Archive for June, 2008

What’s wrong with WV?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2008 by shundaroni

During my 14 year stay in West Virginia, I have always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I won’t pretend to be unbiased. My first impressions of this state were not positive. The people were unfriendly…absolute assholes in comparison to the warm folk of Central Kentucky. The landcape was a claustrophobic’s nightmare, with the majority of the population living in some narrow valley between overbearing, tree-covered mountains. I was not pleased. I missed the Bluegrass State from day one.

With time, my attitude matured and I was able to see past my initial disappointment. I made wonderful friends that I will keep for a lifetime. I discovered some of the most beautiful geography in the world. I was introduced to people and ideas that would forever shape my outlook. Without question, I’m hardly ungrateful. I owe much to this state.

Sadly, however, some of my first impressions were not simply the result of a bad predisposition. In that 14 years, many of them were validated time and again.

First and foremost, the population in general is sour and unfriendly toward outsiders. Once you’ve established a position within their social circle, they often open up. However, until that happens you are viewed with a certain suspicious contempt. I’ve contemplated the cause of this for many years. For a long time I just thought the people were ignorant dicks, not worth understanding. Why bother assigning any relevance to them, I thought. They’re just West “by God” Virginians, after all…half the U.S. doesn’t realize WV is a proper state abbreviation. But that mentality is what helps prevent this state from growing. I didn’t want to be part of the problem, so I decided to really dig for answers.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the poor attitude of this state can be attributed to years of exploitation by outside forces. There is absolutely no trust for those who would come in to the state to make money. Bad memories of the coal companies? Possibly. Anger toward those who parody and mock the citizens? Certainly. It’s no secret that WV has plenty of reason to be reluctant.

In order to grow, however, the citizenry is going to have to come to terms with the past, get over it, and plan for a future as an integrated element of the national economy. The common attitude needs to shift from, “If you don’t like it, get out,” to “If you don’t like it, help us fix it.” Until that happens, WV will remain at the bottom of the barrel (as almost every poll on education and economy has proven for decades).

Secondly, the political leaders need to make a concerted effort to share the beauty of this state with the world. Instead of adopting corny slogans (“Open for business”…wow) they need to be implementing a statewide beautification program and a national (or at least regional) marketing campaign. The two largest cities in the state, Huntington and Charleston, look like dumps. Both are being overrun by drugs and condemned buildings. Huntington is finally trying to remedy the problem with more strict Emminent Domain enforcement, but the program is only in it’s larval stage. Much still needs to be done.

The gateway to any state is going to be it’s largest cities. If these aren’t maintained to impress, who is going to bother searching the area for a reason to stick around? Most successful states have their iconic cities. Look at the Carolinas (Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Charleston, the Outer Banks). Look at Kentucky (Lexington, Louisville). Look at Ohio (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati). All of these cities and towns are certainly more appealing than Huntington or Charleston. There’s no reason for that.

West Virginia has some of the most gorgeous hidden treasures you’ll ever find. But without some incentive to visit in the first place, it’s not likely anyone will ever really see them.

I challenge all citizens of West Virginia, especially those who love this state, to become an active part of the solution. Stop with the stubbornness. When someone criticizes something, ask them how they propose we fix it. Don’t resort to that ignorant indignation that has become stereotypical. Telling people to get out is not constructive, and it will only ensure that people do, indeed, leave…and with plenty of terrible stories to share with anyone else who might have considered visiting. You may think this state will sustain without any help from outsiders, but the fact is this state is drowning in it’s own isolationism. How does it feel to be ranked dead last in college educated adults? Hardly a point of pride, I think.

Please don’t misinterpret this as the advice of some self-righteous do-gooder on some naive mission to save anyone. At the end of the day, what happens in WV is WV’s problem. I won’t be around much.


The first ride: blazing a trail…of humility.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2008 by shundaroni

During my pre-purchase research of road-biking, I found an outrageous amount of advice for the new biker. There were forums full of experience, with great folks willing to help the neophyte find the right bike for him/herself. There were websites with seemingly unlimited reviews of componentry. There is even a wonderful personal site dedicated to every technical aspect of any bicycle you can imagine.

But something was missing, and I didn’t realize it until I had finished my first on-road attempt today.

No one really prepares you for that first ride.

No one tells you how awkward you will feel when you take off.

No one tells you that “responsive” is a gross understatement of the handling on a true road bike.

Most importantly, no one tells you that it’s acceptable to look to like an idiot.

I had to learn all of this on my own. It wasn’t pleasant, suffice it to say, but I’m always looking for that silver lining. Why not turn my misery into something constructive? So I present you with the following bits of sage wisdom–read them ALL as I present them in no particular order…

1. If you have toe-clips, remove the straps. They get in the way, and make it even more awkward to rotate the pedal upright while moving.

2. If you have clipless pedals, forget clipping in the first time. Ride like you did on your first Huffy: foot on top and able to be moved without much forethought.

