Friday, July 29, 2005

2014 Winter Games

The Winter Olympic games are far the superior of the silly and overdone Summer Games. Paris? New York? London? Who cares. Seven cities have submitted bids for the 2014 Winter Games: Almaty, Kazakhstan; Borjomi, Georgia; Jaca, Spain; PyeongChang, South Korea; Salzburg, Austria; Sochi, Russia; and Sofia, Bulgaria. I'd be happy to travel to any of them in nine years to see the skiing.

(The 2006 Winter Games are in Torino, Italy, from February 10-26; the 2010 games are in Vancouver, British Columbia, from February 12-28.)

Work, Work, Work

Today's my three-year anniversary at my place of employment. In my adult life, I've only been in grad school and been married longer than I've worked at this place. Things I have found useful in making it through:
This book and this book
This drink (mostly here and here) and this one
Doing this whenever I can
Following this and this online
Doing this and this as sidelines

And there are lots of people to thank, too, from parents and parents-in-law to spouse and daughter to many, many friends at and away from work.

On toward Year Four.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


A brief history of the kiss. Not the Hershey's kind.

Monday, July 25, 2005

If You Can't Out-Compete...

Just delete! That's Microsoft's strategy against Apple, apparently: redact Apple's HQ from aerial maps!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Hoffer on "Wordiness"

"A multitude of words is probably the most formidable means of blurring and obscuring thought. There is no thought, however momentous, that cannot be expressed lucidly in 200 words."
Eric Hoffer, 1954

From Harper's Magazine, July 2005, p. 76

Monday, July 18, 2005

Tour de France Update

Things went more or less as planned for Lance Armstrong over the weekend in the Pyrénées. On Saturday, with a long breakaway up the road ahead of him, Armstrong systematically countered everything his main competitors - Jan Ullrich of T-Mobile and Ivan Basso of CSC - tried to do, and then outraced them up the final climb of the day up to the ski resort at Ax-3-Domaines to finish behind the sole survivor of the breakaway, Georg Totschnig.

On Sunday, in the hardest day of the Tour, it was more of the same. Up the road, another long breakaway slowly dissolved (ultimately, Armstrong's teammate, George Hincapie, won the stage) and the champion matched everything his competitors tried. After those two brutal days in the mountains, Armstrong's lead only grew. Time is growing short for Ullrich, Basso, et al: Tuesday is the last mountain stage (and a tough one at that) before the race turns toward Paris, but it's unlikely that Basso or Mickael Rasmussen (Rabobank) can put three minutes or Ullrich six minutes into Armstrong to take the race lead. Certainly, this poor fool can't do anything to Armstrong. (Warning: graphic stupidity.)

Friday, July 15, 2005


If you can believe that quack Gregor Mendel, I'm about one-quarter of the person second from right in the back: Grandpa Tassava! My greatgrandfather John (Janne - second from left in the front) has a bit of an Abe Lincoln aspect, no?

Blog Survey

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Bloggers, take it! You, too, can be a datum.

Gangs of Northern Michigan

It was inevitable that gangs would eventually migrate into the Upper Peninsula. This fearsome group has a furry grip on the lucrative blueberry trade.

(Thanks to Mom for the picture.)

UPDATE (4/7/06): I was surprised, reviewing my hit statistics, to see that this page gets lots of traffic - can those of you who are viewing it let me know via the comments where you're coming from? I'm dying to know why this page is so interesting! Thanks.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Plame Primer

A quik-n-ez guide to Karl Rove's involvement in the Plame affair (compiled by Elise at After School Snack). Since we can't impeach someone like him, can't we just, you know, flay him or something?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


