"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Tormented by hunger and cold, they pedalled on. Either side of the muddy roads the detritus of war was everywhere – twisted tree stumps, fields long since obliterated by shelling, concrete bunkers, mine and shell craters, wrecked gun carriages, clothing, bones. All around, belts of wire, trenches and duckboards zig-zagged in all directions, and hastily-erected crosses littered the landscape. And still the sleet and rain fell. And still the wind blew, unchecked by trees or hedgerows.
At 11.10 in the evening, 18 hours and 28 minutes after he set off from Brussels, Charles Deruyter crossed the finish line in Amiens. The man who finished in fifth place arrived at 8.00 the next morning, having spent an uncomfortable night sheltering in a trench somewhere on the Somme battlefield. The last-placed finisher took 36 hours to complete the 323km stage.
The article dryly notes that the race was run just one more time after 1919, and then only as a one-day event, since “the logistical problems of putting on a multi-stage race in a part of Europe that had almost no infrastructure were far greater than anyone had expected.”
Baseball is dying. Usually I include a photo of a game with a post on baseball but I haven’t been to a single game yet in 2014, and the season if more than a quarter done. It is poor form to extrapolate from your own experience across the entire population but for the topic of baseball, I think it is appropriate.
The buzz on baseball here in Chicago is zero. Absolutely zero. I don’t hear people talking about baseball, or even mentioning baseball.
There are some semi-unique circumstances in Illinois tied to the fact that the Blackhawks are still in the playoffs and there is a lot of excitement about the Bears. On the other hand, NBA basketball suffered with the loss of Derrick Rose (again) and college football here is nothing compared to what you’d see in SEC country (Division Zero as Dan and I refer to it).
Not only are the games for Chicago mostly terrible (the White Sox are more competitive than expected, and the Cubs’ fate is worse than expected, but neither are close to being contenders), the games usually seem to be very long and on late at night. When I check my mobile in the morning I can see the updates that I get every 3 innings and at the conclusion of the game and they often end after midnight, especially if the games are on the West Coast. There seems to be a lot of bad, slow moving, cold and night baseball being served. As a fan, that’s an awful concoction.
Some good news for Chicago fans is that Mark Buehrle, a great former pitcher for the White Sox, is now tearing it up for the first place Toronto Blue Jays. He is 8-1 with a great ERA. He had a rough couple years with the disaster down in Miami but Toronto is doing well and so is he. I hope that he makes it to the Hall of Fame in the end, even if it isn’t with the White Sox. Read the rest of this entry »
Last year on my annual pilgrimage to cycling valhalla in the Pyrenees I took my GoPro camera for the first time. Below is my descent of the Col du Chioula, headed back toward Ax les Thermes (best viewed in HD).
This was probably my best descent of last year, the road surface and weather being just right. Everything fell into place. For those wondering, my top speed on this descent was 48.2 mph.
I took an insane amount of footage with my GoPro last year, and I am glad I did. But the problem is that when you bring back these hours and hours of video, there is nowhere for you to go with it. Options are buying an external hard drive and storing them there, or uploading them to one of many websites that do this sort of thing. I am about two thirds of the way done uploading my videos to YouTube, and it takes absolutely forever. A 15 minute video takes several hours to upload. I usually start one video a night and begin the uploading process before I go to bed.
A recent documentary on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is titled “Putin’s Games” and is summarized here. The movie has not been released yet but I intend to see it as soon as it becomes available. According to the web, the movie discusses the 1) bribes that Russia paid to win the games 2) the vast corruption occurring during construction 3) other ill effects of citing siting the games in a sub-tropical climate.
The documentary interviews a billionaire Russian who fled to the UK after refusing to pay immense bribes during construction:
“We received explicit threats: ‘You’ll be soaked with blood; drowned in blood,’” he said. “It was very straightforward. We know the history. Russia generally does not care much for human life.”
As far as bribing Olympic officials to beat Austria in order to get the games originally…
The money thrown around by the Kremlin to ensure that Russia was awarded the games is also revealed in the film. Karl Schranz, a former Austrian Olympic skiing champion and personal adviser to Mr Putin on bringing the Olympics to Sochi, talks about the big-money lobbying that went into the games – cash that Leonid Tyagetschev, the former head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said was “practically unlimited.” The money was used to lobby for Sochi and against Salzburg, which was also in the running before, in 2007, the International Olympic Committee to give the games to Russia.
