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As blasted in this blog many times, most recently in Widgetman, humans almost always have their priorities far out of whack.  With EE for example, facility owners should probably establish marshal law to ensure lights are shut off overnight in their office buildings before they start adding photovoltaic panels.  But then, I guess, to the casual observer (schlep) one can see how green the building is during the day, but at night when the building is lit like the headlamp of an oncoming train when no one is there, the wonderful PV panels cannot be seen and nobody pays attention or cares that the lights are burning bright to keep the cockroaches in their holes.

The human desire for widgets over self improvement, learning, hard work, and results for the greatest achievement in whatever the pursuit may be is universal.  A perfect illustration for this is the triathlon.  I’m not a triathlete for several reasons, the first of which I wouldn’t make it out of the water, the most dangerous part of the tri, alive.  Maybe I could do something substantial like an Olympic distance or half ironman with gobs and gobs and gobs of time swimming.

The other barrier to tris, to me, is they require gobs of crap, but a barrier to me may be a reason to do them for others because people like crap (widgets).  For the swim, a wetsuit is a great idea because hypothermia in the water can result in death.  They also add buoyancy, which I would desperately need.

After the swim – the bike and run is where people get widgetitis.  Let’s start with the bicycle.  I would guess at least half the bikes in a half-iron are the Cervelos or equivalent Trek, this, that or the other.  These are the Formula 1 race cars for the cycling universe.  Some cost north of $6,000 easily, and they are pretty much only used for racing because they are stiff and uncomfortable to ride (I am told).  But, they are extremely light and aerodynamic – the frame, the wheels, the frame and the wheels together, and the handlebars.  If you own one of these and don’t shave your chops and legs, you’re wasting money.

Then there are the aero helmets for another $150, which is ridiculous because it must cost as much to design and manufacture a toilet plunger as it does for one of these things.

As I watch some people mounting and donning this stuff for their 56 mile ride I’m thinking, “Why don’t you lose that 20 pound sand bag of a spare tire, and then pay $5000 to shave 6 ounces off the bike and get the aerodynamics that will save you 30 seconds on a 56 mile ride?”  In combination, these bikers are like a Formula 1 race car with an 18 horsepower Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine.

Moving onto the run, which I actually can do, we have additional widgets of the day.  Some of the Formula 1 drivers may use a beverage belt thingy with eight or ten little bottles of sport and energy drinks of some sort.  They each probably contain 100 calories and a bunch of expensive mineral crap they don’t need.  They remind me of my little green army guys when I was a kid, but rather than having a belt full of grenades, it’s a belt full of little flasks.  There are probably 10 water/Gatorade stops on the course, so what’s the point in carrying this cargo?

Then there are compression thingies for the calves and arms.  What are these for?  They’re like the spoiler on the old bitchin’ camaros from the 1970s (check out the song sometime by the Dead Milkmen).  They look “cool” (to some people), but they serve a dopey, theoretical purpose.  The theory is they increase veinal (return) blood flow.  Good for bed-ridden or stationary people, but triathlons?  Working muscles need blood flow and these things restrict it.  The fad is in the NBA as well.  Lastly, I would add that triathlons occur in the summer when it’s hot.  What you need: the right shoes for your foot type and maximum heat rejection.  Compression things are insulation.  Bad.  BTW, remember cho-pat straps and nasal strips?  Gone.  You won’t see these compression things in five years either.

There are similarities with energy efficiency.  At the moment, LEDs are the hot item, but to my knowledge, they produce no more lumens per Watt than a decent T8 fluorescent lamp.  They have other advantages, however, like a forever service life, and they don’t result in skunky beer they tell me.  Electric cars will be in the nasal strip category as they will be swamped by hybrids with possibly some decent market share by plug-in hybrids.  Then, of course, there is the Cervelo owner with the 20 pound spare tire equal for buildings: the LEED triple platinum with PV, solar water heating, individual temperature and ventilation control, variable speed drives operating at full speed, and heating water temperature controlled to 160F all the time.

Forget the widgets and apply yourself first.[1]

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[1] Finishing a triathlon is a great accomplishment and while I have no vested interest, by all means, buy all the stuff you want!

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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