Critical Section

Archive: September 21, 2021


Archive: September 14, 2020


Monday,  09/14/20  04:05 PM


Sowell often hits the nail on the head, but here he pounds it directly through the wood. 

Almost every single thing on the liberal agenda will likely worsen the conditions it is intended to help.  I often wonder if this is deliberate - Machiavellian power grabbing - but per Occam's Razor perhaps there is just a failure to draw apt conclusions from prior experiments.



Stillwater revisited

Monday,  09/14/20  08:44 PM

Longtime readers know, I am a big fan of Almost Famous, and have been since it was released 20 years ago.  It's one of those movies which seem to be gaining fans and popularity the more time passes, and while the fame is justified, I somewhat preferred the movie when it was Almost Famous :)  But so be it.

Almost Famous turns 20The 20th anniversary was marked; including a Rolling Stone interview of Cameron Crowe, a New York interview of Patrick Fugit, and this incredible podcast featuring many of the cast.  And this: the deleted "Stairway to Heaven" scene .. unlike many, I am oh so glad it was deleted.  Yes of course you must watch it - it's all happening! 

"What kind of beer?"

I've seen the future, and this all works out pretty well.  Onward!


Monday,  09/14/20  08:53 PM

Vive Le TourChecking back in ... sorry, I've been busy.  And also sort of hunkered down.

So so glad that Le Tour is taking place, albeit pushed back by a couple of months.  With all the compromises it's still a fantastic event and has been great watching.  Of course it doesn't hurt that "my team" Jumbo Visma are in yellow...

Asking the important questions: Will I ever buy clothing again?

Flight Radar 24 websiteYou guys all knew this, but I did not; the supercool Flight Radar 24 website.  Every plane in the air in realtime.

Flattest place on Earth: Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaHere we have the 20 most extreme places on Earth.  Make a list, visit them all.  Awesome!

you look like a thing and I love youBook of the day: You look like a thing and I love you.  "How artificial intelligence works and why it's making the world a weirder place."  Noted.

Department of intended consequences: California judge rules Uber, Lyft must classify drivers as employees.

Perseverance - the next Mars roverNASA: Seven things to know about the Perseverance Mars Rover.  Good to know.  I hope it has the same perseverance as Spirit and Opportunity!

News you could use, if only the people who claim to use science actually, um, used science: Why green energy is impossible.  Of all the contradictory agenda items on the liberal agenda, this is the least easily explained by Occam's Razor.  Surely at least some of the supporters of green energy know it's a sham?

Oh, and Tonopah solar files for bankruptcy in the great implosion.

SpaceX 100th rocket launchMeanwhile, SpaceX changes the game with 100th rocket launch.  The first polar launch from Florida in more than 50 years.  And ho hum, the first stage was landed afterward and will be reused.



Archive: September 11, 2019

never forget

Wednesday,  09/11/19  07:46 PM


never forget

Now more than ever



Archive: September 11, 2018

never forget

Tuesday,  09/11/18  11:11 AM


Never Forget

what happened, and what we are up against



Archive: September 11, 2017

never forget

Monday,  09/11/17  12:03 AM


I will never forget
I hope none of us do
We must remain ever vigilant
Freedom is not free



Archive: September 11, 2016

never forget

Sunday,  09/11/16  12:01 PM

Wow, 9/11, again.  I will certainly never forget, as must we all not, for the evil philosophy which drove the horrible events of that day is with us still.  We must be ever vigilant to defend our ways of life against those who would take them away.

I have a calm quiet day; the biggest challenge I face will be riding my bike up a steep mountain.  I will worry only about how to make great things happen in the future, for my family and my business, and not about how to avoid bad things happening in the present. 

But I will not forget the recent past, and I hope you will not, either.



Archive: September 11, 2015

never forget

Friday,  09/11/15  12:01 AM


9-11-01 ... never forget

never forget

taken at the beautiful 9-11 memorial
the reflections were an amazing serendipity



Archive: September 21, 2014

Sunday,  09/21/14  09:25 PM

iPhone 5 gear caseChecking in after another long weekend ... (coding away over here :) ...

I had a good time today taking a few hours out to redesign this awesome iPhone 5 gear case...  Made it thinner and lighter, and eliminated a seam.  I really like Tinkercad, what a great tool.  And how cool that it's free ... could see such a powerful tool costing $500, easily.

Apple Watch box ... and chargerThis looks cool: the Apple Watch box, reimagined as a charging station.  I love the creativity people display in these situations...  there was a lot of work that went into these awesome Photoshops.

Remember I was wondering what happened to the desktop apps?  Well here's an example of the strong trend in the other direction: Wolfram Mathematica now works in your browser.  Will the UI be as good as Mathematica on the desktop?  I doubt it.  Will it be as fast, or as responsible?  Almost seems like it can't be.  And yet this the trend, everything has to be cloud-hosted and available in a browser.  Pretty soon we'll all be running Chrome OS because that's all we need.

the Picasso curtain at the Four SeasonsShowdown at the Four Seasons.  "It all started with the decision to remove a Picasso curtain."  As so many showdowns do :)

Seth Godin: What everyone reads.  "Everyone used to read the morning paper because everyone did.  Everyone used to read the selection of the book of the month club, because everyone did.  And everyone used to watch the same TV shows too. It was part of being not only informed, but in sync... Today, of course, that's awfully unlikely."  Well... everyone does read my blog :)

Soviet hydrofoil ocean linerThe evolution of flying ships.  Hydrofoiling is awesome!

Dave Winer: the lost art of software testing.  Not entirely lost, but certainly under-emphasized.  Interestingly this trend we've been talking about with desktop applications moving to the web exacerbates the under emphasis; with cloud-hosted applications it's easier to fix bugs on the fly.

SpaceX launches cargo ship to International Space Station, including its first 3D printer.  Hehe, excellent.  Now they can make their own iPhone 5 gear cases! :)

Fabiano Caruana plays Magnus Carlsen at the 2014 Sinquefield CupGrandmaster clash.  "One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed."  A great story about a great cast of characters.  Chess is interesting if only for the personalities of the world's best players.

MG Siegler outlines The Plan to Save Radio Shack.  "My plan to revive RadioShack would be to harken back to the old days with a twist of the way things currently are.  I'd create an 'Apple Store for everything.'"  Definitely worth a try...  but curating "everything" to find great stuff is not easy.


magic carpet over Prague

Sunday,  09/21/14  09:53 PM


This is awesome: Magic carpet ride over Prague (in a quadcopter).
Amazing how quickly this technology has become so widely used.



Archive: September 11, 2013

never forget

Wednesday,  09/11/13  09:07 AM

most excellent 9-11 tribute at Pepperdine University in MalibuHi all; I'm emerging from my Facebook-induced sabbatical from blogging to post on 9/11; I will never forget, as must we all not do, so as to honor those who died that day and also preserve everything we have and want.

The picture at right is of the most excellent 9/11 tribute on the giant front lawn of Pepperdine University in Malibu; a flag for everyone who died, including foreign flags representing those from other countries.  Standing among the flags blowing around gives you chills, as you realize that each flag represents an ended life, and also how great it is to be standing there, alive, enjoying a beautiful fall day.

Last year on 9/11 I posted a tribute (after just having flown back from the Czech Republic!), and in so doing thought maybe it would prompt me to start blogging again.  That didn't happen; a year has passed and I've posted ... three times.  Yikes!  So this year I'm flying to Colorado today (why must I always be in the air on 9/11?), and I'm again thinking maybe it will prompt me to restart blogging.  We'll see... in the meantime, let's all take a minute and never forget.



Archive: September 11, 2012


Tuesday,  09/11/12  08:55 AM

Prague Castle with St. Vitus Catherdral, and the Karlov Most in the foregroundHi blog public; I'm back?

