Pappillon Featured Writings
Monday, December 17, 2007
"MaT, I don't know if this fits your topics of interest with regards Cuba, but I'm still waiting longingly for someone with your talent to write the definitive commentary or analysis on why internal revolt in Cuba is about as unlikely as my being invited back to the Vuelta a Cuba after I pissed on a statue of Fidel on the outskirts of Cienfuegos. I'm hoping for a piece that contrasts Cuba with Eastern Europe with particular attention paid to the relevancy of 1) The Cuban regime's having a monopoly on violence (no private ownership of weapons); 2) How the geographic isolation of Cuba, unlike East/West Berlin, or East/West Europe, makes it much more difficult for external players to meaningfully fund or support materially an internal resistance; 3) Total control of news outlets, an indoctrinating educative system that discourages critical thinking and strives to maintain a population in a total state of ignorance; 4) How material conditions (such as almost-famine) leave the population waging a daily struggle for sufficient calories, as opposed to waging a insurgency against government forces and (to keep this short and not make it a PhD dis.) 5) How policies in other nations, directed towards Cuba, actually enable the Castro regime to stay in power, through whatever mechanism is triggered (an example could be the US's banning family remittances to Cubans who don't fit a particular definition of "immediate" family)..."
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Anyway, I'm bored with not exercising and feeling like I'm getting fat in addition to not having a definite life purpose. Apparently knocking myself out has knocked some sense into me, as I've had a kick-ass Thanksgiving break getting caught up on all kinds of life-enhancing endeavours, including trying to rehabilitate myself in the eyes of the nonprofit community in Pittsburgh. For those of you who know what I did in 2001 in order to get to Cuba, you know what I mean.
My sporting sanction is up at the end of July next year, and I need something in my life other than just selling software and web development services, and fighting a rear-guard action against the communist regime in Cuba. I miss the daily rhythm of training, and while I will never race full-time again, I do plan to race at least locally. Maybe. So I rode yesterday for the first time in about a month, and took the picture below, which I sent to douchebag brian trdina, errr, I mean, DoucheBlog, along with a note saying I plan to win at least one ACA Criterium in 2008. I didn't mention that I will also ride the Dirty Dozen in 2008 if I'm still in Pittsburgh.
I had a very loud Dan Chew on the phone last night, and so I don't have to repeat myself, I didn't start doping until late-2001, and all of my results up until then were achieved cleanly. So no need to strip me of my second-place in the Dirty Dozen, my whopping four ACA Club Championships, or my brilliant and inspired Pseudodrome records. I mean, c'mon, I've already been stripped of allllll of my results since July 1, 2001. A man needs something to keep him warm on these cold Western Pennsylvania evenings, and dreams of Cuba, Uruguayan putas and focaccia just don't do it.
Mike Dropkin, who engaged in a spirited bit of email trolling last week, wants to know about the shooting gallery videos. Patience is a virtue, my friend. Updates on Cuba? Not really. Work is top of mind right now, because without a developing career and regular source of income, what's the point? I've hardly given up the fight, however. I'm even thinking about what's next on the education front, and - if I can arrange it - will complete a mini-MBA program at Katz this winter. Keep your fingers crossed, and watch out Robert Morgenthau!
Before, I go, for my friends in the Cuban government who are reading this, I want to leave you with:
1. Abajo Fidel!
2. Viva Cuba Libre!
3. Chavez is as bad for Venezuela and the Hemisphere as Castro.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Some setbacks are so severe that to give in to them means losing the whole ball game. When he assumed command of the Korean War, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway found his forces pushed far to the south, hard pressed by the invaders. Only a determined decision to hold the lines allowed the American forces to keep from being swept into the sea and to eventually regain all the territory they had lost. When a defeat strikes, you may not have the time to withdraw and contemplate your mistakes without risking further setbacks. Don’t succumb to paralysis. It is important to know at that moment what it is you truly desire and to act to preserve your resources and your hope. If you crumble utterly, you will take a blow to your self-esteem that will be hard to repair. Instead, stick to your principles, and you will know, at the very least, that you have protected the most important thing you have.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"Sadly...people do not seem to understand the importance of what is been shown in this photograph, we are missing a great opportunity by not divulging this photo as much as we could, making it fly around the world.
