Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some reviews to make up for not posting....

Okay, since it's been a while since I've actually...you know...posted anything, I'm going to do some reviews, to (hopefully) get myself back in the swing of things. Not promising anything, but...I'm going to give a good college try.

Review 1: Music

I'm not exactly the 'normal' music fan. I have very eclectic tastes, and may like a 'lesser' song or musician from a particular genre, while not liking the 'better' songs or musicians. In addition, I happen to like some musicians and music that most people don't exactly brag about liking, like Barry Manilow or Celine Dion. Because of that, many times, my favorite albums are the albums most despised by 'true' music fans: "Best Of..." albums. They have the songs I like, and don't have quite as many songs I don't.

All that being said, I think I've found two of the "Best Of..." albums that are near required for just about anyone over the age of 30. They are "60s Gold" and "Ultimate 70s", both published by Time-Life. They're anthologies of songs that pretty much defined those two decades, but, NOT the most popular songs of those decades. Trust me, if you grew up in the 70s and 80s, these two albums have almost every song that lurks deep in your conscious from that time period. They're about $35 apiece, but...they're worth it. Each set (each one is three CDs) is a trip down memory lane.

Out of 114 songs between the two sets, I have 99 of them on my music playlist. 99 out of 114. 86% of the songs are on my playlist. I have albums from some of my favorite bands that don't have that high of a percentage of songs that are at least "won't change the station if the song is on".

Here's a partial list of the 'must have' (to me) songs from each set:

60s Gold:

Classical Gas-Mason Williams (if you've been to a movie theater in the past 20 years, you've probably heard the entire song...just not all at one time)
Windy and Along Comes Mary-The Association (those two songs are almost enough to get me to hunt for a "Best Of The Association" album...)
The Rain, The Park, and Other Things-The Cowsills (if you're my age, you know the song, even if you don't know it by the title)
American Pie-Don McLean (best rock song ever written...easy to get on other anthologies, though)
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay-Otis Redding (obscure minor trivia about me...I've been to his birth place and death place: Savannah, GA, and Lake Monona in Madison, WI, respectively.)
Monday, Monday and California Dreamin'-The Mamas and the Papas (top ten greatest harmonies EVER...hard to say who's better, the Mamas and the Papas, or The Association)
Bus Stop-The Hollies (...how does a band sound change its sound THAT many times, and sound so good each time?! They'll appear again...)

Ultimate 70s.

Nights in White Satin-Moody Blues (not actually enough to get me to buy the album...Days of Future Past and Best of the Moody Blues are both common, and have this song, plus a bunch of others that are just as good. Best of Moody Blues is practically Days of Future Past, though...almost all of their hits came of that album)
Stuck in the Middle With You-Stealers Wheel (...can't hear this song without thinking of Mr Pink and that stupid little dance...and what follows)
Werewolves of London-Warren Zevon (thankfully, I don't remember Tom Cruise's stupid dance to this song)
Smoke on the Water-Deep Purple
Still the One-Orleans
Dust in the Wind-Kansas (most bands, if this was their only hit, could call it a career...Kansas kept going)
Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)-The Hollies (told you they'd show up again)
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother-The Hollies (...HOW!?)

Those are just the songs I'd consider paying money for. There are quite a few others that I wouldn't pay money for, but, am certainly not upset I got them thrown in.

Basically, Time-Life did a great job finding not the most popular songs of those two decades, but, most of the most memorable songs. If you even remotely enjoyed the music of your childhood and are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, you should consider buying these two sets. They're worth it.

Review 2: Coffee makers.

For Christmas, my sister bought me a Senseo coffee maker. I wanted to try one, but, didn't want to shell out the money ($60) for something I wasn't sure I'd like. The reviews I'd read of the Senseo were too subjective to be useful to me. Almost every review I read mentioned how strong the coffee was, and that you had to make several cups with the same pods to get a drinkable cup. But, what if I LIKE strong coffee?!

After using the Senseo for six months, I can say definitely "It's worth the money". It's not a perfect cup of coffee, but, it's FAR better than you'd find in ANY restaurant or coffee shop. The quibbles I have with it are easily balanced out by the things I like about it.

