Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bike Commuters get part of the bailout

Bike commuters are eligible for a $20 a month tax credit. Check out this video on .

Here is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle one of my favorite newspapers. I love San Francisco.

A New Post about general things

I have not been updating my blog as regularly as I was. Most of my usual rides have been written about in previous blogs. I have rode a couple of group rides but I have been going out and riding 52 mile solo rides on my single speed. The road bike has kind of been ignored lately. It has a slow leak in the rear tire. It will hold pressure for about 2 days but it usually has minimal pressure in the tube after about a week. Since it is not being rode that much I am thinking of dropping it off to be tuned up (maybe today).

I have taken over the weekly ride email for the local Independent Group that I have been riding with. It is pretty easy to get out right now since there are not very many rides (weekends only) and the rides are lightly attended. Only the die hards are getting out to ride. I thought I was a diehard but I have found a couple of others that are more dedicated than I am.

Last year I rode all winter without booties but that limited the temperature that I could ride in. Luckily last winter was mild and I was able to ride at least on day on any given weekend. It looks like this year is going to be a little rougher. I have made a couple of investments in some Gore Bike gear. High top booties, the Tool Jacket and a set of Specialized leg warmers to use on days when it is not cold enough to wear my thermal tights. I have also purchased a bunch of chemical hand and toe warmers. I am thinking of getting a hood/mask but I do use one of those for skiing so I am thinking I really do not need them for bike riding on the New Jersey Shore. I have gone out a couple of times in the high 20s. It is hard for me to get out when it is that cold. Leaving the warm house is tough but I think I enjoy the cold weather rides more than the summer rides. I just need the push out the door.

I would like to get some cross country skiing in this year but the skiing is not really that good here in New Jersey. I might try to get up and visit my parents in Syracuse. Most years the weather is usually very good for both Alpine and Nordic skiing. Lots of good places to go skiing. Highland Forest in Fabius, NY is one of my favorite places to go cross country skiing. I am thinking that cross country skiing is a little safer as well as better excercise.

This weekend was a complete cycling bust. Snow, Ice and rain. Mother Nature's way of telling me that I need to prepare for the holidays. The long range forcast last weekend was so wrong. Giants and the Jets are both playing important games today. The Giants are playing for home field advantage in the playoffs and the Jets are trying to keep their post season hopes alive. So I will be couch bound after 4 PM today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stephen Colbert on Bailing out the US Auto Industry

In the interest of equal time here is Stephen Colbert's take on the Bailout of the US Auto Industry. If it is not on Comedy Central then it is not new!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jon Stewart on the Auto Bailout

While Jon Stewart always tries to funny (I have read where Mr. Stewart has said that he gets nervous if he goes more than a minute or two without being funny) but he almost always makes the correct point. Here is a video from Wednesday night that pretty much sums up the Auto Maker's testimony before the house.

He even does a good job of describing derivatives. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bailout of the US Auto Industry

This was an interesting week. Not quite as interesting as domino effect in the Financial Industry that we experienced in September and October but it was a related event. The US auto industry took their corporate jets (I am thinking that it was at least 2 jets for each manufacturer but they could have tried to cram everyone on to one jet a piece) and flew to Washington to ask congress for a had out. By recent standards it is a relatively small handout. Only $25 Billion. At this point anything less that a billion is just not worth the effort.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this. Given normal circumstances I would say let an industry stand or fall on its own. However, these are not normal circumstances. The US Government has shown that they are willing to bailout industries and now the door is open. Why is AIG any more deserving of being bailed out then GM. GM has probably done more to create middle class wealth than AIG ever did.

However, with the global market place being what it is I am not sure that the current demand justifies the number of brands currently available. Maybe it is time for further consolidation in the market place. Maybe the US auto industry could turn into the big two with GM calling it quits and selling off the brands that are still viable. Would anyone really miss the Hummers?

Maybe GM becomes Chevrolet and sells off everything else. The corvette for car enthusiasts, the Silverado for those who need or want a light truck and a line of mid size and compact cars that provide superior gas mileage. Everything else shutdown or sold. Most of the global competition maintain a couple of brands but only have one brand in each market segment. This makes the most sense. It will be painful though. I suspect that Detroit's current R&D is focused mostly on creating SUV's and has not been able to react to the current change.

The rapid drop in gasoline prices has me concerned as well. This seems to indicate that the demand for SUVs and trucks will continue. The current credit crunch might help to keep the demand down for now. As nice as it is to be able to get change back from a twenty when I fill up my car I was thinking that higher gas prices was good for the country in the long run. The demand for mass transit would increase and trend toward urban light rail would be justified by increase ridership rather than the usual of empty trains passing crowded highways.

I was against the bailout of the Financial Industry even though that was where I made my living. Now that the precedent has been set I say lets bail everyone out. Open up the check book. If you through enough against the wall eventually something will stick.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paul Simon on the Colbert Report

Paul Simon was on the Colbert Report this week. I watched the replay at 8:30 PM last night. He played American Tune which is one of my favorite songs of all time but I do prefer the Willie Nelson version.

I was reminded of the time that both George Harrison and Paul Simon played on Saturday Night Live. I cannot believe that it was in 1976 (I was a freshman in High School). Paul Simon was the guest host and George Harrison was the musical guest but they played together. I always thought it was great. Thanks to YouTube I can confirm my memory.

Here Comes the Sun

Homeward Bound

Paul Simon performing American Tune

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Finally a new President of the United States

I have not been keeping up with the blog these days. The commute into New York everyday is using up about 3 hours of my time per day. The Blackberry is OK for sending and receiving emails as well as playing around with Facebook. It is not handy for updating this blog. Enough of the excuses and on with a new post.

We finally got a new President. Not sure why anyone would want the job these days. Like most of the country I am pretty excited on how things turned out. While I have never voted Republican in my life it does not mean that I could not vote Republican. My politics runs toward to the middle which means I am a Social Liberal and a Fiscal Conservative.

As far as I can tell over the the last 16 years or more the Republican party's words have not matched their actions. They say they want smaller government but then attempt to legislate personal choice. They inherited a balance budget with a surplus in 2000 but then cut taxes and started an expensive war that did provided very little value to the American public. We have also squandered the goodwill that the rest of the world gave us after September 11, 2001.

While I like John McCain it would have been hard for me to vote for him since it became obvious that a vote for John McCain was a vote for the continuation of the policies of the Bush Administration. Mr. McCain seems like a man who I would be proud to shake his hand. However, the John McCain the candidate almost made me lose respect for John McCain the man. I think he lost a great opportunity to show that he was an agent of change as much as anybody but instead he dropped back into the old Republican playbook. Mr. McCain probably would not have won the election but the country probably would have been better served had a different campaign been run.

I originally thought the selection of Sarah Palin was a great political move. While she did tend to scare the hell out of me I could definitely see her value. She knew what her role was and she went out did it. I can certainly respect the speaking skills that she has and her willingness to be the Pit bull for the McCain Campaign. While I am very glad that she is not a heartbeat away from the Presidency I cannot but help admire her for what she has been able to accomplish.

Now that the campaign is over I have noticed that Gov. Palin is now being trashed. Michael Vick treated his Pit bulls better than this. These people sent Palin out to do the dirty work and then do not even give her a pat on the head and a bone take back to the yard. The whole concept is so offensive. It is yet another indicator that I made the right choice in voting booth. I wish Sarah Palin good luck in her career just not as President or Vice President.

