Saturday, January 31, 2009

F1 Steering Wheels + More

"Formula One boss Max Mosley 'exposed as sadomasochist in Nazi orgy with five prostitutes'." - Daily Mail UK
(Note: image below is not of Max Mosley.)

Got your attention? I love Formula One (F1) auto racing, with its combination of space age technology, industrial espionage, amazing driving and million-dollar playboy drivers (and executives) being bad boys, both behind closed doors and in public) Describing ex-Ferrari speedster Eddie Irvine, the Sunday Mirror once wrote:

"Fast Eddie's reputation - and his telephone book full of stunning women's numbers from around the planet - have made him the envy of every wannabe playboy. His yacht, The Anaconda, is regularly the scene of all-night parties... just as it was after the Monaco Grand Prix when the harbour echoed with its revels until dawn."

And of course - gaggles and gaggles of racer-chaser pit babes who don't know the difference between "prime" and "option" compound tyres.

It's like some 33 year-old JPL pacifist scientist's combo wet-dream of pit babes and the deployment of space-age, nuclear-war combat technology (that isn't actually nuclear or related to war). This post is primarily about the F1 Steering Wheel, so enjoy the videos, but don't forget to click on the rest of the links...they're there because I know you'll enjoy them. But anyway, back to that steering wheel:

BMW Sauber F1 Team's Nick Heidfeld speaks about his steering wheel.

On-board helmet cam shows Massa working the Ferrari F60 steering wheel (Italian)

Panasonic-Toyota steering wheel - Dieter Gass Chief Engineer (Race & Test)

Toyota F1 Steering Wheel

The Spyker team reveal the secrets behind the steering wheel.

We know that the steering wheel is an expensive component of cars that cost millions to build that are developed by teams with budgets in the hundreds of millions. And we know that F1 is facing a slight crisis with the loss of Honda - but did you ever stop to wonder just how much money is being thrown about that a global powerhouse like Honda decides its F1 investment is no longer prudent?

In March 2007, F1 Racing published its annual estimates of spending by Formula One teams. The total spending of all eleven teams in 2006 was estimated at $2.9 billion. This was broken down as follows; Toyota $418.5 million, Ferrari $406.5 m, McLaren $402 m, Honda $380.5 m, BMW Sauber $355 m, Renault $324 m, Red Bull $252 m, Williams $195.5 m, Midland F1/Spyker-MF1 $120 m, Toro Rosso $75 m, and Super Aguri $57 million.

If you're interested in the Future of Formula One, before attacking the stock news coverage and forum posts, consider Wikipedia, which does a good job summing up the current crisis, and a review of their article will help you get your head around the thinking behind the rules changes for 2009:

* Along with changes to bodywork, vehicle weight and tyre size, the document included details of a "Kinetic Energy Recovery System", or KERS. This is a regenerative braking device designed to recover some of the vehicle's kinetic energy, which is normally dissipated as heat during braking. The recovered energy could be stored electrically, in a battery or supercapacitor, or mechanically, in a flywheel, for use as a source of additional accelerative power at the driver's discretion, albeit with limits on the maximum output and duration of the bursts per lap.

* After being banned since the 1998 Formula One season, the 2009 season marked the return of slick tyres to the sport, provided by Bridgestone.

* There will also be a cap on team budgets starting in the 2009 season.

* Section 3.18 of the regulations contains details of "driver adjustable bodywork". The angle of incidence of elements in a defined area forward of the front wheels can be varied by up to 6 degrees and adjusted by direct driver input. A maximum of 2 adjustments can be made on any lap. In post-season testing in Spain, BMW Sauber were the first team to test such a system on a modified F1.08 chassis.

Oh, did I mention the pit babes?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kazakhstan Seen Preparing To Devalue Currency

Radio Free Europe Reports:

Worth less than meets the eye?

It's become a familiar story. An oil-fueled boom now rapidly running out of steam as commodity prices plummet.

Billions of dollars' worth of government help for banks struggling in a liquidity crisis.

Foreign loans that were cheap to get in the good times, now increasingly hard to refinance.

Ukraine's hryvnya, Russia's ruble, Hungary's forint. Currencies in Central and Eastern Europe have been among the most battered by the fallout from the global economic crisis, with falls of more than 25 percent against the dollar in just a few months. And now another emerging-market currency looks ripe for a devaluation: Kazakhstan's tenge.

The global financial crisis has hit Kazakhstan hard -- but throughout it all, the country's central bank has held its currency relatively stable. By intervening to support the tenge, the National Bank kept it within a range of between 120 and 121 per dollar throughout last year.

But recent depreciations of other currencies in the region -- including the hryvnya and the ruble, which has been allowed to weaken more than 30 percent against the dollar -- have made Kazakhstan's exports less competitive, and prompted growing expectations of a tenge devaluation.

Analyst Paul Biszko of RBC Capital in Canada says some kind of economic adjustment is inevitable -- either through a recession, a currency devaluation, or a bit of both.

"The government wants in most cases to prevent complete economic Armageddon, so they usually opt for a mix of both, so an economy that feels some pain but maybe not to the same degree as it would if they had managed to keep the currency more stable," Biszko says. "But a currency adjustment is almost inevitable in such circumstances, to soften the blow from economic adjustment that needs to take place."

So perhaps it was not such a surprise when Kazakh Economy Minister Bakhyt Sultanov said earlier this month that the tenge could depreciate by up to 10 percent this year.

The appointment last week of a new central bank chief, Grigory Marchenko, further fueled expectations of a weaker currency. The last time Marchenko was put in charge, Kazakhstan had just experienced a huge devaluation in the wake of Russia's financial crisis of 1998.