Many of us just shrug shoulders and make a "comic" comment about it, and that's it. Others simply look the other side, and do nothing about it. The ones who feel indignation, and whose blood boil for these injustices are just very few.
That's why we've been 48 years under Castro and his system from hell. And if we don't get the message out for the world to see, if we just ignore that this is about marketing our cause through images like this for the world to understand the pains of the Cuban people, well, some more years of tyranny -who know how many- will keep on piling up over the Cuban people. Thanks to all who understand this and publicized this brutal image."
Viva Cuba Libre!
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Here we are, on the eve of the election, just one day away from making history. Mark and the campaign will be going non-stop between now and tomorrow night's election results, taking his positive message of change to voters all across the city. Here are a few highlights:
"IMMACULATE ELECTION" TAILGATE PARTY AT HEINZ FIELD
Tonight, from 5-7pm in Gold Lot 2 at Heinz Field, the DeSantis campaign will host an "Immaculate Election" Steelers Tailgate Party and Rally. Drop by to mix and mingle, have some food and drink, talk to Mark, and show your support for Pittsburgh's two toughest competitors: the Steelers and the DeSantis campaign.
ELECTION NIGHT PARTY
The official DeSantis Campaign Election Night Rally & Party will begin at 8pm at Navarra, 131 7th St., next to Bossa Nova and one block past the Benedum Center. Parking is available across the street in the O'Reilly Theater Garage. Join us for a night of food and drink and political fellowship, as we gather to support Mark and usher in a brand new day for the city we love.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Campaigning is a unique blend of having to be both a brilliant policy wonk (which Mark is, and Luke is most decidedly not) and an "Everyman" who can stand outside of Starbucks, or Shop-n-Save or on a corner in Knoxville and actively engage with the citizenry and convince them that he's just like them in his desire to see Pittsburgh be all the city it can be. Neat stuff.
From yesterday, quotes we overheard while out with Mark, as recorded by Chad Hermann at Teacher.Wordsmith.Madman:
CAMPAIGN TRAIL QUOTATIONS, VOL. 1
A 50-something woman from Sheraden, after tapping Mark on the shoulder: I'm a Democrat, and I'm praying to God that you win.
A 60-something man from Banksville, after walking up to shake Mark's hand: I'm voting for you, but I just want to know: have you asked Luke for a ride in his Yukon?
A 70-something man in Banksville, after a campaigner tried to give him a DeSantis brochure: Arrrrgh! You tell him to go back to Texas with Bush!
A 50-something city worker from Beechview, while talking to a campaigner: My whole division is voting for DeSantis. We're worried about our pensions, and we can't stand that kid.
A 40-something man in Banksville, politely refusing a campaign brochure: I'm already voting for him; I like to vote for adults.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
"I want listen to every voter and spread my message about positive change for Pittsburgh. I believe Pittsburghers want change. I am prepared to make that change. However, I do want their input about how city government impacts their life and I am open to their suggestions on improving city services. I look forward to this challenge. I recognize that each neighborhood is unique with its own personality and residents in each neighborhood may have different concerns about the future of their neighborhood and this great city," said DeSantis.
Mr. DeSantis will kick off this campaign on Monday, October 29, 2007 at 11:45 a.m. in Bloomfield.
Mr. DeSantis will be available to speak to press at PEARL STREET AND LIBERTY AVENUE AT 11:45 A.M. IT IS IN THE 4700 BLOCK OF LIBERTY AVENUE.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I'm supporting Mark in his election campaign and spent yesterday on the proverbial campaign trail. Along with a colleague, we went door-to-door in the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh, calling on registered voters who'd participated in recent elections and encouraging them to support Mark in this most-important of mayoral contests. I'm moving into the City of Pittsburgh this week, and while I won't be able to cast a ballot in the November 6 election, I understand the importance of actually electing a mayor who is competent to lead and smart enough to do so effectively.
I attended one of the two mayoral debates last week, and can tell you that after now having seen the incumbent and DeSantis side-by-side, there is no question of my not supporting Mark 100%. The difference between these two men is shocking.
