Sunday, July 30, 2006

Monty Panesar

At the beginning of the month I did a post celebrating unassuming achievement in sport. My achievers were Joost Posthuma, Zinedine Zidane, and Floyd Landis, all, in my view, a little less impressed with themselves and their achievements than the usual super atheletes. Each having, I felt, an ability to keep a sense of realistic perspective. As Emerson might see it, I thought they possessed a strength of character sufficient for genuine humility.

As the world knows, Zidane got red-carded in the final game of the World Cup for his violent reaction to what seems to have been particularly vicious name-calling. He deserved the red card. We may never know whether the head-butting was a dramatic self-assertion (on behalf of an exploited minority population), just a breakdown in his self-control, or a combination of the two.

Likewise who does not know that Landis tested positive for a banned substance after his most dramatic win of the Tour -- one of the most dramatic comebacks of any Tour? He says the test is wrong. Months will elapse before we can expect a conclusion to this controversy and we may never know for sure whether the authorities or the athelete are right. I'm rooting for exoneration, but I actually don't know how likely it is that the test could be wrong.

Joost hasn't been linked with any untoward events since I wrote about him. He isn't in the same league as the other two: extremely good at what he does but not dominant; so we've yet to see him tested as they obviously were.

I thinking of adding another sports figure to the group: Monty Panesar.

The British press is ecstatic about him. Together with Steve Harmison, he's responsible for humbling the Pakistan cricket team in the second Test of the current Test series between England and Pakistan in England. For example Scyld Berry, writing for the Telegraph: "After downward-spiralling in the first half of the summer, English cricket is on the way back up. In little more than 100 overs they twice dismissed Pakistan, with their daunting batting line-up, to win the second Test by an innings and 120 runs in well inside three days" {source: Deadly duo irresistible}. The writer at Cricinfo adds: "Even though Steve Harmison grabbed 11 wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award, it was Monty Panesar who grabbed the media attention."

There's an interview with him behind the paywall at The Independent which suggests why he might qualify as one of my unassuming achievers. It begins
Monty Panesar: Devoted modern pro with just a hint of the mystic; Stephen Fay talks to an unlikely cult hero. Published: 23 July 2006

No cricketer works harder, few have a better rapport with the fans, even fewer use yoga.

Climbing out of his silver VW Chelsea tractor, Monty Panesar is the image of a successful athlete. He is well built, over six foot, strong in the shoulders and thighs. The odd thing is that he looks more the part off the field than on it, where his movements can look nervous and uncoordinated.

He is a thoughtful, sympathetic 24-year-old English Sikh who has inherited a zest for yoga because it helps to create a state of mind in which his bowling action can become a model of consistency, and he can acquire the patience required of an English orthodox left-arm spinner. And no one tries harder on the field than Panesar.

{photo credit: The Independent}

The cricket press in India has more to say about him:
Panesar made his debut against India during England's last visit and has the distinction of scalping Sachin Tendulkar for his first Test wicket. But ever since, the British cricket establishment has been ambivalent about his place in the side, mainly on the ground that he needed to improve his fielding and batting skills.

But after Saturday's performance, experts were unanimous that his place in the side can no longer be in question. His focussed and hard-working approach to cricket and his exuberance every time after taking a wicket has endeared him to many, on and off the field.

The Barmy Army - as the diehard supporters of England cricket are known - has taken to him in a big way. 'Monty, Monty, give us a wave', they chanted as the unassuming Panesar went about his cricket with almost a shy smile on his bearded visage.

Every time he would return to his fielding place on the boundary after completing an over, the crowd would cheer him lustily. When he returned to his place after taking the fifth wicket in Pakistan's second innings, the crowd bowed in admiration, representing a new high in the history of cricketers of Indian origin playing for England. {Extracts from: Monty Panesar is toast of England, by Prasun Sonwalkar, Indo-Asian News Service; Sunday July 30, 09:24 AM}

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hume and Darwin

A week or so ago I noticed a conjunction between the conjectures of David Hume and Charles Darwin (rudimentary sketch of a childish god, 7/20/06). Both men believed that God is not present in the world, guiding every thought and deed, determining every cause and its effect. Rather, they believed in a first-cause God, one that set in motion the process that is for us the unfolding universe and its contents. In putting forth their conclusions, both are very cautious about making inferences from weak evidence, and Hume in particular draws attention to the poverty of hard data available in his time. Considering what few facts we do have, he says it doesn't make sense for us to believe that some form of active intelligence ("reason") is the motive force in the universe. First, the facts don't point strongly to intelligent design: "[It is no] less intelligible, or less conformable to experience to say, that the world arose by vegetation from a seed shed by another world, than to say that it arose from a divine reason or contrivance." Next, taking this a step further, he says our experience suggests that natural processes of reproduction in plants and animals ("vegetation" and "generation") came before reason and instinct: "Judging by our limited and imperfect experience, generation has some privileges above reason: For we see every day the latter arise from the former, never the former from the latter." He is saying that experience leads us to conclude that our intelligence in a product of natural processes.

Putting the thought in Darwin's terms, it's possible to believe that Hume is saying our ability to reason is a product of evolution.

Hume, always cautious, says that the processes that underly "vegetation" and "generation" are not known and -- he reminds us -- for all we know there are many such principles -- governing rules, laws of nature -- about which we know nothing. But it's clear he's talking about orderly systems, symetries. Of the systems of "vegetation" and "generation" he say, "A tree bestows order and organization on that tree which springs from it, without knowing the order: an animal, in the same manner, on its offspring: a bird, on its nest." Hume does not have a theory that explains how the process of generation might produce reason, but from the evidence available to him he says he says there is a process -- of order and organization -- that makes this possible.

As I say both men argue that the unfolding of the universe is not predetermined, but accidental. There is no omnipresent God who directs all that occurs in the world and the universe. But I believe they also both recognize that the accidental -- contingent -- unfolding of all things is not without pattern. Experience -- especially the work of physicists -- shows us symetries everywhere we look (DNA molecules, atoms, snowflakes). As Michio Kaku says: "[For all we know,] all the beauty and symmetry we see around us, including sea shells, ice crystals, galaxies, molecules, even sub-atomic particles, are nothing but the pieces of the original symmetry that broke at the instant of the big bang."

Darwin and Hume had different purposes. Darwin's was to describe the natural process by which plants and animals evolve and Hume's was to show the weakness in the argument for intelligent design. Darwin was much more a scientist than a philosopher, Hume much more a philosopher than a scientist. Still, as I said at the outset, there's a conjuction in their thinking.

Hume appears to be a precusor of Darwin. He didn't use the term evolution or describe anything that resembled natural selection, but he said evidence pointed to a system of orderly unfolding which is self-directed, not guided by an intelligence: "To say that all this order in animals and vegetables proceeds ultimately from design is begging the question; nor can that great point be ascertained otherwise than by proving a priori, both that order is, from its nature, inseparably attached to thought, and that it can never, of itself, or from original unknown principles, belong to matter."

After I wrote last week's post on Darwin and Hume, I looked for sources that explained the relationship between the two -- working as they were more than a century apart. There doesn't seem to be much. The book Darwin's Dangerous Idea Evolution and the Meanins of Life, by Daniel C. Dennett, describes Hume in contrast to Darwin rather than a precursor. An article by William B. Huntley in the Journal of the History of Ideas for 1972 (which is available behind the JSTOR paywall) does see Hume as a precursor, but uses other writings of Hume, not the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion from which I've been quoting. He says that Darwin was influenced by reading Hume and by reading other authors who were themselved influenced by Hume. One extract: "The contributions of Hume to the world in which Darwin was to thrive were then several fold. The little section on animals was to Darwin, it would seem, more suggestive than definitive. The section on miracles probably may be seen as a general evaluation of a world view rather than a direct influence upon Darwin, but an important world view that helped those around Darwin appreciate the theory offered. The sections on theory of knowledge and necessary connection stated by Hume form certain methodological presuppositions that were important, indeed, in Darwin's century." {Source: William B. Huntley, "David Hume and Charles Darwin," Journal of the History of Ideas, 1972, Vol. 33, pp. 457-470.}


1. Here's the full quotation from Michio Kaku:
Physicists think a theory is beautiful if it can explain the largest amount of physical data with the simplest mathematical structures. Consider a snowflake. It is beautiful and symmetrical because it remains the same when we rotate it by 60 degrees. But more important, this symmetry is also extremely practical. If we are only given a piece of the snowflake, we can reconstruct the entire crystal by repeating a piece of it six times. Our equations must also be symmetrical: they must remain the same whenever we reshuffle space and time or sub-atomic particles among themselves.