Biszko says authorities will likely follow Russia's recent example and let the currency slide gradually. But he says he believes a bigger tenge devaluation will be necessary -- of some 25-40 percent -- though no official would say so, of course, for fear of sowing panic.

Some signs of, if not panic, then "dollar fever" are already visible.

Almaty resident Yedige Isabayev, on his way to buy dollars at an exchange bureau, says ordinary people are worried and want to know how to protect their savings. He says he was prompted to act by seeing a television interview the previous day with an official who failed to reassure him.

"What [Kazakh lower house Finance and Budget Committee Chairwoman] Gulzhan Karagusova said...triggered fears," Isabayev says. "In fact, it was a reason for anxiety among the society, because the person who actually controls budget and finance could not tell us anything about the currency."

A tenge devaluation would be a headache, too, for banks and companies that have borrowed in foreign currency, making it more expensive to service such debts. This year, banks' foreign-debt repayments are expected to reach some $11 billion.

"A significant change in national currency exchange rate in any country would increase the exchange-rate risk for companies that have debt in foreign currency," says Vitaly Tomsky, an analyst at Kazakhstan Stock Exchange. "In our situation, for the Kazakh market, this risk could apply mostly to commercial banks who were quite active in getting credit in the west in past years. Naturally, any increase in risk would scare off potential investors from buying shares in companies like these."

There's another worry, too: that a gradual depreciation, once begun, might get out of control if it prompted speculative attacks on the currency.

Biszko says Kazakh authorities might eventually loosen the reins and move toward a "dirty float" -- allowing the currency to trade freely, but occasionally intervening.

With no snowboarding to be done today, I'm left to ask if anyone is up for launching a speculative attack on the good ol' Tenge? Maybe we can bring down the government as an added bonus?

Foiled Again

This will be the extent of my posting for the day. I'm too heartbroken after having my plans to distract myself from my miserable existence on this cold, wet, rainy planet foiled by the cold, wet, rainy weather that has manifested itself to transform powder into frozen granules of sh*t. Err, I mean snow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, wants to get even bigger by taking over Wyeth, a rival

One of my best friends works for Pfizer. People, if you're religious please pray for him, if you're secular, send him some positive energy - because my boy needs to keep Blue Love in his life and not start pounding pavement this week looking for a new gig.

THE job of the drug industry is to provide relief from ailments, and it usually does so with its medicines. The news on Monday January 26th that Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, is bidding for Wyeth, a large American rival, should provide a welcome tonic for some. The legion of lawyers and bankers who specialise in mergers and acquisitions, for example, may at last have something to do. Pfizer is offering $68 billion for its rival, belying the current economic gloom. The financial crisis and recession have put a brake on most deals, other than mergers between crumbling banks, as credit has dried up and confidence has shrivelled.

The giant American drug company will finance the deal with a mixture of its shares, which have held up reasonably well as markets have dived, cash from reserves and bank loans. Pharmaceutical companies are in a happier position than firms in other industries. They are known for large and reliable cashflows, even when economic misery is growing. Otherwise nervous bankers should not be too fearful of extending credit to Pfizer. Full Story.

I'm just trying to go about my business, forgetting about the past and thinking of a non-cycling, non-company future...

And yet even online I'm haunted...

I just wanna read about Kazakhstan and need to know if there will be a fall in the tenge...

From The Economist Online: Kazakhstan may be poised to cut the value of its currency

The Kazakh president has reappointed the veteran Grigori Marchenko as head of the central bank, stoking speculation that the country is poised to devalue its currency. In contrast to neighbouring states, Kazakhstan has kept its exchange rate versus the dollar stable in recent months, despite the enormous fall in the price of oil and metals, its main exports. Devaluation would be undertaken primarily to conserve foreign-exchange reserves rather than to give some relief to exporters and domestic producers. The risk, however, is that a small devaluation will open the door to speculative attacks, resulting in an exchange rate that would threaten the country’s banks—which are to repay an estimated US$14bn in foreign loans this year—with ruin. Mr Marchenko’s appointment seems intended to minimise this risk.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s president, announced the appointment of Mr Marchenko as head of the National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK) in a terse statement released on January 21st. The move, coming a day after the economy ministry conceded that the tenge could be allowed to weaken by nearly 10% against the dollar this year, has stoked speculation that Kazakhstan is poised to devalue its currency. Mr Marchenko first became head of the NBK in late 1999, shortly after a devaluation taken in the wake of the Russian financial crisis. He stayed in post for almost six years, during which time he received numerous plaudits for reforms to modernise the banking system. Mr Marchenko, in short, is experienced and highly-regarded. If the authorities were contemplating a shift in the exchange-rate policy, but were concerned to see that the situation did not spin out of control, it is highly likely that they would want a central bank head with a strong reputation such as Mr Marchenko. Prior to his return to the NBK he was the chief executive of Halyk, one of the country’s leading banks...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Messerschmitt Me 262

"What was that? What the hell was that? It went by like we were standing still!"

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (German for Swallow) was the world's first operational turbojet fighter aircraft. It was produced in World War II and saw action starting in 1944 as a multi-role fighter/bomber/reconnaissance/interceptor warplane for the Luftwaffe. German pilots nicknamed it the Sturmvogel (Stormbird), while the Allies called it the Turbo. The Me 262 had a negligible impact on the course of the war due to its late introduction, with 509 claimed Allied kills (although higher claims are sometimes made) against the loss of more than 100 Me 262s.

Me262 vs B17

Wikipedia Entry on Me 262.

Pilot notes on Me 262

Summary of debriefing German pilot Hans Fey on operational performance & late war deployment of the Me 262 jet fighter

Me 262 Pilot's Handbook.

