Thursday, July 26, 2007

Barefoot gypsy

I don't really want to talk about the Tour de France. I just hope they test everyone and whittle the field down to the five or six (out of 180) riders who are actually clean, and then let them race for the title.

And though I find myself more or less bitter and angry all the time now when I'm cycling through Durham (or Mordor) I don't really want to talk about that either.

Instead I thought I'd just give you this Van Morrison classic from the Band's farewell movie, filmed by Scorsese, called The Last Waltz.

Apparently Morrison agreed to be one of the performers, but he hadn't been live on stage for years, and had been suffering from stage fright. Almost up to the second before he stepped on stage, no one knew whether or not he was going to perform (he'd been having panic attacks and kept disappearing from the building). And then when he does show up, he's wearing this purple jumpsuit.

Van Morrison in a purple jumpsuit playing live with the Band in 1978?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Google Image Search Confusion

This is driving me crazy, and I'm just wondering if any tech-saavy readers out there can tell me what is going on.
A little while back on my veggie blog, in this post to be exact, I used a picture from the Indianapolis Zoo website. I immediately started getting weird hits on my Statcounter, and they annoyed me so much that I eventually removed the picture and the link which I had put up to the Indy Zoo showing where I got the picture from.
BUT - I'm still getting these weird hits (see below).

It looks like people all over the world are going to the google image search, typing in a specific URL for the photograph I'd used, and seeing what websites had used it.

What I don't understand are these things a) Why would I be getting these kind of hits from all over the world? In the last 24 hours people in South Africa, the U.K., Australia, Canada and the U.S. have done this search.

b) Why is my blog still showing up on their results when I've removed the picture and the link?

Although the Vinokourov doping thing is tragic, at least he's still got a sense of humour:

He told L'Equipe:

"I heard that I made a transfusion with my father's blood. That's absurd, I can tell you that with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Say it ain't so, Vino

Oh. My. God.

And Rasmussen is dodging doping accusations.

And the Astana withdrawl means Kloden is gone.

Stupid tour.

This comic is from Married to the Sea - which I just discovered recently. Pretty funny stuff.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Build your own religion

Newsweek has a section this week titled Back from the Dead about new emergency room treatments which are greatly improving the ability of doctors to revive patients from sudden cardiac arrest. I'll let you read the article for the medical/science aspects, but here is what I found interesting:

We experience consciousness embedded in time, a succession of mental states continually re-created in our brains, even during sleep. But when the brain shuts down, where does the mind go?

For example - you've been declared dead, your cells and synapses are no longer active, your brain doesn't work. But then science brings you back, and brings back your mind and memory as well. While you were dead - while your brain was not working - where was your mind?

In other news:
My sister sent me this link to the Ministry of Natural Resources Go Green website. It's okay - you can generate a map of your hometown showing climate predictions for 20 to 50 years in the future.

P.S. - Regarding climate change and things I've written about the automobile and suburban sprawl and water scarcity etc, I'm fully aware that it all comes back to the size of the human population. And while I've wondered what can be done about this, I wouldn't go this far. But, the World Without Us does look like a neat book.

Yeah, I'm a book nerd. And I'm buying the last Harry Potter as soon as I can this weekend. I have to admit I'm kind of surprised by the scale of the festivities being planned for the book release. The Indigo Books at Bay and Bloor in downtown Toronto is actually closing down part of Bay Street for the release!

TORONTO, July 20 /CNW/ - On Friday, July 20th at 8:00 p.m., hop aboard the Hogwarts Express, take a stroll down Diagon Alley and enter the magical world of Harry Potter. Indigo Books & Music is closing down Bay Street (between Charles St. and Bloor St.) and celebrating Midnight Magic, the largest Harry Potter street party in Canada.
Indigo Manulife will be open for extended hours to give Potter fans the unique experience of rejoicing in the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while getting the first available copies in Canada. Pottermaniacs can enjoy live music, fire juggling, a magic show, entertaining animals and a variety of Potter-themed activities.
Where: Indigo Manulife (Bay/Bloor)
When: Friday, July 20, 2007 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Puppies at the Tour

I cannot wait to see No End in Sight. I think they skip over the reasons for going to war, and focus instead on the (mis)management of the war. Looks great.

Somebody let their dog wander across the road at the Tour de France yesterday. The video is on Versus if you want to take a look.

