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12/20/10 01:32 pm - Zemba-documentary on Wikileaks

 I just saw this documentary on the Dutch internet TV-channel 'Uitzending gemist' (missed broadcasts). I didn't know all about Wikileaks yet, but this gives a nice overview: http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/index.php/aflevering?aflID=11858463&md5=63ffcd832fae1fcea4fa44e95cf82c4d

Apart from getting some information on Wikileaks, it gave me a pretty firm idea that there's a lot of filth out there, that is being practiced by Western democracies in their people's names. I can't say much else than that I support any initiative that brings the information to the public, so that not just history, but also the current press and ultimately the people can deal with our decision makers in a democratically suited way.

8/31/10 04:31 pm - Laurent Fignon dies

 Professional cycling just lost one of it's most characteristic figures: Laurent Fignon, winner of the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984 died today at age 50. Fignon, who also won the 1989 Giro d'Italia and a number of cycling classics, but will always be remembered because of those 8 seconds that separated him from the '89 Tour win. 'Le Professeur', as his nickname was, due to his trademark glasses, lost his last battle against cancer, after a fight that took several years.

7/22/10 12:27 pm - Tour duels: 1949, Coppi and Bartali

 Let's make a small list of some of the greatest duels in the history of the Tour de France.

First of all, the legendary 1949 Tour, where countrymates (and teammates) Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali battled it out in the alps. All by themselves, since no one was ever able to keep up with the Italian icons of cycling. Coppi battled his way back into the race from a time loss of 30 minutes in the flat stages, Bartali being a little closer to the yellow yersey initially. The duel between these rivals divided a nation: between communists and catholics, between the youth and the elder. All of them locked to their radio's.

And sometimes you would see a picture in the papers, like this famous shot with the drinking bottle.

In the Alps, Coppi let Bartali win on his birthday, he attacked the day after and took the yellow yersey with a 5 minutes lead. He gained another 5 minutes in the gargantuan 150km time trial that concluded their duel.

7/6/10 07:53 pm - Uruguay, back after 60 years?

Uruguay is the smallest country to ever win the World Cup. Actually, they won it twice: in 1930 and 1950, on both occasions beating another South American team in the finals.

They were the early stars of the game, while the British refused to be part of FIFA, disliking 'international influence on the game' they had invented, Uruguay's players rose to stardom in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. The country won both tournaments, playign a game unheard of and unseen in Europe: unlike the European teams, with their emphasis on physical strength, Uruguay played it's football with short passes, quick combinations. This made them virtually unbeatable in the pre-war era.

An illustration of their legendary status is the story of an old Amsterdam grandma, that went to the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic stadium, mentioning she 'wanted to see Uruguay play before she died.'

They were the natural favourites at the first ever FIFA World Cup, in 1930, in which they beat Argentina 4-2 in the finals. A few European teams didn't appear in this first World Cup though and Uruguay reciprocated this by boycotting both the 1934 and 1938 editions. In 1950 they were back though, beating Brazil on it's home ground in a legendary final.

The question remains.. can they do it again? Unlike in the 1930's, tonight's Uruguay is facing an opponent known to be more technical and swifter in it's combinations. They are now the defending team, grinding their way to narrow victories with tough, dreadfully tough play. Their appearance in the 2010 World Cup finals would be a great upset to some, maybe a greater upset even than their 1950 win in Brazil.
Can they do it? Will Uruguay play in a World Cup finals after 60 years of absence?

We will see tonight...

6/30/10 05:02 pm - The most expensive material on earth

How to get rich?

Apparently, all you need is 1 gram of this stuff... And then someone who wants to buy a few molecules ;) 
The cost to create 1 gram of anti-hydrogen is estimated at 4.79 times the US National Debt. *

Just a Wikipedia Quote:
Scientists claim antimatter is the costliest material to make. In 2006, Gerald Smith estimated 250 million dollars could produce 10 milligrams of positrons (equivalent to $25 billion per gram); and in 1999 NASA gave a figure of $62.5 trillion per gram of antihydrogen. This is because production is difficult (only a few antiprotons are produced in reactions in particle accelerators), and because there is higher demand for the other uses of particle accelerators. According to CERN, it has cost a few hundred million Swiss Francs to produce about 1 billionth of a gram (the amount used so far for particle/antiparticle collisions).

Several NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts-funded studies are exploring whether it might be possible to use magnetic scoops to collect the antimatter that occurs naturally in the Van Allen belt of the Earth, and ultimately, the belts of gas giants like Jupiter, hopefully at a lower cost per gram.

*Actually this is a lot cheaper than I would have expected. And there is more good news: We can safely assume this number of 4.79 times the US National Deficit is decreasing rapidly ;)

5/27/10 02:03 pm - Prada Alta

Vandaag rijdt de Giro d'Italia langs de westkust van het Lago di Garda. Dat zal een aantal mooie panorama's geven, vanuit de helicopters. Leuk om een verder vrij saaie vlakke rit op te fraaien, lijkt mij. Zal Greipel nu eindelijk zijn ritzege kunnen pakken? Of zetten we in op Henderson? Sabatini?

In ieder geval gaat men hier ook slechts een paar kilometers langs een van de meest nare cols die men in de Giro had kunnen opnemen:
Prada Alta, vanaf Castello di Brenzone. Deze ligt wel aan de oostkant van het meer ;)

Hieronder een profiel, vanaf de andere kant is de klim lang en vrij gemakkellijk.

6,7 kilometer lang slechts? Dat valt tegen. Oh wacht even.. het hoogteverschil is bijna 1000 meter... 14,6% gemiddeld, zonder een enkel moment van rust. :P

5/23/10 12:39 pm - The monster - Monte zoncolan

This is what you can find on wikipedia on today's Monte Zoncolan final ascend in the Giro d'Italia:
"West from Ovaro: This is a very demanding climb, and one of the most difficult in Europe, usually compared to the Alto de El Angliru. It was featured for the first time in the 2007 Giro d'Italia. The climb starts in Ovaro in the Gorto valley, and is 10.1 kilometres (6.3 mi) long at an average of 11.9% with an elevation gain of 1,210 metres (3,970 ft) and a maximum gradient of 22%. The real climb however starts at Liariis, 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) from the summit. Shortly after the village, the road disappears into forest and gains 900 metres (3,000 ft) in the next 6 kilometres (3.7 mi). After this section, the road passes through three short tunnels, before a series of steep switchbacks immediately beneath the summit. The former rough asphalt between Liariis and the tunnels was replaced in 2007; that between the last tunnel and the summit had already been resurfaced by autumn 2005. The tunnels are now lit."

The mountain is an outright horror, when looking at the profile picture. While the total elevation gained of some 1200m's is comparable to other category 1 climbs, like the world famous Alpe d'Huez, the Zoncolan bridges this gain in a much shorter distance on the road, making for a mountain road whose slopes don't drop below 13-14% for kilometers in a row.

Under normal circumstances, this should be a climb for the pure goats, the Sastre's, the Simoni-types. We know Simoni is getting old though and may not be in the right shape for this. Sastre's shape.. who knows..
I am not expecting Basso or Vinokourov here: they carry just those few extra kilo's of body weight that will normally decimate your chances on a mountain this steep. Maybe Nibali.. again...

5/16/10 01:42 pm - From the depths of time

From left to right: Cadel Evans (Aus), World Champion 2009, Alexander Vinokourov, winner of the  Vuelta in 2006, Alfredo Binda, world champion 1927, 1930, 1932, winner of the Giro in 1925, 1927-'29, 1933
Evans (left) and Vinokourov (to the right) on their way to MontelcinoThe much feared Alfredo Binda, the only cyclist ever to have been paid for not starting in the Giro d'Italia
For once, it seemed like we were 80 years back in time. No one knows if the great Alfredo Binda would have appreciated yesterday's stage in the Giro d'Italia. Alexandr Vinokurov didn't, he stated that 'though spectacular, stages like this don't belong in a grand tour'. Cadel Evans, the other hero of the day mentiononed he was happy to have won the stage, but staying in front and avoiding trouble had been his main objective.

And look: once we place Binda's picture next to them, it's like nothing has changed in 80 years. As one reporter at Eurosport remarked: "This is what cycling must have been back then".

4/25/10 08:28 pm - After 5 years,.. Alexandre's revanche

It was quite enjoying for me, watching 'La Doyenne' today. Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the last of the 5 'monuments' amongst the spring classics is the oldest of them all: it exists since 1892. (the other 'monument' is the Giro de Lonbardia, an autumn one-day race) It is also a special race because here you can see the one-day race specialists and the grand tour specialists in one and the same races. Many great champions of the Tour de France, like Indurain in the past and today Contador and Schleck, are known to show their faces here for a test early in their season.. or sometimes.. to run away with the first spot, like Andy Schleck did last year.

And today we saw an exciting race, once again.. with Philippe Gilbert being the nr. 1 favourite, the Schleck brothers predicted to go into the attack, with Alberto Contador showing his face for the first time this year in a spring classic.

After 258 km's of race we saw a familiar face: Once a hero for many.. one of the persons who kept the memory of his diseased friend Kivilev alive, the man who challenged Armstrong in the tour de France, placing attacks in unconventional ways and succeeding often this way.. Alexandre Vinokourov gained his enemies in the legion of cycling followers after being excluded in the 2007 Tour de France. 2 Years passed and while others who have gone through the same process were forgotten easily and gained back the cheers of their supporters, Alexandre seemed to have left a lastign impression on them: the reaction to his start at the 2009 Vuelta d'Espana prologue I witnessed in Assen last summer was quite striking. And quite sorry... Some others who were taken out of competition at the same time in 2007 were welcomed back by the audience.. The 'boo' sound was there for Vinokourov exclusively.

Today it was payback time for them as well.. Where some of the great heroes failed to escape, Vinokourov and Kolobnev quickly got a 30 second gap. And contrary to expectations about Gilbert coming back in the final climb of St. Nicholas... they managed to maintain their lead. One final jump in the last 500m's did it. Does it wash away 3 years? Well.. perhaps not. But he showed once again that he is a man to be reckoned with. A lesson Lance Armstrong will have to take into consideration when he starts the Tour this July. He knows that, despite the strength of Lance's team, his great rival Valverde will have one hell of a rider next to him.

A link to a small video of Alexandre Vinokourov, 5 years after his impressive first victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, only minutes after his second:

2/28/10 12:00 am - Writer's Block: My word

If you could have the writing ability of one author, who would you choose, and why? Would you exchange writing styles permanently?

James Joyce,..because of his mastery of language.. his ability to switch styles in an instant, the play with words and meanings, the subtlety. There's been nothing like it since. And before..well .. Shakespeare.. he invented English.
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