Every politician should have policy advisers and experts on his staff. However, he must also be capable of understanding the issues and their resolutive options and eventually making an informed decision that serves the interests of the broadest segment of his constituency.
The incumbent does not yet have that capacity, or that level of experience. Maybe someday, but not now. And like Mark says, we need change *now*. I think the incumbent's advisers are focused on maintaining the status quo, whereas Mark is setting bold but achievable objectives for renewing Pittsburgh.
DeSantis could be the harbinger of a Caliguri-like renaissance in Pittsburgh.
Check him out online: http://www.desantisformayor.com.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
"...At last someone found the ring somewhere on the floor. The husband, flustered and relieved, returned to his chair and declared that he would never let anything happen to his wife’s ring. The wife was happy, my parents were happy and the rest of the evening was uneventful.
About two years later, the wife died in a car accident. The husband left for another country sometime after that, taking with him their only child, a daughter my age. I have been told that he has since remarried. I often still think about that evening at the restaurant..."
Read the complete piece here.
"Some days, you and I go mad.
Our bellies get stuffed full,
Hearts break, minds snap.
We can’t go on the old way so
We change. Our lives pivot,
Forming a mysterious geometry.
Life revolves. You cannot go back one minute, or one day. In light of this, there is no use marking time in any one position. Life will continue without you, will pass you by, leaving you hopelessly out of step with events. That’s why you must engage life and maintain your pace.
Don’t look back, and don’t step back. Each time you make a decision, move forward. If your last step gained you a certain amount of territory, then make sure that your next step will capitalize on it. Don’t relinquish your position until you are sure that you have something equal or better in your grasp. But how do we develop timing for this process?
It has to be intuitive. On certain days, we come to our limits, and our tolerance for a situation ends. When that happens, change without the interference of concepts, guilt, timidity, or hesitancy. those are the points when our entire lives pivot and turn toward new phases, and it is right that we take advantage of them. We mark our progress not by the distance covered but by the lines and angles that are formed."
I think I've finally reached a time when change is truly inevitable. My tolerance for this situation has ended, and the next phase - though still undefined - must begin.
Monday, July 30, 2007
The United States has a responsibility to support Cubans, just as we welcomed East Berliners fleeing Soviet persecution. However, it seems that the Coast Guard will continue to ape Nazi executioners, and just "follow orders" without regard to ethics or morality as they attack defenseless men, women and children who escape Castro's tyranny.
To think that my own countrymen might kill my Cuban wife were she to take to the high seas in a bid to join me here in the USA (since Cuba prevents the free, unhindered movement of its own citizens) is equal parts immoral, horrifying and tragic.
Our government’s Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, which applies a double-standard to Cubans, is fundamentally flawed, wicked, and simply wrong. Cubans escaping Castro's tyranny who are discovered on the high seas by the US Coast Guard deserve to be treated like the people they are - political refugees from a despotic regime, and not drug traffickers, terrorists or economic migrants.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Three top riders were kicked out of the Tour this year because of failed drug tests or suspicions of avoiding anti-doping officials. Those transgressions may seem puzzling, considering they were brought to light at cycling's most scrutinized event, where both urine and blood are screened for performance-enhancing drugs. The cheaters have not been scared off.
The riders who dope are taking a calculated risk, and the odds may be in their favor. Only the race leader, the stage winner and two or three riders selected at random are tested every stage of the Tour, leaving most of the field of about 200 untested.
Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard University, said the recent failed drug tests should lead one to believe that there is much more cheating in cycling than is known. The cyclists must know something that the general public does not: that more riders - perhaps many more - are able to avoid detection than are caught.
"These guys may be able to get jobs as economists," he said. "They may be thinking very logically about their decisions.""They may be immoral, but they are not necessarily stupid," Gilbert said. "Why would they put everything on the line for such a small possibility that they would get away with this? Well, who said the possibility was small? It might not be small at all."
“When a rider tests positive, it’s like Stalinist Russia,” Joe Papp said. “You are taken off the Web site, your paycheck stops coming, the team just washes its hands of you. The team goes on, and there is no motivation, outside their own morality and ethics, to stamp out doping. But they still expect you to keep quiet about everything.”