But why does nature use symmetry to express its deepest secrets? No one knows. This is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. I suspect that this is because we are slowly reconstructing the original symmetries that existed at the instant of the big bang, uncovering bits and pieces of new symmetries along the way. If this picture is correct, all the beauty and symmetry we see around us, including sea shells, ice crystals, galaxies, molecules, even sub-atomic particles, are nothing but the pieces of the original symmetry that broke at the instant of the big bang.
2. It's worth your time to read all of Kaku's essay. Another teaser:
In the 1600s, Isaac Newton banished centuries of mysticism and black magic with the idea of "forces", reducing the universe to precise, mechanical forces acting on all bodies. Think of each force in the universe as a tiny arrow. The greater the force, the longer the arrow. For the first time, Newton could predict mathematically and precisely the motion of the planets, comets and rocks by adding up the lengths of the arrows acting on each object.

Then, in the 1800s, Michael Faraday introduced the next great concept, magnetic and electric "fields" that can permeate space. To Faraday, at every point in space, one could introduce a collection of numbers, called the field, which describe the electric, magnetic, and even nuclear forces.

“What if we are wrong, if our life's work contains a fatal flaw? I face this every day”

I use fields every day of my life. I daydream of fields. Just as a carpenter uses wood to create beautiful furniture, I use Faraday's fields to describe the forces of the universe. When string theory first emerged, it was a jumble of loose formulae and chaotic rules of thumb that filled sheaves of paper. I remembered the work of Faraday and decided to rewrite all those equations in the language of field theory: to write an equation 2 centimetres long that summarised string theory.

With my colleague Keiji Kikkawa, we wrote down the field theory of strings. Previously, most physicists believed that strings could split and re-form in many complex ways, making the theory hopelessly complicated and a field theory impossible to write.

My eureka moment came when I was teaching a class. For the benefit of the students, I began to draw the field lines and equipotential lines that emanate from an electron like a spider's web. Each equipotential line is a circle surrounding a charge. These circles get larger and larger, until they collide and merge with other circular equipotential lines encircling other charges - rather like throwing two stones in a pond and the waves from each eventually merging into a larger wave.

Suddenly it dawned on me that those equipotential lines/circular waves corresponded to closed strings colliding with other closed strings. Excited by this insight, I proved that these lines traced out precisely the geometry of colliding strings, making a field theory possible. It was astounding that a first-year class was tracing out the most complex interactions of strings in 10 dimensions. Our resulting string field equation is so short that it has even appeared on T-shirts.
3. Here's the close of the dialogue in which Hume expresses his thoughts tending toward evolution. It's excellent Humean wit.
The Brahmins assert, that the world arose from an infinite spider, who spun this whole complicated mass from his bowels, and annihilates afterwards the whole or any part of it, by absorbing it again, and resolving it into his own essence. Here is a species of cosmogony, which appears to us ridiculous; because a spider is a little contemptible animal, whose operations we are never likely to take for a model of the whole universe. But still here is a new species of analogy, even in our globe. And were there a planet wholly inhabited by spiders (which is very possible), this inference would there appear as natural and irrefragable as that which in our planet ascribes the origin of all things to design and intelligence, as explained by Cleanthes. Why an orderly system may not be spun from the belly as well as from the brain, it will be difficult for him to give a satisfactory reason.
4. You might remember that last week's post on this subject had as its starting point a paraphrase of Hume by Borges.

Here's the Borges text (in translation): "The world - David Hume writes - is perhaps the rudimentary sketch of a childish god, who left it half done, ashamed by his deficient work; it is created by a subordinate god, at whom the superior gods laugh; it is the confused production of a decrepit and retiring divinity, who has already died ('Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion', V. 1779)."

Contrast this elaboration of the theme by Hume: "And what surprise must we entertain, when we find him [i.e. God] a stupid mechanic, who imitated others, and copied an art, which, through a long succession of ages, after multiplied trials, mistakes, corrections, deliberations, and controversies, had been gradually improving? Many worlds might have been botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this system was struck out: Much labour lost: Many fruitless trials made: And a slow, but continued improvement carried on during infinite ages of world-making."

This sounds a lot like a popularization of Darwin: evolution as progress, but I beleive it's not what either really thought. I believe the process they both described did not have this bias toward "improvement," but is rather ethically neutral.

6. Dennett does not credit Hume as a Darwin precursor because he believes that Hume himself did not believe the arguments he put in the mouth of his protagonist, Philo, in the Dialogues. I believe otherwise but cheerfully concede that you can't really pin Hume down on this point.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Today's stage is the next-to-last of the Tour, another individual time trial -- the event in which Joost specializes -- and right now, this moment, he is third overall in that event, having finished only 22 seconds behind the first-placed rider. However, there are still a couple dozen riders on the course or yet to depart and he's certain to be beat out by quite a few of them by the time the race is over.

[Update: It's over. Joost came in 12th out of the 140 finishers, just a bit more than four minutes off the winning time. The winner's average speed over the 57 kilometers of the stage was 50.479 kph. That translates to 31.37 mph -- mind boggling! -- so Joost did very well in my view, averaging better than 30 mph himself and beating quite a few big-name racers. He was the highest placed Rabo rider, half a minute ahead of the next one, Denis Menchov. Floyd Landis came in third, taking enough time off his rivals for the yellow jersey to give him overall victory after tomorrow's largely ceremonial stage into Paris.]

This week, the three stages of Tour de France in the Swiss Alps were as dramatic as professional cycling offers. Floyd Landis, one of my improbable sports heroes, excelled in the first stage, bombed really badly in the second, and came back in the third to so dominate his opponents as to leave them flabbergasted. The Rabo team did well as Michael Rasmussen took this second Alps stage, the hardest one of the Tour. He did it in commanding fashion, leading a break over all four of its cols and earned thereby a commanding lead in the King of the Mountains competition and a huge bonus for being the first to cross the highest peak in this years route. Through it all, Rabo's Denis Menchov managed to keep himself in the top six riders in overall classification. There was even some family news on the team as Oscar Freire received permission to visit his wife and newborn son (of one day!) on this week's rest day. He came back to participate in the first two Alps stages and then an illness forced him to leave Tour (though highly placed in the sprinters' competition at the time). Joost meanwhile took off in a couple of early escapes on days one and two, but then simply struggled to hang on. (At one point, he actually got a nose bleed from the altitude and intensity of his exertion).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

rudimentary sketch of a childish god

I was doing a little research into the Real Character of John Wilkins and came across an essay by Jorge Luis Borges -- The Analytical Language of John Wilkins -- on a site called ALAMUT, Bastion of Peace and Information. Now both the essay and the site are interesting on their own, but what caught my eye was Borges' quote of David Hume:
The world - David Hume writes - is perhaps the rudimentary sketch of a childish god, who left it half done, ashamed by his deficient work; it is created by a subordinate god, at whom the superior gods laugh; it is the confused production of a decrepit and retiring divinity, who has already died ('Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion', V. 1779).
Now this quote is translated from Borges' Spanish so it's reasonable to suspect it to differs from Hume's original English. In fact it's quite different, both in text and implied context.

Here is that original English:
This world, for aught [man] knows, is very faulty and imperfect, compared to a superior standard; and was only the first rude essay of some infant deity, who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance: it is the work only of some dependent, inferior deity; and is the object of derision to his superiors: it is the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity; and ever since his death, has run on at adventures, from the first impulse and active force which it received from him.
As to text differences, Borges or the translator, or both, paraphased the Hume text so that it reads more smoothly to the modern eye. As to context, Borges suggests that Hume believed the world to be a botched creation, but Hume's point isn't so straight-forward. His protagonist, Philo, is saying (a) the world has many imperfections (the philosopher's short hand is to say there is evil in the world) and (b) this being so, it isn't logical to believe in a single omnipotent God who is perfectly good. Epicurus was the first to state this conundrum. Epicurus drew the argument out to a belief that there are many gods (as ancient Greeks believed) but that they are indifferent to human affairs -- ethical beings whom humans might strive to emulate, but remote and having no material impact on the world of men. Hume's Philo does likewise, saying that God exists but does not guide human affairs in any way. He says this God created the universe and established a pattern -- what are known as laws of nature -- and that's it; there's no more.