3. Though it may seem like common sense, avoid starting out going uphill. You may think you’ve got it under control, but don’t overestimate yourself at this stage. There will be plenty of time for showboating later.

4. A true roadbike (lightweight construction) will respond to your every twitch. The slightest shift in your center of gravity will impact your trajectory. Keeping this in mind, avoid populated roadways. Your brain may be screaming, “GO RIGHT,” but your posture may be facilitating precisely the opposite.

5. Learn how your shifters and brakes work BEFORE you take to the road. It’s very hazardous to experiment with the fundamentals when you need to be able to think on your feet (or wheels, as it were). Simply suspend your rear wheel off the ground and use one hand to pedal while the other runs through the gears.

6. Pay attention to your comfort. This is a good time to determine whether everything is set up properly for you. When I picked up my bike from the dealer, it felt perfect. During my first ride, I discovered plenty of room for improvement and I promptly adjusted the necessary components when I got home.

7. Don’t go too far. I’m speaking in the literal, not figurative, sense. While this should be perfectly obvious, you aren’t likely in nearly the physical condition you think. Biking is NOT as easy as it was when you were a kid. Stay within a mile of your house. Nothing sucks worse than a long walk. I managed to minimize my walk-time to about 50 meters out of a one mile ride.

8. Falling is a part of riding. I learned it when I first started motorcycling, and I learned it again when I got back on a bicycle. It happens (especially with toe clips and clipless pedals). Don’t worry about looking like a doofus. It’s the price you pay for learning an awesome sport.

9. Those brakes are touchy as hell, but not nearly as powerful as you might expect. They respond quickly and could easily toss you to the pavement, but they aren’t particulary effective for sudden emergency stops for a beginner. Unless you want to get the first fall out of the way on your own terms, avoid misapplication of the brakes.

10. Don’t forget the damn helmet.

More importantly than anything, don’t get discouraged. It’s not easy, it’s not like you remember it, and it’s totally fine to look like a rank amateur for a while re-learning.

Enjoy the ride and set goals for improvement. You’ve just started something that will swiftly burrow into your soul…prepare for the addiction.


Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2008 by shundaroni

How many blogs is one person entitled to create? I’m almost certain it’s always going to be one less than I have.

I’m no stranger to web journaling, suffice it to say. I’ve dabbled in all forms of bloggering short of an honest to goodness window in to my personal life. Shall we take a walk down memory lane?

– The “Best Buy” blog was a masterpiece, if I must say so. In true Picasso form, however, it didn’t have a single fan until it had been long dead. Then it took off…and I’d already been fired. Shucks.

– I had several passive-agressive outlets. Someone piss me off? If face-to-face confrontation wasn’t on the menu, I spewed a bit of net-venom and waited for the pursuant drama. Luckily, I grew up.

– Then we had several one-post wonders. I think I started one about photography, and law school, and my job at the bank. Honestly, I don’t recall them all. They passed by with little more than a death rattle.

Really, when one considers my history, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for this little upstart. I’m not in to false hope, personally…so let me be blunt: if this lasts, it will be miraculous. I’ll give it a shot, but I won’t make promises.

With that lengthy disclaimer (a trademark of mine) out of the way, lets get to the introductory rundown.

The basics:

My name is Tanner James.

I’m a spry 24 years of age at the time of this writing.

I’m a soon-to-be law student at the University of Kentucky.

I’m passionate about a variety of things, and that list evolves routinely. More on this later.

I have a lovely girlfriend.

We have a pain-in-the-ass dog. But I love her. Some.

In five years I plan to be doing something that I love. It doesn’t get much more intricate than that.

Still curious about my passions? That’s a sensitive subject because it’s literally ever-changing. As most children of the 80’s, I probably have some brand of Attention Deficit or Hyperactive disorder. I never took medication for it, but I always managed it well. How? Diverse interests.

As a child, my biggest problem was starting things and not finishing them. I had a short-lived baseball career, a shorter-lived football career, and a hilariously-short-lived Tai Kwon Do stint. I tried painting lessons, skateboarding, rollerblading, ice skating, track and field, tennis, ping pong (still love it), etc etc ad nauseum. I never really found my niche.

It wasn’t until I grew up a bit that I realized that this wasn’t all bad. I didn’t have a severe case of poor discipline, I just needed a bit of inspiration to remain interested in a given activity. I eventually found several niches. Photography, graphic design, writing, personal fitness, and (most recently) bicycling, among others, have become my personal passions. There will be additions and evolutions, but I’ve gained a much better understanding of myself in the past 5-6 years and expect to hang on to many of these for the remainder of my life.

This blog will serve as my personal expression of those passions. I will try to follow my life as closely as possible both for myself and for anyone close to me who wishes to get a better peak at the inner workings. Don’t expect to be blown away with profound insights. This is going to be pretty simple. But I think it’s time to join the rest of the self-important internet authors and talk about myself a little.