Saturday, July 31, 2010

Game, Set, and Match for Krugman and the Keynesians?

The US economic recovery seems to be stalling, and fears of a double-dip recession are on the rise (see here). No one wants that to happen, but if it does, the deficit hawks will never hear the end of it from Krugman and other pro-stimulus Keynesians, who will be able to say, with some legitimacy, "We told you so."

It's not that deficits don't matter. They just are not as important as the need for economic stimulus during a recession to spur slack demand. This is not to say that the government should be throwing money around willy-nilly. There's all kinds of spending, including in the Obama Stimulus bill from 2009, that has little if any stimulating effect. But it's not like we have a dearth of worthwhile infrastructure projects to fund in this country.

July Cycling Totals

788 miles
42.25 hours
Ave speed 18.1 mph

Total mileage for 2010 (to date): 3318 miles

An (Overly) Eventful Ride

A good size group left Fishback Academy at 7:30 this morning, and rode in a spirited but sensible fashion down south of Pittsboro, then up to Lebanon, then back. The best thing about the ride was that we avoided most of the rain; we only had to deal with a few sprinkles here and there. The worst thing about the ride was a dog named Max in the hamlet of Tilden, which ran right into Dave Kaplan's front wheel. Dave went down hard, but fortunately he seems only to have scraped his elbow and bruised his hip. I'm sure he'll be sore tomorrow, but it could have been worse. Trooper that he is, Dave finished the ride with the group. Not only that, he initiated the sprint up to the top of Pittsboro Rd in Lebanon. We were hauling butt up there, with a gusty SW wind helping us to speeds of 28-30 mph for about 5 miles. Of course, once we got to Lebanon we had to turn into the wind to head home. By that point, the group was down to about 10 riders, but we got a really good paceline going, with the fast lane going 21 mph and the slow lane going 19.5 or so. Then, the final misadventure of the ride occurrred, when I flatted at the intersection of Indianapolis Rd. and 267. It gave me an opportunity, however, to demonstrate one of the great virtues of the wide rims on HED wheels: tire changes are a breeze.

A final word to everyone who kicked my @$$ up Lafayette hill: When I got home, I discovered that my rear brake was rubbing the wheel rim all the way back from Indianapolis Rd. and 267.

Rate this ride: ***

Making Progress on Writing Projects: Better Late than Never

As the clock ticks down toward an August 9th deadline, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on two conference papers/book chapters. One of them, which I am co-authoring with Lin Ostrom, has been passing back and forth between us for the past couple of months. I just received the latest (huge) contribution from Lin, who has very nearly completed the paper. After adding a couple of paragraphs in earlier sections, all that's left for me to do is to draft a Conclusion, and give Lin the final say.

The other paper, a solo effort, has been progressing well during the past several weeks; it still has a way to go before it's done. However, I'm happy to be able to report that - in contrast to my climate policy book, which currently lies as dormant as US climate policy itself - I'm enjoying working on it. I expect it will be provocative, if not compelling. At least, I hope my intended audience will find it as interesting to read as I have (so far) found it to write.

Once those two papers are completed, next in line are revisions for the Second Edition of Priniciples of Law & Economics (with Peter Grossman, forthcoming Aspen 2011). Once that is done, I will then be able to get back to work on Selling Hot Air: Emissions Trading in Climate Policy (forthcoming CUP).

Happy 45th Birthday J.K. Rowling

Regrets to Milton Friedman, but Rowling has outperformed him in the market.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Easy Ride for Some

Stefan could not ride with me this evening at Nebo Ridge, so I decided to ride with the "A" group again. Tonight I did not get dropped but did tail off the back of the group as we headed into the sprint zone, just a few miles before the end of the ride. I managed to finish just behind the pack. After the ride, I overheard a few riders saying that it was a pretty easy ride this evening. Maybe for them. It certainly wasn't easy for me. My average speed for the ride was 22.8 mph; normalized power was 247; and average heart rate was 160 (my max hr is 192). Just goes to show, "junk miles" for some are hard training rides for others.

What's More Valuable, Small Government or Good Government?

That's the topic of a very interesting and evidence-filled guest post at The Baseline Scenario blog (here). The argument is often, using the Heritage Foundation's Freedom Index, that smaller government correlates with (or even causes) economic welfare. The evidence provided in the post suggests, however, that it is the quality of government, far more than the size of government, that matters for economic performance. Here's the conclusion:
The Heritage Freedom Index is really a composite of measures that get at two different things: Good Government, and Less Government. Overall, the Good Government factors tend to dominate, and drive a lot of the correlation with good economic and quality of life outcomes. When one splits out the factors, the case for Less/Weaker Government weakens substantially, and the case for Clean/Non-Corrupt/Efficient government strengthens considerably.

This does not support many of the conclusions that are often drawn using the overall Heritage Index.
Hat tip: Marginal Revolution 

Let the Rich Guys Spend Their Own Money

Peter Grossman has an excellent column in this week's Indianapolis Business Journal (here) on calls for a "Manhattan Project" to develop low-carbon energy resources. The latest such call has come from The American Energy Innovation Council, which was organized by Bill Gates and several other multi-millionaires and billionaires. They are smart guys who should be able to understand the simple but all-important difference between developing an atomic bomb and alternative fuels:
The Manhattan Project created a product, where the cost was no object, to prove we could do something that would help us win the war. Energy technologies are ones we’ll need to buy, which we’ll do only if it makes economic sense. Government isn’t bad at grand technological feats. It is terrible at intentionally creating commercial products.
Peter is not opposed to government support for basic research and development, but that's not what Gates and his cronies are calling for. They want the government to spend our money in an effort to bring new commercial products to market. As Peter points out, this has been tried before (e.g., with synfuels) and it has failed every time. On what basis should we expect a different result this time? As smart entrepreneurs, Gates and his friends should know better. Peter concludes that we should start taking their calls seriously, when they start putting their own money where their mouths are.

It's unfortunate that Peter's column appeared in a journal with a limited local circulation. It deserves national attention.

Happy Birthday Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

A sociologist and political scientist before there were sociologists or political scientists, de Tocqueville studied early America in his two-volume Democracy in America. I suppose he expected too much of us. I wonder what he would make of our experiment and our people today. Regardless, Americans love and revere him for having loved us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yes Mother, the Climate Is Warming

NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) has just released its State of the Climate report for 2009 (see here), which concludes that climate change is "undeniable" and bears "human fingerprints." This report is based on observed data, not models. The report relied on several data sets, including from the UK's national weather service (the MET). This MET graph was published in today's Financial Times (here):

Final Bicycling.com Interview with Jens in Paris

Happy Birthday Karl Popper (1902-1994)

Popper was among the most important (if not the most important) philosophers of the 20th century, who made  enormous contributions to the philosophy of science (with his theory of falsification) and to political philosophy (with his staunch defense of liberal democracy). Popper's determination to follow his own intellectual course, and the clarity with which he expressed his ideas, are a constant influence on my work. I keep a photo of him in my office.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mixed Results in the Tues World Championships

I had a mixed bag of a ride this evening at the Nebo Ridge Tuesday Night World Championships. I started out with the "A" group, which went out pretty fast. At one point, heading north on Little Eagle Creek, speeds got up to 28 mph. I was riding too far towards the back, and had to use a lot of energy to chase up after every stop and turn. I knew that I'd never be able to keep up after we crossed 32 and speeds really picked up. I was right. I got dropped on the way into Lamong. So, I rode easy for several minutes, waiting to get picked up by the "B" group. Once that happened, I settled into that group, which tonight was smaller and traveling at a somewhat easier 22-25-mph pace. I took some pulls at the front, and then when we hit the sprint zone on West Rd., I put myself into a good position, followed the right wheels, and managed to take out the sprint, hitting 31 mph just before the line. That's the first time I managed to win a sprint in one of the more competitive Nebo groups. But it took everything I had, and I just soft pedaled the rest of the way in.