However, where Epicurus was -- in modern terminology -- a materialist, one who believes that everything, including human thought is mechanical -- that the universe is a mechanism like a watch, Philo says the unfolding of history (everything that happens everywhere in all time) is not mechanistically preordained, but rather -- again using modern terminology -- is naturally propagated. He doesn't actually refer to evolution, but his concept of propagation is entirely consistent with evolution. As I see it, he's assuming that an impersonal rule or law -- which we call evolution -- is the most likely organizing principle for the universe. More than half a century before Darwin, he says:
Cleanthes, replied Philo, as you have heard, asserts, that since no question of fact can be proved otherwise than by experience, the existence of a Deity admits not of proof from any other medium. The world, says he, resembles the works of human contrivance; therefore its cause must also resemble that of the other. Here we may remark, that the operation of one very small part of nature, to wit man, upon another very small part, to wit that inanimate matter lying within his reach, is the rule by which Cleanthes judges of the origin of the whole; and he measures objects, so widely disproportioned, by the same individual standard. But to waive all objections drawn from this topic, I affirm, that there are other parts of the universe (besides the machines of human invention) which bear still a greater resemblance to the fabric of the world, and which, therefore, afford a better conjecture concerning the universal origin of this system. These parts are animals and vegetables. The world plainly resembles more an animal or a vegetable, than it does a watch or a knitting-loom. Its cause, therefore, it is more probable, resembles the cause of the former. The cause of the former is generation or vegetation. The cause, therefore, of the world, we may infer to be something similar or analogous to generation or vegetation.
Philo goes on to say that whatever entity created the universe and established its pattern of generation, there is little reason to believe that creative force was intelligent.

Like Epicurus before him and Darwin after, Hume was attacked as crypto-atheist. But it's probably closest to the truth to say he kept an open mind on the subject. Philo says that man knows of four ways to understand cause and effect: the principles of reason, instinct, generation, and vegetation. He maintains that reason and instinct are likely to have been produced by generation (evolution of animals) and thus gives primacy to evolution (generation and vegetation) over reason and instinct (or faith) as means of understanding the unfolding universe. So, although "we have no data to establish any system of cosmogony. Our experience, so imperfect in itself, and so limited both in extent and duration, can afford us no probable conjecture concerning the whole of things," what little we do know supports evolution as the guiding priciple of creation, not an intelligent, omnipotent, omnipresent, king-like God.

Though the Borges paraphrase that captured my attention shows off the classiness of Hume's skepticism, the argument which it introduces is much more nuanced and, in my reading, surprisingly "modern."

All in all this section of the Dialogues is well worth reading. Read it and make up your own mind. It's from Part V of an online text, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

{Source of the Alamut Borges piece: Translated from the Spanish 'El idioma analítico de John Wilkins' by Lilia Graciela Vázquez; edited by Jan Frederik Solem with assistance from Bjørn Are Davidsen and Rolf Andersen. A translation by Ruth L. C. Simms can be found in Jorge Luis Borges, 'Other inquisitions 1937-1952' (University of Texas Press, 1993)}

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

all the ships at sea

I've been thinking about my father; his love of the newspapers. Not a surprise that he did not go to the sports pages first, or really ever. It did surprise me to learn how he would turn to the shipping news after scanning the front page. But then he always loved ports and said he would love to own a tugboat if ever he owned a boat at all. I recall being in Wall Street offices of his mother's lawyer, about 50 stories above street level, and how joyfully he drew my attention to the view of New York harbor, the ships at dock, the ships coming and going on the river, and the ones being nursed into and out of their berths.

So, if he were alive, wouldn't he like this new ship tracking service:, Live Tracker: Ship Locations

It comes from:
The WMO Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) Scheme

The international scheme by which ships plying the various oceans and seas of the world are recruited by National Meteorological Services (NMSs) for taking and transmitting meteorological observations is called the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Voluntary Observing Ships' (VOS) scheme. The forerunner of the scheme dates back as far as 1853, the year in which delegates of ten maritime countries came together at a conference in Brussels, on the initiative of Matthew F. Maury, then director of the United States Navy Hydrographic Office, to discuss his proposal for the establishment of a uniform system for the collection of meteorological and oceanographical data from the oceans and the use of these data for the benefit of shipping in return.

Odd connections: There's a historical monument to Matthew Maury near Goshen, Virginia. I'd see it when I did some bike riding in the area during time off from Boy Scout leader duties at a nearby Scout camp. I hadn't heard of him, but both my uncle and cousin knew all about him, the first because of associations with Washington and Lee University, where he was educated. The other because he's a geologist and oceanographer himself.

Addendum: I take my subject line from Edward R. Murrow, but I expect you knew that.

Monday, July 17, 2006

another day, another sport

It's another rest day on the Tour de France. This one precedes the big mountain stage to l'Alpe d'Huez

Fortunately, there's another sport that can be followed via online updates: a Test Match at Lord's between England and Pakistan. We're in the first test, day six. As action began this morning, Pakistan is at bat. The score is England 528-9d & 296-8 dec v Pakistan 445 & 117-3. If the scoring isn't clear, the beeb is happy to explain. See their Cricket for Beginners. Here's the link for latest updates.

The BBC caption for this photo reads "Matthew Hoggard sweeps a delivery from Danish Kaneria as England look to add quick runs before declaring at Lord's."

Sunday, July 16, 2006


English eccentricities are legion and frequently loveable. A man named John Timbs collected many, pubishing in a two-volume work called English Eccentrics and Eccentricities (1866).

Here's an extract. If the behavior seems more charming and unselfconsciously empathetic than eccentric, you have to remember that it relates an incident of the time following the Napoleonic period when distinctions of rank and birth were strictly observed.
Lord Coleraine
J.T.Smith, in his Life of Nollekens (1828), says, "I heard Lord Coleraine as I was passing the wall at the end of the Portland Road, where an old apple-woman with whom his lordship held frequent conversations was packing up her fruit, ask her the following question: 'What are you about, mother?' 'Why, my lord, I am going home to my tea; if your lordship wants any information I shall come again presently.' 'Oh! don't balk trade. Leave our things on the table as they are: I will mind your shop till you come back;' so saying, he seated himself in the old woman's wooden chair, in which he had often sat before whilst chatting with her. Being determined to witness the result, I heard his lordship declare the amount of his receipts by saying: 'Well, mother I have taken threepence-halfpenny for you. Did your daughter Nancy drink tea with you?'" (Vol II, p. 40)
I dug this out after an item on contemporary eccentricities turned up in my weblog aggregator. Merlin Mann on 43Folders calls attention to a thread on the Ask MetaFilter: Suggest Eccentricities. The author wants to adopt them. Many responders warn against. Others happily supply ideas. Some are reminiscent of Lord Cockraine's enviable lack of concern regarding the maintenance of cultural norms. Some:

- Wear one colour only, wear mismatched colours, wear hats.
- Wear a cologne designed for someone of the opposite gender, same with clothing options.
- Learn Shakespeare off by heart to quote at any appropriate moment.
- Skip or dance spontaneously.
- Read classic literature on public transport. Out loud.
- Stand backward in the elevator (okay, not mine).
- Beleg always wears his hat.
- Joey always carries his accordion.
- Make the Dwarves your only MySpace friend.
- Make the Mentors your second MySpace friend.
- Carry a cricket bat with you everywhere.
- If a man: wear skirts in hot weather

One responder's fellow-students:
- girl whose unvaried style consisted of closely shaved head and overalls or baggy jeans, for years
- girl who always wore undergarment type slips as outerwear
- write words on all your clothes guy
- girl who smoked holding cigarettes between pinky and ring finger
- super-hot girl who never spoke to anyone
- Dan the dirty hand man
- guy who always has a harmonica
- I never change my sweater girl

- Become super-polite: "SPM holds open doors for people, engages the wait staff like human beings, writes thank-you notes, smiles and looks people in the eye when shaking hands or saying hello, and always says please and thank you. People really notice this sort of thing, just as much as they do someone wearing an ascot."