International Herald Tribune Version HERE.
Monday, July 23, 2007
To quote the Journal:
"While the law offers permanent escape to Cubans who make it here, current terrorism policies compel agents to stop migrants almost any way they can. High-speed boat chases at speeds over 45 miles an hour in rough seas are commonplace. Many chases now end with federal agents firing live ammunition -- a technique developed for drug traffickers -- at boats filled with migrants."
The US Congress and Bush administration have a functional responsibility to eliminate the wet foot/dry foot policy that applies a senseless double-standard toward Cuban political refugees, but it is the USCG that act like a group of Nazi executioners, just “following orders” without regard to ethics or morality when they attack defenseless men, women and children who are fleeing Castro’s tyranny.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
A Positive Mental Attitude is not developed in a single decision to replace negative thoughts with their positive equivalent. It is a sustained commitment that requires personal discipline, the same kind of discipline that is required to stay in shape and maintain your physical health. It is a commitment that must be reinforced daily, or it is soon forgotten and cast upon the scrap heap of good intentions. When you take charge of your fate and determine that you will live positively in every aspect of your life-physical and mental-you will receive an extra benefit. Positive physical conditioning will reinforce your Positive Mental Attitude, and your positive attitude will help you stay in better physical condition.
This positive message is brought to you by the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Visit them at http://www.naphill.org.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
But the tide appears to be turning. Team managers and riders are not being immediately fired for admitting a prior history of doping in the era before EPO testing. Breaking the silence is a huge step towards solving the problem. As the biggest names in the sport are falling, the anti-doping movement seems to be throwing a haymaker at the doping culture.
Sadly, doping continues, but its hold on cycling and other sports is weakening. UCI, WADA and USADA are catching dopers, and these successes are beginning to dictate team management. The culture is shifting away from the two most common doping models: the "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'" doping infrastructure within a team or a "don't ask, don't tell" obliviousness. The most innovative management approach is medical testing within the team structure itself to discourage doping, as takes place at T-Mobile, or Slipstream's third-party testing through the Agency for Cycling Ethics.
For team physicians who wish to work ethically, doping is our worst nightmare. Team doctors aren't cops or lawyers, nor should we be. Our job is to keep the athletes healthy so they can perform to the best of their natural ability. As ethical anti-doping physicians our influence and expertise should be used to prevent doping through education and intervene when we encounter it. Some of us are organizing our efforts in these areas and others as the American Association of Cycling Team Doctors.
But in order to help solve the problem of doping, I figured I first had to understand it. So I went straight to the source - to reformed dopers themselves, some caught and some not, some active and some retired..."
Full article, "Ask the Doctor: The surprising dual toll of doping" By Dawn M. Richardson, MD, FACEP, here:
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
There are many practical reasons to practice honesty. It requires far less effort to be truthful than to be deceitful, and in the long term the risks are fewer and the rewards greater. But in today’s complex society, the boundaries of acceptable behavior have been blurred until they are sometimes indistinguishable. Laws and codes of ethics establish minimum standards of behavior. Make sure you establish standards for yourself that exceed such minimums, a standard below which you will not allow yourself to fall, regardless of what others may do or say. Your own set of standards will allow you to decide quickly and easily upon an appropriate course of action when faced with a difficult problem. persevere in the face of great odds.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Monday, April 02, 2007
It's been a long, long time since I last saw Clark, and bumping into him while heading back to the car after the last stage of the race was a great way to cap off a wonderful adventure.
I will catch up with Clark later this week, but in the meantime, if you don't know who he is, read this:
By John Alsedek
"If there's any truth to the maxim "good things happen to good people," then 7Up-Colorado Cyclist's Clark Sheehan should just order his rainbow jersey now. Despite having a promising professional career plagued by illness, serious injury, and sometimes just rotten luck, Sheehan has never lost his love for the sport - or his sense of priority.
A native of Denver, Sheehan found himself drawn into cycling in much the same way as other Colorado natives during the late '70's and early '80's - by the Coors Classic. "I grew up in Denver and watched the Washington Park Criterium, the pack passed me the first time and I was hooked!" He began racing in 1983 at the age of 14, and soon showed his aptitude for the sport by winning a junior national time trial title. There followed an 'apprenticeship' under the then national coach Eddie Borysewicz at the Olympic Training Center, as well as a stint racing in Belgium.
