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July 26, 2005


I'm not very good at making decisions, especially when money is involved. A day in the life:

Should I walk to the store on the corner and get an iced tea? Hmmm. That's $.99. Perhaps I shouldn't spend the money. I could just drink some cofee. And that iced tea has all sorts of sugar and whatnot in it. I could just have hot tea here at the office. That iced tea is tasty though. And you get 23 ounces for $.99. That's a good deal. It's a lot of sugar though...

Now, imagine this person pondering the decision to buy a new car. Cleary not an easy task. So much to worry about -- do we really need a new car? Can we afford it? Is this a rash decision? Does it get good mileage? Is it reliable?

The list goes on.

Last night Jen went to the local Ford dealer with just such a person. Ford has been running a fairly nice special during the month of July, better than the discounts I could get via their Partner Program (thanks to my employer). Now was the time to get a car, and we decided to look at the Focus, which seemed to get very good reviews from anyone and everyone. I was also comforted by the fact that the promotion meant that there was little haggling over the price of the car. The dealer had a Focus sedan, with a manual transmission, on the lot, so we actually got to test drive the car. It seemed good enough -- peppy enough to be fun, but not overly sporty as to rattle poor Seb's head over bumps. Once back at the dealer, all that was left was to locate a car that fit was we wanted (the one on the lot, whilst very inexpensive, was also rather spartan -- we can do without cruise and ABS and traction control, can't we?), which was not an easy task thanks to the promotion.

Finally, the salesman found one at a local dealer, an SES model (meaning it was kitted out with lots of bells and whistles we usually wouldn't care about) that was priced within our budget.

Decision time.

Remember the iced tea discussion? Over $.99?

Jen tried to make things easier for me. In one corner we have the Outback, leaky headgasket included. In the other corner, we have the Focus, brandy-new, with a very good warranty included in the price. The engine may fall out of the Outback any day. The Focus is brandy-new and under warranty. After doing round after round of budgetary math in my head, I said "gimme more money for the trade and we have a deal."



I'm still waiting to hear if the dealer could get the car in question, since it was rather late when all was said and done. I'm mildly excited about the new car. I think I'd more excited if I drove it more often (I'm rarely in the car Monday through Friday), and I feel a slight pang of guilt that we didn't drive the Outback into the ground (though I suspect we're pretty close). One the plus side, the car is more fuel efficient, and it's smaller, and I won't feel like a bobo driving Focus. And I feel good that Jen and the boy won't be stranded somewhere by the Outback.

July 25, 2005

Important Safety Tip

When purchasing Bulletproof chain tugs, keep in mind the type of track ends your frame has, as the Sub 11.0 style ends on your Surly have hoods that do not easily accomodate the fancy star shape.

July 24, 2005

TdF Recap

Well, Lance Armstrong wrapped up his seventh consecutive Tour de France victory today, after winning the final time trial of his career by 30-odd seconds over Jan Ullrich. In the end, it was easy for Armstrong, as he beat second place Ivan Basso by over four and half minutes. While Armstrong didn't dominate this Tour as he has others, allowing non-GC contenders to take break from the peleton and take stage wins, he and his Discovery teammates did well to manage the GC contenders and keep everyone in check. Discovery had a good tour, taking four stage wins (including the team time trial), with George Hincapie winning the race's toughest stage, and Paolo Savoldelli winning on a long break a few days following. Yaroslav Popovych took the white jersey as best young rider, and served his leader well by leading the attack in the Alps.

Despite finishing over four minutes behind Armstrong, Ivan Basso had a strong race, especially considering he raced the Giro in May (and was beset by a stomach bug in the process). He was constantly pushing the pace in the mountains, and rode a decent time trial on Saturday. At only 27, Basso will undoubtly win the Tour before he retires. Alexandre Vinokourov provided plenty of fireworks, always attacking, sometimes to his own detriment. He also spoiled the plans for today's ride into Paris by winning the sprint ahead of the traditional sprinters. There are rumors that Vino will sign with another team next season (one of his suitors is Discovery), and with the proper support, Vino could also challenge for the yellow jersey in Armstrong's absence.