Michaelman on Liberal Constitutionalism

Two video lectures of Frank Michaelman's presentations at Goethe University on (1) "Liberty, Liberties, and 'Total Freedom'" and (2) "Contract versus Common Ground?" are here. As with all of Michaelman's work, they are interesting, thoughtful, and thought provoking.

Hat tip: Legal Theory Blog

Happy 62d Birthday Peter Z. Grossman

Among the best economists I know, and a great friend.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Has Obama Become So Unpopular, So Quickly?

New York Times columnist Frank Rich offers a nuanced and well balanced account (here) in the New York Reivew of Books. I do not necessarily agree with each and every aspect of Rich's diagnosis. For instance, it's not obvious to me that Obama has placed too much faith in the expertise of Ivy League-trained wiz kids. Nevertheless, on balance I find Rich's take to be insightful.

Hat tip: The Browser

Becker and Posner on the Extension of Unemployment Compensation

This week the Becker-Posner Blog (here) takes on the unemployment benefit extension bill that President Obama signed into law last week. Not surprisingly, both are against it because they see the stimulus effects as insignificant, given the total amount of money involved, and they have concerns about the incentive effects for those who are unemployed.

As a supporter of the legislation signed last week by President Obama, I take no issue with Becker's arguments, which at least give some regard to the extent of the crisis facing those who are involuntarily unemployed through no fault of their own; his claims are conditional and respect counter-arguments. In my view, the counter-arguments favoring the extension of benefits, including the expected marginal stimulus effect outweigh Becker's concerns about the potential disincentive effects, but his concerns are certainly valid. In fact, Becker does not oppose the extension of benefits; his only disagreement is with the length of the extension.

Posner, on the other hand, comes off as a later-day Scrooge. His post is, in effect, an attack not just on the extension of unemployment benefits but on their very existence. His arguments about disincentives to work and the fact that not all of the unemployed really care all that much about work or are good workers apply as strongly (or weakly) to the first week's worth of unemployment benefits as the last. His main beef seems to be with the lack of means-testing in the legislation, noting that even if the "bulk" of the unemployed are hardship cases, some may choose to remain unemployed because of the additional benefits. This ignores, of course, the costs associated with means testing, which may not be worth bearing if the "bulk" of the unemployed are, indeed, hardship cases. Finally, I find it remarkable that Posner would concede that most of the unemployed are in hardship, but would still deny them additional benefits just because of the existence of a small percentage of  potential recipients who do not need the assistance. Seems like a case of the (quest for the) perfect being the enemy of the good.

Happy Birthday Alfred Marshall (1842-1924)

Among the most important economists ever, Marshall played a major role in the "marginalist revolution," which laid the foundations for modern, neoclassical economics.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Roberts Court

Excellent piece in today's New York Times (here) on the Supreme Court's lurch to the right (measured not against the very liberal Warren Court but the pretty-darn conservative Rehnquist Court). That move is almost entirely the result of a single replacement: Samuel Alito for Sandra Day O'Connor. O'Connor was the pivotal vote on the Court. Now, Anthony Kennedy is in that role, and he is marginally more conservative, particularly on  issues involving women, children, and the elderly, than O'Connor. Meanwhile, Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia have succeeded in pulling Kennedy farther to the right.

What about the Sotomayor and Kagan appointments? They are almost inconsequential in terms of the Court's overall direction, because they replaced retiring justices who were of a similar ideological bent.

Whether or not the Court's move to the right is a good thing is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

Quiggin on the "Inequality Boom"

John Quiggin, writing at the Crooked Timber blog (here), has a thoughtful post on increasing economic inequality in the US. Based on Congressional Budget Office data from 1979-2005 he shows that the highest income earners benefited significantly, but the bottom 80% - yes, 80% - have seen their real, post-tax  incomes decline. Even more interesting is his finding that the federal income tax has become virtually proportional, which means that it is not redistributing income from rich to poor (or vice versa).

Happy Birthday Walter "Sweetness" Payton (1954-1999)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Jens Interview from Bicyling.com

Hot, Hot Ride

The group started from Fishback at 7:30 this morning to beat the heat. It didn't work. About a dozen of us did the full ride down to Pittsboro, the up to Lebanon, Elizaville and Kirklin, before heading back to Fishback via Whitestown and Zionsville. In total we racked up 68 miles (not including my ride to and from the ride) at an average speed of 20.2 mph. The group would have been faster, but I threw out the anchor several times. When we started the ride, the air temp was already 78(F). By the time we finished, the air temp was 88, with a heat index over 96, and the road temperature, particularly on some of the fresh tarmac, was hotter than that. You could feel it radiating right up your legs. It was hot, hot, hot. Did I mention the high humidity? Or the 10-12 mph wind from the WSW?

As soon as I got home, I made a pitcher of half water, half Cran-Raspberry juice. I downed about a liter of that (or more) before I could even say hello to Mrs. Cyclingprof.

Happy 91st Birthday Ferdinand Kubler

Swiss rider who won the yellow jersey (GC) in the Tour de France in 1950 and the green jersey (points) in 1954, when he finished second overall in GC. He also won several Spring classics, including Fleche Wallone (twice), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (twice), the Tour of Romandie, and the Tour de Suisse.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tyler Cowen on Tenure

Over at the Marginal Revolution blog (here), Tyler Cowen has an interesting post about the debates over whether tenure in higher education should be abolished. The chief purpose and value of his post is in identifying the important issues that tenure-reform advocates have so far failed to address. He takes something of a beating from the anti-academic crowd in the comments, but I (another pointy-headed academic) think he's generally right.

That said, Tyler neglects the original purpose of tenure, which is to protect academics who promote unpopular ideas against retaliation. Many of the commentators who oppose tenure seem to do so because they disagree with the (often presumed) politics of  certain professors or, more broadly, the professoriate. If most academics agreed with Glenn Beck, my guess is that tenure would not presently be a political issue (or, perhaps, it would become a political issue for the left). But this is precisely why the original purpose of tenure remains important.

I would also point out that the abolishing tenure could have very different consequences in professional schools than, say, the liberal arts simply because the opportunity costs tend to be much higher for those who choose to become professors of law, medicine, business, etc. Most professors in those fields could earn far higher wages outside of academia; the same is not obviously true for English or Philosophy professors (much as I personally admire them). If the cost of tenure abolition for professional school academics were not offset, e.g., by increased wages, the average quality of that professoriate is likely to decline. No doubt those who blithely dismiss the value of higher education won't care about that, but the social costs resulting from lower levels of human-capital development could be significant.

Finally, tenure does seem to be declining in the academic marketplace. According to a recent piece in the New York Times (here), 57% of college professors had tenure or were on the tenure-track in 1975. As of 2007, that number had fallen to 31%. An ever-increasing number of students are being taught by part-time adjuncts. Whether or not this trend is good for society should be front and center in debates over tenure.

Happy 74th Birthday Justice Anthony Kennedy

The pivotal vote on the Supreme Court. Known for (1) making a voting majority, and (2) writing concurring opinions that (a) disagree with both the majority and the dissent and (b) do not offer clear guidance on what the rule should be.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No US Climate Legislation Until 2012 (At Least)

The New York Times is reporting (here) that Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid has given up on efforts to enact climate legislation this year. This is very bad news with for a couple of reasons.

First, given the likely outcome of the coming November elections, the Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress has lost its best chance to enact climate legislation. It seems unlikely that another opportunity will arise before the next presidential election in 2012 (and maybe not then, depending on that election's outcome).