The Olympic Committees are against the release of this documentary and per the article:
Such was the displeasure of the International Olympic Committee when it heard of it that it refused to allow the use of the word “Olympic” in the title, or the use of any archived Olympic footage. They also wrote accusing the producers of making a “politically motivated” hatchet-job.
After rewarding the games to serial human rights violators in China and Russia, how can the Olympics even pretend to have a shred of credibility? It is astounding that they would call a documentary filmmaker who explains how Putin’s Russia is a hotbed of corruption a “hatchet-job”. What did they think would happen when you chose Russia for the winter Olympics? They need to read the biography of Putin by Judah, since this fiasco was all preordained.
I first heard of this book when I was in France last summer. Of course everybody already knew that pretty much the whole peloton was on drugs, but Hamilton’s book presents a lot of the hows and whys.
When I got back from France I bought the book and finally had a chance to read it and wow – the things these guys do to themselves are absolutely crazy. At least to us mortals.
Hamilton tells the story of how difficult it is to be at the top levels of pro cycling, and just exactly what it took to get there, and stay there.
Of the most interest to me was how they knew how to beat most of the doping tests, and always stayed one step ahead of the testers.
Hamilton is brutal on himself as well, which is refreshing. He fully admits he cheated and while pointing the finger at other riders, is always sure to point the finger at himself first and hardest.
This book was written before Lance came out and finally admitted to doping, and there is an afterword in the current edition that speaks to this part of the saga.
I still feel that these guys are all doping in one way or another – I just don’t see how they can do what they do without it. In fact, I would just assume that at this point all major college and pro athletes are getting “help” in one fashion or another.
This book is very easy to read and explains some pretty interesting things about how the different drugs do what they do, and how they do it. It also explains how blood transfusions help the riders out, and how the doctors were pretty sophisticated for the most part in spreading out the drug doses and transfusions to beat the testers.
There is also a lot of cloak and dagger stuff in the book, describing how they were able to acquire the drugs and blood, how they stored them, transported them, and how the drugs and blood bags were administered.
I am sure that almost all of the riders from this part of cycling history will have major adverse health issues later in life – and some are already dead or are having major problems. One cancer doctor that I rode with in France said that it was his opinion that Lance highly increased his chances of getting testicular cancer from the drugs he took, and that after beating cancer and taking more drugs that Lance’s chances of getting that disease again are very high.
All for fame and money. Sigh.
If you are interested in cycling and/or want an easy to understand read about how the drug culture in that sport worked I highly recommend this book. The only question it left me with was that I now wonder what these guys are on now.
Last Sunday I was fortunate to attend the Bears Vikings game at Soldier Field with Carl from Chicago and Lexington Green. A great time was had by all.
As I was walking to my seats in the nose bleeds, I said to Lex “this picture represents pretty much everything about Illinois”. He said I should blog it. So I am.
What you see is the top of the old Soldier Field on the left, with its beautiful granite pillars that used to be atop the stadium. On the right is the new Soldier Field, what we all call the UFO, that was basically dropped in on top of the columns. It is pretty much universally derided as one of the worst plans of all time, at least from an aesthetic point of view.
Of course, the Bears should have put this stadium in Hoffman Estates or somewhere like that, where there is plenty of parking and easy access. But no. The Soldier Field renovations, as with all things Chicago, turned into a giant scam, and now people that choose to see the Bears have to endure insane traffic snarls along LSD, have nowhere to park, and then have to deal with the crazy Chicago traffic to boot.
This represents a lot of what Illinois has to offer, or, maybe I should say, had. The “combine” in Springfield is legendary for hosing down the taxpayers for any of a million different things. But I have anecdotal evidence that maybe – just maybe – things are ripe for some sort of change.
A woman visited me on a business call at work last week and she just voluntarily started spouting about how pissed she was about all things Illinois. She didn’t give a political point of view, but more to the point just said that everyone and everything there “sucked” and that she was going to, for the first time in her life, start to get involved. Lex noted that he has heard many of these same things in his dealings in Chicago.
I hope that this is true. I hope that things that are represented in the photo above come to be a thing of the past, not of the future.