However, by 1989, things had begun to stagnate for Sheehan, largely because he had been racing overseas the previous year. He became a 'forgotten man' - he wasn't selected for the U.S. National Team, and the non-national team racing opportunities were few and far between. Then came an offer from the AC-Pinarello team to turn pro at the tender age of 20. "It was a really good bunch of riders, like Matt Eaton and Randy Whicker, guys who were just excellent tacticians and racers." After getting his feet wet in big North American events like the Pepsi Tour of the Americas and the Branders Tour of Texas, Sheehan made his big splash at the Tour de Trump, finishing seventh overall in a field that included eventual winner Raul Alcala, Soviet wunderkind Viatcheslav Ekimov, '88 Giro champ Andy Hampsten, and a Tour de France-bound Greg LeMond. It should have been the harbinger of greater things for Sheehan in the next few years, but it didn't quite work out that way..."
Complete text at: http://www.cyclingnews.com/teamprofiles/1999/sheehan99.shtml
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
See Kayle and Joe interviewed here. And check out the results on CyclingNews.com. Don't miss the great photo of Kayle on the podium here.
Joe is shopping around a diary concept he has based on his retirement from cycling as an athlete, his abrupt transition into the "real" world, the non-cycling job hunt and then his return to the sport he loves. We'll let you know where it will finally be published, though cyclingnews.com has been given the first chance to claim the piece.
Joe's diaries at CyclingNews.com are here.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Friday, March 09, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Ullrich announced a press conference last week for the 26th of February - and from then on speculation was rife as to what he was set to announce - was he going to announce a signing for a new team, retirement, retirement plus a move to a managerial position? When it came time, the sum was a retirement and a wholesale slamming.
At Ullrich's 43-minute long press conference today in Hamburg, Ullrich announced his retirement, and took dead aim at all of the authorities he feels screwed him over.
Eurosport has extensive dialogue from the announcement and starts with Ullrich's comments on the announcement of the Puerto findings on the eve of the Tour de France: "It was one of the darkest days of my career. When the news broke, I thought it was a nightmare. I was in my room on my exercise bike when I heard I was suspended. At that moment my sporting world collapsed. It was a massive shock that I still haven't quite come to terms with yet. To this day I don't understand how I and some of my colleagues were suspended." Ullrich called the UCI actions following the news, "over-reaction."
"The world governing body has shoved all the responsibility and the dirty work over to the national federations. Apart from me, everybody has been acquitted. They are all riding again. But when somebody does actually get cleared, the UCI comes crawling out of their hole and refuses to accept it!
Ullrich couldn't stop himself from lambasting the UCI at every turn, and if he's right - correctly: "The basis for the premature conclusions that have been drawn is a report that the UCI has obtained illegally from Spain. This report has been falsified several times, there are differing versions. Apart from that, certain people's own opinions and interpretations have gone into it. And the compilers of the report are now being legally investigated in Spain."
It follows then that Ullrich isn't too terribly confident in what will happen with his DNA sample that he submitted a few weeks ago.
"I would have liked to be heard, just as was the case with Basso. Nobody rang me up, nobody wanted to speak with me. I couldn't give my opinions, and give my side of the story to the federations. I found that ridiculous."
Logically, Ullrich's aim then transferred to his favorite Swiss Cycling Federation: "For eight months now, the Swiss federation has been purporting to have exclusive material against me. It's being said that Jan Ullrich will be given a life suspension. But I ask myself, where is this material? And why has no trial been brought against me?"
"I have got nothing to be ashamed about, and have never cheated or deceived anyone in my career. And yet I still feel like a criminal." - by Jered Gruber
Monday, February 19, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Good on ya, mate! Check out John's shop, Crank It Cycles.
Full text of the piece is available here on the Post-Gazette's site.
My position on the issue is clear - I would like to see the creation of a free, democratic Cuba with a capitalist economy that allows Cubans to realize their inherent potential and capacities. While change has to come from within Cuba, it can certainly be influenced positively by the United States. However, that would require an enlightened policy approach, which thus far has been lacking.
