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Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: Word on the Street

I checked out Word on the Street and the first few chapters rehashed material that were already covered in his previous books, about language change, though in greater detail, especially the part about Shakespeare's language vs modern English. It's very clear that McWhorter is passionate about that topic and it's great.

Then the second half of the book covered Black English in far greater detail than I'd seen in any of his other books. A key point that he makes is that Black English doesn't have African roots, but instead came from the language of the indentured servants and other poor white immigrants from parts of the UK: Irish, Scottish, etc. It's a very compelling argument and very well done.

At the end of the book I realized that it was written during the Ebonics debate. Apparently, during that era, McWhorter was the  only Black linguistics expert willing to come right out and say that you shouldn't teach Black English in schools. His reasoning is that in every country such as Germany, Switzerland and Finland, kids come into the schoolroom speaking a local dialect that's as far apart from say, High German, as Black English vs Standard English. The school room, however, provides the immersion and standard English or High German training that's needed to succeed in society. Therefore, anything that reduces immersion time in standard English is necessarily a loss for the kids coming into the school room. He proposes instead, that the teachers are given training in Black English so that they understand that kids in lower grades who speak Black English are not speaking in a degraded form of English, but rather in an English dialect. Again, a very strong argument.

In any case, I wish I'd had this book around to read back when the Ebonics debate was going on, but better late than never. Recommended.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Review: RockBros MTB pedals

I've been teaching my kids to mountain bike, and unfortunately that involves a lot more hiking and pushing than riding.
On any given ride with the kids, my walk to ride ratio might be as high as 3:1 (push 1st kid up, walk back, push 2nd kid up, walk back, now pick up my bike and ride). SPD shoes aren't really any good for that much walking, so I decided to switch to the Rock Bros platform pedals for riding with the kids.

With a dab of grease, the pedals went in as easily as any other pedals I've ever used, which is good --- cheap they might be but at least the threads are precision cut. The riding on them are much worse than SPD shoes with SPD pedals, but much better than running shoes on SPDs, though not by as much as I'd hoped. The pedals come with gripper screws on them to provide some grip, but in reality, for someone used to spinning, these pedals are worthless for anything other than mashing down on. And when it comes to bunny hop, I can hop even less on these than I can on SPDs, which says a lot!

They're fine for what I'm doing, but I'm afraid that anything technical and I'm going to wish I had SPDs. Grant swears up and down that they don't affect efficiency, but I beg to differ. I certainly wouldn't want these for road riding.

But they're brightly colored and very visible. Can't complain, especially for the price. If you're looking for platform pedals, get these.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: Yowamushi Pedal Vols 8-12

There's a saying that all bike racers take the same amount of time to tell the same story, whether their race is a 3 week stage race or a 3 minute pursuit on the track. Given that Wataru Watanabe is taking in excess of 8 volumes to tell the story of a 3 day stage race, I'd say he should have taken on a 21 day race instead, as there's an excessive amount of padding in volumes 8-12 of Yowamushi Pedal.

Some of it is the nature of anthology comic books: each week these weekly anthologies devote only a small number of pages to each story (as little as 10-15 pages). As a result, the artist spends a couple of pages providing a synopsis of the story to remind the reader who just started reading or who might have missed a couple of issues.

Even so, by the end of volume 12 we still haven't gotten to the end of the stage race. As with the previous volumes, there's very little racing strategy. The protagonists and antagonists frequently ride side by side like idiots. Sure, these are teen bicycle racers but all it takes is one smart team to take advantage by drafting another team and the game ought to be over.

The best part of these books is that every so often the author/artist would take 4 pages out to describe a mountain bike race, or the various courses in Japan that the cyclists in the comics ride up, or even the bike parks that can be found in Japan. That makes the volumes not a total waste of time but is hardly sufficient to redeem the comics in the eyes of this cycling enthusiast.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid19 Cycling

We have a "shelter in place" order here in the Bay Area, which means that you should stay at home and only depart your home for essential trips such as groceries, medicine, with one explicit carve out for exercise, whether it's cycling, hiking, or running. (I'm sure skateboarding, rollerblading, and scootering for fun are OK as well) All gyms are closed, as well as swimming pools.