After a couple other riders managed to swerve around him, Marcus Burghardt ended up hitting the poor guy.

Luckily the dog (as far as we can see in the video) was totally unhurt, but Burghardt's carbon wheel totally crumpled with the collision. My guess is that Burghardt hit him at about 25 to 30 km/hour - and the dog won.

Despite Vinokourov basically being finished, I'm loving the Tour. It's totally wide open - any one of about 5 guys could win it, and I think it'd be a hoot for there to be five guys within 20 or 30 seconds of each other for that last ride into Paris to the Champs-Elysees - watch them go ballistic through the streets of Paris to try and win on the last day.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Falling off mountains

So I think this was Stage 8 yesterday when the riders were blazing their way down a mountain. If you just look at the pictures this is kind of funny, but if you really get into the heads of the two riders it's heartbreaking.

Anyway, Michael Rogers and David Arroyo are hurtling down a mountain. Arroyo goes into the barrier and and flies off his bike into the bush. Rogers hits him and falls to the pavement as Arroyo climbs through the bush to get back up to the road.

Now that I think of it - seems strange that Arroyo's feet came unclipped and off the pedals so easily. I doubt he had time to unclip his feet, and he obviously flew WAY over the barrier which he probably wouldn't have done if he'd still been hooked into the bike.

From the Daily Telegraph - Then came a sickening crash yesterday as [Rogers] followed the Caisse d'Epargne rider, David Arroyo, down the beautiful but horrifying descent of Cormet de Roseland at speeds of up to 65mph. Arroyo lost control and went hurtling over the barriers - mercifully the lush undergrowth cushioned the fall - and in trying to avoid Arroyo, Rogers smacked into those same barriers.

You can watch the tour highlight videos at Versus. Just click on TDF for Tour de france.

Here's the ride I do when I want to do hills in downtown Toronto. I did the ride yesterday on my Jamis with my friend Duncan. Basically go to Scarborough and do the Scarborough Bluffs hill, then come back to the Don Valley and climb the three hills near Sunnybrook, then come back south on the trail and climb out via Pottery Road. It's almost 50km and is a good workout.

Friday, July 13, 2007


I can't believe what happened to the Astana team at the Tour yesterday. They have two of the favourites to win the whole thing - Vinokourov and Kloeden - and they BOTH took spills yesterday and banged themselves up badly.

Kloeden - who isn't necessarily a "star" rider, but who is totally solid and who I like - fractured his tailbone and I seriously doubt he'll finish the tour. And Vino has stitches on his knees and will have scabs all over his butt after his chain snapped on him sending him off the bike.

Christ. Vino must be p.i.s.s.e.d.. He's like 33 now (which is the upper limit for cyclists who think they can win the Tour). Last year he couldn't race the Tour because the rest of his team got kicked out for doping, and this year - with Ullrich retiring and Basso out for drugs - he must have totally thought this was finally his big chance. I hope he pulls it together and gets angry on a mountain somewhere. That would rock.

Today is Friday the 13th. I don't really care, but just as I was pedalling away from the apartment this morning a black cat crossed the street in front of me. Didn't strike me as a very good way to start the day.

I loved Undercover Brother. I don't know what brought it to mind again recently, but here you go. Have a great weekend.

Don't forget the White Guy Brainwash scene.

And the Catfight scene.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Last mention of singlespeeds

I know you're all bored of hearing me talk about singlespeeds. I'm bored of it as well, and I promise this will be the last time I do it. I've spent way too much money this summer on bikes (mainly the new Jamis, but also three new wheels and a bunch of parts and tools), and I'm also tired of playing around with bikes.

