July 29, 2003

Beat Bobblehead

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night? — Jack Kerouac

Tell me you don't want a Jack Kerouac Bobblehead.

The Lowell Spinners ball club is giving them away to the first 1000 fans through the gates on August 21 (Kerouac was from Lowell). I might be tempted to get up there if they were playing the Batavia Muckdogs that night. But I guess I'll wait till they show up on ebay.

To compare the original with the bobblehead:

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Welcome to the 21st Century, Kids!

Signs of the zeitgeist: the Playmobil HazMat Team.

Priceless description on the website:

Oh, no! Hazardous waste has seeped out of a barrel and onto the village sidewalk! No need to worry, the Hazmat Crew has arrived. The street is secured with a road warning sign and the Crew begins clean up with their powerful vacuums. Dressed in protective uniforms and armed with hazardous material equipment this sidewalk will be free of this hazardous substance in no time.

Notice: This set doesn't come with actual hazardous waste! Kids will have to supply their own.

Saw this on Brian Floca's desk. Thanks, Brian.

P.S. Check out the arms trader. Another warm and fuzzy feature of modern life.

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July 15, 2003

Head-Cracking Good Time Had by All

One of the amusing incidents on the Tour was today's demonstration. Anti-globalization protestors lay down on the road in front of the peloton. They were followers of Jose Bove, who became a hero in some quarters for demolishing a McDonald's and destroying genetically modified crops.

According to the BBC, their tactic may backfire: "... correspondents say the Tour de France protest may lose him public support because of the cost of precious time and points to riders in France's premier sporting event."

What's the French for "Oops"? (Could it be houp-là which believe it or not is in Karl Marx's writings? And which my nominally bilingual father used to say when he flipped us up in the air as kids.)

What was interesting was to see on TV how rapidly the French paramilitary police swooped in to yank them out of the way. These guys are big, tough and serious. You sometimes see them in Paris at particularly sensitive locations. My guess is that there is some pretty serious muscle hovering around the Tour that you never get to see in the pretty pretty pictures.

Every so often when Lance is being interviewed, you can see some guys that look like the "other type of biker" (if you know what I mean) hovering very near him. They look like they would bend a bicycle around your head if necessary.

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The CBC just breathlessly announced that Lance Armstrong had finished 23 minutes behind the winner of today's stage in the Tour. They seemed mystified that he could still be the leader after such a dismal showing. I guess tomorrow they'll wonder how the winner of the All Star Game prevailed despite getting 27 outs.

Pah, idiots.

Seems France is having a heat wave. Here's a great shot of the yellow jersey on the road to Marseille today:

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The Greatest Sports Event on the Planet™

Paul thinks I'm being particularly lazy about blogging. He's right, Laziness is Its Own Reward. That's why this is the Snoofmadrune blog.

Mostly, I have been writing an article and watching The Greatest Sports Event on the Planet™: The Tour de France. So the rest of this post will be about that.

Once upon a time, I could only read about the Tour, but a couple of years back we switched cable providers and I discovered Outdoor Life Network which broadcasts great whacking chunks of the Tour Live in the morning with endless repeats in the evening.

This coverage seems to have become very popular, given that a couple of years back there were only three ads (literally) that were repeated endlessly during the coverage. (You have never experienced Hell until you have seen the same Mercury commercial 10 times a night for 3 weeks.) Now they have lots of premium advertisers, the coverage is bigger and the whole thing seems much less low-rent than before.

Much of the quality of the show is attributable to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, two commentators who actually manage to explain everything. Let's face it, there are vast stretches of a 3 week bicycle race where nothing much is happening. These two Brits keep the interest level high throughout. Liggett is scary sometimes. Yesterday he seemed almost to predict the Beloki fall 15 seconds before it happened.

Anyway, this has been a fabulous Tour. First, it's the Centenary celebration and the crowds are immense. Also the French seem to be powering in the money with much better camerawork along the route. France is a beautiful place and they're making it look even better.

Second, it has been extremely high drama. After only a week, there's been more excitement than in an entire baseball season. Most people only hear snatches of Lance's story, but the real hero for me has been Tyler Hamilton, riding since Stage 1 with a broken collarbone and keeping on Armstrong's wheel more than when he was Lance's domestique.

Then there's Joseba Beloki. Before he fell yesterday, it looked like he was on track to really challenge for the overall win this year after being second and third way too often. We're all pretty upset that he's hurt and out.

Vive les Aussies! Bradley McGee is blogging from the Tour much more than in previous years. Worth reading, especially since he's been in yellow this year and his mate Baden Cooke is in green and trying to stay there. There are other bloggers as well on the cyclingnews.com site, but Brad's the best.

I'm going to be missing the middle part of the Tour unless they have OLN in Toronto, so I may miss the Pyrenees. Damn. It's like missing Game 7 of the World Series. This is going to be a tight year, even without Beloki.

If you don't get OLN, I recommend you listen to the live feed from their website (starting around 9am Eastern). With that and the live updates at cyclingnews.com, it's nearly as good as watching.

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July 08, 2003

The New Yorker on Business-Method Patents

The New Yorker has a clear, concise, nontechnical essay by its finance columnist James Surowiecki criticizing business-method patents: Patent Bending.

Although we have always had a vibrant patent system, we’ve managed to strike a balance between the need to encourage innovation and the need to foster competition. As Benjamin Day, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton might attest, American corporations have thrived on innovative ideas and new business methods, without owning them, for two centuries. In the past decade, the balance has been upset.

Makes the argument persuasively.

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July 03, 2003

Happy 4th of July

This is the Star-Spangled Banner, nearing the end of a 3-year preservation project at the Smithsonian. This composite photo was made of the 30x34 foot flag as part of the project. The Smithsonian has more on the history and the preservation.

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