Not only does Barack Obama have his dream job but he has the majority in Congress and the Senate. This should make change easier but it does not guarantee accomplishments. The first term of the Clinton Administration is probably a good example. President Clinton had not become the rock star that he is today and was a little star struck. I think that Barack Obama would do well to learn this lesson. I do think that Mr. Obama has already become the rock star and may not have the same learning curve.

It goes without say that the most important cabinet position selection will be Secretary of Treasury. I have heard Jon Corzine mentioned as a possibility. I hope not. In fact I am willing to continue to deal with him being the Governor of New Jersey for the good of the country. I would like to see Robert Rubin but I do not think he wants the job.

New President or not we have a couple more tough years ahead of us. President Obama is going to have some tough decisions and I am sure the good folks at Fox News will be available to wrongly micro manage every decision. It seems like they are only willing to support a President if it is the one of their choosing.

I am excited about the future. The new President is a good first step. It will be interesting to see how the strategy unfolds. I have no idea what I would do so I am sure that Obama team is probably not sleeping a whole lot.
I have some bike related postings to do maybe next time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Commute

I have not commuted into New York on a regular basis in a couple of years. I have been trying to get to my desk by 7 AM each morning which means I have to take the 5:45 AM Middletown, NJ train. The commute is pretty easy. I drive a short distance to the train station, park my car, and catch the train. An hour later I am walking to the office. It is an easy walk. Cross 7th Ave walk down 34th and then turn north on Broadway. Right next to Macy's. The only thing that could be better would be to work in one of the buildings that are above Penn Station.

The picture above is the closed power station in South Amboy just before the train pulls into the South Amboy station. A couple of years ago there was a high speed ferry that went to NY. It closed down because of the construction but never opened again. I am not sure if it moved to another marina.

This is the building as the train exits the Hudson Tunnel and enters NY Penn Station. It is across the street from Madison Square Garden.

The view out of the window by my desk. One of the first things I noticed on my first trips to NY was the wooden water towers that dot the skyline. They have disappeared over the years and now are often hidden.

I do like working in NY. It is such a different world from where I live in NJ.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Saturday Short Ride

After two weeks of no riding due to the weekend rains, the shorten days and my new commute to work I finally got a ride in. It was not much of ride. Only about 35 miles but it was rough. It is amazing how much fall off there can be in just two weeks. I tried to mix it up with some good climbs in the beginning with some long rolling parts in the middle and one last climb up Telegraph Hill on the way home.

I was planning on going further but boredom kind of set it. I have really had to push myself to get out and ride these days. The gym has not been much better. I cannot get myself to make the climb up to the cardio area of the gym. It feels like the death march so I have been only been doing my lifting workout instead. It is amazing how fast it goes when I am not putting in 60 plus minutes on the ellipical machine. If I just do a lifting workout I can usually be in and out of the gym in around 45 minutes. I am hoping that the shortened workouts will make it easier for me to get to the gym after my commute home from NY.

So far the commute has not been bad. About 90 minutes door to door. Most of it is sitting on a train listening to music or reading the paper. Now that I have a Blackberry I can answer and send email as well. I used to look down on Blackberry users and I refused to get one for a long time. Now I can see the advantages and I am probably annoying others the way others used to annoy me.

The office is located on Broadway and is the building immediately north of Macy's. This is where the TV camera's are setup for the Macy's Day parade on Thanksgiving day. The front conference rooms will be a prime viewing location.

So far the job has been interesting. I was originally afraid that I was going to be bored. However, the pace is starting to pick up after a slow start. It is obvious that I am being out manned. I was concerned because I was getting hit from all directions and I might be in danger of falling behind. I decided to let my client know that that things were spinning. I was informed that it was expected that the parent company would have more resources and I would be tilting at windmills. As long as this is the expectation then I am fine working in a storm. I often think that I do my best work when all hell is breaking loose.

I am looking to get a ride in this morning. I expected to be on the road now but the clouds are heavy and the weather report is predicting showers in the morning. Right now I am waiting it out. Drinking coffee, surfing the Internet and writing this blog. I wanted to ride with a group today but it looks like it will be another solo ride. Maybe I will head down to Long Branch. I need to get some new rides. My next car is going to be a small station wagon so I can drive to some new riding spots.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finally a new post to this blog!!

Lately I have not been that active posting to this blog. It certainly has not been because I have not had much to write about. In fact just the opposite. I have actually lots to comment on and I have often written new posts in my head while out riding or commuting on the train but they never seem to make to My thoughts have still been expressed but mostly in emails and phone calls to friends.

Here is the list of topics that I could have written about late summer and early fall:

  • Lost a job
  • Found a job
  • The presidential election
  • The meltdown of the US Financial Services Industry which contributed to my loosing a job
  • The bailout of the US Mortgage Banking Industry
  • Bottlenose dolphins in the Navesink River
  • I could have wrote about various bike rides but almost everything has been covered by previous posts so the urge to describe the ride is just not there

2008 has been a rough year in the financial services industry. I was lucky enough to have a project for most of the year but I knew that things were getting bad. The project ended in the early part of the summer and I made it know that I would I work on just about anything. I even agreed to work in Hong Kong on a data center relocation. Since the Hong Kong project was scheduled to start August 1 I most of the time leading up to the start date working on small projects and business development. In July I started to get the feeling that the Hong Kong project was not as close to being signed as I thought. August 1 came and went. I started to get sent on interviews for roles at clients such as The Reserve and Lehman Brothers. Not a good sign. In mid August I found myself out looking for a new job.

Being let go from BusinessEdge was both a tragedy and a relief. It was a tragedy that caused a panic because I did not have anything lined up and I did not have much time to work with. It was a relief because I did not really have much of a future at BusinessEdge. I had lost confidence that they would be able to provide me with the kind of projects and career building that I required. It was obvious the the EMC merger was not working out as was expected. The week after I left the head of the Financial Services Industry Practice left as well. This was not the company that I wanted to travel to Hong Kong for six months or even longer.

I was actually laid off on a Monday but I knew it was coming on the previous Friday. The whole process only confirmed what I had long suspected. That I was as important to BusinessEdge as the laptops, chairs and desks. I had spent the week working on business development work and it looked like were getting close to landing a small project migrating an AS400 application. I was asked to take a couple of days off while a couple of projects were signed (one of which at Lehman Brothers). I was then asked go to Lehman and I had a meeting at RBS on Thursday so I agreed to take Friday off (consultants taking a vacation is a way to make the profits or lack off look better because the time gets booked differently). I had a bunch of errands to run on Friday and since it was a vacation day I was not sitting around monitoring my email and cell phone. I noticed that I had missed a call on my cell so when I listened to the message I knew that I was about to become an ex BusinessEdge employee. A meeting was schedule for 4 PM and then rescheduled for Monday at 11 AM.

Lossing a job brings all kinds of emotions. I wanted to be pissed off but who should I be pissed off at? The anger only brings frustration because there is really anything to be angry at. I could only blame myself. However, the BusinessEdge representative did provide me with something that I could use to vent. When I dialed into the meeting on Monday at 11 AM I was kept on hold for almost 15 minutes. I listened to music wondering if it was going to happen now. Had a project been found for me? Did I get a stay of execution? After about 10 minutes I get a call from one of the admins informing me that Alexis would be on the line in about 5 minutes. So at about 11:15 Alexis and the HR representative got on the line. The excuse for being late was that she was parking her car which really did not fly.