Fuente writes, "...In the meantime, the U.S. government surrenders the little influence it may have to contribute to a peaceful democratic transition in Cuba. All we can do is wait. Almost 50 years have passed, Fidel Castro is dying, and we are still in the midst of Churchill's 'everything else.'"
I'm still waiting for my Yuliet...
Monday, January 29, 2007
Fern is sick right now. He has multiple myeloma, and it's shutting down his kidneys so he's on dialysis. He is considering a peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. I know that Fern and his family have had a tough year, with the loss of parents and grandparents and all the trauma that brings, especially in a tight Latino clan like his. This illness is as ill-timed as any could be. But Fern is tough - he's a fighter and he's got too much left to give back to the world to be taken from us now. Still, he needs your support, your positive energy. If you're religious, pray for him. If you're not, send him that positive energy, for the world will be a worse place without him. Anyone needing Fern's contact information should leave a comment here or contact me via email.
Donations to support Fern and his family during this difficult moment can be made by clicking the button below (scroll down).
Thursday, January 25, 2007
SIPPING AND STROLLING AT MONTECATINI
By BARBARLEE DIAMONSTEIN
July 20, 1986
Situated in Tuscany's Val di Nievole, Montecatini is an experience in reverse time - a Henry James novel with a Fellini-esque edge. The town and its spas combine intrigue and activity; here the cure lies not only in the thermal waters, but in the environment as well. Ubiquitous music, endless boutiques, rainbow gelato stands, garish night auctions, crowded street markets and menus that feature 21 pastas and 25 desserts help to persuade that here is a potential slice of heaven on earth - a melange of Tuscan cuisine and culture; a legendary spa, with a lingering air of Dolce Vita.
What makes Montecatini different from other spas is the diversity of its therapeutic waters. The benefits of the waters have been known since the Etruscans settled in the area during the eighth century B.C. The Tettuccio Terme dates back to the 14th century. However, it was not until after World War II that Montecatini and its Grand Hotel e La Pace had its first modern renaissance. From 1955 to 1965 it was an international playground. The waters drew movie stars, soldiers and sheiks, including Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Prince Rainier. Recent guests have been Stephanie Powers, Robert Wagner and a sheik who arrived with an entourage of 40 wives, dozens of servants and armed guards.
It still puzzles long-term hoteliers here just what it was that originally attracted the celebrities of the 60's and what, a decade later, made them leave. The challenge now is to maintain Montecatini, prove that its popularity was not just a passing fancy, but an enduring experience, and to lure American tourists, as well as the rich and famous.
The origin of the Montecatini waters, which still entice 150,000 visitors annually, has always been a source of interest. Since 1931, the subject has been treated in more than 700 scholarly papers. What is known is that the waters come from deep within the earth, gushing up to the surface at a temperature of 75 to 95 degrees, and getting richer and richer in salts. As the water is filtered through the subsoil, it is cleansed of bacteria and noxious impurities. Nine underground springs supply the Montecatini baths, each supposedly with different curative functions.
Read the entire article here.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I'm bored and frustrated, listening to this message on a daily basis when trying to reach Yuliet. The phone networks have been unreliable recently, and Yuliet's old Siemens S65 is finally kicking the bucket. Of course, if you know anything about mobile and landline phone penetration statistics, you know that in Cuba, communication is "restricted," to put it lightly. I think the stats read something like 51 landlines per 1,000 people and 1 mobile phone per 1,000. To quote buddle.com:
"Despite strong economic growth in 2006, Cuba still occupies last place in Latin America for both mobile phone and Internet penetration, and is fifth from the last in fixed-line teledensity. The government has blamed the embargo for the country’s poor telecom development, which has prevented the implementation of submarine fibre-optic cables; thus, Cuba has had to rely almost exclusively on satellites for international connectivity. However Etecsa, controlled 73% by the government and 27% by Telecom Italia, holds a monopoly in both fixed and mobile services. It offers GSM, TDMA, and AMPS services through its subsidiary Cubacel, though mobile rates are prohibitive for the vast majority of Cubans. In addition, Cubans cannot legally buy a computer or subscribe to an ISP without having a government permit."