Taking my kids out on the triplet, I've seen a lot of people who have obviously only been cycling in the gym: they might have shiny new bikes, but they're weaving all over the road, and many have no experience in hilly terrain (which is the best riding in the Bay Area). This is the worst possible time to have a cycling crash, as the ERs are overloaded and visiting the hospital might expose you to the disease.

I can't do much about COVID19 as an individual, but since Independent Cycle Touring contains a lot of instructions for someone who has to fix their own bike and discusses how to avoid crashes, and I'm guessing no one's about to plan a tour right now anyway, I can give it away just in case it helps someone.

You can get your free copy by clicking on this link and using COVID19 as a coupon code to checkout. The code will expire April 5th.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Review: How will you measure your life?

I picked up How Will You Measure Your Life expecting the usual business school professor memoir of self-congratulation and lots of business anecdotes. I was surprised to discover that it was a parenting book! Yes, there are business anecdotes and semi-case studies, but the majority of the book is about prioritization, namely how not to neglect the long term important stuff even though it's the short term stuff that provides positive feedback and reinforcement. For instance, I've definitely got friends who fit into this description:
For those of my classmates who inadvertently invested in lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help but believe that their troubles stemmed from incorrectly allocating resources. To a person, they were well-intended; they wanted to provide for their families and offer their children the best possible opportunities in life. But they somehow spent their resources on paths and byways that dead-ended in places that they had not imagined. They prioritized things that gave them immediate returns—such as a promotion, a raise, or a bonus—rather than the things that require long-term work, the things that you won’t see a return on for decades, like raising good children. And when those immediate returns were delivered, they used them to finance a high-flying lifestyle for themselves and their families: better cars, better houses, and better vacations. The problem is, lifestyle demands can quickly lock in place the personal resource allocation process. “I can’t devote less time to my job because I won’t get that promotion—and I need that promotion …” (Kindle Loc 880)
 And of course, I'm always surprised by the number of people who like to outsource important parenting functions:
One of the most common versions of this mistake that high-potential young professionals make is believing that investments in life can be sequenced. The logic is, for example, “I can invest in my career during the early years when our children are small and parenting isn’t as critical. When our children are a bit older and begin to be interested in things that adults are interested in, then I can lift my foot off my career accelerator. That’s when I’ll focus on my family.” Guess what. By that time the game is already over. An investment in a child needs to have been made long before then, to provide him with the tools he needs to survive life’s challenges—even earlier than you might realize. (Kindle loc 1101)
 There's wonderful insight even into why what we do never seem to satisfy our spouses:
We project what we want and assume that it’s also what our spouse wants. Scott probably wished he had helping hands to get through his tough day at work, so that’s what he offered Barbara when he got home. It’s so easy to mean well but get it wrong. A husband may be convinced that he is the selfless one, and also convinced that his wife is being self-centered because she doesn’t even notice everything he is giving her—and vice versa. This is exactly the interaction between the customers and the marketers of so many companies, too. Yes, we can do all kinds of things for our spouse, but if we are not focused on the jobs she most needs doing, we will reap frustration and confusion in our search for happiness in that relationship. (Kindle loc 1364)
 Much of the book's notes go from child development to self-esteem development, and discusses how certain business case studies (such as Dell outsourcing production of components and eventually the whole machine to Asus until Dell could no longer compete) apply to the raising of children.
in outsourcing much of the work that formerly filled our homes, we have created a void in our children’s lives that often gets filled with activities in which we are not involved. And as a result, when our children are ready to learn, it is often people whom we do not know or respect who are going to be there...if your children gain their priorities and values from other people … whose children are they? Yes, they are still your children—but you see what I’m getting at. The risk is not that every moment spent with another adult will be indelibly transferring inferior values. Nor is this about making the argument that you need to protect your children from the “big bad world”—that you must spend every waking moment with them. You shouldn’t. Balance is important, and there are valuable lessons your children will gain from facing the challenges that life will throw at them on their own. Rather, the point is that even if you’re doing it with the best of intentions, if you find yourself heading down a path of outsourcing more and more of your role as a parent, you will lose more and more of the precious opportunities to help your kids develop their values—which may be the most important capability of all. (Kindle Loc 1646-1654)
 The book encourages you to let your children fail and suffer the consequences early, rather than setting them up to become fragile successful kids by overcompensating for them:
The braver decision for parents may be to give that child a more difficult, but also more valuable, course in life. Allow the child to see the consequences of neglecting an important assignment. Either he will have to stay up late on his own to pull it off, or he will see what happens when he fails to complete it. And yes, that child might get a bad grade. That might be even more painful for the parent to witness than the child. But that child will likely not feel good about what he allowed to happen, which is the first lesson in the course on taking responsibility for yourself...Our default instincts are so often just to support our children in a difficult moment. But if our children don’t face difficult challenges, and sometimes fail along the way, they will not build the resilience they will need throughout their lives. People who hit their first significant career roadblock after years of nonstop achievement often fall apart. (Kindle loc 1855)
There's even a great section about hiring executives, describing a common mistake among startups, which is to hire managers who've successfully run big company organizations with lots of support, rather than hiring managers who've built organizations handson from a small base, even if the resulting organization wasn't as large as the more conventional manager.