This call could have been handled so much better. The first part of the call was spent explaining the tough market place for consulting in the Financial Services Industry. Since this was from a company that was trying to sell to Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch right up to the end there was not really much they could say to me. I really wanted to get to the bottom line as soon as possible. They told me what the package was which was a little better than I expected but not even close to being what it should have been. I spent the next couple of minutes negotiating and making the call as uncomfortable as possible while remaining professional. I realized that I was not getting anywhere so I decided to end the conversation and move on to executing my strategy that I had put together over the weekend. They still have not paid me my outstanding expenses.

I understand why companies feel the need to cut resources (otherwise known as people) during economic downturns but in many ways it is the wrong strategy. What actually happens is that it causes a downward spiral. It is not just one company cutting but whole industries. The feeling is that profits can be boosted by less people but in an economy that has been driven by consumer spending the opposite actually happens. Cuts are followed by further cuts. Some companies survive and make to to the next up cycle but many more make the long march to bankruptcy and mergers. I actually think the best strategy is make better hiring decisions on during the good times and hold on to your staff during the down times. Profits will suffer but the death spiral might be avoided because more people are working.

By the end of the first week I had my first face to face interview. At this point I would have taken anything but knew the job was probably not right for me. It was another consulting company that was dedicated to working in the Financial Services Industry. While I was told that they had plenty of work (this seems to be a theme) I suspected that they were starting to see the downturn in the market place as well. In any case I was happy to get an interview under my belt and I made some new contacts.

I spent most of the job search reaching out to contacts. I found this to be the most useful. The recruiters that troll the job boards do not seem to be as useful these days. I started to pick out the ones that I would use. It was not uncommon for me to be hit up for the same position by 6 or 7 recruiters. There was one job that I got recruited for at least twice a week and yet I never got an interview with the client. The fact that I was drawing so many recruiters meant that I was a good fit on paper so I could not understand why I was not getting an interview.

As time went by I started to develop a strategy. Since I did not have much of a severance to fall back on and unemployment was not going to cut it I decided I would try and find an contract as an independent consultant in the short term and look for something more permanent in the long term. I had created an LLC a couple of years ago and I was thinking that this might be a good time to use it. Being let go from BusinessEdge had created an opportunity because I did not have to make the decision to quit a steady paycheck to take on the risk of running my own consulting company. The decision had been made for me. I was now able to be in control of my own destiny.

I had a phone interview with an IBM reseller who was looking for a technical salesman to sell into the financial service area concentrating on Hedge Funds. The product looked interesting and it would have been a great opportunity for me. The interview went well and I was told that I would get an offer the next week when we met face to face. I left next Tuesday open for this. However, on the Monday I was contacted by one of my contacts that had moved to the health care (Life Sciences) industry and he had a role he was looking to fill. He wanted to meet ASAP. So I schedule a meeting for 4 PM on Tuesday with my contact and a 1 PM lunch meeting with the recruiter with the IBM reseller. At the lunch meeting I found out that an offer would not be coming from the IBM reseller due to budget reasons. At least I got a free lunch out if it.

I thought the 4 PM meeting was going to be an interview. However, the offer was made I accepted and we setup a start date. It turns out the project is perfect for me. The company is outside of the Financial Services Industry and the office is close to New York's Penn Station which makes for an easy commute. While I am not completely out of the woods yet things are looking up. For the most part this is a happy ending.

I definitely have an opinion on the Presidential Election. I have not decided who I am going to vote for. I have agreements and disagreements with both candidates. I do feel that each would be an improvement over the current administration. I am not sure why either candidate would want the job but I am glad that at least some one does because it is not going to be easy and there is a good chance that the next president could be a one term president because it is going to require do some very unpopular things to fix the country.

The meltdown of the US economy. I have heard the statement "we never saw this coming" used a lot. I think there are lots of people who saw this coming. I do think that no one has an idea how it will end. The crisis will pass but will it be a complete fix or just some that tides us over until next crisis.

I am finding myself agreeing with the Republican Right Wing on the bailout proposal. I think it is very telling that the Republicans are breaking ranks with the White House. I am not sure of the reasoning for this. However, I think that the bailout will end up not helping anything beyond cleaning up the balance sheets of some badly managed banks. I actually think the money would be better spent buying up the underlying real estate rather than the mortgage obligations themselves. This would most likely help everyone and might turn a profit as well. It would put the US government in the Real Estate business but it is much better than being in the derivative securities business. At least they would understand the assets.

I saw the dolphins in the Navesink River for the first time on last Sunday's 52 mile ride. There is a group that has been hanging out by the Oceanic Bridge. I stopped on the bridge as I was heading over to Atlantic Highlands. It is cool to see them swimming in the river. There were 3 of them in lock with each other. I drove by yesterday and I could see them from my car. Today I parked at the Post Office in Rumson and walked across the bridge. Of course since I had my camera with me they were not around. This week one of the younger ones was found dead on the shore of the Navesink. There are a lot of people pushing for intervention to move them out to the Atlantic before the cold weather arrives. I am not sure this needed. However, the construction that is happening on the Highlands bridge could be trapping them in the river. However, they are swimming close to all the fishing boats so there is no reason that they could not swim under the bridge and out to see in the evening or early morning. My vote would be to leave them alone. They are wild animals that can make there own decisions. Not any different that the wild deer we have running all over.

No bike rides this weekend. The weather was crappy both days. Today was the Twin Lights ride that starts in Highlands. Part of the ride comes through Holmdel. Inspite of the weather there are quite a few riders. They are making me feel like a wimp.

I think this post gets me caught up. I wish I had some pictures to add but it has not worked out.

One last thing. As I was waiting to pick up my dog from the groomers in Red Bank I saw a flier for a fund raiser for the prevention of Breast Cancer called Bowling 4 Boobs. The pink paper and cute title caught my eyes. It sounds like a fun event for a good cause. If you have the opportunity check it out.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ended the Summer the same way I started it. Riding the Langster

My Specialized Tarmac Comp has not come back from the repair shop since I busted a spoke on a ride last weekend. It seems that the spokes on the stock Shimano wheels are hard to get. Unfortunately, I do not have a spare set of wheels. What I do have is a spare bike but it is a 2007 Specialized Langster single speed road bike.

Once the Tarmac came into my life the Langster was sentenced to spend most to the summer in the garage. The first day I took the Lanster out this past week was on Tuesday. I went out around 4:30 PM and I rode about 25 miles. I swung by Holmdel Park to hook with the Tuesday Evening regulars. I was not sure if I was going to ride. I was not in the mood to be dropped. However, I decided to go for it. I did get dropped once because I was not paying attention and I got myself on the back of pack when we went over the RT 18 Bridge. Everyone picked up speed on the downhill after the bridge and by the time I realised what had happened they were too far away and I was spinning out. They let me catch up at the next hill and I made sure to stay with them for the rest of the ride.

I had forgot how much I like riding the Langster. So far I have rode every day but Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday was a rest day and Saturday we had tropical storm Hanna blow through.

Today I got a 52 mile ride to Long Branch in. I wanted to see the ocean. Turned out it was great day for surfers. The waves were the largest I have ever seen. They were almost freakish.

I will have the Tarmac back by the middle of the week. The Langster will probably be back in its spot in the back of the garage. Then again maybe not.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spoke Blow Out

Since it is a holiday weekend I am feeling the pressure to be family oriented so I decided to forgo the group ride for a quick 40 miler in the area. Started out by riding some of the hills in the area and then heading out on the Tuesday Evening ride route. I added a couple of miles to the end of the route.

