h o m e 't o o n s w o r d s c a m s t u f f r a d i o   f r e e   d o g p a t c h

daily dog archives 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

By Patrick O'Grady
Mad Dog Media

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Street life

  As you pop the cork from a bottle of bubbly at midnight, thank your lucky stars that you are not living in your car. Unless, of course, you are. In which case, please leave the thing parked 'til morning. You don't see me steering my casita hither and yon after a dram or six.

  Plenty of folks found their vehicles suitable only for shelter yesterday along a stretch of Interstate 70, which remained closed this morning while CDOT dealt with the threat of avalanches caused by blowing and drifting snow. A cot at the Silverthorne rec center and a greaseburger from Wendy's doesn't sound like much of a New Year's Eve party to me.

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Tick, tock

  Ready for another lap around the sun? Me neither. Where the hell did 2007 go? I take my eye off the ball for a sec' and zowie: Another year rockets down the tubes like a startled rat.

  It's been ass-bite cold here in Bibleburg, which means short runs, even shorter rides on the trainer in the basement, and plenty of profane mumbling with a side of popping corks. But today the temps actually crept up into the high 30s and so I was out the door with three jerseys and the heavy leg-warmers on before you could say "Sven Nys." My boy O'Stank tried to talk me into joining him for a run — he's racing the local winter series and needs the miles — but he actually likes running while I only tolerate it as a means to an end (being able to eat and drink as I please without developing my own gravitational field).

  Last Sunday's ride involved quite a bit of the old ice capades, winding as it did through the trees down past Harrison High School, so today I went north with a slight but nonetheless welcome tailwind assist. Instead of doing the traditional U-turn at Woodmen, I decided to stretch the ride out a bit and slipped under I-25 to bushwhack over to Pulpit Rock Park, which was a snowy, icy mess as per usual for this time of year. One drainage apron was a solid sheet of wet, glassy ice, necessitating a dismount and some very careful footwork. Just 'cause I got a big ass don't mean I like falling on it.

  Once past Garden Ranch Park I generally catch the bike path east of Union for the homeward leg. But it's still FUBARed by a massive interchange project at Union and Garden of the Gods, so I took the scenic route through a slice of Sixties suburbia to Palmer Park and then home. Tomorrow, the YMCA beckons. Oh, Lord. Another journey to the Planet of the Plateheads, with all the wrong kinds of bars, the ones you can't get a drink at.

  Later that same day: In preparation for tomorrow's suffering we dined at La Petite Maison, a restaurant we haven't visited since it changed owners a while back. We had a coupon for a free entree and figured what the hell? Proved a very pleasant experience, with low-key, efficient service and tasty food. Herself had the seared Alaskan salmon with a reduction of fish fume and red wine, potatoes and asparagus, while I had the shrimp sautéed in olive oil with garlic (and plenty of it), kalamata olives, yellow tomatoes and basil over noodles with asparagus. The only off note was an unexceptional bottle of 2004 Benziger cabernet. I was hoping for something a little weightier, with more oak in it. Now someone from Benziger will probably clock me with a baseball bat next time I pass through Sonoma County: "Hey, he said he wanted some oak, so I gave him some oak."

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Huckabee or Huckleberry Hound?

  Lord, is Mike Huckabee dumb. He sees Pakistanis creeping across the U.S.-Mexico border with shoulder-fired missiles and is geographically challenged as to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Reading the Bible is nice, Mikey, but thumbing through an atlas can be useful from time to time, too. Especially if you want to be president of more than your church group.

  Running a strong second in the feeb sweepstakes is Rudy Giuliani, who tossed off this sound bite about health care in a chat with the Tampa Tribune editorial board and has this putz co-chairing Veterans for Rudy in New Hampshire. Really, is this the best the Elefinks can do? It's like watching a Three Stooges flick without the funny bits, nyuk nyuk nyuk.

  This just in: Nutscrape finally bites the bag. You're probably reading this on IE 7, which goes a long way toward explaining why. Me, I'm using Firefox as part of a gradual switchover from the "Classic" OS to OS X, only a jillion or so years behind the rest of the MacMob. The only guy I know who still uses OS 9.2.2 regularly is my buddy Hal, and then only while scrubbing the stank out of copy for The Pewblow Cheapdone.

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We all got it coming, kid

  Sixteen degrees with a stiff wind out of the north. Sunny and 45 in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Why am I here and not there? I will never be smart. At least I'm still above ground and taking on air, unlike Benazir Bhutto, who finally got deep enough under somebody's skin that they decided to punch a few holes in hers. No doubt President Perverse Busharraf will leave no stone unturned in the search for her assassins, just as he's done in the hunt for bin Laden. Send lawyers, guns and money, please, especially the latter.