I enjoyed the book, highlighting section after section, and thinking about the strong parenting advice in this book. Recommended.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: The Silver Linings Playbook

I'm not a football fan, nor am I a big fan of modern dance, so it was only through an Amazon promotion that I got a copy of the audio version of The Silver Linings Playbook. Even so, I put off listening to it until I ran out of non-fiction, having had the impression from previous forays into novels via audible that they were boring and couldn't hold my attention.

What Ray Porter (the voice actor reading the novel) proved is that I was completely, utterly wrong. Not only is Ray Porter a great voice, but he actually acted out every voice in the novel differently (including separating the narrator's inner voice from his speaking voice), and presented the entire novel so well that I was sucked into listening to the novel start to finish despite my not being in the ideal audience for the book.

The story revolves around Patrick Peoples, who's just came out of a mental institution and is recovering from a traumatic, undescribed incident in the past. His wife has divorced him, but while he was in the institution he decided that it was because he was an unworthy husband, and has devoted himself to self-improvement, lifting weights, running, and reading the literary novels his ex-wife loved, having been an English teacher.

Moving back in with his parents at the age of 35, he has to negotiate the difficult relationship between his mother and father, catch up with his brother, and catch up with the world, which has changed significantly (to him) in the memory gaps he had while he was in "the bad place." He discovers that his brother got married, that he likes children, and his friends introduce him to a woman, Tiffany, who mysteriously starts running with him in the mornings.

When Tiffany tells him that she can liason with his ex-wife, he jumps at the opportunity, even agreeing to join Tiffany in a modern dance competition in an effort to win, and forgo watching or even talking about Eagles football games. The book then shifts into high gear and has a made-for-Hollywood ending.

The book provides a lot of background and culture about the nature of being a Football fan, and the lengths to which people would go to cheer their team on. It's a piece of American culture I haven't ever gotten into and providing an understanding of how it works is interesting (though hardly essential). What does come through, however, is how much humans (mentally stable or not) are capable of (and willing to) deluding themselves as to the nature of reality, and of course, for me, how important it is that the narrator/reader of an audible book can sustain the story. I came into this audio book skeptical that I could enjoy an audio novel, but came away impressed. That's makes it recommended by any standard.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Review: Ages of Discord

Ages of Discord is an unusual history book. If you grew up reading Asimov's Foundation series, you would have come across an interesting idea, Psychohistory, which is that with large enough numbers, you could predict the future by examining the large scale interaction of people, applying equations, and then you could affect the future by planning exactly around that.

Ages of Discord is precisely that book, except Peter Turchin doesn't seem to have read Foundation, and so chooses to call his study of history Cliodynamics instead. Regardless of what it's called, does Turchin's version work? Effectively, what Turchin does is to create a simplified model of society, dividing society into the haves and havenots (the elite, and the worker population are the terms he uses). He postulates that relative wages fall as the worker population increases, but because the have-nots have no political power, what creates social turmoil is when the relative wages fall for the elites as the number of people striving for joining the elite reduces the possibility that any given elite-educated person can actually join the elite. Because capitalism has essentially winner-take-all outcomes, you get situations where the elites fight over the scraps and that creates ages of discord.
After considering and dismissing several alternative explanations, they come to the conclusion that immigration results in a larger proportion of population who are both poor and cannot vote. This facilitates the move to the right and away from redistributive policies, which then causes income inequality to rise... My explanation of the observed association is based on the Structural-Demographic Theory: (1) labor oversupply (proxied by immigration) leads to (2) elite overproduction (proxied by wealth inequality) and heightened intraelite competition that, in turn, results in (3) elite fragmentation (proxied by political polarization).(pg. 94)

