Sunday, September 30, 2007

a raptor

We've had little rain this summer but not draught: less mowing, lots of crystal-clear cloudless days, with light breeze and lower humidity than usual. As the days get cooler, we can enjoy weekend lunch on the side porch without the sound pollution of our neighbor's window-unit air-conditioner.

We watch the young families go to and from a small playground up the street a bit, observe neighbors puttering about in their yards, and generally absorb the natural moment as best we can.

Mid-day yesterday was special as we both saw a hawk, two crows, and a handful of squirrels enact a small drama. The hawk was intent on capturing a small squirrel. The squirrels were busy hunting nuts to store for the winter months and trying to avoid the hawk's talons, swooping down at them. The crows seemed to be keeping an eye on the hawk, harrassing it once or twice, maybe to establish territorial rights, maybe to protect their nests. The hawk would sit on a high branch on one side of our viewing area, drop down at a squirrel, avoid crow, and flap up to a high branch on the other side. Back and forth for a quarter hour or so, with folks passing by on foot, dogs on leash, strollers and toddlers in hand. We didn't see it leave, but are sure it didn't make a lunch of any prey in our little space.

I'm pretty sure it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk:

{click image to view full size; image source}

Friday, September 28, 2007

dice Ankle Injuries video

Fujiya & Miyagi

I picked this up from sebastianmary, who says: "Fujiya & Miyagi’s Ankle Injuries video. All made of dice. It made me very happy, especially the space invaders."

Note: You'd think sebastianmary is nickname for a person called Mary Sebastian, but I think it's actually Mary Harrington.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

almost a tween

Google is celebrating its 9th birthday.

Dennis Hwang makes these logos. There's a Google page about them.

An aside: Like many neologisms, tween doesn't have a fixed meaning. Can be used for kids 10-12, 8-12, or, in Tolkien, for Hobbits 20-32 years old. I'm using the first of these.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the 1950 Ford, from memory

I keep the RSS feed for Emily Chang's PicoCool page in my aggregator. Today she posted about an artist, Elizabeth Perry, who has done 1,000 drawings, one each day since March 31, 2002. Drawing 1000 is here.

Looking at Elizabeth Perry's home page, I noticed that she contributed a drawing to a show now up in a gallery in Alberta: The 1950 Ford Show (officially entitled: "WILL 100 ARTISTS PLEASE DRAW A 1950 FORD FROM MEMORY.")

I've got some interest in '50 Fords and so did a bit of further exploration.

The site explains that the show is a response to a conceptual work by the artist Ed Ruscha of the same name. The curators asked 100 artists to do as Ruscha asks, using a sheet of 8.5"x11" office paper.

A staff member at the gallery, using the Flickr name pinkmoose. Has posted some shots of preparations for the installation:

{click image to see full size; source: pinkmoose flickr pages}

Here's a contribution from one of the artists:

He says: "I’ve got a piece in an upcoming Rushca tribute show. The theme of the show is drawn from his conceptual piece Will 100 artists Draw A 1950 Ford From Memory. Essentially, the curator went out and found 100 artists to draw a Ford from memory. It didn’t have to be taken literally; I featured the interior in the drawing I came up with. Pretty happy with it, overall!"

This is Elizabeth Perry's '50 Ford picture (click image to view full size):
She says: "The text running up the side of the picture reads, 1950: Ford truck on the horizon nine years before I was born."

Here's a photo of the car itself:

More views here (my source. This is a customized model, like one owned by a high-school friend.

Monday, September 24, 2007

he didn't fall off his bike

The Tour of Spain ended yesterday with no surprises to speak of. The Rabo web site gives the news of the final stage: "Menchov does not fall off his bike and thereby wins the 2007 Vuelta, thanks partly to an exceptionally good team that did an enormous amount of work for him." The photo shows the three overall winners during a promenade moment before the bunch assembled for the sprinters' mad dash for the finish line.

{click image to view full size; source:}

Menchov won the competition for best rider in the mountains and for best overall ("combinada" in Spanish). He almost won top place in the points competition as well (winner of most intermediate sprints). He also won the critical time trial on Saturday.

Joost came in 12th in time trial. He said he'd hoped to be one of the top five finishers but, but after all his work in the last few stages, he didn't have the legs for it.

You can read Rabo's wrap-up on their web site. 23/09: Chronicle of successful Rabo Vuelta. It begins thus: "The Rabo ProTeam performed extremely strong in the 2007 Tour of Spain. The cleverly assembled team achieved all of its goals: stage victories for sprinter Oscar Freire and the final victory for Denis Menchov."

