30 June 2006

test

This is a test.

{landis, sport, new stuff}

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 30 June 2006 at 1:18 pm by Nate

test technorati

test test test

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Posted in Ev'rything But the Sink on 30 June 2006 at 12:18 pm by Nate

TdF in turmoil!

The big guns are out of the Tour de France:

Top-ranked cyclists Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso will not compete in the Tour de France after being suspended by their team managers today amid an explosive doping scandal that has upended the sport on the eve of its most important race.

VeloNews continues the coverage.

Perhaps this means that predicted future American winners of the TdF have moved up in time to get the maillot jaune sooner. Bicycling mag talks about Dave Zabriskie and Floyd Landis as potential winners. Landis has been having a great year (tearing up three major competitions already), and Zabriskie’s probably not quite ready yet, but he’s the best time trialer in the world (plus, he’s kind of cute).

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Posted in Ev'rything But the Sink on 30 June 2006 at 12:01 pm by Nate
28 June 2006

Small lodgings

What can you do with a 10-by-10 room? Anything you want, it seems.

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Posted in OnTheWeb on 28 June 2006 at 9:41 am by Nate

Diet Coke Bellagio

Some people have way too much time or creativity or both.

Posted in OnTheWeb on 28 June 2006 at 9:40 am by Nate
25 June 2006

Lance’s drug use

I’m not exactly a big fan of Lance Armstrong, but after his wins, I had hoped that he somehow wasn’t as dirty as the rest of the sport of cycling.

According to a report on NPR, that hope may be too much. Frankie and Betsy Andreu, former friends of Armstrong’s (and Frankie’s a cycling commentator for OLN), testified that they heard Armstrong admit to use of banned substances:

According to sworn testimony reviewed by NPR, two witnesses heard Armstrong openly acknowldege in 1996 that had used several performance enhancing drugs. What you are about to hear are the details from that testimony and from one witnesses who says she was there when Lance Armstrong said he used “growth hormone, cortisone, EPO, steroids and testosterone.” Armstrong is angrily denying that the incident happened….

In her sworn testimony in that case, Betsy Andreu recounts what happened after, she says, two doctors, wearing white coats and name tags, walked into the hospital room. Andreu never identified the doctors, but says in her testimony they were not Armstrong’s two primary oncologists, or his brain surgeon.

In her deposition, Betsy Andreu testified:

I said, I think we should leave to give you your privacy. I said that to Lance. And Lance said, that’s OK. You can stay. And I turned to Frankie and I said, I think we should leave. And Frankie said, no, Lance said it’s OK. We can stay. And so the doctor asked him a few questions, not many, and then one of the questions he asked was… have you ever used any performance-enhancing drugs? And Lance said yes. And the doctor asked, what were they? And Lance said, growth hormone, cortisone, EPO, steroids and testosterone.

When asked last week about her testimony, Betsy Andreu said, “I answered every question truthfully and honestly. It is 100 percent truthful.”

…But according to Andreu’s testimony, Armstrong came back to the issue last year when he called Frankie Andreu just a few days before Andreu was deposed. In his deposition, Frankie Andreu is asked “is it your testimony that Mr. Armstrong called you and said it was his recollection, that the hospital incident never took place or didn’t happen the way you’ve recollected?” Andreu answers, “Yes. Correct.”

The deposition continues:

QUESTION: What did you say to him when he said that?

ANDREU: I remained quiet.

QUESTION: Did you consider it odd that he was telling you about the hospital incident?

Andreu interrupts and says, “I considered it odd that he even called me, because I hadn’t spoken with Lance in probably two and a half years.”

And I can’t say that there seems a reason that NPR could find for the Andreus to do this, unless it seemed like the truth prevailed.

Armstrong is asked if he can help explain why Betsy Andreu would make up a story about the hospital room. Armstrong says he has no idea, other than “she hates me.”

“Lance and I used to be good friends,” Betsy Andreu told NPR. “I would go to his house and I would cook for him; I would talk to him on the phone about baby questions; I used to go out to dinner with Frankie and Lance and Kristin, often.” Kristin was Armstrong’s first wife. Betsy Andreu acknowledges that over the years, her friendship with Lance Armstrong soured. But she says that doesn’t mean she would do something, in her words, so reprehensible as make up a story about the hospital room. “I’m sorry that it upsets him so much that I refuse to lie under oath. I was always going to tell the truth,” she said.

