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Archive: February 25, 2006

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morning coffee

Saturday,  02/25/06  07:25 AM

It's a Saturday morning, a cold crisp one, and I'm huddled over my Peet's, checking out the world...

George HincapieSo yesterday George Hincapie won another stage in the Tour of California, but Floyd Landis kept his overall lead.  Reading the blow by blow, it sounds like it was an interesting race, with a big climb, a breakaway, and several interesting lead changes.  Today the Tour goes from Santa Barbara into Thousand Oaks, ending up at the Amgen campus.  I'm going to try to watch it - I've never seen a pro bike race in the flesh - stay tuned.

Wow, this is unbelievable, Cheryl Crow undergoes cancer surgery.  Right after splitting with Lance Armstrong, too.  I sure wish her the best, I guess her prognosis is much better than Lance's was...

Bob de JongDid you watch Olympic speed skating last night?  Dutchman Bob de Jong put on an amazing performance in the 10,000 meters, winning with a time slightly off the world record, despite Turin's "slow ice".  American Chad Hendrick finished second, and promptly put a skate in his mouth.  "'My heart,'' Hendrick said, tapping his chest with his fingers, 'is bigger than everybody else's out there.'"  Yeah, Chad, that's why you finished second.  "He can say a lot,'' de Jong said.  'He can say America rules.  But today Dutch rules, and he cannot beat me.'''  Hendrick is an embarrassment.  Meanwhile what can we say about De Jong.  You cannot imagine the effort it takes to skate six miles at top speed.  Awesome.

Malcom Gladwell has a blog!  (He's the author of Tipping Point and Blink, and one of my favorite contributors to the New Yorker.)  "In the past year I have often been asked why I don’t have a blog.  My answer was always that I write so much, already, that I don’t have time to write anything else.  But, as should be obvious, I’ve now changed my mind."  Subscribed!

So, with all the brains and money behind blogging and RSS and browsers, you'd think there would be a one-click way to subscribe to a new blog's feed, right?  You would think.  And yet, you still have to copy the blog URL from your browser into your RSS reader, hope auto-discovery of the feed URL works, and then manually subscribe.  Clearly there is work to do before RSS reading becomes mainstream.

Oh, and by the way - how does one "use" OPML?  I kind of understand what it is - a standard XML format for encoding information in hierarchical form, such as blogrolls or reading lists or even blogs' content.  But where is there a simple description of what it is and what it does?  Where is there a simple description of how to use it?  As Dave Winer notes, we have work to do...

Mark Frauenfelder reports Richard Dawkins hosts UK TV show about religious faith.  Wow, I have to find this online somewhere, how awesome!  (This review of the show makes it sound even better.)  I am reading Daniel Dennett's latest Breaking the Spell right now.  Dawkins and Dennett are probably my two favorite philosophers.

Wired notes Earth hurtles toward 6.5 billion.  "The planet's population is projected to reach 6.5 billion at 7:16 p.m. EST Saturday, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and its World Population Clock."  Ominously and in support of Unnatural Selection, "The highest population growth rates emanate disproportionately from the poorest regions of Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent."  Yes, rich countries are making it possible for poor countries to increase their population.  The effect of this is already being felt, and the trend is not positive.  Sigh.

SpaceX "static fire"Finally, there's a new  SpaceX launch update.  "The tentative launch window for the maiden flight of Falcon 1 is March 20 through 25.  The gating items are receiving a shipment of liquid oxygen (LOX) from Hawaii and switching out the 2nd stage tank."  So be it, marking my calendar...

The picture at right is of the "static fire" performed the day before the last attempted launch date.  This is where the whole countdown proceeds as if for launch, all the way up to starting the engines.  After the last one they learned some things and delayed the launch, let's hope fourth time's a charm.

CollegiateTimes writes Simplicity key for Musk's rocket science.  "'I said I wanted to take a large fortune and make it a small one, so I started a rocket business...   the ultimate goal is to make life multi-planetary.'"  Elon is amazing.


heavy medal

Saturday,  02/25/06  07:36 AM

Sports Illustrated has an awesome cover this week, celebrating Generation Y:

Sports Illustrated - Heavy Medal

This picture seems to capture the spirit I was trying to describe perfectly.
I used to think including "X sports" in the Olympics was a mistake, like, they aren't real sports, you know?  But I've changed my mind, I now think including them was the best thing that could have happened.  I look forward to seeing "X sports" included in the Summer Olympics as well (e.g. freestyle bicycling, and roller blading).
Hannah Teter, Seth Wescott, Shaun White, Danny Kass, Gretchen Bleiler, Lindsey Jacobellis. 
They rock :)


viewing the Tour

Saturday,  02/25/06  02:03 PM

I'll start by saying what everyone says the first time they see pro bike racing in person: WOW.  Today my friend Peter Simons and I stationed ourselves at the top of the last grade of stage 6 in the Amgen Tour of California.  It happens to be a climb we've done together many times - slowly, gasping for air - and it was an amazing experience.  This was a 90 mile stage - short, by pro race standards - with four categorized climbs.  Here's the stage profile; the little green arrow is where we were:

Amgen Tour of California stage 6 profile

We got there about two hours before the race arrived, armed with folding chairs, water, cameras, and cellphones (so we could monitor the race via VeloNews' blow-by-blow blogging).  There was a pretty good crowd, which got bigger as the race got closer, and more excited.  Here's the view up the hill, and the view down:

stage 6 - view up the hill
view up
(click for larger pic)

stage 6 - view down the hill
view down
(click for larger pic)

Pretty soon cars stopped coming by, so we knew the road was closed.  Then race vehicles started coming up the road, with lights flashing, and highway patrolmen with sirens blaring.  The excitement level built.  Oh, and there were trucks with swag, too; I scored a chocolate Cliff bar.

stage 6 - tour vehicles
tour vehicles
(click for larger pic)

stage 6 - scoring swag!
scoring swag
(click for larger pic)

Finally there were helicopters overhead, and a cavalcade of motorcycles, and then - there they were, the race leaders!  The crowd erupted in cheering and yelling as the riders flashed past.  I must tell you, they crested this climb like it was nothing.

stage 6 - Mavic mobile
the cavalcade
(click for larger pic)

stage 6 - the leaders!
the race leaders
(click for larger pic)

And close behind the leaders, the peloton flashed past.  Amazing.  A sudden burst of color and sound and motion, a whoosh, and they were past.  Here's a little video I shot with my camera of the passing of the peloton:

stage 6 - the peleton!
the peloton
(click to view movie)

As I said, WOW. 

What's cool about bike racing is that unlike every other sport, the competitors are right there.  It is possible for anyone to just go and see a bike race, and stand by the side of the road, and have professional racers zoom past within six feet of you.  I don't know how many people total saw this stage (I'm guessing there were thousands at the finish on the Amgen campus), but all of them had a front row seat.  Excellent.

Now that I've seen a race in person, I'm not going to miss any other chances to see another.


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