Thursday, July 28, 2005

More on the Flat World

As I mentioned a few posts back, I've been reading Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, which so far I would say is a pretty optimistic appraisal of globalization and the 21st Century economy. He talks about the dark underside, but it's not emphasized the same way that, for example, Greg Palast handles it in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Of course, the topics of these two books aren't the same, but they are closely intertwined. Palast is taking a position on modern American politics, while Friedman is talking about "Globalization 3.0". To paraphrase him, Globalization 3.0 is such a difference of degree from what we call the "Information Age" that it is a difference of kind. We aren't going to recognize the political and economic landscape in the near future.

A few years ago (well, more like a decade ago now), I started working as a programmer and thought it would be a secure living for as long as I needed it. "Computers aren't going anywhere," I naively thought. I looked down at my home town and its long-term economic troubles rooted in the movement of labor overseas (in this case lumber and shipping, but it applies equally to textiles, automobiles, etc.). Not going to happen to me.

Well, from the perspective of mid-2005, I have good reasons to fear for my job. The last four years (post tech bubble) have been rough, although we have gotten by pretty well. I'm busier than I would like (should be working now, in fact). My profession hasn't been a lucrative as it once was, either. I'm lucky though, because I have skills that compliment my technical knowledge - primarily of the communication variety. So I've put together a niche for myself that is working out very well.

But reading this book by Freidman has me seeing things in a new light - or may it has focused things I already suspected.

A couple of interesting quotes:
The cold, hard truth is that management, shareholders, and investors are largely indifferent to where their profits come from or even where the employment is created. But they do want sustainable companies. Politicians, though, are compelled to stimulate the creation of jobs in a certain place. And residents-whether they are Americans, Europeans, or Indians-want to know that the good jobs are going to stay close to home (The World is Flat, page 211).
Well that's the truth. The "capital" isn't going to change it's opinion (mostly - some companies view social/societal obligations as critical to their success. Costco being a great example). But the politicians are pushing protectionism as a solution, when it really only hurts our position economically. Education is the real problem and solution. We have to create (or repair) a climate where it makes sense for companies to do business here. Content based curriculum standards and high-stakes tests (the current favorite) aren't the answer.

Strangely, I think the answer to the these questions about the future rests in concepts from the past. Specically, the "classic liberal education" available at many American colleges. Friedman talks about an interview he had with Colin Powell before Powell stepped down as Secretary of State. Friedman asks Powell if he remembers where he was when he realized the "world had gone flat". Without missing a beat, Powell replied "Google." The importance of the point can't be underestimated. The sum of human knowledge is at your finger tips, every day. It doesn't matter at all if students remember why 1066 is an important date in Western History (type "1066" into Google and see what you get). Not if they know how to find out. The tools of the information age have flattened the world by giving nearly everyone access to information, instant communciation and feedback.

Powell notes that he used to ask his staff for the text of a particular UN resolution, only to wait hours to get the answer. "Now I just type into Google 'UNSC Resolution 242' and up comes the text." His staffers noted that he doesn't ask for information much anymore. Now he asks for analysis and action. Big difference. Critical Thinking skills just got a lot more important.

Powell, according to his staffers, also kept IM sessions running with his British counterpart, Jack Straw, during summit meetings. Presumably encrypted. That is simply amazing to me.

(all those quotes were from Friedman's chapter "The Great Sorting Out").

In The Demon Haunted World, the late Carl Sagan wrote:
If we teach only the findings and products of science - no matter how useful and even inspiring they may be - without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience? Both then are presented as unsupported assertion.
It is a supreme challenge for the popularizer of science to make clear the actual, tortuous history of its great discoveries and the misapprehensions and occasional stubborn refusal by its practitioners to change course. Many, perhaps most, science textbooks for budding scientists tread lightly here. It is enormously easier to present in an appealing way the wisdom distilled from centuries of patient and collective interrogation of Nature than to detail the messy distillation apparatus. The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science (pages 21-22).
Chapter 1, at least, ought to be required reading for all high school students. Until you understand THIS, no diploma for you.

Wandered around a bit there, sorry. Thanks for reading.