As I as making my way back along Middletown Road I broke a spoke on my rear wheel. I thought that I had picked up some junk from the road. This is one of the things I am not prepared to handle on the road. I was not that far from home but it would have been a long walk in road shoes. I made the call home to get a ride back. I still got 38 miles in for the day. It could have been worse and I could have been much further away. I have been carrying enough money to call a cab if I ever do need a ride back. I have to add the phone numbers for some of the local cab companies to my cell phone.

While I was waiting for my ride I made some calls around to the usual bike shops. Since I am unemployed I do not have enough money to buy a new set of wheels. I am a little concerned since I am afraid that some of the other spokes are ready to go as well.

I ended up taking my bike to Bike Haven. It looks like the Tarmac is going to be out of commission all week and I am going to be riding the Langster which has not seen the light of day since late spring.

The hilliest roads in the area are a little rough and I hit a pot hole hard last week so that may have been the root case. Cliff at Bike Haven as me how much I weighed. When I told him 180 lbs he said that I am about 10 lbs too heavy for bike riding. I have actually dropped some weight over the summer. I have been living on Muscle Milk and I am now consistently below 180. I am going to see if I can get below 170 but I am not sure if I can.

All the hurricane activity in the southern part of the US is creating some of the best weather we have had all summer. I should get the Langster out for a couple of good rides. I am even thinking of riding with the Tuesday night group on the single speed.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Latest Guilty Pleasure - Burn Notice

Last fall I found myself in a hotel room in San Jose, CA on a Saturday morning with time to kill before I need to go to the Airport. I was originally planning on going down to the Hellyer Velodrome to take a beginners class but it did not workout because of a scheduling error.

In my free time I ended up channel surfing and I came across this show on USA Network called Burn Notice. I cannot say that I was hooked because I never watched another show until recently. I guess that was because I never knew when it was on (the website says that it is broadcast on Thursday evenings at 10 PM but when I check the USA Network master schedule there is something else on during this time). However, thanks to the internet I can watch all of the shows that I have previously missed. Since I have some free time I did just that last week.

Burn Notice centers around a spy by the name of Michael Weston who is fired (Burned) in the middle of an operation in Nigeria. He makes it back to his home town of Miami and reconnects with some of his old friends including an ex Girlfriend, a former partner, his brother and his mother. While trying to find out why he has been burned he spends his time helping out various people.

Since Mr. Weston is not allowed to leave Miami all the the action takes place in the South Beach area. This gives all of the scenes a great back drop. Miami is sort of a corrupt paradise that gives the show an edginess. The plots are not always believable and the situations can often be resolved much easier than they usually are. However, interaction between the main characters and the action scenes make up for any shortcomings in the plots. As I said in the title this is a guilty pleasure.

The screen on my computer is kind of small so I am looking forward to watch another episode on a real TV. However, I saved myself $39 by not buying the season 1 DVD set.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tropic Thunder

My daughter and I went to see Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder this week. This is the funniest movie that I have seen in a long time. Everything is completely over the top. Since it was a Ben Stiller movie I originally assumed that it was a PG rated movie but I quickly realized that it was an R rated movie.

I do not want to give away any of movie so I am not going to say more than if you are looking for a good laugh this is the movie to see.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Generation Kill - HBO Mini Series

Evan Wright was a Rolling Stone report that was embedded in the Marines 1st Recon Division in the early days of the Iraq Invasion II. He wrote several stories that were published in Rolling Stone Magazine and then wrote a book that was was a super set of the detail contained in the original articles.

HBO recently completed the showing of a mini-series based on the book. I was actually thinking of cancelling my HBO subscription but I was interested in watching this series. I have watched every episode but I may have to go back and watch them again because it is heard to tell who is who. All the characters look the same dressed in their battle gear and took me almost till episode 7 to determine who was who. The scenes in the Humvee are easy to watch since each character is always in the same seat. The characters that come in and out of the story can be confusing.

As is often the case I have been inspired to read the book. Since I am currently unemployed I also have some free time for reading as well. While I have not finished the book I have been impressed with how close the mini series is to the book. This is not usually the case. One of most notable examples is Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff.

Not every moment of the invasion is captured in the series. Scenes move forward faster than real-time and the highlights are capture with some character development sequences. Generation Kill is definitely not Band of Brothers. In the beginning the soldiers seem more like a heavily armed gang rather than a highly trained group of elite marines. With a few notable exceptions the Officers seem to be incompetent and even the ones that aren't have their moments.

As the show progresses things seem to change. The Marines start to show there training but the realities of fighting a war in a heavily populated area where the enemy has blended in with civilian population well illustrated.

Episode 7 ties everything together. The strategies and some of the thinking that went into the units actions are explained. I was left wanting to know more about the various characters and decided to buy the book.

The Marine concept of going with what you have rather than everything you need is a concept I have probably used for most of my career. This has been especially true in my role as a consultant project manager. Most projects are under scoped for several reasons. The right resources are often not available and the project budget dictates that the time available to complete the project is much shorter than necessary. While a hiring manager might wait until the perfect person materializes before making a final hiring decision a project manager seldom has that ability. The PM needs to get as close as possible and do what needs to be done in order to create the resource that is needed to successfully deliver a completed. My new mantra is "I am going with what I have."

Monday, August 25, 2008

General thoughts on the Olympics and life

I have not posted since last week when I rode with two different groups on the weekend. It is not there has not been much going on. In fact it has been just the opposite.

I found out on Monday that I need to find a new job. I actually knew it was coming on Friday afternoon so I got the whole weekend to worry about it. Not having a job should free up some time for riding but just the opposite has happened. Looking for work is even more time consuming that actually having a job.

The original goal was to have a job lined up by the end of the week. In reality I probably set my expectations a little to high. The right expectation should have been to have at least one interview by the end of the week. I actually ended up with three. So if I had set the right goal I would have surpassed expectations. It will be interesting to see if they translate in to actual offers.

I watched Michael Phelps get his 8 gold medals. I think I watched every final as well as many of the heats. I also watched many of the other races as well. I only get into swimming during the Olympics but I always come away impressed. I think that I can see how hard it is. The preparation and luck required to win 8 golds in swimming made it an amazing feat.

NBC sandwiched swimming in with Beach Volleyball so I ended up watching a lot of that. I only watched one basketball game which was USA vs. China. I was hoping that China would keep the game close and in the 1st half they did. USA pulled away in the second half and it was not much of a game.

I found myself watching the gymnastics with the same sense of awe that I get from watching the X Games. I am amazed that they can do the routines without killing themselves. I was thinking about how they went about learning to do the exercises. There must be a lot of pain involved. Probably why they all start when when they are young. Kids just seem to bounce. I did get tired of the age controversy. It does not matter 13 or 16 or 18. They still won and to get a gold metal on technicality would be a disappointment. Once the decision was made to let them compete it was a moot point.

As expected the coverage of cycling and weight lifting was minimal. I saw no weight lifting and very little cycling. I was really hoping to see some of the track racing especially the sprints. I did not get to watch a single race. Since US Cycling was not expected to medal I guess that NBC decided not to spend much time on it.

NBC's Olympic coverage was interesting. Other than the early morning events that were broadcast live in US during the evening most of the events were on tape replay. Even if I did not know who won I knew that the US competitors had to have medaled since it was being broadcast. This was the case of the Men's Volleyball final. It looked like Brazil was going to tie things up but I figured that the USA would come back because the closing ceremony was scheduled for the next hour and there would not be enough time to play another match. Sure enough the US came from behind and won.

I can kind of understand the reasoning behind the coverage decisions. In the sports I know I can watch the competitors from other countries. However, in the sports I do not really know such as rowing, boxing or even volleyball I only watch the events that the US teams are competing in. I imagine that most feel the same way.

