Last weekend I was riding in the slushy southern snow and this weekend on some sketchy southern ice. Winter conditions can be challenging, both to ride, and to figure out where to ride and where to avoid. Finding “the powder” might mean trying to get out early while its still frozen, sticking to the north faces, or maybe just getting out on the road. This past week there has been a time for all of the above topped off with a ride on Squirrel Gap after a skin coat of freezing rain on frozen ground, just enough to have traction on the dirt but glare ice on the rocks and roots. That was enough to get me focused, and in the moment. I don’t think I thought about much else other than riding on that one, although I was thinking about racing, and getting fired up. I can’t help but think about racing when I ride. To be honest, it’s one of my favorite meditations. When I have a big race on the horizon my rides take on another dimension. Not that these rides wouldn’t be satisfying as is, but with a goal, there comes this obsessive sense of purpose that I fully enjoy. Having the Transylvania Epic on my calendar is an extra special motivation. It may be four months off, but now my winter days are filled with thoughts of summer and speed. I’ve been invited to share bits along the way as I gear up for the race, which I’m thrilled to do. I promise not to stick to the topic.Mountain Biking for me, and my family, is a way of life. I’m a mountain biker first and I could live without racing, I did for a while, but its undeniable that I’ve had the most fun when racing is in the picture. When I’m racing, I’m riding more. I’m quitting work early a few times a week, or blowing it off all together and sneaking out after dropping the kids off at preschool. I’m making the rides happen instead of letting them slip by.I probably did my first real mountain bike ride in Turkey Pen at the age of seven or eight. I rode an orange five-speed tornado that was built strong enough to withstand wheelie drops off the four-foot brick retaining walls onto our driveway. There was a tough climb about two miles in on South Mills River Trail that my dad called “Sam Go For It.” It takes about two pedal strokes to get over now. Being able to grow up in these mountains has been really special. We used to hike all the time growing up, every weekend. Looking Glass Rock, John’s Rock, Shining Rock, Slate Rock, Flat Laurel Creek, The North Face of Looking Glass, these were some of the more popular hikes. Even after years of exploring our sense of possibility underwent a tremendous expansion when we started riding bikes in Pisgah in the early 90s. Somehow we had never heard of trails like Caney Bottom or Laurel Mountain, sitting right here under our noses all along. I’m only now getting a grip on DuPont. Appalachia, like no other place, can hide its treasures.I got into racing as a junior. I had a craving for competition. A generous community gave fuel to the fire, Mike Nix from Liberty Bikes was one of the first to offer my sister Willow and I support. More help followed with team Devo and then Cane Creek. Without the racing there would not have been anywhere near as much riding happening for us.I still get really excited about racing my bike. That may be partly due to the fact that I never really went big time or may be just the fact that bikes are the finest human invention and racing bikes is about as intimate as you can get with a bike. So bring it on! Don’t expect any cutting edge training tips (I’ve just put on a heart rate monitor for the first time) but I will share some stories and some thoughts as I make my way towards the race. Join me for a ride; lets see where it goes.
The European Parliament and EU member states have reached a political agreement on the so-called disclosure regulation that forms part of the European Commission’s sustainable finance plan, it was announced today.According to a statement from the EU Council, the EU member states body, the text that was agreed today requires institutional investors to disclose:the procedures they have in place to integrate environmental and social risks into their investment and advisory processes;the extent to which those risks might have an impact on the profitability of the investment; andwhere they claim to be pursuing an environmentally friendly strategy, information on how this strategy is implemented and the sustainability or climate impact of their products and portfolios.The Council said the proposed regulation “should in practice limit possible ‘greenwashing’, or “the risk that products and services which are marketed as sustainable or climate friendly in reality do not meet the sustainable/climate objectives claimed to be pursued”. The rules would “encourage investors to be more aware of the impact of their business on the environment”, it added.According to the Commission, the regulation is about more than disclosure. It said the new regulation set out how financial market participants and advisers must integrate environmental, social or governance (ESG) risks and opportunities in their processes. This was in addition to rules about how those financial market participants should inform investors about their “compliance” with the integration of ESG risks and opportunities.Next stepsEU ambassadors must now endorse the political agreement, and after that the European Parliament and Council will be called on to adopt the proposed regulation at the first reading.An EU press officer told IPE the agreement was a provisional political one, and that further technical work was required on the text to finalise drafting. The text should be made available when it is confirmed by the EU ambassadors.The disclosures regulation is the second of the Commission’s sustainable finance legislative proposals for which there is now political agreement. Last month agreement was reached on a low-carbon benchmarks regulation proposal.‘Delegated acts’It is not clear what was agreed, if anything, with regard to whether the regulation should allow for delegated acts under the new EU pension fund legislation, the IORP II directive.The European Commission’s proposal for the regulation, unveiled in May last year, provided for this, but the EU pension fund industry has lobbied against it.The European Parliament went into negotiations with the Council having stuck with a provision for delegated acts under IORP II, while the member states dropped it from their version.The EU press officer could not say what had been agreed about this.According to the Commission, the regulation covered five financial services sectors, including investment funds, private and occupational pensions, and individual portfolio management. It also indicated the rules were for “manufacturers of financial products and financial advisers towards end-investors”, while the Council statement referred to “financial companies” and “institutional investors, such as asset managers or insurance companies”.Aba, the German occupational pension association, argued that occupational pension funds, which have a social purpose and regularly act as users of financial market products, should not be included in the definition of financial market participants under the regulation.It has also said that pension schemes should not be defined as financial market products because they were embedded in national social and labour law. The Commission said the rules introduced ”a disclosure toolbox to be applied in the same manner by different financial market operators”.The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority and the other two European supervisory authorities, plus a joint committee of these three bodies, would “ensure further convergence and harmonisation of disclosures in all the sectors concerned”, it said.
Many free online apps are available to students including the Microsoft Office suite which became available to all current students beginning in the summer of 2015. In an email sent out by Chief Information Officer Doug Shook to all students Feb. 21, Information Technology Services announced they will be expanding the free apps available. USC is offering Microsoft OneDrive as part of an initiative to increase campus technological resources. Photo courtesy of Microsoft OneDrive.Students now have access to Microsoft OneDrive and Skype for Business accounts. OneDrive for Business in an online file-hosting service which allows students to have up to five terabytes of storage for files. Asbed Bedrossian, director of Enterprise Middleware Applications, said these services are a part of an initiative spearheaded by Shook to go toward increased technological resources across the campus. OneDrive uses the native Microsoft format for the Microsoft Suite. This allows students to avoid converting files from other online programs such as Google Drive. Office productivity applications allow students and faculty members to store their work documents and share with anyone who has a Microsoft account. Director of ITS Organizational Initiatives and Communications Leyla Ezdinli explained how the addition of OneDrive was advocated for by students and faculty. “ITS has received requests from students and faculty and staff for students to have access to OneDrive to simplify, share and collaborate on files,” she said. To optimize the backup and storage process, desktop and mobile apps are available for student use. The USC ITS’ website details how to access and use the OneDrive for Business apps in addition to other online storage options available. Other Microsoft Office 365 apps are now also available to students.Another new tool available for students to encourage collaboration is Skype for Business. According to USC ITS, Skype for Business is a web conferencing platform that enables web conferencing, instant messaging and screen document sharing. This service allows users to call each other on desktop computers, laptops and mobile devices. This interface has the potential to form enterprise ties and facilitated access to students and faculty members at the University in the future. Bedrossian envisions that “in the university environment [these new technologies] can connect everybody [to] do [the] workflows.”