Despite (or maybe because of) frequent and thorough testing, there were no drug scandals this time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

what's not there

I received a notecard from a friend at work. She sent it to thank me for a condolance. On front it shows the image at right, plum blossoms and camelias. The back contains all of chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu.
{painting by Yun Shouping, 1633-1690; source:}

Chapter 11
Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tsu, from the back of the card
Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
The image, from wikipedia, shows Lao zu leaving China on his water buffalo.Ursula Le Guin's version:
The uses of not

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn't
is where it's useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot's not
is where it's useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't,
there's room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn't

She says: "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny. He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counter-intuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe. He goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots." (p. 14)

Tao te ching : a book about the way and the power of the way, by Laozi.; Ursula K Le Guin; Jerome P Seaton, Boston : Shambhala, 1997.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

city cyclists

The self-service bike idea continues to spread. Dijon is next-up in France according to Ma Ville a Vélo. The metro area of this city will start off with 400 bicycles. The program models on the Vélib system in Paris, but the contractor is different: Clear Channel, an American company which successfully put self-service bikes in Barcelona last spring.

Not surprisingly, a Dutch company has announced a pilot program for self-service bikes in Amsterdam. Here's a brief account in RedFerret:
The Bike Dispenser - bicycle vending machines reach Europe at last


The Bike Dispenser…er…dispenses bicycles. On demand. The service is only at pilot stage at the moment in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, but it sounds perfect for most places if the concept works out. You pay a subscription to obtain a smartcard and PIN number and use that to rent a bike at any of the vending machines you find (the plan is to site them at places like railway stations, park and ride etc). Just stick your card in the slot, enter the code and 15 seconds later out pops a bike for you to use. When you’re done just pop it back into the slot and your rental period ends. The best thing is the fact that you can return them to different dispensers around town, which is v. cool.


The company, Bikedispenser, says they are placing bikes at commuter stations in Amsterdam and that "projects in several other cities are in preparation."

Despite the success of Vélib and the growth of the self-service idea throughout western Europe, the press has been mostly silent. One major exception is an article in the Economist which tells us:
Vélib' (for vélo, or bicycle, and liberté, or freedom) has taken Paris by storm. More than 10,000 bikes have been installed at 750 docking stations, which is half of the scheme's eventual capacity, says Jean-François Decaux, the son of the founder and co-chief executive of the family-controlled firm along with his brother, Jean-Charles. The bicycles have been used by 4m people so far, who have clocked up 100,000 rides a day. Last week Jean-François was in Moscow for talks with the mayor, who is keen to introduce a similar scheme there. The mayor of Chicago also expressed interest in importing Vélib' during a recent visit to Paris.
You wouldn't know it from reading our local papers, but Washington DC is one of the US cities that's poised to experiment with the program. Here's an extract from a statement from by local politician:
DC to Launch Bicycle Rental Program

Smart Bikes (photo credit: Clear Channel Outdoors) DDOT is considering an automated bicycle rental system in DC in partnership with Clear Channel. Similar to car sharing, the system would allow members to swipe a card and release a bike from a kiosk (DDOT says to think of it as kind of like an airport luggage carts -- but better). According to DDOT, Clear Channel is operating similar systems in Europe, and this would become the first of its kind in the Northeast U.S. The proposed contract will allow for 120 bikes at 10 kiosks
The scale of the DC program is small and this bureaucratic timidity seems likely to doom the experiment from the outset. The likelihood that you'll find a bike at your urban start point and a rack in which to leave it at your end point is much too small.

To compare: DC has about 600,000 people; will get 120 bikes. The Dijon metro area has less than half the people but will get more than 3 times the bikes (400 for about a quarter of a million people). Paris has a couple million souls and more than 10,000 bikes at 750 locations.

The DC bike program might expand if there's demand for it and good publicity would help stimulate demand. Unfortunately, there's been very little public annoucement at all. Other than the politician's web blurb, I can find only that the program has been promoted on BikeWashingtonDC, the local bike advocacy discussion list. There, you can read a project description: Subject: Automated Bike Rental coming to DC. Trouble is, most of the people who read this list are already committed to cycling; the people targeted by the self-service systems in Europe are those who don't currently use bikes to get around.

