Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More angst from the Tour

This morning's Jackass Award: So Iban Mayo's great comeback to the Tour was explained yesterday afternoon... by using a substance for which there has been a reliable test since 1999.

But it seems that Meat has been stirring things up continuously. Aided and abetted by Werner Franke, Germany's anti-doping expert, they are re-hashing whether Alberto Contador is the 'A.C.' named in the Operacion Puerto documents. It seems that Jörg Jacksche is now trying to reap as much as he can, or wreak as much as he can, from his own complicity in said fiasco: "His motive is partly to soothe his conscience but also to strike a deal with Pound, and it is this revelation which may cause problems for Contador."

Trust but Verify has a nice little reminder about Werner Franke (who seems to look eerily like Brian Cox's evil double-agent from the Bourne Supremacy).

The UCI cleared Contador to race the Tour after it concurred with Dr. Fuentes's statements that Contador (and Vicente Ballester) were riders who had been spuriously named, and for whom there was no proof of contact with the good gynecologist.

Again, my stake in this is simply to say that one can't whine -- "It may be called the Tour de France, but until the credibility of the race can be restored, it's not the Tour de France." -- and then make a career out of undermining that same glorious race in its 11th, 12th, and 13th hours.

From the Archives: wait till Meat reads the Regal Vizsla and discovers this piece of conclusive evidence from June 2006 that this year's race is even more doomed.

"German press agency dpa has reported that Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer had confirmed information according to which his Tour de France leader, American Levi Leipheimer, had possible contacts with controversial preparatore Michele Ferrari. At the start of stage five in Beauvais, Holczer admitted that Leipheimer had stayed in the same hotel during a training camp on Spanish island Tenerife last year. "But he assured me once again that he isn't working with the Italian," said Holczer.""

Breaking News: Oscar Pereiro and Manolo Saiz may have ordered pizza from the same restaurant in the same year. Perhaps the media should be informed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Vizsla Angst

We knew this would probably happen, but we thought he'd passed it already. I also have a theory, or rule for life with dogs, whichever, that says that one day a month their circuits get all shorted out and they seem to forget everything they knew.

Maybe yesterday and today were those days. I hope so.

Momo turned two this past June and was starting to test boundaries gently. So I started walking him with his e-collar on again just to be able to remind him gently when he thought he'd try it again. But he seems to be struggling because he's genuinely torn between jealousy and protectiveness, and love for his little brother and a little antipathy towards me and Meg. He loves Jozsi even though his little brother's favorite after-dinner game is 'The Flying Death-Clamp' which involves leaving terra firma, mouth open, eager to make a landing on whatever piece of Momo he hits, and then sinking in his puppy fangs. Most of the time, Momo takes it all lying on his back.

So, we're going to experiment with some seperate walks and obedience training and see what that happens. It may be that two dogs and two people is actually less than the one-person-to-dog unit of measurement that you would intuitively think it might be. (And sadly, Momo doesn't seem to understand my telling him that we're going bird-hunting in 4 weeks. And that he's the star.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Le Tour, c'est fini... enfin!

Had my fingers crossed all morning to try and ward off any stray dogs, rabid journalists, delirious spectators, or French customs officers swooping down into the peloton in a final attempt to farce-up the whole thing. Or maybe some weird Day of the Jackal thing with a pseudo-invalid trying to shoot Alberto Contador... and that would be the 1973 version not the crappy Bruce Willis-remake.

1) Alberto Contador, nice win! Shame he had to waste so much energy trying to gut The Chicken, but nice job. I hope his contract is up for negotiation again soon -- and that the team-formerly-known-as-Discovery will have the means to keep him.
2) Despite some rumoring (no doubt egged on by those toads in the American print-media) that he had tested positive after his win in Stage 9, Mauricio Soler has most definitely earned his keep for his sponsors, Barloworld.
3) How Kim Kirchen has any energy left, I have no idea. This guy rode really hard all spring. I hope he gets to put his feet up for a bit.
4) Cadel Evans: he's a slight man and perhaps I slighted him, too. If he had the strength of a Rabobank or a Discovery team behind him, he might well have saved enough energy by the final TT to have put the hurt on Contador. But an impressive ride for the Aussie.
5) Team Chinggis: who you ask? well, while I lost some points to my friend, Dan, my fantasy cycling team remains in first-place in our league. Fortunately, despite the departure of Team Astana (with Vino and Klöden), I still had enough 'clean' (or 'clean-enough') riders to eek out a win over Dan's Team Gromit and Patrick's Esbota.