I haven't posted here in ... wow, five months (I have continued posting on my Facebook in the meantime) ... but couldn't resist posting a 9-11 tribute today.

Maybe this will loosen my "posters block" and I'll get back into blogging. Stay tuned :)

At right, my favorite picture from my just-completed visit to Prague, Czech Republic, of Prague Castle with St. Vitus Catherdral, and the Karlov Most in the foreground.

Some stuff which has happened:



never forget

Tuesday,  09/11/12  09:11 AM

World Trade Center site - Freedom TowerThis is a picture of the World Trade Center site, with the new Freedom tower which is under construction.  I think this is an entirely fitting tribute, I love that the site itself won't be built on, but instead will remaind dedicated to the memory of 9-11.  We must never forget and remain ever vigilant.

As those of you following me on my Facebook know I've been in Prague, Czech Republic, and actually flew back yesterday, which was already 9/11 in Europe, and wow flying on 9/11 really brought back memories from 11 years ago.


Archive: September 18, 2011

Blue Gavel

Sunday,  09/18/11  11:23 PM

the venerable Blue Gavel trophyHow was your weekend?  Mine was pretty good, thanks; long tough ride yesterday, and then hanging out, watched an old chick flick (Beaches!), and today did a short ride and raced in the Westlake Yacht Club's Blue Gavel regatta, and then watched a new chick flick (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days).  In between saw each of my daughters coming and going, and even worked a little on some project proposals.  I know, I know, too much information ... onward:

Oh and I managed to install the Win 8 developer preview, which was a minor exercise in yak shaving as it involved upgrading to VMWare 8 :)  I'll have more to say about it soon.

professor signature semioticsImportant work: The semiotics of professor e-mail signatures.  Highly recommended - O.  [ via Z :) ]

Speaking of email signatures, the other day I noted "Email signatures should be contact information, not sayings".  Prompting William to email "I couldn't agree more"; his email signature was ... "Email signatures should be contact information, not sayings" - Ole Eichhorn.  How great is that?

Rereading an old post, I encountered some excellent correlation vs causality confusion.  "The alternative headline, 'why kids with lower IQs need to be spanked', was apparently not considered, despite the fact that IQ is demonstratively harder to change than needing-to-be-spanked."  Fire on 'em!

Albert EinsteinFrom Time Magazine, May 1955: Death of a Genius, an epitaph for Albert Einstein.  "Einstein's only instruments were a pencil and scratchpad; his laboratory was under his cap. Yet he saw farther than a telescope, deeper than a microscope. Einstein traveled in lonely splendor to the crossroads of the visible and the invisible, expressing each in terms of the other."  A reminder not only of the former greatness of Professor Einstein, but of Time Magazine.

So, Sprint says they can handle the iPhone traffic.  Good to hear.  I love my iPhone, but I do not love having a crappy Verizon signal at my house.  Sprint was great.

BTW I have a Verizon "network extender", a mini cell tower attached to my network, but the voice quality through the extender is variable and often iffy.

volcanic auroraAwesome: The most amazing space pictures of 2011.  (so far :)  My pick is the volcanic aurora at left, over the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  (Yes of course that's the correct spelling.)

Clive Thompson gets asked How did you find my site?  A good question, and I'd like to ask you how you found mine :)


Archive: September 12, 2010


Sunday,  09/12/10  09:26 PM

I am reloading after a great weekend; slept in (what a luxury), went mountain biking, saw Pat Benatar with all my girls (Megan's first concert!), and brunched at the Lake, with useful amounts of uninterrupted work time in between.  I needed that!  Just wish I had another day just like it... and man I have a busy schedule; Vista next week, Boston + Baltimore the week after, Chicago the week after that.  You may never hear from me again :)

...but I will squeeze in a filter pass while I can...

Pat Benatar and Neil "Spyder" Giraldo at the Canyon ClubSeeing Pat Benatar was awesome... and the Canyon Club is a perfect venue, an intimate dive with the perfect ambiance for this kind of show.  Pat hasn't lost her kick; check out this video of "Heartbreaker".  And her husband Neil Giraldo (aka "Spyder") still has a blazing guitar.  Coolest thing was being able to shoot this video with my Pre phone in realtime, and then immediately upload it to Facebook, while I was there.  It isn't HD but the technology to do this at all is amazing.

A highlight from the show was Invincible, which Pat introduced nicely, alluding to 9/11; "we can't afford to be innocent, it's a do or die situation, we will be Invincible".  Chills.

New Yorker 9/24/01It was a quiet 9/11, huh?  And a quiet 9/12, too... there were remembrances and tributes, but it was all rather muted.  I know I will never forget.  Let's hope we all don't, collectively. 

I liked Gerard Vanderleun's remembrance, including that fabulous New Yorker cover from Sept, 24, 2001...

Glen Reynolds had a nice little collection of links, too.

Rotterdam Football Club's headquartersThis is awesome: the Rotterdam Football Club's headquarters.  How cool is that?

I have not really been following the Vuelta, but I see where Carlos Barredo won stage 15 up the famous Lagos de Covadonga climb.  I remember it well!  Looks like Vincenzo Nibali has a 4s lead over Joaquim Rodriquez in the overall GC.  So be it.

Telemedicine is totally becoming a reality; Randall Parker considers the possibilities of teleanesthesia.  Like other specialists the logistics of having anesthesiologists present makes scheduling surgeries more difficult.  Perhaps someday an entire surgery will be conducted remotely.  For sure digital pathology is making remote intraoperative consultations feasible!

Killers - mindless entertainmentThe other night Shirley and I watched "Killers", quite possibly the silliest movie of all time.  (Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 0% :)  The plot made no sense, the characters were cardboard cutouts ... and yet, it was fun.  Watching Katherine Heigl is always fun (!) and Shirley would say the same about Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara was great, and best of all the entire opening took place at the Hotel du Cap in Cap d'Antibes, France.  What can I say, mindless entertainment, but at least it wasn't pretentious...

We continue to enjoy our "old" AppleTV, which is perfect for impulse buying movies; we were watching within five minutes of having had the idea.

Motto for the week: Two weirds don't make a normalCheers!


Archive: September 21, 2009

Monday,  09/21/09  09:57 PM

Well as promised I did spent the weekend coding, and it was good.  Really good.  Man I miss coding.  Today I was back in  status report / planning / reviewing / emailing mode, and it was not good.  I am beginning to think there is a hierarchy of tools, ranging from unproductive blue sky to productive creation:

  • Powerpoint
  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • Word
  • Photoshop
  • Visual Studio

The more time I spent in Visual Studio, the happier I am.  Time spent in Powerpoint invariably makes me irritable.  Anyway tomorrow I am on my way to Vista for day of meetings, so I may not use any tools at all, which could be great, or could be horrible; we'll see.

And in the meantime, there is always Citydesk for blogging...

Yikes: Obama open to newspaper bailout bill.  [ via Instapundit, who labels it "Payoff". ]

Saturn, with rings backlit... from the best photos taken by space probesSmithsonian:  magnificent photos from space probes.  This is just complete porn to me, how wonderful...  My favorite is the one at right, Saturn with its rings backlit...  [ via Boing Boing ]

Alejandro Valverde wins the 2009 VueltaWell we must congratulate Alejandro Valverde for winning the 2009 Vuelta, his first grand tour.  He was not able to race the Tour de France this year - because, weirdly, he has been banned from racing in Italy - and so his form for the Vuelta was great.  He will be a force in the upcoming world championships, no doubt.  Chapeau also to David Miller for winning the final time trial, he too will be a force in Switzerland.