Birth of Google

Wired has an interesting article about the origins of Google at Stanford University. Turns out Larry Page and Sergey Brin built the original system in their dorm rooms. The interesting part, to me, is how Google's original structure actually mirrors a real world phenomanon - source citations in acadamic journal articles.

The other interesting point is that two academics, from academic backgrounds, fell into a business together almost by accident.

A funny quote (BackRub was the name of the project from which Google grew):

The project grew into something of a legend within the computer science department and campus network administration offices. At one point, the BackRub crawler consumed nearly half of Stanford's entire network bandwidth, an extraordinary fact considering that Stanford was one of the best-networked institutions on the planet. And in the fall of 1996 the project would regularly bring down Stanford's Internet connection.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Cellular Emasculation

I know a bunch of people who resist cell phones, which I can understand. They are annoying, after all. Especially the people who use them (including me). I've been using a cell phone for 6-7 years now, and suddenly being without one was disorienting (more on that below). The thing about cell phones is that they make life easier and harder at the same time. If somebody wants to talk to me, they call. It only makes sense that they call me, rather than my house, since I'm the one they wanted to speak with. I can call home about groceries, find out where M and the kids are, or any number of things.

At the same time, you have to have the discipline to turn the damn thing off. People complain about how intrusive a cell phone is, but you CAN get away from it. Just leave it at home, or on your desk if you don't want to be found for a little while.

I've had Cingular for the past couple of years. Since we live in a rural area, service is spotty, and the cell tower here is apparently pretty old. Every couple of years, I switch to a different carrier hoping that their service will actually work inside my house (and more importantly, in my basement office). When we first moved here, we had Sprint, but they had zero coverage in the area (couldn't even roam). So we moved over to Verizon, which was a big improvement, but still pretty unreliable at home ("Can you hear me now?" "No, god dammit. I can't"). That led to Cingular, which really wasn't any better, but had the rollover minutes and family plans, which seemed like a good idea and saves a little money.

Over the past few months, I've been spending more and more time on the phone because of work, so the crappy cell connection in my office had become an issue. At best, I could put the phone on the window sill and talk using my bluetooth headset. Functional, but a pain.

So, crisis hits, having trouble with a web server and I can't make a fucking call. I have 3 bars on the phone until I start dialing, and the signal drops. Over and over. So the phone hit the wall. Hard. It was a nice phone, too. It's probably fortunate the web server wasn't handy, because frustration levels were running pretty high.

That was about three weeks ago, so I've been without a phone for that short period. As of yesterday, I'm back on Verizon, and I have a strong signal throughout the house and in the office ("Can you hear me now?" "Yes, finally. Thank you very little").

I got a Treo 650 smart phone (no, I didn't pay that much - cheaper with a contract). So far, 24 hours in, the phone is wonderful. Easy to use, sound quality is excellent. Works with my Bluetooth headset and syncs with Address Book and iCal on my Mac (wirelessly of course, also using Bluetooth). I can check email, surf the web (sorta slow, but good enough for scores and news). I can do all sorts of things I couldn't do before. Like talk on the phone while sitting at my desk. This is what is known as a "convergence device". Phone, camera, video, PDA, MP3 player, computer, etc. all wrapped up in one small package.

Nice, but the truth is, I really wanted a phone that let me make phone calls when I need to. Seems like I finally have one.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tom Cruise is an Easy Target

But that doesn't make it any less fun. Plus, according to Operation Clambake, Scientology is dangerous anyway.

So I'm curious about Dr. Maverick's take on this: FDA OK's Brain Stimulator for Depression.

It's called "vagus nerve stimulation", and like all good marketing campaigns (religious or otherwise), it uses manipulative imagery to make it's point (check out the woman looking in the foggy mirror, lower right).

I do like the image of scientologists getting electrical stimulation though. I mean the leadership, not the victims. Here is what the VNS people have to say:
VNS Therapy is indicated for the adjunctive long-term treatment of chronic or recurrent depression for patients 18 years of age or older who are experiencing a major depressive episode and have not had an adequate response to four or more adequate antidepressant treatments.