Let This be a Lesson to You

Weird things happen when your media comes from unsanctioned places...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mad Men & Breaking Bad

I normally don't write much about movies or TV shows - and the last time this happened to me was in 2006, when I watched two complete seasons' worth of Battlestar Galactica in a matter of days - but today, PJ and I succeeded in watching the entire first season of the amazing AMC series Mad Men.

To quote from WP, "Set in New York City, Mad Men takes place in the 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York City's Madison Avenue. The show centers on Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a high-level advertising executive, and the people in his life in and out of the office. It also depicts the changing social mores of 1960s America.

[Themes covered in Mad Men include] ...cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, homophobia, antisemitism, and ethnic and racial bias as examples of how that era [1960s America] was so much different than the present...The main character, Don Draper, observes at one point about Sterling-Cooper, 'This place has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.'"

TV is TV, I know, and none of you have time to watch it - do any of us? Well, yeah, I'm guessing yes - that you have some time that you can dedicate to tossing yourself onto a leather couch and, while not shutting off the BlackBerry (gotta keep checking those FaceBook updates), shutting off your mind enough to enjoy an f'ing hilarious program. Some classic Quotes:

Roger Sterling: "Remember, Don...when God closes a door, he opens a dress."

Mr. Menken: "This place reminds me of a czarist ministry. No matter what the decision, you don't feel it was yours."

Don Draper: "Let me ask you something, what do woman want?"
Roger Sterling: "Who cares?"

Continuing with the theme of TV shows, another favorite of mine is Breaking Bad, which returns to AMC for a second season on March 8.

"Breaking Bad follows protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher who lives in New Mexico with his wife (Anna Gunn) and teenage son (RJ Mitte) who has cerebral palsy. White is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given a prognosis of two years left to live. With a new sense of fearlessness based on his medical prognosis, and a desire to secure his family's financial security, White chooses to enter a dangerous world of drugs and crime and ascends to power in this world. The series explores how a fatal diagnosis such as White's releases a typical man from the daily concerns and constraints of normal society and follows his transformation from mild family man to a kingpin of the drug trade."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Allow your mind freedom from all other considerations

"Hour by hour resolve firmly, like a Roman and a man, to do what comes to hand with correct and natural dignity, and with humanity, independence and justice. Allow your mind freedom from all other considerations."
-Marcus Aurelius -Roman Emperor A.D. 121-180

Does Mama Eagle Push Baby Eagle out of Nest?

Me to a friend facing a possible lay-off, but who hates his job and knows what it is to be passionate about something (and he ain't passionate about what he's doing now):

"You'll be fine, man. Maybe this is exactly what you need - metaphorically, like mama eagle pushing you, little baby bald eagle, out of the nest so you can be all majestic and sh*t."

In writing that, I kept thinking of Stephen Jr. and hoping that Baby Eagles do soar majestically if their corporate mom pushes them out of their corporate nest.

And, as Marcus Aurelius said, "Remember this— that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act of life."

Robert Mugabe Won't Share Power

The latest attempt to revive Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement has failed.

From the Economist Intelligence Unit ViewsWire

"Four months after a power-sharing agreement was signed, Zimbabwe still does not have a permanent government. Robert Mugabe isn't interested in sharing power—but he may lose it.

Zimbabwe's parliament is due to reconvene on January 20th, just 24 hours after the collapse of the latest attempt to resurrect the power-sharing agreement forged in September 2008. Robert Mugabe, leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), claims that "we will continue with discussions here at home". However, his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the main faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is—understandably—less sanguine, stating that the talks had made no progress and that the failure was the "darkest day of our lives"...

[Mugabe] On the way out?
In fact, economic conditions are likely to prove decisive. After years of misrule, Mr Mugabe's position is becoming increasingly untenable. He has enough influence to remain in power for the time being—possibly even until 2010—but events are conspiring against him. Internally, the economic collapse will mean that nearly half of the population will require food aid during the next six months, increasing the tide of opposition against him. Compounding this is a cholera epidemic that has already killed more than 2,000 and threatens to spill over into neighbouring states. Although popular resentment of his rule has failed to worry Mr Mugabe in the past, the president's ability to keep his patronage networks intact is diminishing. Sources of financing for the government are decreasing in line with the economic collapse, and opposition to Mr Mugabe from within Zanu‑PF is understood to be increasing. It seems likely, therefore, that power will pass out of Mr Mugabe's hands at some point over the next 18 months."

International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions

Because I'm planning a comeback to racing in late-2009 in Italy, I need to apply for a TUE for my don't-be-stupid medicine. I'm in both the USADA and UCI OOC testing pools, but thankfully there is international harmonization and standardization in the TUE process, as is conveniently explained in this 24-page document. Enjoy.

The International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions was first adopted in 2004 and became effective in 2005. The enclosed represents version 3.0 that incorporates revisions to the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions that were approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency Executive Committee on 10 May and 20 September 2008. The revised International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions is effective as of 1 January 2009.

Published on 1 October 2008 by:
World Anti-Doping Agency
Stock Exchange Tower, 800 Place Victoria (Suite 1700), PO Box 120, Montr
eal, Quebec, Canada H4Z 1B7, +1 514 904 9232, +1 514 904 8650 (fax); e-mail:

Where Are the Civilians?

