheel build would cost about $1100 to build today; they're discounted at many retail sites. The cost of a new Quarq is about $1700, but the crank's greater utility and (hopefully) reliability make the extra $600 easier to justify.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My trainer put me to sleep

Yes, trainer workouts are boring as hell, but it was 7 degrees this morning and I was pressed for time. I didn't want to put on everything I own just to do some cadence intervals, (and maybe freeze my face off) so I rode the trainer.

I cued up an episode of  Rescue Me and went to work. But something weird happened. I remember every one of the intervals and the TV episode seems pretty fresh in my memory, but somehow I managed take the bike off the trainer, roll out the door, and do a loop over the front yard, across the street, and into the neighbor's back yard:

Anyone else ever experienced daytime trainer-induced sleep-pedaling?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The political aesthetics of Paula Deen, Anthony Bourdain, and local eating

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, 25% of all Americans suffer from one of these chronic conditions:
  • Diabetes.
  • Heart disease.
  • Asthma.
  • Hypertension.
  • Mood disorders.
Treating these conditions accounts for just under half of the money spent on health care in the U.S Since health-care costs are swallowing an increasingly larger percentage of our GDP, I'd say this is a public, national issue.

Every one of these conditions is related to food and exercise. For example, only 20-30% of high blood pressure cases are related to genetic predispositions. The rest come from sedentary lifestyles and diets high in processed sugars, sodium, and animal fats.

Paul Deen, a popular celebrity cook, has just announced that she suffers from Type II diabetes. One of my friends was excoriated on Facebook yesterday for criticizing Deen's cooking, and Bryan's written a blog post about Deen's announcement.

Deen is famous for promoting recipes which use copious amounts of butter, salt, sugar, and other ingredients that can lead to some of the BIG Five health conditions. I'm sure following her recipes is healthier than eating at McDonald's every night, but still, she catches a lot of grief for promoting comfort and taste over health.

There's another aspect to this story that transcends the "eat veggies / lean meats" vs. "enjoy your bacon and pie" debate. It's ideological. Paula Deen's brand exemplifies and perpetuates conservative values: she's southern, domestically feminine, explicitly spiritual, and visually traditional. If ideology is externalized in food, then folks who denigrate her cooking sound, to her supporters, as if they're condemning the political and familial culture she represents. Which many of them are. Her brand of plasticized "y'alls!" makes her unwatchable, in my opinion. Plus, I'm always alarmed by ardent calls for a return to more "traditional" cultural motifs, since the concomitant political analogues to those cultural mores are often racism and sexism.

I thought about that a lot when I heard about Deen's diabetes announcement. A few months ago, she and fellow food personality Anthony Bourdain exchanged some testy remarks about the health of her food. Bourdain markets himself as worldly, urbane, cosmopolitan, and multicultural--a polar opposite of Deen's down-home regionalism. It was hard not to hear overtones of sexism and urban condescension in his criticism of Deen's food. When they got into their spat, internet commentary on the story was vitriolic, displaying a level of hatred usually reserved for arguments about monetary or religion.

The pro-Deen camp tends to associate diet and health as personal choices, which they certainly are. Yet those private choices can lead to a public obesity crisis, one which afflicts all of us with higher insurance premiums and increased health-care costs.

Bourdain's aesthetic encourages a global view, one based on travel and immersion within exotic cultures. It reminds me of the sublimity that Romantic poet and writer Thomas De Quincey experiences as he struggles to "eat" the spatial and temporal immensities of China and India. Deen, on the other hand, is much more like Mary Robinson in outlook: insular, local, artisanal. She's down-home.

My dissertation project tries to show the ways in which the contemporary locavore diet is both global and local--and Romantic in its aesthetics. Locavores argue that eating food grown locally and in-season is a more environmentally responsible way to live. It's a radical "f-you!" to Big Ag and industrialized food processing, systems which depend on huge expenditures of fossil fuels and polluting chemicals. Big Ag, locovores claim, also leads to the displacement of family farmers and results in mono-cultural food desserts.  And local eating is also theoretically healthier, since local and artisanal food eliminates processed sugars and trans fats.

But isn't eating regionally what Paul Deen preaches? Isn't Bourdain's global aesthetic explicitly anti-locavore?

I'm trying to deconstruct these kinds of binaries, and I'm hoping to show that returning to small-scale, local, diversified food production and distribution is actually a radical populist endeavor, not a reactionary elitist one. (Rescuing Wordsworth from claims of conservatism is part of the fight, as well) Localism isn't conservative--it's anti-corporate. And Bourdain's cosmopolitanism, at its heart, advocates regional eating, as well--but it encourages actually traveling to the region rather than engaging in cultural imperialism by bringing the region back home with you.

Deen argued yesterday that her cooking shows are entertainment, not self-help. She claims she always preached moderation: make my butter cookies, y'all,  but eat just a few of them, not the whole cotton-pickin' box! She escapes culpability for contributing to our national obesity epidemic by resorting to the tried-and-true conservative defense of personal accountability: I'm not to blame--I didn't make y'all eat all that bacon! Yet she's also exploiting her diabetes by signing a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug she uses to treat her disease. Not many of her fat-swilling fans will be able to follow suit.

I'm reading Milton this week, always an anti-climactic affair; one knows that Eve is going to eat the apple and f*ck it up for the rest of us. Yet her reasons for doing so are newly relevant to me in the aftermath of the Deen announcement. In Paradise Lost, God knows that Adam and Eve are going to fall from grace by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. God makes man "free to fall." Deen's right: no one put a gun to our collective heads and said "Eat this butter!" Conservatives lambast the First Lady for trying to encourage a healthier alternative, but she's also not putting a gun to anybody's head and forcing them to eat their veggies.

Our choices make us who we are, but for a cultural critic like me, ideology is externalized in food. Taken collectively, our private food choices have public consequences, and some of them are pretty damn scary. Paula Deen is free to promulgate whatever kind of food and culture she wants--but a few good folks should be able to critique that message without being called food fascists. Or bitches.