Quibbles:

Senseo's definition of "a cup of coffee" and my definition are approximately 150% off. Senseo considers a "cup of coffee" to be 4 oz. I consider a cup of coffee to be, minimum, 10 oz, preferably 16 oz. So, I have rarely used the "one cup" button. Because of this, I go through the pods at an obscene rate. (One pod makes one cup, two pods make two cups) There are either 16 or 18 pods per bag (flavored coffees have 16 pods per bag, regular coffee has 18 per bag), and I use two pods per cup of coffee...that means I go through several bags every weekend day, and a bag every two or three days during the week. The bags of pods are about $4 a piece, for 4 oz of grounds, making the pods about $16 a pound. That's a little steep for coffee. Not unreasonable, but...a little steep.

The water reservoir is...tiny. It only holds enough water for two cups of coffee (my cups...it holds 4 cups of Senseo's cups). You can buy a larger reservoir...for $20 more. Hm. I'm not sure if it's worth paying another $20 to have not fill the reservoir every two cups of coffee...but, it sure is a pain having to fill it every two cups.

One pod per Senseo cup makes coffee on the low end of "Highly drinkable". Two pods per Senseo cup makes coffee right at the middle of "Highly drinkable". Two pods per Senseo cup means I'm using 4 pods per my cup of coffee...that's 4 of my cups of coffee per bag of pods, at $3 a bag...that's a bit steep for even really good coffee.

Likes:

Highly drinkable coffee less than three minutes after I have the hankerin' for a cup of coffee. It takes about 2 minutes for the water to warm up, and about 1 minute for the coffee to brew after that. After the water is warmed up, you have a cup of coffee every minute or so, for as long as you keep the pods changed and reservoir filled. Mmmm....coffee.

For $10 and some hunting, you can buy your own reusable pod, so you can use your own ground coffee in the Senseo. It's not easy to do, and it takes A LOT of experimenting to find the right measurements and grind to get it down to where you like it, but, once you do, it can be worth it. Kenyan coffee on demand....mmmm....coffee.

I make a better cup of coffee with a grinder, beans and a drip coffee maker. It also takes me 20 minutes to get coffee when I do that. Hm....20 minutes for great coffee versus 3 minutes for *only* darn good coffee. I'll take "Darn Good Coffee in 3 Minutes" for $100, please, Alex.

If you like good, strong coffee, and don't really like waiting for it, the Senseo is the gizmo for you. The Black and Decker Home Cafe is pretty much the same beast, with a slightly different set up. If you're careful, you can even use the pods interchangeably (the Folger's pods for the Home Cafe are just a hair thicker than the Douwe Egbert pods for the Senseo...you can feel the pressure on the hinge when you close the top.).

All told, the prices associated with either the Home Cafe or Senseo are worth it, for the convenience. It's not the greatest cup of coffee you'll ever drink, but, it's darn good, and it's darn quick. Would I spend close to $100 to buy one (after all the add-ons), just to have coffee quickly? Yup.

Ok, that's it, for now. Maybe in the next couple of days, I'll get some more stuff up.

Monday, February 12, 2007

In the interests of continuing friendships....

..I won't Fisk Harvey's post about atheism. It would just take too long, and I'd have to stomp on some egos to do it.

In the comments of the post, I made a reference to being able to use logic, reason, and observable science to prove the existence of *A* creator. That is absolutely true. About 4,000 years ago (give or take a couple of hundred years), a bunch of barely literate shepherds had a run-in with a being who claimed to be self-existent, meaning, he needed nothing else in order to exist. He existed merely by existing. Fast forward about 1,500 years, and an amateur philosopher deduced, using pure logic ALONE, that a self-existent being must logically exist in order for the Universe to be here. Fast forward to today, and, for some reason I cannot fathom, theists and atheists alike operate under the idiotic and irrational notion that the existence of *A* creator can't be proven. For centuries, humans have logically deduced the existence of things that they had no hope of ever being able to prove, such as the planet Pluto (I don't give a flying leap what some idiotic astronomers have decided about Pluto. It's a 'planet' on this blog.), which later generations proved, BY USING THE LOGICAL DEDUCTIONS OF THE PREVIOUS GENERATIONS! The planet Pluto was only found because the astronomer looked in the area of the sky that someone several hundred years ago deduced it would be. No such discovery method is necessary for the existence of *A* creator, since, at one's death, one will get to find out, one way or another.