And so, as you can tell, my bold predictions of three-weeks ago have not come true: I suggested the top-4 would be Vino, Klöden, Valverde (who ended up a respectable 6th), and Leipheimer (who ended up 3rd).

Stay tuned. I'm sure there'll be more excitement to come. And Meat will probably provide it.

breathe deeply now...

"Think 'steamhammer and walnut'.... om mani padme hum..." There was me thinking that maybe we'd get to the glorious final stage of the Tour de France without someone in the media pissing me off. I hope Alex Massie goes after this jackass again, but George Vecsey has it coming.

(Happily for my blood-pressure I don't have an on-line subscription to the New York Times. I discovered that George has been peddling misanthrope all week, not just rolling it out for Sundays. On July 26th, he did this -- "Whole World Is Watching as Wheels Come Off the Tour" -- which be begins with, "How much longer will the public put up with juiced cyclists dropping out of what used to be the world’s greatest cycling race?")

His print piece in today's NYT is "Cycling Fans Retain Passion in Face of Scandal". In the op-ed piece, he claims that he gets e-mail and that he reads it -- but just uses trite deflection techniques to continue dribbling.

Enigma #1: When was the Tour de France 'the world's greatest cycling race'? Was this before, during, after Tom Simpson exploded and died on the Mont Ventoux? Or before Jacques Anquetil or Fausto Coppi died 'prematurely'? George and Dick Pound (who I think I have to refer to just as 'Meat' from now on) have this fantasy that cycling was clean at some mythic time. I would love to have the comfort of knowing that cycling was clean, but I can also settle with knowing that a race result was potentially obtained by those clever enough to pass a drug test or two.

Enigma #2: As uncovered here at the Regal Vizsla, George, of all people, should be upset at the cheating journalists at the IHT who give his journalistic victories away to others. And so, when he includes a paragraph allegedly drawn from his correspondents' e-mails, about how if business executives, politicians, "maybe even the odd journalist" (p.8), were held to the same standards of honesty, they would also find themselves being fired. His response, and he has reason to be upset with journalists' lack of integrity, is to dismiss it with the patronising remark, "This loyalty to cycling is touching." George is clearly such a sanguine shit that I am reminded of the first encounter between James Bond and Vesper Lynd in the new Casino Royale. Were you abandoned as a child, an orphan, George? You take on the role of the New York Times journalist but wear it with such disdain.

Enigma #3: He ends his piece with the following:

"As we saw again yesterday, the Tour is still a compelling spectacle. After this week of ghastly publicity, American cycling buffs insist the sport has moved far ahead of other pro sports. That may be true, but it is hardly a compliment."

And so, perhaps the saddest thing is that George cannot admit that a) he really does like cycling, and that b) in a tragic, abject irony, he is forced to juice-up his articles about cycling (to keep the very thing that he loves at a painful distance) to sucker dopes like me into keeping reading.

Friday, July 27, 2007

steamhammer to crack a walnut....

Was looking at The Debateable Land and got down to the section on James Bond vs. Jason Bourne. As correct as Alex is, it's comment #3 that makes me wonder if I'm wasting too much time on similar numpties... like Greg Lemond or the men-in-black at the Grey Lady.

I'd also agree that Matt Damon was very good in The Good Shepherd, but fantastic in Team America World Police. Looking forward to Ultimatum.

Here's a gratuitous puppy pic to keep things cheery.

more wieners whining

Some of you may be aware of the mysterious 'men-in-black': the professional cyclists who allegedly trained in non-descript bike clothes (ie. not their team gear with all its sponsor logos on it) to avoid undue attention from fans. (That was how Team Astana put it; skeptical elements in the UCI assumed it was to avoid undue attention from random drug-tests.)

Seems we have a few 'men-in-black' in the media, too.

I was just reading the International Herald Tribune's opinion piece by Geoffrey Wheatcroft, titled 'The Tour de France in mourning.' Now maybe I should know better and not read the IHT (or anything that comes out of Greg Lemond's mouth, for that matter). Wheatcroft's third paragraph reads as follows:

"Even so, Christian Prudhomme, the Tour director, sounded optimistic when he said, 'The departure of Rasmussen is the best thing that has happened to us these past few days.' To others, it merely confirmedwhat the IHT's veteran Tour correspondent Samuel Abt had written some months ago, that bike racing now possessed all the credibility of professional wrestling."