Of course, some Flintstones chewables should do the trick, so this is probably overkill.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Loose Ends

Wondering just how good Discovery Channel Cycling is this year? Reasonable question since Lance has been isolated twice so far - once on a relatively modest climb. Consider this:
  • Armstrong safely in yellow 2:46 over Basso. Ivan isn't gonna catch Lance in a 55km TT.
  • Yaroslav Popovych, who is also good against the clock, sits 6:28 ahead of second place in the young rider competition.
  • By virtue of having two riders in todays break, DC took over the Team classification and are now 37 seconds ahead of T-Mobile. This is decided by accumulating the top three finishes on each team each day. With the TT on Saturday, DC should increase that lead.
  • Paulo Salvadelli won today's stage. At 239.5km, the longest of this year's Tour. He also won the 2005 Giro d'Italia.
  • George Hincapie won Stage 15, the hardest stage of the race.
  • DC won the Team Time Trial on Stage 4 (admittedly a narrow victory over CSC, but a win nevertheless).
So yeah. Solid team.


If you are keeping track of Dr. Maverick over at Got My Philosophy, I have a couple of fun sites to add. One is Wil Wheaton Dot Net (yes, the child actor from Stand By Me and Star Trek). I occasionally run across his blog (this time, because of the death of James Doohan). Wil has this gem in his FAQ, on a question about advice for aspiring actors:
I want to be an actor. Do you have any advice?

Yes, I do. Eventually, this site will have a whole section devoted to aspiring actors. My immediate advice is: study, study, study. Read the classic plays and see the great movies. And for the love of Bob, study! And read Backstage. Get yourself into some sort of acting program or workshop. Just avoid anything that tells you they'll give you a free book by L.Ron Hubbard. It's a scheme to recruit you into Scientology.
That made me laugh really hard. I got this link from the same place: Operation Clambake

Good stuff.


J comes back from his grandparent's house tomorrow afternoon. Expect pictures of J with the previously mentioned Jedi Starfighters. Speaking of J, he just started riding a two wheeler. Now we need to work on starting and stopping. The current methods are, respectively, "Dad, push me" and falling off the bike. I think we can improve on both.


M went to play soccer tonight for a few hours. It went well, but her 34-year-old body is now suffering. She's trying to get in shape, so playing soccer with a bunch of college women seems like a good approach. She's hurting right now, though. So E and I had a short evening together. Dinner (grilled cheese: excellent; diced apples: excellent; corn: so-so), a bath and to bed, after roaming around the living room for a bit. All in all, she was easy on me. Since she has teeth coming in, that could have been really hard.


I bought a 1,200 page Java reference book today. Should be an entertaining read. Actually, I've been reading The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman (patent abuse keeps me from linking to Amazon, but they are mentioned in the book in a positive light). In a nutshell, the book is about the rapid reduction in the size of our planet, metaphorically speaking. He goes into detail about the economics of globalization and the forces that have flattened the world - fiber-optic linking of the planet, open source software, the fall of the Berlin wall. It's really interesting, and surprisingly entertaining.

Ok, time to work. Indian kids are clamoring for my job.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Wow, what a stage. 205km over six major climbs, culminating in the hors categorie Pla-d'Adet. Wow. George Hincapie is the only rider that has been by Armstrong's side through all six Tour victories (and it's really starting to look like seven).

George is also the only Armstrong teammate to win an individual stage of the Tour in that time. USPS and now Discovery Channel were built from the ground up to win the Tour for Lance, each year making small improvements to the line up to make a victory possible. On a few occasions, they tried to get the supporting players a stage win. They tried a couple of times in 2003 to get Roberto Heras across the line first, but Joseba Belocki was just to close. Last year, they put Floyd Landis into a break, but he ended up having playing a tactical role in a victory for Lance.

The truly amazing thing is that George isn't supposed to be climbing mountains. He's a talented racer, but a big guy. His strength has always been the single day Classics, especially in the spring. Races like Paris Roubaix. Although, over the last three years, you see him more and more in the mountains, putting on that Prefontaine pressure.