- Try to become more yourself: Read Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

blue and orange

In color theory, blue and orange are complimentary - blue as a primary and orange as a secondary color. They are opposite each other on the the color wheel. Complimentary in this context means they contrast strongly.

In design palettes, primary and secondary colors are bold. They're vibrant. Web designers, painters, and other color designers much prefer subtler shades. Put complimentary primary/secondaries together and the result is an object that attracts the eye, is instantly recognizable, is garish.

Such complimentary color combinations have a use. It's the instant recognition property that has most value. Particularly where the object is in motion: jockeys in horse races for example, or professional bike riders.

In choosing its primary/secondary, Rabo probably didn't have to consider long before settling on blue (out of the red/white/blue national flag of the Netherlands) and orange (for the House of Orange, the nation's royal family).

I wonder why the colors of the high school I attended are the same (or pretty much the same, I think the blue is a little darker than Rabo blue).

{Image sources: (1) Letterluch Teksproductivies.
(2) TheJournalNews. Caption: "Briarcliff's Meghan Murnane and Pleasantville's Airelle Schneeweiss battle for a rebound in the first half at Briarcliff High School on Jan. 14, 2005. Pleasantville won, 62-57.: (Matthew Brown/The Journal News)}

Friday, July 14, 2006

Joost video clips

The RaboBank website has a bunch of short video clips of interviews with Joost. The most interesting one shows him in a hotel room the morning after he won the white jersey for best young rider. It shows him trying on the short-sleeve jersey and the long-sleeve over-jersey. He's his usual smiling self. This is it: Dekker's Journal 1 July. As you can see, it's a report, by Joost's roommate Erik Dekker. An encounter with a spectator caused Dekker to crash in Stage 3, fracturing his collarbone. Up 'til then he and Joost roomed together. Dekker had begun a daily report in a video clip, which Joost has since taken over. That accounts for most of the entries in the following list.

Here are some others from the Rabo site:
- Posthuma cannot enjoy the beautiful surroundings
- Posthuma with moderate legs in escape
- Posthuma escaped with 15 riders
- a final flat stage for Posthuma
- Posthuma's Journal: 10 July
- Posthuma's Journal: 9 July
- Posthuma's Journal: 8 July
- Posthuma's Journal: 7 July
- Posthuma's Dagboek: Toch wakker worden met Dekker
- Posthuma starts in the white jersey
- Posthuma's Dagboek: Joost Replaces Erik
- Flits 1: Lang aan kop, Posthuma goed
- stage report: Posthuma catches the white jersey

Thursday, July 13, 2006

more sporting news

Le Tour: Babobank is very happy with its results on what may prove to be the most difficult stage of the Tour: three impossible climbs mixed with one that's only outrageous followed by a mountain top finish. The team dominated the last third of the race and its riders placed first and sixth. Joost was in the pack, or rather one part of the splintered pack. He came in 85th and is now 81st in the overall standing.

His website has a quick rundown. Here's my fractured-English translation:
And that is three! Success for the Rabo-team! It is Denis Menchov who takes the honors. The stage of Tarbes to Pla-de-Beret runs over five Pyreneean cols. Four riders set the pace early: Fabian Wegmann, Iker Casano, David Fuente, and Juan Antonio Flecha. Four more catch them up. Ag2r, the team of yellow-jersey Cyril Dessel set the pace of the peloton to neutralize the threat. Rabo's Michael Rasmussen and Michael Boogerd jump off the front. When they catch the front group, Boogerd does most of the work. He pulls so long and hard that riders fall off the back. In the end -- about seven kilometres of the finish -- he himself drops off and there were only five left: Menchov, Landis, Leipheimer, Sastre and Evans. A kilometre under the top Landis, Leipheimer and Menchov spring forward. Menchov proves fastest in the sprint to the finish line. Michael Boogerd comes in sixth. Joost finishes 85th at 33.47 behind head man Menchov.
Zidane and Materazzi: the press feeding frenzy continues. The former speaks for the first time; the latter says more. I don't want to do a Zidane post of the day, but -- if you're interested -- the Zidane interview on Canal Plus is available here. He says he's sorry if he offended anyone but feels justified because of the seriousness of the provocation (which he doesn't discuss in detail). Zidane interviews well. He's calm and his voice is soft and reassuring. It's hard to judge these things but I'd say he projects confidence and sincerity. The interview is fairly long and very low key. The interviewer is unagressive, the words flow bwtween them like quiet background music. (In fact I kept the audio on in the background while conducting some business and it seemed just like background music).

a list of place names

Before memory fades, I want to honor the villes through which the Tour passed last Tuesday:There's a map which shows them but it's hard to read the names.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Joost out front

Tour stages are just about unbelievably difficult. They're long, fast, and supremely exhausting even for those who keep themselves protected inside the pack (the peloton). The risks are great, crashes frequent. Still, every stage sees at least one do-or-die attack: a group that pushes off the front to try its luck. Early breaks almost always get caught. The chance of staying away to the finish is always very small. Usually, the peloton will permit an escape to develop a lead only if there are no contenders in it.

The riders in the break benefit from publicity since the race cameras give them a lot of attention. This is sometimes a main reason for attacking. Others include establishing a reputation for aggression (in a positive sense), winning sprint bonuses, winning mountain top bonuses, and fantasizing that the break might lead to a stage win.

Joost was part of a major break today. He was one of 11 riders to jump off the front early in the race. The group established a lead of more than 10 minutes at one point. After three hours out in front, some of the group, including Joost, were swallowed up by the peloton. At the time they were struggling up the second mountain of the day, a very steep long climb.

According to race reports, it was an exciting day of racing and the outcome was not one that could have been predicted since it was one of those rare occasions when riders in an early break stay off the front until the very end (just two of them in this case). The two winners are now top-placed in the general classification. Since it's certain they can't recover from today's stage quickly enough to hold their leads, that will certainly change in coming days. Still, it's a marvelous achievement.

Here's the summary on Joost's web site:

My weak English:
Today, with the tenth stage in the tour the riders got their teeth into the first mountain stage. There were three difficult climbs: the col d'Osquich (third category), the col the Soudet (outside category) and the col Marie-Blanque. A group of 15 riders made a break at the 35 km mark. The group included Joost Posthuma, Voigt, Hushovd and Bennati. After 90 km the group with Posthuma had a lead of about 9 minutes on the peloton. On the climb of Soudet the group split. Dessel came up as a first. In the descent Rinero, Landaluze, Isasi, Rinero and Vasseur found the wheel of the leading duo. But not much later reason Dessel and Mercado again took off from the rest of the break group. In the last kilometres Dessel did most of the work and took the mountain points. Mercado hung on and saved himself for the final sprint, which he won. Dessel came in second, but he was higher placed in the overall general classification and is now perhaps a challenger for the yellow jersey. Joost finish 94th and is now placed at 85in in the general classification.

The original Dutch:
Met de tiende etappe in de Tour kregen de renners vandaag de eerste bergetappe voor hun kiezen. De renners kregen drie hellingen te verwerken: de Col d'Osquich (derde categorie), de Col de Soudet (buiten categorie) en de Col de Marie-Blanque. Een groep van 15 renners, onder wie o.a. Joost Posthuma, Voigt, Hushovd en Bennati reden na 35 km weg. Na 90 km had de groep met Posthuma een voorsprong van zo'n 9 minuten op het peloton. Op de Soudet viel de groep uitelkaar. Dessel kwam als eerste boven. In de afdaling vonden Rinero, Landaluze, Isasi, Rinero en Vasseur weer het wiel van het leidende duo. Maar niet veel later reden Dessel en Mercado opnieuw weg van de rest. In de slotkilometers was het vooral Dessel die het meeste werk opknapte. Mercado focuste zich vrij vroeg op de sprint, en met succes. De Spanjaard toonde zich de snelste in de sprint. Dessel werd tweede, maar is wel de nieuwe drager van de gele trui. De derde plaats was weggelegd voor Landaluze. Joost eindigt op een 94e plaats en staat nu op plaats 85 in het algemeen klassement..