  If only we had a political candidate in this country worthy of assassination; alas, I don't see anyone among the current herd capable of making The Man nervous enough to unleash the usual deranged loner. And as regards the office-holders, advisers and minions we may think have it coming, well, shit, a guy can't shoot 'em all. There aren't enough bullets in the world or hours in the day. The trigger finger would blister, bleed, develop a thick yellow callus and finally turn arthritic, and they'd still be marching toward you six abreast, the bright light of venality shining in their piggy little eyes. Besides, remember the Gospel According to Eastwood, as expounded upon in "Unforgiven": "We all got it coming, kid."

  To take my mind off all this I spent a couple hours assembling a new piece of kitchen furniture designed to hide the trash can and provide the kittens with one more horizontal surface to walk on, then rode the trainer in the basement for a half-hour. I only swore out loud once. While assembling the trash-stasher, that is.

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The day after

  Another consumer-debt festival in the books; another lap around the sun nearly complete. Hope you and yours had as pleasant a time as we did.

  It wasn't exactly Norman Rockwell or anything — we had a dash of snow, but mostly it was 20-something outside with a wind chill in the single digits — so we ate a light breakfast, connected electronically with various friends and relatives, and played with the new toys (a Canon PowerShot SD850 IS for her, an Asus Eee PC for me; that's it over there, looking positively Lilliputian next to my 12-inch iBook).

  Then we took a bit of exercise indoors, ate a slightly heftier lunch, and pulled the cork on a bottle of 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc and watched part of the new George Carlin compilation, "All My Stuff," which includes all his HBO specials plus a few extras.

  I doubt George would have approved of our behavior; he blames priests and merchants for the state of the Republic. But then again, we threw a few bucks in his plate as it passed, so no doubt he'll forgive us.

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Peace on earth, good will toward kittens

  It's 10:15 p.m., I've been cooking, eating and socializing in various combinations for two days, and I'm fried, dyed and whipped to the side. But there is a largish glass of single-malt Scotch next to the keyboard, courtesy of a generous colleague, and I don't have a damn thing to do tomorrow except open presents, get some exercise and reheat leftovers. Fat city.

  The sis and bro'-in-law zipped in and out for the day, bearing appetites and gifts, including (for me) "The Completely Mad Don Martin," a two-volume, hardback collection of Martin's Mad magazine work from 1956 through 1988. I'm talking 17 pounds' worth of one of the funniest dudes who ever set pen to paper. What's not to like about a guy who writes sound effects like "sploydoing," "shklitza" and "flabadap"? Herself got a James Taylor CD. Piffle. A guy could live his whole life without hearing Sweet Baby James give out with a "sploydoing."

  After lunch — I finally got the whole Mexican chingadera made, only about an hour behind schedule, using every pot, pan, dish, utensil and piece of Tupperware in the house, plus a bottle of sparkling Alsatian rosé — we took five and then went over to a friend's house for an equally massive dinner of roast beast, spuds, asparagus, salad, bread, zinfandel, pie, cake and ice cream. He has a new LCD TV the size of my living room's west wall, and I have a new butt that blots out the sun. My chins have chins, and my liver called the CSPD to see if it could charge me with assault. Happily, the cops don't accept crank calls from rogue organs.

  That's it. The last brain cell finally hiccuped, fell over and croaked. Time to spread the bones. I coulda been someone (well, so could anyone). At least I still have all my teefuses. Good night, Shane MacGowan, wherever you are. Kirsty MacColl, may the light of heaven shine on your grave. And to the rest of you, slainte and good night.

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Bad moon rising

  OK, so that's a sunrise (and a damn' fine one, too; good job, Yahweh). But tonight, a full moon will rise to shine down on a town that set a record for homicides this year — 28 so far, six of them in December, and we still have eight days to go.

  Some of the killers — and worse, some of their victims — are military personnel who have enjoyed extended vacations in Gen. George Armstrong Bush's desert playground. According to the Gazette, felony bookings of military personnel at El Paso County's calaboose have shot up (you should pardon the expression) from 295 in 2005 to 471 so far this year.

  Do we blame the strain of extended deployment? Is this a consequence of lower recruiting standards? Combination of the two, plus a civilian leadership more interested in starting fights than cleaning up after them? Beats me. But there are something like 60 Army posts in the country these days, along with a dozen or so Marine bases, and I bet Bibleburg and Fort Cartoon aren't the only pieces of the military-industrial puzzle experiencing this distinct lack of peace on earth and good will toward men.

  'Course, you don't have to be in uniform to lose it. All you need is to watch your income dwindling along with your savings and the value of your home. Have a kid with leukemia and an insuror focused on profits, not people. Or simply follow the news, assuming you can find any.