The mathematical models Turchin uses are straightforward, and with it he produces graphs and charts, including ways of measuring general population welfare indirectly that might surprise you:
average heights for native-born Americans, separately for men and women and for whites and blacks. Prior to 1970, despite some divergence among different segments of the population, the overall pattern was vigorous advance, resulting in gains of about 5cm across the board. After 1970, however, this vigorous growth regime was transformed into one of stagnation and even decline. The timing of the break point is somewhat difficult to determine, because adult height can be affected by environmental conditions at any point during the first two decades of life. I follow the practice established in Chapter 3 and plot data not by the year of birth, but by the year when individuals reached age 10, the midpoint of the growth period. Using this convention we see that the overall average (averaging over both gender and race, while weighting by the number of observations in each category) peaks during the early 1970s (Figure 11.1b). Comparing the dynamics of this index to real wages we observe that ups and downs in the average height tend to precede the ups and downs in the real wage by another 5–10 years (in addition to the shift of 10 years, resulting from plotting the heights data by the data of age = 10y). In other words, when the average population height is plotted not by the date of birth, but by the date of reaching the age of 15–20 years, there is a large degree of parallelism between the fluctuations of the real wage and average stature. A possible explanation is that the level of wages experienced by the parent generation has a most direct effect on the biological wellbeing of their children when they are going through their adolescent growth spurt. If this explanation is correct, then we expect that average stature will again decline as a result of decreasing real wages after 2003 and especially following the Great Recession. FIGURE 11.1 Changes in average height, 1925–1995. (a) Average heights of white and black men (left scale), and white and black women (right scale). Data source: (Komlos 2010). Data are plotted by year of reaching age 10. (b) A weighted mean (averaging over gender and race) plotted together with real wages for unskilled labor. Average height is plotted by the year of birth (top scale) which is shifted by 15 years with respect to the calendar year (bottom scale). (pg. 201)
 When you read the book, you can start to see why immigration is such a hot-button topic:
There are several reasons why labor supply grew faster than overall population growth, of which two appear to be most important. One big factor is immigration. In 2011 the total American work force was 153 million, of which 24.4 million workers were foreign-born (this number includes both legal and illegal immigrants). The proportion of foreign-born in the labor force is currently around 16 percent (compared with five percent 40 years ago). The second factor was the increasing number of women working. In the 1970s only 40 percent of women were in the labor force; today this proportion is close to 60 percent. If the labor participation rate of native women (so that we don’t double-count foreign-born women in the labor force) stayed at its 1970s level, today there would be 20 million fewer workers—an effect of nearly the same magnitude as that of immigration. (pg. 225)
 So what does Turchin predict with all his fancy models? There I'm afraid the book falls short. He ends the book simplying saying that what his graphs predict is that the 2020s will be an extremely turbulent decade, and saying that given what we know about the inputs to the model, we might be able to do something about it. That's pretty lame-duck dodging the question stuff. What would be actionable would be if he applied the same models to other societies to see whether the same Cliodynamics apply, so that if you wanted to you could at least consider an escape plan to a society that's not about to have civil-war levels of death and destruction.

Nonetheless, the book has interesting models, lots of interesting data, and has ideas worth considering, even if it doesn't provide anything actionable. It's dense reading, but recommended.

Monday, March 16, 2020

HRm Comparison, Garmin Fenix 5X vs Polar OH1

Arturo and I have long suspected that the Garmin line of watches have HR  readings that are science fiction, at least for the two of us. But during Boen's first ride up OLH, I finally got proof, since I wore both the watch and the OH1+ at the same time for the first hour or so. You can see that the Garmin never showed a HR above 150, while the OH1+ worn under a sleeve on my upper arm showed consistent HR above 170! (And since I was riding the triplet, my perceived effort matched the OH1 much more than the Garmin!)

This shouldn't be surprising. The OH1+ won the DCRainmaker shootout. I guess I should start wearing it more often! This is by no means a slight on the Fenix 5X, which is still by far my favorite daily wear device. The Fenix 5X is a big heavy watch and there's no way you can expect it to perform well given what we do.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review: Elysium Fire

Elysium Fire is the latest Aliastair Reynolds novel.  Set in the revelation space universe, it's effectively a police procedural set in a constellation of habitats in space, tied together by neural implants that allow citizens to easily vote multiple times a day.