Before I messed up my professional life by marrying a Cuban, getting involved in all facets of doping in sport and generally ensuring that I wouldn't pass the US federal government's insanely-invasive background investigation for my security clearance, I wanted to be a diplomat. In fact, besides being a pro cyclist, it was all I ever wanted to be (well, to clarify, I wanted to be a diplomat as cover for working for the Agency). I still read The Economist and Foreign Affairs, and would like to share this article with you, which asks the question:

Where Are the Civilians?
By J. Anthony Holmes
From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2009

"When the State Department threatened to forcibly assign U.S. Foreign Service personnel to Iraq in late 2007, many diplomats read about it in the press before hearing about it from their superiors. The rank and file were irate. On October 30, 2007, the director general of the Foreign Service, several hundred employees, and union representatives held a meeting that quickly degenerated into a shouting match. A journalist's surreptitious recording of the gathering was widely publicized soon afterward, conjuring up an image of disloyal, cowardly diplomats, which stood in stark contrast to that of brave soldiers protecting the United States abroad. By stripping away the complex and highly political context surrounding the presence of civilian government officials in Iraq, the media made Foreign Service officers (FSOs) appear unreasonable and unwilling to serve.

In fact, the Bush administration had effectively engineered the dispute in an effort to publicly embarrass the diplomatic corps. By demanding that FSOs take on the unprecedented, open-ended, and fundamentally impossible challenge of nation building under fire without adequate training or funding, the White House was continuing a myopic tradition of shortchanging the civilian institutions of foreign policy while lavishing resources on the military. Furthermore, the Bush administration's general efforts to stifle dissent and to reward those serving in Iraq with promotions and choice assignments has led to the unmistakable politicization of the Foreign Service.

Before the Iraq war, Washington's priority was to get diplomats out of war zones on the understanding that diplomats had to be protected and preserved for when the fighting was over. (Pentagon veterans such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage felt particularly strongly about this when they ran the State Department from 2001 to 2004.) During the Bush administration's second term, however, the imperative to protect was trumped by domestic political considerations. In late 2005 and early 2006, an ugly "Who lost Iraq?" game played out inside the administration. In an effort to escape blame, the Pentagon argued that it had won the war but that the State Department was losing the peace. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, determined to avoid the charge that the State Department had not "stepped up," responded by ramping up staffing both at the embassy in Baghdad and on the newly created Provincial Reconstruction Teams deployed throughout the country. Abandoning traditional State Department practice, she dramatically increased the number of U.S. diplomatic positions in Iraq when the level of violence was at its worst. The U.S. government began carrying out a largely unnoticed and little analyzed shift in policy, assigning large and growing numbers of unarmed diplomats and aid workers to Afghanistan and Iraq, despite security conditions that often made it impossible for them to do their jobs.

The controversy over mandatory assignments to Iraq -- which quickly dissipated as volunteers stepped forward to fill all 327 State Department positions there -- was merely one episode in a broader pattern of neglect and mismanagement of the United States' civilian foreign policy institutions..."

Read the full text here, thanks to my subscription to Foreign Affairs.

Audi Sport Quattro S1

Audi Sport Quattro S1

The Audi Sport Quattro S1 was introduced at the end of 1984 as an update to the Audi Sport Quattro. The car featured a inline 5-cylinder engine that displaced 2,110 cc (128.8 cu in) and produced an officially quoted figure of 350 kW (480 PS; 470 bhp). However, the turbocharger utilised a recirculating air system, with the aim of keeping the turbo spinning at high rpm, when the driver closed the throttle, either to back off during cornering, or on gearshifts. This allowed the engine to resume full power immediately after the resumption of full throttle, reducing turbo lag. The actual power figure was in excess of 500 bhp (373 kW; 507 PS) at 8000 rpm.

In addition to the improved power output, an aggressive aerodynamic kit was added that featured very distinctive wings and spoilers to the front and rear of the car to increase downforce. The weight was lightened to just 1,090 kg (2,403 lb), and now accelerate from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.1 seconds...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Russian human rights lawyer assassinated near Kremlin

What kind of country kills its critics? Russia...

Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer, was fatally shot today on a Moscow street by a masked assassin.

Stanislav Markelov had fought the release of a colonel who killed a Chechnya woman. His shooting by a masked gunman means 'anybody can be killed . . . in broad daylight,' his supporters say.

By Megan K. Stack
1:59 PM PST, January 19, 2009

Reporting from Moscow -- A masked assassin with a silencer on his gun crept up behind Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer with an insurgent spirit and a penchant for underdogs, and shot him dead in broad daylight today. A freelance reporter with Russia's Novaya Gazeta newspaper was also killed in the attack." Click for More.

If You've Gotta Go...

Were this my final road and mode of transport, I would not complain...

Maserati Gran Turismo-S

Current issue of Maserati Monthly = car porn.
Gran Turismo-S main page (with Flash video) = even better car porn.

(Note to my family, I am not considering suicide or obsessed with death. I am, however, obsessed with the Maserati Gran Turismo-S.)

Lessons in Marketing

Sent to me by my cousin in Chicago:

Steelers vs. Cardinals - it's a matter of Perspective

From the NY Times:

"With all apologies to the Pittsburgh Steelers, their half of the Super Bowl story on Sunday gets reduced, at least for a moment, to a footnote. The Steelers have won five Super Bowls, most recently in 2005. When they make the playoffs, it ranks up there in the news with the sun rising in the morning and leaves falling in autumn. The Cardinals? They are the N.F.L.’s punching bag. They are Charlie Brown, foiled again and again by various Lucys."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Tunnel that Made the Great Escape Possible

Thanks to Tom Williams for tipping me off to this...If you want to go straight underground, click on The Tunnel that Made The Great Escape Possible.

"Electric lighting. A railroad. An air ventilation system. Against incredible odds, the Allied airmen imprisoned at the Nazi POW camp Stalag Luft III secretly engineered these and other technological marvels 30 feet underground in the three escape tunnels they named "Tom," "Dick," and "Harry." They used only tools that they could manufacture themselves out of tin cans, and they scavenged building materials at great risk. When they were done, the airmen carried out one of the greatest mass escapes of all time. Through this interactive map, drawn after the war by one of the POWs, Ley Kenyon, explore the remarkable story of Harry, the 300-foot tunnel that 76 men snuck through during their infamous getaway on the night of March 24-25, 1944."