While I won't deny that Armstrong is a fantastic cyclist, I'm also anxious to see someone else declared the king of cycling by dominating not just the Tour, but perhaps another grand tour, and perhaps a spring classic or two. Basso seems posed to be such a rider, as does Vino and even George Hincapie (though I wonder if he could keep up the pace for three weeks at a time). We also saw flashes from the younger riders as well -- Valverde, Popovych, and even Salvoldelli. There are certainly enough riders to fill Armstrong's very large shoes.

Linux on the Laptop

After only a slight amount of pain, I got Fedora Core 3 installed and working on our laptop. The Windows installation had been acting quite funny (crashes and whatnot), so I thought before I just re-installed XP, I'd give Linux a whirl. Surprisingly, nearly all the hardware worked without tweaking -- sound, video, network card, CD/RW -- except the wifi card. Despite Fedora telling me it was a 3Com card, it's really a Broadcom (perhaps the same thing?) 4306, which can work under Linux, thanks to NdisWrapper, a nifty tool that allows you to install Windows drivers under Linux. The only minor inconvenience seems to be the inability of the Fedora GUI tools to manage the card, which is under the wlan0 device. It's easily configured with command line tools, however, so no worries.

July 21, 2005

The Roberts Confirmation

Friend and all around smart guy Moon has a rather good post about why Democrats need to at least give Judge Roberts a fair shake during his confirmation hearings and base their decision on that instead of the source of his nomination.

July 20, 2005

Cars, and Communication

We have decided, mostly, to get a new car. The Outback has served us well for two and half years, but after replacing the transmission, the engine is leaking oil and acting up. Trips to two different mechanics gave us two different diagnosis:

1. Leaky head gasket. Cost to replace: $1200.
2. Small oil leak, nothing to worry about. No work needed.

I was worried our second opinion would find something, anything, but alas, no, and I don't feel any better or worse about what our local mechanic told us about the head gasket. So, after furiously crunching numbers, we decided that maybe, just maybe, we could get a new car. We'd take a hit on the Outback, certainly, especially if it needed significant repairs, but even with repairs, its value was plummenting. So we did what we usually do when faced a big, tough decision about money.

We ignored it.

Sure, we researched cars online. We talked to friends. Got advice. But we never took that step to actually look at cars at the dealer. We've only purchased one car at a dealer (the Outback), and I hated the experience. I don't like working with sales people, as I am not a fan of bartering. I certainly like the idea, but when it comes time to actually haggle, I turn into Mr. Nice Guy and rarely press my demands (thankfully we used a real estate agent to purchase the house lest we paid over what the sellers' wanted). I absoluted hated the drama that was the Outback purchase -- we wanted more money for the trade-in. They didn't want to give it to us. We wouldn't buy the car. The salesman would "go talk to his manager." He'd come back with a slightly higher trade in value. Umm, sorry. "I'll be right back." Five minutes the price was inching closer to what we wanted, but at this point, I was tired of the shenanigans and decided another 2% wouldn't break the bank.

So last night we decided to finally look at cars. Well, at least one car, the Scion xB. Yes, you read that correctly. The Scion. The box on wheels. The hipster grocery getter. My only defense will be this: find another car for under $15,000 that has the same options and reliability record. Good luck. So we dropped the boy at the grandparents and went on our way to the dealer. Any hopes of actually test driving one vanished, as the dealer only had one car in stock, and it was floor model. Humm. So we talked with the salesman for a bit, he told us what we needed to know, and said if we really wanted to test drive one of these, we'd need to put a deposit on one that was in transit to reserve it. We wouldn't be contractually obligated to buy the car (given that most of these are sold before the even arrive, the dealer isn't concerned about getting stuck with the car). Given that this was a reconnoissance mission, I wasn't ready to sign on the dotted line, and we walked away (though I suspect we'll be calling back sooner rather than later).