Second, by failing to enact even a weak climate bill, the US has signaled the international community that it is not yet taking climate change seriously. That signal will (a) further erode the already slim American influence at international climate negotiations, and (b) reduce to nearly zero chances that a new international climate accord will be in place before the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

Chalk up a big victory for Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and energy-industry lobbyists. The only remaining hope is that EPA will act on its promise of promulgating climate regulations under the Clean Air Act. It remains to be seen, however, whether those regulations (if they are the same as or similar to what EPA has already proposed) will survive judicial review. I have my doubts.

Tourmalet

All I'll say (for now) about the final mountain stage of this year's Tour de France, is that the leaders averaged an incredible 19 mph. That is just super-human.

Happy 74th Birthday Tom Robbins

A lyrical and sometimes cosmically absurd American writer. Another Roadside Attraction (1971), his first novel, is still my favorite (but they're all great fun to read).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Brief Jens Video

... in which he tells his body to "shut up."



Hat tip: ABC Grandstand Sport

Happy Birthday Don Knotts (1924-2006)

One of the great comic actors in the history of television (even adjusting for Mr. Furley).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Am I Reading These Days?


I just finished reading Christopher Andrew's Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Knopf 2010). It was quite long at over 900 pages, but several chapters were absolutely fascinating, including those covering the initial creation of the intelligence services, World War II, and the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. I am, of course, left wondering what gems of information Andrew was not allowed to include.



I just started reading the following two books:



Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of  Britain, 1700-1850 (Yale 2009). Professor Mokyr makes the intuitive but surprisingly controversial argument that the "Industrial Revolution" in Britain was directly related to the "Enlightenment."







Stuart Banner, Who Owns the Sky? (Harvard 2008). Stuart is one of the very best legal historians in the business. In this gem of a book, he examines how changing technologies in the use of airspace led to changes in legal property rules. An extremely useful tome for one of my own current projects on how regulations not only limit property, but also protect and even create property.

Ad Hominem Blog Posts

My world view is far closer to Brad DeLong's (pro-free-trade "liberal") than Arnold Kling's (conservative-libertarian), but I am concerned with DeLong's seemingly increasing resort to ad hominem attack instead of reasoned argument. In a blog post today (here), he provides the following quote from Kling:
The Neo-Reactionaries: Some core beliefs that I share with the neo-reactionaries.... 3. American government has become structurally less libertarian and less democratic in recent decades.
DeLong then expresses his disagreement with Kling simply by referring to Kling as a "wingnut" and "the stupidest man alive." Now, it maybe that Delong and Kling are good friends who like to engage in trash talk (I have cyclist friends who like to do that). But such blog posts are uninformative and leave a bad taste in my mouth. It's no better, and deserves no more respect, than the unreasoned epitaphs spewed by under-informed and over-opinionated commentators on "cable news."

If that was the first post of DeLong's I had ever read, I would never read another. Instead of simply name-calling, I think bloggers owe it to their readers to engage in reasoned arguments. Perhaps DeLong believes that Kling's assertion does not warrant a reasoned response; if so, then he should at least (and, perhaps, at most) say that. Better yet, refute Kling by explaining the various ways in which the government grew more  libertarian, e.g., through deregulation, in recent decades.

Where's Jens?

If you're wondering, like I was, where Jens was during today's horrifically difficult stage of the TdF, he finished with the gruppetto - the sprinters and other large men who are allergic to hard climbing. Why was Jens way in the back? Unfortunately, he crashed on the descent from the first climb of the day, up the Col de Peyresourde. Here's what happened in Jens's own words (quoted here at Velonews.com):
“I’m doing 70 kilometers an hour on the first descent when my front tire explodes,” explained Voigt. “Before I hit the asphalt I actually manage to think that this is going to hurt. Both knees, elbows, hands, shoulders and the entire left side of my body were severely hurt.

“My ribs are hurting but hey, broken ribs are overrated anyway. Fortunately, I didn’t land on my face this time and I’m still alive.

“I was offered a ride on the truck that picks up abandoned riders but I’m not going to quit another Tour de France. Now there’s a rest day and Paris is not that far away.”
UPDATE: There's a great photo of Jens chasing to catch on to the gruppetto riding a junior-size loaner bike here. Check out those toe clips! He is truly amazing.

Happy Birthday Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

The modest priest whose work on plant hybridization was neglected until the beginning of the 20th century. When rediscovered, it provided the basis for modern genetics.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Spat Between Phil and Paul

Phil says it was perfectly fair for Contador to attack Schleck when the later had a mechanical problem near the top of the Port de Bales on today's stage; in fact, he says, Contador did not really attack but was just following others. Paul disagrees, and thinks Contador's move was beyond fair play, and betrays a certain lack of confidence in Contador's ability to beat Schleck fair and square in the mountains.

Again, I'm not Contador's biggest fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I tend to side with Phil on this one. It was Schleck who initiated the attack, and it's not Contador's fault that Schleck lost his chain after attacking. Moreover, the mechanical occurred at a crucial stage of the race, within 20k of the finish. Other riders cannot really be expected to hold their fire at that point in the race. I would note, however, that there were a lot of boos from the crowd when Contador pulled on the yellow jersey on the podium after today's stage.

Whether or not Contador's attack today was fair, I  look forward to seeing Schleck attack tomorrow with the same kind of venom that Vinokourov showed the day after he lost out to Rodriguez. I'm not clear what Team Saxo Bank's strategy will be. The climb up the Tourmalet comes pretty early in the stage, after two Cat 1 climbs, and there's a long way to go after the Tourmalet. Will Schleck go early and hope to hold off Contador and the rest of the wolves to the end? Will Saxo send another rider up the road early, who will then wait for Schleck to bridge up? If that's the plan, then Andy Schleck's brother Frank will be missed even more than he has been already. One thing's for sure: tomorrow's stage should be most interesting.

BTW, great riding by French racers in this year's TdF. Chavenel has two stage wins. Yesterday it was Christophe Riblon, and today Thomas Voekler rode away from the peloton for a solo win. Vive la France!

Happy 63d Birthday Brian May

Readers of this blog know that I generally dislike rankings, but in this case Brian May is without a doubt the greatest combination rock star/astrophysicist ever.


















Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Rides (of Others)

While I was in Chicago this weekend on the Tour of Eating, my friends and teammates were involved in various races and fast rides. Special kudos to Coach Bob for winning his race today, and coming fourth in two races yesterday. And kudos to Dr. Wilkes for hanging with the big boys on Saturday's CIBA ride, averaging upwards of 24 mph for nearly 50 miles. Sounds like today's ride to Elizaville with a very small group of riders was hardly less challenging.

While all my friends were racking up hard, fast miles this weekend, the only exercise I got was chewing food. I'd better get in some two-a-day rides this week.

Happy Birthday Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996)

His Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago 1962) made an enormous contribution to the philosophy of science, arguing famously that science does not advance in linear fashion but by "paradigm shifts" that occur only after existing theoretical foundations are rendered untenable by anomalies (non-conforming data). 



Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Article In Print (Finally)

Daniel H. Cole and Peter Z. Grossman, "Institutions Matter! Why the Herder Problem Is Not a Prisoners’ Dilemma, 69 Theory & Decision 219-231 (2010).

Here is the abstract:
In the game theory literature, Garrett Hardin’s famous allegory of the “tragedy of the commons” has been modeled as a variant of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, labeled the Herder Problem (or, sometimes, the Commons Dilemma). This brief paper argues that important differences in the institutional structures of the standard Prisoner’s Dilemma and Herder Problem render the two games different in kind. Specifically, institutional impediments to communication and cooperation that ensure a dominant strategy of defection in the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma are absent in the Herder Problem. Their absence does not ensure that players will achieve a welfare-enhancing, cooperative solution to the Herders Problem, but does create far more opportunity for players to alter the expected payoffs through cooperative arrangements. In a properly modeled Herder Problem—along the lines of an assurance game—defection would not always be the dominant strategy. Consequently, the Herder Problem is not in the nature of a Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The full article is available (behind a pay wall) here.