Stalag Luft III (Stammlager Luft, or Permanent Camp for Airmen #3) was a German Air Force prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force personnel. It was near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Berlin. The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunnelling, but it is best known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunnelling, depicted in The Great Escape & The Wooden Horse.

The first prisoners, or kriegies, as they called themselves, to be housed at Stalag Luft III were British RAF and Fleet Air Arm officers, arriving in April 1942. The first compound of the camp was completed and opened in May. USAAF prisoners began arriving in significant numbers in October, 1943, followed by completion of a second and third compound by March 1944, when U.S. officers were separated from their RAF counterparts and housed separately. Eventually the camp grew to approximately 60 acres (240,000 m2) in size and eventually housed about 2500 Royal Air Force officers, about 7500 U. S. Army Air Corps, and about 900 officers from other Allied air forces, for a total of 10,949 inmates, including some support personnel officers...

The "Great Escape"

In January 1943, Roger Bushell led a plot for a major escape from the camp. The plan was to dig three deep tunnels, codenamed "Tom," "Dick," and "Harry." Each of the tunnel entrances was carefully selected to ensure they were undetectable by the camp guards. The tunnel "Tom" began in a darkened corner of a hall in one of the buildings. "Dick's" entrance was carefully hidden in a drain sump in one of the washrooms. The entrance to "Harry" was hidden under a stove.

Tunnel construction

In order to keep the tunnels from being detected by the perimeter microphones, they were very deep — about 10 metres (30 ft) below the surface. The tunnels were very small, only two feet square (about 0.37 m²), though larger chambers were dug to house the air pump, a workshop, and staging posts along each tunnel. The sandy walls of the tunnels were shored up with pieces of wood scavenged from all over the camp. One main source of wood was the prisoners' beds. At the beginning, each had about twenty boards supporting the mattress. By the time of the escape, only about eight were left on each bed. A number of other pieces of wooden furniture were also scavenged..." More...

Cuba Photos

all (c) PietroPan

Viva Cuba Libre!
Abajo Fidel!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Heinz History Center Sports Museum

There is a cycling exhibit at the Heinz History Center Sports Museum. I'm included in it along with Mike Friedman, Matt Eaton, Dan Chew, Susan DiBiase, George Banker and at least a couple others. Check it out if you have a chance.

Celebrate Castro's Death?

someone wrote:

"...This is an ill advised, knee jerk, reactionary act, with not a ounce of forethought as to the consequences. I guess Miamians forget the heat they took about Elian, and now they will do it again in a government sponsored shing-ding..."

Again, doesn't the Miami-based Cuban exile community understand PR and strategic communication tactics? Apparently not, because you're right - what they're proposing to do will undermine what little legitimacy they have left when calling for a transition to democracy in Cuba.

Let everyone who has suffered as a result of Castro celebrate his death in private, in their own homes, with their remaining family members; or go to church, pray for the souls of the many who died because of that bastard. But to make a public display of jubilation, when, in reality, the US was ultimately impotent and incapable of destroying Castro and his regime is distorted.

Again, celebrate his death in private. Weep for your dead loved ones. Weep for the property you lost and the fact that you're exiled from your homeland - the most beautiful country in the world. But please, the only appropriate public ceremony in the US when Castro's death is announced would be a candlelight vigil to 1) honor and remember those who died as a result of the tyrany and 2) to refocus attention on the millions of Cubans who will continue to suffer because the tyrannical system Castro put in place continues as strong or more so than before.

Run Away to the Mountains to Find at least a Bit of a Smile

From the Archives (of another site): thoughts on public celebrations of Castro's death

Monday, January 29, 2007
I don't want the government's money

This post was authored by a friend and published in a very different location. It should be re-read, however, by those rabid anti-Castroite's fantasizing about a Castro Death Party....

Early this morning, Fox News had something strange in its ticker about the City of Miami selecting the Orange Bowl for the "official celebrations" for fidel castro's death. I was actually in the middle of my workout, so I thought that maybe castro had decided to die and make my day. No. I got to the office, and I had a gazillion e-mails from friends, family, readers, acquaintances and unknowns sending me links to blogs, newspapers, and whatnot about an official celebration for the death of castro, whenever it happens, in which the official organizers expect to line up entertainers who donate their time, and a long description of the logistics.

Well, whatever, I thought. I don't want the government's money. I don't believe that the government has to finance anybody's celebration, for whatever motives.
You celebrate the 4th of July on your own nickel and dime.

You celebrate Christmas and Hannukah and the New Year on your own penny, no?
And you celebrate your birthday. And whatever else you want. On your own dollar.
Yes, castro is a reknown international terrorist and a criminal bastard.

But I think the celebration has to be done by everyone who wants it, and that the government has no place in it. Why?

First of all, I don't want any money from the government when the government allows 34 States to deal with castro and at the same time keeps the dry foot wet foot in place. I don't want a government financed party when the government has decided who are my family members, who are not, how much money I can give them and when, and when I can go and visit them when they are not free to come visit me. I just don't want the government throwing a party because I am gonna be glad when that bastard kicks the bucket.
I think that everybody who wants to celebrate should do it, as long as they do it on their own penny. Government sponsored parties sounds very familiar to me, the tyranny of castro throw them all the time.

I think that if you want to celebrate, you should. Be my guest, celebrate whatever you want as much as you want. Pay for it, when you are at it, as it is your own celebration and your own responsibility.

