Thursday, July 14, 2005

Odd and Ends

Some semi related items today...

First, John Scalzi's By the Way today points to a really cool picture from the Tour de France in the New York Times. I've no idea how long NYT links stay good -- hopefully it will work at least for a few days.

Second, although I still disagree with him, yesterday Eric Zorn posted an update on his Tour criticism. It is too bad that many of his detractors had to be all nasty in their replies. Fortunately, some people were a little more reasonable. Eric quotes one of his e-mails:
Bill Hannahs-- As you suggested, the Tour de France did once try sending the riders out according to their position, but it was difficult to manage and the modern stage race has evolved to be a very stable and fair playing field. Please, don't be offended when I tell you I don't think you really understand the underlying dynamics of the event.

I think your criticism is much to be blamed on the television coverage because television does not convey the wonder and awe of the event. Dismissing the Tour without seeing it in person is like dismissing Moby Dick because you didn't like the movie.
I would love to see the tour in person. This next part particularly resonated with me, given my comments regarding the team aspects the other day:
Cycling is a team sport. But unlike football or baseball, it is also an individual sport. In this respect it more closely reflects real life which is a fabric of loose alliances and individual efforts. Alliances are made and dissolved on the spot.

It is not uncommon for strange alliances to form in the middle of a race or for teammates to betray their comrades. To try and remove the team aspect of the sport would be harder than removing it from football, because not only are there teams that wear the same jersey, but there are alliances that form between teams and amongst individuals and it is fascinating to watch.
Finally, I have to make one last remark. At the end of Eric's latest entry, he says this
I watched the news reports Tuesday night of Lance Armstrong, with apparent nonchalance, let Alejandro Valverde pass him in the last meters of the day’s heat because Armstrong knew he’d already regained the right to wear the yellow jersey. Maybe that’s the way it should be. But maybe not.
Perhaps he looked nonchalant, but I'm not so sure of that. Go take a listen to Day 11 of the Sirius radio Lance Armstrong Reports podcast. It suggests that Lance was giving all he had and just couldn't manage to "lose those guys."

Finally, not really related to either of the above, Laura got about 500 hits yesterday because of a New York Times article about New Jersey bloggers. Yes, I thought it was odd too. The article makes a mention of the Rascal Fair, which is a blog carnival for Montana bloggers. Since Laura's blog has a rather unusual name, I think it caught the attention of the author. The funny thing is, of course, that at the moment Laura is a Montanan in exile here in the Midwest.

Looking at my own referral logs, most of my visitors over the last 2 days have been from Laura's site, so apparently I'm picking up some of those hits as well. Amazingly, Laura started her blog in April, I started mine last November, and she is rapidly catching up to me in number of hits.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tour de France and Whine de Zorn

In general, I like Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune. I usually enjoy his column, even when I don't agree with it.

But he lost me today with his gripe about the Tour de France, especially his apparent annoyance with the media coverage of it.

You just had to go and pick on the one sporting event that actually prompts me to look at Sports section before tossing it into the recycle bin each morning!


He stuck with his argument in a later update responding to his critics.

I mostly agree with Eric's critics on this one, although his responses were interesting. I do realize that the tour isn't going to grab everyone's attention and that's OK. I am the notion that there is too much media coverage overwhelming poor Eric's delicate anti-tour ears. I mean really, Eric's own paper has been running one tour story in the Sports section each day.

Usually on page 9 or so.

I think the Tribune publishes more words about baseball in January than it has about the tour.

Yes, the Outdoor Life Network has gone on tour overdrive, but that is just one cable channel. I haven't seen a thing on network TV.

Eric's biggest complaint is that the race isn't structured as "one big race" but is instead "split up into a bunch of mini-races." Each stage has a winner, and fans "make a big deal" about who wins each stage, even though it is meaningless in the end.

Kind of the way that baseball playoffs are not one big game, but a series of games, and each individual game has a winner, and winning one game is "meaningless" since it doesn't necessarily mean your team will win the World Series. Right?

Eric wants each stage to start with physical time gaps, so if the leader is ten minutes ahead, that rider would get a ten minute head start. Which sounds to me like proposing that game 2 of the World Series begin with the same scores the teams had at the end of game 1.

Sorry for all the baseball analogies here, but really. I don't see the point of Eric's suggestion. He doesn't like the team aspect of it, which is exactly the reason that I enjoy it. The race is a unique combination of individual work and teamwork. Winning the tour requires both an incredible amount of individual ability and the support of a great team. The team leader must have the ability to inspire his teammates to forgo their own glory and work for him. As many have noted, Lance would not have won the tour six times in a row without a terrific team. He knows it; they know it. In today's stage, it was fascinating to watch Lance's former teammate Roberto Heras drop off the back as Lance and Team Discovery accelerated up the mountain. A few years ago, Heras was one of those team members up front, setting the pace for Lance. The man is obviously capable of riding at such a pace, so what happened? I believe one of the commentators made the point that riding the tour as a team leader is entirely different than riding it in support of a team leader.