Hmmm. Now, I know that the IHT and the NYT are different editions of essentially the same journalists' work; I know that such journalists often don't get to title their pieces. But Sam Abt (who I will credit with a little less hyperbole) didn't write the piece comparing pro-cycling with pro-wrestling. I know because I singled out that author's drivel for some ridicule in late May here on The Regal Vizsla. Now maybe these are all noms de plumes: Sam Abt is George Vecsey is Geoffrey Wheatcroft (and presumably could be 'Birillo,' as well). This makes me wonder whether the mystery men at these staid paragons of journalism are who they say they are and can stand the test of random fact-checking.

I'll be fair and say that Wheatcroft's essay has an element of style and a nice optimistic upswing to its close -- but as much as guys like this whinge about cyclists cheating, it'd be nice if they got their own house in order.

Incidentally George Vecsey's article titled 'A Sport Can No Longer Peddle Denial' appeared in the old-fashioned print edition of the NYT on Sunday, May 27th, 2007. It was in the final late edition, Section 8, Page 5, Column 5, 884 words. If you have the on-line subscription you can find it here.

I since found another blog entry by Alex Massie that's far more detailed in its critique of the entity called Vecsey-or-Abt-or-Wheatcroft. Will need to read more of The Debateable Land.


Who's the bigger idiot? Our contenders are:

a) Dick Pound of the IOC's World Anti-Doping Agency: it's almost not fair to idiots to include Richard in this list, but his latest piece of nonsense is to call for a focus on doping in cycling because the increased testing is 'obviously insufficient.' Hmmm, the UCI increased its testing measures and caught some guys, so there's a problem in cycling when testing is successful... which means that the EPO-fueled 1980s and '90s when no-one was getting caught must have been a little utopia for Richard. The UCI has politely reminded the world why Richard is as reliable as the Team Milram teambus.

b) Greg Lemond: I'm sorry you got shot by your brother, were sexually abused as a child, and that your father was a lousy choice as a business partner. I'm sorry you've been eclipsed by Lance Armstrong -- your win over Laurent Fignon in the final time-trial was remarkable because of the margin you were able to make up and because of what it did for cycling technology. But enough already. You can still be regarded as a talented champion if you don't squander your 15mins of fame by acting like a complete misanthrope. He is reported as saying: "The speed at which the riders go up the climbs is as fast as in the Pantani times. That is a shock to me." Yeah. And Olympic records haven't changed since the first modern games of 1896 either.

Wait, wait... wasn't the concluding time-trial of the 1989 Tour the fastest non-prologue ITT to that date? And didn't it remain the fastest non-prologue ITT till 2005? You calling Dave Zabriskie a doper, too, big guy? Or just everyone else?

c) Eric Boyer: Just a day after calling Alexander Vinokourov a 'big bastard,' the entire Cofidis was withdrawn because one its riders, Christian Moreni, tested positive for synthetic testosterone. Eric, you're the team MANAGER, who's the silly numpty now?

Our dogs are still smarter than most government officials, several professional cyclists & managers, and Alberto Gonzales... oops, sorry, he's not stupid, he just wouldn't know the truth if it bit him.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

all merry hell...

Dopes in Cycling #1: Kudos to Team Rabobank. Whether he doped or not, Michael Rasmussen lied to his team and to the UCI about where he was training... so they've fired him. Maybe he is clean... in which case he won two stages in this year's race in incredible fashion. But when there's a shadow of a doubt, well done to Rabobank for canning him.

Dopes in Cycling #2: I still want to like this guy... Floyd is a notorious grump, Ivan Basso is a wishy-washy, lousy poker player (i'm sure), and Jörg Jaksche got paid handsomely to spill his beans... but Vino actually has a one-liner in response to his disappearance from the Tour: ""I heard that I made a transfusion with my father's blood. That's absurd, I can tell you that with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka."

Dopes in Cycling #3: Had dinner with Meg's friend from work, John. A cynic if ever there was one but he did remind me of the speculation that steroid use may have contributed to Lance Armstrong's testicular cancer. While I rarely rely too heavily on FoxNews, there's at least one reporter there who thinks that speculation is bunkus. Here's something a little more scientifically based. Now Lance is either one of the greatest athletes of all time (and he had a consistently great team around him, as well) or one of the greatest masterminds at cheating. As I've said before, I'm an optimist, maybe naive, but if I'm wrong I'm not going to whine about it.