Vino Finds Redemption

In winning today's stage of the TdF, Alexander Vinokourov has responded in the fastest possible way to yesterday's disappointment (see here). Alberto Contador, who must be as relieved and delighted by Vino's stage win as Vino himself, was among the first to congratulate him after the finish. All's well that end's well on Team Astana this year.

Happy Birthday Alexius Meinong (1853-1920)

An under-appreciated philosopher whose theory of objects, which distinguished between "being" and "existence," influenced the works of Terence Parsons and Roderick Chisolm, among others. For Meinong, an object could have "being," even if it did not actually exist, simply because someone could "intend" or imagine it.  In this respect, it seems to me that Meinong's work was also important for the "possible worlds" device used by David Lewis, Saul Kripke and others (e.g., there is a "possible world" in which an actually non-existent object exists). In any case, Meinong's theory of objects seems to me consistent with the intuition that some non-existent beings, including fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, can seem more real than millions of  actually existing persons.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Alexander Vinokourov Meets the Real Alberto Contador

I've not yet seen any post-stage coverage of Alexander Vinokourov's response to what happened today in the TdF, but I'd be very interested to know how he feels. Today, Vino got to know the real Alberto Contador, the same all-for-me-and-me-for-me kind of rider that Lance Armstrong & Co. got to know so well at last year's TdF. Vino was off the front on his own within sight of a stage win, when Contador took advantage of an opportunity to take time back on Tour-leader Andy Schleck. After Schleck failed to respond to a non-threatening attack by Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Katusha), Contador jumped, taking Schleck by surprise. Contador then pulled Rodriguez past Vino, his own teammate, to the finish line, where Rodriguez out-sprinted Contador for the victory. Contador closed the gap on Schleck from 41 seconds to 31 seconds.

What Vino learned today was that Contador is a totally self-centered rider, willing to deny a teammate a probable stage win just to gain a few seconds for himself against a rival - reminiscent of Stage 9 last year, when Contador attacked his own team to deny his intra-team rival Lance Armstrong the yellow jersey.

I am assuming, of course, that Vino have won today had Contador not gone on the attack. But it's not at all clear that Rodriguez could have closed the gap on his own; and Contador was the one making the pace after the attack. With Vino up the road, most other teammates would have simply followed Rodriguez's wheel, and only attacked if and when he passed Vino. But, as we already know, Contador is not "most teammates."

From Contador's point of view, he was able to put time into his chief rival, and time is everything in the GC. But it was probably not a good move from the perspective of the team and team chemistry. Vino, himself, is known to be a self-centered and temperamental rider. Having announced that he would ride for Contador in this year's Tour could not have been easy for him. How hard will he work for Contador after this? And if he doesn't, will it make any difference? (Contador proved last year that he can win even riding in a splintered team.)

I'm no great fan of either Contador or Vinokourov (at least Contador is not a known drug cheat). I'm just fascinated by the potential for a repeat of the same kind of inter-personal and intra-team conflict that we saw on Team Astana last year, and wondering whether the outcome would be the same.

UPDATE: Here's what Vino is saying, publicly at least (see here).
“I wanted to be up the road to help Alberto if he needed it and to try to win the stage. I can understand why Alberto attacked – he needs to get time on Schleck,” Vinokourov said after finishing third. “Alberto is very strong and he will be even better in the Pyrénées. We are confident about Alberto in the coming stages. The GC is complicated for me. I will ride to help Alberto win the Tour with Astana.”

Weekend in Chicago

After early morning intervals in the park with Dr. Wilkes (giving me a round 250 miles for the last seven days), the family and I headed for Chicago to visit Father of Cyclingprof. What we typically do on these visits is, basically, go from one fine eatery to another, with short rest periods in between. So, instead of riding this  weekend, I'll be packing on a few unneeded pounds to burn off next week. In honor of all my friends riding RAIN (the 160-mile Ride Across Indiana) tomorrow, I'll be eating Beef Wellington at Wildfire.

Happy 37th Birthday Stefano Garzelli

Winner of the 2000 Giro d'Italia.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breaking TdF News

Mark Renshaw, lead-out man for HTC-Columbia Sprinter Mark Cavendish, has been kicked out of the Tour for head-butting Julian Dean, the lead-out man for Garmin-Transitions sprinter Tyler Farrar (see here). It wasn't obvious to me, watching the stage live, whether Renshaw was blocking Dean or Dean was impinging on Renshaw's line, but TdF officials must have had a better look on video tape. In ejecting Renshaw from the race, the officials did not mention the fact that, during the same sprint, Renshaw also blocked Farrar's line after he pulled off the front to spring Cavendish.

It seems a pretty extreme penalty for an incident in which no one was hurt - compare the paltry fines issued to two riders who engaged in fisticuffs after a stage a few days ago - but apparently the heightened risk of a crash at the front of a bunch sprint was enough for TdF officials to take strong action.

Happy Birthday Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

The original Dutch Master.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Is It Humanly Possible?

According to Robbie Ventura, on Stage 9 of the Tour, Jens Voigt burned more than 6,000 calories helping Andy Schleck ride into the yellow jersey? For the entire 5 hour 40 minute stage, Voigt reportedly averaged over 300 watts. Who the hell can do that? By the way, Voigt will be 39 in September.

Happy Birthday Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)


















Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Deep Water Oil Drilling Moratorium

The Department of the Interior today issued a new moratorium (see here) on deep water oil exploration and drilling to replace the one blocked by the federal courts for lack of substantial evidence in the record to support the moratorium (under the Administrative Procedures Act).

This new version should pass judicial review. Whereas the initial moratorium consisted in a single page, with little explanation (as if much explanation was needed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill), the new version is nearly 30 pages of evidence, analysis, and explanation.

Interview with Jens on TdF Rest Day

From Bicycling.com:

By the way, if you're not reading Jens's daily columns at Bicycling.com, you're missing some great stuff.

No Country for Large Men

How hard is it to race bikes up mountains? And how much do the mountains penalize body weight? Consider this: Fabian Cancellara is one of the world's strongest bike riders. No one can match him for power on the flats. Last Friday, Fabian Cancellara was in the yellow jersey. Then, the race started going up hill. After today's stage, just three days of racing later, Cancellara is in 99th place, half way down the General Classification and more than one hour behind race leader Andy Schleck. Why has he fallen so far so fast? It's simple: Cancellara weighs about 180 pounds; the guys who have passed him on the mountain climbs weigh 40-50 pounds less. If you want to get a visceral sense of the difference, try riding or even just walking up a long, fairly steep hill at a good pace; then, try doing the same thing carrying a 40-pound bag of sand on your shoulders.

I can empathize with Fabian. I know how it feels every time I chase my smaller riding buddies up the short but steep hills where I live.

I'm Just Sayin'...

Jens Voigt is a real mensch.

Happy 68th Birthday Roger McGuinn

Tied for my favorite Byrd with David Crosby. Fabulous guitar technique. And I'd rather hear him sing Bob Dylan songs than anyone else, including (especially) Bob Dylan.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Recovery Ride

After nearly 160 miles of tempo, and sometimes Lactate Threshold, riding this past weekend, I needed a true recovery ride this evening, and mostly got it. We had a nice group for the ride, including my quickly improving son Stefan. Occasionally, the pace rose above pure recovery (above 200 watts), but mostly it was very pleasant spin. And, of course, because my son was with me, it's an automatic five stars.

Rate this ride: *****

Final Conference Agenda: "The Evolution of Property Rights Related to Land and Natural Resources," Sept. 2010, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Click to enlarge.

Diminishing Hope for Climate Legislation in Congress

The Washington Post ran an interesting story this morning (here) about the surprising absence of any boost for climate legislation stemming from the BP oil spill. The story notes that, in the past, major environmental catastrophes have led to significant legislative action (e.g., the Santa Barbara oil spill led directly to the enactment in 1972 of the Clean Water Act). The article surmises that the poor state of the economy might be partly to blame.