Another big crowd. This time we started near the front, which made the whole experience better as most of the crashes and sudden stops happened behind us. Also it’s summer, so much of the ride took place when it was light enough to see the sights, including the more attractive female participants…
These guys always seemed to be a bunch of juvenile, self-righteous assholes who enjoy the fruits of a modern transportation system while pretending to be above it all with their bicycles and simpleminded cultural leftism. The core of the Critical Mass experience are the massive traffic-fouling group bike rides on urban streets. By now CM is mainstream and tolerated by the powers that be with, I assume, the understanding that any daring transgressions will be restricted to off-peak hours. So it becomes just another annoying street event like the parades and art fairs and filming the hot TV show that are given dispensation to block traffic and inconvenience drivers. Of course I would never participate in such a thing. However, it turns out that some of my friends do these rides, and they asked if I wanted to join them. So I said, sure, sounds like fun.
One of my daughters is almost 12 now. She is active in gymnastics and has been on and off for many years.
When she was much smaller, I would say five or six years ago, she was in a gymnastics “show”. It was basically a prelude to real competitions, where the children do simple techniques in front of an audience – moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas.
At the end of that show every child was allowed to step atop the podium and receive a first place medal. This could be a Madison thing to make kids feel good (we are just a bit liberal here from what I have heard) but I have no idea if they do this elsewhere.
I told my wife at that time the following:
“This sets up unrealistic expectations for the future. Most of those kids sucked and they still got a first place photo and medal, and have a great feeling. The kids that worked harder were screwed.”
Fast forward to today. My daughter made nationals for gymnastics, fortunately hosted here in Madison. She only had to beat one other kid to qualify to the national meet. She has been getting absolutely dusted this week in every event by kids from all around the nation. Of course we are dealing with a very browbeaten kid.
I told her that I didn’t feel sorry for her. I said that she clearly needs to work harder and doesn’t deserve to be the champion if she doesn’t have the skills. I also told her that it was great that she was able to qualify for nationals and have the privilege to compete – many kids didn’t stick with it.
I think that this will be good for her in the future.
It is my personal opinion that children are far too coddled. Maybe I am an asshole of a father. I don’t think I am.
In general, I am not in favor of government regulation of pretty much anything, since most of the time the rules don’t make sense or favor certain parties, and/or are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. But I think what I saw Saturday night was an exception that I am willing to make. What you see below is our fight team head coach taping the hands of one of our fighters. As an aside, we had three fighters in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition Saturday night and went 3-0, with two knockouts and one submission.
I have been backstage many times with the fighters, but there was never anyone watching or looking around. The woman dressed in the black is a state of Wisconsin inspector. She was making sure that the taping of the hands was legal.
There are rules now on how you can tape hands – the most important being that you can tape between the knuckles, but not over them. This disallows the “casting” of your hand, which effectively turns it into a club. The regulation tape is only 1″ wide.
After the hands were taped, the inspector signed the tape. Then the glove goes on over the taping, and that is taped as well – and the inspector watched me doing this and signed off on that too. After you are taped and signed, no fighter was allowed to leave the locker room area without having an inspector escort (typically to the restroom, or to the cage to inspect for footing and the flex of the fence).
In the old days, none of this happened. We just taped the hands, one of the guys running the fights would glance at it, and that was that. There were no locker room regulations, or anyone from any authority back there. The inspectors also checked everyone’s shorts and one guy had to cut some laces off that weren’t able to be tucked away.
The pre-fight meeting was better too. The referee clearly explained all the rules (there are many more than you think) to the fighters and the coaches and corners. The promoter of the fights also said that no taunting of the opponent would be tolerated, and that if you did taunt, you would never appear on the card again. And that went for coaches and seconds as well. Celebration, OK – but taunting, no way.
Security was also tighter. I had to show my “seconds” license from the State of Wisconsin to receive my passes to enter the locker room and to be cageside. By the way there is no test to be a second. Just fill out a form and send in $40.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I typically disdain the government getting into stuff like this, but every single person there from the State knew exactly what they were talking about, knew the rules, and were extremely professional and helpful. There were a lot of questions since this was the first time a lot of us had seen a state presence such as this and all were dealt with fairly.
The fighters have to go through a much more rigorous testing to get their license; blood work, doctors inspections and more.