I'd read The Prefect back in 2009, and enjoyed it thoroughly, but didn't reread that previous novel before reading this one, and it's just as good as the prior novel, with fully realized characters, high tension, and a fully earned ending. It's a return to form, something I've longed for since re-reading House of Suns back in 2017. If there was any justice in the universe one of the wealthy on-line streaming companies that are funding TV shows would pick this one up (or The Perfect) and give us beautiful visuals that work with the story.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Review: The Four

The Four is the equivalent of getting your grizzled war veteran drunk, and then listening to him pontificate wildly about the state of the world. It's surprisingly entertaining and irreverent, but as with the above-mentioned drunk veteran, you will naturally take everything said with a giant sack of salt.

There are few better examples of what Pope Francis refers to as an unhealthy “idolatry of money” than our obsession with Steve Jobs. It is conventional wisdom that Steve Jobs put “a dent in the universe.” No, he didn’t. Steve Jobs, in my view, spat on the universe. People who get up every morning, get their kids dressed, get them to school, and have an irrational passion for their kids’ well-being, dent the universe. The world needs more homes with engaged parents, not a better fucking phone. (Kindle loc 1144)
 Everyone in the room speaks the same language (literally and figuratively), wears Herm├Ęs, Cartier, or Rolex, has kids at Ivy League schools, and vacations in a coastal town of Italy or France or St. Barts. Fill a room with middle-class people from around the world, and you have diversity. They eat different food, wear different clothes, and can’t understand each other’s languages. It’s anthropology on parade. The global elite, by contrast, is a rainbow of the same damn color. (Kindle loc 1210)
 A key component would be flipping the business model in education, eliminating tuition, and charging recruiters, as students are broke, and the firms recruiting them are flush. Harvard could foster the same disruption if they take their $37B endowment, cancel tuition, and quintuple the size of their class—they can afford to do this. However, they suffer from the same sickness all of us academics are infected with: the pursuit of prestige over social good. We at NYU brag how it’s become near impossible to gain admission to our school. This, in my view, is like a homeless shelter taking pride in how many people it turns away. (Kindle loc 1379)
Sprinkled around all this pontificating are pieces of advice, usually aimed at the  business school students he teaches:
Within your organization, figure out what the company is good at—its core functions—and if you want to excel there, have a bias toward one of those categories. Google is all about engineers: the salesmen don’t do as well (though it’s still a great place to work). Consumer packaged goods companies are brand managers: engineers rarely make it to the C-suite. If you’re in the discipline that drives the company, what it excels at, you will be working with the best people on the most challenging projects, and are more likely to be noticed by senior management. (Kindle loc 3509)
I enjoyed the book and the pontificating, but needed a palette cleanser afterwards. Mildly recommended.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Review: Yowamushi Pedal Vol 5-7

Starting from Vol 5, Yowamushi pedal jumped the shark, by introducing what I feared all along, the exposition and star treatment of "secret ninja skills" trotted out by competing cyclists, including one competitor who names his muscles, Frank and Andy (yes, it's funny).

The thing about cycling is that the history of cycling is replete with legends that could use illustration in manga or comic book form, like that of Eugene Christophe or even the stars of the past like Eddy Merckx. The fictional stuff in Yowamushi pedal can't even compare.

What makes it worse is that none of the team tactics deployed in real cycling races show up in the comic, including strategic placing of someone in a breakaway to try to break up the rhythm of a lead group, or even working together as a team to tire out an opposing cyclist.

I'm dejected enough to take a break from the series for a while after the promising earlier start. Not recommended.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Review: Ghost Rider (audio book)

I'll admit to never having listened to Rush before auditing  Ghost Rider, which was released for free by Amazon to commemorate Neil Peart's death. The book opens with Neil Peart telling you about how in the space of a year, he lost his 19-year-old-daughter Selena to a single-vehicle car crash, followed by his wife dying of cancer. That is the kind of loss you would never wish upon anyone, and of course, he does what any man would do in that situation, which is to go on a bike tour.

Well, he doesn't ride a bicycle (but he apparently used to, prior to his wife buying him a motorocycle), but a BMW touring motorcycle, and he heads off North from his home in Toronto up to Alaska, takes the ferry down to Vancouver, and then meanders and weaves all over North America, down to Mexico and back again, to Nova Scotia, and then somehow back in LA.

