Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Festival Of Cycling Comes To An End

After 21 days of racing, the anthem of The Tour De France echoes for the last time in the famous cobbled streets of The Champs-Élysées. This year’s winner of the Tour, Carlos Sastre, another Spaniard after last year’s winner Alberto Contador, was in the saddle for 87 hours 52 minutes and 52 seconds.

This year’s Tour was again brutal and hard but the spirit of the riders was unwavering. If the Alpe-d'Huez was the Mecca for the climbers, then the Champs-Élysées is the Mecca for the sprinters. It was really special to see the former lead out man for Tom Boonen, Gert Steegmans, a sprinter winning the final stage.

As usual, like every other year, this year too the shadow of doping hung over the race, as three riders were kicked out. Race director Christian Prudhomme, made the usual noises proclaiming that this year’s Tour was a victory over doping cheats. But really, somehow I get that sinking feeling that the Tour will never free itself from the clutches of doping scandals.

One of the highlights of the Tour was the dominating victories of one man by the name of Mark Cavendish, winning 4 stages. It was a purist’s delight watching this sprinter rack up those victories. Though he retired early after those victories in order to concentrate on his Olympic preparations, he is a rider to watch out for in the coming years.

95 Tours and still running, the pinnacle of cycling, for some it’s the holy grail; but for me it will always remain a festival of sport. With hope and eagerness, I await the next year’s edition.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Poverty An Excuse To Rape Our Environment?

The G8 summit concluded on an emphatic note, declaring that a breakthrough agreement on climate change has been reached, wherein the members have agreed to cut at least 50 per cent of their current carbon emissions by 2050 and committing to the principle of mid-term reduction or stabilization targets.

How valid is this agreement? Who makes sure that the targets are met? What happens when the targets are not met?

With these questions swimming in my mind, I decided to dig in. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. I came across an article from The Financial Times written by David Pilling. The article states that China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have declined to stand by the agreement and have gone on record saying that “That they cannot adopt any measures that will endanger growth needed to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

These countries have dangled the poverty card to as a license to continue polluting the environment. To how far an extent is this justifiable? These are the ones who are right now the culprits, contributing a major share of carbon emissions. They also have adamantly suggested that the “rich & developed” countries are the ones who should cut their emission levels by between 80 and 95 per cent from 1990 levels, while they are given a free license to go and pollute our environment. Yea…license to rape.

I believe developing countries have the flexibility to adopt measures to check and cut carbon emissions when compared to the already developed ones. Any measure put in place now will hold good even in the coming future, taking into account that there would be continuous increase in population; which directly corresponds to increased amount of carbon emissions.

Why wait till a country achieves the coveted status of “developed” to implement carbon emission cutting measures? Why not now?

The stance adopted by a few countries calls into question the futility of conducting these meetings. Why cheat our conscience by adopting resolutions which will not be adhered. Go ahead. Rape our environment. We are more concerned about alleviating poverty.

We can always live with the fact that at this rate of pollution, the day when the environment becomes inhospitable for the existence of our kind is not too far away. But we just cannot live with “POVERTY.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Doping Controversies And The Tour De France

Doping and Tour De France have a long history together. This year too, all hopes of a dope free Tour were dashed as doping reared its ugly head with two riders testing positive. Every year the organizers and the WADA speak tough on doping, urging the cyclists to compete cleanly, but their pleas are often fallen on deaf and stubborn ears. The Tour, considered to be the holy grail of cycling, the ultimate test of human endurance, skill and spirit; has given us unforgettable performances by a select few, who have managed to make the Tour their own, until they retired. It is the stuff that legends are made of.  But cheating at the highest altar of cycling is simply not acceptable. You can find the sordid tales of doping by the cyclists and the methods they use here:

Out of curiosity I decided to dig a little deeper and here’s what I managed to cull out.

Doping refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs to improve one’s athletic performance, a practice which is forbidden by organizations that regulate competitions.

The most rampant form of doping in the Tour’s history has been Blood Doping. It is the practice of boosting the number of red blood cells (RBCs) in the circulation in order to enhance athletic performance. Because they carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles, more RBCs in the blood can improve an athlete’s aerobic capacity and endurance.

In the fag end of the 18th century and early 19th century, six day bicycle races had gained popularity across the Atlantic and the cyclist who managed to ride the greatest distance by staying awake for the entire six day stretch being declared the winner.

I have one word – Brutal.

This prompted rampant drug abuse among the cyclists with side effects ranging from hallucinations, insanity and even death. But in those times it was viewed that doping was necessary in order to compete in such brutal, demanding races. For more information on instances of doping, visit this link: For official information on Blood Doping from WADA, visit this link:

Pete Grathoff writing for The Kansas City Star hit the nail on the head when he wrote: “Sometimes in sports things just go together. Hot dogs and mustard. The New York Yankees and haughtiness. Blood doping and the Tour de France.”

The Cycling Union in a weak attempt to cleanse the cycling fraternity has come up with an oath. Any cyclist who undertakes this oath, the Union will attempt to make this oath binding by forcing on the cyclist who signs it; to forfeit a year's wages if they're caught cheating.