In other news: Turkmenistan is poised to become the Dubai of the Caspian. This revelation from the BBC that the new free-market city on the seaside is to be called Turkmenbashi. Yeah, baby! What would Turkmenbashi do? Build a giant gherkin in the ocean.

In much more reasonable news: this picture was taken this morning on our walk.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NEWSFLASH: suspected as much...

The Flying Kazakh has returned a blood test positive for blood doping via transfusion... (which is roughly the same thing that Tyler Hamilton was caught for). The only thing we don't know is whether he received a blood transfusion when he was treated for all his various cuts, bruises, and stitches after his big crash... that could at least create a shadow of a doubt of his guilt.

Here's a nice charicature by Murray Webb borrowed from the cyclingfans.com website.

The entire Astana team has been withdrawn from the race.

This is a real shame for cycling, but explains how Vino has been able to make such dramatic comebacks during this years' edition of the race. It's easy to say 'I told you so...' but the optimist in me wanted to believe that Vino is the talent he was entirely because of his work-ethic and personality. Eric Boyer, manager of Team Cofidis, put it bluntly: "He always told us what a brave guy he is, that he is stronger than the pain, that the French ride behind everyone else because they are lazier. Now we see that he is a big bastard." And there you have it, a Frenchman calling a Kazakh a man born out of wedlock. Wars have been fought for less. And my money would still be on the Kazakhs.

A few more comments and updates are here.

glorious + gloriouser

This is the dog that Jozsi reminds me of. Now I've never met Tio in person, but if the little boy looks half as good as Tio does when he's working birds, we'll be all set. As you can tell, Tio doesn't live in the northeast. He and his relatively new brother, Chili, live in eastern NM -- and, coincidentally, Chili has a lot of Rebel Rouser blood in him like Jozsi.

The other two pieces of glory worthy of mentioning would be Vino's incredible win yesterday in the Queen Stage of the Tour. Sure, he's riding to save face and get Astana on TV, but it was an incredibly agressive ride -- and yes, he still has lots of bandages on his knee. (This pic is courtesy of Fotoreporter Sirotti.) I wonder if his performance would have yo-yo'ed quite so much if he hadn't crashed. Alberto Contador also rode a phenomenal stage -- and perhaps the credit should really go to Michael Rasmussen for withstanding the continuous attacks on his yellow jersey. I also wonder what would have happened if today's rest-day had been scheduled after tomorrow's finally hilly stage.

I remember from Lance's days that people grumbled about Tour winners who didn't win any stages in a given year. While both Contador and Rasmussen have, but there's a good chance that at least one of the other podium slots will be taken by someone who hasn't -- whether it's Levi Leipheimer, Cadel Evans, or Andreas Klöden (all of whom are good TT riders, incidentally). Whatever happens, the off-season trades will be very interesting... Evans could clearly win this race if he had a little more team behind him... if this is Vino's last TdF ride, at least two members of Astana could clearly be contenders... Discovery has perhaps found its next leader, assuming they're willing to entrust the Tour to a relatively young guy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


What a day! The puppies have played a lot -- but the big excitement of the afternoon was the two of them getting into some ground wasps. Momo took at least one sting to the nose (which swelled up pretty good on one side) and one to the top of his head; Jozsi took two to the side of his face and one on his shoulder, none of which swelled particularly. Interestingly, Momo didn't make a sound and Jozsi turned into a whelping whirling dervish. We gave Momo some Bendryl and 1hr later, his swelling has come down and his generally gregarious personality had returned.

Here are some pics from the last few days. Again, I've posted them small, but if you click on them, the pics will blow up to full-size. The first is of what we're now calling the Harry Potter Tree. We had a big lightning storm on Wednesday morning and there were some loud strikes nearby. This tree took one of them and the blast stripped a piece of bark about 6" wide from the point-of-impact all the way to the ground.

This next one is from this morning. In the division of labor, I have night and early morning duty which means that I sleep on the edge of the bed next to Jozsi's kennel and put my fingers through the door grate to calm him till he falls asleep. When he wakes in the morning, I let him out and take him to the bathroom. This is about 5:30am. Meg then generally gets up around 6:30am and takes Momo for a run; Jozsi and I then meet them in the park so they can run around together outside. Anyways, the picture is of what generally happens in the 5:30 - 6:30am period: the three boys figure out a way to nap on the chaise-longue.