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Joost speaks, Zazu silent

The route of today's stage of the Tour de France was flat and straight. The peoloton reached speeds of 65kph (40mph) in chasing down a small escape group so they could set up a sprint finish. One of Joost's team-mates, the Spaniard Oscar Freire won, just bearly beating out the practically unstoppable Robbie McEwen and other top sprinters and earning himself the second win of the race. There's a good photo at the LeTour site.

Meanwhile, Joost put a short statement on his blog during the TdF yesterday:

In Dutch:
Vandaag de rustdag. Ik heb vanmorgen één uur op de rollers gezeten. Daarna op bed gerust en om twee uur hebben we de pers te woord gestaan en daarna massage, eten en naar bed. Een lekker rustig dagje dus. Nog even en dan mogen de klassementsrenners aan de bak. Ik ben benieuwd hoe onze kopman, Menchov, zich erin gaat mengen. Tot nu toe heb ik me steeds in de buurt van hem begeven. Zo moest ik dus ook een goede tijdrit voor hem neerzetten. Hij heeft zich daar goed aan gehouden en reed net een fractie sneller dan mij. Groeten, Joost.
In my rough English rendition:
Today is a rest day for us. In the morning I sat on the rollers an hour [that is, he put his bike on rollers and pedaled as if on a stationary bike]. Afterwards I rested in bed and at two o'clock we met the press and I got a massage, at dinner, and went to bed. Nice quiet day for me. Soon the well-placed riders will show their stuff. I'm curious to see how Menchov. our rider with the best position in the general classification, will do in coming stages. So far I've been near him. I put in a good time trial for him. He extended himself and his time in that event was a bit faster than mine. Groeten, Joost.

The press is still ga-ga over Zizou's head-butt and he's still silent.

credibility and the emergence of probability

Eager to know why Zidane head-butted Materazzi, I'm also skeptical of reports. The situation is ripe for exploitation by media and special-interest groups. There are millions of people who want to know why he did it and, with Zidane silent and Materazzi unlikely to speak frankly, how are the press to supply the void? Yesterday, we had interviews with Zidane's coach, his long-time mentor, and others. More interestingly, there were claims from a human-rights group and a lip-reader that Materazzi used a racial/ethnic slur to the effect that Zidane, son of a whore, was a dirty Islamic terrorist. Another report, based on supposedly reliable sources said Materazzi said Zidane's sister was a prostitute. Today, Materazzi gives comprehensive denial, with a tiny bit of supporting evidence. Zidane remains silent. Sifting what little real evidence there is, I imagine the truth is not far from Materazzi's version. Materazzi says, according to La Gazetta dello Sport via Eurosport,"I held his shirt for a few seconds only, he turned to me, looked at me from top to bottom with utmost arrogance (and said): 'if you really want my shirt, I'll give it to you afterwards'. I answered him with an insult. It was the type of insults that we've heard before so many times on the pitch, and sometimes we don't even notice it. What's sure is that I never called him a terrorist: I am not cultured and I don't even know what an islamic terrorist is. My sole terrorist is her...," added Materazzi pointing at his 10-month-old daughter sleeping next to him during the interview. "I certainly did not talk about Zidane's mother. For me, mothers are sacred." It's just about impossible to believe Materazzi is ignorant of Islamic terrorism, but the rest seems plausible. Another Italian paper says he would not have called Zidane "son of a whore" because he lost his own mother he was only 14.

Afterthought: The subject of this blog entry comes from a book on my table at work: The Emergence of Probability by Ian Hacking (Camb UP, 1975). Hacking's focus is the discovery of mathematical methods for estimating outcomes (as in gambling or predicting weather) but his sub-text is our need to refer to authority for the facts we accumulate as knowledge vs. our need to weigh what appear to be authoritative statements to determine the probability of factual truths (as juries are asked to do in court cases). Another book on my table is much better-known, A Social History of Truth by Steven Shapin, which deals with the topic in a broader context.

Monday, July 10, 2006

a day of rest?

OK the World Cup over and this is a Tour de France rest day. What's needed to fill the void? Why cricket of course and not an international test match, but the Twenty20 cup competition which pits UK county teams against each other in short, fast-paced matches. There's a Twenty20 web site to keep you up to date. And you can follow matches live on Cricinfo, club pages, SportingLife, BBC, or ECB.

Eurosport, which doesn't cover cricket at all, much less provide live coverage, is saying that Marco Materazzi called Zinedine Zidane a 'dirty terrorist' thus provoking the outrageous headbut at the end of the France-Italy final yesterday. Also: "French television has reported that Zidane - silent up till now - will talk about the incident 'in the coming days'."

fallen but still best

One of my reticent sportsmen has fallen from grace. After playing well in yesteday's World Cup final with Italy, he committed an outrageous foul in the final moments and was sent off. As the world knows, Italy eventually won on penalty shots.

Today, FIFA, the association that oversees professional soccer, named Zizane best player of the Cup by vote of football journalists. Story here.

Reda Maher of Eurosport gives a concise account of the foul.
Domenech doesn't blame Zidane
Eurosport - Reda Maher - 10/07/2006 08:45


France coach Raymond Domenech does not blame Zinedine Zidane's moment of madness for costing them victory in the World Cup final on Sunday. Zidane was rightly sent-off for violent conduct in extra-time after headbutting Italy defender Marco Materazzi.

"There a moments, when you take blows for 80 minutes, I'm not saying I'm excusing it but I can understand," Domenech told reporters after the match.

Quite what the maverick coach "understands" only he knows.

Zidane turned round after walking away from Materazzi before launching a flying assault into the chest of the Inter centre-back that stunned Italy's players and bench.

The two had completed what initially seemed to be a light-hearted exchange of words before the now-retired former Juventus and Real Madrid star snapped.

One can only assume that Materazzi final words pushed the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship winner over the edge, although there can be no excuse for the reaction, which was unquestionably deliberate.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

metempsychosis and other mysteries

In our household, we all like Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. One of us owns the first three seasons on DVD. We've been viewing and re-viewing Season Three over the past month or so. This season has an episode called EarShot which has a scene that's stuck with me. Through an accident, Buffy has the ability to hear other peoples' thoughts. At first intrigued, then eager to exploit her temporary gift, she learns at the end of the episode that people are burdened with too much confusion, despair, worry, and self-doubt for her to bear. (This insight is a fairly typical Joss Whedon take-home.)

The scene takes place in an English Lit class. As writer Jane Espenson explains in commentary that accompanies the episode, Joss re-wrote her original text to make it integrate more tightly with the plot. The way he did this has typical Joss flair. Using telepathy Buffy listens to the inner dialogues of the teacher and students and is able to simulate an academic brilliance she wishes she really had. They're discussing Shakespeare's Othello and the teacher asks what motivates Iago. Buffy gives a couple of ideas about this and says "Well, he, um, he sort of admits himself that his motive are... spurious! He, um, he does things because he, he enjoys them. It's like he's not, he's not really a person. He's a, the dark half of Othello himself." (The exclamation point follows the word spurious because it's a word Buffy picked up from the teacher's thoughts but does not herself understand.) Iago-as-dark-half-of-Othello turns out to be the main theme of the teacher's dissertation. It's that literary turn - Iago-within-Othello - that's stuck with me since viewing the episode. I've reproduced the text of the scene below.

It's simply nice of itself, but it also calls to mind what James Joyce made of the theme in Ulysses. In the book's opening section, Telemachus, and again in the ninth, Scylla & Charybdis, Joyce shows us Stephen's ingenious take on the Joss-Othello one-person-within-another theme. In Telemachus we learn it's Stephen's conceit that, as Buck Mulligan puts it, "Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father." (I've reproduced this excellent dialogue below.) In Scylla & Charybdis Stephen's in the National Library accompanied by scholars whom we suspect he'd like to impress. He offers a reading of Hamlet which merges the ghostly selves of Hamlet and his father the dead king, Shakespeare and his dead son Hamnet, Shakespeare acting the role King Hamlet on stage and becoming thereby the character's ghost - ghost of a ghost, and Shakespeare as "murdered" father, victim of his absent, unfaithful wife.