I was going to watch the closing ceremony to see Jimmy Page play in London. However, the events leading up to Mr. Page bored me and I ended up watching the last episode of Generation Kill. Maybe I can find the video on the Internet.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Two Weekend Group Rides

I did not feel like riding by myself this weekend so on Friday evening I decided that I was going to get up in time to make the Saturday and Sunday group rides. On Saturday I rode the pickup ride out of Dorbrook Park in Colts Neck. On Sunday I rode the Allenwood School ride that is organized by the Atlantic Bicycle Club.

Both rides cover a lot of the same roads. The Dorbrook ride heads south and the Allenwood ride heads north so there was a lot of overlapping scenery between the two rides. I am not that familiar with the roads but I do occasionally recognise an road that I have drove my car along.

We had some nasty storms roll through on Thursday and Friday. It was worse in North Jersey but the end result was it made for some good riding weather over the weekend. I rode from my house to the start of the Dorbrook Park ride. The fog was heavy and the roads were damp. My brakes were kind of soggy for the start of the group ride. The fog stayed with us for the first hour of the ride but you could tell we were in for a treat once it burned off.

The pictures above contrast how the day went weatherwise.

The Dorbrook ride is usually about 50 to 60 miles. Since I ride to the start I usually end up with 7o plus miles. At the finish my computer said that I had completed 72 miles. It was a good ride and I am getting the sense of how to ride with a group. I think the real skill is in dealing with the multiple personalities that show up for the rides. I generally try to let the comments roll off me. I find it is better just to keep my mouth shut rather than respond negatively.

I have never rode with the Allenwood group although many of the riders also ride the Holmdel and Dorbrook Park rides. In fact I heard one of the other riders describe me as one of the Dorbrook folks. It is always nice to belong.

Before the start of the ride two of the riders who know me took me aside and give me the lay of the land. They told me not to go out too hard and to stay at the back of the pack so that I did not risk the rath of the other regulars. I kind of took it as a compliment since I do have the tendency to go out hard. However, I am learning my lesson and I have embraced the concept of conserving energy.

Both the Dorbrook and Allenwood rides stopped at the same store to fill water bottles. A couple of guys on Honda Sports Motorcyles pulled in and it turned out that everyone was all friends. The picture above shows the all the different bikers coming together.

At first I had a hard time with the concept of stopping in the middle of the ride. However, I am embracing this concept as well. I stayed with the A group (the A- riders turned off and got to the store quicker) and got involved with a group of riders that moved along at a good clip. I ended up dropping off during a series of technical turns that were a little too slipper for me to negotiate at 30 MPH. Another rider was back with me. We were going to make an attempt to catch up but then we ended up riding groupetto.

The Allenwood ride requires me to drive to the start. A concept that I am not that thrilled with but I definitely see the advantage of riding with a group. If I can get out of bed early enough next weekend I am going to try and make both rides. I may even have to join the Atlantic Bicycle Club

Total miles for the weekend was 72 on Saturday and 57 on Sunday. I think this is my upper limit. Monday is going to be a rest (gym) day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Olympics

"The Olympics combine the two things Americans hate most. Foreigners and going to the gym." - Stephen Colbert - The Colbert Report

For some reason I find myself paying attention to competive swimming every four years. I turns out that 2008 is one of those years. I have not been able to watch too much of the cycling but I think I got my fill during the Tour de France so it is OK. I have been able to watch lots of gymnastics, beach volleyball and yes swimming. Usually I watch the games until I fall asleep on the couch. I usually wake up as Michael Phelps gets yet another gold.

I find it hard to watch gymnastics for a couple of reasons but mostly because the ESPN X Games were only last week and I saw the same things being done on motorcycles, skateboards and BMX bikes. The Beach Volley Ball has its moments but it does not seem like an Olympic Sport. The players seem to be having too much fun. No overbearing coaches on the side lines.

However, I do find myself drawn to the swimming. I think I just enjoy racing no matter what it is. The attractiviness is probably the simplicity. The first one to cross the finish line wins. No judges scores and minimal rules. I am also amazed at how fast the swimmers are. I am winded when I swim one length of my pool at my own pace. I cannot imagine multiple laps against the fastest in the world.

There has been so much coverage on the Speedo Swimsuits that are being used this year. I checked out the Speedo website and the general public can purchase these suits for $550 a piece. There is not much difference between the men's and women's suits. It is amazing that technology has improved but Janet Evans 800m Freestyle record is still standing.

As I was writing this post Michael Phelps won his 6th Gold Medal. They are debating on whether Mr. Phelps is the best athelete ever on the afternoon sports shows. I have voted for Tiger Woods but I guess the case could be made for the swimmer. It is probably a moot arguement.

Friday, August 1, 2008

2008 Specialized Tarmac Comp Review

I now have over 1000 miles on my Specialized Tarmac Comp that I purchased at the end of May. I have had the bike long enough now to develop an opinion. Just in time for the 2009 models to come out.

Unlike the 2007 Langster Single Speed that I purchased last year many of the miles on the Tarmac have been done in a group setting. I have been riding in A/A+ pace rides on Tuesday and Thursdays. I have caught a couple of A+ rides on the weekends as well. I only rode one group ride with the Langster last year and it was a B ride.

Switching from the Langster to the Tarmac was not as easy as I expected. With the Langster I only had one gear so any change in terrain or speed was accomplished by getting out of the saddle and pushing my legs. After 4000 miles on the Langster I developed a technique that just did not transfer over to the full road bike.

The first problem I encountered on the Tarmac was when I shifted up to climb a hill I was losing the group. I was kind of perplexed since I could usually stay with the group on the Langster. I eventually decided that the problem was the 11 - 28T SRAM cassette. I quickly installed an 11 - 23 T Shimano Ultegra Cassette and the problem is solved. Most of the other riders in the group have 25 or 27 T cogs in the back. The 23 requires a little bit of suffering on some of the steeper climbs but I was used to it from riding the Tarmac so no worries.

The ride on the Tarmac is a little rougher than I expected. I have rattled my teeth a couple of times. The carbon frame of the Tarmac Comp is an improvement over the aluminum framed Langster on rough roads. The next model up in the Tarmac line is the Expert and it is the same frame with an upgraded carbon material. It might be worth investing the extra $600 (the cost of the Langster in 2007) and go with the Expert. The real issue is that the bikes are hard to find in the configuration and sizes that you want. I got the Tarmac Comp because it was in stock at the Peddler in the frame size (52) that I wanted.

The Tarmac handles much better than the Langster. Especially at downhill at high speeds. The Langster was kind of shaky around 30 MPH. I have been close to 40 MPH on the Tarmac and while the speed was kind of unsettling the bike remained firm.

I have changed out the stock Specialized Mondo tires for some Continental Grand Prix 4000s. I was thinking of swapping the tires before I even picked the bike up but I wanted to give the Mondos a chance and make the most of my investment. However, I found the tires to be a little soft and after about 900 miles I decided it was time for them to go. The Grand Prix 4000s are a big improvement. The make the ride a little stiffer which could explain some of the recent teeth rattling.

I still do not have the shifting working to my satisfaction. In the beginning it took a couple of trips back to the Peddler to get it adjusted (expected but a little annoying). I still have some problems that I need to get worked out. Of the 20 gears I have on the bike I can only use 19 of them. I cannot use the 11 cog when I am on the small front ring. Also I cannot jump from the big front ring when I am on the 23 cog without popping the chain. I am learning to work around this. I have been told that this is common with carbon frame bikes. I think I need to learn how to do my own work on the bikes.