The Tour of Spain was kind to Samuel Sanchez, who finished second, and Cadel Evans, who finished third (and is poised for the world's), but not to Robert Gesink, who finished sixth but was in it before he wiped out.  The Rabobank rider still has a bright future.

Here's some important research: The real reason women have sex.  "So why do women have sex? The vast majority (84 percent) have sex to guarantee a quiet life or to persuade their men to do some housework."  Huh.  So much for romance and shared intimacy.  And um, orgasms.

billionaire's yacht, featuring anti-photo shield (how was this one taken :)Russian billionaire installs anti-photo shield on giant yacht.  I find the yacht to be amazing, much more so than the anti-photo technology, although I can appreciate why it might be necessary...

A dog is a rat is a doctor is a vet.  In which we see that our pets get better care than some people.  As the post concludes: why can't we just be consenting adults?

ZooBorn: a baby BongoZooBorn of the weekend: a baby Bongo...


Archive: September 21, 2008

sextuple double - riding the Knoxville Classic!

Sunday,  09/21/08  07:44 PM

Hi - I'm baack...  I emerged from a self-imposed deathmarch to deliver some software, just in time to take off for a few days and ride the Knoxville Double Century, in Napa Valley.  I made it - riding, as usual, with my friend Mark Burson - and enjoyed it very much.  It took us about 16 hours overall, 13:30 riding time. 

The course has about 12,600' of climbing, and it is deceptive; unlike other rides where there are a few well-defined big climbs, the course spreads the climbing over the whole ride, virtually all of it was up and down on rollers.  I don't think I've ever shifted so much, and managed to drop my chain about ten times with badly timed shifts from the big ring.  There were few opportunities to really crank, it was more just staying focused and adapting.

Knoxville Double - at the halfway point
Mark and I, about halfway done, and still smiling :)

I had one really scary moment; at about 175 miles I was barreling down a descent in the dark when I hit a bump, and my headlight shut off.  Wow, instant darkness, and I was still moving at 30mph.  I managed to come to a stop without hitting anything, and just sat there in the dark, my red taillight blinking its eerie glow without providing much light to see.  I had to wait for another rider to come along and then jumped on their wheel, and followed riders all the way to the next rest stop.  At which point, the headlight began working again.  Ah, Murphy, you're so much fun.

Adding to the pleasure of the ride, Friday night we had dinner with my friends Tim and Kathy Marshall, who have a beautiful property near Lower Lake, at the extreme North end of the ride route.  Serious amounts of excellent salad and pasta were eaten and Pinot Noir was drunk, including a fantastic wine called Six Sigma made by one of Tim's neighbors (an ex-GE guy, of course :)

Knoxville Double - dinner with Tim and Kathy Marshall
Kathy explains while Mark listens, and I mug for the camera

Tim and Kathy live right along the race route, so we saw them during the ride, too - wow, fans!  Their 70-acre property is not quite the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there.

Knoxville Double - at Lake Berryessa
At around 50 miles, Lake Berryessa

One of the real pleasures of this ride was the isolation, we were on back roads most of the day, with little car traffic.  The scenery was amazing.  It is always such a joy to realize how much wilderness still exists in California, even after all the development that has taken place.

Knoxville Double - back country wilderness
Knoxville Road, in the Lake County wilderness

And then today we attended the annual California Triple Crown breakfast, where we were formally anointed as triple crown winners (as well as 1,000 mile club members).  I was able to tell Mark's story - he completed six double centuries this year on an artificial hip - and everyone was appropriately appreciative.  Among the highlights of the breakfast was the introduction of the 100 double century club, yes, that's right, these people have each ridden at least 100 double centuries in their lives:

California Triple Crown breakfast - 100 double club
The 100 double club.  Wow, just wow.

The guy second from the left in the picture above is Dave "big ring" Evans, who at 70 is still riding doubles, he completed the ride yesterday.  I can't even imagine that, but it is good to have goals :)

And speaking of goals, next up is the Furnace Creek 508!  Scary, now just two weeks away...



keeping score

Sunday,  09/21/08  07:49 PM

I just noted completing a sextuple double, by riding the Knoxville Double Century, but it was also my tenth ultra century this year (rides of more than 100 miles).  In the interest of keeping score:

ride datedistance climbingriding timenote

PCH Rando 200K


128 miles



PCH Rando 300K


185 miles



Butterfield Double


200 miles!



Solvang Double


200 miles


Hemet Double


200 miles



qualified for California Triple Crown!

Breathless Agony


114 miles



Eastern Sierra Double


200 miles



Grand Tour Double


200 miles



qualified for 1,000 mile club!

Markleeville Death Ride


129 miles



Knoxville Classic Double


200 miles



Still, who's counting?  Okay, okay, maybe I am.  Hoping for some more of that metric magic :)

Actually I've been keeping score another way, too.  After each ultra century, I've fashioned a little sticker commemorating the ride.  This is what the top tube of my bike looks like now:

ultra century stickers on top tube
(ultra century stickers - click to enbiggen)

Pretty cool, eh?  I get a kick out of making a new sticker after each ride, and I like the admiring stares when I ride with my local club on weeknights (the Conejo Valley Cyclists). Yeah, I’m a bit of a ham, what can I say.



Sunday,  09/21/08  08:42 PM

Well, I am back to the land of the "normal", no longer working day and night trying to get software delivered, or driving up to Napa to ride in a 200 mile cycling race.  A lot happened last week - a lot - and I must tell you, I am not a news outlet, so I apologize if I skip stuff which was "important". 

In particular while I am really worried about the Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac bailout, I don't understand it well enough to have an opinion.  Actually I do have an opinion, that it was really stupid to have these quasi-government quasi-private corporations in the first place.  I understand encouraging home ownership and I realize having a market for mortgages helps by lowing rates and allowing lenders to take more chances, but surely there was a better way?  We can see that now...  probably everything else bad that has happened and likely will happen can be traced back to this.

Happy Birthday!First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful daughter Jordan, who turned 22 today.  Wow, 22, I can so remember her as a little girl.  She says she feels old, which is kind of funny but kind of understandable.  I was 22 when I got married!  Wow.  Anyway Jordan is great and doing great, and [I think] had a nice day, so it was a Happy Birthday!

Even as we almost had a female President and could still have a female Vice President, the new Israeli Prime Minister is a woman, Tzipi Livni.  This is pretty important, Israel is a nuclear power, and Iran, another nuclear power, has threatened their extermination.  If there is a nuclear war on Earth in the next decade, this is most likely where it will start.

The media bias on display in this election has been nothing short of staggering.  All pretense of neutrality has been lost.  I understand Saturday Night Live had a joke about Todd Palin and incest.  Wow, is that funny (no, they don't deserve a link).  The Emmy Awards were a liberal feeding frenzy (no, they don't serve a link).  If you really want to see how bad it's gotten, check this out: CNN's Jack Cafferty thinks only racism explains close polls.  This wasn't a column, by the way, it was a "news" story.  CNN, the LATimes, the NYTimes, NBC, ABC, CBS - they're all in the tank for Obama.  And yet the polls do remain close, and not because of racism.  I think the US public has calibrated the media, and is disgusted by it.  And when they look at Obama, they don't see a man who is half-African American, they see an American, who happens to be just 46 and has served only one year as a Senator.

If, improbably, you're still undecided about who to vote for, you might find this article in the NYTimes comparing McCain's and Obama's positions on various aspects of science.  At the highest level the difference appears to be - as you would expect - that Obama wants to use public money, while McCain wants to support private industry.

Wades Wines logoThis is kind of cool: the Ventura County Star lauds Wade's Wines, my favorite local wine store.  They have great stuff, reasonably priced, and their people know wine.  You can walk in, describe what you want (a robust pinot with a smoky aftertaste for $25, from Oregon), and they'll point you right to it.