I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me doesn't like the idea of getting a new car. What's wrong with the Outback? Sure, we may to repair it, but that cost doesn't last as long as new car payments. But then, think of the positives. We're getting a car that is smaller and more fuel efficient. This could be the last car we buy for a long, long time (we said that about the Outback too). We'd have a car that Jen could actually rely on (unlike the Outback, which has stranded her before).


About the communication bit...

As Jen pointed out, the boy is speaking more and more. The "switch" his doctor and speech therapist have talked about has finally been toggled, and he's speaking in short sentences -- "in baby pool! walk in rain!" -- and picking up new words constantly (note to self: watch what you say, lest it get repeated to a grandparent). It is truly amazing however, especially after his rather late start with verbal speech.

July 13, 2005

TdF Update

After one of the toughest stages in this year's Tour, the general classification remain mostly unchanged. Discovery allowed Alexandre Vinokourov to break early in the stage, and the T-Mobile rider beat Columbian mountain goat Santiago Botero at the finish. The pair finished roughly 2 minutes ahead of the yellow jersey group, but after his terrible ride on yesterday's stage, Vino couldn't even crack the top 10 in the GC. He has, however, roughly matched the deficit held by his teammates, a little over four and half minutes behind Armstrong.

Despite the relatively quiet stage, the Discovery again exterted its strength by keeping several riders with Armstrong on the final Hors Categorie climb, including George Hincapie, who generally isn't considered a climber. The pesky Michael Rasmussen is still only 38 seconds behind Armstrong in the GC, and he will likely be marked by Discovery as the race enters the Pyrennes this weekend, though he shouldn't be a factor during the final time trial.

Suddenly, I Seem Sorta Old

I've been working my way through David Koyzis' book Political Visions and Illusions, and it's quite good (I'll probably post a full review when I actually finish it). This past weekend, I finished his analysis of Liberalism and found it thought provoking and thorough. One point he makes that while the Liberal state wishes to permit as much as possible (without infringing on the rights of others), in the end it is asked to subsidize the consequences of such liberties. An example? With the rise of the civil practice of marriage (that is, marriage outside the bounds of religion, which treats the covenant as something more than a social contract), there came with it a rise in the divorce rate (yes, there is also a rise in the divorce rate within "church" marriages, but this does nothing but strengthen Koyzis' point). As the State permits (even oversees) the destruction of the basic family unit, it is forced to bear the consequences through programs to assist single parents and their children.

Need a more concrete example? Look no further. I find Mimi Smartypants to be at times very funny or very frustrating. This post falls under the category of frustrating.

Here's the part where I whine like a spoiled baby with serious entitlement issues: This finding-good-childcare thing is really hard. And really expensive. If it's hard for me and LT, who are Internet-connected and savvy about hunting down referrals, conducting background checks, and evaluating our options, I can't imagine what it is like for people without the time or resources. If it's expensive for a one-child, two-parent family where both adults make a decent salary, I can't imagine what it is like for families with more children and less income. After these last few weeks of stressing about it I am ready to either make a hefty donation to a daycare advocacy group or start calling senator's offices myself, so if you know of any particular causes I should support, send me an email. Or if you just want to join me for a beer and bitch about the situation, send me an email as well. The personal is the political is drunk angry women sketching plans for the revolution on cocktail napkins.

I resist the urge to get out my very tiny violin. But, again, here is Koyzis' point played out the real world. Being unwilling to take part in the rather un-feminist world of child-rearing (as many of her prior posts will attest to), Mimi wants the government to pay for her child-care because, well, it's their job. Her argument is wrapped in the logic of economics -- how can a two parent, two wage-earner family be expected to make a decent salary and pay someone to raise their child? Here's where I sound like a curmudgeon -- deciding to raise a family should take priority in one's life. It's not something to be shoehorned between work and a social life. Parenthood is about sacrifice -- we very explicitly choose to put aside things we love in the service of someone who relies on us for her every need. The pragmatist in me has something to say about this too -- if daycare is so expensive, is it a wise choice economically for both parents to work? If nearly every penny from one wage-earner's monthly salary goes to someone to tend to the children, why not just stay home?

Do I think that all parents who send their child to daycare are evil? No, not really. That is their decision. Do I think a single wage-earner family, with the other staying at home to raise children is an ideal situation? Absolutely. Do I think the State should legislate it? Not really. I'll re-use this quote from the old Jebbie:

But in the main, I do not think there is any real hope for "reform" of the late-liberal state. I think the best answer is to resist disorder personally, and if one is truly successful at this, it will spill over into one's family and one's immediate community. Hunker down and wait for the big crash per MacIntyre* and Eliot.** See what's salvageable from the rubble.

July 12, 2005

And So It Begins

It was understood that today's stage marked the real beginning of the Tour de France, as the race enters the French Alps. Most of the contenders knew today's mountaintop finish would sort things out in the GC, and sort them it did.

I won't rehash the stage, but on the final, Category 1 climb, Lance Armstrong and the rest of the Discovery team flexed their muscles and potentially ended the race just as it was beginning. Armstrong had five riders with him on the lower sections of the climb, setting a rather brisk pace that quickly dropped Alexandre Vinokourov, and forced his T-Mobile teammates Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloden to suffer a bit more than expected. As the climb wore on, rider after rider dropped from Armstrong's group, including favorites Ivan Basso and Roberto Heras. Soon enough, T-Mobile lost touch with group, with Ullrich and Kloden dropping off the back. Even fellow Americans Floyd Landis and Levi Leipheimer couldn't match the pace set by Armstrong and Alejandro Valverde. In the end, Valverde took the stage win (with Armstrong's blessing), and Basso and Leipheimer managed to limit their losses, finishing roughly one minute behind Armstrong.

Surveying the damage, the only rider within spitting distance of Armstrong in the GC is Michael Rasmussen (who currently holds the polka dot jersey as best climber), who limited his losses on today's stage. The Dutch rider sits 38 seconds behind Armstrong. Ivan Basso helped his cause, though he probably can't be considered a contender at this point, and holds third, 2:20 behind Armstrong. T-Mobile absolutely self-destructed today, with Kloden and Ullrich over four minutes off the pace, and Vino even further back. So much for someone in pink standing on the podium in Paris. Floyd Landis, another ex-Armstrong teammate who was expected to be a factor this year is currently a non-factor, loses several minutes to Armstrong on the upper reaches of the climb. Landis currently sits tenth in the GC, over four minutes back.

The Tour is now, officially, Armstrong's to lose. Rasmussen is close, but even if he manages to stay with Armstrong through the Alps, there's little chance he could keep Armstrong within reach during the final time trial. What is noteworthy about Armstrong's performance today is that he never had to really spring an attack -- he simply set a pace no one besides Valverde could match. You get the sense the Texan held back today, and could have attacked harder if necessary.

July 11, 2005

How Lance Just Might Lose

Heading into the first rest day of the Tour, Lance Armstrong sits in third place, just over two minutes behind CSC's Jens Voight. The Discovery team allowed Voight and Christophe Moreau to break from the peleton on Sunday, both slipped ahead of Armstrong in the GC. This was not unexpected -- Armstrong and the rest of his team had grown weary of defending the maillot jaune, and Armstrong said he was happy to have it off his back heading into the meat of the race in the Alps. Neither Voight or Moreau are considered real contenders in the GC, and Voight will likely only have the jersey for the length of Tueday's stage.

But, that's not why Armstrong might not defend his title.

Rewind to Saturday's stage, and relatively innocuous stage with a handful of Category 2 and 3 climbs. After pushing the pace for most the day, the Discovery team didn't have enough gas to stay with Armstrong on the final, long climb, and T-Mobile took advantage of Armstrong's isolation. Alexandre Vinokourov attempted to break from the yellow jersey group several times, requiring Armstrong himself to reel the Kaz rider back to the pack. This tactic allowed another T-Mobile rider, Andreas Kloden, to take advantage of Armstrong's isolation and ride clear of the group. Kloden lost the stage by a whisker (literally), but T-Mobile made quite a statement.

T-Mobile is unique among the teams at this year's TdF in that they have three riders capable of a podium finish: Kloden, Vinokourov, and Jan Ullrich. While Ullrich is considered the team leader (and the one tapped to challenge Armstrong), his teammates are capable of ending Armstrong's reign. As I've mentioned before, T-Mobile has not always made the best decisions in their handling of their quiver of stars. If the team decides that any one of the trio should win the Tour, Armstrong will likely defend his title. But, imagine if Vino, Kloden, and Ullrich decide their goal, collectively, is to unseat Armstrong? Since they are currently bunched together in the GC, Discovery would have to mark any of them. Why not mimic Saturday's strategy of sending Vino away multiple times, wearing down Armstrong and whoever else Discovery sends to bring them back?

Of course, this requires that Vino, Kloden, and Ullrich be willing to give up personal glory for the good of the team. Ullrich, tired of his string of second place finishes, wants to beat Armstrong in the Texan's final tour. Vino and Kloden are willing to be Ullrich's lieutenants at the moment, but should the German falter in the Alps, both would like to be free to attack. But then, which one? Both Kloden and Vino have stood on the podium in Paris. Both have ridden well thus far? Can T-Mobile get it together?

July 06, 2005

The Last Word About the Maillot Jaune, Really

Cycling News, in their recap of today's stage, offered this brief history of race leaders who deferred wearing the yellow jersey for a day:

Article 10 of the Tour De France rules states, "The wearing of the leader's yellow (and all others) is mandatory from the signing in before the stage until after the press conference after the stage." This kind of episode has happened in the past history of Le Tour, most notably three times in the last 35 years. In 1971, Eddy Merckx refused to wear the maillot jaune when his rival Luis Ocaņa crashed out of the Tour during a torrential downpour on the Col de Mente. Nine years later, Joop Zoetemelk wouldn't don the maillot jaune for a day when he inherited it upon the abandon of Bernard Hinault in 1980. 11 years later, it was Greg LeMond's turn, as he also refused to put on his inherited maillot jaune because race leader Rolf Sorensen was forced to abandon due to a broken collarbone from a crash.

The Magic of the Internet

Thanks to this nifty tool using the Google Maps API, I present to you my morning commute.

Update to an Update

I said below that Lance Armstrong would not wear the yellow jersey during today's stage, in deference to David Zabriskie, who lost the jersey yesterday thanks to a crash. Race director Jean-Marie Leblanc insisted, however, Armstrong don the malliot jaune, warning that if Armstrong did not wear the leader's jersey, he would not start the stage. Armstrong did eventually relent, and wore the jersey (which, by the way, he will wear at the start of tomorrow's stage).


Sorry, nothing coherent here. I've got an ever-growing post about our climbing trip this weekend, including details of how we left Jen's harness at home and my thrilling fall on a gear route. But you may have to wait for the book to read about these and other antics.

Lance Armstrong took the yellow jersey after the team time trial yesterday at the Tour de France. CSC's David Zabriskie literally had the jersey ripped from his shoulders when he fell roughly a kilometer from the finish line. Armstrong had at least one minute separating him from the other contenders at the moment, so it will take quite an attack in the mountains to prevent the Texan from winning number seven.


Armstrong is not wearing the yellow jersey today out of respect for Zabriskie, since he lost the lead thanks to his crash. He still, obviously, leads the GC.

On politics and religion, Fr. Jape outlines why, perhaps, Christians need not be so worried about the comings and goings in the political sphere (though the Jebbie might cringe at such a term):

But in the main, I do not think there is any real hope for "reform" of the late-liberal state. I think the best answer is to resist disorder personally, and if one is truly successful at this, it will spill over into one's family and one's immediate community. Hunker down and wait for the big crash per MacIntyre* and Eliot.** See what's salvageable from the rubble.

If you're at all interested in the larger discussion that prompted the above post, follow the trail of posts here.

In related news, let me complain about Blogger for a bit -- it seems their HTML editor adds a <div style="clear:both;"> to the beginning and end of each post upon publication. If you use any sort of floating div layout (as the DCH site does), those divs break the layout in Firefox. I'm not happy, but I've been too busy to complain directly to Blogger.