Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Big Price, Big Expectations: You Don't Always Get What You Pay For

In my last post, I might have written that I would have another post on Monday, the 20th of June. Clearly that didn't happen. Lucky for you this blog doesn't cost you anything. Unlucky for me, this blog doesn't cost you anything.

While I was back east, my family and I visited the Mystic Aquarium. Seeing as how the aquarium is right on the shore (and the fact that each ticket was around $29), I had high hopes for what might have been inside. As the saying goes, always put your best foot forward, and that's exactly what Mystic Aquarium did:

Leading with their heavy hitters, the aquarium placed the whale tank directly inside the entrance. Needless to say the whales (there were three) were pretty cool. So how did the aquarium follow up? With this:

Yup, you got it, it's a frog. To be honest, it didn't get much better.

The next day we headed north up to Northampton, MA to do some sight-seeing. We visited the campus of Smith College, the largest of the Seven Sisters. As expected, the campus was beautiful. A scenic and calm waterway cut the area roughly in half. Crossing the foot bridge, we noticed a squirrel clinging to the edge of the concrete decking:

He moved around on the side of the bridge like a spider, until his grip gave out. At that point he fell, belly first, into the stream below. If he had started floating downstream I might have felt bad, but as it was he quickly climbed back up the bridge and scampered off into the woods.

On another part of the campus I noticed this graffiti:

I sure hope the artist's English teacher is for her. I'm no Slyvia Plath (who is, by the way, a Smith grad), but that is some horrible grammar. You would think for $53,460 a year even the freshwomen (yeah, I made that up, but I bet girls at Smith use something stupid like that to refer to themselves) would get some decent English training, as the clearly don't get much training in parking a motor vehicle:

On second thought, that horrible parking job might just be due to the driver being a woman versus any lack of training.

So, once again I visited a place that was expensive (luckily though I didn't have to pay tuition to walk to the campus) and in the end the product didn't impress as it should have.

Never fear though, as the day ended with a stop at the Northampton Brewery for a cold beer. I tried the Scuba Märzen (pronounced more like Mare-Tsen, not Mare-Zen) and completely enjoyed it:

Märzen, German for March Beer, is a lager that had its beginnings in Bavaria. The Scuba was caramel in color and had a delicious malty flavor - a great way to end the trip.

As we come to end of today's post, I must once again inform you of a leave of absence I will be taking. My wife and I recently moved into a new home and as such we have been busy, and will continue to be busy, getting completely moved in. I hope to be able to get back to regular posting next Monday with updates from the TdF.

Look on the bright side, whether I'm back on Monday or not, you aren't out any money.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Heading East

I will be traveling east this week, and as such will not be posting anything until next Monday. What will I post tonight? Just a picture that some smug zoo keeper, who clearly hates it when people confuse tortoises with turtles, put up in the tortoise enclosure:

I'm not one to correct the mistake of a fellow human being (of course I am), but when said individual clearly thinks everyone confuses turtles and tortoises and while correcting them makes TWO mistakes; well, I just can't pass up that opportunity.

Enjoy the week.

Friday, June 10, 2011

There's a Time to Walk Away and Then There's a Time to Ride Away Ringing Bells

There has been much written about the use of doping products in sports, and in cycling specifically. We've read about those we followed, routed for, and believed in test positive for PEDs. In almost every case the accused has rallied the troops, fortified the defenses, and vehemently denied any and all accusations. The arguments have ranged from the classic half-truths (I've never tested positive - which isn't the same as never using drugs), to the completely asinine (vanishing twin brother).

We've seen athletes who have been caught doping come clean (only because they were caught) and attempt to use themselves as a sort of positive example for other riders (Of course not without blaming the team and those around them for their doping in the first place. Egos, what a terrible thing to break - probably what led you to dope in the first place).

On top of all those you have Phil Zajicek - a rider who not only got caught doping and lied about it, but made others lie for him as well. What a douche. If that was the end I wouldn't mind so much. But read what he wrote in an email to Velonews:

“Today, I have accepted a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling. I have had an enjoyable and successful career which has taken me to all corners of the of the globe and I’m grateful for everything cycling has given me. It’s time to walk away from the sport and begin the next chapter of my life with the tremendous support of my wife, family and friends behind me.”