The journey is composed of narration, interspersed with letters to a motorcycling partner who's ended up in Jail. I normally think of rock musicians as being non-intellectuals, but unlike the stereotype of the drummer found in say, Spinal Tap, Peart was also the lyricist of the band. He reads extensively all through his journey, Jack London, Edward Abbey, all the desert and mountain classics. He's also ridden through much territory that I've explored, Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Sonoma, Sonora pass. Obviously on a motorcycle things go by much faster --- 600 miles a day wasn't uncommon for him, but he never seems to find solace except when being on the move, whether on the bike, or hiking, or visiting friends.

There's a certain romanticism in the book, and poetry, where he discusses caring for his little baby soul, a symbol of his rebirth after his loss. His personality traits he splits amongst a community of minds: the eponymous Ghost Rider, who's only happy while touring, a 14 year old girl, James Ellwood, his wanna be rock star and womanizer, and James Elwood Taylor, who would like nothing better than to write a story about his travels. All in all, I enjoyed the travelogue and his letters.

Both Pengtoh and Arturo have commented on my trips that I never seem impressed by people riding (or driving) motor vehicles. This book didn't change my mind: sure, there's adventure in having to siphon out all the fuel in your tank after someone mistakenly puts diesel in it, or having to get help righting your bike after it's been dropped (those motorcycles are too heavy for a single person to lift). But I certainly don't consider those problems on the same order of magnitude as those faced by a bicycle tourist on a long distance trip (and now that I've done it, the challenges faced by a family with young children on even a short bicycle trip).

Nevertheless, as something to listen to on a commute or to revisit places you've long forgotten about, it's not a waste of time. Lightly recommended.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Review: Yowamushi Pedal (Vol 1-4)

Unlike American comics, which are dominated by the superhero genre, Japanese comics have a wide subject matter (yes, there's even a comic-book about the board game Go). So I wasn't too surprised when my brother told me that there's a comic book called Yowamushi Pedal about road bike racing. It's even been made into a TV-show!

Ok, I'm a cycling enthusiast and have even read several books about bicycle road racing, but paying $13 a volume for cycling books is a bit much. Fortunately, the local library has the entire collection, and nobody ever checks it out, so I just dropped by one evening and grabbed the first 4 volumes.

It's not clear to me who the audience for the comic is. On the one hand, if you're already a cyclist enthusiast, you might not need the introductory-level style of a comic book. But if you're not one, why would you pick up a cycling comic book? I guess in Japan you might, just out of curiosity.

The story starts off very cute, Evelyn Stevens style. Sakamichi Onoda has long been making the 90km roundtrip to Akhihabara on a heavy commuter bike so he could spend more of his allowance on capsule anime toys. Upon entering high school, the local cycling champ watches him climb the steep grade to the campus while singing, and challenges him to a race. The local cute-girl bike shop mechanic helps him out by setting his seat height properly and cheering him on, and he discovers that his weekly commute has made him pretty strong. From then on, he joins the cycling team (supported by the love interest bike mechanic) and learns about serious cycling.

It's corny, and it features situations that would never happen (no, you can't just slap a front deraileur on a single-speed commuter bike to turn it into a 2-speed), but you have to approach the series with the wide-eyed sense of wonder that a little kid would have. Imagine what it was like the first time you had a bike with gears, or saw that people would wear special shoes to ride a bike. That's how you have to approach the series.

The plots are simple, and the characters stereotypical, but the author/artist clearly loves bikes (the books are broken up by little segments introducing a Japanese pro bike racer, or teaching you how to pack a bike to bring on a plan, all illustrated better than most cycling books). What really brought me over is the sense of joy he manages to convey on the page:
There's a sense that it's not just a sport. (There's no cycle touring in the books so far, more's the pity)

The bad parts of the book: well, for one, it's entirely about an all-male high school bike racing team, with all that entails. I don't know if this book would make any girls excited about cycling. The training regiment the team sets for its freshmen contradict any modern theories about how to properly train and rest, and the characters are just that bit over the top. The books are easy reading, and the art style while verbose (the author will happily take 20 pages to depict 10 critical seconds where somehow the characters manage to have back-and-forth dialogs that would take you a few minutes to talk through at normal speed), is not bad. I'll probably go back to the library and pick up the rest of the series.