Floyd Landis vs. France

Posted February 15, 2010 by Steve
Categories: Bicycling, Bicycling- A Fan's View

I just read two articles, here and here. The French have issued an arrest warrant for Floyd Landis for data hacking.

Putting the facts together from the two sources, it seems that Pierre Borrdry, the French anti-doping chief and head of the Chatenay-Malabry lab that “proved” Landis’ guilt in the 2006 Tour de France, has made an interesting slip. He says that Landis took lab data, manipulated it to show mistakes had been made, showed it at his trial without the “judges” noticing the supposed fabrication, and still couldn’t get an acquittal. It would seem that such mistakes didn’t or couldn’t affect the outcome, which always appeared to be pre-ordained. While M. Borrdry might see today’s news as further proof he and his interest-conflicted lab were right all along, instead it offers more proof that the fix was in and Floyd could never have won.

One misstatement in the coverage so far is that it was the lab itself that claimed the data had been accidentally lost at the time of the proceedings.

I see this as a desperate attempt to ensure Floyd never rides in the Tour again. The French cycling authorities summarily dismissed Lance Armstrong’s return as if he were a proven cheater who got away, yet in 2009 he finished second after three (or four?) years out of competition. Imagine the embarrassment if Floyd returned and won. It would be impossible for the public to ignore the stench of a rotten, corrupt anti-doping system any longer.

Observation Log 9/9/09: ISS/Discovery overflight, with a frightening surprise

Posted September 9, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Astronomy, My Astronomy Log, Steve's Affinities

Tags: , , ,

Discovery passed almost directly overhead tonight, with the ISS following 27 seconds later. Thankfully Jan was there to share it, and to witness something we’ve never seen before or probably will see again.

Just as Discovery passed straight overhead, a plume of white, faintly colorful reflections appeared right around it, and expanded for about ten seconds, dimming as it grew with the shuttle still in the middle. It was still faintly visible when it was about 1/2° across, or about the apparent size of the full moon. My immediate thought was something had gone terribly wrong. After a moment I realized we’d probably seen the Orbital Maneuvering System fire a burst of flames, during operation or perhaps testing.

I had a video camera set up to try and catch some light trails, but unfortunately it wasn’t pointed straight up. Even so, that was just stunning.

Observation Log 9/8/09: The Space Shuttle and ISS fly overhead, about 1° apart!

Posted September 8, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Astronomy, My Astronomy Log, Steve's Affinities

Tags: , , ,

That was amazing. Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station just graced our skies. The shuttle had departed the ISS a few hours ago, and was visible about a degree ahead of the station as they passed from the SW to the E. Culmination was at 31°, and even through the haze both vehicles were plainly visible without binoculars.

Wow! I only wish I could have shared that with someone.

Observation Log 7/20/09: ISS & STS-127

Posted July 20, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Astronomy, Astronomy Tips, My Astronomy Log, Putative Brilliance

Tags: , , , , ,

The International Space Station, currently docked with Space Shuttle Endeavour, just made a nice pass overhead. Although I have broken clouds at the moment, I managed to get a very nice view.

In the process, I tested a valuable new technique (for me, at least) for spotting ISS passes. I have an iPhone 3GS, which has a built-in clock and a built-in compass. So, I set up several alarms for the sighting (start, highest elevation, and end), noting from Heavens Above what the compass direction would be and putting that number in each alarm. When the alarms go off, I can quickly pull up the compass and know where to look.

This might seem a bit of overkill, except that my attempt to spot the ISS about a week ago failed! I’ve never completely missed it before. The pass was low in the sky and went through skyglow from the city to the north, but I think I should have been able to see it. Anyway, this little trick should help.

If I had unlimited energy and resources, I would love to write an iPhone application that would use the GPS, compass, the timers, and the inclinometers in the iPhone to allow a user to find any sky object (satellites especially) just by pointing the phone at the sky. Words or sounds could indicate which way to adjust the pointing angle (up, down, left, right) to find what you’re looking for. Real fanatics fans like myself could even hold a laser pointer with the phone, to make spotting even easier! Hopefully someone will do that some day soon!

Lance Armstrong, Miracle Man

Posted July 7, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Bicycling, Links I Like, Steve's Affinities

Tags: , , , ,

Serve up (a little bit of) the crow: Against better judgement and past things I said, I am watching a little of the Tour de France. One of my heroes, Lance Armstrong, is back after winning a record-smashing seven straight Tours. Even though he came back to keep his fight against cancer in the spotlight, it warms my heart to see him on his bike, confident, and seemingly as strong as ever. Live Strong indeed.