When it's not bird-season, Momo gets his points in on rabbits (which he has done some amazing points on, ie. in the dark and when I've shone a flashlight to where he's pointing, lo!, there's a bunny) and on butterflies and dragonflies. This seems to be the case for Jozsi, too. Here's his first point on butterflies followed by his first attempted pounce on a butterfly.

The final picture just gives a nice picture of him working his way through the grass. Where Momo always had a lot of extra skin ('junk' is the technical Vizsla breeders' term, apparently), Jozsi has very little, and is a very lean and ribby pup. His tail seems to have been docked a little longer than Momo's, too. Assuming he can graduate from bugs to birds, he's going to be a very stylish dog in the field.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

comeback city

Nice pic by Roberto Bettini of the Flying Kazakh in today's second individual time-trial. And holy snotballs, Batman! what a come-back!

He took a 1min 14 secs off Cadel Evans; his team-mate Andreas Klöden was 1min 39 secs back -- after he crashed! Again, impressive performances on rain-slick streets by Astana (1st, 3rd, and 4th) and Discovery (6th, 7th, and 9th).

I'm thinking my hypothesis about Leipheimer maybe becoming Alberto Contador's lieutenant in a go-for-yellow is coming true. These final seven stages are going to be fun to keep track of.

And I will be at home this coming week! Meg, who is really fantastic with our vizsla-monsters (who the Monster Name Decoder calls 'Villager-Injuring Zombie from the Sunless Legendary Abbey'), has big work thing coming up and so I have time off to monitor the monkeys. Oh boy.

The good news is that Jozsi is getting accustomed to sleeping through the night in his kennel, is getting used to going outside to go to the bathroom, has been introduced semi-successfully to his leash, and has been kenneled and left in the house next to Momo (in his kennel) for an hour with no apparent negative effects. Phew.

And we may have found another hunt test for Momo to go to in October. Yippee.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Yeah, they really dislike each other...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

love poem to two dogs

the smells of farm hay
and warm waxy ears,
his little white superhero logo,
the deep keel of his chest

leaps of abandon, flailing paws,
teeth flashing, gums flapping,
in absolute love and adoration

collapsing exhausted
as if suddenly muscles failed
making long puppy legs splay

we are blessed
by their panting breath and padding feet,
their ribs, tongues, and tails --
and their undiluted fullness of life


Just wanted to flag the nice little feature on cyclingnews.com about the weight of national pride being carried by Team Astana.

It's a shame that Alexander Vinokourov crashed: even though it is a part of professional cycling and he has still earned significant kudos for riding with stitched-up knees. I still can't count him out... if anyone could pull out a Floyd Landis/Oscar Pereiro-type comeback stage win and earn back a significant margin, it might just be Vino. Today, though, the evidence seems to suggest that he will now be playing second fiddle to Klöden... or maybe even the upstart Kashechkin.

BIG POINTS: Mauricio Soler deserves a celebration! And Barloworld must be very pleased with their investment. What a great win for the wild-card entry team at the Tour. And yes, that's newly-elected French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in the car behind Mauricio.

It's also going to be interesting to see what happens with Discovery. Alberto Contador is certainly a white jersey contender, but is Levi Leipheimer (as I believe) saving himself and warming up for the Pyrénées? or will we see him play lieutenant to Contador and try to get him in yellow, as well?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

chaos: part deux...

Why did the chicken cross the road? Well, he was really traversing the contour of the road so he could demolish the field in today's stage 8 of the Tour. Michael Rasmussen wins another mountain stage. Can he keep the yellow to Paris? Sadly, the 100km of individual time-trials still to come will probably eliminate his chances. But he's still got quite a lot more hills to come to make everyone else suffer.

And His Majesty: since this morning's post, Jozsi has summoned the chutzpah to challenge Momo at wrestling; can climb the stairs to our apartment; and likes to fall asleep with his head underneath something... a chair, a table etc.

holy chaos unleashed...

I'm actually going to be very brief about the Tour today. (Michael 'The Chicken' Rasmussen has just won the stage... the overall GC should be quite interesting.) But holy chaos: I realise I am about to send Levi Leipheimer over a barricade, but he's about the only favorite who hasn't bitten the dust yet; and Linus Gerdeman might be the savior of German cycling in the post-Ulrich disgrace.

A QUICK NOTE: I'm putting up small pictures... the thing I really like about Blogger so far is that if you 'click' on them, they'll go to full size in your browser.