  That being said, it was a lovely sunrise, wasn't it? Let's hope we get to see a few more of them.

  Later that same day: The cookery has commenced. A pot of posole, from a recipe so old I can't remember where I got it and packed with some excellent pork from Par Avion, is simmering on the range next to a pot of pinto beans with chipotle chile straight out of the Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook. A sackful of mild Anaheims has been roasted, peeled and chopped to cut the nuclear Hatch chiles I scored this fall for use in green-chile sauce (another Santa Fe SOC recipe). Two red-chile sauces, one a SFSOC stalwart and the other a Tex-Mex, tomatoey kind of deal from Rick Bayless's Everyday Mexican, are tucked away in the fridge, awaiting duty in the bison enchiladas. The entire ordeal has required a pint or two of the Wet Mountain IPA from Bristol Brewing. Thank God I had the foresight to take a growler with me to Herself's going-away party there the other night. Tomorrow I make the salsa fresca, both sets of enchiladas and Mexican rice. Still haven't figured out how to sauce the dessert tamales, but what the hell? We may not even get that far through the menu before we explode like Monsieur Creosote.

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Happy solstice

  What excellent timing: a minor snowstorm glazes Bibleburg, just in time for the first day of winter. VeloNews editor Ben Delaney was on the road with his family last night, bound for New Mexico, but didn't even come close — he spent the night at a Bibleburg motel after a six-hour drive from Boulder, a trip that takes two hours or less in ordinary circumstances. And now Raton Pass is closed at Trinidad, leaving him the option of back-dooring the Land of Enchantment via La Veta Pass (also no picnic) or enjoying a leisurely breakfast while waiting for the DOT to do some serious plowing.

  Me, I have some serious grocery shopping to do. My sister and her husband are coming down from Fort Collins for Christmas Eve lunch, which will include posole, chicken enchiladas with green chile, bison enchiladas with red chile, tamales, beans and rice — and the tamales are the only items I ain't making. Herself gets 'em from a woman at her now-former workplace, Pikes Peak Community College. Come the New Year, she goes to work for the Colorado Library Consortium, which has nothing to do with the high-speed production of northern New Mexican cuisine, so the less said about it, the better. There's cooking to do.

  Meanwhile, can you smell what The Decider is cookin'? A heapin' helpin' of some scrumptious good will. Mmm, hmm, good. The guy's a regular Insanity Clause.

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  Some people fear that politics may have played a role in BushCo's decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases through stricter fuel-economy standards — among them The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle. Gee, y'think? Just 'cause auto execs prostrated themselves before Darth Cheney, begging His Imperial Nastiness for succor? Surely not.

  Meanwhile, the annual O'Grady Awards are online at VeloNews.com. Early feedback from my doppelgänger Patrick Brady at Belgium Knee Warmers gives a beery, muddy thumb's-up to my proposal for a criterium circuit enclosing a cyclo-cross park, a BMX course and a brewpub. Quoth Other Patrick: "That's a damn fine idea. It's an incredible idea. I mean, the only problem with that idea is that you came up with it. No offense, but I'm thinking USA Cycling sees your ideas as probably being 180 degrees out of phase with proper logic. Of course, my math says that puts you about 10-15 degrees out of phase at most. Now, go make friends with some rich dude in Seattle or Portland where an idea like that could develop legs."

  I need to develop some legs right here in Bibleburg. I got out for a couple brisk, sloppy 'cross-bike rides Wednesday and Thursday, and damn, was I slow. Sketchy on the icy bits, too, from lack of practice. It reminded me of hearing Paul Curley quip, "Lot of shaky old men out here," during warmup on the course at nationals in Golden, back in '92. The conditions then were not unlike those at this year's nats — low temps, frozen, rutted course and lots of crashing. I missed a top-10 finish by seconds, losing out to Bob Lawson, who was riding a mountain bike. But we were both well behind the hot dogs, like Curley, Laurence Malone and Max Jones.

  The weather is supposed to turn on us again today, according to the National Weather Service. Forty-eight and breezy right now, yet here I sit, waiting on various delivery people bearing solstice-slash-Zappadan gifts. By the way, this is the final shopping day of Zappadan, Frank Zappa's birthday, so you'd best get busy. I'd like a 2.4GHz iMac with the 24-inch screen, thank you, I'll take it now, please. Plus a hammock on a white beach somewhere, and I ain't talking Antarctica here, bub.