There isn't an exact Joss-Joyce correspondence since Iago is neither father nor, except perhaps metaphorically, son to Othello. Still, a one-person-in-another mystery is the theme of both. And of course both have us hearing inner as well as spoken dialogue.

As you'd expect, Joyce's development is much richer and more nuanced than Joss's; how could it be otherwise? But both provoke thought, do they not?


Here is the Buffy scene:
Cut to Buffy in literature class.
BUFFY Jealousy! Willow is seated to her right, with Xander behind her. Nancy, annoying miss-know-it-all is to Buffy's left. The teacher walks around the room.
TEACHER Buffy. Right. Very good.
NANCY (V.O.) I knew that.
TEACHER Jealousy clearly is the tool that Iago uses to undo Othello. But what's his motivation? What reason does Iago give for destroying his superior officer?
NANCY (V.O.) Cassio has my place. Twix my sheets, he's done my office.
BUFFY Well, he was passed over for promotion. Cassio was picked instead and people were saying that Othello slept with his wife.
WILLOW (V.O.) Buffy did the reading? Buffy understood the reading?
XANDER (V.O.) When did she study? Was I supposed to study? Ms. Murray's kinda hot.
NANCY (V.O.) I was gonna say Cassio. Uh, I hate her.
TEACHER Any other reason.
NANCY (blurting out) Race!
TEACHER Uh... good Nancy. Can't overlook that. (V.O.) Boy sitting at Willow's right,
FREDDY (V.O.) Look at them, scrambling for the teacher's praise like pigeons for thrown bread crust Buffy turns.
BUFFY (whispering) Will, who's that guy.
WILLOW That's Freddy Iverson. He writes those editorials for the school paper. He's sardonic.
FREDDY (V.O.) Bread crusts. That's deep. I should write that down. Buffy turns and looks back at the teacher, now at the front of the room.
TEACHER There's something else at work here.
BUFFY Well, he, um, he sort of admits himself that his motives are... spurious! He, um, he does things because he, he enjoys them. It's like he's not, he's not really a person. He's a, the dark half of Othello himself.
WILLOW (V.O.) Huh...
XANDER (V.O.) Woah! The teacher steps out from behind her desk and approaches Buffy.
TEACHER Buffy. Really. Very astute. I said something quite like that in my dissertation.
BUFFY I know. Uh, I mean... I agree. With that.
TEACHER Yes, and doesn't that also explain Othello's readiness to believe Iago. Within seconds he turns on Desdomona. Camera moves in on Buffy as the teacher speaks.
TEACHER He believes that she's been unfaithful. And we're all like that. We all have our little internal Iagos, that tell us our husbands or our girlfriends or whatever, don't really love us. But you never really see what's in someone's heart.
The classroom scene fades to Angel walking toward his draped over doorway. Buffy opens the drapes. Angel brings up his arm, shielding himself from the daylight.


From Telemachus:
-- What is your idea of Hamlet? Haines asked Stephen.

-- No, no, Buck Mulligan shouted in pain. I'm not equal to Thomas Aquinas and the fiftyfive reasons he has made to prop it up. Wait till I have a few pints in me first.

He turned to Stephen, saying as he pulled down neatly the peaks of his primrose waistcoat:

-- You couldn't manage it under three pints, Kinch, could you?

-- It has waited so long, Stephen said listlessly, it can wait longer.

-- You pique my curiosity, Haines said amiably. Is it some paradox?

-- Pooh! Buck Mulligan said. We have grown out of Wilde and paradoxes. It's quite simple. He proves by algebra that Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.

-- What? Haines said, beginning to point at Stephen. He himself?

Buck Mulligan slung his towel stolewise round his neck and, bending in loose laughter, said to Stephen's ear:

-- O, shade of Kinch the elder! Japhet in search of a father!

-- We're always tired in the morning, Stephen said to Haines. And it is rather long to tell.

Buck Mulligan, walking forward again, raised his hands.

-- The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue of Dedalus, he said.


From Scylla & Charybdis:
Mr Best turned an unoffending face to Stephen.

-- Mallarmé, don't you know, he said, has written those wonderful prose poems Stephen MacKenna used to read to me in Paris. The one about Hamlet. He says: il se promène, lisant au livre de lui-même, don't you know, reading the book of himself. He describes Hamlet given in a French town, don't you know, a provincial town. They advertised it.

His free hand graciously wrote tiny signs in air.

Pièce de Shakespeare

He repeated to John Eglinton's newgathered frown:

-- Piéce de Shakespeare, don't you know. It's so French, the French point of view. Hamlet ou...

-- The absentminded beggar, Stephen ended.

John Eglinton laughed.

-- Yes, I suppose it would be, he said. Excellent people, no doubt, but distressingly shortsighted in some matters.

Sumptuous and stagnant exaggeration of murder.

-- A deathsman of the soul Robert Greene called him, Stephen said. Not for nothing was he a butcher's son wielding the sledded poleaxe and spitting in his palm. Nine lives are taken off for his father's one, Our Father who art in purgatory. Khaki Hamlets don't hesitate to shoot. The bloodboltered shambles in act five is a forecast of the concentration camp sung by Mr Swinburne.

Cranly, I his mute orderly, following battles from afar.

Whelps and dams of murderous foes whom none
But we had spared...

Between the Saxon smile and yankee yawp. The devil and the deep sea.

-- He will have it that Hamlet is a ghoststory, John Eglinton said for Mr Best's behoof. Like the fat boy in Pickwick he wants to make our flesh creep.

List! List! O List!

My flesh hears him: creeping, hears.

If thou didst ever...

-- What is a ghost? Stephen said with tingling energy. One who has faded into impalpability through death, through absence, through change of manners. Elizabethan London lay as far from Stratford as corrupt Paris lies from virgin Dublin. Who is the ghost from limbo patrum, returning to the world that has forgotten him? Who is king Hamlet?

John Eglinton shifted his spare body, leaning back to judge:


-- It is this hour of a day in mid June, Stephen said, begging with a swift glance their hearing. The flag is up on the playhouse by the bankside. The bear Sackerson growls in the pit near it, Paris garden. Canvasclimbers who sailed with Drake chew their sausages among the groundlings.

Local colour. Work in all you know. Make them accomplices.

-- Shakespeare has left the huguenot's house in Silver street and walks by the swanmews along the riverbank. But he does not stay to feed the pen chivying her game of cygnets towards the rushes. The swan of Avon has other thoughts.

Composition of place. Ignatius Loyola, make haste to help me!

-- The play begins. A player comes on under the shadow, made up in the castoff mail of a court buck, a wellset man with a bass voice. It is the ghost, the king, a king and no king, and the player is Shakespeare who has studied Hamlet all the years of his life which were not vanity in order to play the part of the spectre. He speaks the words to Burbage, the young player who stands before him beyond the rack of cerecloth, calling him by a name:

Hamlet, I am thy father's spirit

bidding him list. To a son he speaks, the son of his soul, the prince, young Hamlet and to the son of his body, Hamnet Shakespeare, who has died in Stratford that his namesake may live for ever.

-- Is it possible that that player Shakespeare, a ghost by absence, and in the vesture of buried Denmark, a ghost by death, speaking his own words to his own son's name (had Hamnet Shakespeare lived he would have been prince Hamlet's twin) is it possible, I want to know, or probable that he did not draw or foresee the logical conclusion of those premises: you are the dispossessed son: I am the murdered father: your mother is the guilty queen. Ann Shakespeare, born Hathaway?

-- But this prying into the family life of a great man, Russell began impatiently.

Art thou there, truepenny?

-- Interesting only to the parish clerk. I mean, we have the plays. I mean when we read the poetry of King Lear what is it to us how the poet lived? As for living, our servants can do that for us, Villiers de l'Isle has said. Peeping and prying into greenroom gossip of the day, the poet's drinking, the poet's debts. We have King Lear: and it is immortal.

Mr Best's face appealed to, agreed.