I followed the stage today via's live update (no OLN for me this year). So I'm sitting in my office, frantically clicking "refresh" as the leaders ascended Pla d'Adet.

Wow. What a day.

In the picture, you can see a white armband on George's right arm. It says "Fabio" on it. Ten years ago, Motorola racer Fabio Casartelli died while descending the Portet d'Aspet, and the riders passed his memorial on that descent today. Hincapie and Armstrong were Casartelli's teammates.

In the last seven years, the race passed the Casartelli memorial in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and this year. Armstrong won the day in '01, '02 and '04, only losing out to Gilberto Simoni in '03 (the year of his 5th victory and most questionable form). In '05, it was Hincapie.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Trying something different

For six years running, the US Postal Service team's basic strategy for winning the Tour de France was as follows:

1. Keep the team safe and rested in the first week. Get whatever time advantage the Team Time Trial can provide.
2. Demoralize the competition in the first long Individual Time Trial, usually before the mountains start. A win isn't needed, but a psychological blow to the favorites is the goal.
3. Blow the competition away on the first real mountain stage featuring a mountain top finish. Again, a win isn't needed, just time over the "heads of state" as Paul Sherwin calls them.
3.5. The Prefontaine Approach, Team Edition. USPS puts it's formidable climbing group at the front and pares the pelton down to just the elite - climbers and GC contenders. One by one people peel off because they can't handle the sustained pace. Fast enough that nobody, or few, can attack. At its best, this strategy results in Lance and one of his teammates being the only two left (happened twice in a row in 2002, with Roberto Heras at the top of his form).
4. Play defense. If an opportunity to take time presents itself, grab it.

Johan Bruyneel is the architect of this strategy, along with Armstrong of course. Discovery Channel, which is the same team, organization, management, etc., uses the same strategy. You saw it in the Alps if you were watching. 20 guys left and 5 or 6 are Discovery Channel riders.

So today, finally, the competition tried something different. With 44km and two major climb to go in the stage, T-Mobile attacked hard on a false flat. Looks like they had four riders their, including Guerini, Kloden, Vino and Ullrich, and they managed to isolate Armstrong. Rasumussen, Basso, Mancebo and a few others tacked onto the elite group too. Then it was Basso's turn, and he attacked repeatedly to try and hurt everyone/get away. No such luck. Rider after rider tried to get away, so the pace was moving around like a yo-yo, with riders coming and going from the group.

Armstrong kept his cool, kept his pace even and didn't panic. With 40k to go, it would be hard to get away for good.

So up the Port de Pailhères (15km, 8%, HC), fast descent down the other side, and then a climb to the finish at the Ax-3-Domaines ski station. Armstrong waits, and then starts his attacks, working over everyone in the group, and bringing back all but one of the riders out front (a small group of non-GC threats had been out most of the day).

Georg Totschnig won the day. Armstrong finished second, 56 seconds back. But ahead of Basso, Ullrich, Leipheimer, Landis, Manceba and most importantly, Rasmussen, who lost 51 more seconds, leaving him in second still, but 1:41 back of Lance. Basso now sits at 2:46 and Ullrich at 4:34. Vinokourov ultimately paid for his effort, losing 3:00 to Armstrong.

"When Armstrong went I had nothing left," Ullrich told Eurosport. "We had to go on the attack, but it just didn't work out. Armstrong matched everything we did." (via Velonews)

So, Lance consolidated his lead, but it was exciting. T-Mobile and CSC (and Rabobank) have to take risks if they are to unseat Lance. The silver lining is that Discover Channel should be a little rested for tomorrow's crazy stage.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Loose Ends

Adam Stern got his deput Major League hit tonight. The umpire called time and Derek Jeter made sure the ball made it back over to the Red Sox dugout. Nice gesture.

Also, after J and I went to see the Sox a few weeks ago, he told pretty much everyone he saw about it. Which is really nice. I'm glad it made such an impression on him. Those are the moments you remember. We took him to his regular barber, who also sells collectibles (mostly coins). The Barber got a full account of the game from J during the hair cut, so he got out a North Adams Steeple Cats home run ball and gave it to J. The Steeple Cats are the local summer college league team. A steeple cat is a cat that lives in a church steeple, if you were wondering.

