Friday, July 28, 2006

Waiting to Decide

photograph by Wladyslaw Sojka, taken from Wikipedia

I'm surprised I didn't see it coming, but I certainly didn't. It fell out of the sky like a ton of bricks and now every newspaper and television news program is beating it to death.

Floyd's positive urine test.

I have to say first off that I have totally suspended judgment on this. I am waiting until the B sample comes back, and I think everyone else should too. But I can't express how disappointed I will be if it too is positive. It will break my heart.

This whole situation reminds me of my days as a high school English teacher. It happened so many times, much more frequently than I ever thought it would. I'd sit down with a stack of papers written by my class and start reading. Halfway through a 4-page essay on Macbeth, I'd stop short. The language would change dramatically, from confused, 15-year-old, "I-don't-get-this-Shakespeare-guy" kid-speak to ridiculously highfalutin, academic, professor-type words and syntax. It was so obvious. Every time, I found myself dumbstruck that the kid thought he could get away with it.

I'd type the sentence into Google, and immediately the source would pop up. Usually, it would be straight from PinkMonkey or Cliffs Notes; they didn't even plagiarize quality writing. Discovering these stolen sentences made me want to scream. It made me want to beat the kid over the head with his laptop and fail him for the rest of his high school career. But more than that, it made me want to cry. I took these instances of cheating very personally and wondered what had happened with the world to make the kid resort to such measures.

Now, as I consider this newest doping scandal, I feel exactly the same way. If it does turn out to be true, I wonder why, why it had to happen. On the one hand, I'm certainly no morally pure person. I've done a few questionable things, like we all do: told a few white lies, talked behind peoples' backs once or twice. Even in school, I've taken shortcuts here and there, read a few (OK, perhaps several) books in English that I was really supposed to read in French, etc.

But the vast majority of these dubious behaviors occurred, like they did with my English students, when I was younger, still figuring out what was right and wrong and who I am as a person. As a teacher, I had to get over the urge to pummel the plagiarists in my class. Often, when I confronted the kids, they were (or at least seemed) genuinely ashamed of their actions. I didn't believe that all of them would never cheat again (in fact, I'm sure some have and will), but I did believe that they were still young and could learn from this experience and that they weren't yet doomed to become corrupt and evil people.

In the case of a thirty-year-old cyclist in the world's biggest bike race, I'm not willing to cut him the same amount of slack. Floyd Landis is a big boy. He should know right from wrong. As I said, I'm not making judgments yet. And God knows I'm hoping with all my might that he can prove he's clean. I put my trust in him and rejoiced in every triumph he made during the Tour. But if he's dirty, then I think he should suffer every consequence there is. You only get so much time to learn how to do it right, and for kids to learn to be good people, they should see the cheaters disgraced in front of everyone.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ups and Downs

There have been a lot of those lately. Let me list a few:

1. The Tour de France. Yesterday, Floyd Landis completely blew up on La Toussuire. I mean, he might as well have gotten off his bike and pushed it the rest of the way up. Well OK, not really, but he did lose 8 minutes and fall into 11th place, giving up almost all hope for victory. But then today, out of nowhere, he opened up his suitcase of courage and blew away the entire field. Now he's 30 seconds out of first place.

2. My mom's flight. She was supposed to leave LAX this morning at 10:59 on a flight to Chicago. First that flight was delayed 4 hours. Then it was cancelled. We thought she wouldn't make it. But she got on a different flight, and now- finally- she's on her way here.

3. The weather. Tuesday was gorgeous. But today it rained so hard I nearly slipped out of my water-logged shoes walking across campus. Luckily, tomorrow's supposed to be beautiful. If my mom actually arrives, we should be in for a fabulous weekend.

4. German. It's finally over (well the class is, but there are still a few assignments to turn in) and boy did we end with a bang: a doozy of a translation test which nearly wiped me out. And during the test, my phone was blinking wildly with various messages reporting the status of the infamous flight.

So I've had about all the stress I can take. I'm sure it's nothing a nice ride out to O'Hare won't take care of. There is, however, one "up" with no corresponding "down" (at least none that I've identified so far), the publication of my latest article on the Digs website. It's a light, fluffy piece, but it was fun to write. And trust me, after reading it, you will indeed be able to throw a killer housewarming party. So don't say I never teach you nothin'.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Frying in Chi-town

It's hot.

But apparently, it's not just hot here in Chicago. It seems to have hit 115 degrees in Pierre, South Dakota, today. That makes the weather here seem practically polar.

Anyway, even though I almost died in the probably 15 minutes in total I have spent outside of any air-conditioned indoor space, many people have chosen to live their lives as if everything were completely normal. The Gay Games continue at locations throughout Chicagoland. The Cubs are playing. People are throwing cow chips. If you were viewing all this activity from the comfort of your living room, you almost wouldn't realize the heat was so oppressive... until you tried to walk outside and slammed into the giant wall o' humidity. I'm sorry, but if I can't even stand outside for less than 5 minutes without completely pitting out my tee-shirt, then there's no reason I should be compelled to ever leave the climate-controlled cocoon in which I have ensconced myself. It's just not worth it.

Meanwhile, let's all say a little prayer for my digital camera, which went M.I.A. last weekend and for which I have given up all hope. He was a loyal friend, except for the pesky red-eye he inflicted on everyone, and I like to think he's gone to a better place. Needless to say, my blog will be sorely lacking in photographic displays until a new camera can be procured. If you'd like to speed this process along, I am happy to accept any and all donations toward the purchase of this new Canon PowerShot SD450. Think about how much you will benefit from this donation and all the beautiful pictures you will soon enjoy. Operators are standing by...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tracking the Yellow Jersey

I may have failed to catch World Cup fever, but I definitely seem to have become addicted to the Tour de France. Maybe its because I got to watch it live and in person last year or maybe its just because I am so in awe of the athleticism these guys display, but I have found myself spending 3 or 4 hours in front of OLN everyday since the Tour started.

This year's doping controversy essentially catapaulted the 3 main favorites right out of the race the day before it started. I think some people believe its not even worth paying attention to some ridiculous French bike race, especially now that Lance isn't even there to further the American dominance. What those people don't realize is that there are several Americans (George Hincapie, Floyd Landis) who now have a good shot at winning. And if its excitement you're after, you should know that there can be as much carnage in any given stage of the Tour than there is in a Nascar race or NHL game.

Part of me wishes I were back in France to see the Tour again live, but most of me is glad to be here in the States with my OLN. Without those cameramen hanging off the back of Vespas and the overhead helicopters, it would be impossible to see as much of the action. Plus, spending hours planted in front of the TV is America's greatest endurance sport.