Wired Blog had a post on the Barcelona system soon after it opened last spring. This photo comes from the post (click to see full size):

An editorial on a Spanish site for tourists says the Bicing program has been very successful to the extent that 70,000 bike rides are taken in the city every day and complains that the city needs to create more bike lanes and enforce rules that help bicyclists compete with other traffic on city streets. The editorial includes this photo of Barcelona's mayor on his bike on the day the Bicing scheme was begun:

Addendum: The papers today are happy to tell us about the failure of China to control emissions from motor vehicles. This nation, once so heavily dependent on bike transportation is suffering more and more from automotive gridlock. Here, for example, is the intro to the piece distributed by Agence France-Presse:
China observes 'Car Free Day' with the usual gridlock

BEIJING (AFP) - More than 100 Chinese cities including Beijing staged a "Car Free Day" Saturday to fight congestion and pollution, but the streets of the capital remained defiantly clogged with traffic jams.

Beijing's middle class climbed into their cars to go shopping and touring as usual, apparently disregarding an injunction to leave the vehicles at home -- a pattern that seemed to be repeated in the other 107 participating cities.

Traffic in Beijing ©AFP - Teh Eng Koon

Friday, September 21, 2007

my tie

At the close of stage 19 of La Vuelta, Denis Menchov was quoted as saying his 95% certain of winning the race. Here's the wrap-up from the official race site:
Rabobank already celebrating the final victory for Denis Menchov The Rabobank team knows in its heart that victory for Denis Menchov in the 2007 Vuelta is now assured. The ex-cyclist Erik Breukink, now one of the coaches for the Dutch team, admitted as much: "Things are the way they are and the mere idea that Denis Menchov might lose the Vuelta in a time trial like the one at Collado Villalba is very strange. The truth is the last two days were in fact very dangerous, days where you could lose it all, but tactically we always tried to have teammates ahead of him. In addition, we had a Menchov who was feeling very strong, which always makes defending the lead easier." Breukink added in regard to the time trial: At Abantos Denis was also able to get in position to fight for the stage victory, but he was on the defensive for the entire final climb. It wasn’t the right thing to do right after that to get right behind someone ready to sprint. Anyway, he already told me that he likes the time trial at Collado and is going to go after the stage victory there".

The day, with the start in Avila and finish in Abantos, didn’t disappoint either the spectators or cycling enthusiasts. Attacks from the very first metre and failures on the final climb, with Cadel Evans as one of the main racers whose fortunes suffered, as the Australian racer gave up a little over a minute of time and lost his hold on second place. At the finish, the victory came down to a four-racer battle: Samuel Sánchez overcame over a brave Dani Moreno while Sastre and Menchov crossed the line practically side-by-side. Behind them, Efimkin and Evans tried to cut their losses. The Australian rider suffered through several crises and finally gave up second place to Sastre, although he did save the third spot by only 12 seconds over Samuel Sánchez. The time trial at Collado Villalba maintains the excitement of the fight for the awards podium in Madrid, although Menchov’s overall victory is now beyond all doubt.
Race photos here. That's Joost in the blue and orange Rabo colors near the center of the shot.

I'm glad I wore my bike race tie today:

{click image to view full size}

La Vuelta today

Update: Menchov and the Rabos did well. He came in third today and increased his overall lead by about a minute. Joost was the second Rabo rider over the line so I suspect he did a lot of the work to support Denis in the closing kilometers of the stage.

Only two more stages of the Tour of Spain are left after today: the second individual time trial tomorrow and the final stage into Madrid on Sunday. Today's stage is one of the toughest of all. It includes six steep climbs and has a mountain finish. The official race web site says: "Today's stage is no easy ride, and bad weather is expected to complicate matters further. The cyclists face no less than 6 climbs, and this, coupled with an interesting array of storms, rain and perhaps even hail along the way, guarantees an interesting day. There is a slight wind, and the temperature in Avila just now is 19 degrees."

The Rabobank Team has kept Denis Menchov in first place over the past few days through their own hard work, his stamina and race savvy tactics, and the help of teams that want to capture a stage but don't have contenders for top honors in the race.

Yesterday's race was exciting particularly because Menchov got himself into the winning break along with the riders in third and fourth position in general classification, but the guy in second position missed out and is now in fifth place more than 4 minutes down.

Joost is doing the job for which he's paid, meaning he's helped keep Menchov in the lead but does not himself have a high place. He may show some of his stuff in tomorrow's time trial if he still has the legs for it. It's hard to ride at the front of the pack all day, day in day out.