Now, here, and at Harvey's, and at other sites, I have mentioned that I happen to know the logical and rational proofs for the existence of *A* creator, but, have never actually posted them. Well, actually, I did, in the comments of a thread at Original Musings. But, I haven't done it any other time, quite simple because it would be a waste of my time. You see, ALL objections to the existence of *A* creator are morally, not logically or rationally, based, so, providing a logical proof to a moral dilemma would be counter-productive. The atheist isn't looking for Reason. They're looking for justification, or absolution. Telling them that, yes, there really IS someone/something that just *might* take offense to their immoral behavior exacerbates the problem. It doesn't solve it. So, until I'm actually asked for it, I don't provide the proof, because it wouldn't do either of us any good.

Want it? Ask for it. But, once you get it, you ARE responsible for what you do with it. Doing what you have been doing is no longer an option. If there really is *A* creator (and there is), then, you owe EVERYTHING you have to he/she/it. Once *A* creator exists, He gets to make the rules, not you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Stupid memes

So, evidently, Harvey, of Bad Example, is less than thrilled with my recent blog output, so he tagged me with a meme. Yay for me. I'll take the stupid hint, and complete the meme, and I won't even complain about it. Too much.

1. Wrapping paper, or gift bags? When I can't bribe, cajole, threaten, or just plain annoy someone into doing my wrapping for me, gift bags. I'm not a big fan of spending all than time and effort making something look pretty, knowing that it's just so someone can shred it before my eyes.

2. Real tree, or artificial? Neither? I hate Christmas trees of any sort. But, if I absolutely *had* to get one, it would be a real tree. It would also be a Charlie Brown real tree. Easier to decorate.

3. When do you put up the tree? I don't. Seriously. I haven't laid a hand upon a Christmas tree in almost two decades.

4. When do you take the tree down? Pre-emptively. See #3.

5. Do you like eggnog? Eh. Some years I like it, and some years, I don't. I don't think I've ever actually had it with booze in it, though...and now that I rarely drink alcohol, it is unlikely I ever will.

6. Favorite gift you received as a child? Hm. I don't actually remember actually...*liking*...any of my gifts, but, since I had a lot of Legos as a child, I'd have to assume I got some of them for Christmas, which would mean that I liked the Legos gifts the best, since I still entertain fantasies of buying entire Lego product lines.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My sister. It is unlikely I'll ever be able to actual figure out what she wants, since we don't really have that much in common any more, so, I have no frame of reference to even try to WAG a gift for her.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My mother. I can usually guess what she's going to like. I just don't know if she alreay has it.

10. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? What are these "Christmas cards" you speak of?

11. The worst Christmas present you ever received? Orders to Saudi Arabia. Seriously. We received our orders to deploy to Saudi Arabia on December 24th, 1990. If you're keeping score at home, Kuwait was invaded in August of 1990.

12. Favorite Chrstmas movie? We're No Angels. The original, with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Basil Rathbone, some other old school actors, and Adolf. Adolf is the star of the movie. Watch it this Christmas. You won't be disappointed. Oh...I should mention...it's a comedy. With Humphrey Bogart. And Peter Ustinov. And Basil Rathbone. I have nearly lost consciousness from laughing...and that was the THIRD time I had seen it. I've seen it at least five more times since, and I still lose the ability to speak or breathe frequently.

13. When do you start shopping? Hm...Christmas is the 25th, right? So...that means I usually start shopping no earlier than the 20th. The 24th, if I can get away with it.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. Almost every Christmas present I have ever received had too much practical use, so, I was too busy using the presents to give them to someone else. I *should* explain that this is the reason why I don't really remember actually liking any of my Christmas presents. It's not that I disliked them. It's just that they had a practical use, rather than an entertainment use, so, "favorite" didn't really apply. It's kind of like asking which is your favorite screwdriver, a #2 Phillips head, or a #2 slot head. What are you using it for?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christams? Um...I'm the idiot responsible for the unbelievable amount of fruitcake produced in the US, since I'm pretty sure all those fruitcakes eventually make it to me...and get eaten. So, blame me the next time someone gives you a fruitcake. Don't worry. I'll eat that one, too. mmmm.....fruitcake.

16. Clear lights, or colored lights? Invisible. Or, in a pinch, non-existent.

17. Favorite Christmas song? "Do You Hear What I Hear?". Or "The Little Drummer Boy". Backup song? Anything by Nat King Cole. I'd pay to hear him sing the phone book.

18. Travel at Christmas, or, stay home? If it's up to me, stay home. With the phone off, and the door locked. When it's not up to me, I travel. It's usually not up to me.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? The snarky part of me wants to say "Yes. Neither of them had names." (Santa originally just had one, or two reindeer. The others were added later by a not-entirely annoying song.) The tired-of-being-a-Scrooge part of me says "Yes. Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen." And, yes, I spelled Donder's name right. It's German for "thunder"...which would go just fine with his sleighmate Blitzen...who is "lightning". AND, originally, Rudolph's name was Randolph. Aren't you just thrilled you asked that question?

20. Angel on the top, or a star? Charlie Brown trees are barely sufficient to support hold a ball, much less a star or an angel. That's if I had a tree, though. I don't.

21. Open the presents on Christmas Eve, or morning? Whatever is the most practical for scheduling. I've opened presents as early as the 18th (this year), and as late as January 19th (this year, as well. Do the math, you'll figure it out.)

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Hm...that's a long list to choose from. I guess I'd have to say the commercialization of a pagan holiday, celebrated with pagan rituals, on a date that has NOTHING to do with the birth of my Lord and Savior. After that...everything else is somewhat petty. (For the record, the best semi-educated guess to the real birthday of Jesus bar Joseph is September 22nd. That's the most likely, but, not the most certain, date. Sometime between the beginning of August and the end of October is the only time period possible. Shepherds aren't out in the fields with their sheep in the middle of winter, nor were taxes collected at that time. December 25th has nothing to do with Jesus's birthday.)

23. Do you have JeSus in your heart this Christmas? I try. That's all I can say. (that capitalisation in the middle of His name isn't accidental. I really can't profane the Name above all Names.)

24. What would like for Christmas? Probably not getting it, so, not going to bother mentioning it. Wanting what I do not have hasn't done me much good in the past.

I'm not going to purposely pass this on, so, if y'all want to answer it, go ahead. I'm just not going to 'force' anyone to. Yeah, I'm a killjoy. Call it "getting in the Christmas spirit", if you want.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Answers

Okay, here are the answers to my little quizzes.

If you can only do ONE of these, which is more important? Caring, or doing?


The obvious answer is "doing", of course. And, this time, the obvious answer is the correct answer.

One cannot "do" without "caring", and one can "care" without "doing", so, "doing" is the most important one, because it is the only one that can't exist without the other.

But...

Just about everyone will respond "doing" to that question, and then, spend ZERO thought on what that means.

What it means, ladies and gentlemen (and you, too, Harvey), is that what you DO determines what you care about.

Take a week, and chart the time you spend on each and every activity you do. Add the times up at the end of the week, and you will now have a good idea of what you care about, because you'll have a record of what you did.

For the vast majority of Americans, work is their number one care, since they spend the most amount of time there. Watching television is their number two care. Talking with friends and family is usually right near the bottom of the list.

That makes me sick. It should make you sick, too.

Now, you've already answered that doing is more important than caring. So, what are YOU going to do about that?

I buy a pair of shoes for $30. I mark the shoes up to $60, and you buy them. Who profits from this deal?


This has already been discussed in the comments to the quiz. If you didn't read the comments, the answer is "we both profit".

I make $30, and you have a new pair of shoes. We both have something more than we started with, so, we both profit.

There is no mention of coercion, nor of deception. If either one of those was present, then, only I would profit, since I would have stolen from you. Even if I left you with the pair of shoes, I still stole $60 from you. So, only I would profit.

But, the interesting thing about that question is the varying responses you can get from people. The ONLY answer is "We both do. I make $30, and you have a new pair of shoes. (or vice versa. order is unimportant)". Adding anything to it tells me more about the person answering the question than they really wanted to tell me. By adding to the answer, that person has just told me what concerns them the most about a free market exchange.

Ponder that for a while.

What statistic will give you the best idea of a team's chances of winning a particular game?


As Harvey correctly pointed out, the ending score is 100% accurate for determining the chances of team winning a game.

During the game, the score is also the most accurate method, since the team with the highest score at any point has the best chance of winning.

Before the game? No statistic is useful, truthfully. Every statistic that is used before the game is merely a representation of how the team has performed in the past...and as any good stock broker will tell you, past performance isn't the best judge of future activity. It is *A* judge, but, not the *best* judge.

Only while the game is being played can you assess a team's chances of winning. And the score is the ONLY statistic that will let you do that.

What can you do to get any problem to go away?


Ignore it long enough.

Not all problems have solutions. It's high time we got that idea into our heads. Everyone has this problem of only 24 hours in a day. No solution to that problem. (actually...there are some people for whom the problem is that there are too MANY hours in the day...I've been there) Everyone has the problem of death. Everyone has the problem of needing food, air, and water. None of these problems have solutions. So, get the idea out of your head that the solution to every problem is to fix it. You can't.

Now, the problem with this answer is that ignoring a problem long enough WILL make the problem go away, but...usually, by causing greater problems. So, ignoring the problem long enough isn't actually a good way of solving the problem.

There's got to be a middle ground, right? Yes, there is.

Every time you are faced with a problem, ask yourself a couple of questions:

1. Is there a solution to the problem?
2. If I ignore the problem, will a greater problem arise?

By asking yourself those two simple questions, you'll put the problem into a perspective that you can now deal with. Sure, there ARE problems that don't have solutions, and WILL cause greater problems if ignored. Those, you just have to deal with. Sorry. Anyone who told you life was fair was lying to you.

How many hours of classes must you require someone to take before they are educated?


Again, Harvey hit this one on the head.

Attending a class is no garauntee you will become educated. Some of the least educated, ignorant people I have ever met have more degrees than a thermometer, and I know quite a few educated people who have spent the minimum time possible for a high school graduate in classes (and, in my case, LESS than the minimum time possible...attendance wasn't my strong point) and be very educated.

The next time you hear about someone being mandated to attend a "sensitivity class", or other such nonsense class, feel sorry for them. It was forced upon them by an uneducated, well-schooled buffoon.

How many competing theories are there of how the universe was created?


Harvey *almost* got this one right.

He's right, in that it IS a trick question. He's just wrong about WHY it's a trick question.

There aren't any competing theories of how the Universe was created. There is only ONE theory. All matter (hence, the Universe) didn't exist at some point, and then, matter existed, therefore, being created. That's the 'how'.

The only competing theories are in WHO created it. In that field, there are only two theories that have any relevance: Judeo-Christo-Muslim Creation (I lump Islam in with Judeo-Christianity ONLY because they have the same Creation theory), and self-creation (matter created itself). No other theories are relevant, nor have any significant following.

Read up on logic sometime, and tell me which theory of WHO created the Universe makes sense. It will be illustrative.

(There are also disputes between the two WHO theories on WHEN, WHY, and WHERE. Too long a discussion to go into here.)

Harvey then dodges the correct answer by saying "science isn't about religion". Hm. That's funny. The entire set of physics 'laws', as we know them, were created by an Anglican theologian, and an Orthodox Jew, both of whom claimed that they were only interested in figuring out the rules that God used to create the Universe.

The only significant advance to the science of physics by an atheist were the 'Laws' of Logic that Aristotle used to prove that the Greek gods were insufficient to account for the Universe, so, another, greater god must exist. For that, he was branded an atheist.

Oh...before I forget...atheism is a religion, too. Look up the definition of "religion" sometime. Atheism meets several of the definitions.

Tomorrow, when I'm not so tired, I'll explain why these type of questions have been tugging at my skull for the past few days. (I thought of at least three more, just today.) It's actually relevant to all of your lives. I'll give you a hint: it's a concept so simple, most people don't understand it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Quizzes and such.

There are times when you need to quickly determine another person's grasp of a discussion topic, so you can figure out how indepth to get with the discussion. For most people, this is really difficult. So, to aid some of you, I have some quick, one question quizzes to determine a person's knowledge base on a particular subject. If a person can't answer the quiz correctly, they really have no business discussing the topic at hand. So, without further ado, here are the three I can think of:

Politics

If you can only do ONE of these, which is more important? Caring, or doing?

Economics

I buy a pair of shoes for $30. I mark the shoes up to $60, and you buy them. Who profits from this deal?

Sports

What statistic will give you the best idea of a team's chances of winning a particular game?

With all three of these quizzes, you can quickly determine whether or not the person you are talking to has ANY clue of the topic at hand. If the correct answer isn't given, then, walk away, and find someone who knows what they're talking about.

I'll give the answers to those questions in the comments in a couple of days. Feel free to put your answers in the comments, too, plus, any ohter one question quizzes you can think of.

Have fun! (I'm almost willing to bet that most of you won't get all three correct, and about half of you will only get one correct. But, that's just a guess on my part.)

Okay, thought of another one.

Problem Solving

What can you do to get any problem to go away?

Monday, July 24, 2006

How Legends are made.

Okay, so, an American, Floyd Landis, won the Tour de fwance again. Whoopee. Big deal.

Don't get me wrong. I am ecstatic that an American won the Tour de fwance, but, after delving into the race a little bit, Floyd winning the Tour isn't nearly as impressive as HOW he won the race. I've read several commentaries, from analysts, cyclists, and competitors, and all of them have said that Floyd's win was the stuff of legends, a finish that will be talked about in cycling for decades. Cyclists will tell their children "I was there when Floyd won the Tour." Team owners will tell their young upstarts "You didn't see Floyd win the Tour. Shut up and listen." Fans will say, decades later "That was a good race by X, but, it has nothing on Floyd's win at the Tour".

Am I exaggerating? I don't think so. Way back when, when I was a lot younger and in a lot better shape, I used to cycle as training for my real passion, running. So, I know a little bit about how bicycle races are run and won. So, now, I'm going to try to tell you why Floyd Landis' win at the 2006 Tour de fwance is the stuff of legends. I'll be guessing about some of the things, and some of the details won't be correct, but...I assure you, the nature and spirit of his victory is what I'm after, and what I'm trying to convey, not the petty details.

This year's Tour was a wide open mess from the get-go. Lance Armstrong, who had owned the Tour for the past 7 years, was now retired. Several of the other favorites (past winners and perenial 2nd- and 3rd- placers) had been disqualified for various reasons. (2 for connection to a blood doping clinic, and another for not having enough members on the team) I *think a 5th favorite was out due to injury or retirement...which meant, at the start of the Tour, all 5 of the top 5 finishers from 2005 weren't competing this year. (that, I know for sure) So, the talking heads turned to trying to figure out who would win this year's Tour, with all of the favorites out.

America's best hope was George Hincapie, the only rider to race with US Postal/Team Discovery each year that Lance Armstrong won. Now that Lance was gone, it was now George's team, and the team would now labor to get George into the Yellow Jersey, instead of Lance. And Lance had won the previous 7 Tours by having an incredible team, with incredible support, and riders (like George) who were willing to sacrifice THEIR chances for the Yellow, so that Lance could get it.

Floyd Landis, on the other hand, would have been THE favorite to win...if he had stayed with Team Discovery (a couple of years ago, US Postal withdrew its sponsorship of the team, and The Discovery Channel stepped in..hence, the name change). But, Floyd clashed with Lance Armstrong repeatedly (actually...a very common occurence. There's a reason why only ONE rider stayed with Lance all 7 years), so, he left for other pastures...more specifically, to Team Phonak. Team Phonak seemed to offer everything Floyd needed in a team, except one thing...an actual competitive team. Phonak was good enough to qualify for the Tour, and was good enough to finish it. But, they weren't the best riders, and not even close to the quality of rider that Team Discovery had. So, Floyd was, at best, a long shot to win, if he could find a way to overcome the obstacle his team presented.

Now, most people don't realize that the Tour de fwance (and most Tours, for that matter) is actually a team event, not an individual event. You can't even sign up for the Tour with a 6 person team. No Lone Rangering allowed. So, Floyd was going to have to win the Tour in spite of his team, not because of it.

Early on in the Tour, George Hincapie had what can only be charitably described as "a melt down". He pooped out. He couldn't hold the Yellow Jersey. He got tired. As a result, he fell back in the standing several minutes, and there wasn't any real way he could make that time up. So, America's hopes really rested on Floyd Landis of the "other weak teams are calling them weak" Team Phonak.

For the first 10 or so stages, Floyd was in striking distance. He and his team were positioning themselves to be in striking distance of the Yellow Jersey at the end stages. Around Stage 12, Floyd got to put on the Yellow Jersey.

Stage 13, Phonak decided to gamble, and give up the Jersey to another rider. Why? To save strength. The Tour is almost a pure endurance event, not really a speed event. It's not about who goes the fastest (sprinters rarely win the Tour), but, more about who can go the fastest the longest. So, sometimes, a team will decide to NOT win a stage, so they can win later stages. That's what Phonak decided to do.

I'll take a quick moment here to describe how team-mates can be used...and abused...in the Tour. Since many time bonuses are available for how well the team does, sometimes, the leader of the team will have another team member go balls-out, to get the other teams to try and catch him. This is sacrificing one team member to get the rest of the team to win. The team member who goes balls-out on Monday won't be worth a shit on Tuesday. Too tired. But, in order to tire the other teams out, you sacrifice the one teammate to get the rest of the team ahead. Now, other teams know you're going to do that, so, they have to decide if they're going to let you get away with that. Usually, they don't, so, they'll sacrifice one of THEIR teammates to tire your teammate out. (Most people don't know that drafting actually SLOWS the lead person down, while speeding the trailing person UP) Now, you know they're going to do that, so, you send another teammate up to "protect" your first teammate, by switching with your sacrificed teammate on and off, to give him a rest. Confusing? Not really, once you start doing it. But, the Tour is a LOT more complicated than just who can ride the fastest. You should also start to see where having other good riders on your team is essential. If none of your teammates are a threat for a true breakaway, why would anyone bother trying to impede them?

So, for Stage 13, Phonak yeilded the Yellow Jersey up, with the plan of taking it back on a later stage, and holding on to it until the ride into Paris. Floyd got criticized for this, by other competitors, many of whom were his friends. You see, it's bad form to not protect the Yellow Jersey. It's a sign of disrespect FOR THE JERSEY to take it one day, and plan on giving it up the next. It's like winning the Super Bowl, and announcing you have no plans to even TRY to go to the playoffs the next year. You won it, you protect it. But, everyone understood what Floyd was doing, they just weren't sure they were going to help him do it. (other teams, out of contention, have been known to choose sides in races between the top 2 teams. Just like any other large mob of people)

Floyd took back the Yellow in Stage 14, and now, his plan was to hold onto it for the rest of the Tour.

There was one small problem, though. Stage 16. A mountain stage.

Floyd Landis had a meltdown. He tired out. He went from being almost 60 seconds ahead, to being 8 minutes, 8 seconds BEHIND. He went from 1st to 11th, in one stage. His hopes of the Yellow Jersey were, barring a miracle, gone. He needed AT LEAST five of the top 10 racers to crash, or drop out, or SOMETHING! He needed to gain time he couldn't gain, and he needed riders to drop out who had entire teams protecting them. 8 minutes with 5 stages to go was impossible. Couldn't be done. George Hincapie had his dreams of Yellow in Paris dashed when he fell 8 minutes behind with 10 stages left! It takes a miracle to gain 8 minutes over the ENTIRE Tour, much less with 3 stages and the Ride into Paris left. (The final stage is more of a formality than a race. You can't win the Tour on the Ride, but, you can lose it, if you crash. Which is why your team sticks to you like white on rice, to make sure no one crashes into you)

Floyd had other plans, though. Sometime during the night, in a strategy session, he and Team Phonak realized they had only one strategy: sheer, brute force. The only hope that Floyd had of regaining the Yellow Jersey was to do an all-out solo breakaway on Stage 17. No teammates to help, and only his body to do the work, the same body that had given out on him the Stage before. No help, no assistance, no tactics. Just. Ride. He had to go fast enough to discourage any other riders from trying to keep up with him, and he had to make sure he kept going. He wasn't going to have anyone to give him a rest by drafting, and he wasn't going to be able to look over his shoulder, because another rider might tell him the pack (the peleton in bicycle-speak) was just behind him, and he had failed.

So, the next morning, he woke up early, and rode the 65 mile course by himself, to get a feel for it. (that's normal. ALL the champions do it, or, so I've read from other cyclists) By the time he was finished with his run-through, the rumor was already floating around about his plans. Other competitors, many of them friends of his, tried to talk him out of it. You just CAN'T do that. It's not done! Sure, he may have been able to get back into striking distance of the Yellow, but, he was exhausted already from Stage 16, and he would still have 3 more stages to go! Solo breakaways don't work for winning the Tour. They just don't.

Floyd wouldn't listen, though. He told his freiends to drink a Coke, because he was going to breakaway from the pack as early as possilbe, and they were free to try and keep up with him, if they wanted to.

You don't run a 65 mile race ahead of the pack that late in the Tour. You just CAN'T! You're exhausted already, and you'll tire yourself out too much for the remaining stages to win.

You.
Don't.
Do.
It.

Floyd did, though. At the end of Stage 17, Floyd Landis was 30 seconds behind the leader. 7 minutes, and 30 some seconds gained. In one stage. After having one of the worst late-stage collapses in Tour history.

He.
Gained.
SEVEN!
Minutes.
In.
One.
Stage.

Oh, sure, Greg LeMond overcame just as big of a deficit during one of his victories, but, Greg used his team to do it. Greg used tactics, and strategy, and sacrificed a team-mate or two to do it.

Floyd did it "with the pedal". No tactics, no strategy. Just sheer, brute force, and pure heart.

Some of you may have heard that Floyd had a bad hip, or an arthritic hip. No, it was worse than that. He has avascular necrosis in his hip, a condition that caused the cartilage in his hip to detoriorate, because of lack of blood flow. It was caused by a training crash he had THREE YEARS AGO! His hip has been bone-on-bone for quite some time, now. WALKING is painful for him! SITTING is painful for him. And yet, on one day in fwance, he ignored the pain to launch one of the greatest comebacks in Tour history.

Stage 19, Floyd outsprinted the wearer of the Yellow, Oscar Pereiro, to take a 30 second lead for the Ride into Paris. When Floyd stepped off the podium with the Yellow Jersey, one of the first people to wrap him in a congratulatory hug was...Oscar Pereiro.

You see, Floyd was the rider EVERYONE wanted to win, if it wasn't themselves or a teammate. His competition was mostly comprised of his friends. I've been reading an online journal of one of the riders at the Tour (who was knocked out by a race-ending injury in Stage 7), and he said Floyd was the rider he wanted to win, if his team didn't, because Floyd was everyone's friend. The other racers were pulling for Floyd to pull it out. They WANTED him to win. They're HAPPY he won. The same cannot be said of the two previous American winners of the Tour, who were either hotheaded blowhards (Greg LeMond), or, calculating pricks (Lance Armstrong). Oh, the other riders respected Greg and Lance, they just didn't LIKE them. The other riders like and respect Floyd, and are just as happy as he is about his victory.

Stage 20, the Ride into Paris, Floyd and Team Phonak showed why Floyd is so well liked. Traditionally, the winner of the Tour and his team lead the peleton past the grandstands. Not this time. Team Phonak let Viatcheslav Ekimov, of Lance Armstrong's Team Discovery, lead the peleton, because this was his 15th Tour de fwance...one shy of the record. THAT is why Floyd is liked so much...he's human, and he is honest, and he is a friend.

I don't pay as much attention to bicycle racing as I would like to, and I'm sure most of you pay even less attention than that. But, frankly, this is one race I wish I had paid more attention to. I would like to be able to tell my children and grandchildren some day "I watched when Floyd Landis won the Tour de fwance. A ride like that will probably never be seen again." Sadly, I'll only be able to tell them I read about it, after the fact.

For more (accurate) information on this Tour, you can go here, or here, or here. Go ahead, poke around over there. This victory by Floyd was MUCH more than just another American victory at the Tour de fwance. It was a victory for the ages, by a man I can finally say I am happy he won.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

If it's not one thing, it's another....

Okay, I'm mostly out of my funk. So, in theory, I'll be starting to write again, and soon.

The biggest problem, though, is that, now, I have too MUCH stuff to write about, and my poor little brain went into "reset" mode, when I thought about where to start.

So, once I get my brain a bit more organized, I'll start flinging some "wisdom" up here, for y'all to mock.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country