I know that people often want to take down a champion, but I don’t see an obvious motive for the Andreus, especially considering how he was a big booster of Lance as a commentator.

Posted in OnTheWeb on 25 June 2006 at 11:05 am by Nate
22 June 2006

World cup advantages

David Brooks argues that our losing record at soccer/football actually shows how our social system beats out that of other countries. (Unfortunately, TimesSelect membership is required to read the whole article, but I’ll e-mail it to you if you ask nicely.)

Going into today’s World Cup match against Ghana, no American player has managed to put a ball into the back of the net, but the U.S. team does lead the world in one vital category: college degrees.

Most of the American players attended college. Eddie Pope went to the University of North Carolina, Kasey Keller attended the University of Portland and Marcus Hahnemann went to Seattle Pacific.

Many of the elite players from the rest of the world, on the other hand, were pulled from regular schools at early ages and sent to professional training academies. Among those sharp-elbowed, hypercompetitive Europeans, for example, Zinedine Zidane was playing for A.S. Cannes by age 16, Luis Figo was playing for Sporting Lisbon at 17, and David Beckham attended Tottenham Hotspur’s academy and signed with Manchester United as a trainee at 16.

David then goes on to argue that this demonstrates a broader understanding and use of the American higher education system in advancing our economy, culture, arts, and sports.

The upshot is that the competitive American universities not only became the best in the world — 8 out of the top 10 universities are American — they also remained ambitious and dynamic. They are much more responsive to community needs.

Not only have they created ambitious sports programs to build character among students and a sense of solidarity across the community, they also offer a range of extracurricular activities and student counseling services unmatched anywhere else. While the arts and letters faculties are sometimes politically cloistered, the rest of the university programs are integrated into society, performing an array of social functions.

They serve as business incubation centers (go to Palo Alto). With their cultural and arts programs, they serve as retiree magnets (go to Charlottesville). With their football teams, they bind communities and break down social distinctions (people in Alabama are fiercely loyal to the Crimson Tide, even though most have not actually attended the university).

State-dominated European universities, by contrast, cast much smaller shadows. A Centre for European Reform report noted “a drab uniformity” across the systems. Talented professors leave. Funding lags. Antibusiness snobbery limits entrepreneurial activity. Research suffers. In the first half of the 20th century, 73 percent of Nobel laureates were based in Europe. Between 1995 and 2004, 19 percent were.

Oh, good Lord. There’s two major problems here. Let’s deal with each in turn.

First, sports in universities do almost entirely the opposite of breaking down social distinctions.

Sociologist and historian Jerome Karabel recently published a massive book detailing how Harvard, Yale, and Princeton devised their admissions processes to weed out undesireable types of students. In the early twentieth century, noting that too many Jews were getting into the big three schools, they started to administer admissions tests (of which the SAT was one); to create offices of admission; to nurture and favor applicants

from the private schools like Andover, Exeter, St. Paul’s and so forth; and to emphasize demonstrators of “character,” such as participation in intervarsity sports. All these were areas of endeavor that initially kept the number of Jews (and later blacks, Asians, and so forth) low. (The exception was the standardized tests, which actually gave some of these groups a leg-up over the old boys in admissions.)

Sports were especially important, because they provided a particularly good arena in which to demonstrate and observe “character.” A man (because we’re initially only dealing with men here) who wasn’t the brightest star intellectually could still show himself to be the right sort of person by acting with good sportsmanship and such. By this, the universities were kept WASPier than they otherwise would have been. And, by the institution of the legacy system where the children of alumni get priority in admissions, the children of athletes can still get priority.

Karabel notes that the Big Three are important because the system they created largely became the system that all of American higher education came to use.

David Brooks argues that the sports programs build character. Karabel demonstrates that sports were used to “assess character.” So which is it? (My aim here is not to argue the positive or negative of sports programs in higher ed, just to question what their purpose is.) Karabel has evidence, Brooks does not. And if we could look at contemporaneous evidence, it seems that those college sports programs that unite anyone besides the alumni are also most proficient in teaching us about scandal than about character.

