Letter from America 1st January 2011

Hi Guys and Gals,

You all no doubt wonder why I report temperatures from over here in Fahrenheit. To start with I am very much “old school” and rather too lazy to bother to convert to Celsius. More relevant is the fact that America is one of the few countries that still that has not implemented the metric system. There was an article in the Orlando Sentinel this week that explains all and was headed “Can the U.S. give up its old yardstick?” The article goes on to say “In the supermarkets on the street and in bars, Europeans have long thought in units of 10. Fruit is weighed by the kilo, beverages dispensed by fractions of a litre and distances marked off in meters. Most Americans meanwhile still think in pounds, pints, feet and miles. The United States remains one of the few nations that have not implemented the metric system. President Gerald Ford organized the U.S. Metric Board in 1975 to get the nation to make the switch voluntarily but the committee disbanded in 1982 with the status quo mostly intact.” A meteorologist at Colorado State University has now come forward to argue that a nationwide metric conversion could help scientific understanding in the country. His reasoning being that equations are much simpler in metric as metric units are designed to work with pure physics. It makes you wonder why America doesn’t use the system. By holding back it is only to America ’s detriment. We are the only major country still on the old system. England has a couple of measurements that are old, the pint and the mile but other than that most countries have already converted. It is sad because all these measurements are used behind the scenes by the American car companies for instance who use kilograms, grams and kilometers but then before anything goes public they convert it for everyone. I could say “Only in America ” but you had better add my name to that! However all is not lost as Father Christmas brought me a Wireless Weather Station. It is all singing all dancing giving indoor and out door temperatures in Fahrenheit or Celsius, humidity, time display, weather man indicator showing weather conditions based on temperature and air pressure plus many other features. The only problem will be will I be able to set it all up!

My views on corruption within the political system here have been expressed in the past. Governor Charlie Crist, who lost last year’s election in November to the incoming Governor Rick Scott, leaves behind a lot of good ambitions and unfinished business. He is due to hand over to Republican Rick Scott on Monday next week. The most striking of Crist’s ambitions were his efforts to address public corruption in a state that often makes a sport out of skirting the rules. Scott is former CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain where he was forced out of office as a result of the nation’s largest ever Medicare fraud investigation. This ultimately led to the company paying more than $2 billion in fines. The former health care executive spent some $73 million of his family’s wealth to achieve the office of Governor. As I have said before the almighty dollar wins every time but I fear it is the same a lot of the world over.

No doubt most of you may already have seen the 1987 film “Cry Freedom” directed by Richard Attenborough starring Denzel Washington, Kevin Kline and Josette Simon. For those who haven’t I strongly recommend it if you can obtain the DVD or a recording of it. The story is most moving involving the times of apartheid in South Africa. Donald Woods is chief editor at the liberal newspaper Daily Dispatch. He has written several editorials critical of the views of Steve Biko. But after having met him for the first time, he changes his opinion of him. They meet several times and as a result Woods and his family get attention from the security police. When Steve Biko is murdered in police custody Woods writes a book about Steve Biko. The only way to get it published is for Woods himself to illegally escape the country. This makes for a highly dramatic finish to a story based largely on true facts.

Trust you all enjoyed the party at Mick’s on New Years Day and that by the time you read this that all the cold weather is a thing of the past. May the mid week rides to Balcombe, Camelia Botner and Barn’s Green go well.

Bryan Staples

PS: The attached picture is of our New Year’s Day ride taken at the convenience store at Altoona. The eagle eyed will probably notice that I am in three quarter tights and long sleeve jersey where the rest are in short sleeve jerseys and shorts. Well it was only 72F (21C) and I feel the cold! 32 miles at 16.7. Just one other thought, the following link may be of interest to racing members. My club over here, the Florida Masters, included the report on lactic acid I picked up from Cycling News, passed it on to the head honcho from the following link http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/training-is-lactic-acid-bad-for-you. I am of course the only non racing member at the moment but it was subsequently reproduced on the forum section of our web site and was well received.

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