In any case, time is running out for the Senate to pass climate change legislation before the November mid-term elections. After those elections, enacting even semi-serious climate legislation is likely to be much, much tougher, with Republicans expected to pick up a substantial number of seats in both houses of Congress. If climate legislation is not enacted this summer, then I would expect to see any real movement until after the 2012 presidential elections (and not then if Obama fails to win reelection).

Without US legislative action, international efforts to adopt a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol before 2012 are probably doomed. The best that can be hoped for would be an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, until such time as the US proves itself to be a serious partner in climate negotiations.

Jens on Stage 8 of the TdF

There are many reasons why Jens Voigt is among my favorite bike racers. One is that he gives such great quotes. Here is what he had to say about yesterday's stage of the TdF: "It started out just so hard I was like, 'Oh I think I'll just drop dead right here.'" (from Bicycling.com here).

When you Lose, Blame the Ref

The Dutch players, coach and fans are all over UK referee Howard Webb, after losing to Spain in yesterday's World Cup finale (see here, here, and here). I'm no great fan of Howard Webb, and he clearly made some mistakes yesterday - Webb blew one obvious corner kick for Holland, but whether Robben should have been awarded a penalty on another play seems to me to have been a close call - but frankly the Dutch were lucky to have even 10 men on the field at the end of the game. Nigel de Jong, who was one of the players blasting Webb after the game, should have been sent off in the first half, after sticking his studs into the solar plexus of Xabi Alonso. All things considered, Webb did a decent job under very difficult circumstances.

The Dutch, famous for playing total football, played a good deal of anti-football yesterday, in a largely unsuccessful effort to harass Spain out of possession. Despite the best efforts of the ever-impressive Wesley Sneijder, Holland's midfield was simply no match for Spain's. In fact, Spain had world-class midfielders sitting on its bench, who would have started for any other side in the tournament (including Brazil).

I should add in closing that, though I have nothing against Spain, I was cheering for Holland to win. However, the better team (at least on the day) won.

Happy Birthday Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)


















Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thoughts on Stage 8

Exciting stage today - the first real mountain climbs of this year's Tour. The announcers were bummed that Lance Armstrong has crashed his way out of contention for the GC. There's no doubt that he's ridden in bad luck this year; but as he himself has noted, he's had a lot of good fortune in the past. 

Personally, I'm glad that Lance is now out of contention for several reasons. (1) I never thought he was a real  contender  for the yellow jersey this year in the first place, and especially not after the Stage 3, where he lost significant time to all his rivals on the cobbles of southern Belgium and northern France; (2) it will finally force the commentators to give up the Amstrong v. Contador narrative, which they've drummed to death, and spend more time covering other contenders, including not only Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans but Roman Kreutzinger (my dark horse pick for a young rider to break through at the Tour this year); (3) because Lance is so far behind, the GC contenders may allow him to escape for a possible stage victory in the next two weeks - something that he was unlikely to achieve if he remained within striking distance of the yellow jersey.

The race commentators have noted that Lance will now race in support of Levi Leipheimer, the highest ranked member of Team Radio Shack in 8th position. But Levi's already so far down on the three leaders (Evans, Schleck and Contador) that a podium finish seems more a pipe dream than a real possibility. In fact, it seems more likely than not that the the current top three on GC will comprise the podium at the end of the race, barring unforeseen accidents. Of the three, Evans, who as usual lacks a strong team to support him in the mountains,  is probably the most susceptible to falling off the podium. But even if he falters, there are already too many GC contenders standing between Leipheimer and the top three, including Menchov and the aforementioned Kreutzinger. Several other GC contenders trail Leipheimer by a half a minute or less.

Sunday Century

Another beautiful morning in Central Indiana meant another Nebo Ridge group ride from the coffee shop in Zionsville. Today's ride was 80 miles with a somewhat smaller group than yesterday (a number of people are racing today). Thanks to Sam for organizing the ride and planning the route. And thanks to Wayde for enforcing the speed limit, at least until Scott and David started laying down some serious rubber in the hills north of Zionsville after the 70-mile mark. The group averaged 19.6 for the 80 miles. More importantly, with the 10-mile ride from home to the ride and the 10 miles back again, I got in a perfect century - 100 miles on the nose. All in all, an excellent weekend of cycling.

Recovery ride tomorrow.

Rate this ride: *****

Happy Birthday John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

Great statesman; not so great politician.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday Coffee Shop Ride

After a few (much needed) rest days off the bike, I rode the Zionsville Coffee Shop Ride, lead by my esteemed  Nebo Ridge teammates Wayde and Aaron. The weather was glorious and the ride was great. Our large group of more than 20 riders averaged 21 mph for the 42 miles, including a climb up the infamous Fishback "wall" and a longer but somewhat easier climb up Ford Rd into Zionsville. The pace of the ride was fairly consistent, and easy for those of us sitting in and drafting. We weren't just riding "junk miles" however. On a couple of occasions  the tempo picked up to 25-28 mph for a mile or two. David, Ken, Tommy, Mark, and I got in an additional 16 miles or so, riding to and from the coffee shop.

On tap for tomorrow: an 80-mile ride from the Nebo Ridge Bike Shop.

Rate this ride: *****

The Best Use of Stimulus Funds I've Read About

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee received stimulus funds from the government to develop lower-cost carbon composite materials (see here). I don't see how this provides any real short-term stimulus to the economy. But more importantly, it could lead to lower-cost carbon bicycles for consumers like me.

Happy Birthday Fred Gwynne (1926-1993)

Harvard University, Class of 1951.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Assessing Today's Stage of the TdF

I yield the floor to Jens Voigt (from here): "[I]t was a long and boring stage."

What's Levi Talking About?

Here's an easy one-question quiz as we head into what I hope to be a great weekend of cycling.

Today, Levi Leipheimer gave the following quote to the press (see here):
 "It's stressful, the speeds are high, the skills of the riders are improving all the time, nobody gives an inch, and every inch of the asphalt is taken. The sport is definitely evolving."
  Was Levi talking about:
     a: the Tuesday evening World Championships at Nebo Ridge?
     b: the Killer Bs on Thursdays?
     c. the Wilkes/Raynor group everyday?
     d. the Tour de France?


(Hint: "skills of the riders are improving all the time" should be a giveaway. More Neboites need to attend Coach Steve's skills training sessions.)

Do Conservatives Discount Future Harm from Climate Change and Government Debt at Different Rates?

One of the conservative arguments against making substantial present investments in climate change mitigation is that future generations will be materially better off than present generations because of economic growth; they will have more resources for coping with climate change. Therefore, present generations do not need to make substantial sacrifices to avoid climate change for the benefit of future generations (see, e.g., here).

One of the conservative arguments against additional government stimulus of the economy is that the debt burden will be imposed on our children and grandchildren, which is unfair to them (see, e.g., here). There is no acknowledgement that future generations might be better able to deal with the debt because of higher living standards from economic growth, compared to current generations living through a recessionary period.

Can these two conservative positions be reconciled in a consistent analysis with a single social discount rate?

Thoughts on the LeBron James Sideshow

The NBA season ended a month ago, but you wouldn't have known that from all of the media frenzy surrounding LeBron James in the last few weeks. James is widely considered the NBA's best player, apparently by those who don't count winning in the playoffs as a necessary quality for a great player. In seven seasons with his hometown Cavaliers, James has never won a championship. Over the past couple of weeks, James has been playing entire cities (Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, among others) against one another, as he dangled before them the possibility of his regal presence. Last night, sports hype reached an all-time high (low?) when, in in a live telecast on ESPN, James announced that he was moving to Miami, where he will team-up with a couple of other superstars worthy of his company.