I have mixed feelings about the color. It is been pointed out to me that it is the colors of the NY Mets and Team Rabobank. At first I did not like the color but it started to grow on me. At this point I am going to have with it for the next couple of years. I am going to have to break the cycle of buying a new bike each year. I have been told that I need to replace the white bar tape with black tape. I am inclined to agree but I have had others tell me that they like the white tape. "Do these handlebars make me look fat?" I probably will replace the tape the next time I go to the bike shop.

Overall I am pleased with the bike. I spent a couple of days playing with the fit. I never really got it match the fit that I had on the Langster. Eventually I just decided to get it close and adjust my style. I am now comfortable on it but I do think a professional fitting might be in order.

About the only negative that I have is that I have not rode the Langster in sometime. I had a feeling that might happen. The big minus on the Langster is the lack of quick release hubs. Every time I think I about riding it see the wrench that I need to carry when riding the Langster and I change my mind and reach for the Tarmac. I have been thinking of selling it. I may set it up as a track bike by removing the brakes and flipping the hub over to fixie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pedal vs. Metal: A surge in bike ridership spurs a new kind of road rage

Here is an article from Newsweek magazine that talks about the surge of bicycle and car related events of road rage. It seems like the bad behavior is on both sides of the argument. I know I have been guilty of multiple bad decisions while riding my bike. I usually try to stay on less traveled roads or stay as much on the shoulder as I can.

I have found that the cars/trucks on the country roads can actually be worse than the busier roads since the drivers are often driving faster than the posted speed limit since they think they are by themselves.

For some reason people change when they get behind the wheel of a car (or maybe it is just the real person coming out). I know that I have less patience when I am driving. A delay of of a minute or two can sometimes feel like an hour. I have been driving slower these days. I usually am right at the speed limit or sometimes below.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Metuchen police take to bikes, foot patrols to save gas

From the Asbury Park Press. Wear a badge, carry a gun and ride a bike. Not a bad deal. I would not like carrying a gun but there have been plenty of time I would like to have had a badge. Here is a place that sells bikes to police, EMS and fire departments. Picture above is not the Metuchen Police Department.

METUCHEN — Borough police officers are taking to cycling this summer — not as a sport, but as a conscious effort to conserve gas during their daily patrol.

It is a part of conservation measures issued by Police Chief Jim Keane in a memo to his department as soaring gas prices threaten to dent the budget.Officers are asked to shut down their vehicles to prevent excessive idling and to rely more on two-legged transportation.

During their shifts, officers are asked to park their cruisers in the downtown business district and walk and talk to business owners and residents for a short amount of time per shift or per hour."Walking not only saves gas but is also good public relations," Keane said.

Officers are also encouraged to use bicycles for patrol, he said. Keane added that there is a downside to using bikes. He explained that police officer's cars are like traveling offices and contain oxygen tanks, first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, laptops and everything else that they need to be effective first responders."Guys on bikes won't have access to all the tools, and the same applies to walking on the beat," he said.But when it comes to high gas prices, patroling a 2.7 square-mile borough in a car is a luxury.

Other steps taken to conserve energy include ensuring that the closest units respond to a call and checking vehicles more often, especially for tire pressure.Keane also discourages backing up officers, unless requested.Officers are asked to reduce return trips to headquarters and complete most reports in the field.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not a bad tour for the teams riding Specialized Bikes

Both of the teams that ride Specialized Bikes started the Tour de France on low notes. Quick Step found out that sprint star Tom Boonen was not going to be able to ride this years Tour due to some out of competition issues. The other team found out that its primary sponsor Gerolsteiner would not be returning in 2009.

Quick Step is a sprinting team and generally looks for wins on the flatter stages. Without Mr. Boonen riding it was going to fall to the other members of the team such as Gert Steegmans. However, Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish won 4 of the sprints and did not leave much for anyone else. Coming into stage 21 Team Quick Step did not have a stage win. It turned out that stage 21 was the charm and Mr. Steegmans was able to pull out the win. If you are only going to win one sprinting stage the final stage in Paris is the one to win.

Team Gerolsteiner was much more successful in the 2008 tour. They won the King of the Mountains (Bernhard Kohl),the two time trials (Stefan Schumacher), had yellow jersey for a couple of days (Stefan Schumacher) and finished 3rd overall (Bernhard Kohl). Not a bad Tour for a team that is not CSC - Saxo Bank. Hopefully they will be able to get a sponsor for next year.

2008 Tour de France Time Trial and a late afternoon ride

I was up early on Saturday morning but I was not feeling well (no need to share the details) so I decided I would watch the final Time Trial of the 2008 Tour de France. The Time Trials are kind of hard to watch. All the riders look like they are going the same speed (except of some of the sprinters who look like they are taking a victory lap) and it is only the time clock that tells who is really going fast.

At end of the Time Trial the General Classification turned out almost who I expected with Carlos Sastre of CSC - Saxo Bank in first and Cadel Evans of Silence - Lotto in 2nd. I had Christian Vande Velde of Garmin - Chipolte finishing 3rd but only if he won the time trial. The GC contenders will just ride into Paris together today so there will not be any change in the overall standings. The sprinters will be up today and some of the teams that have had success in years past will be looking to finish the tour with a win.

I went into the Tour this year looking for Cadel Evans to pull out the win. I did not really have any real expectations for either Team Columbia (formerly the German Team T-Mobile) or Garmin - Chipolte. I expected Team Columbia to concentrate on stage wins and not really be that concerned with the General Classification (Kim Kirchen was making me look foolish by wearing the Yellow Jersey in the first week).

My expectation was that Garmin - Chipolte was going to be happy just to be there and may win a stage or two but not really be a threat to the GC. I saw an interview with Mr. Vande Velde in the beginning of the tour and he said that he was going to concentrate on the GC. I was thinking that meant a top 20 spot. Certaintly the 5th place GC finish was an overachievement and might of been even better had he not crashed on the descent of stage 16. It was fun to watch.

Mr. Sastre deserves his win. The CSC - SAXO Bank team was the best team out there and they always had 3 guys (Mr. Sastre and the Schleck Brothers) on every climb. This made it hard for the other GC contenders that had to climb on their own. I was wondering why CSC - Saxo Bank selected Mr. Sastre over Frank Schleck as the main GC contender but it became obvious that Mr. Schleck needs to work on his TT abilities if he wants to contend in the coming years.

As much as I would have liked Cadel Evans to pull out the win I would have been disappointed had he won without winning a single stage. Given Mr. Evans' lack of team support maybe he even overachieved by finishing 2nd. I have heard a rumor that he is moving to Garmin - Chipolte next year but so far I have not heard anything confirming it. If it happens then there is a good chance that Garmin - Chipolte will be able to give CSC - Saxo Bank a run next year. Of course Team Columbia is going to bring a different team as well.

I really did enjoy the Tour this year. The end of the Tour is going to leave a void. I am looking forward to the Olympics since most of the top riders will be in China as well. Unfortunately, in the past TV coverage has been heavy on sports I am not that interested in (gymnastics) and light on sports I am interested in (cycling, wieght lifting).

I was up early this morning and I was watching the local (NYC) newscast and the sportscaster made a smart remark about the Tour and doping. I know that it was an attempt to be funny. It does seem to me that cycling is doing a good job of trying to clean things up. I think few sports would survive the kind of testing that cycling atheletes have to endure. The amount of money involved combined with the intense pressure to win almost ensures that there will be some dopers taking the risk of getting caught but it is no different than the situation in Major League Baseball or the National Football league. The thing is that MLB and the NFL does not really go too far out of its way to catch the "cheaters".

