Posted by: Travis | December 31, 2009

Aughts Round Up

Every blogger worth his salt is doing year end, and in some cases, decade end, wrap ups. I can’t just sit by the wayside and watch, so here we go! Travis’s aughts round up!

The accepted take on the 2000’s was that they were a total waste (see Rich and Krugman). Basically everything was a total sham. It was the decade of bubbles and subsequent busts. The stock market ended flat, we didn’t create any jobs, adjusted for inflation people are actually earning less than they were 10 years ago, and home prices are stagnant or down (based on where you are). Over and over and over again we patted ourselves on the back for creating something great, only to realize a few months or years later that it was a sham. I think there’s some merit to that theory, but the decade certainly wasn’t a total loss.

One thing that society did for the better was actually realizing that climate change is real. The cynic in me says that some big corporations started making a big deal about it because there was money to be made (ahem…Toyota), but that people actually sat up and started paying attention to things like carbon footprints, gas mileage, their energy consumption, driving less, and energy efficiency is progress, no doubt.

The other major thing worth mentioning is gay rights. We aren’t anywhere close to where we should be on this issue, but at least we got the ball rolling in the aughts.

As far as society as whole, that’s about all i’ve got. On to my person interests!

In the food world, we rolled into the aughts with the very 90’s attitude that more is always better. Chefs at fine dining restaurants were doing food preparations so complex that the home cook trying to recreate would be totally lost before the food was even touched. Some chefs confused their roles as the head of a kitchen with being the head of a 3 ring circus and used some pretty wild molecular gastronomy techniques that were more shocking than delicious. Don’t get me wrong, there’s room for science in cooking, but save for a few chefs, it was more show than substance, and things got WAY out of hand.

However as the decade progressed things got simpler. The organic/local/seasonal craze went nuts. While people did get carried away (when do they not?), but anytime you get people to pay more attention to the food they eat is a victory in my book. As the decade wraps, we’re seeing more and more chefs that own expensive fine dining restaurants opening more casual places: pizza, burgers, home style food. Even the high end places that didn’t go super simple with the food went more casual with their atmosphere. This is absolutely my favorite food trend of the aughts: great food in a casual setting. Fantastic food, but no waiters running around in tuxedos, no more getting all dressed up in a coat and tie for dinner. Awesome. Food had a pretty good decade.

Sports were a pretty mixed bag, but for the most part followed the bubble and bust theme. In 2005 two of my favorite sports teams (the Astros and the Texas Longhorns football team) made it to their respective championship games. One won, the other got swept. The decade was full of Davids (small market teams or teams that played an unorthodox style) that the sports media convinced us had a chance against Goliath. The Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors under Don Nelson, Oakland A’s, Devil Rays, Detroit Tigers, Davidson, and George Mason all looked like they could do it. But in the end, the championships of the decade were overwhelmingly won by the big names: Florida Gators, North Carolina, LSU, USC, Texas, LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots, NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Redwings.

For fans, the development of HD television and TiVo/DVR have been nothing short of paradigm shifting. Have those of you that watch sports in HD tried to watch sports programming that isn’t in HD? It’s like eating gruel after getting home from a meal at the French Laundry.

In Cycling too, it was boom and bust. All of those performances we (or at least i) saw on tv and read about in magazines that we thought were too good to be true? They usually were, save for Lance Armstrong and….yeah, that’s about it. And some people argue that even he is tainted. That said, cycling is turning the corner. It has the strictest drug testing of any sport and it seems like the culture is finally starting to change. Rather than the dopers being one step ahead of the testers and the losers only being those who are dumb enough to get caught, the dopers finally seem to be the minority in the sport, and testers are sometimes a step ahead (see CERA). For the most part, just a few guys from the old guard trying to hang on, mixed in with one or two brash young kids who were convinced they wouldn’t get caught. This change is huge. You aren’t going to win a bike race if you aren’t convinced that you can. The few guys riding clean knew they were at a disadvantage, knew they weren’t racing for the win, and raced differently because of it. Now that guys are convinced that the playing field is flat, a guy that is clean can race know that he can win, and will actually race to win.

On the technical side of things, carbon fiber finally went mainstream as a material for building frames and components. It still hasn’t been figured out, as it is a much more versatile and complex material than previously used metals, but immense progress has been made. Deep dish wheels and other aerodynamic advancements have been huge (most with the help of carbon fiber). Additionally, we understand human physiology as it relates to cycling much better now than we did 10 years ago. Part of this has to do with the widespread use of powermeters. In 2000 a powermeter would set you back about $5,000 and was only used by PROs (and not even all of them used them). Now a powermeter can be had for around $1,000 and has gone from a luxury item for PROs to almost being a necessity for any amateur serious about racing. Think about how much more data is out there now than 10 years ago. We’ve still got so much more to learn.

Music? Movies? Meh. There was some good stuff, but nothing earth shattering.

Fashion? Ugg boots and skinny jeans, are you kidding me? We can do better, folks.

So all in all, the aughts probably weren’t as bad as people are saying, or as bad as we’ll remember, but they weren’t great either. We made some progress, but not nearly as much as some other decades. I guess it was the decade of ‘meh’. Let’s do better in the teens.

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