As he's done for six straight Tours de France, Armstrong today destroyed his main competitors, using the first serious Alpine stage to overturn the general classification and open big time gaps to Basso (2:40), Valverde (3:16), Mancebo (4:00), Ullrich (4:02), Kloeden (4:16), and Landis (4:16). The champion's team did most of the work, slowly but steadily whittling the peloton down to just four on the final stretch of the climb to Courcheval and setting Armstrong up for the stage win, which instead went to Valverde. Conversely, the T-Mobiles collapsed: none of their main riders - Ullrich, Kloeden, Vinokourov - were part of the endgame. It's too early to say that the Tour's sewn up, but Armstrong's and Discovery's attacks today should put some fear into the rest of the GC. Now, Armstrong will be questing for an individual stage win. Where better than the Galibier?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Les Alpes

Tomorrow the Tour reaches the Alps, and all hell should break loose. Armstron's Discovery Channel team is facing its toughest team competition yet in T-Mobile and CSC, and the big guns are going to be shooting right at the champion. Ooh-ee: this is why July is the best month in sports!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Armstrong, but Team Weak?

Tonight, it's good not to be one of Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel teammates. After they disappeared on the first serious hill of the Tour (one which was quite easy, relative to upcoming Alps and Pyrenees) and left the Boss open to numerous attacks by rivals big and small, you can bet he let them have it. Said the champion, "I'll have to sit down with them tonight and ask what went wrong... I'll have to ask, 'What's wrong with your legs?' "

Ouch. The eyes alone will probably be enough to ensure that they're going to kill themselves to ride hard and protect him in Stage 9 (a climber's stage which includes the first Cat 1 climb of the Tour) and, after Monday's rest day, throughout the brutal week in the Alps.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tourdey Fraaance

All's well on the Tour: Armstrong's in yellow (though, like the champion he is, he tried to cede the jersey back to American Dave Zabriskie, who had lost it when he crashed - taking the jersey due to a crash is a violation of the racer's sense of propriety) and the Tour's ducking into one of the neighboring countries. Why Germany? Because they like bikes.

Can You See This?

Camouflage: from the visual-art avant-garde during World War I to rural-American cliche. (What?? No illustrations?)

History Book Reviews

On a day when barbarians have apparently attacked what was the capital of the world's largest (formal) empire, three reviews of books on Rome, North Korea, and Stalin's USSR are worth considering.

This review by Peter Jones of two new books on the collapse of Rome is particularly apt as a glimpse of what a true war of civilizations may mean. "Peter Heather makes a strong case for one overriding explanation: the Huns. Meanwhile, Bryan Ward-Perkins poses a different question: what were the implications of the end of the empire for your average provincial?"
According to Heather, the collapse in the West was triggered in summer 376 by one event with huge ramifications: the sudden and quite unexpected irruption of a new and terrifying people into barbarian territory on Roman borders - the Huns. It was pressure from them that drove barbarians (Goths, Visigoths, Franks, Alans) into the Western empire over the next 60 years. The Romans were helpless to stop them... Setting his face firmly against scholarly fashion, which dictates that everything about "Europe" must be "positive" and that no cultures are allowed to be more sophisticated than others, Ward-Perkins argues that the demise of Rome led to a collapse of general living standards from the 5th to the 7th centuries so severe that the result was effectively "the end of civilisation".
North Korea
Yoel Sano's review of a new history of North Korea by Bradley Martin is itself a decent capsule history of that bizarre and frightening place, and of its two leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Among other interesting information, Martin points out (in Sano's words) that
"Kim Il-sung was born into a Christian background, on April 15, 1912 (the same day the Titanic sunk, Kim's critics like to point out)... At the time, Martin notes, Pyongyang had become something of a "Jerusalem" of the Far East, because of the large presence of Christians converted by American missionaries in earlier years... While Kim later played down his Christian background, aspects of the religion - albeit extreme - do seem to have had an impact on his life and style of governance."
Beyond even that odd historical angle (and the weird amalgam of sex and violence in the North Korean elite), Martin's book shows that "more than being a modern socialist state, North Korea is, and has been, run along the lines of a quasi-medieval kingdom organized through a bizarre mish-mash of Stalinist communism, ultra-nationalism and xenophobia, hyper-elitism of the ruling class, and Confucian principles of filial piety and obedience to rulers taken to the extreme."

Martin's take on possible resolutions to the current tension between North Korea and the United States are worth reviewing, too, as they run the gamut from detonating in a war to defusing through a Nixon-in-China-style visit to the PRK by a Western leader.

The Soviet Union
Finally, in a new history of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Russian historian Constantine Pleshakov (whose name evokes Rome!) makes the surprising argument that the Soviets did not anticipate Hitler's attack that summer because "Stalin was planning a preemptive strike against Germany but thought he had at least a year's time because he could not bring himself to believe that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union before Britain had fallen." If, in his reviewer's assessment, Pleshakov has a hard time making that argument,
He does much better when describing the opening days of the war itself -- the slaughter, panic and confusion. The Red Army had, for security reasons, opted for cable communications over wireless but in "something approaching criminal negligence, the telegraph lines had been left unprotected on the night of June 21." With their easy disablement by the German forces, intelligence could not be shared. Armies vanished. The Commissariat of Defense lost contact with 10 of 26 special trains that had been sent west. The slaughter was horrific. ".... On average, a soldier died every two seconds." ... Preparations for defense, evacuation and retreat -- treasonous concepts -- were nonexistent.
Pleshakov makes another provocative argument, too: "The purge of the officer class in the late 1930s did something even worse than leave the Army unprepared -- it made a military coup impossible. 'The Great Terror saved the dictator and his system; instead of collapsing in the summer of 1941, as it should have, it survived for another fifty years.'"

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

When Skiers Go Bad

Boy, cross-country ski races can be a mess. One racer goes down, and look what happens.

China's Challenge

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post achieves a neat trick in his op-ed piece on the attempt by China's CNOOC to buy Unocal: he writes as both a free-trader and a liberal - hearkening back to the Victorian days when those were the same t Viz.,
If nothing else, CNOOC's bid for Unocal is forcing us to prioritize our conflicting ideals. The offer pits traditional nationalism against the conservative belief in free trade and laissez-faire capitalism. It comes as a fire bell in the night for the pure free-traders, what with communist China en route to becoming our chief capitalist rival. Surely there must be some companies -- Boeing Co., say, or Intel Corp. -- whose sale to the Chinese government even the Wall Street Journal editorial board would oppose.

This August still another conundrum for the champions of globalized capitalism will emerge. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the janitors and is endeavoring to represent the security guards in the high-rises of major cities, will convene in Chicago a gathering of similar unions from around the world.

Whether a global union, or just an alliance of national unions, will emerge from the Chicago meeting is impossible to predict. But global unions are surely coming, and when they do, they'll pose a challenge for polemicists for the new global order. For if the goal of globalization is simply to maximize shareholder value, then the rise of global labor will be viewed as some new pandemic, threatening profit margins with -- oh, the horror -- a fairer distribution of income. But for commentators who insist that globalization is today's way to realize the greatest good for the greatest number, the advent of global unions could force them to stop their ad hominem attacks on their critics as protectionists and compel them to explain what model of globalization they have in mind. Do we stand, with the Chinese communists at Unocal, for the interests of shareholders? Or is America about something more than that?
Even if it's a bit much, I like that penultimate line about Americans who support the Unocal's sale to CNOOC actually being allied with the Chinese Communist government, the majority owner of CNOOC. This is a deft way to highlight a key paradox of globalization: the fact that "free enterprise" actually expands not through businesses' autonomous activities, but through the work of the governments which shelter - or own! - those businesses. Free trade's a myth. The CNOOC buyout already shows how deeply governments are embedded in trade decisions and will almost certainly elicit more proof as the deal moves along.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Why Apple Rocks, pt. Infinity

OS X Tiger's Dashboard application, the one with all the widgets, is already practically indispensable, and getting closer to that point all the time. I've just downloaded a widget which lets me make posts to my Blogger blogs. This one's the first. Very cool, and what a time-saver.