Blacknell.net

Politics, technology, and society. And the seasonal incursion of pro cycling.

Month: July 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

Le Tour est mort. Vive Le Tour!

Something was missing, this morning. It started off in the usual routine - grab a Diet Coke, sit down at my desk, check messages. Start the Slingbox client to have today's stage on in the backgrou . . . oh.  Le Tour is over. And I miss it already. I'm not sure how this happened, me becoming someone who values watching a sports event. I've never been much of a spectator - you couldn't drag me to a football game, baseball games are only enjoyable for the lazing in the sun, and in any event, I'd much rather spend my time doing something than watching it. But something is different, with the Tour. I ascribe much of it to an ability to identify with the riders. Not that we've anything actually in common, of course. Alejandro Pettachi can bump against 50mph on a flat sprint - I'll be lucky to get much past 30mph.  I'm ready to take a day or three off after a hard century ride, but the entire Tour peloton does it for three straight weeks. But there is something there - some familiarity.  I do know the fear of high speed mountain descents.  The desperate efforts to hang on to the back of the peloton in a race.  But there's something more.  And I think Ursula captured it pretty well, over at PodiumCafe:
Sports are so popular because they are a distillation of this courage/suffering struggle.  With sports we can sometimes catch a glimpse of this struggle and the attempts to overcome it. But where sports comes up short to often is that we spectators usually only see the final sprint, so to speak.  The games of most sports are too short to see  the full struggle, the full futility of what the athletes are attempting to do.  We only see the glory.  True, we see "losers" but these athletes don't really lose, because coming in second is not a loss.  They still finished with style.  Sure its disappointing to come in second but really is oh, Zidane really suffering for coming in 2nd last year?  How about the Chicago Bears?  The silver medalists at the Olympics?  Not really. Of all the sports and the sporting events the Tour de France (and the other two Grand Tours) comes closest to life.  The TdF goes way beyond a marathon to where its hard to even see the beginning of the race when we are at the end.  In the TdF everybody loses, even [Tour winner Alberto Contador].   Everyone suffers humiliation, a million humiliations for three weeks.  The Tour is too stupidly hard for any of the racers to do otherwise.
We don't watch the Tour because we want to see the humiliations.  We watch because we can identify with the struggle against them.  We watch because the riders don't give up.  The keep at it, trying to overcome those humiliations again and again.  Mile after mile.  Stage after stage.  Year after year. Le Tour est mort.  Vive Le Tour.

Behind the (Security Theater) Curtains: Schneier Interviews Hawley

One of the top thinkers in security - Bruce Schneier - interviews Kip Hawley, head of the Transportation Safety Administration. Kip Hawley, who is less than popular with thinking travelers, gives us special insight into TSA wisdom:
So what would the justification be for prohibiting lip gloss, nasal spray, etc? There was none, other than for our own convenience and the sake of a simple explanation.
Well, I sure am glad that the TSA wasn't inconvenienced. Lord, can you imagine the stress of inconvenience, in an airport? It gets better. In response to Schneier asking Hawley why, if our liquids are so dangerous, they're thrown into a giant barrel in the middle of the security area, Hawley tells us:
If the TSO throws your liquids in the trash, they don't find you a threat.
Then if I'm not a threat, why did you just throw my )(*#@#@ Diet Coke away? I give Kip Hawley credit for submitting to an interview with Schneier, but he's still an idiot.  Read the interview here.

What Would Vino Do?

That's the thought that ran through my head as I was shelled off the back of the peloton and considering bailing on the Giro di Coppi this past Saturday. While the answer to the question is probably "He'd blow past the peloton and finish five minutes ahead of everyone else", I had to settle for not quitting. But it worked. Really, I think I need to gather a few folks and set up a run of WWVD? jerseys. (For those who are wondering what in the hell I'm talking about.) Update: Figures I'd hit the road and be unable to update when the news hit. So now I'll just share this perfectly appropriate link: IBelieveVino.com. Go ahead, follow it.

Friday Notes

I have this little text file on my desktop that fills up with things I want to write about or pass along. I've come to realize that it's where ideas go into permanent stasis. So, in the spirit of moving right along, here are a few things from it: Engines of the World, Unite! BUYO does an excellent job of tackling a grave and serious problem:
I hate Thomas. These stories, written from the 1940s by an apparently rather crusty old vicar, seem to me to constantly harp on about how all the little engines should be obedient and "really useful" to the corpulent rich man who runs absolutely everything on the Island of Sodor. There are some really quite nasty punishments handed out to anybody who doesn't conform (poor Bulstrode). Anyway, I have to read these stories, so I decided to write my own Thomas story with a difference: "The Really Revolutionary Engine".
You really should read the story. Via Racing Union. ~ Jakob Nielsen does an excellent job of explaining why what I'm doing right now is nearly worthless. Read and consider. ~ I know he's so yesterday, but I nonetheless enjoyed this interview with cook/traveler/vegetarian-hater/author/hopefully-one-day-Rachel-Ray-slapper Anthony Bourdain. ~ And finally, one of my favorite authors points us to something good. (One of the few reasons that I don't make fun of the folks lining up for the Harry Potter book tonight is that I'll be right there the moment I can put my hands on Spook Country.)

Somebody Hide The Button!

Please.

“Abuser Fees”: Let’s Review the Tape . . .

Check out Kenton Ngo's fantastic bit of work.

Presidential Campaign Ephemera

I'm still trying to avoid the primary campaigns, but this TPM Cafe review of campaign expense reports caught my eye.  Nothing particularly meaningful, but interesting nonetheless, if for no other reason than to discover that I've generated Lexis bills that dwarf those of presidential campaigns . . .

Watch out!


Above, the Wicked Witch of the West gives chase at today's Muddy Buddy race in Richmond, Virginia. I've got tons of great photos from this event, as well as last week's Philadelphia Women's Triathlon. But between having to wait until my Philly hate subsides (seriously, WTF is *wrong* with you people?) and Saturday's dislocated shoulder (oops), it's slow going at Blacknell.net World HQ.

Nobody’s Afraid of Vegetarians

Wired's 27Bstroke6 blog informs us of the new DHS security threat menu, based on "gut feelings": Further thought:  would this make Kobayashi a WMD or our only hope?

How Doping Works, Courtesy of Joerg Jaksche

The Drunk Cyclist does non-German-speaking fans of cycling an excellent service.

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