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Shop 'til you drop? Nah

  Here's an interesting observation from Paco Underhill, president of Envirosell, a regular contributor to PBS and the BBC who Bill Steigerwald of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says " has spent more than 25 years studying the behavior of consumers and helping companies understand them and how they shop." Says Underhill: "The bottom line for all of us, though, particularly for those of us who are over age 50, is that most of us could live the rest of our lives on fruit, vegetables, pasta, wine, olive oil and yearly doses of socks and underwear. We have all the ties and shirts and sweaters and lawn mowers and television sets that we'll need for the foreseeable future."

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Boulder and balderdash

  Paid a visit to the VeloNews mothership in Boulder yesterday, chatting with honchos, propeller-heads and grunts about the website and impending improvements thereto. I drop in every few years, just to lower property values, steal a few high-dollar items for resale on eBay, and remind them that, yes, I am a living, breathing member of the lower primates who requires a bone now and then, if only to bash against the great black monolith. Ook ook ook.

  Today was largely squandered on kitten care, grocery collection and computer maintenance (I fear a pricey new plastic box from Mr. Jobs looms in my immediate future). While I was thus occupied, the flood of bad news and bullshit continued unabated. And I couldn't help but wonder — Who Are the Brain Police?

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Meanwhile, at cyclo-cross nationals . . .

  Props to all my Colorado geezer homies who were playing bicycle tag in the deep freeze out there in Kansas Shitty (organizers' report here; complete results here). Ned Overend won the 50-54 race (surprise, surprise), Brook Watts and Karl Kiester finished eighth and ninth, and Thomas Prehn pulled out a 24th-place finish. Says Brook: "It wasn't as bad as last KC time but it was slick and rutted. Karl broke a fork and ran half the course and still was on my wheel for a top-10. Lots of little mistakes added up to lost time."

  In the 55-59s, Bob Bieterman took the silver (that's him in the Chipotle kit in the photo I lifted from Kurt Jambretz of Action Images), while Mike Spak scored an excellent 10th place, if you believe the officials (Mike didn't); Lee Waldman, a perennial hard man, was apparently having some difficulty with the ice and finished 21st. A tip of the Mad Dog tuque to all. Me, I rode the trainer for 45 minutes. Dude, where's my medal?

  This just in: Tim Johnson and Katie Compton have won the elite events at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships. Chapeau to both.

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Mute button

  A VeloNews.com reader dropped a note the other day, wondering why I haven't written a Foaming Rant in a while. It's a hard thing to explain, because most readers think that writing and cartooning is all I do. Alas, journalism is both a left- and right-brain activity, and the left side spends a lot of time on the clock so the right side can play with the cranial Silly Putty.

  Here's the deal. I write 18 columns a year for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, plus 18 Grapevine columns (a blend of industry gossip and News of the Weird). I also draw something like 25 "Shop Talk" strips a year for BRAIN, depending upon how many trade-show dailies the Laguna Hills gang is producing. VeloNews gets 20 cartoons a year plus the year-end O'Grady Awards. Mostly right-brain work here.

  VeloNews.com, meanwhile, requires my services as an editor two days a week throughout the season, for three weeks straight during each of the three grand tours, and as the occasional pinch-hitter whenever. This means editing stories from staffers and free-lancers, press releases from the feds, race promoters or whomever, with an eye toward accuracy, grammar, spelling, usage and style; sizing and posting photos; and chasing down results and translating them from a variety of formats, including Word, Excel and Acrobat PDF (note to race promoters: We all hate PDF'd results. Cut that shit out). We're talking some serious left-brain work here.

  If it doesn't exactly sound like hard labor, well, it isn't. And the right-brain stuff is mostly fun. But it's all on the same subject — bicycling — and it doesn't pay the bills. What does? The left-brain stuff, which is mostly no fun at all and is also all on the same subject — bicycling. It's sensory overload, is what. So after the right brain has endured about nine months of the left brain goose-stepping around, cracking its riding crop against one polished boot, barking orders and in general trying to make the trains run on time, it simply drops its Etch-a-Sketch and stalks off somewhere for a nip and a nap. Sorry 'bout that.

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'Cross nats

  If you just can't wait for those pokey ol' cycling websites to get the latest and greatest up, take a squint at this: Race organizers are live-blogging the races as they're being run. There's not a lot of color so far, just who won and a bit about the weather (think deep space), but it's better than nothing if you find yourself with a spare minute in the old cube farm.

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Baseball is dopey

  "Steroid Report Implicates Top Players", trumpets The New York Times. "Whew," say pro cyclists as the spotlight shifts away from them for a nanosecond. "Put me in, Coach (snort, shoot), I'm ready to play (rub, gulp) today . . ."

  Meanwhile, cyclo-cross nationals got under way today in Kansas City, where the word was "cold." As in fuckin' cold, icy, muddy and all the rest of it. Today's racing was non-championship "B" stuff, but still, damn. A tip of the Mad Dog tuque to Kristal Boni of Broomfield for winning the women's race and Morrison's Shawnee Brenner for finishing second. Props, too, to Albuquerque's Pat Morrison for winning the 40-plus race.