But the real chaos unleashed is Widdershins Upwind Jozsi: 14lbs of rambunctiousness. Phew.

Momo and I drove up to Maine on Friday to select a pup. Along the way, we stopped in at Quinebaug Kennels in Canterbury, CT. They are a boarding kennel and training facility and have some significant experience with gun-dogs. Nice place: clean, friendly, good space, and a great philosophy ("A tired dog is a happy dog."). So, we may board the boys there sometime this winter when we take a trip. We may also do some training to prep Momo for his first hunt test in September. Will keep everyone posted.

We then drove up to Rangeley, ME, to spend the night with our dear friends, Susan and Dudley, and their dog, Momo's true love, Lida. I really believe that Lida gave Momo the confidence to range in the woods and not just stick within 25 yards of us at all times. He minds beautifully, so a little extra range isn't a problem. But those two just have a ball together. (This is them sitting, looking nervous about flash-photography.)

The picture is off their dock the next morning looking out into Mooselookmeguntic Lake. When we drove up the previous afternoon we drove through a hard squall -- but as it cleared and the trees burned off the moisture, looking at those sharp, wooded ridges was like being in western Oregon again. Which Meg and I would love to move (back) to sometime in the not too distant future.

And then on to Widdershins: it's always great to see Chris and Wendy. They love their dogs, and are just careful about who they breed, and who they send dogs home with. I really can't say enough good things about dealing with them. Anyways, this was Momo's aunt Gemini's last litter (and the sire, Rebel Rouser Smokey, is from a famous Vizsla line in Nebraska). She is the white-muzzled beauty on the left here; her niece, Seeker, is in the background; Momo's butt is in the foreground.

In any case, the pups should have a lot of bird-finding potential. And the winner, largely by dint of the fact that he went nutso over a chukar wing I brought with me, was Jozsi. He is the biggest of the four pups (about 1.5lb heavier than Momo was at 9 weeks old) -- and should be a bigger dog than Momo, but still medium-sized -- maybe topping out around 55lbs (to Momo's 48lbs).

Momo has realized that a) he's not being traded in, and b) that he can share, and that c) he can still be the king when it's appropriate. They've been around each other long enough that they are just starting to figure out how to play with each other. Once those ground rules are established... holy schneitkies!

Keep watching this space.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

swan, swan, hummingbird...

... hurrah! sadly, there are no hummingbirds in today's blogventure, but when you have a picture like this, I certainly get inspired. And for those of you who don't know the line, it's from 'Swan Swan H' on what, to me, is one of R.E.M.'s best albums, Life's Rich Pageant (1986).

So, this picture is from yesterday. I don't know that Momo has seen the Van Cortland swans up quite so close -- but he was suitably awed by the large, gliding things. The day before we saw a mama possum with a raft of youngsters hanging off her as she waddled through the bushes. Momo was also quite awed by that, too. For the last two mornings, as well, Momo has pointed and stalked a very young rabbit on the golf-course. (Have no fear, the rabbit could see him from a mile off on the fairway and bolted for cover. But I had called 'whoa' on him beforehand all the same.) Vizslas, incidentally, will point rabbit as instinctively as they do game-birds.

Anyways, who says cities can't have wildlife?

TdF: Four stages down -- and my highlights are these.

a) Fabian Cancellera: yesterday's rocketship attack through the almost-successful breakaway was mind-boggling. Who knows, maybe Fabian figures he's going to lose the jersey in the mountains soon anyway, so why not go out with a bang, so to speak? In any case, an impressive piece of riding, especially for one in the yellow jersey.

b) First week crashes: as usual, lots of people are biffing and tasting tarmac during the first few days. It's a shame when folks get hurt and perhaps the organizers shouldn't have early stage sprint finishes taking place in narrow roads. The major loss, as far as I'm concerned, was Tomas Vaitkus from Discovery... this was his first Tour and I think he's going to be pretty dangerous in years to come.

c) The Fredcast: my first impression was that it might be a little stodgey. And while I don't like having to skip over the first minute of advertising, I know why it has to be there. But their play-by-play coverage of yesterday's sprint-win was actually still gripping even though I knew what was going to happen. I still like the two Charlies who do Bikeradar.com's blog -- although their technical editor guy, Jez Loftus, was about as exciting in his special appearance as Grimsby on a Tuesday night. Actually, I'm an equal-opportunity smart-ass: Mr. Loftus was about as exciting as Inverness on a Tuesday night (which is generally closed).

d) Nice to see Thor Hushovd get a win today. He's had a drought so far this year. But I still think his old Norwegian National Champion/Credit Agricole jersey was one of the coolest.