When Michael Jordan retired for the second time in 1999, I too left the NBA, feeling that there was not much left to see in a sport whose talisman had come and gone, and which was increasingly dominated by spoiled prima donnas. With all due respect to Kobe Bryant - clearly the greatest player of the post-Jordan era - I have not missed it. I've watched bits and pieces of games, but I have not watched an entire game since "His Airness" won his final championship against Utah. Like him, I feel like I went out on top. And the LeBron James soap opera confirms it.

In one, albeit perverse, respect, the James sideshow has piqued my interest. As with all teams that try to literally purchase a championship through the free-agent market - for soccer fans, think Manchester City or Chelsea in the EPL - I now have a strong interest in seeing Miami fail. Call it schadenfreude if you will. And, by the way, I would likely have felt the same about the Bulls, had the King bestowed himself on them.

Happy 42d Birthday Paolo DiCanio

What do you get when you combine a prima donna, Italian flare, and immense talent? You get this:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are the Wheels of Justice Greased in the Fifth Circuit?

The Obama Administration has appealed a federal district court ruling overturning its six-month moratorium on deep-sea oil drilling in the wake of the BP Deepwater oil spill. I previously blogged about that ruling here. The Financial Times is reporting (here) that the Fifth Circuit has refused to reinstate the moratorium while it considers the appeal. That is not particularly surprising, and I do not expect the Fifth Circuit to overturn the District Court's ruling. The Obama Administration has a weak case on the merits, which it tacitly acknowledged when it announced that it would be issuing a replacement moratorium based on stronger evidentiary support.

Another interesting aspect of the case, as it sits before the Fifth Circuit, is the continuing problem of potential judicial bias arising from financial interests individual judges have in the oil and gas industry. As noted in my previous post, Judge Feldman was substantially invested in that industry, including in some companies that stood to benefit from his ruling. The problem appears even worse on the Fifth Circuit where, according to this report by the Alliance for Justice, 14 of the 20 judges (including senior judges) hold substantial financial investments in oil and gas. Four judges have holdings worth millions of dollars; six others have oil and gas investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, all but a few judges on the Fifth Circuit represented oil and gas companies as attorneys before appointment to the bench. Can we really expect these judges to decide cases that might significantly affect their personal wealth without bias? If so, could someone please provide me with the theory that would support such an expectation of super-human judicial independence?

Thoughts on Stage 5

Yawn! Well, at least Cavendish got it right today. Impressive lead out by Team Garmin for Tyler Farrar, who hasn't yet gotten back to normal strength following his Stage 2 crash. If he can win even one stage during this Tour, riding with a sprained elbow and fractured wrist, it would be a most impressive feat.

Can We Finally Put "Climategate" Behind Us?

A report (see here) released yesterday by an independent review board chaired by Sir Muir Russell has largely exonerated the climate scientists caught up in the so-called "Climategate" scandal, which resulted after the publication of illegally hacked e-mails. The findings include the following:

*  "we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists is not in doubt"

* "we did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments"

* "But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openess..."

Will this report finally put the "Climategate" controversy to rest? It's doubtful, if the response of right-wing media is any indication. James Delingpole, writing in The Telegraph (here), refers to the Russell report as a "whitewash." So, too, does Christine Hall of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (here). FoxNews.com says that "British Panel Criticizes 'Climate-Gate' Scientists but Clears Them of Bias."

Happy Birthday Percy Grainger (1882-1961)

A very creative and underrated composer.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thoughts on Stage 4

Mark Cavendish is a great rider, but should probably shut his mouth and ride his bike. Today's stage was perfectly suited for him; he just didn't have anything when the time came for the bunch sprint. 

By contrast, we learned that Ale Jet's win in Stage 1 was no fluke; he's come to the Tour in excellent form. It's great to see him back sprinting at the highest level. 

I was also impressed to see Tyler Farrar contesting the final sprint. With his fractured wrist and sprained elbow, it's amazing that he's still in the Tour at all. 

To Spend or Cut Spending, That Is the Question

Nearly all economists agree about one thing: businesses have capital on hand but are not investing it, which reduces the need to hire more workers. What they seem to disagree about is the reason why businesses are hoarding their capital, rather than investing it. One group believes that the reason has something to do with business psychology, as increasing levels of government debt give rise to concerns about future inflation and necessary tax increases. Another group - the Keynesians, led by Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, believe the cause is simply lax demand in private markets, which could and should be stimulated by further government spending (at least in large countries with good credit ratings). That is to say, government should  borrow and invest in public-works projects the capital that businesses currently are not investing.

I am not an economist, and I'm especially not a macroeconomist, but the story Krugman, DeLong, and other Keynesians tell rings truer to me than the story told by the deficit hawks. At least it is rooted in a well-established macroeconomic theory (for whatever that's worth).

Whichever side is right, this is not just an idle academic contest. The real-world implications of additional stimulus/public debt versus contraction of  public spending could be enormous. If the Keynesians are right (as I suspect they are), reducing public spending now could lead to a double-dip recession or, at least, a slower recovery. If the deficit hawks are right, further stimulus could lead to higher levels of inflation (of which there is currently no sign), tax increases, and a contagious version of the Greek economic crisis.

As of now, the deficit hawks seem to be prevailing with the politicians. At the recent G20 summit, despite President Obama's arguments to the contrary, the leading economies agreed that reigning in public debt was the paramount concern. If the Keynesians are right, we should expect the economic recovery - especially recovery of labor markets - to be delayed (at least).

Fixing CAIR

Today, the EPA issued a new proposed rule to fix the flaws in its Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which the D.C. Circuit vacated, but allowed to remain temporarily in effect, in North Carolina v. EPA, 531 F.3d (D.C. Cir. 2008). The proposed rule can be read here. According to EPA's regulatory impact analysis for the proposed rule (here), the social benefits would exceed the social costs by up to a factor of 10.

If adopted as promulgated, the rule is sure to be challenged in court. The question will be whether the agency has done enough to meet the D.C. Circuit's prior objections to the CAIR. I may have more to say about this issue after I've had a chance to more carefully read the entire proposed rule, which runs to 1,361 double-spaced pages.

Thoughts on Stage 3

The cobbles of Southern Belgium and Northern France did not disappoint yesterday. It was, perhaps, the last truly exciting day of racing until the Tour gets to the Alps in a few days' time. (I won't even be paying attention to today's stage - one for the sprinters - until the last kilometer or so.)

The big winners on the day included: (1) Fabian Cancellara, who recovered his yellow jersey after letting Chavenel have it the day before, despite the fact that he was working as a draft horse for Andy Schleck and not riding for his own glory; (2) Thor Hushovd, who, a day after complaining about the neutralization of the stage, got his stage victory and the green jersey.

The big losers on the stage were, in this order: (1) Frank Schleck, who crashed out of the tour with a collarbone broken in three places; (2) Lance Armstrong, who flatted at the worst possible time and now faces a literal uphill battle to overtake the yellow jersey; and (3) Sylvain Chavenel who lost the yellow jersey because of multiple mechanical problems that required several bike changes. Young Geraint Thomas of Team Sky, who has been a revelation throughout the first week of the tour, finished second on the stage. And Canadian Ryder Hesjedal was very impressive in the breakaway, and even more impressive for contesting the sprint finish after being caught by the group containing Hushovd, Cancellara, Schleck, and Evans. He finished fourth on the stage.

It is perhaps too early to say that the podium is already set  - Evans, Schleck and Contador (though not necessarily in that order). Wiggins, Kreutzinger and Armstrong are all within 2 minutes of Evans. However, a 1-2 minute advantage after the third stage and before any mountains have been climbed is quite substantial.

Going Tubeless

I bought a new pair of HED Bastogne wheels recently, and at the urging of Dr. Wilkes had them converted to use with tubeless tires. I'm running Hutchinson Intrepid tires on them. Even on my already silky-smooth titanium bike, the tubeless ride, in combination with the wide rims of the HEDs, noticeably improves ride quality, while eliminating the possibility of pinch flats. If I ever get a big enough hole in the tires to cause them to flat, I can just slap in an ordinary tube and keep running them.