Sox win, 17-1. I promise this isn't a Red Sox blog. Really. During the winter, it will be a Carolina Basketball blog.

Ok, BSG time. Later...

BSG, Star Wars, TdF and Geekdom.

I'm a strange brand of geek. A programmer, a cyclist, a sci-fi fan, a sports nut. Such is my, um, curse. I've also been told I have communication and social skills. Odd combo.

So today, I drove to Boston for a meeting and came away with a nice contract for some interesting web based educational tools.

Quiet day at the Tour de France. Chris Horner did well, though. Couldn't quite close the deal, but he ended up 10th on the day. Not bad for former bike shop employee California surfer dude cyclist. Nice guy, too. I met him once (at the Athens Twilight, a few years ago. He won).

Red Sox are up 12-1 over the Yankees at the mid-way point.

On the way home from the meeting in Boston, I stopped at a toy store and bought a Jedi Starfighter for J. Actually, I bought two. Obi-Wan's and Anakin's (pictured to the left, from This little spaceship may be the best Star Wars vehicle since the Millenium Falcon and Slave I. Part Tie Fighter, part X-wing. It's a perfect vehicle to bridge between the prequels and original trilogy designs. So I bought both, and J can pick one. Then we can save the galaxy far far away together. I will post pictures when M returns with the digital camera.

Still 12-1. Yanks on their third pitcher.

Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica starts tonight at 10:00. This is highly recommended. Excellent writing, special effects. etc. I saw an episode of the original recently, which was laughable. But the new one is great. It's a "reimagining" of the series by Ronald Moore, whose credits include Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. DSP was the "dark" Trek series. Which means it was good. This version of BSG is dark as well. Get the mini series and watch it (available on DVD, so get it from Netflix). I'm not sure if season 1 is out on DVD yet, but Sci-Fi just did a marathon. Set your Tivos (what? No Tivo? Come on, get with it).

A-Rod just struck out. 2 outs, 2 on, top of the 6th. David Wells is still in the game. Matsui thrown out at first to end the inning. Green monster is fucking with Matsui now. Good times.

Curt Schilling came out of the bullpen last night at the top of the 9th to thunderous applause at Fenway. He walked to the mound with cameras flashing like he was the World Series hero or something (oh, wait...). He took a moment, a rather long one, to hold a cross around his neck and pray. Then he promptly gave up a hit and a two run homer. Yanks win 8-6. Apparently, God was contemplating Sean May and Raymond Felton as teammates on the Charlotte Bobcats (or something equally important).

Sox have the bases loaded. Millar scores, Sox 13-1. Looks like Yanks are getting the janitor out there to throw a couple of pitches.

I also stopped by J's room to get a couple of pilots for the Jedi Starfighters. I found Anakin from Episode I, which violates my sense of continuity. And Threepio, which would just be wrong.

Whoa! WTF? I just stepped away to get my pizza out of the oven and the score is 17-1.

Ok, dinner is ready. Beer is cold. BSG starts in 30 minutes. And I think the Sox have this under control.

This entry ended up following the the Sports Guy's "running diary" style. Not my plan, but whatever. SG is largely responsible for my interest in the Red Sox, so I should have acknowledged that in my long entry about baseball. Sorry SG. Go read his columns. Good stuff.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Not the Key Moment of the Tour

George Hincapie describing Armstrong's isolation yesterday:

"Yesterday we had a bad day. It was kind of a lapse in concentration when we were on the front of the final climb. It was really fast and we were sitting far back when Moreau attacked and it broke up. We just got caught behind. When we realised what happening, we couldn't really get across, so we just didn't worry about it."

Funny - "we just didn't worry about it." It must be nice having that sort of confidence in your leader. "Ah, Lance is up there alone, but I'm sure he can handle it. So what were you sayin? Yeah, so it turns out the Verbal Kint has the thick urine. Yeah, I know, blew my mind, too".

Five hours in the saddle IS a long time, after all.