Levi Leipheimer wins final Vuelta TTSo Levi Leipheimer won the final time trial in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, and Alberto Contador wrapped up the overall title.  That means Contador has won each of the grand tours consecutively, the 2007 Tour de France, the 2008 Giro di Italia, and the 2008 Vuelta a Espana.  (He did not ride in the 2008 Tour de France because his team Astana were not invited, due to past problems with doping which didn't involve Contador.)  Pretty cool.  And also cool that Levi finished second overall, giving Astana one-two, and a clear claim to be the top team in the world.

So do you now take this team and add Lance Armstrong to it?  I don't know, it might not even help...

Good news: the FDA is adding 1,300 more people.  Or is it?  I am conflicted; on the one hand, judging from Aperio's interactions with them they really don't have enough people, but on the other, government bureaucracies like this only get bigger, never smaller.

Goodbye to Yankee Stadium.  As a longtime Dodger fan, I'm not too sad about this.  I understand the iconic nature of the place - Sports Illustrated had a nice article about it, featuring George Bush throwing out the first ball the night of 9/11 - but in the end it is just a stadium.  Not like Dodger Stadium, for example, which is a temple!

Olin StephensSailing Anarchy notes The End of a Legend, as Olin Stephens has died.  "A wonderful man by all accounts, the body of work of Sparkman and Stephens, the design breakthroughs, and the sheer beauty of their work remains as a testament to the incredible boats they graced our sport with. Of all his brilliant accomplishments, designing eight of the nine America's Cup winners between 1937 and 1980 most certainly stands unmatched."  This man designed more of the top racing sailboats in the world over a longer period of time than anyone.




Archive: September 9, 2007

long day's journey into Lagos

Sunday,  09/09/07  01:51 AM

So I was in Spain on business, so I decided to visit the Vuelta.  Stage 4, one of the nastiest climbs the Pro Tour ever rides, from Cangas des Onis to the Lagos de Covadonga.  And yes, I rode it myself.  Here’s my report...

[ Note: this post was retroactively added on 6/13/08 ]

The day began on Sunday Sept 2 as I participated in the third consecutive day of the C-15 North American Championships in Long Beach (the C-15 is a small racing sailboat).  We finished eighth (I was crewing for a friend of mine’s son), a respectable performance.  From there I drove to LAX and discovered that I’d forgotten my passport.  Bad Ole.  Shirley rescued me by heroically driving it down to me (yes, she took the Maserati, and no, she didn’t get a ticket).  Next came a nice little 10½ hour flight on Air France to Paris, which landed nearly an hour late.  So I missed my connection to Madrid.  So I was rebooked onto another flight an hour later.  It arrived on time, but because it was a later flight I nearly missed my connection to Oviedo (in Asturias, along the Northern Coast of Spain; yes of course Spain has a Northern Coast).  Picture me running through the airport, chasing a little French Air France representative who is running fast in her high heels.  Okay.  So I did make the flight to Oviedo, but my luggage did not.  It is now late Monday night and I have only the clothes on my back.  (There’s a lot more to the luggage story, but it isn’t directly relevant to the Vuelta stage, so I’ll skip most of it.  It does have a happy ending.)

I rent a Hertz car, a Peugeot 170 which is the world’s smallest four-dour diesel.  (Really cute and snappy to drive, but a bit loud and rattley.)  Along with the car came a “NeverLost” – a portable Magallen GPS, which I have previously found to be a godsend everywhere but especially in foreign countries with roundabouts instead of intersections.  The NeverLost comes in a foam bag filled with crap.  I pulled out the NeverLost, plugged it in, and discovered it didn’t work.  No findie the satellites, no workie.  So now I need maps, but I am in the middle of nowhere (Oviedo airport is way outside of Oviedo).  I decided to drive into downtown Oviedo to hopefully get a WiFi signal so I could hopefully use Google Maps to find my way.  So that worked.  (A lot of detail removed here.)  And I made it to the small town of Cangas de Onis, in Asturias, the site of my hotel.

Why Cangas de Onis?  Well it is just outside a huge Spanish national park called the “Picos de Europa”, aka Tips of Europe.  This park is appropriately named, there are some big ass mountains there.  And in those mountains is an old Catholic monastery called Covadonga.  A little winding mountain road takes you from Cangas de Onis up to Covadonga, and if you continue on the winding mountain road it goes up and up and up and eventually takes you to some small lakes near the tallest peak, called the Lagos de Covadonga.  And it happens that Stage 4 of the Vuelta finished with the climb to the Lagos de Covadonga (see, the Vuelta was going to come into the story eventually :)

Stage 4 took place on Tuesday Sept 4.  I arrived in Cangas de Onis at 3:00 AM on Tuesday Sept 4.  I found the hotel (whew!), checked in, took a shower, and took off again.  This was going to be a busy day, exacerbated by my lack of luggage and lack of GPS.  (BTW in case you’re wondering WiFi has not made it to Cangas de Onis yet.  If it ever does.)  And yes if you’re keeping track I have not slept yet.  I knew there would be no shops open in Oviedo until 9:00 AM and the drive back to Oviedo was about two hours, so I had some time to kill.  Not enough time to sleep, but enough time to drive up the Lagos climb. 

I found the road to Covadonga, and along the way I saw piles and piles of barricades, ready to block the road.  But not blocking the road yet.  So I drove up the climb.  HFS what a climb.  About 15km at about 10%, but some sections are much steeper.  My little Peugeot diesel was tested.  And did I mention this is a winding road?  It took me an hour, which means I averaged 15km/h up the hill in my car.  It was still dark outside but not too dark to notice the lack of fences and the fact that cattle roamed freely.  None of the banners for the race were up yet, and I began to doubt I was even on the right road, but then near the top I began passing little clusters of motor homes wedged into the sides of the road.  More and more.  Until finally at the very top, which was very high, and very exposed, there was a bigger clump next to one of the lakes.  The whole experience was very cool but also very intimidating.  I have never climbed anything like that before, not even Mount Palomar which is 3,000 ft at 8% (exact same as L’Alpe d’Huez by the way).

Okay, so I found the climb, yay, and now I have to find a bike and some kit.  Back down the mountain.  Took nearly an hour just to get down!  Then on to Oviedo, and I get there just around 9:00 in the morning.  I find my WiFi spot again, and begin Googling for bike shops.  I find three.  Sparing you a long story (and many returns to the WiFi spot), none of the three shops rent bikes.  Boo.  But one of them mentioned a shop in the town of Treverse which did.  Treverse is 40km South of Oviedo.  So be it, off I go.  And I get totally and completely lost.  I am in the middle of Spanish nowhere, with no map and no WiFi.  I have a GPS but it doesn’t work.  It is now 11:00 and I am running out of time if I’m going to see this stage, let alone ride it.  Crap.

Wait a minute…  why didn’t the GPS work?  Maybe if I futz with it?  OMG there are instructions!  1) Plug in the NeverLost.  2) Plug in the GPS antennae.  The GPS antennae?  Yes, the GPS antennae!  In that foam bag filled with crap I find – ta da – the GPS antennae.  You will not be shocked to hear that when I plugged it in, the GPS was able to findie the satellite and began to workie.  Yay!  Man triumphant against the elements.

Okay, so again making a long story shorter (not to say short), I found Treverse.  It is way up in the mountains, at a mountain biking resort.  (Who knew?)  And they rent mountain bikes.  Bike, fat, heavy, mountain bikes.  So be it.  I eagerly rent a BFH mountain bike, and discover to my amazement that it fits into the back of the Peugeot.  Barely.  I have a bike, but I don’t have clothes.  That’s the next problem, and in Treverse there is nothing; they do not sell clothes.  Back to Oviedo I go.