I haven't yet decided to convert my HED Jet C2 60s to tubeless. Doing so would require the continual use of a valve extender, which is a bit of a complicating factor.

It costs about $30 to convert the wheels to tubeless, and the tubeless tires are a bit more expensive than regular tires (mainly because only two companies currently make tubeless tires - Hutchinson and Specialized). I suspect that more tire companies will go tubeless in the new couple years, and the increased competition should cause prices to fall.

A New Twist in the Fabregas Drama

A couple of months ago, Cesc Fabregas requested a move from Arsenal to Barcelona (see here), which has been chasing him for the past few seasons (after selling him to Arsenal several years ago as a Junior). Barcelona subsequently tendered an offer, which Arsenal deemed grossly insufficient. Then came the World Cup, where Fabregas has been plying his trade (mostly off the bench) for Spain. Within the last week, there were two interesting developments. First, Fabregas has reiterated his love for Arsenal, and said that it was possible he would remain in London, at least for one more season (see here). Second, Barca's new President Sandro Rosell announced that the Catalan club would not pay Arsenal's 40-50 million Euro asking price for Fab (see here). Now comes what could be the clincher. Media reports today indicate that Barcelona is suffering from financial problems that have prevented it from paying players' wages for the past month (see here).

Gunners fans should not be able to breathe a sigh of relief. However much Fabregas wants to return home, he will want a regular pay check. Moreover, it is now clear that Barca will not be able to meet Arsenal's price to acquire Fabregas.

Happy Birthday Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Sorry Ringo, but Mahler was a genius.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stage 3 Preview

If you've never watched a bicycle race before, today would be a good day to start.

Today's stage of the Tour de France is among the most highly anticipated of this year's edition. In an homage to the toughest single-day bike race in the the world, Paris-Roubaix, a.k.a., "The Hell of the North," the Tour visits the cobbles of southern Belgium before finally heading into France. The day is sure to be hellish for any rider who suffered arm, shoulder or rib injuries from crashing during yesterday's stage.

















This is the day many of the GC contenders have been dreading. Some of them could lose big time today. And that creates some interesting strategic choices for several riders. Will Lance Armstrong and Team Radio Shack look to put more time into Alberto Contador before the Tour gets to the mountains, where Contador will have a personal (if not a team) advantage? Will Fabian Cancellara, who dominated Paris-Roubaix earlier this year, seek to recover the yellow jersey, or will he be required to marshal the Schleck brothers through what could for them be a very difficult day? Will Thor Hushovd take out his anger on the field for neutralizing yesterday's stage (see the preceding post)?

Here are some predictions: Lance will attack Contador. Cancellara will be given the green light by Saxo Bank to go for the win. Hushovd will ride with unparalleled (possibly too much) aggression. But look out for Juan Antonio Flecha of Team Sky, who has finished on the podium of Paris-Roubaix on two or three occasions.

The God of Thunder Is Angry

According to news reports (here), Thor Hushovd (a.k.a., "The God of Thunder) is not at all happy about the peloton's decision to neutralize yesterday's stage after nearly half the field crashed because of oil on a descent. Hushovd did not crash and could have taken the opportunity to pick up points in the Green Jersey (points) competition (among sprinters). Hushovd might also have been able to chase down stage winner Sylvain Chavenel, had the stage not be neutralized.

It is worth noting that Hushovd's teammate and GC contender Carlos Sastre, whom Hushovd did not mention in his self-centered remarks, also made it through unscathed, and could have taken an advantage over virtually all the other GC contenders who were caught in the crashes. Sastre, however, did not complain about the neutralization of the race (see here).

Contrast Hushovd's attitude with that of Fabian Cancellara, who gave up something much more valuable than a few points in neutralizing the race: another day in the yellow jersey and possibly another stage win. Like Hushovd, he might have been able to chase down Chavenel, who was only one minute ahead with 20k to go. Cancellara's decision was not, however, purely unselfish. His team's two GC contenders, Frank and Andy Schleck, crashed and had to chase up to the peloton. However, Cancellara's decision also allowed the other top GC contenders, including Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, to catch back on.

My gut reaction is that Cancellara's action was praise worthy and Hushovd's opposition was selfish.  But it's not so simple. I suspect that that Hushovd might have favored neutralizing the race if Sastre had crashed with the other GC contenders. And I wonder whether Cancellara would have wanted to neutralize the race if the Schlecks had not crashed.

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Monday, July 5, 2010

VandeVelde Out of Tour; Farrar Barely In

Garmin-Transitions suffered more than any other team from the crashes in Stage 2 today. According to this report at Cyclingnews.com, GC contender Christian VandeVelde, who seems to crash out of just about every big stage race, is out after breaking a couple of ribs. Meanwhile, Garmin announced that their sprinter, Tyler Farrar, will start tomorrow's stage, despite suffering a sprained elbow and fractured wrist. On a normal stage of the Tour, such injuries would be excrutiatingly painful. But tomorrow is not a normal Tour stage; it is a mini-version of the Spring classic, Paris-Roubaix, otherwise known as the "Hell of the North." Who the hell is crazy enough to even try to ride dozens of kilometers of the world's worst pave (cobbles) with a broken wrist and sprained elbow? Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. IMHO, Garmin should withdraw Farrar from the Tour now, and try to get him healed up in time for the Vuelta in September.

Speaking of the cobbles tomorrow, iff the Schleck brothers are not too banged up from their crashes today, I expect Cancellara to make a concerted effort to recover the yellow jersey he gave up today to protect their GC positions. Still no word, however, on the condition of Andy Schleck, who looked pretty  beat up immediately after the crash, but then seemed to recover a bit on the bike.

Cycling Porn to Drool Over

The 2009 Fondriest TF2:

Stage 2 of the Tour de Carnage

After 3  big crashes in the last 3 kilometers of yesterday's stage into Brussels, a bunch of riders have gone down on a very wet downhill portion of today's stage to Spa, including one of the race favorites Andy Schleck, who may well have broken his collarbone. However, Schleck borrowed Matt Breschl's bike and carried on. We probably won't have a accurate indication of his health until tomorrow morning. Cancellara and others who did not go down, have sat up at the front of the peloton, to wait for those who fell and others who were caught behind the crash. This has created a great opportunity for the two riders in the break, including Frenchman Sylvain Chavenel.

UPDATE: Chavenel won and took the yellow jersey. The peloton, led by Fabian Cancellara (who is clearly a true mensch), neutralized the rest of the race so that no one sprinted for second place. It's not clear whether this was a protest - it was bad weather conditions, not a dangerous route, that caused the crash - or simply a sign of respect to several GC contenders, including Schleck and VandeVelde, who were caught up in the crash.

INJURY REPORT: Velonews.com has the complete list of casualties here. It will be interesting to see who among them is not at the start line for tomorrow's vicious stage across the cobbles to Arenberg. 

Listening to My Body

I was supposed to be at Coach Bob's house this morning at 7:15 to ride to the CIBA ride, which left from Brownsburg at 8 am. I dutifully woke up at 5:30 to get ready, but my legs felt quite sore and my whole body felt tired. So, I sent out a text message to the guys saying I wasn't coming, and went back to bed. At my age, I need more time off the bike to recuperate. Although, I won't be completely off the bike today. Coach Steve is doing skills training this evening, which Stefan and I will attend. But that won't really count as a ride.

Happy Birthday Ernst Mayr (1904-2005)

Among the most important evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, Mayr contributed immensely to the synthesis of Darwinian natural selection and Mendelian genetics. He was also a fine writer. I highly recommend his The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance (Belknap Harvard 1985).