Ok, Stage 9 just finished. No attack by Vino, but some interesting things happened along the way. First, Michael Rasmussen (a Dane from Rabobank, and a former World Mountain Bike Champion) was out in the front for 167km today, got the win and bolstered his lead in the KoM competition. He also moved into fourth on GC, just behind Armstrong. More importantly, Jens Voigt (Germany, CSC) and Christophe Moreau (France, Credit Agricole) moved into first and second overall.

I wouldn't say this was tactical for Armstrong, since losing the jersey now doesn't really help him. If he lost it a few days ago, then yes. But losing it today doesn't really help him since tomorrow is a rest day and Tuesday's finish at Courchevel is important to the overall. On the other hand, this doesn't hurt him much either.

Voigt finished 35th last year, 1:07:07 behind Armstrong. Moreau was 12th at 24:36. He's made GC noises before, but always seems to fold spectacularly at some point - maybe losing 20:00 in single stage. Rasmussen was 14th at 27:16. They are currently 1:50 and 2:18 ahead of Lance. Lance being that far behind isn't much to worry about, in my opinion. So I'm expecting fireworks on Courchevel. Voigt isn't really a man for the high mountains, either. And Rasmussen, who isn't very big, isn't much of a time trialist. So Armstrong has advantages over each of these riders. The real contenders (Ullrich, Vino, Basso, Heras, Mayo, etc.) all finished with Armstrong.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

1st Birthday & Sushi

Today is E's first birthday, which seems totally amazing. I can't believe it's only been a year, and at the same time can't remember what it was like before she was with us. It gets even weirder when I think about J being 5½. In some ways, he is such a grown up.

So, M's parents came up for the weekend. We asked E where she wanted to go for dinner, but she just looked at us funny and said "bahh". Since Mommy and Daddy wanted sushi, it was off to Jae's Inn. J was feeling adventurous and ordered Kappa Maki, which is cucumber sushi. He ate all six pieces, plus a piece of M's and bit of his grandmother's.

That was the funny part. She (J's grandmother) ordered a lobster roll as an appetizer (she's never had sushi). I've never seen anyone eat sushi with a fork. Plus, the pieces were "too big", so she picked them apart as she ate them. Very funny. Kudos for trying something new, though.

That's Why They Have the Race

Armstrong isolated on the Col de la Schlucht, 190km into today's stage. Vino attacked, springing Andreas Klöden loose (along with eventual stage winner Pieter Weening). T-Mobile now has three riders in striking distance of Armstrong. The scary part was that Discovery Channel shouldn't be tired yet.

Hopefully, it was just an off day. I'm sure now that Vino will go for it tomorrow, trying for the stage win, time on Armstrong, or just making DC work hard to protect their lead.

So despite opinions to the contrary, there is still a lot of racing to do, and this race isn't in the bag for Armstrong. Not even close.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tour Viewing Guide

The opening Time Trial and the Team Time Trial are over, and Lance is 1.21 ahead of his closest rival. So is the race over? He won the 2003 Tour by only 61 seconds, after all. Well, a lot could still happen. Somebody is going to display dominance in the upcoming mountains. My money is on Armstrong, but I would have said the same thing in 1996 about Miguel Indurain. He ended up cracking on Les Arcs after repeated attacks by Bjarne Riis (who now runs the CSC Team) and finished 11th. Of course, Big Mig never really loved the high mountains like Lance does.

So, the stages:

Stage 9 - Sunday, July 10, Gérardmer - Mulhouse. The next real chance for the contenders to test Armstrong. This isn't a stage for the pure climbers (like Heras at Liberty, or Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen), the climbs aren't steep or long enough. The stage does feature a bunch of climbs, but all are in the Cat 3 range except a single Cat 2 and the last climb, a Cat 1. Good stage for an attacking rider like Alexandre Vinokourov. Could be exciting, could be a snore.

Stage 10 - Tuesday, July 12, Grenoble to Courchevel. This may be the day Armstrong puts the race away. Long flat section, followed by two big-ass climbs - both Cat 1's. It's the mountaintop finish at Courchevel that makes the difference. A good opportunity for the true climbers (Heras, Mayo, etc.).