  A number of my old comrades, including Brook and Karl Kiester, will be doing battle with the nation's meanest geezers in KC, and I'd be right there with them if only the race were being held in Tucson. Watching, of course, with a frosty beverage in one hand and a cowbell in the other.

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  Ah, finally; a moment to decompress. A massive cauldron of what eventually will be a tasty chicken soup is simmering on the range, there is a glass of an excellent French white next to the keyboard, and all is right with the world. Well, this corner of it, anyway. No dingbat home-schoolers have popped by with various high-caliber smokepoles and a backpack full of boom, planning to punch our tickets for the Celestial Express. We're not being blown up by sectarian nutbags, getting waterboarded by shadowy agents of the State, or paying any attention whatsoever to the Republican debate.

  I even witnessed one of those rare random acts of kindness the hippies are always on about via bumper sticker on rattletrap Volvos. While I was standing in a checkout line at the grocery, an elderly woman in one of those powered-wheelchair/grocery-cart deals whirred up behind me. The guy in front turns around and sees her, then looks at me. "Good thinking," I said, and we both stepped aside to let her roll on through to the front of the line. I shifted to the next line over, and when it seemed clear that I would be checking out faster than the good Samaritan, I waved him through in front of me. Small things, true, but comforting nonetheless. A second miracle of Zappadan, perchance? Consult The Grand Wazoo.

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  Pixels and powder, powder and pixels — it was all about the shoveling today in Bibleburg, whether I was at the keyboard in the office or behind the idiot stick on the sidewalk. I closed out another Bicycle Retailer & Industry News deadline (coming in a couple days OTB); did a bit of this, that and the other for VeloNews.com; and shifted some snow from here to there with the push broom and scoop shovel.

  Paving the driveway earlier this year? Bad idea. When it was red gravel, it required no shoveling; we just lived with the ice, lumps and goo, occasionally fetching select bits into the house so they could warm up. But now that it's this vast expanse of smooth, shiny concrete, well, shit, it must be cleared. As much as we paid for the sonofabitch, I want to see it, every damn' day.

  Something I do not want to see every damn' day is a story like this. Is this the America you grew up with, studied in school, maybe defended against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Is this your idea of a shining city on a hill? A neon-lit whorehouse full of torturers, chickenshits, buck-passers, time-servers, liars, ass-kissers and fools, indifferently overseen by a clot of compulsive shoppers with an addiction to "reality" TV? If so, well, a merry fuckin' Christmas to you. Satan Claus has granted your every wish.

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Today's blasphemy

  First off, all due respect, people should be able to go to the church of their choice without getting shot or having to shoot someone. Eat a wafer, hug a tree, light a menorah, sit cross-legged 'til your feet explode, I don't care. Whatever punches your Get Out of Hell Free Card. Going to church should not involve body armor and a concealed-carry permit.

  That being said, some of the born-again crowd were speaking in tongues of the forked variety after the shootings in Arvada and at New Life Church. George Morrison, a minister at Faith Bible Chapel, stated flatly: "God did not cause this to happen." Uh huh. Dude follows pro football so closely He can't take a minute to whip a quick, fatal plague on some nutbag with a shitload of firearms on his person, out hunting His disciples? Were I a religious man, I'd suggest there might be more here than meets the downcast eye.

  And then there's the security guard who croaked the perp' when he popped by New Life to carve a few more notches on his weapons. "God was with me," she said. "He never left my side." It's a basic question, true, but still — why her side and not the side of the unarmed parishioners in Arvada and Bibleburg who found themselves in the express line to Heaven between the wafer and the wine? Could it be that the Lord manifests Himself these days in the form of a Glock 9mm? Remember your Heinlein: "God fights on side of heaviest artillery."

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Forget the collection plate, pass the armor plate

  Some batshit crazy (or crazies) is hunting Christians. And they're not even good eating.

  This town is getting meaner all the time. Someone is stalking downtown, cracking women upside the head with boards or bottles and taking whatever's on them, and there's enough gunfire for two horse operas and a Cheney hunting trip.

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Watch out where the huskies go . . .

  . . . and don't you eat that yellow snow. It's mostly white in these parts today (no huskies with bladder issues in the neighborhood), but an Eskimo boy can't be too careful in these trying times.