However ~ a while back I mentioned that I was addicted to surfing the bikes section of Craigslist looking for a cheap steel roadbike that I could turn into a cyclocross singlespeed to leave at my parents' place in Bancroft. A Toronto cyclist named Geoffrey, who's a far more avid cyclist than I am, emailed me and kindly offered me a steel frame that wasn't quite the right size for him.
And this is it. Geoffrey gave me a frame, fork, handlebars, brakes, cranks and chainrings. I put on the wheels, seat, chain, rear cog etc. It's set up with a 40 tooth ring on the front, and a 15 tooth cog on the back. This is a lower gear than my other two singlespeeds, but with the steel frame, and with the fact that the roads in Bancroft I plan to use it on are slightly hilly, I kind of wish I'd put maybe a 17 tooth cog on the back.
Once again I had a hell of a time getting the damned chain tension right. If you click on these photos - go over to the Flickr site - and choose to view the LARGE size photo, you can see that although this bike kind of has horizontal dropouts (which in theory makes getting chain tension easy), when I played with moving the wheel's position in the dropout, it just messed up the contact with the brakes, so I treated it like a vertical dropout and used a halflink to get the tension right.
You can see the halflink in the picture above, and also the SRAM powerlink (it's the one furthest to the right - you can open it with your hands, eliminating the need for a chainbreaker).
Anybody know what company would have made this frame? Geoffrey didn't know and I can't figure it out either. I think it starts with an "F" because of more lettering elsewhere on the bike -- something like F____wing?


And here's a random photo of the Toronto Outdoor Art Show at Nathan Phillips Square, which my friend Mark was showing paintings at this past weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

demagoguery and fear

I wish I'd had my camera today when I left the Whitby Go Station and went over the 401 on the bridge on Henry Street. There's tons of construction near this part of the 401 and the traffic was at a dead standstill heading into the city. Would have made a nice photo for a cycling blog.

Today's stage of the Tour is 236km long. 236. And that's just one day. They'll be doing this for an entire month!

Here's Newsweek's take on why Bush gave Scooter his "get out of jail free" card.
Apparently Bush asked White House Counsel Fred Fielding to try and find something wrong with the jury's guilty verdict, in order to make Bush's life easier when he gave Libby his pardon. BUT - Fielding reluctantly concluded that the jury had reached a reasonable verdict: the evidence was strong that Libby testified falsely about his role in the leak.
So Bush gave Libby his pardon anyway.

In case you missed it I'm posting here the New York Times editorial from July 8 titled "The Road Home."

The New York Times generally makes you register to read their older stories, so I thought I'd just reprint this one. I feel it's important because this is the sharpest denunciation of the Bush White House that I've seen in the mainstream media. They basically call the Bush White House incompetent fear mongerers, and the reason that they call for an quick end to the Iraq War is that even if a true full fledged civil war erupts due to America's departure, it can't be much worse than what is already happening in Iraq.

New York Times Editorial
July 8 2007

The Road Home

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.

The Mechanics of Withdrawal

The United States has about 160,000 troops and millions of tons of military gear inside Iraq. Getting that force out safely will be a formidable challenge. The main road south to Kuwait is notoriously vulnerable to roadside bomb attacks. Soldiers, weapons and vehicles will need to be deployed to secure bases while airlift and sealift operations are organized. Withdrawal routes will have to be guarded. The exit must be everything the invasion was not: based on reality and backed by adequate resources.

The United States should explore using Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq as a secure staging area. Being able to use bases and ports in Turkey would also make withdrawal faster and safer. Turkey has been an inconsistent ally in this war, but like other nations, it should realize that shouldering part of the burden of the aftermath is in its own interest.

Accomplishing all of this in less than six months is probably unrealistic. The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now.

The Fight Against Terrorists

Despite President Bush’s repeated claims, Al Qaeda had no significant foothold in Iraq before the invasion, which gave it new base camps, new recruits and new prestige.

This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders. It alienated essential allies in the war against terrorism. It drained the strength and readiness of American troops.

And it created a new front where the United States will have to continue to battle terrorist forces and enlist local allies who reject the idea of an Iraq hijacked by international terrorists. The military will need resources and bases to stanch this self- inflicted wound for the foreseeable future.

The Question of Bases

The United States could strike an agreement with the Kurds to create those bases in northeastern Iraq. Or, the Pentagon could use its bases in countries like Kuwait and Qatar, and its large naval presence in the Persian Gulf, as staging points.

There are arguments for, and against, both options. Leaving troops in Iraq might make it too easy — and too tempting — to get drawn back into the civil war and confirm suspicions that Washington’s real goal was to secure permanent bases in Iraq. Mounting attacks from other countries could endanger those nations’ governments.

The White House should make this choice after consultation with Congress and the other countries in the region, whose opinions the Bush administration has essentially ignored. The bottom line: the Pentagon needs enough force to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq, but not enough to resume large-scale combat.