In such as system as David Brooks advocates, he would have been kept out. Brooks is, after all, Jewish, the very sort of person that college athletics and American higher ed endeavored to keep ghettoized for many years. (Brooks, however, attended the University of Chicago, an institution that has always prized intellectualism over pretty much everything. It’s not known as the MIT of the humanities for nothing.)

All right, second problem with Brooks’s argument. He only addresses the “best” universities. (And he only used one ranking — it’d be interesting to see him actually compile the various rankings out there for world universities. The US would still come out on top, I think, but not so definitively, and there’d be some surprises in the American rankings.) What are the best universities?

Traditional rankings, like the ones Brooks uses, measure money and reputation. An alternative ranking measures American universities as engines of social mobility, production of research, and inculcation of a service ethic. Ask not what your university can do for you but what your university can do for your country. Then, the vaunted competitive university system seems to do less well.

Only three schools in the 2006 U.S. News top 10 are among our highest-ranked: MIT, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, while the private colleges of the Ivy League dominate most rankings of the nation’s best colleges, they didn’t dominate oursonly Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania made our top 10, and Princeton (tied with Harvard for the top slot on U.S. News’s list) was all the way down at #44, a few slots behind South Carolina State University.

Did you know, for example, that UC Davis comes in about the same as Harvard in terms of what each gives to society? Here’s the list:

Top30Nat2

Strikingly, that moribund and state-dominated sector does much better than Brooks would have you believe.

I’m all for having more educated soccer players than other countries. Let’s just not draw fallacious and undeserved conclusions about our social system from that fact.

Posted in Politicks on 22 June 2006 at 11:38 am by Nate
14 June 2006

GK rails the GOP

Or, at least, some parts of it:

Running against Nancy Pelosi, a woman who comes from a district where there are known gay persons, is a nice trick, but it does draw attention to the large shambling galoot who is speaker now, Tom DeLay’s enabler for years, a man who, judging by his public mutterances, is about as smart as most high school wrestling coaches. For the past year, Dennis Hastert has been two heartbeats from the presidency. He is a man who seems content just to have a car and driver and three square meals a day. He has no apparent vision beyond the urge to hang onto power. He has succeeded in turning Congress into a branch of the executive branch. If Mr. Hastert becomes the poster boy for the Republican Party, this does not speak well for them as the Party of Ideas.

People who want to take a swing at San Francisco should think twice. Yes, the Irish coffee at Fisherman’s Wharf is overpriced, and the bus tour of Haight-Ashbury is disappointing (where are the hippies?), but the Bay Area is the cradle of the computer and software industry, which continues to create jobs for our children. The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco, Texas. There may be a reason for this. Creative people thrive in a climate of openness and tolerance, since some great ideas start out sounding ridiculous. Creativity is a key to economic progress. Authoritarianism is stifling. I don’t believe that Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard were gay, but what’s important is: In San Francisco, it doesn’t matter so much. When the cultural Sturmbannfuhrers try to marshal everyone into straight lines, it has consequences for the economic future of this country.

It is altogether gentlemanly of the Republican mainstream to remind the country that our greatest threat right now is the dissolution of the family. That’s certainly more worrisome than Islamofascist jihadists, a dwindling energy supply, a burgeoning trade deficit, the nuclearization of the Middle East, or the growing and evident inequality of wealth in our economy. Gays trying to have less sex is what will bring the downfall of the Republic, so it’s good that our national priorities are on keeping them in line.

Posted in Politicks on 14 June 2006 at 9:07 am by Nate
13 June 2006

BF’s fifteen minutes of fame

He’s shown up in our national daily paper (not the New York Times), with the splash photo and everything.

For Flanagan, the Catholic Church is “a family that you love even when you disagree. You stay and you have the argument.”

Posted in OnTheWeb on 13 June 2006 at 8:53 am by Nate
5 June 2006

Twenty-five years

It was 25 years ago today:

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports

Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles

In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died. All 5 patients had laboratory-confirmed previous or current cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and candidal mucosal infection. Case reports of these patients follow.

Posted in Day2Day on 5 June 2006 at 10:03 am by Nate