Flow over them with your waves and with your waters,
Mananaan, Mananaan MacLir...
{My source:


Some additional thoughts:

1. — The Complete Buffy Episode Guide is a good Buffy source as is

2. A guy named Lou Shochet has a good discussion of the ghost theme in Joyce at Scylla & Charybdis.

3. The scene in the National Library has Stephen think about agenbit of inwit (not for the first time). It's a piece of Joycean esoterica that's hard to forget once you've come upon it.

4. I called this post metempsychosis in a weak attempt to be cutely Joycean. Here's the scene where it occurs in Ulysses, from the fourth section, Calypso, Bloom and Molly in the bedroom early in the morning of that great midmonth day of June 1904:
The book, fallen, sprawled against the bulge of the orange-keyed chamberpot.

-- Show here, she said. I put a mark in it. There's a word I wanted to ask you.

She swallowed a draught of tea from her cup held by nothandle and, having wiped her fingertips smartly on the blanket, began to search the text with the hairpin till she reached the word.

-- Met him what? he asked.

-- Here, she said. What does that mean?

He leaned downwards and read near her polished thumbnail.

-- Metempsychosis?

-- Yes. Who's he when he's at home?

-- Metempsychosis, he said, frowning. It's Greek: from the Greek. That means the transmigration of souls.

-- O, rocks! she said. Tell us in plain words.

He smiled, glancing askance at her mocking eye. The same young eyes. The first night after the charades. Dolphin's Barn. He turned over the smudged pages. Ruby: the Pride of the Ring. Hello. Illustration. Fierce Italian with carriagewhip. Must be Ruby pride of the on the floor naked. Sheet kindly lent. The monster Maffei desisted and flung his victim from him with an oath. Cruelty behind it all. Doped animals. Trapeze at Hengler's. Had to look the other way. Mob gaping. Break your neck and we'll break our sides. Families of them. Bone them young so they metempsychosis. That we live after death. Our souls. That a man's soul after he dies. Dignam's soul...

-- Did you finish it? he asked.

-- Yes, she said. There's nothing smutty in it. Is she in love with the first fellow all the time?

-- Never read it. Do you want another?

-- Yes. Get another of Paul de Kock's. Nice name he has.

She poured more tea into her cup, watching its flow sideways.

Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they'll write to Kearney, my guarantor. Reincarnation: that's the word.

-- Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better. An example.

The Bath of the Nymph over the bed. Given away with the Easter number of Photo Bits: Splendid masterpiece in art colours. Tea before you put milk in. Not unlike her with her hair down: slimmer. Three and six I gave for the frame. She said it would look nice over the bed. Naked nymphs: Greece: and for instance all the people that lived then.

He turned the pages back.

-- Metempsychosis, he said, is what the ancient Greeks called it. They used to believe you could be changed into an animal or a tree, for instance. What they called nymphs, for example.

Her spoon ceased to stir up the sugar. She gazed straight before her, inhaling through her arched nostrils.

-- There's a smell of burn, she said. Did you leave anything on the fire?

-- The kidney! he cried suddenly.
{My source:

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Joost Posthuma did well in today's stage of the Tour. It was an individual time trial, a discipline in which he excels.

In the ITT, racers depart in reverse order of the overall standings (this is the yellow jersey competition, also called the general classification). Since Joost was placed in the lower half, he got a relatively early ride. I kept up with blog entries giving the intermediate and final results as they scrolled onto my screen this morning and tried to keep my cool as it became apparent how very well he'd done. He held onto second position until the big-name time-trial favorites began to arrive at the finish, and even then, he dropped only a bit. In the end, his position was higher than that of Dave Zabriskie and Vladimir Karpets who were among a handful of riders whom Bernard Hinault had picked as potential winners. He also surpassed men who are favorites to win the Tour including George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer.

Floyd Landis, another of my short list of unassuming top athletes, took second place in the race.

Here are the race results showing Joost in 10th position, one min. 44 secs. below the winner.

Pos. N° Name Surname Nat. Team Time Gaps
1 023 HONCHAR Serhiy UKR TMO 01:01:43:600
2 071 LANDIS Floyd USA PHO 01:02:44:220 à 00h 01' 01"
3 044 LANG Sebastian GER GST 01:02:47:870 à 00h 01' 04"
4 026 ROGERS Michael AUS TMO 01:03:07:470 à 00h 01' 24"
5 156 LARSSON Gustav SWE FDJ 01:03:17:080 à 00h 01' 33"
6 027 SINKEWITZ PatrikGER TMO 01:03:22:250 à 00h 01' 39"
7 042 FOTHEN Marcus GER GST 01:03:25:370 à 00h 01' 42"
8 021 KLÖDEN Andréas GER TMO 01:03:26:860 à 00h 01' 43"
9 051 MENCHOV Denis RUS RAB 01:03:27:500 à 00h 01' 44"
10 057 POSTHUMA Joost NED RAB 01:03:28:010 à 00h 01' 44"
11 061 EVANS Cadel AUS DVL 01:03:32:990 à 00h 01' 49"
12 096 KARPETS Vladimir RUS CEI 01:03:35:280 à 00h 01' 52"
13 018 ZABRISKIE David USA CSC 01:03:40:190 à 00h 01' 57"
14 024 KESSLER Matthias GER TMO 01:03:46:370 à 00h 02' 03"
15 031 MOREAU Christophe FRA A2R 01:03:47:060 à 00h 02' 03"
16 025 MAZZOLENI Eddy ITA TMO 01:03:48:210 à 00h 02' 05"
17 079 PENA Victor Hugo COL PHO 01:03:52:580 à 00h 02' 09"
18 014 SASTRE Carlos ESP CSC 01:03:54:190 à 00h 02' 11"
19 009 SAVOLDELLI Paolo ITA DSC 01:03:55:800 à 00h 02' 12"
20 157 LÖVKVIST Thomas SWE FDJ 01:04:19:390 à 00h 02' 36"
21 072 GRABSCH Bert GER PHO 01:04:21:760 à 00h 02' 38"
22 002 EKIMOV Viatceslav RUS DSC 01:04:23:830 à 00h 02' 40"
23 097 PEREIRO SIO Oscar ESP CEI 01:04:24:520 à 00h 02' 41"

This photo, from Joost's personal site, shows him in the ITT race.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

update on two reticent athletes

Zizane was today's hero in the World Cup match between France and Portugal. He scored the only goal on a penalty. Thierry Henry won the penalty, but Zizou was the one who put it into the net. The BBC says he won a battle of wills with Portugal's keeper when he put the ball out of reach even though the keep correctly guessed which way he would kick. {Photo from BBC Sport}

Meanwhile, in the TdF, Joost came in 53rd today and is now 133rd in the general classification, out of 172 remaining riders. He's 18th out of 23 in the young riders competition. Maybe he can move up in Friday's time trial. {Photo from Joost's web site}

Monday, July 03, 2006

a celebration of unassuming achievement

In the traditions of the Plains aborigines of America, white signifies Winter, the North, old age, and wisdom. In the Tour de France it signifies, youth and athletic prowess (and I suppose Spring, and the East). That's because the best young rider gets to wear a white jersey.

At the end of the first stage of this year's TdF Friesian 25-year old Joost Posthuma was awarded this maillot blanc. There are some good photos of Joost on his official website. This one comes from the site maintained by Rabobank, the team that sponsors him:

Joost is appealingly modest about his accomplishment. He writes: "Wat een proloog. Echt geweldig. Het ging allemaal buiten verwachting. Zeker het eerste stuk reed ik super lekker. Het eerste succes is binnen Ik heb de witte trui, die pakken ze me niet meer af. Ik ga wel zien hoe lang ik hem ga houden. Ik ga me nu laten masseren. Groeten, Joost."

Which translates, very roughly, as: "What a prologue. Really terrible. It was much worse than I expected. I did the first section very well, but after that... All the same, in the first stage I won the white jersey. There are lots of good young riders so, we'll see whether I get to keep it very long. [It's Sunday so] I'm off to church now. Groeten, Joost"

And, in fact, he lost the jersey yesterday and is now in second place in the young riders competition (25th in overall classification out of 120, which is not bad at all). He lost to a Frenchman with an exceedingly French name: Benoít Vaugrenard, who rides for an exceedingly French team, Francaise des Jeux.