I actually won't be celebrating anything. I have nothing to celebrate if the freedom of Cuba is not achieved, and the death of castro doesn't automatically bring any freedom to Cuba. It actually brings the continuation of the tyranny in the bloody hands of raul castro, and he has manifested his desire of having his favorite nephew fidelito castro to get his hands on the wheel when he "retires". If you haven't noticed, fidelito has let his beard grown, to remind us of his "charismatic" father during his younger days, and he already put back his old family name to use: Diaz Balart.

As far as we are concerned, kasstro is already dead, politically speaking, he is as good as dead.
There are Cubans dying in the sea, there are Cubans being repressed and killed and hunted down like wild animals. The bi-coastal guard is still busy sending rafters back, so I have nothing to celebrate. I am not celebrating the death that will give raul kasstro full access to the throne of Cuba. I am not celebrating that the tyranny is being continued by other means, if you know what I mean. As long as the tyranny is in place in Cuba I am not celebrating anything. It would be a slap to the face of the opressed Cubans, since fidel castro is not the problem in itself. He is just the symbol, the face of the problem, the real problem is the system he created and that is being sustained and legitimized by his brother successor.

Actually, such a big bang government sponsored party will kill anychance of having a free Cuba in the future. Hip swiveling will kill any chance of having any hard action taken against the tyranny, since the U.S. Government will say: "oh, no, you already celebrated, there's no more fidel castro, there's no more tyranny, and we are ready to deal with raul.... if raul was that much of a son of bitch, why on Earth did you celebrate that his brother was dead when you knew that he was ascending to the throne?"

That castro is alive or dead is irrelevant at this moment. The main core of the problem here is that 12 million Cubans are still opressed and under a tyranny, face it, the biological death of castro is not going to change a thing, for much that people celebrate.

I am one who doesn't believe in big government or in getting any government handouts, or who wants any part of my life regulated or dictated by the government. So I don't want the government giving me a place, occasion, timing, and entertainment to celebrate anything, and much less getting much needed tax dollars to celebrate anything.

Anything you get free from the government you pay for whenever you least expect it.
As I am telling you, if the government sponsored party is fine and dandy with you, you will have to be ready to accept that the government deals with the tyranny release 2.0 and release 3.0 on their own terms without your participation. They already paid for your party, and your acceptance of the party will mean the end of the tyranny for them. So they will be free to support whatever system is installed in Cuba after the clinical death of kasstro.

Amazingly, in an article that appeared in the Miami Herald the local politico, City Commisioner Tomas Regalado said. "There is something to celebrate, regardless of what happens next. ... We get rid of the guy." No, you didn't do anything to get rid of the guy, Mr. Regalado, time got him, illness got him, not your "actions". As we have predicted in this blog, many politicos are ready to take credit for the death of kasstro. Which is absurd and ridiculous. Such a celebration will also put Cubans in the worst possible light, as if we were a bunch of barbarians, and there will be a bunch of assholes who will point out that Iraqi Americans didn't celebrate the death of Saddam.... who by the way, was brought to justice for his unspeakable crimes.
Celebrate privately, if you must.

We will be mourning the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who died under the tyranny, the ones who were taken to the shooting squad, the ones who drowned in the Straits, the ones who died serving in the military in the African wars of the Napoleon of the Caribbean, the ones who died of sadness in Cuba, and the ones who couldn't return to a free Cuba. We will be sad because time and old age snatched fidel castro, and because justice could not be served. We will be sad, because the tyranny is still in place, and we will be sad because people fail to see it.

We will only celebrate when we have a free Cuba. Not a minute before.

Nice Price, RE/MAX Realtor and 4:20 commentator

I can understand the motivation for engaging in anonymous blog commenting in places like China or Cuba, where taking a public position against a ruling regime carries with it the risk of imprisonment or death. But here in the USA, where most speech is free and protected, people like "riding at 4:20" who post puke-stained comments to insignificant blogs like this one typically do so because they're self-loathing cowards.

I know several of you have been wondering who was behind "riding at 4:20", so let me say that he is Nick Price, a realtor for RE/MAX of Reading.

Nick Price, who specializes in "Representing Residential/Commercial Buyers and Sellers with strong emphasis on customer service" and who was a member of RE/MAX International's 100 % Club 2007, is responsible for the gem's of Blog Commentary that follow below, which are attributed to "ridin at 4:20™":

[Comments culled from this post:]


ridin at 4:20™ said...

I never would have thought Joe P would be reading my blog

That's what un-employed people do all day. As for Joe Papp, he is a fucking disgrace to anyone who has ever owned and enjoyed the sport of cycling. I'm not talking about the dopers like Leogrande, Hamilton, DeCanio, etc. I'm talking about the people that keep it pure and honest. The cat 5's, the weekend warriors, the old-lady you see on the trail riding for fitness and enjoyment.

On another note, If you are going to dope, make it worthwhile and win something big. I'm not talking about 5th place at the local PA BAR race.

Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...

I've had to compete against Papp many times during the period when he was doping, including a memorable race at Drumore where I thought I was going to have to drive myself to the hospital for dehydration-induced vomiting after chasing him and his doped up team mates around all day. I've got plenty of reason to be pissed at the guy (and his retarded teammates) for cheating me out of prize money and results.

We all make mistakes, we all do stupid shit, and we all do things that we later regret.

I think that Joe is doing the right thing by helping to bust other dopers. Are his motivations pure? (For example: is he being compelled to via some deal with WADA? Is this just another outlet for the attention seeking that he's been guilty of in the past?) I'm not sure. That said, I'm willing to accept what he's doing at face value, and that his actions are doing something positive. And I think that helping to bust cheaters is a good thing.