Photo from Nature.com

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I'll Take Basil Rathbone Anyday

I'm not much of a movie-watcher. I watch only a few films each year, and usually not in theaters. This evening, my family persuaded me to watch the latest Sherlock Holmes film staring Robert Downey Jr on Pay-Per-View. As a  fan of the Doyle stories, as well as the old Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films, I thought it might be worth a look. I was wrong.

It was a pathetically bad action movie, filmed in a style reminiscent of the Harry Potter films (which I generally prefer to this tripe), only darker and more violent. Whenever Downey Jr. said anything, I had a difficult time understanding through his fake English accent (I had no such trouble understanding Jude Law), and I was put off by Downey Jr's over-acting, for instance in the dinner scene with Watson's intended fiancee.

I gave up on the film after about 20 minutes. I think I'll watch the end of today's Tour stage for the third time instead.

Sunday (Im)Moderate Ride

I awoke with sore legs and a tired body this morning, but ready for the "moderate" 50-mile ride Dr. Wilkes had called for this morning. Unfortunately, three of the eight riders who showed up at Fishback Creek Academy at 7 am apparently misread the instructions, and thought it was supposed to be an "immoderate" ride.

Larry, Bob and Brian shredded the group from the get-go. We lost sight of them as we turned onto Hunt Club Rd in Zionsville, just a few miles into the ride. Fortunately, Karl had announced at the start that he was on a recovery day, and intended to ride a truncated route. So, after the racers waited up to regroup, we split into two groups. David continued on a longer, faster ride north with Larry, Bob and Brian. Big Frank, Tommy, and I turned back with Karl.

In the end, I had a good recovery ride. 26 miles at an easy pace. That makes 136 miles from Friday evening through this morning.

Rate this ride: Immoderate ride: *
                      Recovery ride ****

Happy Birthday Gerard Debreu (1921-2004)

Nobel laureate in Economics, 1983, primarily for his mathematical contributions to general equilibrium theory.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Post-Ride Nutrition

A reader has asked me for tips on post-ride nutrition. I'm probably not the best person to ask, as I have questionable nutritional habits - I usually eat everything I can find around the house after riding - and I'm one of, if not the, most over-weight rider in my group. I could certainly stand to lose 15-20 pounds. With that as an important caveat, the keys to a quick recovery after a tough and/or long ride are to (1) start the ride well fueled; (2) make sure you eat and drink well during the ride; (2) get fluids, protein, and carbs into the system within about 45 minutes after the ride.

Before today's ride, I had a bowl of Honey-Nut Cherrios, a banana, a cup of coffee, and a big glass of water.

During the ride, I consumed too large bottles of water (one good gulp every ten minutes or so), each with two scoops of Perpetuem and one scoop of Heed (both Hammer Nutrition products), a bottle of Gatorade (purchased during a SAG stop), one Clif Bar, a banana, 3-4 ounces of Hammer gel (an ounce or two per hour), two Hammer Endurolyte capsules at each SAG stop (we stopped twice), and 12-16 ounces of Coke (purchased at the last SAG stop). If the Dairy Queen in Lizton had been open, I probably would have had a milkshake, rather than the Coke. (BTW, if you don't pee within a reasonably short time after finishing the ride, you probably didn't drink enough during the ride.)

When I got home today, I ate reasonably well. My wife had made scrambled eggs with scallions for breakfast. So, I had some of those and two slices of black bread (with Smart Balance butter substitute). I drank one glass of iced-coffee (which is an excellent recovery drink), followed by a glass of slightly watered-down grapefruit juice, and a glass of plain water. Between those fluids and my shower, I felt pretty well rehydrated. Because I have a ride early tomorrow, I will try to eat sensibly, every 2-3 hours in small doses, throughout the rest of the day.

Caveat: What I have said about my own eating and drinking before, during and after rides should not be taken as nutritional advice. For those who want quality nutritional advice for riding, I can recommend a good coach. Also, what works for one person may not work for another; different riders may need less (or more) food and drink than I consume.  In addition, the other crucial factor in recovery, aside from nutrition, is proper stretching, which I do at least once, and often twice, during the day after a ride.

TdF: Prologue Time Trial

I'm watching the Tour de France's Prologue time trial now. Roads in Rotterdam are wet, but may yet dry out for the late starters. Tony Martin has the best time so far, but several big names have yet to start. I will be very surprised if "Sparticus" (Fabian Cancellara) is not wearing the yellow jersey at the start line tomorrow.

UPDATE: No surprise. Cancellara's in yellow. He put 10 seconds into second place Tony Martin in the 10 km prologue. I expect he'll keep the yellow jersey, and could even extend his lead, at least through Stage 3. He may not lose it until they reach the Alps.

What Happened to Argentina?

Because of this morning's long ride (see the preceding post), I missed all of the Germany-Argentina match. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the outcome: Germany 4 - Argentina 0. I'm not all that surprised that Germany won, but the score suggests a rout, which I don't think anyone anticipated. With the confidence eanred from that kind of result, the German team must now be favorites to lift the World Cup trophy.

Best Ride of the Year (So Far)

With an almost ideal combination of excellent weather, distance, and superb route (thanks Bill!), today's group ride was the best of the year so far. We started at 7:30, when the temperature was still below 60. By the end of the ride, it had warmed up to 78. The wind was not to bad at 6-7 mph, consistently from the southeast, and humidity was tolerable.

Here's today's route:

























We had an excellent group of riders, including Bill and Chris, David, Karl, Tommy, Ken, Brian, Pete, Frank, Jeff, and Bob (who left us after the first 45 minutes because he's racing in Marion later this afternoon). The 70-mile route (not including 5 miles to and from home), started and ended at Fishback Academy in Trader's Point, taking us through Lebanon, Jamestown, North Salem, Danville, Lizton, and Pittsboro. We averaged 19.5 mph for the 70 miles, including a few sections of soft-pedaling.

Rate this ride: *****

Happy Birthday Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Substitute Goods

The Guardian is gleefully welcoming (here) former readers of the The Times, which Rupert Murdoch and Co. have taken behind a paywall. Granted, neither the Guardian nor any other newspaper in the UK is a perfect substitute for The Times. The Times is more right-leaning and The Guardian is more left-leaning. I suspect that former Times readers are more likely to gravitate to the right-leaning Telegraph. Others, like me, who formerly perused 4 different UK papers each day (the Independent, in addition to the Times, Guardian and Telegraph) will now look at only 3. I will miss Anatole Kaletsky's invariably interesting columns, but not much else.

In any case, readers still have plenty of price-free options to get UK news. For that reason, I would predict that The Times will revert to open-access for on-line news within six months to a year.

A Great Sports Weekend: World Cup and Tour de France

For international sports fans (at least those who enjoy watching soccer and cycling), it's going to be a great weekend. The quarterfinals of the World Cup got off to a great start today, with the Netherlands beating Brazil. The Dutch are the best footballing nation never to have won the World Cup, and it's great to see them making a real run at it this year. Tomorrow, Germany v. Argentina could be epic. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if Paraguay upset Spain in Saturday's later game.

Also tomorrow, the Tour de France starts in Rotterdam (making this a truly memorable weekend for the Dutch).  The race for the general classification looks wide open this year. The defending Champion, Alberto Contador, has not been on his best form in the lead up to the race, although he could definitely ride himself into form during the 3 weeks of the Tour. Other contenders include last year's runner-up Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong, who has announced that this will be his last TdF. Armstrong clearly is not the rider he once was, but he has a very strong team, which could help carry him to another podium finish. The other "usual suspects" include Cadel Evans, Brad Wiggins, and Carlos Sastre. But I don't give any of them much of a chance. I'm more excited about some younger challengers, including Roman Kreutzinger of Team Liquigas and Edvald Boassan-Hagen of HTC-Columbia.  Here's the route map for this year's Tour:
























Locally this weekend, the Wilkes/Raynor group is planning to ride 150 miles this weekend.