So, for all those who've inquired, the Yuliet update in a nutshell is that the Cuban government continues to resist granting her the medical release that is a standard requirement for all applicants for US visas anywhere in the world. While in almost any country other than Cuba a person could quickly and inexpensively complete this process and obtain the necessary tests and exams to confirm that they were not the next "Typhoid Mary," in Cuba it's not so straight forward. Furthermore, the process is ridiculously expensive and the Cuban government charges upwards of $1,000 (US) to deliver the paperwork. Such a high fee serves two purposes - it's a means test for applicants trying to leave the country, and it is a massive source of foreign currency for the regime.
I believe that this could be a revenge tactic or punishment by the Cuban government for Yuliet's desire to emigrate. Should it really take 1-2 months more for her to get the exam results and certificate, as she was told on Monday? After all, we've already been waiting for this since late-October, and I can assure you that my wife is most decidedly not carrying some horrible communicable disease that would wipe-out half of Pennsylvania's population and most of the citrus crop in California.
There are other concerns now, too, which I unfortunately can't yet publicize. The salient fact, however, is that a legally married husband and wife are still being intentionally prevented from reuniting by the machinations of a communist totalitarian state. For what it is worth, the US government remains supportive of our plight and I am in direct contact with USINT in Havana.
My buddies at Napoleon Hill sent me this aphorism today:
"THERE ALWAYS REMAINS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A NEW START.
The question is what to do now? Obviously I'm a tenacious guy and I'll keep fighting, as will Yuliet, because I'm not about to divorce my wife from afar and quite the struggle because I tire of sleeping alone in a big bed. This is like being in a meat grinder, or perhaps better said, it is like trench warfare that gradually wears you down. I'm not losing hope, for la esperanza es lo último que se pierde. But I am tired of being in this endless holding pattern, wondering when my wife and I will finally be able to really begin our life together.
Do I lament stopping my cycling career after a great season in Italy under the mistaken impression that Yuliet and I would have been be sipping champagne at Kennedy Airport in August 2006? Not really, as all good things must come to the end, and I leave bike racing with my health, despite having taken some serious crashes and consistently risked my life on tricky mountain descents. I do, however, realize the need to have something into which I can channel the energy and excitement that I consistently brought to my training and racing.
I feel almost like I'm being disloyal by "getting on with my life" in the traditional sense of pursuing other career opportunities, travel, etc., while my wife waits endlessly in Cuba for release that may or may not come. It's not a problem, but I'm just too loyal...she's my wife after all, and I wouldn't have married her if I didn't want to be with her. We made a commitment and I intend to see it through to a Golden Anniversary and beyond.
Everyone, thanks for your continued support and inspiration.
Monday, January 22, 2007
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute ---
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God --- you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration --- what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.
Reflections of King David found in Psalm 139
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
DRIFTING, WITHOUT AIM OR PURPOSE, IS THE FIRST CAUSE OF FAILURE.
Without a plan for your life, it is easier to follow the course of least resistance, to go with the flow, to drift with the current with no particular destination in mind. Having a definite plan for your life greatly simplifies the process of making hundreds of daily decisions that affect your ultimate success. When you know where you want to go, you can quickly decide if your actions are moving you toward your goal or away from it. Without definite, precise goals and a plan for their achievement, each decision must be considered in a vacuum. Definiteness of purpose provides context and allows you to relate specific actions to your overall plan.
This positive message is brought to you by the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Visit them at http://www.naphill.org.
Me: "Hey, before I sign off...do you remember when your friend, the crazy guy (Dan, I think?)...you guys found a flattened cat on the road and picked it up and put it in someone's refrigerator on the side of the street??????"
My Friend: "Actually it was a dish washer. The cat was flattened and he put in so half the cat was hanging out of the washer. Afterwards they stole a construction barrel with a flashing [light] so every time the light would flash you could see the flattened cat."
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
April 26, 1949 - Jan. 9, 2007
By Bob Batz Jr., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Antonio Branduzzi, a Tuscan immigrant beloved for his sweet personality as well as the tortes and other treats he made at his Strip District bakery, died yesterday at St. Clair Hospital. He was 57.
The cause was complications from heart failure he suffered on Dec. 20, said his wife, Carla.
Mr. Branduzzi, of Scott, was co-owner, with his wife, of Il Piccolo Forno, "the Little Oven," on 21st Street in the Strip. The bakery/pasticceria was next to and open to La Prima Espresso, making for one of "the" gathering spots in the city. One of the main, warmest ingredients was Mr. Branduzzi's personality, which his wife summed up in one word: "Embracing."
Coffee shop regulars yesterday morning were somberly quiet in tribute to the man who was anything but.
Leaders of Slow Food Pittsburgh and other foodies lauded him as a force for good food. But Mr. Branduzzi was more than that. The moustached, bald and round-bellied baker -- with sweat on his brow, flour on his apron and a lot of Italian in his speech and gestures -- was one of the distinct characters in the daily drama that is Pittsburgh.
As he told a visiting and hungry National Geographic writer in 2003, "I came here from Lucca, Italy, 17 years ago, and I felt right at home. Maybe because a lot of Lucca was already here."
His wife, born and raised here, met Mr. Branduzzi on a trip to her father's village near Lucca. When her father returned there to die, Mr. Branduzzi comforted her. As she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005, "I felt it was my destiny to marry him."
While the couple lived in the village, their first-born, Domenic, was born. But they wanted him to grow up in Pittsburgh. So while she started cooking at a local trattoria, Mr. Branduzzi, who had worked as a craftsman making picture frames, became a baker's apprentice.
When they moved here in 1987, they put their new skills to work at the Common Plea restaurant, she as a line cook and he as a sommelier, before he started working nights as a baker at La Normande.
It was around 1991 that they started making mele, or fruit turnovers, and other pastries for La Prima Espresso. The goodies were such a hit that owner Sam Patti suggested they set up shop in the back. In 1992 the couple moved next door and opened Il Piccolo Forno bakery, where in recent years they also sold soups and salads and pasta for lunch.
The sauce of the day was up to Mr. Branduzzi's whim. When it was gone, it was gone. But he wanted customers to savor it, and so many did.
"You know how some people can play a musical instrument by ear? He could play food by ear," said Mr. Patti, who described his friend as "a gentle, gentle soul."
The bakery's menu brochure noted one of the rules he'd learned in the Old Country: "Fare tutto con amore" -- make every recipe with love.
His friend, Larry Lagattuta, summed up Mr. Branduzzi's way as, "Never telling. Just doing."
He recalls spending a night baking with Mr. Branduzzi at home and all the things he learned, including how Mr. Branduzzi loved American rock and soul music. Mr. Lagattuta also learned that he himself wanted to become a baker, and went on to open Enrico Biscotti in the Strip. "Here is a guy who, with his gentle way, literally changed my life." He shared everything from baking "secrets" to stories with many others in town.
"His hands were connected to his heart and his brain, and people felt it," said his friend and fellow baker Ray Werner, who frequently was comforted by Mr. Branduzzi's trademark "Hey, what you gonna do? It's OK."
Mr. Branduzzi made regular trips back to Tuscany, where he enjoyed hunting -- everything from birds to boar to porcini mushrooms. He also loved playing poker when he could, which wasn't much, since he went to work at 3:30 a.m.
Mostly, he cooked. He and his wife always made food for gatherings of the Associazione Lucchesi nel Mondo, Pittsburgh Chapter, where he was a board member.
Mr. Branduzzi and his wife also helped out at the restaurant their son, Domenic, opened in the spring of 2005 in Lawrenceville, Piccolo Forno.
With his work ethic, passion for real ingredients, conviviality and generosity, Mr. Patti said, "He just embodied everything food is."
Besides his wife and son, Mr. Branduzzi is survived by two daughters, Anna Maria, 17, and Angela, 15. He's also survived by a brother, Julio, of Corsagna, Italy.
Arrangements are by Bagnato Funeral Home in Carnegie. A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at 21st and Smallman streets in the Strip District.
The family will receive friends afterward at nearby Il Piccolo Forno