I return to the bike shop where they recommended Treverse, and buy a new kit.  Nice shorts, jersey, mountain biking shoes, socks, water bottle, the works.  I even bought some gel packs.  (Please do not ask about underwear.  Just don’t.)  So, yay.  I am ready, with a bike and full kit, but it is 12:30 and I am in Oviedo.  This is going to be tight.  And on the road to Cangas de Onis – which is a little two-lane that so far as had zero traffic – I encounter a massive blockage.  Traffic is backed up forever.  Remember all those barricades?  They have now been deployed. 

What to do?  Well, I make a U turn, and use my mad navigation skillz (the NeverLost) to plot a return to Cangas de Onis from the other side, where there is nothing.  This requires a massive detour all the way to the ocean, East along the coast, and then down some back roads.  Time is passing, and I am racing down the highways in my little Peugeot as fast as it will go (for the record, about 150km/h).  And it works!  I make it back to Cangas de Onis on a back road, and park near my hotel.  It is now 3:00.  I’m pretty sure the peloton has not made it through town yet and onto the climb, but I don’t know if I’ll be in time to ride up all the way before they do.

So I change into my new kit, assemble the BFH bike, fill my bottle, and I’m off!  Did I mention this bike was big, fat, and heavy?  Well, it was.  I probably didn’t mention that the gears didn’t work, because I didn’t discover that until this moment.  Oh no, Mr. Bill, no gears!  Well kind of gears, because although the front derailleur is hopelessly wedged, at least it is wedged on the small ring, and the back derailleur does sort of work.  At least I can get into the granny, and stay there.  Whew.

So I’ll make a long story shorter (not to say short) by saying, I made it.  It was a bitch, but I made it.  It would have been a bitch on my 16 lb. Kestrel after a good night’s sleep; on the BFH bike going into my third day with no sleep it was harder.  But it was kind of fun, because I MADE IT.  The crowds were great, too, they cheered me all the way up.

All the way up the hill had been “dressed” for the stage while I was driving around Spain shopping.  There were barricades, there were banners, there were sponsors, there were sponsor’s representatives (very attractive ones, too :), and there were people everywhere lining the road.  Some rode in cars and vans, but there wasn’t much room.  Many rode up until they bonked, and watched from there.  Others walked.  And at the top was all the stuff you’d expect, which appeared as if by magic; the finish line, the TV booths, the jumbotron screen, and so on.

So it took me nearly two hours to climb the hill (ave 7.5 km/h, not fast :), it was 5:00 when I got there.  And just then the peleton passed through the town, you could see and hear the crowds cheering on the jumbotron.  The Spanish announcers were going crazy.  (I missed Phil and Paul, but only a little.)  There was a break of about 35 riders, which splintered immediately.  All the way up the hill there were attacks, with Vladimir Efikin, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, and Stijn Devolder trading places.  (I was rooting for Menchov, of course; go Rabobank!)  Every time Sastre came to the front the crowds roared.  You could not believe their speed up that hill.  I honestly think it took them about forty minutes, which means they averaged 20km/h.  I know they did it faster than I did in the Peugeot, let alone on my BFH bike.  With about 3k to go Efimkin got a gap and pressed it hard, and poof he was gone, leaving the other three to battle for second.  Scant minutes later the convoy of helicopters and cars and motorcycles blew through, followed by Efimkin.  Yay!

It took the rest of the peloton another forty minutes or so to dribble through, progressively slower and with less intensity, until finally the massive autobus with like 100 rides slowly ground through the finish.  Whew.

Anyway that’s what happened, please enjoy the pics I took below...

My mighty steed.  The worlds smallest four-dour diesel.  Cute?  Yes.  Peppy?  Yes.  Smooth?  Well…


This is what a Big, Fat, Heavy mountain bike looks like in the back of a Peugeot 107.  Yes it fits.  Barely.


My trusty NeverLost, guiding me on the back route to Cangas de Onis.  Note the bundle of wire which connects the GPS antennae.  This turns out to be important :)


The view out the window, driving from Oviedo to Santander along the Northern Shore of Asturias.  Truly some of the most beautiful seacoast I’ve ever seen.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as I might have, since I was in a hurry…


The Covadonga River, with Cangas de Onis in the background.  My hotel was the tall white building in the middle.  The mountains are to your right.


The main street of Cangas de Onis.  This was at about 3:00, about 1½ hours before the peloton arrived.


Exiting the town - a sign that I am on the right track!


The start of the climb.  Looks innocent, doesn’t it?


Some beauty – the Rio Covadonga – while I can still enjoy it.


The barricades have begun.  And off in the distance, another sign!  Further off in the distance, mountains.  Way off right now :P


More signs!  All the team buses had to park at the bottom of the hill – no room on the hill itself for them.  After the race each of the riders had to coast back down the hill to get to their team cars, which then took them back to their buses.


Young cycling fans, clapping for me :)


Getting more and more serious – barricades and policemen.  The road here is a mere 4%, hardly even a climb.  Except on a BFH bike.


Getting close to the monastery!


First sighting of Covadona!  And it is here that the road becomes a climb, suddenly.  6-7%, yuk.  With 12km to go.


Getting closer!  The church is massive and beautiful.  And right about here the road flattens a bit and there’s some parking lots…


Yeah, baby!  Disco.  I hated these guys for their not big not fat not heavy bikes.  Okay, back to riding.


The climb really starts with those barricades.  Behind me is the church, ahead of me is…  pain…


Looking across at Covadonga.  How did they get all that stone up here?  Whew.  Onward…


About 8% right here.  See that guy on the mountain bike?  I caught him.  On my BFH bike.  He was not pleased :)


More riders, this guy has an Astana cape.  He must be sad because Astana aren’t even racing this year, after Vino won the whole thing last year.  The foliage here is beautiful.


Only 10km to go!  Easy.  Except for the 10% part.  Note the angle of the banners.  They’re hanging straight down.


Yay, only 9km left.  I am really flagging by this time, wondering if I can make it.  The climb seems endless.


First sighting of a team car!  And I made it to 8km.  It is still 8-9% here, not easy at all.


The road emerges from the forest, and the terrain becomes rocky.  And the road continues upward…  I caught this guy on a road bike.  I really think the other riders inspired me to keep going, I kept hoping they would notice how crappy my bike was as I passed them :)  However I got passed a lot, too, sometimes by guys who were really strong.  But there’s still 7km to go…


The road ahead.  If you look closely you can see it sloping up from left to right.  A disheartening sight.


Yay, 6km.  Whew.  This is ONLY THE HALFWAY POINT up the serious part of the climb.  Once you realize that, you realize you’re getting your butt kicked by the mountain today.  But then you realize if you actually do make it all the way, it will be cool.  So you continue…


I took my first break here, and turned around to take some pictures.  WOW!  That valley way down there is where Cangas de Onis is located.  Amazing what you can do on a bike.  This energized me.


Not all the spectators are human.  Lots of bulls roaming them thar hills.  I must say they seem pretty unconcerned with the invasion.


Wow, only 5km to go!  This seems like progress, until I remember that most of the toughest climbs I’ve done were only about 5km.  You can see the road continues on upward, there off in the distance.  Although the pitch here is a mere 6-7%.


Okay, now we’re really getting high.  And we have 5km to go.  Whew.


A quick look back.  That’s the 5km banner off in the distance.  You can get some idea of the steepness from this.


Yikes!  That 6-7% suddenly became about 15%.  Now this is NOT FAIR.  Ouch.


The 4km banner.  The section between 5km and 4km was the worst.  Fortunately as I recall from my reconnaissance this morning, there is an actual downhill section coming up.  I can’t wait.