Monday, July 9, 2007

what's in a name?

What happens when it's really hot in your apartment and you can't sleep? Then you start looking for goofy things like name generators for your new puppy. Did we mention that we have another Vizsla joining us? Momo and I are taking a roadtrip back up to Widdershins to pick his new running mate, collaborator, and sidekick.

Meg and I have decided that, and assuming we pick a boy (there's a 75% chance of that), that his name will be JÓZSI (pronounced 'YO-zhee'). In the unlikely event that we do pick the little girl, her name will be CSILLA (pronounced 'CHEEL-law'), or simply 'Stella' in everyday life. After picking an old Bulgarian name for Momo, we decided we should probably respect this one's Hungarian origins.

In any case, remembering that Dave had put The Monster Name Decoder on his site, I decided that His Horrific Majesty deserved his own monster name.

Malevolent, Orphan-Mangling Creature from the Haunted Isolated Labyrinth

Get Your Monster Name

And then I found this relatively nerdy, but still fascinating dog name generator from UVA. If we'd used this, the new pup's name might have been '
Zrēju' or 'Clŏfa.'

Podcasts: on cycling and the state of the world

I just starting subscribing to a couple of new podcasts recently: two for Tour de France coverage, and another for newsy-type stuff.

1) Found this podcast from Bikeradar.com (who just bought out cyclingnews.com). Sorry this link is to the general website... lots of good stuff on it, but to find the actual podcast I'd go through iTunes. Maybe low on actual statistics (ie. who came third or fourth), but actually has interviews. Best part is that the two English guys on it obviously love cycling but aren't either a) Bob Roll or b) Dick Pound.

2) Here's another well-established one: The Fredcast. Definitely slicker (and therefore not quite as fun as the boys at Bikeradar.com), but does actually give you a few more concrete details.

3) I thought I'd try and stay a little more in touch with politics back home in Britain by subscribing to the BBC Radio 4 Today program. The podcast format seems to be largely extended interviews with prominent political figures. My Vizsla may be smarter than a lot of government officials (and certainly more honest that virtually all of them), but John Humphrys does his darndest to keep those elected wombats honest. While it's also obvious that there is a mutual respect between him and whoever he's interviewing, he wasn't letting Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair's former press director) away with anything this morning. If you'd like evidence of why public speaking and debate should be part of any student's education, I'd suggest you listen here. If you already are of the opinion that while Tony Blair may have played lap-dog, this will sadly confirm that he did in fact 'play poodle' to George Bush's sasquatch.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Le Grand Boucle...

Are you ready, race fans? The 94th Tour de France begins tomorrow in London (just to keep us all guessing). Just to keep us guessing, too: the verdict in the Floyd Landis doping hearing was delayed a day, so the world will know the US Anti-Doping Association's verdict concerning last year's 'winner' as the TdF starts.

Did just find this blog-of-note: Trust but Verify... all you could ever want to know about the doping allegations against Floyd. From a quick glance, looks like pretty balanced stuff. As they say "There is a daily roundup of links with specific Landis interest, with brief comment. We avoid bashing, gushing, or gross stupidity. Unless it's funny." Sounds good to me... will need to check in for more detail later.

For a 'wide-open' race (which most commentators seem to think is a bad thing?!), there seems to be a relative consensus on the favorites: Vinokourov and Kloden (Astana), Valverde and Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), Sastre and Schleck (CSC), Leipheimer (Discovery), Moreau (AG2r), and Evans (Predictor-Lotto).

I'm going to be uncharacteristically bold and say the top-4 will be: Vinokourov, Kloden, Valverde and Leipheimer. Which means they'll probably all crash in the first week.

Having now been bold I'm going to get myself all fired-up and francophiled by watching Nikita and then hopefully dreaming of Anne Parillaud taking out Dick Pound.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

news from Ashgabat

Nice picture by C.J. Chivers of supreme Turkmens past and present in a new International Herald Tribune story. I am especially fond of the hi-volume, helmet haircut seemingly required of all autocrats.

The actual article by Chivers is a little strange -- and while it might be said that it's merely a reflection of Turkmenistan -- there seems to be an assumption that somehow the US occupies some kind of moral high ground as if spreading democracy has it's own value... and getting access to massive natural resources is merely a cool side-effect. Could just be little cynical me, of course.