The oath taken by sportsmen and women at the pinnacle of sporting competition, The Olympics:

“In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.”

I sincerely hope that athletes after taking this hope compete cleanly and uphold the spirit of sportsmanship. With the Olympics almost knocking on our doors, this hope has turned into a prayer.

Before the start of the first road stage, tradition of the Tour De France dictates that the youngest rider in the race will read the Riders’ Oath. For the remainder of the Tour, I feverently hope that this Oath is not broken.

Only time will tell…..

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Crazy And Geek!

I came across a site - Gadgets 4 all. Really wacky geek items offered for sale had caught my eye. Though the products listed may not be for everybody’s liking, it does make for a good read. I have listed the ones that have caught my attention.

USB Aircraft Mouse: This mouse is as the name suggests shaped like an aircraft and comes in different colors.

USB Golf Mouse: The entire package includes a mouse with golf ball texture, a golf course mouse pad, a golf club, a golf ball and a flag. Care for a putt anyone?

USB T-shirt Mouse:  Remotely resembles a T-shirt.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Fever Of Maillot Jaune

When the festival ended last year, it left me craving for more. It was a festival of team-spirit, embodying the spirit of sacrifice. Eight men riding on their magnificent machines, with one aim: their team leader finishing first. Eight men, with no regard to their placing or ranking in the race, working as a team to make sure the team leader finishes first and more importantly safely without crashing. Eight men, who are willing to push themselves to such an extent for the team that they find themselves being eliminated from the race. And not to forget, they need to ride through the pain barrier, covering almost 200 – 300 kilometers every day, for 20 days. They need to face their own demons in the process, their own personal battles, discovering a new limit to which they need to push and go beyond. A unique festival, which silently speaks of blood, sweat and tears; literally. At the end of the festival, each rider has his own sordid tale to tell for generations to come, but nothing comes to close to this one single phrase “I was a part of the team that had won.” Around 190 riders, 19 teams with 9 men in each team, it was truly a festival of sport itself.

A festival called “ Tour de France.”

With merely hours left as I write this post for the Tour de France – 2008 to begin, another epic in the making, of which I am sure.

It’s a majestic sight to behold. Around 200 cyclists bunched up close, almost touching wheels, yet, riding at speeds of 30-40 miles per hour; it seems these cyclists are out to enjoy the sunshine. Of course, it requires exceptional bike handling skills to ride in a bunch so close to each other. But when they crank it up, the entire ‘peloton’ (the whole bunch of riders which contains the leader) often gets stretched into a straight line 2-3 kilometers long, moving over 60 miles per hour.

The Tour de France started in 1903 and is the world's largest cycle race. The first Tour de France was designed as a publicity stunt for the French sports newspaper L’Auto, a race that was for the most gutsy and tough of professional cyclists of the time. In all, 54 men have shared 87 Tour de France wins between them, riding thousands of kilometers in search of their holy grail, the yellow jersey, also known as the Maillot Jaune. It’s called the yellow jersey because the pages of the newspaper, L'Auto is yellow.

It is a 23-day, 21-stage bicycle road race usually run over more than 3,500 kilometers. The race consists of 20 to 22 teams with nine riders each. The route traces a circuit around most areas of France, and often passes into neighboring countries. The race is broken into stages from one town to another, each of which is an individual race. The time taken to complete each stage is added to a cumulative total for each rider, to decide the outright winner at the end of the Tour.

The 2008 Tour de France is set to begin on July 5th, running until July 27th, 2008.

Image Source: BBC,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flash Files Can Be Googled Too!

Now this should be music to the ears of those who own sites which are flash based. All this while, those who had opted for flash templates for their websites or blogs had no way to make their content searchable using the search engines.

Of course, I had come across a different breed, who were actually proud that their content was immune from all those search spiders crawling the net, indexing whatever they could come across. The reason was that their sites were purely flash based. They felt supreme, their power to hide information from the ubiquitous, the all powerful search bots or spiders; more like “Neo: The One.” (Not all of them were big fans of the movie though)

Come to think of it, it gives me goose bumps. Search engines are getting more powerful as time passes by. They are almost at a point (at least Google is) where you put some piece of information out on the net and they find it (and index it). The naysayers were right after all. There is no such thing as “privacy.”

Enough of me rambling; let me come back to the topic. Adobe is said to be canoodling with Google and Yahoo to make content from flash files/applications available to search engines. I never imagined that files with “.swf” extension will be returned in a search result. Well I guess there is always a time for “first time.”

But there is a catch here. Not all content from a flash file can be made available for search. Images and videos are still out of bounds from those niggly web crawlers. So if the flash files contain images or videos, they will not be recognized by the spiders.

As of today, Google has already implemented this feature with Yahoo set to follow. With regard to other search engines/vendors, Adobe says that it is willing to tie up with them. Also look out for new set of tools from Adobe to help flash site builders to optimize search results, which will be available shortly.