Looking back from the 4km banner.  Check out that valley off in the distance!  And the climb!!


Here’s the crest of the climb, just before the downhill respite.  A crowd has gathered.  These guys ALL have better bikes than I do :)


The view over the lip.  Wow.  That’s just about all I can say.


There’s Covadonga!  It was about 8km ago.  And about 3,000 ft, too.  Wow.  (I’m saying that a lot, huh?)


No pictures of the little descent, sorry.  But it ends all too soon, and the climb resumes.  And now we have FOG.  Wow, isn’t that special.  It is actually getting a bit nippy.


There was a particularly nasty little section, after climbing it I had to stop and recover.  Which gave these guys a chance to catch up :)  Seriously they were moving slow.  But I know the feeling, I was moving slower.  Actually zig-zagging to make it up, that section must have been 15%+.


When those guys caught me, I asked them to take my picture, and they did.  Here you can see my BFH mountain bike in all its glory, along with my brand new kit (and brand new water bottle).


A new feature – WIND.  Yes it is blowing and yes this was the 3km banner, seems to have blown away.  Note the pitch here.  Ouch.


I can’t even describe the section between 3km and 2km.  It was agony, I was barely ticking over the pedals.  I am now fully bonked and cracked, and desperate to make it all the way up.


Gasp.  More climbing.  Gasp.


Whew!  I crested a climb and there was a plateau, along this little lake.  Los Lagos de Covadonga.  The end is near!  Well, kind of near.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss the 1km banner :)


Yay, here’s the view forward, you can see the 1km banner in the distance.  And a couple of team cars just passed me, the peloton must be getting close (how close?)  And note the climb after that.  Serious stuff.  Wow.


Yay.  In fact, YAY!  1km to go.  Now I know I am going to make it.  Yes I will suffer, but yes, I will make it.


Inside of 1km there are barriers all the way.  Not too much of a crowd though – at least not here…


By the shore of the lake.  I’m secretly hoping to gain enough strength to make it up the last section, which is nasty.


This is it – the finish.  Just 500m to go.  Onward!


No comment.


300m to go.  The CSC team car nearly ran me over.  I am now going so slowly, I may fall over.  I am tired.


Looking down into the parking lot, those are all the TV trailers.  This picture was really an excuse to stop and rest :)


The final turn!  There’s the 200m sign.


Around the turn and … on the final straight!  100m to go, coming up.  Yes it is steep here.  Really steep.


Under the 100m banner, and THERE IT IS, the finish!  Woo hoo.


This is as far as I got.  These guys would NOT let me go through the finish.  Fooey.  Oh well I made it!  I made it!  Yay.


Here’s what the finish line looks like with a wider view.  Note the mobile TV studio!  A bit further over we have the broadcast booths.  Phil and Paul are in there somewhere, but I can’t hear them; the Spanish announcers’ call is being broadcast for the crowd.


This is my spot, carefully selected.  I will have this view of the riders as they come up the hill.  Now that I’ve made it, it is time to get excited about the race.  Just about now the peloton is passing through Cangas de Onis.  They are about to do the same ride I did, about four times as fast.  Wow.


From my spot I can see the jumbotron.  There is a massive break of 35 riders, but as they hit the climb that will splinter for sure.  Excellent!


The helicopter view of the peloton starting the climb.  They’re in that little village next to the Rio Covadonga.  Seems like about three days ago that I was riding there myself.


The podium girls are ready.  Is it worth climbing this hill to get a kiss from them?  Who can say.


Um, it is getting REALLY FOGGY.  And cold.  Now that I’m not riding anymore, I’m freezing.


So – forty minutes later…  and a lot of exciting racing up the climb, described in glorious detail by two very excited Spanish announcers…  we have an official’s car!  

Vladimir Efikim has attacked and pulled a gap, closely followed by Carlos Sastre (the crowd favorite), Denis Menchov (my favorite), and Stijn Devolder (of Discovery channel, who is really good and man is it a pity that Disco are folding their tent with so many great young riders but I digress).


Here comes Efikim!


He takes one last look back to make sure nobody is catching him.  Nobody is.  You can’t believe how fast he was climbing this section.


Not my best picture, I’m afraid; if you look closely you can see Efikim’s helmet as he approached the line.  He was jammin’!


Here’s the next three, about 40 seconds behind…  fighting it out for second.  Menchov ended up nipping Sastre.


Next came Cadel Evans…  a solid effort, keeping him in the hunt.  He’s a good TT guy and may be able to gain back the time there.


Here comes one of my new favorite riders, “the Spider”, Juan Maricio Solar, who won the king of the mountain in this year’s tour.  He’s in the red Barloworld kit.  I don’t know the AG2R rider with him.

From this point the field really dribbled across the line in small groups.  Everyone looked beat.  I know how they feel.  Well I know I feel beat, so I think I know how they feel, but maybe they are more beat.  After all they were riding back when I was blundering around Northern Spain trying to rent a bike.  That already seems like a million years ago…



An interesting aspect of this race was that there was basically no room at the top of the climb for anything except the finish line.  So riders had to ride DOWN the hill to their team cars after they finished, passing riders still going UP the hill to the finish in the process.  Here’s some shots…


And after a  l o n g  time, here comes the pelton!

I don’t know who this Gerolsteiner rider is, but I know exactly how he feels :)  Whew.


To the victors go the spoils.  If you were a victor on this day, you had to wait nearly an hour for the peloton to finish, whereas the others got to ride down to the nice warm team cars.  Still, the podium girls are a good compensation.


All that remains is a steep 15km decent – a 5km ride into town – and then, SLEEP!


Here are the riders getting into their team cars…


One last view of Covadonga on the way down…


And finally, last but not least, my trusty big fat heavy mountain bike.



Archive: September 13, 2006

A perfectly incredible day: La Vuelta eTapa 17e

Wednesday,  09/13/06  04:44 PM

So, I’m in Granada, Spain, and I’m going to watch stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana, which finishes one street over from my hotel.  I want to see the last climb of the stage, a Cat 1 climb up Alto de Monachil, a legendary black hole for cyclists, and I ended up riding it myself.  Here's a play-by-play...

[ Note: this post was retroactively added on 6/14/08 ]

First thing today I walk the streets of Granada looking to rent a bike…

The trucks are clogging all the streets, getting ready…


The city is still asleep…


The barriers are waiting to be stuck in the street…


The police are ready!


Many many many trucks.  You can’t believe how many…


Hey, I found a bike shop!  They have a few bikes :)


So I rent a bike.  It worked!  Nice bike, too, with a nice big old granny gear.  Oh, and I buy a helmet.  They don’t rent them but I do want a helmet.

Okay, off we go.  A quick study of the map, and now I have to find the Alto de Monachil, a mere 30km outside the city.

The police have all the streets blocked.  They wave bikes through like you’re royalty, though.


This bridge has barriers already.  Look, I’m a tour rider!

I almost hit that blue car while looking at that girl in the red pants.  Oops.

More blasting down empty streets with barriers.  This is fun.


Ah, decision time.  Let’s see, I want to head for Monachil.  Which is below the Alto de Monachil, as you might expect :)


Ah, there it is.  See that notch in the mountains?  That’s the pass to Monachil.


Straight ahead is the notch.  It is getting closer…


Aha, I reached the notch, and here comes Monachil.  I must tell you some objects are farther than they appear…


The valley of Monachil.  The road hugs the left hillside.  This is already a tough ride, and I haven’t even reached the hill yet!


The road continues, and continues… this is what cyclists call a “false flat”; it looks flat, but it isn’t…


Aha, the town itself.  At the back of the valley.  Now what?