Stage 11 - Wednesday, July 13, Courchevel - Briançon. Big, traditional climbs: The Madeleine (HC), the Telegraphe (Cat 1) and the Galibier (HC). Super hard day, with a fast run into Briançon after reaching the summit of the Galibier. Time for Discovery Channel to play defense, most likely. Always fun to watch potential contenders drop away (is this the day Santiago Botero loses his traditional 20 minutes?). The next stage is in the low mountains, so watch for a breakaway attempt there.

Stage 14 - Saturday, July 16, Agde - Ax-3 Domaines. Back in the mountains, this time the Pyrenees. Any of the Spanish/Basque riders still in contention will go for it here, in front of their rabid fans. Or they will seek a stage win to save face (the more likely scenario, I think). Watch for riders in Orange. One HC climb in this stage, followed by a Cat 1 climb to the finish. If the Alps didn't go well, Armstrong tries again here.

Stage 15 - Sunday, July 17, Lézat-sur-Lèze - Saint-Lary Soulan (Pla d'Adet). The stage profile looks like a saw blade. Brutal, but no HC climbs until the end (the finish line on Pla d'Adet, of course). A hard, hard day with a mountain top finish. My favorite.

Stage 16 - Tuesday, July 19, Mourenx - Pau. Last day in the high mountains, featuring the Col d'Aubisque. Look for some of the last big shakeups in the GC.

Stage 20 - Saturday, July 23. Saint-Etienne ITT. The last showdown of the race. If it's close (like 2003), this will be really exciting. Lance likes to win the final Individual Time Trial, to "prove" once and for all that the yellow jersey is the strongest man (as if total domination in the mountains doesn't prove anything). I expect the same this year.

Last Day! Sip champaign in your jammies. Toast Lance a fine career.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Transmillennial American Slut Pop

Fountains of Wayne have a new album called Out-Of-State Plates, mentioned here. It's a 2-CD collection of unreleased material spanning their career, plus a couple of new songs. Most of it is really good, some of it is great, and at least one song just plain sucks.

But, that's not why I'm here. A cover of "..Baby One More Time", originally made famous by Britney Spears, is featured on the second CD. It's really entertaining in the same way as Cake's version of "I Will Survive". Slower tempo, with a deadpan delivery of the lyrics.

It accomplished one remarkable feat: I wanted to hear the Britney Spears version. Surely not what they intended, but the comparison fascinates me.

Plus, anything that contributes to Britney's career is probably good at this point. The unintentional comedy of it all is worthwhile.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Opening Time Trial

Wow, that was some display. Armstrong put over a minute on his main rivals in the 2005 Tour. Ullrich lost 1:06 I think. Some of the climbers lost over 3:00. That is crazy fast. There are a lot of people thinking two contradictory thoughts right now: (1) This is Lance's last Tour, and I really want to beat him to prove he CAN be beaten. And (2), I can't wait until Lance retires.

Of course, we have a long way to go, and anything could happen along the way. But Armstrong is careful and better prepared that anyone. Mentally prepared, physically prepared, with a superb team and the best support system money can buy.

I read in interesting interview with Chris Horner, who is doing his inaugural Tour this year (at age 33). He basically said that Armstrong starts out ahead of all his rivals, before you consider talent, scouting the course, tactics, or any of the other things Lance is known for. He is ahead first and foremost because he is willing to spend the money it takes to care for himself. If he wants to train longer, his support staff works around it. If they have to stay up until midnight getting his bikes ready for the next day, they do so. If he needs a massage at 3:00am, he has one. These support people are invaluable to his physical and mental health while preparing for the Tour. Nobody else keeps this kind of support around all the time. So all other things being equal, he wins.

Of course, all other things aren't equal. He has one of the most efficient bodies ever measured. Rivaling the greats of cycling and really, all sport. Miguel Indurain, the great Spanish cyclist who won five consecutive Tours in the early 90s, had a resting hear rate of 28 beats per minute. Armstrong is in that category.

Basically, he's a freak. And he's driven like no other to capitalize on those abilities. That's why he wins.