And maybe Berdykmukhammedov has seen a bunch of Scorsese films, or maybe C.J. Chivers deserves the credit for writing his story like one. But this brought a smile to my face: 'In April, he [Berdykmukhammedov] fired the country's senior law enforcement officer on national television. "I have a whole file with evidence against you," he said. "I could dishonor you like a dog."'

All I have to say is: "My Vizsla is smarter than your government official."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

reader feedback

Our friend Emily said she'd read the Regal Vizsla to-date and loved it, but there was too much dog and not enough ballet. I have no idea what this means, but in an effort to accomodate Emily, here's a few words from Donald McCaig's Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men:

"Any athlete, dog or man, must master the flowing gestalt of things, must comprehend physical meaning, must be slightly ahead of the action. Amateurs think of a sheepdog trial as static geometry: a pattern of invisible straight lines the sheep must traverse. That's mistaking the choreography for the ballet." (p.51)

Charles Fergus uses the phrase
"this state of excited equilibrium" (p. 16) to describe a similar kind of synchronicity and anticipation when it comes to hunters, gamebirds, and bird-dogs. For him, that balletic balance is 'the upland equation.'

There will be no pictures of Vizslas in tutus. But I hope this makes you even happier, Emily.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

semantics: chicks or poults?

So, at work today, Ed asked me if young grouse were really called 'poults' or if that was just baby pheasants and turkeys? Good question.

I think the short answer is that it's not technically, ie. lexicologically, wrong to call them poults, but recent convention has been to call young grouse chicks instead.

For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines poults as: "The young of the domestic fowl, a chicken; also of the turkey, pheasant, guinea-fowl, and various game birds." The second cited usage of poult from c.1440 is given as: "Pulte, yonge hen, gallinella"; the 1863 citation specifically mentions "Ptarmigan poults, hardly fledged." Ptarmigan, like grouse, belong to the order Galliformes. It could be assumed, therefore, that calling young grouse 'poults' is not out of spirit with the early use of the word.

However, few of the relatively modern sporting writers use anything other than 'chicks' to describe young grouse. I just looked in my books by Norris, Knight, Woolner, and Furtman... none of them use poult. I don't have time to scan all my George Bird Evans books and don't (yet) have a copy of Gardiner Bump's magnum opus on the life-cycle of grouse. But I'm feeling pretty good about correcting myself.

I'm posting the bibliography here because half of the books haven't been reprinted:

a) Charles Norris, Eastern Upland Shooting, with Special Reference to Bird Dogs and their Handling, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1946;
b) John Alden Knight, Ruffed Grouse, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947;
c) Frank Woolner, Grouse and Grouse Hunting, New York: Crown, 1970;
d) Michael Furtman, Ruffed Grouse: Woodland Drummer, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 1999.

Monday, July 2, 2007

so much excitement...

So much has been going on in the last few days...

We went over to a friend of Meg's house in Queens on Saturday for a little BBQ with friends and family... and to celebrate their dog's 14th birthday! Happy Birthday, Pandora! Seeing as Pandora is a little advanced in age, Momo decided to get rambunctious with their neighbour's dog, Lucy... for pretty much the entire time. To be fair, Lucy was the prime instigator.

Then on Sunday afternoon, Momo and I went for a little roadtrip back up to our favorite gamebird farm in western MA. After a luxurious night at the Motel 6 in Brattleboro, we got there nice and early. What a nice day! Compared to the last time we were there when the temperature hardly changed all morning and the breeze was virtually non-existent, it warmed up a nice 15degsF while we were there, the humidity only dropped slightly, and the breeze was fairly constant. What a difference for Momo's sniffer. There was a lot more ground cover than the last time which helped to keep the chukar feel hidden so there was a lot less running on their part. While he still had his moments of clumsiness and bumped four birds, Momo threw some nice shapes to show me birds on the ground. All in all, we claimed seven birds, he bumped four, and I missed two.

One of the highlights wasn't the chukar he found, but the turkey(!) and more excitingly, the ruffed grouse hen and six poults. Now maybe they've been juicing up the grouse in the Connecticut River Valley, but that hen bird was huge compared to the midgets we've found in Sterling Forest in NY. Anyways, hopefully that's a good sign for coming years and that after several low years, the grouse population is on the rebound.

Momo was certainly tired -- and slept pretty much all the way home. Now we're going to watch the Academy Award-nominated Mongolian film Cave of the Yellow Dog.