These kids are playing a game called “Vuelta”.  Yes, the road is tilting up…


The early part of the climb.  I’m taking it real easy because I have no idea what is coming.  Well that’s not true I’ve studied the stage profile carefully and I have a very good idea of what’s coming, so I’m taking it real easy.


Carretera means highway.  The “hill” and “winding road” symbols are universal.  Note the barriers have begun!


If you look carefully, you can see the road ribboning up the mountain…


This part of the climb is 4%.  Trivial.  If you’re a pro tour rider.  For me, not trivial.


Man, it keeps going, and going, and going.  By the way there is an endless stream of cars, trucks, motorbikes, and bicycles up this hill.  I’ve been waiting for a “clean” shot as an excuse to catch my breath.


This guy passed me while I was resting taking a picture.  The road is covered with graffiti from fans, encouraging their favorites.


I’ve been climbing steadily!  That is Granada, in the haze off in the distance, with Monachil nearer.  Whoa.


4% my ass!

I think this is at least 5%.  Or 20%.  Feels like it.

The road passes a number of cafes.  Each has bike riders lounging and drinking.  A beer would be nice stupid.


I passed these guys, then turned and took a picture.  They don’t think it is 4% either.


Still climbing!  Wow!  I’m pretty sure this is the highest hill I’ve ever climbed, and I’m not even on the hard part yet.


Definitely not 4% any more, and definitely I am not in Kansas, either.  I think this part was 6% but I forget.  It is hot.  It is dry.  It is steep.  Wow.


Barriers along a lot of the road.  The road is narrow and there is a lot of nothing over the edge.


Crap.  Here comes the first 12% section.  Crap.

I am oh so very glad my bike had a nice comfortable granny (low gear).  I can tell you the tour riders won’t be using this gear, but I did.

More climbing.  A lot of people along the road now, even four hours before the race.  Lot’s of bike riders.  Yes, this is still 10%.


Looking back – wow, I’ve climbed really high.  Amazing.  And still the road continues…  at about 8%.  Ouch.


Oscar has his fans.  These guys obviously think he won the tour, they have him in yellow.  He’s in the Vuelta but not in contention.


I saw this banner and thought I was at the top!  Whew!  Take my picture!!


Hmmm…. The road continues… and many of the spectators are bovine.


Hmmm… the road is climbing again.  Crap.


When I saw this, I started crying.  No not really but can you see the road climbing endlessly to the horizon?  At least it isn’t too steep right here.


Uh, spoke too soon.  The road is tipping up again.  I look at my chart, yep, this is 8%.  Crap.  My legs really hurt.  Back to the granny!


A considerable time later…  Yay I really made it.  All the way.  That clump of green on the horizon in the distance is where I thought the climb stopped, but now I am actually at the top.  Wow.  I am so proud of myself.  And so tired.  And thirsty.


This warning is not for the tour – this hill is used a lot by local riders.


These guys are putting up the banner at the top of the climb.  Yes it is still early, about three hours to go.


Yay, we have a banner.  Can you guess who is sponsoring this stage?  More on that later….


Hey, get that fool out of the road!


Bike parking is plentiful!


I’ve picked my spot.  The final turn leads to a small section which is really steep.  Not bad for the riders because they can see that they’re almost there.  But not good for the cars, more on that later.  From here you can see a lot of the stage, all the way back to that clump of green.  Excellent!


There is a steady stream of cars, trucks, and bicycles.  The place is gradually filling up.  This van is for a club which rode up to the top, and gets a ride down in the van.


I took this picture because I liked the car.  No wait, I like the Illes Balears racing team.


OMG it’s the Specialized Angel!  She seems to be calling me…


Oh, okay, I’ll take a picture with you.  Anything for my fans :)

I must tell you the women here in Spain are rather astonishing.  I’ve never been to Spain before but I may have to come back.

Yellow Jersey tours organized bike tours that ride all the grand tour courses ahead of the actual race.  Every stage.  Wow.  Someday I’d like to do that for the Tour de France.


Showtime!  1600 is when the riders were expected to crest this climb.


The view from my spot.  Nothing yet except a steady trickle of cars and motorbikes and bicycles.


Hey, this looks official!  Lots of honking.  LOTS.


Aha!  Now we know they’re really coming!


I took this picture because, well, okay I guess I really liked that guy’s camera.


Spanish TV is on the job.


And the crowd roars!  A really slow police motorcycle, lights flashing, siren wailing.  This is it!


Tom Danielson of Discovery is leading!  All by himself!  This is excellent, if I could have named the rider to lead this race, it would have been Tom.


This next shot requires some explanation.  If you look above, you’ll see the officials are following Tom closely in their red car, like they always do.  But remember I said Ford was the sponsor?  Well, the officials are in a Ford.  And remember I said this is where the road gets really steep?  Well, it does, and when the official’s car reached this corner it lost traction and started spinning its wheels.  Finally the wheels bit and they almost ran Tom over.  Now that would have been a story.

A lot of the cars riding through were Fords, and they all had trouble with the corner, vs. about 0% of all other cars.  The crowd started yelling Olé when a Ford would get stuck on the corner, and then spin its wheel and blast up.  I don’t think Ford got their money’s worth out of this sponsorship.

And here comes Alexandre Vinokourov with a couple of other riders, about fifteen seconds back!  Not a big gap but Danielson descends like a stone.  He’ll need it against the Kazak.

It is really steep at this section.  Great for viewing because even the pro riders slow down.

Here comes AlejandroValverde!  He is wearing the Gold Jersey of the Vuelta leader.  But he is about 45 seconds down in the stage, so maybe he won’t go to bed as the leader because Vino is in 2nd.  Wow.

Valverde got the biggest cheer from the crowd.  But judging from his position, he was in the break and got dropped on the climb, so he’s got some work to do.

Carlos Sastre was next.  Also with a bit of a gap, he was probably shed from the break, too.  I can hear Paul Sherwin now – “Looks like Carlos Sastre is in a spot of bother….”


And here comes Andrey Kashechkin, Vinokourov’s Kazak teammate who is in fourth.  Also by himself.  Reading the accounts later, I understood that Kashechkin attacked on the steep part of the climb and splintered the break, but then paid the price and dropped back himself.  Still, he sprung his teammate Vino ahead of Valverde.

Kashechkin powered by this section in a massive gear.  No granny for him!

Here comes Iban Mayo with a couple of other riders – he’s won the Vuelta before, but he doesn’t have it this year.  The crowd gives all the Basque riders (orange shirts) a kind of low moan – not sure if it is a boo or some kind of "in" cheer.

Mayo is a spinner.

And here we have Discovery’s Egoi Martinez, presently leading the King of the Mountains competition.

Note that unlike the Tour de France, leaders of classifications other than the overall don’t wear colored jerseys.  Igor is ahead of Pietro Caucchioli, his main rival, so looks like he’s collecting points.  He is hurting, though.

Ah, there’s Pietro, about ten seconds back.  Still in the KOM time doesn’t matter, just place.


Now we have a bunch of riders I can’t identify, because I don’t recognize them and I don’t want to look up their numbers.  Anyway the whole front of the pelton dribbled over the hill, there was no clumping at all.  That more than anything else tells you this was a serious climb.

This rider is from a brand new team called Relax.  He didn’t look too relaxed.  And bright red, for Relax?  I don’t get it.


Another Discovery boy crests…

Ah, I recognize this guy – it’s Michael Rasmussen, aka the Chicken, winner of the King of the Mountains in the last two Tours de France.  And he rides for Rabobank.  Anyway I think he was burnt after the Tour, he hasn’t had a strong Vuelta.  Of course he’s still ahead of the majority of the field, that’s how strong he is.