Update: Joost held his position in today's race. He's still second in the White Jersey competition (by 9 seconds) and -- 23rd in the general classification (yellow jersey competition)-- he's the highest-placed Rabobank rider and highest-placed Netherlander.

The modesty of Joost about his success reminds me of other modest greats. Here are a few:

1. Zizou

As the Guardian says, it was he who enabled France to beat Brazil the other day (Zidane conjures up more magic): "Zinedine Zidane turned the clock back to destroy Brazil once more with a magic performance. Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, the child of the Marseille banlieue come good, the man whose humility made him the most introverted kind of hero imaginable, he didn't just unite football fans. He united France.

Wikipedia adds: "Zidane is one of the football icons of his generation and is known to be modest, quiet and self-admittedly shy."

2. Floyd Landis.

There's a profile of Landis in the Sunday Style Section of the Washington Post this week (Breaking Away). It says: "Early on, Floyd Landis Learned the Last Shall Be First. In the eyes of the Mennonites -- a community defined by its uncompromising work ethic -- the servant shall be exalted in time. Cyclist Floyd Landis, who has made a career out of servanthood, believes that his time has come. In fact, the onetime Mennonite has the date and place for his reward precisely fixed: the afternoon of July 23, when he hopes to roll into Paris as the winner of the Tour de France."

In fact Floyd might have had the leader's jersey -- the Maillot Jaune of the overall race leader -- after the first day of racing but for a cut in the tire of his bike. Says "Floyd Landis, who began his prologue six seconds too late on Saturday, blames the delay on a cut in his tire. The rider, who is now one of the top favorites for the overall victory, explained that his tire needed replacing due to that cut. 'I did lose my concentration. Had I known it was so close to the start, I wouldn't have taken the risk of replacing the tire.' Landis limited the damage in the 7.1km prologue however, finishing ninth at nine seconds from winner Thor Hushovd." After three days of racing, Landis is currently 9th in the overall classification, an excellent position at this point in the racing.

3. Deioces, king of the Medes.

Herodotus writes that Deioces, was chosen king of the Medes through his reputation as an honest and upright judge. The Medes had rebelled against their Assyrian masters, but having achieved independence did not set up a central authority and lawlessness resulted. Using what would later be seen as a Machiavellian strategy, Deioces created a Median state. Though Heodotus regrets the loss of self-rule, he rightly accords praise for Deioces' peaceful route to power. Here's the story as Herodotus tells it:
When all were autonomous throughout the mainland, they devolved back to tyrannies this way: a man among the Medes proved wise, whose name was Deioces, and he was the son of Phraortes. That Deioces fell in love with tyranny and acted like this: the Medes having their settlements in villages, he, being in his own, both previously was esteemed and even somewhat more eagerly applied himself to and practiced justice; and that, too, although there was lawlessness throughout all the Median land, he did, since he knew that to the just the unjust is an enemy. So the Medes, seeing his manners, chose him as their judge. He, then, inasmuch as he was wooing rule, was straight and just, and as a result, doing that, he had no little praise from his fellow citizens so that those in all the other villages learned by inquiry that Deioces was the only man to judge in accordance with what’s correct, and, although previously they fell in with unjust decisions, then, after they had heard of him, they gladly went constantly to Deioces, on their own indeed, to receive judgement, and finally they entrusted themselves to no other. When the group that went constantly on each and every occasion grew larger, inasmuch as they learned by inquiry that their lawsuits came out in accordance with what was, Deioces, come to the knowledge that everything was referred to himself, as he was unwilling to sit down any longer right where previously he had sat publicly and judged, so he said he would not judge any longer, since it was not profitable for him, careless of his own, to judge for his neighbors throughout the day. Accordingly, there being seizure and lawlessness still far more throughout the villages than was before, the Medes collected in the same place and deliberated with themselves; they said about the present situation (and, as I think, the friends of Deioces said it most), “Because, if we keep our present manner, indeed we are unable to be settled in our country, come let us set over ourselves a king, and thus our country will have good laws and we ourselves will turn to work and not be made to migrate by lawlessness.” Saying nearly that, they persuaded themselves to be a monarchy. At once, from when they were putting forward whom they should set themselves as king, Deioces was prevalent, since by every man he was both put forward and praised, until they consented that he should be king.

4. Spinoza

Benedict de Spinoza belongs in this group because he was a pacifist who promoted a non-dogmatic, non-demominational approach to religion at a time when the sectarian violence was fierce and men could be put to death for non-conforming beliefs. He also was a modest man who, a recent biographer says, lost his faith but "remained outwardly observant until the death of his father in deference to the Jewish value of 'shalom bayis,' peace within the family." Learning this, she says, "The thought occurred to me that [Spinoza] must have been a lovable man."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Weltschale and la Grande Boucle

I suppse it happens every quadrennium: World Cup frenzy reaches a peak as Tour de France frenzy begins. The latter is more intense early on than is usual because on the eve of the race a bunch of top riders were dropped having been implicated in a Spanish doping scandal. Who's favored to win? makes a pretty good case for the American, Levi Leipheimer, who rides for the German Gerolsteiner Team. The article also contains a quick-read overview of this year's race. There's some description of the evidence gathered by Spanish authorities on the ProCylcling site.

The riders come from Europe and all over. Jukka Vastaranta from Finland. Ian McLeod from South Africa. Three from Ireland: Scanlon, Deignan, and -- renowned surname -- a Roche (Stephen Roche was a leading rider of the '80s; I've a poster of him on my wall). The rider whose name will probably trip up announcers the most is Unai Etxebarria; he's from Venezuela.

One of my favorite of the non-Euro racers is the New Zealander, Julian Dean, who writes an engaging online diary. I like that he isn't afraid to use down-underisms, as in: "Finally the day ended after a visit from old mate, Blick, from Oakley who hooked us up good and proper. Even gave me a dope pair of eyewear for little mate. He loves kicking around the house wearing mine so no doubt he’ll be fizzing when he gets his very own pair … " (his ellipsis). I also like his rambling on about family affairs, including the "little mate" who is his son Tanner (pictured here). And finally, he's refreshingly forthright about his own capabilities: "I’m feeling a lot of pressure from the team to perform because I’ve had such crap season to date, it’s just part of what I have to cope with at times like this. A lot of the time I’ve been made to feel like I’m lucky to be here. Which is kinda funny….Haven’t felt lucky all year!!! Bottom line is though that they know what I’m capable of and that’s why I’m here. Even though I'm a little under done, I will be better than I have been up to now. Of that I am sure.

That said, I'm sure you're all wondering why I haven't gotten right down to the most important question about this year's Grand Boucle: who are the Nederlanders? As usual, you'll probably see a few of them off the front to gain some camera time during relatively flat stages, but are unlikely to see them on the podium on any day at all. They're too oriented toward the Spring Classics, those (generally) cold and wet one-day races that Northern Europeans love. Nederlanders don't shine in the extremes of heat, mountainous terrain, and three-week slogging of the big national tours.

So here's the list. Most ride for Rabobank, the Dutch team, or Quick Step, the Belgian one. Dates of birth are shown.

Michael Boogerd (28/05/1972)
Jan Boven (28/02/1972)
Bram De Groot (18/12/1974)
Erik Dekker (21/08/1970)
Theo Elting (27/11/1981)
Joost Posthuma (08/03/1981)
Niels Scheuneman (21/12/1983)
Roy Sentjens (15/12/1980)
Thorwald Veneberg (16/10/1977)
Pieter Weening (05/04/1981)
Addy Engels (16/06/1977)
Servais Knaven (06/03/1971)
Bram Tankink (03/12/1978)
Remmert Wielinga (27/04/1978)
Maarten Den Bakker (26/01/1969)
Max Van Heeswijk (03/02/1973)
Leon Van Bon (28/01/1972)
Tristan Hoffman (01/01/1970)
Karsten Kroon (29/01/1976)
Tristan Hoffman (01/01/1970)
Michiel Elijzen (31/08/1982)
Mathieu Heijboer (04/02/1982)
Stef Clement (24/09/1982)