Its not healthy to go through life holding grudges.

Know what I'm sayin...?


ridin at 4:20™ said...

He is only going after the cheaters "now" because he's been exposed.

I never competed against the guy so I have no personal value of hate, other than he is a doper and they all should be hated. Admitting their guilt is fine, but keep in mind that a lot of money has been lost in races, sponsorship and rider development because of the actions of people like Papp.

So to forgive guys like this, hell no. To accept the fact that some of them admit their guilt is one thing, but they will never have my respect or blessing.

Just sayin...

Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...

I dunno man. In the larger scheme of things, bike racing isn't all that big of a deal.

Which is what makes the fact that poeple cheat at it harder to fathom in the 1st place.


joep said...

Ponch: thanks for your follow-up.

Burt: you're golden, like always.

Ridin at 4:20(tm): you're like the Chris Mayhew of blog comments, except that at least Chris uses his real name when he vomits out an email.

ridin at 4:20™ said...

Thanks for the comments Joe. I really take it in stride coming from a cheater. I guess I can throw in liar and fraud to the mix.

You should be proud of yourself for your cycling accomplishments.

Joey V said...

ponch, i would never throw a teammate under the blog bus. second, i'm like twice this guy's size based on his pics. Even when i try to stay out....they just keep pullin' me back in!!!!

back to session numero dos!!!

thank god there's no blogs about the concrete crater!!

joep said...

Ridin at 4:20(tm):

Given your belief that "all [dopers] should be hated," if you care about clean sport it must drive you insane that I'm one of the only cyclists from the dark side who is actively engaged in developing actionable intelligence on, and testifying against, other drug cheats.

But as for not getting your respect or your blessing...phffft. For a blessing I go to my priest. For respect...well, to begin to earn respect I look to people who don't hide behind pseudonyms and are smart enough not to putear dopers in one sentence, while sarcastically encouraging them to dope to win big races in another.

ridin at 4:20™ said...

Joe Papp,

Whatever your crusade is these days, that is great. We(clean people) should be so proud that you are on the other side now. And what is the other side?

Oh yeah, people who don't cheat, lie and steal. You are and always will be a pathetic doper.

When is the book deal happening?

testifying against
They're called Narcs. Nobody likes the Narc.

Now go get a day job. Just don't try to cheat and lie your way to the top when you get there. Have and show respect for your fellow workers. Something you have obviously not been able to show in the past.

Fuckin Doper

Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...

4:20: Let me see if I understand the main point of your post:

1. People who have ever lied, cheated or stolen are worthless and should be forever dammed by all.

2. If you were somehow involved in lying, cheating or stealing and want to (later) do something about it, you're a "Narc" and are also damnable.

Have you ever lied, cheated or stolen anything ever? I hope not, because using the logic you're applying here, you're now a fundamentally worthless individual who is incapable of reform.

If you don't like Joe for whatever reason, that's certainly your decision. But coming up with silly and illogical reasons to justify calling him names is just dumb.

ridin at 4:20™ said...

I never thought I'd see the day that Burt defends a doper.

The terms like "Fucking Doper" and "Dopers Suck" were coined because of people like Joe Papp. Defend him, become his best friend in the world, I do not care. That is your choice Burt.

As for me, I give 0 respect to people who have cheated the system.

Have I ever cheated as an adult? No.

Have I ever cheated as a youth? Yes.

Would I knowingly cheat as a adult for financial or some form of gain? No, as an adult I know the difference from right and wrong. Dopers do not.

Sorry Burt, I will not be agreeing with you on this one. I don't under stand how you can start a post just the other day calling Leogrande and asshole, yet I'm not allowed to call Joe Papp a Fucking Doper? What's up with that?

Peace out.

Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...

Leogrande is acting like an asshole because of his response to the issue...refusing to admit that he fucked up and blaming the system for "singling him out" rather than addressing his behavior.

Fuentes is acting like an asshole because he has made no attempt to come clean about anything he's done and continues to lie about the doping he did (i.e., that synthetic steroid was in my asthma inhaler).

Hamilton is an asshole because he refuses to admit what everyone knows: that he cheated. And frankly I think he's probably still doping.

I'm hardly Joe's "Best Friend", and I'm not going to say that you can't call him a "fucking doper" if you choose. Frankly, I have at least some doubt about his motivations (as noted above). However, I think your failure to acknowledge that now he's choosing to behave in a fundamentally different manner than the people mentioned above is unfair and intellectually dishonest.

That's all I'm sayin'...


The guy who just left your mom's house said...

Now this is good $hit.
Dopers are all cheats, liars, and thieves.
They have literally stolen prize money from some of my best friends.
They should be treated as a guy who takes $100 out of your wallet.
What would you think of that guy?
A matter of integrity.
Know what I'm sprayin'?

ridin at 4:20™ said...

However, I think your failure to acknowledge that now he's choosing to behave in a fundamentally different manner than the people mentioned above is unfair and intellectually dishonest.

Image if Papp never doped? We wouldn't be having this discussion. As I said before, dopers are an embarassment to anyone who rides a bike. When Joe Papp won a race and beat a bunch of non-doping weekend warrior cat 1-2's, I wonder if he looked in the mirror the next morning and said, I'm Joe Papp and I'm proud of myself.

Regardless of his actions today, it is his actions along with many others that have caused a lot of good riders to loose their teams and careers. Dopers are single-handedly responsible for the folding of teams and races. Good, upstanding riders have been left out on the street with no team because of these pieces of shit.

For their actions, all dopers are fucking pieces of Shit.

Peace out.

Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Burt Friggin' Hoovis said...

4:20, its not like you have to tell me this shit.

