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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Weather, News, Sports 

The day dawned foggy, and the drive along Barnet Highway reminded me of something odd: video game special effects have taught me to look at the real world more closely.

typical video game fog effects show background objects popping rather suddenly out of the fog, something you can often see on a game which is simulating both fog and some sort of trees. It looks quite strange. But on Barnet, what did I see but trees, popping rather dramatically out of the fog. Just like in video games. Until I started looking at video games critically, I didn't notice the details of how we see fog.

After that start, the weather improved throughout the day, which was good, because I was still feeling a bit under the weather. Didn't stop me from doing the ride, though. Big turnout, good weather, and no wind meant we turned in a pretty quick tour, averaging over 30 km/h. still feeling ill, I decided to miss out on what was probably a very fun extra leg to Iona. But I was glad for the break.

On the trip home (I was driving), The Lovely One was most perturbed by a bit of a cut-off delivered by a young man in a GMC van. She sweetly requested that I cut him off if I got the chance. Now, that's not something I do, but lesson for the van driver: if you're not paying attention, I won't have to cut you off to get you stuck in traffic.

Here's how it went down: we entered the Barnet as part of a bolus of traffic, I was following a safe distance behind Mr. Van watching him blithely roll up behind a slower car for no reason other than he wasn't driving very well (or maybe he figured he could push the car into going a little faster). So I asked The Lovely One to observe, punched the throttle on the Tercel (all 85 horsepower!), and passed him ith alacrity, just in time to slide back into the slow lane ahead of the aforementioned slow car.

Too bad for Mr. Van: I took the only passing space available before we caught up to slower traffic in the fast lane, which he was now well and truly stuck behind. He probably would have had room to pass, but I took it. I probably would have let him have that spot, but he was naughty.

In other news, I'm not that sick. We're definitely on the tail-end of my disease. Good.

And now, sports. Following up on yesterday's Villeneuve-o-rama, he qualified 12th for the Chinese GP, which starts at 2300 PDT. That's a midly disappointing result: well behind his teammate Alonso (6th) and sworn enemies BAR, who have Jenson Button in third spot on the grid. Not bad for a guy who has been away from virtually any F1 cars for a year, though.

In other sports news, there's a been a rather serious, and rather odd doping positive in pro bike racing. In this case, it's Tyler Hamilton, probably the second-best American cyclist right now (he won the Olympic TT in August), and a rider with a squeaky-clean reputation.

As of right now, he's still asserting his innocence, despite 3 positive test results on a new blood-doping test that screens for homologous blood transfusions (injecting blood from someone else; if you remove your own blood and store it for later injection, that's an autologous transfusion), a pre-EPO tactic for increasing hematocrit (red blood cell) levels, which basically makes your blood better at carrying oxygen (as long as you don't mind the non-trivial risk of heart failure in your sleep).

If this stuff all holds up, Hamilton could be looking at a two-year ban from pro racing. Since Hamilton is 33, that would be something close to forever, career-wise.

This will, in the usual bike-fan knitting circles, fire up the usual debate about whether cycling should succumb to the inevitable and allow some sort of regulated consumption of various performance-enhancing drugs and doping techniques.

I have always argued the answer is no, and for some very simple reasons. Drug prohibition in sport is not like drug prohibition for crystal meth. If I start taking crystal meth recreationally [what would qualify as non-recreational consumption?], it doesn't cause strong incentives for my co-workers to do the same, thus driving them somewhat unwillingly into taking the same risks I took on my own initiative.

To elaborate on that, everyone agrees that most of these drugs would require some sort of dosage restriction, so that you didn't get some lunatic running monster win-or-die doses of stuff like steroids and hematocrit-modifiers, and forcing everyone to chase them.

But how is regulating these drug doses going to be easier than the current system, in which the powers that be already mandate regular testing, both in and out of competition, for a great number of pro riders? All advocates of limited-use regimens seem to be able to argue for is that doctor-supervised doses will be safer and more easily regulated. I am seriously skeptical.

And that's how I spent the first day of my vacation.

A quick coda: this blog is for you, the reader. Let me know if you like one kind of random yammering better than another kind. My mailbox is always open.

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