Seriously douche, people walk away from things where they have the choice do do that - you were forced out. I understand that he could have kept fighting, but a lifetime ban isn't something you 'accept', it's something that is imposed on you. Hopefully he eventually 'accepts' the fact that he not only ruined his cycling career, but he did no favors for those he had lie for him (I see the parallel argument here between the Millar video and him being 'manipulated' and those that lied for Zajicek - both parties had the option to not choose what they did).

Speaking of crazy stories, as I was in the first paragraph, everyone's favorite former Alaskan Governor (or really the only one anyone outside of Alaska can name), Sarah Palin sure came up with one about the midnight ride of Paul Revere. I'm pretty sure that Paul Revere's ride on the 18th of April, 1775, wasn't to warn the British or that he used bells to do so, but then again I'm no presidential historian or history professor like this guy. Wait, what did he say there at the 40-second mark?

Did he just say Revere's ride was on April 8th? This whole time we've had it wrong. Good thing CNN got this guy to set the record straight for all of use, not just Palin:

I guess what this all proves is that it doesn't matter if you're a professional athlete, former governor, or presidential historian, you don't always get the facts correct the first time around.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Other Shoe has Dropped, and It Appears to be Worn Out

What could be more fitting to write about in this, my 100th post, than the man who really got Americans (ok, only about seven of us) excited in the sport of cycling - Tom Boonen. Seriously, he used blow while at least some other riders in the pro peloton were turning to EPO, CERA, testosterone, Fluff, etc. When he finally takes off his lycra shorts for the last time and calls it quits, he most definitely has a spot in Hollywood. Truth be told Boonen is my favorite rider and I wish him all the best - go get 'em Tommeke, just lay off the white stuff.

Actually, the man I speak of is none other than Lance Edward Gunderson, better known to the world as Lance Armstrong. With all the allegations from former teammates, including Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis (George Hincapie is said to have given some pretty damning testimony to a grand jury about LA's, and his own, drug use), it is harder and harder for people that use reason to believe that he never used PEDs. In this article, author Renee Gough describes how her son - who is/was a huge LA fan - comes to grips with the Hamilton interview on 60 Minutes. Gough uses the metaphor of her son's favorite pair of shoes, a set of Livestrong Nikes:

I'm not sure what's worse, the fact that she uses as her subtitle, "Lance Armstrong's Livestrong apparel may be unraveling at the seams" - I fear that 'unraveling' is a bit of an understatement:

Or her son's response to the allegations made by Hamilton. In what Gough claims was an expertly reasoned response, her son's retort to the allegations was, "I’ve read Lance Armstrong’s book, the reason he did so good is because before he had cancer he didn’t realize how much he wanted it.” Sure, if will power is all it takes to get a person from a hospital bed and chemotherapy to winning the TdF, than I would have slept with so many girls as a young, 20-something roaming the streets of New York City. Bringing the story full circle, as well as tying (yeah, like laces, I'm in on it as well) together the shoe metaphor/unraveling pun, Gough says she is happy for the first time in her life to go shoe shopping to replace her son's Livestrong Nikes. This is where the story gets fishy; a woman who claims she hasn't been excited to go shoe shopping before? I'm not buying it.

While I understand her desire to replace the shoes, a physical reminder of LA, she falls in the same trap as just about every other person who discusses the issue of LA doping - that the Livestrong Foundation has cheated the same way LA (possibly) has. Hitting close to home, KC's soccer team - Sporting KC - has a new stadium that the writer of this article seems to believe links them directly to LA. I don't know if Livestrong has ever done anything illegal or if LA was involved, but what I do know is that no matter how horrible a person LA may turn out to be, the foundation he started is one that has an honorable cause. LA and Livestrong will always be linked, but transferring the negative aspects of the person onto the foundation is ridiculous.