Here's another 1st hand Papp story: One time I was in a break with Joe, that spic cheater targliadravvamdmfa, and one of their other juiced up teammates up at an ~90 mile road race in Marysville back in ~2002. Me and Josh Beck had made the break about 1/2 way in, and it was us two against all those fuckers, plus Ramone Benetiz and another dude or two that I don't remember. With ~15 miles to go, Benetiz had been dropped*, and Joe and his teammates took turns doing flyers and attacking Josh (with me trying help by covering as many moves as I could) until finally one of them (Tardgaeilfaref, I think) got away with some other dude and won. Josh was definitely the strongest non-doped rider in the race, they knew it, and they specifically targeted him until they had worked him over and make him crack. He was so spent from trying to cover that he actually got dropped from the chase group before the end and ended up finishing out of the money. Joe won sprint out of the chase group (for 3rd, I think), with The Dopers winning and taking 3 of the top 5 places.

From a race tactic perspective, it was the perfect thing for Papp and his teammates to do (those guys knew how to race their bikes). In retrospect, however, it was nothing more than a buch of cheaters consipring to beat up on a clean dude who deserved to win the race. I watched first hand as they stole the race from the guy.

Josh Beck is a super nice guy, and as gifted a racer as anyone that I've ever had the chance to ride with. He quit road racing, and I'm sure that scenes like that were the reason.

All that said, I still thing its wrong to refuse to allow people who fuck up the opportunity for forgiveness.

* Regarding Ramone that day: This was still back when the guy was a Cat III who refused to upgrade so that he could go out and take money from III/IV riders he was clearly superior to. In his typical style, once the move was clear, he spent alot of time bitching at everyone to take harder pulls, etc. while doing shit like charging up every hill, and basically fucking up the rythem of the group just to show us how strong he though he was. Watching him crack when the real shit started going down was particularly satisfying.


ridin at 4:20™ said...


What you described above is what makes Papp even more pathetic as a doper. It is one thing when Tyler beat a bunch of other dopers. It is another thing to show up at a PA race and beat up on a bunch of guys who are going to finish the race and within a few hours will be at home cutting their lawn or taking their kids to swim practice the next morning. That is really sad that someone would have to dope at that level.

When a guy like Vino attacks in the Alps and beats Rassmussen, it's one doper vs. another.

Joe Papp attacking Josh Beck or you and needing to dope to do it is kinda funny, in some ways. Funny that someone would be so insecure of his own natural ability and would need to cheat to win, especially at such a level. Lets face it, they go were they can hide. It's not like Ruoff is going to test Joe or his band of dopers after the race.

As for Joe coming on this blog and trying to argue and/or defend his position is even more pathetic. Can you read the heading Joe? 8 plus 2. This blog is about a guy who works all day and tries to balance a racing career along with trying to get ahead(without cheating) at work and on Saturday and Sunday when he is a weekend warrior. These are the exact people that you've cheated.

Perhaps if Joe Papp raced against other "out-right" dopers at a Euro-Pro level perhaps he could be forgiven quicker, but considering he needed to dope for local shit against non-dopers is sad.

So Joe, was it worth it getting that $300 check for that big win at Drumore or Blue Bell, or whatever you won locally? Tyler is laughing at you pal. At least he got the big paychecks.

My challenge to Papp is this. Go get a day job, work from 8-5 and try to balance your training schedule while working 40 hrs a week. See what it's like to pound down a Gatorade in your car and a powerbar as your driving to the local Tuesday night training race. Then you'll understand what it's like. I think by doing that, you'll earn respect a lot sooner from the cycling community. A lot sooner that sitting in a courtroom pointing fingers. Get my drift?

Peace Out.

joep said...

ridin at 4:20™, here's my challenge to you:

Come to my house at 5803 Pierce St, Pgh, 15232 (but call ahead b/c I both work and go to grad school and wouldn't want to miss you) and share these opinions of yours with me face-to-face. Or let me know where you live and I'll head over to your place.

Because until then, you're a twat hiding behind the anonymity of the internet spewing bile that I doubt you'd have the courage to say in person.


ridin at 4:20™ said...

Do I need to knock or will your mom let me in? I'm assuming I head straight to the basement?

If I saw you face to face, I'd have no problem telling you that you are a fucking doper right to your face. The truth, via the internet or in person hurts, uh Joe? I'm assuming you no longer race, even though your suspesion is up. What't the matter, Joe? Did you realize you cannot do well without cheating?

Joe Papp, Go fuck yourself. You are a pathetic doper. You always will be an embarrassement to anyone who ever owned a bike. You are a fucking cheater and a liar.

Call me an asshole, cocky P.O.S, Just don't ever call me a liar or cheater.

Enjoy your life Joe. I'm sure after all the dope, you may have a life span just long enough to graduate grad school. Oh, your parents and wife(oops, ex wife) should be so proud.

Fucking Doper.

Nick Price, aka "ridin at 4:20"

# Graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Marketing

# Graduate Level MBA Finance Courses at Alvernia College

# RE/MAX International's 100 % Club 2007

# RE/MAX International's Executive Club 2006

# RE/MAX International's 100 % Club 2005

# RE/MAX International's Presidents Club 2004

# RE/MAX International's Presidents Club 2003

# Participant in the Olivets Boys and Girls Club "Kiss a Pig" Contest 2004--over $50,000 raised

# Representing Residential/Commercial Buyers and Sellers with strong emphasis on customer service

# Past President Berkshire Estates Condominium Board of Directors

# Past Board Member for the Reading Berks Association of Realtors Commercial Industrial Council

# Founder/Captain TechnoCycle BRC/Dynaflo Racing amateur cycling team


# As a Berks County native of over 25 years, I can show you the opportunites Berks County has to offer.