The Civil War

One of Mr. Bush’s arguments against withdrawal is that it would lead to civil war. That war is raging, right now, and it may take years to burn out. Iraq may fragment into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics, and American troops are not going to stop that from happening.

It is possible, we suppose, that announcing a firm withdrawal date might finally focus Iraq’s political leaders and neighboring governments on reality. Ideally, it could spur Iraqi politicians to take the steps toward national reconciliation that they have endlessly discussed but refused to act on.

But it is foolish to count on that, as some Democratic proponents of withdrawal have done. The administration should use whatever leverage it gains from withdrawing to press its allies and Iraq’s neighbors to help achieve a negotiated solution.

Iraq’s leaders — knowing that they can no longer rely on the Americans to guarantee their survival — might be more open to compromise, perhaps to a Bosnian-style partition, with economic resources fairly shared but with millions of Iraqis forced to relocate. That would be better than the slow-motion ethnic and religious cleansing that has contributed to driving one in seven Iraqis from their homes.

The United States military cannot solve the problem. Congress and the White House must lead an international attempt at a negotiated outcome. To start, Washington must turn to the United Nations, which Mr. Bush spurned and ridiculed as a preface to war.

The Human Crisis

There are already nearly two million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan, and nearly two million more Iraqis who have been displaced within their country. Without the active cooperation of all six countries bordering Iraq — Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — and the help of other nations, this disaster could get worse. Beyond the suffering, massive flows of refugees — some with ethnic and political resentments — could spread Iraq’s conflict far beyond Iraq’s borders.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must share the burden of hosting refugees. Jordan and Syria, now nearly overwhelmed with refugees, need more international help. That, of course, means money. The nations of Europe and Asia have a stake and should contribute. The United States will have to pay a large share of the costs, but should also lead international efforts, perhaps a donors’ conference, to raise money for the refugee crisis.

Washington also has to mend fences with allies. There are new governments in Britain, France and Germany that did not participate in the fight over starting this war and are eager to get beyond it. But that will still require a measure of humility and a commitment to multilateral action that this administration has never shown. And, however angry they were with President Bush for creating this mess, those nations should see that they cannot walk away from the consequences. To put it baldly, terrorism and oil make it impossible to ignore.

The United States has the greatest responsibilities, including the admission of many more refugees for permanent resettlement. The most compelling obligation is to the tens of thousands of Iraqis of courage and good will — translators, embassy employees, reconstruction workers — whose lives will be in danger because they believed the promises and cooperated with the Americans.

The Neighbors

One of the trickiest tasks will be avoiding excessive meddling in Iraq by its neighbors — America’s friends as well as its adversaries.

Just as Iran should come under international pressure to allow Shiites in southern Iraq to develop their own independent future, Washington must help persuade Sunni powers like Syria not to intervene on behalf of Sunni Iraqis. Turkey must be kept from sending troops into Kurdish territories.

For this effort to have any remote chance, Mr. Bush must drop his resistance to talking with both Iran and Syria. Britain, France, Russia, China and other nations with influence have a responsibility to help. Civil war in Iraq is a threat to everyone, especially if it spills across Iraq’s borders.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.

This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

Friday, July 06, 2007

and all this by the grace of your hand

I've been a wee bit busy, but here are a couple things:

It has become apparent that when the weather guy on 680 news mentions "unsettled weather" or "scattered showers" it means that I'm getting soaked somewhere on my bike.

I don't really know what to think about the Live Earth stuff. Raising awareness is great, but isn't the climate change story already out there? Do we need Cher and Coldplay to tell us that the earth is dying?

And these are the pledges?

I'm sure they'll help, but if Gore really wanted to get tough, he would have said "write your MPP and demand an increase in the gasoline tax" and "Go Vegetarian."

What else? Hmmm. My review of my 2006 Jamis Nova is on road bike review. Mine is the one written on July 3rd.

The Tour is on! The tour!

Go Vino!!

Have a great weekend! For part of it I'll be here!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

rabid and irresponsible corner of the republican party


I've never heard of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC before, but man, I'm impressed. This is the most searing "j'accuse" of the bush white house that I've ever seen. The video is ten minutes long, but it is totally worth it. At least hang on to around the 5:00 minute mark when Olbermann starts his "I accuse you of..." speech.