No matter what happens with LA, Livestrong will most likely take a hit, but in the end people will realize when they pledge money to Livestrong or purchase Livestrong themed articles of clothing, they will be helping those with cancer (as well as hurting those children who work in Chinese sweatshops). In the end this all would be much easier to sort out and result in a much neater clean up if LA had just joined Boonen for an eight ball instead of (possibly) injecting himself with drugs. It's not as if he couldn't afford to waste a few hundred dollar bills to make straws.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Got 99 Problems, But a Post Ain't One

I must say this weekend was not as relaxing as I first had imagined. The float trip got off to an ominous start as we waited for the bus to deliver us to the drop-off point:

There's always one.I for one was hoping anything that did happen during the weekend only happened by accident. What I do know for sure though is that jorts don't happen by accident. We'll discuss accidents a little later.

Besides our public service announcement, hats seemed to be all the "rave" prior to our departure:

Yours is indeed bigger than mine.Once we were on the river, a few of us engaged in the creation, or curation as BSNYC might say, of our very own wizard staffs. For those of you that read my last post, you will understand the reference to wizardry now. Anywho, I got the idea from one Stevil Kinevil over at AHTBM. It apparently is a new concept here in the Midwest. With that in mind, here is the first attempt, but not last, as we have now determined that float trips are not very conducive for engaging in wizard staff creation:

Good thought, poor execution.Is that a Bud Light Lime in there? No doubt.

The floating took much longer than I had anticipated and even included some bridge jumping. I must warn you though, the bridge wasn't really that impressive as it was a mere six inches off the water:

In all fairness it was a little more than six inches, but not much. The night was topped off by an expertly cooked meal of jerked chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and rice, all cooked by the executive chef at Pacha Mamas in Lawrence, KS. Here is his hand cutting the chicken that he cooked on an open fire:

It was delicious. Ok, enough of that, back to cycling.

On multiple occasions in the last few days I've seen different variations on the phrase, "If you aren't crashing/bleeding, you ain't trying hard enough." I'm going to take a stance here today and say that that saying is ridiculous. Clearly no one would argue that the opposite is true - "If you are crashing/bleeding you are trying hard enough." If that were the case, Christian Vande Velde would be the hardest working cyclist in the Pro Tour Peloton. Seriously though, I understand if the saying were, "If you aren't sweating, you aren't trying hard enough." I will completely agree with that. But while crashing is an inseparable part of cycling, it is not an indicator of effort. What is an indicator of effort is a sweet pair of jorts, and a love of all things safety.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's the End of the World and We Blew It

As I wrote in my last post, I was scheduled to return on Wednesday, the first day of the month of June. Clearly that didn't happen. I almost felt bad about it, but then I remembered that I'm not the only person who has made a prediction that has failed to materialize recently.

Last weekend I went with the in-laws to Table Rock Lake for a couple days of relaxing, fishing, and water sports. First on the agenda (and first in the previous list) was relaxing; which was a complete success. I managed to catch an average of 1.4 naps per day - some in the hammock, some in a recliner. As for the second item of the to-do list:

It was this big!Despite the poor quality of that picture (of which I take no responsibility), you can see that the one fish I caught was about two inches long. This wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't fishing in a river stocked with trout that every other fisher was pulling fish out of almost by the minute.

Relaxing - check. Fishing - half check. Water sports - no check whatsoever. And what is that? A combination of dam management and rain conspired to flood the lake and cut power to the boat dock. Here you can see some of the flood's work as Murphy takes a swim in the neighbor's backyard:

I think it's time to mow, buddy.So, in retrospect the weekend should have been solely focused on relaxing and it would have been a huge success. Perhaps I could have gotten in over two naps per day. As it is, I enjoyed the weekend and the much needed break from the hustle and bustle of doing nothing. In order to get back into the daily grind, I am taking a float trip this weekend. It should again be a relaxing weekend (though I'm not sure I can squeeze in any naps while canoeing down the river, but I'll try) filled with good food (a friend who is a chef will be preparing dinner), wizardry, and decent (according to the reviews) beer.

I'll be back on Monday, unless once again my math is off, in which case just crack open a beer and wait for me.