Well, here’s a clump (that’s a technical term used in bike racing):


And here’s another…  you can tell these guys are not pushing as hard or going as fast.


Finally, a good 45 minutes later, here comes the peloton!

In a hilly race like this the also-rans form a big clump called “the bus”.  The race will drop any rider who doesn’t finish within 20% of the leader’s time, unless there are more than 25 riders in the group.  So by having a big group, they can take their sweet time.  Of course that’s relative, they all rode 100 miles in the heat and then rode up this hill, without stopping to take pictures.

Well, that’s it for the climb, now to ride back down the Alto de Monachil and hurry back to catch the finish.  I didn’t take pictures, but it was fun.  12% is much more fun going down than up!

Back in town!  And it only took about “that” long, too.  The race has already come by but the roads are still closed off with barriers, and bikes can ride down them.  So you can pretend you’re finishing the tour stage!

Nobody much cheering me on, though.

Well I missed the finish of the leaders, but caught the finish of the peloton.  But the pictures are all blurry.  Must have had a lens malfunction.  Anyway after the race I followed the bikes up the path, and guess what?


Hmmm…  that cyan color, who is that?

Yep, it is Alexandre Vinokourov himself, coming out of the doping control trailer.  He was right there.

The mob surrounds him as he gets on a bike.  Everyone is congratulating him!

From the fact that he had to give a sample, I assumed he was now the overall leader, since I know Danielson won the stage.  (After a stage both the stage winner and the overall leader are tested.)

Well I decided to follow him – what the heck!


He’s just riding through Granada like any old rider – like me, in fact!

There was a ton of traffic because cars were routed away from the main drag used for the race.

So he stops at a light.  And I stop behind him and take this picture:

And then I rode up to him and said “congratulations” and stuck out my hand, and he shook it.  He had a big smile and said something in Kazak and rode off.

Pretty much the perfectly incredible end to a perfectly incredible day.


Archive: September 21, 2005


Archive: September 21, 2004


Archive: September 21, 2003

PDC: Oh, not Oooh

Sunday,  09/21/03  08:17 PM

I'm attending the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference in October.  The big subject is Longhorn, the next version of Windows after XP, and the underlying technologies.

All the pre-PDC talk about how great everything is and how complicated and how cool and how mystical is scaring me.  (I'm talking about the PDC bloggers and the .NET guys…).  I know a lot of these guys are young and excited, so perhaps it is forgivable, but I hope the older cooler heads will remind them that the purpose of the PDC is to communicate new tools to the developer community so they can use them.  MS is best served by having developers say “oh, that’s easy, I could do that”, rather than saying “oooh, how cool, I wonder if I could ever do that”.  You want people to say “oh”, not “oooh”.

If you look at any technology which targets developers, the adoption rate and ultimate adoption percentage are a function of how easy it was.  HTML was easy, the adoption rate and percentage were very high.  Java was pretty easy, and the early adoption was good, but J2EE is not easy and the later adoption has not been that good.  (Many more people program in Java than build applications using J2EE architecture.)  COM was not easy.  COM+ was not easy.  DCOM was not easy.  So far I have not found .NET to be easy, in fact even just understanding what it is was hard, let alone how you use it.  MS does not have a history of making things easy, and this has hurt them.  The things MS did which were easy were the most successful – look at VB, for example.

In the blogging world, Movable Type is easy.  RSS is easy.  XML-RPC is easy.  Meanwhile RDF and SOAP are not easy, and nobody uses RDF and SOAP.  This Atom thing is going to die a quick death from lack of adoption, because the guys behind it are nerds who don't understand easy.  Dave Winer understands easy, it is his biggest virtue.

My sense is that the attitude of a lot of the MS presenters and attendees at the PDC is not “let’s make this easy”.  Instead it is “let’s show how cool this is” (and by extension how cool we are).  And that isn't going to make for fast adoption.

Why do I care?  I want it to be easy.  I've been programming for thirty years, I can do anything.  But I don't use tools which aren't easy, because I firmly believe W=UH (wrongness = ugliness times hardness), and if something is hard, it is wrong.  Right now Longhorn and all its associated technologies feel hard.  I hope the PDC changes my mind, but I'm not optimistic...

[ Later: considering reactions, More Oh not Oooh... ]


Sunday,  09/21/03  08:36 PM

Happy Birthday, Jordan!HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful daughter Jordan!  Seventeen!!  Yay.

Victor Davis Hanson writes that These Are Historic Times.  Comparing the present day state of America in Afghanistan and Iraq with Lincoln in 1864.  "Our real challenge is not the conduct of the war, not the money, not even the occasionally depressing news from Iraq...  No, it is more a psychosocial malaise, a crisis of confidence that is beginning to creep back into the national mood a mere two years after September 11."  Yep.  Hopefully we'll have the persistence Lincoln did and push through.

Steven Den Beste considers Analyzing the Genome.  "We've disassembled the code of life.  Now we have to reproduce all the comments, and that's a lot harder."  True.  The key is going to be understanding the machine language to which the code is translated - proteins - which will allow the function of each gene to be reverse-engineered.

A NYTimes article on Testing Handicaps considers the possibility of "norming" SAT scores.  This is so wrong, on so many levels, I don't know where to begin.  Why don't we just give SAT tests to monkeys, too, and then if they score higher than the average monkey, we let them attend Stanford?  [ via razib ]

A girl in Oakley, California wants to start a Caucasian Club at her high school.  Heck, why not?  "Darnell Turner, first vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP, says he thinks the club will create racial tension."  Now isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?  [ via Rob Smith ]

Philip Greenspun suggests we Send Our Underclass Overseas.  "Rather than figure out a way to fix inner city schools and turn these folks into productive citizens it is cheaper and easier, apparently, to give the teenager mothers AFDC and collect the young men up into our growing population of prisoners."  I don't think the solution is to send them away, and "fixing" inner city schools won't do it either.  We need to "fix" inner city parents.

This is pretty funny: the Accordion guy's date from hell, part 5.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Star Wars IIIPhotography for Star Wars episode III is complete!  Now it's on to an eighteen month post production.  If you're into spoilers, here's a possible early version of the script.  I haven't read it - don't tell me what happens.  Although I must say episode II left me less interested in episode III than I used to be...

An interesting interview with Michael Powell, Chairmen of the FCC.  Lots of good stuff about Tivo.  "How has Tivo changed your life since you got it?  I think there's something going on in the world that's very profound.  We're moving to a world of incredible intimacy in mass media.  I'm my own programmer, not NBC."  Read it.

HP sunglasses cameraYou know how people are buying cell phones with cameras?  Well, here's something even better - sunglasses with a camera built in!  It takes pictures continuously to capture a record of everything you do.  Hmmm...

Intel fastap keyboardA big downside of cell phones is the lack of an alphanumeric keyboard.  Intel might have the answer - the Fastap keyboard.  "The design puts letters of the alphabet on raised buttons that fit between the keys.  Words can be typed by pressing the raised keys, and numbers by pressing the four keys that surround a particular number."

Kineto has a WiFi cell phone - it is "dual band" in a funny way, it can use WiFi and VoIP if available, otherwise a standard GSM or CDMA cell network.  An interesting solution for business users, probably doesn't help consumers in any way, though...  Unless they forgo wired phone altogether, in which case this could be similar to a broadband VoIP solution like Vonage.Sony Vaio video player

By the way, I found out the correct pronunciation of Vonage is von'-aj.

You knew this was coming - a Sony handheld video player.  Billed as a "video iPod".  Plays MPEG2 and [probably] will play DivX, too.  Excellent use for those tiny 40GB hard drives!

Want to see what a new 15" Apple Powerbook looks like inside?  Here you go.


this date in:
About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
The Nest
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained