Saturday, July 10, 2004

Today Saturday Belgian Police arrested two Sudanese men, purported al-Qaeda affiliates, in Zaventem International Airport near Brussels. The cell phone of one of the two contained the name “Usama Bin Laden” in its phone number list. Upon searching their luggage, the police found photos of suicide terrorists. The two entered our country on a flight from Greece. Sorry, no link in English found.

And the Dutch Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD) (General Intelligence and Security Service) claims to have indications that some radical Muslims are preparing terror attacks. The Dutch have a 1,300 strong Infantry contingent in the Iraqi al-Muthanna province, and is therefore at risk for Islamist attacks. Just recently the Dutch government got authorization from Parliament to extend the troops' stay in Iraq till after the January 2005 elections. The AIVD claims to follow 150-200 suspected (read: linked to terrorism) Muslims. The Dutch government is also working on a similar color code based Alert System as the US's one.

As for the Tour de France, today’s ride Châteaubriant/Saint-Brieuc (204,5km) was won by the Italian Filippo Pozzato from the Fassa Bortolo Team. Frenchman Thomas Voeckler still keeps the Yellow Shirt though. For the General Classification look here. Lance is still no. 6. One cyclist, Christophe Brandt, was forced out of the Tour for using non-authorized drugs. Oh yeah, in case you are interested in some in-depth info on the Tour, here’s the official website in English.

MFBB

Friday, July 09, 2004

YEEEEEAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!

Belgian Tom Boonen wins sixth ride
Lance takes a fall early in Bonneval/Angers


Belgian Tom Boonen (the guy in blue right in the middle) wins the sixth ride in the Tour de France 2004. After having been at the spearhead of the ride Bonneval-Angers for most of the time, he broke away from direct competitors Stuart O’Grady and Erik Zabel in the final two hundred meters. Behind him however was the carnage caused by a massive crash in which some twenty rides were involved (no, Tom did not cause it). As a matter of fact, today’s ride from Bonneval to Angers over a distance of 196 kilometers was marred by rain, like Thursday, but this time resulting in quite a few falls. Axel Merckx, yes, son of, went down two times and Lance also (see pic – this was NOT in the final breakdown just mentioned) although he managed to get back on his bike right away. Two important Italian champs, Cippolini and Petacchi, gave up because of injuries.

Maybe I should give you some more info the coming days of the diverse ranking systems and classifications in use. Apart from the daily Ride Score (winner today Tom Boonen) there’s the General Classification upon which is determined who the Yellow Shirt Bearer is (that’s still Frenchman-despite-his-name Thomas Voeckler), the Point Classification, the Mountain Classification, the Team Classification (Danish CSC being first, US Postal/Berry Floor 5th) and the Youth Classification. God knows I still have a business to run, but I’ll try to clarify something over the coming days.

In the General Classification you will notice Lance still on no. 6. Note also that the US Postal Team cyclists are a tight group – they stick together and work for each other – and for King Lance, as it fits. Indeed, the US Postal Team is being described as a well oiled machine and a clockwork. Kevin, you are right, I used the phrasing “cede the Yellow Shirt” in a wrong way two days ago. It’s just that Lance is biding his time. Scott, you were right about the French being pissed off about an American cowboy moving at will on what they still consider as their turf. When Frenchman Thomas Voeckler became Yellow Shirt bearer two days ago French Press was ecstatic, describing it as a miracle and a wonder.

Poor frogeaters. They so desperately try to matter in today's world. Why, apparently, even with a human tragedy looming large over the Sudanese Darfur region and being offered the opportunity to stick for once with the US in confronting the hypocritical Sudanese regime with its complicity in the janjaweed killings, new French Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier still can't bring himself to call a spade a spade. So desperate are they to show their policy does not necessarily reflect the US's, that according to Mr. Muselier (heartthrob Dominique de Villepin is now Interior Minister) the thingy in Sudan is just a civil war and as such an internal affair with both parties carrying the burden of guilt. Sure. Whatever you say Renaud.

Bye,

MFBB

Ha ha ha.

I love it. Richard Riordan made a really stupid comment to a little girl at a public event in California. The racial grievance industry kicked into high gear and immediately began calling for resignations, organizing a protest rally, and saying things like: She is "a little African-American girl. Would he have done that to a white girl?"


The little girl is rather white with blond hair.

The protest has been cancelled and the state Assemblyman who was so outraged isn't returning phone calls.

Ha ha ha.
Bill Clinton was the first black president. Will John Kerry be the first gay president?



Thursday, July 08, 2004

Hey, you MUST admit sometimes good news is coming out of Belgium.

Belgian police arrest Dutch resident on terror charges

7 July 2004
AMSTERDAM ? Belgian police have arrested a Dutch resident of Moroccan origin on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings in March.
The man was arrested on 1 July when the suspect ? identified as El Houcine el H., of the southern Dutch city Weert ? applied for asylum in Belgium, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday.
A spokesman from the federal prosecution office in Brussels said that the suspect was accused of preparing an international terrorist attack from Belgium.


As for the 91st Tour de France, I'm sorry but Lance lost his Yellow Shirt again. Happens when performances from the competing champs are that close. Also the point allocation and classification system is quite tricky (maybe the UN could send monitors). Be that as it may, Wednesday's 4th ride Cambrai-Arras (64,5km) was a so-called Team Time Run which was decisively won by Lance's US Postal - Berry Floor Team. That's why he got the Yellow Shirt yesterday. However, today Thursday July 7 he had to cede it again to the Australian Stuart O'Grady, who won today's ride Amiens-Chartres (200,5km). In the general classification you will notice Lance is sixth. Tomorrow sees the Tour travel from Bonneval to Angers, which is a distance of 196 kilometers.

Maybe I should have provided this link earlier; it's an overview of the participating teams. US Postal's team is composed of:

US Postal (USA)
Team Leader: Johan Bruyneel(BEL)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA),
2. José Azevedo (POR),
3. Manuel Beltran Martinez (SPA),
4. Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS),
5. George Hincapie (USA),
6. Floyd Landis (USA),
7. Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (SPA),
8. Pavel Padrnos (CZE),
9. José L.Rubiera Vigil (SPA).

Looks like Lance is quite well known among you, even though I guess cycling has much less appeal as a sport in the States. But do the names Hincapie and Landis ring a bell?

Nothing much left to say today, except that Schroeder is having a BAD TIME trying to sell his REFORM 2010 Plan to the powerful German Unions. He has the backing of his SDP Party, but the Union leaders still live in the seventies. Make no mistakes, Schroeder is a socialist but over the past years he has "gotten it" the welfare state at its present level is untenable. Hence his Plan. The corporate sector thinks it's still not far-reaching enough, although they would be glad if it were even partly adopted. I'm sorry but I was unable to find links.

And oh yeah, this weekend my wife and I saw "The day after tomorrow" with Dennis Quaid. Tom, Kerry, Scott, your servant, and Mark and Drazil over there in Colorado are toast, erm, ice cubes if we have to believe it. Only Jamie over there in Alabama and maybe Kevin in Atlanta have a shot at surviving, althoug they face a whopping 400% increase in heating bills. This movie was as politically correct as could be in the present day, with an Arab from KSA (!) expressing, during a Meeting on the Earth's Climate, confusion over the projected Ice Age instead of global warming as predicted by prof Hall, and the Vice President of the US of A rebuking the Prof's grim forecast. Yeah, we all know the Arabs have always been VERY concerned over the greenhouse effect. There's also a funny scene with Americans crossing the Rio Grande illegally to Mexico, on the run for the advancing Ice Front. Let's hope Presidente Fox has an immigration plan similar to Bush's ready, just in case. If Mark does manage to survive, then he can serve tortillas for three bucks a day in some shabby Mexico City restaurant.

Anyway, apart form the lousy political message, the special FX are quite impressive, with LA being levelled by gigantic twisters (Kerry get out of there!!!) and Manhattan flooded by a 70m high tidal wave. The love story sucks, though (and alas, no taataa's).

Bye, MFBB


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Michael, we'd gladly exchange these 9 pantywaists for you and your family (not to insult you and your family, of course.)

If you are represented by these jackasses and you have not raised hell in your district, you need to get on it. If our elections were subject to UN approval in 2000, they would have declared the election invalid and posted Kofi Annan as interim president until the committee of free elections, headed up by Iran, decided what to do about it. We'd still be waiting for their judgment today.

Monday, July 05, 2004

The three most important worldwide sports events are: the Olympic Games, the Soccer World Championship and the… Tour de France. Now, while this Tour de France has for most of its existence been an almost purely European event, over the past decade it has won worldwide acclaim because of its growing appeal to truly international sportsmen. So today’s Tours not only attract German, British and Italian champions but also Colombians, Australians, Uzbekistans, Russians and… Americans. I would be very surprised if none of you have not heard yet of your Champ Lance Armstrong, fivefold Tour Winner and as such an enigma, since such an honour was till now only reserved to, ahem, my compatriot Eddy Merckx. Believe it or not, but your Lance has a Belgian teamleader, Johan Bruyneel, whose deputy, Geert Duffeleer, happens to be a client of mine. Lance's US Postal Team has its car park in Brakel, a small town some 15 kloms from where I live.

This years’ Tour, which started last Saturday, will show us whether Lance will break Eddy’s record. Now for a little bit of history:

The Tour de France was the brainchild of a velodrome champion turned editor-of-a-cycling magazine Henri Desgranges and his chief cycling reporter Georges Lefevre, who are said to have had the following conversation at the turn of the 20th Century.

Credit for devising the actual idea appears to have come from the journal's chief cycling reporter, 26-year old Georges Lefèvre. He suggested to Desgrange, "a several-day race, longer than anything now going on, something more on the order of a track six day race, only this time on the road. All the major towns are begging for cycle races, and they are bound to go along with the idea".

- "If I understand you rightly, Géo", someone said, "you are proposing a cycling Tour de France."
- "Well, why not?", replied Lefèvre.

Thus the idea was born.

The very first Tour de France took place between July 1 to July 19 1903 and promised a five francs per day living allowance to the first fifty riders and upped the prize money to 20,000 francs. 60 riders rose to the challenge; 21 were sponsored, the other 39 a rag-bag of the poor, the unemployed and the plain adventurous. It was won by a fellow named Maurice Garin.


Folks, 1903 is a long time ago and a discussion of how the Tour de France became, well, The Tour de France over the decades would push the Fourth of July too much to the background. Suffice to say you can find it all here.

Basic Tour de France 101 is that during three weeks almost every day a ride, typically 200 km long, is undertaken. In doing so, the caravan ventures pretty much in a circular movement around France. Most of the time it’s from point A to B, e.g. this year’s ride Amiens-Chartres (200,5km); sometimes it’s from point A back to A, e.g. the July 24 Besançon/Besançon ride, which is an individual timerun. Famous cyclists throughout the 20th Century were Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Poulidor (nicknamed the Eternal Second) and Jacques Anquetil. I would almost forget your compatriot Greg Lemond, who introduced the US to the Tour. Dreaded are the cols, steep rides in Frances Pyrenées or Alps (e.g. Alpe d’Huez might ring a bell even in Maine).

Now, why do I tell you all this? Well, this year the famed Tour de France will pass right through my hometown Geraardsbergen. You may wonder whether France has annexed Belgium in some sneak attack, since the Tour de France is supposed to be held in… France, right? Well, although the CESM’s would actually like very much to attach our prosperous kingdom to Chiracland, sans King of course, no, that hasn’t happened yet. Also the mighty Belgian Army would see to it that never happens. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for the Tour, which lasts three weeks, to hop on occasion into a neighbouring country, e.g. Italy or Belgium. Well, The Tour de France 2004 actually started on Saturday, July 3rd, in the eastern Belgian city of Liège. It spends no less than four days on Belgian soil and becomes a truly French Tour tomorrow, Tuesday… but not before passing through the place where your servant spent the first, extremely exciting part of his hitherto fabulous life – Geraardsbergen. See the map below. You will also notice that Tuesday’s ride starts in… Waterloo, where Nappie got clobbered.

3rd ride Tour de France/Belgium


Why does the Tour honor Geraardsbergen on its passing? Well, my hometown sports a low hump, called the Oudenberg (literally translated as Mountain of the Elders), 111m above sea-level. With the town center at 30m height on average, this does not seem to make for an impressive climb… were it not that the last part of the slope, called “De Muur” (The Wall) leading to the Oudenberg’s summit is a 20% climb over not really inviting cobblestones.

The dreaded


The pic below shows a former German champ, Baldinger, member of the Deutsche Telekom Team.

Maoist politicians


Anyway, so tomorrow the whole circus storms through the place where I was born and raised. Unfortunately, since I have to maintain the welfare state, I will not be able to view the spectacle. But I will keep you updated on tomorrow's events, Inshallah. And of course we have rendez-vous on Sunday July 25th, when the Tour comes to an end on the Champs Elysées in Paris and when we will know whether Mr. Armstrong will have made history by being the first person ever to win the Tour de France 6 times.


LA.

I'm working here in LA this week. This is a foreign land. I felt more at home in NYC, and that is saying something. The ocean is warm and the trees are neat in a different way, and I feel like there is a larger ethnic mix here than in NY. First, I should clarify that I'm in Santa Monica. LA is a sprawl like you can't imagine for a coastal city. It's not as contained as San Fran, or any of the eastern coast cities.

It's nice and all, but there's something about it that I think would sap away my sense of "self". I can't really explain it, there are too many buildings, too many people. It's not all that different from parts of Florida, but the bluffs, the mountains in the background and the landscape are. It's an odd place. Nice to walk, or run if you can do that without noticing that when there is blue sky and sun as today, it is behind a filter of smog. It's just so, well, LA.

Image, not character, is projected. I've seen far more beautiful people in less than 24 hours than any of the movie stars that live out here. Lots of tourists too. I walked along with my i pod (thanks to my wonderful husband) and enjoyed the trees and flowers on Ocean Blvd. with the view of the sea. Well, I've had my hour off, so back to work now.

Northern CA is more like Maine. This feels like it infringes on the natural world in such a way that makes me uncomfortable. When I look out my window, all I can see are buildings as far as the eye can see. I would feel trapped living in such a place.

Sunday, July 04, 2004