Tuesday saw the nearness of the man’s greatness. On only the fourth TdF stage he’s raced in four(?) years, he missed taking the race lead, and therefore the yellow jersey, by a fraction of a second. It was so close the race organizers had to refer to the Tour rulebook and get out the calculators to figure out if Lance had indeed captured the lead.

Here’s Lance, being the better man, talking about this day when he nearly took the yellow again: Link.

Honestly, while I have deep respect for the man, and continue to be amazed by his willpower, physical ability, and depth of character in the face of a corrupted Tour organization (including a newspaper and a poor excuse for a lab, all co-owned by one of the “owners” of the race, M. Pierre Borrdry) I hold no real hope he’ll win a Tour again. I would be delighted to be surprised, however the politics behind the scenes of the Tour have shown themselves to be downright dirty beginning with the persecution of Floyd Landis, and unless Lance is practically perfect, the cynic in me fears he’ll be dragged down by the dirty backroom dealers. That’s why I never thought I’d watch another Tour again–even now, former Tour officials are treating Lance like he’s a crook and a cheater, which has never been proven–it seems impossible for anyone who isn’t on the inside of this crooked brotherhood to get a fair chance. There’s something about French jurisprudence that, at least where the Tour is concerned, violated all that Americans hold dear about being innocent until proven guilty. In France, if there’s a hint of misbehavior in their Tour, the inevitable “leak” occurs from the Tour to the French anti-doping lab to the French paper “L’Equipe,” and within 24 hours a champion can be tarred as a cheat based on the most tenuous piece of flawed evidence.

Anyway, it is a wonderful thing to see Lance Armstrong, a man blessed by genetics and hard road back from cancer, come within a second of leading the Tour de France yet again. I should never have doubted his ability and determination.

Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” TV series, now free online

Posted June 19, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Astronomy, Astronomy Links, Links I Like, Steve's Affinities

Tags: , , , , ,

This is a real treasure. Many thanks go to Hulu.com.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Carl Sagan’s "Cosmos" TV series, now …", posted with vodpod

Sarah Palin & The Art of Victimhood

Posted June 16, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Bad Moon Rising, Steve's Peeves

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wow. I am impressed with this woman’s skill. Scared, but impressed.

For those who avoid the news, David Letterman told a joke involving one of Ms. Palin’s daughters, an unwed, 18-year-old mother. This joke was also about baseball’s Alex Rodriguez. Never mind that, or that this single mother has been the subject of mainstream media and late-night comedy since news of her pregnancy broke while her own mother was running to be our Vice-President. The elder Palin has turned this particular moment of late-night television into a seemingly endless soap opera, with herself and her daughters, and all young women, including those serving our country in the military (huh?) as the victims of a “perverted,” “so-called comedian.”

Unfortunately, Letterman goofed. The unwed mother in question didn’t go to the ball game, a younger sister did. And so did Opportunity visit, and it was welcomed with open arms. Ms. Palin publicly discounted the obvious meaning of and personalities in the joke, hypocritically calling the mistake a convenient excuse. Instead she created and sold a convenient scenario where a sicko Letterman was intentionally targeting her younger daughter, a child rarely if ever seen in the public spotlight before now. Palin telescoped the joke, and invoked young women everywhere as its victims. The rhetoric and histrionics hit such a nerve in a like-minded segment of the public that a “Impeach Fire David Letterman” group was organized.

It is said that minor children of politicians are off-limits to the media, by convention if not by actual rule. There are always exceptions; Chelsea Clinton’s ugly-duckling looks, to turn the tables, were the butt of several jokes I can recall with discomfort. Rush L. famously called her the White House “dog.” There is a difference: Chelsea’s appearance wasn’t a matter of her choice. Further, Palin’s political background is of the “Just Say No,” “Family Values” variety. I know nothing of Sarah Palin’s skill as a mother and nurturer of children, and I’m no one to judge. Still, that sort of conflict of words versus reality is something that invites scrutiny, particularly in candidates for national office.

So, Sarah Palin has revealed herself as a gifted mud slinger and opportunist. Perhaps it is redundant to identify these traits in any politician. While I had hoped she and her folksy veneer would be soon forgotten as the nation tried to pull back together in unity, now I think she’ll be in the national light until at least the next election. She got off to a shaky start in the big leagues, but she’s clearly got unfinished business and the political know-how to keep it in the public eye. Still, it seems to have escaped notice that the younger Palin’s true victimhood stemmed from her mother pulling her from obscurity and holding her up in the spotlight to make a disingenuous, self-serving point that never needed to be made. Well, unless you count building her public visibility and support at the expense of two innocents: the smearing of David Letterman and the privacy of her own 14-year-old daughter, Willow.