On a personal side I finally felt good enough to get out for a ride around 4 PM. The goal was to get 45 miles in at a good pace. I got some climbs in during beginning and some at the end. The middle was just some of the rolling roads through Marlboro and Colts Neck. I did run into a gentleman riding a Specialized Tarmac SL2. We ended up riding together for a couple of miles. It turns out that the rider Jason Walters is a Cat 1 racer. He also does coaching and bike fitting.

Channel 7 in New York is broadcasting the New York Mini Marathon live this morning. I am waiting for the final stage of the Tour to start on Versus.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Defense of the Tour de France and the other Grand Tours

My favorite month of the year is July because that is the month that the Tour de France is run in. I would like May (Giro de Italia) and September (Vuelta a Espana) but with the Tour de France I get live coverage everyday on Versus network. I also get replays throughout the day and a special prime time replay with Bob Roll and Craig Hummer at 8 PM each night.

In spite of the bad press that this year's Tour has recieved (3 failed tests, 1 team withdrawal and the loss of a large team sponsor) I am still a fan and I get more excited about the outcome as the Tour progresses. At the start I am not always familiar with the riders. I know the more famous ones such as Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans and George Hincapie. Thanks to Cervelo the CSC riders get a lot of press so I know the Schleck Brothers and Fabian Cancellera. I also know Christian Vande Velde thanks to his tour diaries on Velonews last year. As the Tour moves along I start to know the names of the other riders and I even get the correct pronunciation.

I think part of the appeal for me is that cycling has a little bit of everything. Like NASCAR and F1 it has spectacular crashes like the one on the roundabout in stage 15 (that nearly took out all of Team Garmin-Chiplolte) or the exploding Specialized S-Works SL2 of Stage 13. Like baseball it has long periods where not much happens only to be wrapped up by a great finish.

There is both pettiness and great sportsmanship all in at once. When Denis Menchov fell during an attack on a climb in Stage 15 the other riders slowed down to wait for him to catch up. Image the other drivers in NASCAR pulling over and waiting for a driver with a flat tire or other mechanical problem. Of course the riders do it because they want to be treated the same way when they have a problem. It would stink to have a rider lose the Tour because of rain or a flat tire. There is not much that can be done about broken bones.

Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia provided a lot of excitement during the sprinting stages (a flat 100 mile plus ride with a big mass race for the finish in the last kilometer) this year. It was funny how the other riders could stop themselves from pointing out Mr. Cavendish's inability to climb. In fact Mr. Cavendish did not start stage 15 because he did not want to climb the Alps for little or no gain. He had his 4 stage wins and is now looking forward to riding Madison in the Olympics with Bradley Wiggins.

Like football there is also strategy and team work. Since a group of riders together use less energy than 1 rider by himself it is important for teams to work together. Riders are controlled by the team managers riding behind in cars. All the riders have radios and it is similar to a coach on the sideline calling in plays to the quarterback.

For the techno-geek there are plenty of shiny gadgets. From the carbon frame bikes with index shifting and aero wheels to the onboard computers that calulate watt power. Every Tour broadcast has a least one segment where the vendors can sell their wares. So far Bob Roll and Robbie Ventura have talked to Cervelo, Specialized and Shimano. I just learned about SRMs this year because I noticed that they were one of the sponsors of Team Columbia as well as several other teams. For me the technology is kind of a negative since I would rather be riding rather than reading a tech manual (too much like my real job) but I did run into another rider that swears by them (rather than at them).

Stage 16 will be tomorrow (Tuesday) and it will be interesting to see if Christian Vande Velde can keep up with the other contenders. The top 6 riders within a minute of each other so they are all going to have to stay together. There is a good chance that this years Tour winner will get to Paris without winning a stage. The big mountain climbs will be won by breaks that stay away and the GC contenders will be in the second chase group. I do expect Denis Menchov to breakaway during one of the climbs and then make the rest of the contenders chase him. Team CSC is strong since they will have at least 3 riders in the front groups for all of the climbs.

While the dopers do disappoint me (I understand) they are not ruining it for me. I only hope with I will continue to get the same level of coverage in the years to come. I sometimes worry about teams losing sponsors but then I remember that there are two American teams with European riders sitting at home for this years tour one even has last years 1 and 3rd place Tour de France riders. I am sure that that RockRacing and Astana are more than willing to take the place of Barloworld and Saunier Duval.

Watching the Grand Tours (Italy, France and Spain) on TV is a great way for me to visit Europe without the jet lag. I hope that it is a trip I can continue to make in the years to come.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Take Back the Tour Song

I finally found out who sang the song that was used for Versus "Take Back the Tour" Commercial. The song is called "Brand New Start" and is sung by Paul Weller formerly of the Jam and Style Council.

For some reason this commercial disappeared after the first week of the tour and was replaced with a new one of Jonathon Vaughters talking about crashing during the tour. The tag line of which is "Next time you are in your car going 50 MPH strip down to your underware and jump out the door".

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mark Cavendis wins his Fourth Tour stage and moves into second for the Green Jersey Competition

Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia has now won his fourth Stage in the 2008 Tour de France. Now that he has moved into second in the Green Jersey (Points) competition there is good chance that Mr. Cavendish will be pulling his tired body over the Alps.

Not much has happened with the Yellow Jersey (GC) since the rest day. That should change soon. It will be interesting to see how well Christian Vande Velde can do on the up coming mountain climbs.
There was one point in Stage 13 where a Specialized Tarmac SL2 appears to explode. It is just flying above the peloton. I am looking to see if there are any pictures. The TV replay showed the broken bike laying on the ground like a balloon with its air let out. I can only imagine the words that must have come out of the riders mouth as he hit the sign post in the middle of the roadway. I think the same people that design the roads in France work in New Jersey as well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You know you are from Syracuse when ...

I found this site that does city specific "You know are from __ when ..." comments. I thought some of these are funny. Even though I have not lived in the Syracuse area in over 20 years I thought they were funny. I can still relate.

You know you are from Syracuse when:
1) You know every possible cat-related Solvay joke.

2) During your morning drive, you can accurately forecast how warm the day will become judging by the intensity of the stench wafting off Onondaga Lake.

3) You know the correct pronunciation of "Pompey."

4) You no longer need to brace your eardrums when exiting the pressurized Carrier Dome.

5) You take out-of-town friends on drives past developer Bob Congel's house on Woodchuck Hill Road.

6) The word "iniquity" inspires images of a bejeweled hand gesturing from the edge of a grainy black-and-white television screen on Channel 5's Monster Movie Matinee.

7) You call the intersection of Salina and Jefferson streets "Downcity."

8) You can tell all the Hafner establishments apart.

9) You know the name of the guy who does all the voice-overs for WCNY-Channel 24.

10) You go to Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois and amuse yourself by asking the 17th-century "re-creators" what they think of the ongoing waterfront redevelopment project.

11) You still refer to 500 S. Salina St. as the Chimes Building and Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois as the French Fort.

12) Your children dream of being on WIXT-Channel 9's "Storm Team."

13) You saw Vanessa Williams when she made local appearances as Miss Greater Syracuse.

14) Your chest bursts with pride when Syracuse's climate runs as the top story on cable TV's Weather Channel.

15) You know the three women cited by the name of the now-defunct but once-delicious Caroma Restaurant.

16) You have the time and temperature number memorized. Extra points if you recall it as GR4-8481; double points if you know GR stood for Granite.

