Thursday, 24 July 2008

Twenty Years Ago

7-24-88 The 1988 Tour de France is over. Pedro Delgado, a Spaniard who last year finished second behind Irishman Stephen Roche (by only forty seconds), moved up a notch to win the tour. According to my log, he rode the 2006.125 miles in eighty-four hours, twenty-seven minutes, fifty-three seconds. That’s an average speed of 23.75 miles per hour. Words cannot describe the amazement I feel as I contemplate that figure. A year ago, the tour had twenty-five stages; this year it had twenty-one (not counting the team stage early on). Last year’s average daily mileage was 99.4; this year’s was 95.5. Roche’s average speed a year ago was 21.52 miles per hour, considerably below Delgado’s this year, but the courses were different, so comparisons are shaky. The winner of the final stage, into Paris, was Jean-Paul Van Poppel of the Netherlands. Only one person—Van Poppel—won more than one stage in the entire tour, and he won four of them. In today’s television coverage, he was described as the “world’s best sprinter”. I believe it.

The women’s tour also ended today. As expected, Jeannie Longo of France was the winner. She edged Italian Maria Canins by one minute, twenty seconds in the twelve-stage, 518-mile tour. The average stage length, not counting the prologue, was 43.1 miles. Longo, who won five stages and led the race every day except the first, averaged 22.82 miles per hour. That’s not far below Delgado’s average speed, but again, comparisons are risky. In interviews with Longo and other riders, there was criticism of the tour officials for making the women ride such a short, easy tour. It is short not only in terms of stages (twelve, compared to the men’s twenty-two), but in terms of distance (the longest stage was fifty-eight miles, compared to 144 for the men). Longo was particularly critical, alleging that the tour organizers are sexist and paternalistic. I think she’s right, for the women themselves are unanimous in wanting a more difficult tour. The women’s tour should be as long and as difficult as the men’s. Many of them could complete it, and it’s a good way to improve the quality of women’s racing.

Today’s television program was ninety minutes long. I was struck primarily by the tremendous media coverage of the tour. The poor riders must force their way through crowds of reporters to get to and from the starting and finishing lines. Even sitting in a car doesn’t help; the microphones are thrust through the windows or open doors. Perhaps that’s why the riders look so happy during the ride itself; it’s the only way to escape the pressure and demands on their time. As for the riding, I saw snippets from the past week: long stretches of flat land, rolling hills, and daunting mountains. The toughest stage (116 miles to Luz Ardiden) was won by Laudelino Cubino of Spain, who averaged 18.28 miles per hour. It was in the mountains that Delgado took the lead. Thereafter, he had to hold it against his rivals. Steven Rooks of the Netherlands finished second, so he, with Delgado, will be among next year’s favorites. Andy Hampsten of the United States was never a factor; he finished fifteenth, twenty-six minutes behind the leader. But I’m most impressed with Van Poppel. He darted from a large pack to win the final stage. That must be how he won four stages: He stayed with the leaders, then outsprinted them at the end. [I was just learning about bike racing.]

Windows Search 4.0

If you use Windows, you may find this interesting. I downloaded and installed Windows Search 4.0 yesterday. After installation, the program indexed my computer. It took a couple of hours. There is now a search box in my taskbar near the clock. I wasn’t sure what would be searched, so I typed “Feinberg” into the box. It pulled up such things as Word documents in which that word appears. Neat! It’s also fast, unlike the search function in the Start menu.

A Year Ago



Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France. Here is tomorrow’s stage. I was surprised to hear Frank Schleck say that yesterday’s attack by Carlos Sastre at the foot of L’Alpe d’Huez was unplanned by the team director. I assumed that, because Sastre is a better time trialist than Schleck, the team director decreed that Sastre, not Schleck, would attack. According to Schleck, this was not the case. He sounded disappointed that Sastre went, because once he did, neither Schleck nor any of his teammates could chase. They could chase others, but not their own teammate. Sastre would know, of course, that his attack would keep Schleck from chasing. This may explain why he went early, before Schleck could. Intrigue! I’m sure that Schleck would have gained more time on Cadel Evans than Sastre did, since he’s a better climber, but then, given his inferior time trialing abilities, he would need more time.

Addendum: Here is the New York Times story.

Pepé Le Pew

I see skunks (Mephitis mephitis) on a regular basis—usually in the evening—during my walks with Shelbie. I worry not only about her being sprayed (which has happened a couple of times), but about her being bitten. There have been reports recently of rabid skunks in this area. While Shelbie has had a rabies vaccine, it’s best not to take a chance. Tonight, as darkness fell, I saw a large black object moving slowly across the meadow about 75 yards in front of me. Shelbie saw it, too, and off she went. I gave her the signal to return to me, but it was to no avail. She reached the moving object. At first I thought it might be a black dog, which would have meant a fight. But no fight ensued. I yelled. Shelbie came running to me. When I got nearer, with Shelbie leashed, I saw that it was a mother skunk with three or four babies. The babies were following her like so many ducks. It was cute. Shelbie and I watched them for a minute or so and moved on.

Addendum: Here is the Wikipedia entry on Pepé Le Pew.

Baseball, Part 2

Here is an item from today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The Tigers are 28-13 in their past 41 games, the most wins in the majors during that stretch. Detroit has gone from 12 games below .500 on June 6 to three games above .500 Wednesday.

The Tigers have proved that they can beat the New York Yankees in the playoffs. May they meet again!

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks rightly points out that lack of social protections, individual responsibilities and environmental pressures are all important variables that factor into our culture of hyper-consumption and debt. But in referring to our penchant for “retail therapy” and unhealthy financial decision-making, he did not mention a broader social problem: the very deliberate creation of irrational needs to mitigate our reasoning ability and get us to spend.

Our desire to spend more than we have is directly related to the emotion-laden tsunami of marketing messages we swim in daily, a flood that only keeps increasing in intensity. To ignore the role of an unharnessed public relations industry when discussing the hows and whys of our choices is to ignore a much more insidious, and remediable, cultural problem.

Yosef Brody
New York, July 23, 2008

Note from KBJ: The devil made me do it!

From the Mailbag

Japan has an economic advantage over the United States in that Japan is more prone to earthquakes. The widespread destruction caused by an earthquake touches off an economic boom of GDP-fattening expenditures to replace rubblized infrastructure. But the United States, except for the West Coast, must do without this natural economic advantage. The U.S. can gain an edge through a major asteroid strike, but these stimuli from space are few and far between; it has been 65 million years since the last one. More information here.

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

Juicy Studio

I found this site in my daily newspaper. It purports to measure the readability of websites. Here are the Gunning-Fog indexes for various websites:

The Becker-Posner Blog: 14.99
Leiter Reports: 12.16
Power Line: 11.94
Animal Ethics: 11.39
Faculty Blog, University of Chicago Law School: 11.39
Left2Right: 11.38
Dissecting Leftism: 11.02
Maverick Philosopher: 10.56
Ann Althouse: 10.10
Marginal Revolution: 9.55
Wall Street Journal: 9.37
InstaPundit: 9.30
New York Times: 9.29
AnalPhilosopher: 9.27
Keith Burgess-Jackson: 9.01
Michelle Malkin: 8.92
New York Review of Books: 8.82
Crooked Timber: 7.98
what if?: 7.90
The Volokh Conspiracy: 5.76

“The result is your Gunning-Fog index, which is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. Results over seventeen are reported as seventeen, where seventeen is considered post-graduate level.”


Here is what grates on me about the New York Yankees. They try to buy pennants. Instead of buying one lottery ticket, like everyone else, they buy half the tickets.