MMA is huge and getting bigger every day. I think that a set, established, group of rules is a good thing for the sport, and will help keep idiots out of the ring and out of the way.
Every year my father and I go salmon fishing on Lake Michigan for Fathers Day out of Kenosha. Due to scheduling conflicts we were not able to make it until last Sunday. Above is the Washington Park Velodrome, the oldest operating velodrome in the United States. Too bad there were no races this day, but it was cool to see it. The banking is steeper than it looks. Information and history on the velodrome here and here.
The following day I caught a beauty king. It was a good weekend with dad. Read the rest of this entry »
For those who are interested, I have begun blogging about a two week bike trip I recently took to the Pyranees at Life In The Great Midwest. It will probably end up being a fifteen or twenty part series so feel free to follow along over the next several weeks if you like.
I recently went on a bike trip to the Pyranees in France. I trained for this for over six months, slaving away in my basement on a trainer as well as doing other workouts in the hostile winter here in exchange for two weeks of payoff on the mountains in France. Everything went wonderfully on the trip (more on this later). I was pretty excited when I was packing and leaving. It was the sort of feeling that you got in college when you knew you were going to ace a test. All the preparation and pre-work was done, it was simply time to perform. Read the rest of this entry »
In the category of “headlines so obvious that you can’t believe you haven’t seen them sooner” here is a BBC article titled
Qatar’s Bin Hammam accused of buying 2022 World Cup
While I am far from a football expert I wrote about it here in particular how the greens that protest everything under the sun didn’t seem to mind NOT using some of the dozens of world class stadiums already built for football (soccer) around the world and let Russia and Qatar win the next 2 world cups, which required the construction of many more stadiums, which strikes me as completely the opposite of being “green”, but I can’t follow their logic anyways.
Back to the Qatar bid which seemingly MUST have been based on bribery because no logical set of criteria would award this tournament to a bidder that
1) had a non-existent history of success and barely even participated in the sport on the global stage
2) had no facilities to utilize
3) would likely have to play games under the blazing sun in virtually a furnace
4) would have to truck all fans in from around the world to attend the games
But of course we know why they won as is stated in the article above.
Suspended Fifa vice-president Jack Warner has made public an e-mail that claims Mohamed Bin Hammam “bought” the 2022 World Cup finals for Qatar.
I do like Australia’s response to the final outing of this obvious outcome.
Meanwhile, independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon has demanded that Fifa refunds the Aus$45.6m (£29.6m) they spent on their unsuccessful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Xenophon said: “It appears corrupt and highly questionable behaviour goes to the core of Fifa. “Australia spent almost $46m on a bid we were never in the running for.”Now we hear that bribes may have been made to fix the result for who will head up Fifa.”
Finally let’s just drop the pretense of these international organizations being for anything other than the interests of those that run them. That goes for the Olympics too. Want to reward Russia for their fine behavior in the international stage, including the invasion of Georgia and general meddling in all the states on their borders? Give them the winter Olympics, in a facility that isn’t even built (no bribery there, either).
I have taken a few weeks off of my protest photos and videos because basically I have a life to live and kids to raise – and for some reason the direct deposit monies from the ChicagoBoyz home office in South Florida haven’t been getting through to my bank account.
We do have a lot of developments here though and I would like to get you up to date with them if you are at all interested, along with a few personal stories. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been practicing Muay Thai for almost four years now. I read a variety of information sources about Muay Thai, and sort of live that life – I guess you could say.
Over the years of commenting on different blogs and boards I have become friends with more than one professional Muay Thai fighter actually in Thailand, along with many people who go there to train in Muay Thai for pleasure, and some people who go to Thailand to report on the Muay Thai scene.
When the protests in Thailand erupted a few months ago, I was of course scared for the many acquaintances that I knew were over there, on the way there, or on the way back. The shots of the violence in the streets were a bit scary. I admit they weren’t anything like the tanks in the streets of Egypt, but the riot police was called in to Bangkok and the army was “on call”.
Over and over my friends in Thailand reported that not only were they not concerned about the rioting, but that outside of a small, few square mile area of Bangkok that you were really in no danger at all. Outside of Bangkok life was proceeding as usual, and many people didn’t even know what was going on outside of their small towns.
I wonder if it is this way in Egypt. I haven’t heard reports of any city blowing up besides Cairo, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, of course. I guess time will tell.