  It's been snowing lightly most of the morning, with a dash of freezing fog and temps in the 20s. After a short, pointless bout of snow-shoveling I dragged a bike out of the garage and bolted it to the Cateye trainer in the basement. Running in this stuff is just begging for a twisted ankle, pulled hamstring or ass-to-sidewalk impact, and if I bust a hip Herself will have me put down in a hot New York minute. Thus it's time for the first Tour de Nowhere of the holiday season. Frankly, I'd rather be waterboarded, but the CIA scumbags are all busy burning videotapes. Great googly moogly!

  Later that same day: Arrghh. Forty-five minutes was all I could stand, even with an iPod full of Led Zep', Clapton and other leg-shakers. The good news is Big Pussy didn't freak when I started pedaling. He's a little twitchy about sudden, weird noises, but when I started cranking out the revs he just glanced over at me from the window shelf and went back to napping.

  Meanwhile, the Justice Department and the CIA have announced a joint inquiry into whether a full investigation is required regarding the destruc . . . bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I'm sorry, there was no way I could get through that sentence with a straight face. You can smell the DeeCee shredders overheating all the way out here in Bibleburg.

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The first miracle of Zappadan

  Frank Zappa appeared to me today in the form of the alumni magazine from the University of Denver, where Herself collected her master's degree. It seems that 36 years ago — the same year that Fillmore East, the first Mothers of Invention album I'd ever heard in its entirety, was released — FZ and the Mothers played to a packed house at the DU arena.

  The mag notes that many students didn't quite know what to expect from the show, although one unnamed concertgoer seemed to be clued in. "Jesus, this oughta be one helluva weird night, man," he told a reporter for the college paper. Were you there, Bwana Dik? The University of Denver Magazine wants to hear from you.

  Elsewhere, CIA videotapes of torture — pardon me, "aggressive interrogation practices" — have mysteriously disappeared. "We wanted to record a couple episodes of "24" to jerk off to and didn't have any blank tapes handy," said one spook, who declined to be identified. "But it's not like you missed anything. I mean, you've seen one guy waterboarded, you've seen 'em all."

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The Little House I Used to Live In

  The Chef-in-Chief slips the po' folk another burnt weeny sandwich, right between the buns. Thanks and a tip of the Zappa Kappa to Kevin Drum's Political Animal.

  Later that same day: A great big fat hear-fuckin'-hear goes out to my man Kevin the D for his reaction to Mitt Romney's "deeply offensive speech" on faith, which didn't give so much as a head-wave to those of us who are not believers. Says Kevin:

(T)he cowardice and pandering here is just phenomenal. Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," that no movement of conscience is possible without religion, and that judges had better respect our "foundation of faith" lest our country's entire greatness disappear. And that was just the warmup.

I know, I know. He's just doing what he has to do. Evangelical base and all that. But I'm not religious, and yet, mirabile dictu, I still manage to support freedom, have a conscience, and understand the law. I'm tired of people implying otherwise.

  I couldn't agree more, especially after just enduring an extended NPR God-talk jabberfest while trying to jump-start a column with the assistance of a glass or two of St. Paul's favorite stomach-settler. All due respect to the Christians who pop by here for a peek at the Dark Side (and yes, there are a few), the Founding Fathers sought both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. I could do with a little of the latter right now.

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Freak out!

  Trouble every day.

Well I'm about to get sick
From watchin' my TV
Been checkin' out the news
Till my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it's gonna change, my friend
Is anybody's guess, so I'm
Watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
There's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay the trouble
Comin' every day

  Cue the Nasal Retentive Calliope Music.

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Zappadan commences

  Those crazy kits. They just can't wait to unwrap their Zappadan presents. Turkish was so excited he woke me up at 3 a.m., head-diving me with that shovel-shaped skull like a furry, retarded kamikaze pilot. I got up, had a glass of water, peed, then took him on my lap and explained that the gift I was giving him on this, the first day of Zappadan, was the gift of not being boiled alive in a vat of hot poop. Then I went back to bed.

  Some four hours later, refreshed, I rose to the dulcet tones of The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny announcing the Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin. And a happy Zappadan to you, too.

  Later that same day: My fellow Zappatistas, The Aristocrats, nail it as regards what The Decider knew, if anything, and when he knew it, regarding the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran — ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment, Frank Zappa performing "Dumb All Over":

Whoever we are
Wherever we're from
We shoulda noticed by now
Our behavior is dumb
And if our chances
Expect to improve
Its gonna take a lot more
Than tryin to remove
The other race
Or the other whatever
From the face
Of the planet altogether

  This asshat is not only dumb, he's a bad liar (The Decider, not FZ). How much safer we would all be today if Barbara and George had just rolled over and gone to sleep that fateful night 62 years ago.

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It's Zappadan Eve!

  Yes indeedy, it's that time of year again. Titties 'n' beer for everyone! You may each open one present (but only one, or the Zomby Woof will gitcha). And don't forget to kiss Dinah Moe Humm under the cameltoe. Mistletoe. Whichever.

