Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Part 3: The Rocky IV Moment

I walked upstairs. This place was structured like an East German sports compound or something. There were places to sleep, a full kitchen, boats, ergs, and an entire support staff to cook and clean for the rowers. It was self-sustaining. Their coach told me that all the rowers "technically have places to sleep in the city, but they pretty much live here..." Frightening.

Anyway, on the third floor a monster awaited me. The eccentric inventor was there, it turns out, to get his new erg-based biometric measuring device up and running. He had connected a serpentine nest of wires and pulleys and gears to an erg, which was suspended on a platform. All of this in turn could measure interesting things like your handle velocity, seat speed to handle force ratio, and other indescribably lame rowing measurements.

I immediately started taking pictures of this contraption. The inventor said "Haha, you are a spy." I laughed along with him, but didn't stop taking pictures.

He began to grow visibly tense, and repeated that I must be a spy several more times, each one less friendly. I felt totally justified. If I'm going to be your guinea pig on this torture rack, I'll take as many pictures as I damn well please, I thought to myself. Besides, what's going to happen...am I going to leak the pictures, USRowing will copy the design, and at long last the mighty juggernaut of Japanese rowing will be stopped? All the machines in the world can't make you 6'5''...

Anyway, here this thing is:

So as I expected, they told me to get on and take some hard strokes so they could measure me on their machine. I felt like a pudgy Ivan Drago, training in my high-tech cement sports compound, surrounded by scientists and testing computers.

Still, I dutifully cranked out a few hard strokes, they got their data, and everyone was happy. Time to get back home right?


Time to go downstairs, and listen to a 90-minute speech from the inventor, explaining in intricate detail each of the 10 tests he could perform with his machine.

Time to go home now, right?


"Well, now we would like you to come row with us!"

At this point I've gone about 35 hours without sleep, and I've jumped through just about enough hoops.

"Sorry, I didn't know we were rowing. I didn't bring rowing clothes!"

This was true.

"No, problem, you can just borrow some!"

Now, politely acquiescing is one thing, but trading ball sweat with a random Japanese guy in order to go row in your 2nd practice on no sleep after a long week of work is simply not an appetizing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I dodged that bullet and begged off the rowing session...for now. The best part is that nobody ever asked me if I wanted to row, and they sure as hell didn't have a pair of shoes in any of the boats that would have even sort of fit me. It was always just about their deviant fantasies of rowing with a big American....

This incredibly hospitality mixed with a hidden agenda is a potent brew indeed, and I haven't quaffed my final pint just yet...

I finally got home and slept like the dead. This was one of the weirder adventures I've had here, and I have a thick ream of biometric rowing data to prove it.


David said...

now that i think about it, computer architecture and rowing are quite similar. both are dominated by stupid metrics which don't correspond to any real world performance. rowing has erg tests, computer architecture has SPEC benchmarks. god damn, seems if i'm trapped by the same problem in a different setting.

Sam said...

You know this whole thing was your own fault. You knew you were going to have to get up for 7am practice and then go straight to the train station from there. You should have gone to bed at a reasonable time like a responsible person. Then maybe you wouldn't have had to be an ass and make all the Japanese people cry because they thought the Marshmallow God with magical erg powers hated them and would never reveal the secret of erg dominance to them.

Nate said...

Wow, the "Marshmallow God with Magical Erg Powers" is an amazing title for a children's book. It ranks right up there with the soon to be published anti-racism parable "The Generous Jew," which I will be writing with a certain blond, giggling lover of tiger-print spandex.

But yeah, after pulling a 1:12 for one stroke, I said that the only way to generate big power was by eating a stick of butter every day. and they all believed me, so we'll see.

Nate said...

david- I think the whole world is obsessed with stupid metrics that don't correspond to real-world performance. It's hard to design something awesome, but easy to generate bullshit statistics that make it seem awesome....