It should be unsurprising that in today’s editorial-as-news, one writer effuses over Palin’s magnanimous acceptance of Letterman’s apology, and suggests we should all be more like her when we are similarly aggrieved.

In short, she got down and dirty, and at least in the view of some, ended up on the moral high ground. Wow. She is good.

I wish I had a hole to crawl into, a protective place, a shelter from the storms of media-fanned, irrational frenzies like this.

The opinions expressed in Steve’s Peeves are normally intended to enlighten, entertain and, in some cases, uplift. They may not be appropriate for young readers or the satirically challenged. Parental supervision is advised.

UPDATE: Like “OctoMom” jokes, I’ve long since tired of reading anything about this subject. Still, I was surprised and pleased to find one piece I could agree with.

Words we love and hate

Posted May 23, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Creative Outlets, Links I Like, Steve's Affinities

Via Boing Boing, I read an article about English words people commonly like or despise. It’s a fascinating read.

Strangely, at least to me, “moist” tops the list of unpleasant words, particularly among women. I have known women who have expressed this opinion. The author of the piece speculates that the “oi” sound is a cause; both “goiter” and “ointment” are also in the “unpleasant” list. But, what about “joy?”

This leads to another interesting point. Some words are rated based more on their sound, such as “mellifluous,” and some on their meaning, like “hate.” I have a hard time keeping those factors separate, too. Plus, some words are just fun to say, such as “serendipity,” while others are unpleasant to hear, like “like,” “whatever,” and “no.”

I enjoy playing with English, so this article sparked my interest. Naturally, the commenters added their opinions, and I soon found one of my least favorite words: “utilize.” The unpretentious verb “use” can be substituted in every instance I have yet found.

“Paradigm” seem to me another word in search of a use. “Model” works just fine, thank you. I think I have a low tolerance for speakers who try to impress or intimidate their listeners with such bombast.

Finally, a few words that I just like for no reason: jumbo, ersatz, silly, esoterica, sweet, imbue, and cheese.

Observation Log 3/15/09: STS-119 launch!

Posted March 15, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Astronomy, My Astronomy Log

STS-119 visibility during launch

STS-119 visibility during launch

I’m amazed and excited. A few days ago, I saw a graphic on space.com showing the distances at which the Discovery Shuttle would be visible after its launch. I’d always wondered if launches would be visible if they went up the east coast. Now I know the answer is, “Yes, definitely!”

With all the usual planning, I set up my iPhone to sound alarms at critical times, like when to leave the house, the moment of the launch, the moment the shuttle should become visible, and the approximate time of Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO). I tried a new location with a good southern exposure, which worked great. And my wife came along, making it even more fun.

We each had binoculars trained on the SSW sky when the alarm sounded that something should be visible. I wasn’t sure how high the shuttle would be, so I was scanning a tallish area, alternating between through-the-binos viewing and just looking. I first spotted it with only my eyes, a larger-then-usual, orange light traveling right to left, maybe 7° above the local horizon and rising. Jan saw it too, mainly without her binoculars. I got it in my binoculars immediately, and followed for a few moments. I saw a poof of flame, which I gather was MECO, and the shuttle became faint but still visible with the binos. I kept it in sight, and watched as it performed a series of Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) burns, each one a bright flash of orange light, during the following 30 seconds. By the time I lost it, the shuttle was well to my southeast, far beyond the time I’d expected.

I have always wanted to see a Shuttle launch, especially at night. This is probably the closest I will come. To know that capsule was sitting at Cape Canaveral eight minutes before I watched it reaching orbit is awe-inspiring.

This was a true gift; one of my most treasured sightings which I’ll always remember.

Observation Log 2/25/09: Comet Lulin!

Posted February 25, 2009 by Steve
Categories: Astronomy, My Astronomy Log

Tags: , , ,

Hiya kids. I’ve been observing casually whenever possible, and catching every ISS overflight I can. Nothing worth writing about, and life/work has been far too busy to wax eloquent on anything except, “When is bedtime?”

Still, this was an exception.

It was an easy hop from Saturn to locate Comet Lulin. The coma was well-defined, and easily 1° across. The nucleus was also easily spotted, centered within. Averted vision revealed a bit more light, but not a lot. I was only out for 10 minutes tops, so between that and the sky conditions it wasn’t a fantastic opportunity; just a very good one.

Tonight is my first non-overcast night in a while, and coincidentally the evening of Lulin’s closest pass, approximately 38 million miles from Earth. I know it’s impossible, but it actually looked closer than the background stars!