On his web site he says he's happy with the outcome of yesterday's stage since Denis was able to make time on his opponents, but the effort required was great ("super lastige" in Dutch) so as to keep breaks under control from the very start.

Route profile and summary of today's stage from the race site:

{click to view full size}
Abantos, the most exciting stage in Vuelta 2007 The 19th stage of the Vuelta, which starts in Avila and finishes at the Abantos summit, is undoubtedly the most thrilling in the whole event. Just 113 kilometres include six testing climbs in a stage which has already witnessed triumphs from Laiseka, Simoni and Heras. The final climb stretches 12 kilometres at an average incline of 5.7%, though various slopes of 18% incline lie in wait. Today is, therefore, a magnificent chance for the climbers to really shine. Valdelavia (3rd-km. 15), Hoyo de La Guija (2nd-km. 46), Robledondo (3rd-km. 57), Abantos (1st-km. 83), Robledondo (3rd-km. 107), Abantos (1st-km. 133) are the six climbs. Fans will be allowed to watch the event at the Robledondo and Abantos climbs in the final circuit, which after seeing the Avial stage, is guaranteed to be electric until the very last metre. The Golden Jersey and a place on the podium in Madrid are up for grabs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

La Vuelta today

Today's stage of the Tour of Spain is an interesting one, long and hilly with a few small mountains. Rabobank has been fortunate over the past few days. The stages have been mostly flat; challenges coming from the weather (rain and winds) but not the terrain. They've been able to hold on to the overall lead partly because other teams have been motivated to help them chase down the inevitable escapes from the main pack. The other teams to this in order to give their sprinters a chance for victory.

This stage is different not just because of the hills, but because Rabobank has had to control the break all by itself. I expect this is because the hills make it doubtful that a bunch sprint can be set up at the end. Keeping the break in check isn't easy. The stage is almost 130 miles long. So far its being taken at a fast pace, close to 25mph on average.

Rabobank's problem is to keep riders in the break from gaining enough time to threaten the position of Rabo's leader, Denis Menchov. In doing this they can't affor to overextend Joost and the other support riders. There's still a full week left in the race - 7 stages including a second individual time trial.

The stage has been underway for more than 5 hours now and the Rabos are succeeding. They've given the break an 8 minute lead, but since the highest placed racer in the break is 34 minutes behind Menchov, that's not a problem.

Update:The Rabo team delivered Menchov to the finish line in good order. An American on the Discovery Team won the stage: Jason McCartney. The peloton arrived 10 minutes later with Menchov close to but not at the front -- best position for the leader of the race. Joost and the other Rabos did their jobs well.

Monday, September 10, 2007

a good day for de Nederlanders

Today's stage of the Vuelta was a grueling one. Long and mountainous, finishing at the top of the highest point in the race. The Rabo team worked hard to protect the race leader, Denis Menchov. The work paid off as he took the stage and added to his overall lead. Joost Posthuma was one of a handful of racers who rode at the front of the pack to pull back a group that escaped early on. The overall speed was higher than expected, around 25 mph. Temperatures reached a high of about 85 deg. f. on the flats and dropped to the mid 50s at the top of the climbs.

You'll recall that Rabo's Michael Rasmussen was leading the Tour de France when reports of his failure to appear for drug tests caused him to be fired from the team. I hope the Vuelta doesn't experience a similar fiasco.

There is a hint of scandal, though apparently nothing very serious. Spaniard Carlos Sastre, who was fifth in the stage and is fourth overall, has accused Menchov of collaborating with Leonardo Piepoli, a rider on another team. There would be nothing illegal or even particularly irregular if true so long as there was no payment involved. In any event, Menchov has denied the accusation. Here's part of the account in Reuters:
Menchov, however, said: "Piepoli has his own style of attacking, we didn't talk on the stage, there was no agreement.

"It's true we are friends but nothing more than that. If other riders get dropped when Leo attacks, they get dropped."


Piepoli's team director Joxean Fernandez said on the Tour of Spain Web site: "There is no pact between Rabobank and Saunier Duval. Saunier Duval race for Saunier Duval."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

La Vuelta

Joost Posthuma is competing in La Vuelta, the Tour of Spain, now ending the first of its three weeks.

So far, Rabobank, the squad he's on, has done very well. Oscar Freire, their top sprinter has won three stages and come close to winning a fourth.