At any rate, as of right now, the "keep the tour as it is" option on Eric's click poll is winning:
  • 10.9% - Yes, jazz it up. Make it more like one long race. (38 responses)
  • 69.9% - No, it's good the way it is. (244 responses)
  • 19.2% - I don't care a fiddler's fig about the Tour de France (67 responses)

Of course, it is early in the race, so that doesn't mean anything and the final results could change.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

More Garden Blogging

Just trying to keep my flowers alive as temperatures stay high and rain continues to not fall. Here's the weather report from my backyard:
It is hot out today!

Anyway, my flowers and plants are doing quite well, though the lawn has turned a distinct shade of brown. Normally I wouldn't care about the brown lawn, but of course this year is different since the house is on the market. I've set up the sprinkler in the backyard and am hoping that the grass recovers. At least no one else's looks any better.

By the way, once we move, I really want one of these so that I don't have to waste so much water out of the tap or worry about watering restrictions.

Getting back to the gardening are some pictures I took just this morning:

The impatiens in baskets out front. This is a great improvement over 2 weeks ago - nice and bushy, plenty of blooms.
Impatiens in Hanging Basket

What can I say? I like flower close-ups. I particularly like the second one here since I prefer the bright orange flower color. These are actually not from the hanging baskets -- we ended up with a bunch of leftover impatiens after filling up the baskets, so there are two ordinary pots living on the front porch.
Impatiens - Close up I

Impatiens - Close up II

The basil has just shot up. I think we need to cook something that needs lots of basil soon to use up some of this.
Basil - Growing straight up

So far I've harvested several leaves of mint for iced tea, but the plant is so bushy you can't even tell.
Mint Expanding

Friday, July 08, 2005


Laura did it, so I'm doing it too.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Memories of London

I can't even begin to think of what to say about the attacks. Many other bloggers are doing a far better job than I could. So far, the best post I've read is from Jason at Positive Liberty in which he discusses the absurdity of terrorism.

I can't quote from it because you really have to read the whole thing.

I have very little to add about the attacks, but this incident did prompt me to think about the week I visited London during my senior year of high school. I am finding it hard to remember. 1989 seems like a terribly long time ago, but 16 years is really not that long. Somewhere, probably buried in my parents' house someplace, are the prints from the six rolls of film I shot over there. Other details are fuzzy, but the six rolls of film are not. I am positive it was six. Strange how that detail is so solid and clear when the rest is a blur. Perhaps it is because the camera was new, a gift specifically desired for this trip, and I worried about taking that damn film through airport security on the way there and back. That camera held up pretty well -- I still have it, it still works just fine, and I only replaced it this past October because I wanted to go digital.

We crammed a great deal into one week. It was a trip with others from my English and World Literature class, led by our teacher and her husband who had been doing this for years and knew London as well as their own backyard. My mother was there as well, as one of the adult chaperones, mostly because she loved British history. At one point she was a member of the The Richard III Society. I shared my hotel room with one of my classmates.

I remember visiting St. Paul's Cathedral and climbing steps forever to the top. I remember Westminster Abbey. We had a terrific tour guide at one of those places, but now I can't remember which one. I think we went to several museums. We saw four plays. I don't remember the name of the first one, but the others were "Chess," "Starlight Express," and "Metropolis." I think I was the only one in our group who liked "Metropolis." I have the London cast recording of it loaded on my iPod and still listen to it occasionally. I never claimed to have normal taste in theatre.

We took the tube everywhere. It was the first time I had ever been on a subway. After college I lived in Chicago for a few years and took the Red Line to work everyday and riding a subway became a boring, everyday experience to be endured. In London it was all new and exciting, an experience to be relished. Somewhere I have a tea towel with a map of the London Underground on it. I'm amazed we were able to find our way through that maze of colorful lines and never once get lost. The Chicago CTA map is pathetic in comparison, with its few train lines all going into the Loop, nothing but buses everywhere else, and constant service cuts.

My mom discovered tea time in the hotel restaurant. We discovered pubs and fish and chips and some sort of sparkling lemonade that I still remember fondly. Once we ate in a Greek restaurant near the hotel and I remember an appetizer that looked like small fish, with the heads still on. We had continental breakfast delivered to the room every morning -- big, crusty rolls and hot tea. Or did I drink hot chocolate instead? I think that was before my caffeine addiction. I do remember giving the delivery person an excessively large tip the first day because I was in a hurry to make him leave before my classmate came out of the shower and flustered with the exchange rates and the unfamiliar heavy coins that seemed quite aptly named "pounds."

I wish I could remember more specifics. We saw the
crown jewels. We saw the changing of the guard, I think. We walked for what seemed like miles and we ate once at the Hard Rock Cafe, London. I have long since lost the T-shirt and it wouldn't fit now anyway. I mailed postcards to my high school boyfriend back home and the hardware store where I worked. I never imagined that sixteen years later I would love another woman and plan to move to Montana with her.

At the time, I thought I would remember the trip forever. I attempted to keep a travel journal but failed, writing only the first entry about the flight from O'Hare to Heathrow. I constantly worried about losing my passport, which has long since expired and not been renewed. We bought books. A group of my classmates wanted to go out to a club one night. I spent the evening with the only other two who weren't interested in an expensive cover charge and loud music and we browsed in bookstores. Alright, I don't remember what kind of store it was, just that we went there and I strongly suspected that at least one of my companions was gay. I remember their high school faces, but not their names.

I wish I could find all those pictures. Perhaps then I would be able to remember more.