17) You're beginning to suspect that the time and temperature lady actually died years ago and her voice is now computer-generated and preserved for all eternity.

18) You know where to find parking spaces in Skaneateles. Extra points for finding free parking spaces anywhere in downtown Syracuse.

19) You're surprised that people from other parts of the country know nothing about lacrosse.

20) You stood in a long line to see Blow Up at the Cinema East, when pubic hair did yet not have an MPAA rating.

21) Your snowblower gets stuck on the roof.

22) You miss Bowling for Dollars and its host, Bud Hedinger.

23) You are intimidated by the waitresses at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, instead of vice versa.

24) You recall the days when Tobe's Cherry Street smoker was the only bona fide barbecue in town.

25) You remember the key to open the door of local TV's Magic Toy Shop.

26) You think Nancy Larraine Hoffmann carelessly abandoned a promising career as a go-go dancer.

27) You know that Onondaga Lake Parkway is really Route 370, which used to be Route 57 and is called Second Street in the village of Liverpool, and you know that Tulip Street, Morgan Road and Euclid Road are actually one and the same roadway.

28) Your idea of fun is to pack a picnic lunch and go watch the mosquitoes get sprayed in Cicero.

29) You know what a "spiedie" is and pronounce "coney" like it has two o's.

30) You automatically give speeding cars with Canadian license plates the right of way on I-81.

31) You think that they really don't have enough weather coverage on TV and radio.

32) You remember when Armond Magnarelli had a real head of hair and Stan Colella was skinny as a rail.

33) They've chopped down a tree from your property and dragged it into Clinton Square for the holidays.

34) You've eaten clams surrounded by the clamshell-covered walls at McCarthy's on South Salina Street or Cap'n Mac's Clam Snug on Erie Boulevard East.

35) You remember doughnuts at Abe's and burgers at Tarbe's Grill.

36) You think they could squeeze in a few more parking spaces downtown if they'd only get rid of that pesky Jerry Rescue monument.

37) You can determine how much a person's house is worth by the way he or she pronounces "Skaneateles".

38) You know in your heart that before the apocalypse, the yin-yang sign at Marble Farms ice-cream shop will start revolving again. Extra points if you remember when it did revolve.

39) When the wind blows just right, you can tell when steel is being poured at Crucible Specialty Metals.

40) You can explain to visitors what salt potatoes are.

41) You remember when the original Phoebe's served soul food.

42) You heard Chuck and Gap Mangione perform at the 800 Club as the Jazz Brothers.

43) You already feel kind of nostalgic about the slowly disappearing tank farms of Oil City.

44) You remember Fairmount Fair. Bonus points for remembering it before it expanded at the western end; double points for remembering it before it was enclosed.

45) You've shopped at the Penn Can Mall. Bonus points if you remember its jingle or know that it's named Penn Can because of its location between Pennsylvania and Canada.

46) You define summer as three months of bad sledding.

47) You remember a Democratic congressman being elected from Onondaga County.

48) You know not to drive through Baldwinsville's Four Corners between 3 and 7 p.m.

49) Your favorite memory of former Mayor Lee Alexander is of him strolling into a Hotel Syracuse elevator with a blonde on one arm and a brunette on the other.

50) You've attended a Syracuse Firebirds game.

51) You held season tickets to both Syracuse Blazers hockey and Syracuse Scorpions soccer games.

52) You attended a Syracuse Chiefs game at MacArthur Stadium. Bonus points if you attended a Chiefs game at Municipal Stadium.

53) You've shopped at Switz's novelty store in North Syracuse.

54) You know how to decode the weather star on top of the MONY Tower.

55) You found out that Post-Standard political correspondents Gus and Luther F. Bliven were not two different people.

56) You design your Halloween costumes to fit over a snowsuit.

57) The mosquitoes in your yard have legal landing lights.

58) You have more miles on your snowblower than your car.

59) You still harbor mixed feelings toward Peter Andreoli for prosecuting John Mulroy and other local Republicans for political fund-raising shakedowns.

60) You saw the Police and the Romantics at the Firebarn Tavern before they had any hits.

61) You've eaten a frittata at Poodle's and Jim's on South Salina Street or Mario's Little Gem Diner (now known as Doc's Little Gem Diner).

62) Your favorite radio talk show host will always be Corny O'Leary.

63) Attending the State Fair is a family tradition, and you go more than three times during the 12 days it's open.

64) You remember when the limebeds broke and oozed out everywhere.

65) You've shopped at the Tri-County Mall.

66) You owe more money on your snowmobile than your car.

67) The mayor greets you on the street by your first name.

68) You characterize the four seasons as winter, still winter, almost winter and construction.

69) Your idea of a seven-course meal is a six-pack of Genny Cream Ale and a bucketful of Buffalo wings.

70) You have experienced frostbite and sunburn in the same week.

71) Half the change in your pocket is Canadian, eh?

72) The pungent smell once emitted from the Corenco rendering plant on Erie Boulevard East still lingers in your mind's nose.

73) You keep the snow tires on your truck all year because it ain't worth taking them off for only two months.

74) The Westcott Theater still makes you think of the long-running romance A Man and a Woman, and memories of the old Franklin Art cinema make you think of Linda Lovelace's Deep Throat.

75) You know that Speach, Curtis, Goudy and Knapp are actually Italian names.

76) You remember when Doug's Fish Fry had only one location, and you remember when owner Doug Clark actually liked the First Lady.

77) You know that anybody named Tarolli either hails from Solvay or has relatives there.

78) You still think of Channel 9's Mike Price as Baron Daemon.

79) You've noticed that True Value Hardware on any Saturday is busier than the toy stores at Christmas.

80) You remember when all the hookers worked on South Warren Street and most of them were transvestites.

81) You think driving is better in the winter because the potholes get filled with snow and snowbanks protect you from the guardrails.

82) You know the service elevator shortcut out of Hotel Syracuse's 10th-floor Grand Ballroom.

83) You suffer a heart attack while shoveling snow out of your driveway.

84) You hate Keith Smart.

85) You hate Hoyas, although you don't know what one is.86) You hate Hokies, although you don't know what one is.

2008 Tour de France - First Rest Day

Tueday was a rest day for the 2008 Tour de France. So far it has been an exciting Tour. None of the over powering teams that we have seen in the past but CSC-Saxo Bank is looking stong and may make a big move in the Alps.

Christian Vande Velde is still riding strong. Last year Christian Vande Velde was a rider for CSC and he posted a daily diary to Velonews similar to the ones that Christian's Garmin-Chipolte teammate Will Frischkorn (Titled: Fresh Korn) is writing this year. I thought Mr. Vande Velde's writings were insightful and funny. I felt like I got to know Christian. One of the last postings was about his decision to leave CSC and join the new American Team Slipstream (now Garmin-Chipolte).

Who would have thought that Mr. Vande Velde would be in 3rd place after the first moutain stage. Christian had no teammates with him on the final climbs on Monday's stage and was able to stay with Cadel Evans. He looked strong and in his post race comments he regretted not taking off with one of the other chase groups. I wonder how much help he is getting from his former CSC teammates.

I was planning on rooting for Cadel Evans to win this year's Tour (I know that it is not much of a stretch to root for the front runner) but it looks like I am going to be pulling Christian Vande Velde. I hope he can stay in contention all the way to Paris. So far he looks like he is having fun and keeping the right attitude.

After a good first week it looks like Team Columbia is back to working for stage wins rather than a Tour win.

The great thing about this year's tour is that it is taking my mind off of the US Economy. I am not sure what I will do after the Tour is over.