  Incidentally, the Officially Approved Beverage of the Zappadan Festival here in Bibleburg is (right now) Kill Ugly Radio from the fine folks at Lagunitas Brewing Co. They're doing a series of Zappa-album tribute ales, the first of which was Freak Out! and marked the 40th anniversary of that disc. Kill Ugly Radio is the second (available locally at Coaltrain Wine & Liquor). Yeah, I know, the album was titled "Absolutely Free," but what liquor-store proprietor in his right mind wants to spend his nights arguing with philosophy majors over whether the beer is, in fact, absolutely free or must be paid for? Next up: Lumpy Gravy, which is due out sometime this month, according to the most excellent Stephanie of Lagunitas, who says she still has some leftover labels from the earlier issues in case anyone has a craving for fiber.

  According to the Frank Zappa website, Tony Magee, co-founder of Lagunitas Brewing, struck an agreement with Zappa's family for rights to produce the themed beers, all of which will be linked to album anniversaries. Look for a new baby every nine months or so. Mmmm ... Hot Rats. Thanks to Daily Dog reader JA for the tipski; now I believe I'll have a nipski.

  In other, less-interesting news: I did a quadrathlon today: Drive, run, ride, drive. Dropped the coolant-spewing Forester at Heuberger Subaru, ran home, worked, ate, bought beer, cooked, played with kittens, dicked around, then jumped on the Soma Double Cross and rode to the dealership to collect the repaired rice-grinder, which (happily) suffered nothing worse than a bum radiator cap. A portent of good tidings this Zappadan? Consult the Book of Joe's Garage.

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  I'm getting too old for this shit. I wore three, count 'em, three long-sleeved jerseys plus an undershirt, bibs over neoprene leg warmers, wool socks, neoprene booties, a stocking cap and a pair of sausage-finger Pearl Izumi gloves for my ride with O'Stank today, and I was still cold. Should've added a balaclava and a tot or six of Gaelic brain eraser. Damn. Even the fabled Big Irish Ass got frosty out there; when I got back home and peeled down, it felt like a ham I'd just pulled from the freezer.

  Meanwhile, the Gazette reports that USA Cycling has set a deadline of Dec. 15 to decide whether it wants to remain in Bibleburg or shift to either Ogden, Utah, or an unnamed third city. Will Bibleburg suck it up and give the feds free office space? Or will the feds decide they'd like to have their HQ in a place where there's actually, like, some bicycle racing going on? Stay tuned.

  And for those of you who follow what America calls "football" and the rest of the world calls "The Locker Room of Dr. Moreau," the Broncos got stomped like roaches in a coldwater flat by their arch-enemies, the Oakland Raiders, who had been 3-and-8 going into the game. This is not unlike losing a bar fight to a synchronized-swimming team.

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The rich keep getting richer (and buying better RVs, too)

  The RV industry is feeling the pinch of a shrinking economy — unless you're talking about the top end, where a captain of industry can score himself a $1.7 million land yacht "with Italian marble floors, high-tech controls, window-size flat-screen high-definition televisions and always-connected satellite systems for Internet and satellite TV." The high end, says Matt Howard, veep for marketing at Country Coach, "is where our growth is."

  Myself, I think I could get by with a Winnebago View (just $86,880 for a base model). Or maybe the Airstream Interstate (a paltry $79,904 for this year's edition). Or I could keep on chucking a sleeping bag, tent and camp stove in the back of the Forester, peeing on the ground and getting 30 mpg. Maybe I'll start fetching that big-ass North Face tent around instead of the piddling little Eureka. That should make my wiener look bigger.

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Evel Knievel finally lays it down for good

  The onetime daredevil has cashed in his chips, not from jumping buses, canyons or tanks full of sharks, but from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis. McPaper's Jon Saraceno looked in on "the crippled grandfather of extreme sports" earlier this year.

  Meanwhile, all that telecom money aside, it must suck to be Bob Stapleton. Hired as a sort of benevolent Dr. Frankenstein with the task of reanimating a defunct T-Mobile, he stuffs the really stinky bits down the garbage disposal, salvages what parts he can and stitches on a whole bunch of fresh meat with high hopes of riding the lightning come 2008. And what happens? The villagers run away screaming anyway, clutching their pocketbooks.

  Stapleton says he has the wherewithal to run the team for two years even without a title sponsor, but still, damn. Thank you so much, Bjarne Riis, Udo Bolts, Erik Zabel, Jörg Jaksche, Patrik Sinkewitz, Rolf Aldag, Bert Dietz, Christian Henn, Oscar Sevilla and Jan Ullrich.