And, having done well on the mountain sages, Denis Menchov has taken over the lead in the general classification.

Joost took eighth place in the first time trial yesterday and is 35th in the general classification at this point, not bad for a rider whose job it is to provide support for the two leaders.

Update: The Vuelta web site gives an update on Spanish press coverage of Denis Menchov following yesterday's stage:
Press summary: Menchov and Piepoli collaborate The press has been focussing on the excellent synchronisation between Leonardo Piepoli and Denis Menchov during the climb to Cerler, an important climb which could well determine how the race develops. EL PAIS opens with: “Friends forever”. and highlights that Piepoli and Menchov raced together from 2001 to 2003, from which their rapport stems. EL MUNDO opens with: “Piepoli wins in Cerler and Menchov wears the Golden Jersey”. In addition, they highlight Pereiro’s withdrawal and Menchov’s determination. EL DIARIO VASCO opens with: “Piepoli and Menchov share the loot". And Benito Urraburu notes: “Menchov has been the best in time trials as well as in the mountains”. EL CORREO opens with: “Menchov, the Vuelta’s best friend”. It highlights that Menchov’s only enemy is the Russian cyclist himself. The following also stands out in today’s press: not one article focuses on Ordino. For the journalists following the Vuelta, Menchov’s show in Cerler was no indication of the surprise at the Andorran summit.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

bike service in Toulouse

Toulouse is joining a bunch of other European cities in adopting self-service bike program.

The Vélib program began in Paris back in July and has achieved great success. Says Angelique Chrisafis in the Guardian:
So huge is the success of the Vélib' that Paris is proclaiming a veritable "vélorution", reclaiming the streets for two-wheelers. This is not the first scheme to provide bikes for cheap short-hires - Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo got there first, and Lyon was the pioneer in France - but Paris aims to be the biggest. More than 1.6m hires have been registered in the first month from the 800 bike stands around the city. Currently 10,600 bikes are in circulation, but by the end of the year that will double. The unisex bikes are provided by the poster advertising company JCDecaux to Paris city hall in return for ad space in the city, so at no cost to the taxpayer. It's a political triumph for Paris's socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, and his opposite number Ken Livingstone is so impressed that he has ordered a consultation on bringing the scheme to London.
The Toulouse program will mimic the one in Paris. Here's an edited rough translation from the JCDecaux press release:
JCDecaux gagne le contrat des vélos en libre service de Toulouse

JCDecaux wins contract for self-service bicycles in Toulouse

Paris, September 3, 2007 - JCDecaux SA has won a contract for self-service bicyles in the town of Toulouse (390,350 inhabitants) for 15 years duration.

This contract includes a first phase of 135 stations and 1,470 bicycles then a possible 3 additional phases which would carry the whole to 253 stations and 2,400 bicycles. Advertising billboards will cover part of the financing of the contract, another part covered by earnings the city makes from payments by bike renters.
Regarding the Paris system, Patrick, the author of Ma Ville en Vélo says some of the Vélib stations will provide free Mobiguides (district guides that can be downloaded to mobile phones). He says: "One will find in these Mobiguides local information like the locations of Vélib stations, taxi stands, free Wi-Fi hot spots, as well as municipal maps, emergency numbers, and the district's calendar of current events."

Patrick's site offers some videos including these two:

Vélocité! Paris
Une ballade à vélo dans Paris

Manifestation Cyclo-nudiste

{Happy Vélib riders in Paris (flickr photo)}

Sunday, September 02, 2007

one in 10

Here's a mind-blowing statistic. It's from a lead article in today's Washington Post: "As many as 60,000 D.C. residents -- one in 10 -- are felons, 15,000 of them under court supervision."

The headline is Back From Behind Bars and it's author, Robert E. Pierre, focuses on the difficulties encountered by felons on their release from prison.

I blogged about incarceration stats a year ago: (Throw away the key). Here is a short update to that post: Here's a short update to that post from the Jail Statistics page of the Bureau of Justice statistics site. It gives data only for locally-operated jails which generally only lock up people before of after they've been to court. The stats are thus a subset of the data in my original post.
Jail Statistics, Summary findings
  • 94% of the rated capacity was occupied at midyear 2006.
  • At midyear 2006, 766,010 inmates were held in the Nation's local jails, up from 747,529 at midyear 2005.
The BOJ stats show that Blacks were almost three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail. Project the red line forward. How many years before one in 10 Blacks are in jail? At that date will one in seven be felons in DC?