  In other cycling news, a friend writes that she's starting a new women's cycling team but is having trouble coming up with a name. She's looking for something "feminine and fun with a cyclist twist." Any thoughts out there? I've proposed Handlebar Belles, EstroGenies and Spoke Wenches. The Brass Nipple Gang? Betty Crankers? Jeez, that's really reaching. I got nothin' here.

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Rub a dub dub, there's a mouse in the tub

  A new candidate for Best Kitten Game Ever — Fetch the Mousie From the Tub. Take one fake mouse and one real kitten; throw the first in the tub and watch the second follow. Retrieve and repeat as indicated. Mia Sopaipilla can do this all day long. Hard to believe this is the same kitten who spent her first week with us confined to a cardboard box in the bathroom, sneezing, snuffling and getting a daily double of antibiotics and antihistamine.

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Market farces

  Every town has at least one business whose continued survival despite knuckleheaded management, inept employees and shoddy product is a puck in the gob of capitalism. Ours is the Safeway in the Bon Shopping Center. This is the Bizarro World Grocery California: You can't check out anytime you want — you can only leave.

  Whatever you're looking for, this miserable shithole will not have it. Arugula? Dream on. A reliable supply of organic anything? Get over yourself. "Fresh" basil that is still green rather than black? Puh-leeze. This notwithstanding, the wait to check out with whatever allegedly edible item you've been able to unearth is interminable, because the clerks are all fucking off somewhere. Half the staff seems to spend its shift camped by the south doors, belching clouds of smoke, stale sweat and inane chatter. After a disastrous stint in the "express" line some weeks back that caused me to depart, profanely, at speed and sans groceries, I swore that I would never again set foot in the place. But when a grocery run to Mountain Mama failed to discover sweet pickle relish, a key ingredient in a mess of tuna salad I had planned for lunch, I set my jaw and strode boldly into the Safeway of the Living Dead.

  The relish was there, much to my surprise (a garbage brand pumped full of high fructose corn syrup and other superfluous ingredients). But so was the usual gang of idiots. Just one checkout lane was open — the same one in which I whiled away so many pleasant hours the last time around — and the line from it snaked all the way from the Starbucks station to the magazine rack.

  "You've got to be kidding me," I muttered. "Just what I was thinking," chirped a woman with a full cart as she whipped out a cell phone, probably to dictate her will should she not survive the journey to the Lone Checker.

  I glared at the jar of relish in my hand. No amount of tuna salad, no matter how tasty, is worth a second of this bullshit, I thought. I set it down and left, emptyhanded again. There was leftover pizza in the fridge.

  Meanwhile, who cares about the writers' strike? The CNN-YouTube GOP presidential debate is on! Plenty of outfits are live-blogging this laugh riot, including The New York Times, whose offering can be found here. The Defeatocrats, alas, have canceled their scheduled Dec. 10 debate in deference to their comrades walking the picket lines. That's OK; they ain't funny anyway.

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T-Mobile unplugged

  More mierda for cycling's abanico: T-Mobile is dropping its cycling sponsorship. Way to go, dopeheads. To quote Walter Sobchak from "The Big Lebowski," "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass."

  In other News of the Retarded, Bibleburg seems poised to return to two-way traffic on Tejon Street, which will make it even easier for dipshit SUV pilots texting on their CrackBerries to run over unwary cyclists. The goal is to give a boost to the area's two or three surviving merchants, who complain that nobody wants to shop downtown. Here's a hint and a half for your ass, guys: Nobody shops downtown because you are not selling anything that anyone wants to buy, other than indifferently prepared meals and strong drink. Outside of Sparrow Hawk Cookware and Shewmaker's Camera, that is.

  Late update: Just seven days remain until the Wholly Festival of Zappadan, which commences with St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast served up by Father O'Blivion and concludes with a burnt weeny sandwich at Joe's Garage. But skip the dessert course (yellow sno-cone).

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Cyber Monday

  Didn't buy shit. Not online, anyway. I did buy an oil change for the Forester, a couple bottles of grape-based tonsil polish for reality avoidance and a big-ass Poor Richard's pizza for dinner, but these are hardly big-ticket items. Nobody at the Chamber of Commerce is jacking off over this piddling outlay.

  And it seems that my cheapskate behavior is right in line with the rest of Shopping Nation, which spent the big holiday weekend stingily doling out its pennies at discount retailers.

  Further, weightier expenditures loom, however. Herself's old G3 iBook has a hitch in its gitalong and won't boot up in OS X, though Disk First Aid and I finally got it to boot in OS 9.2.2. The propeller-heads at Voelker Research will make a mortgage payment off this obsolete machine, unless I fix it the way I once fixed Herself's incessantly beeping sports watch (with a hammer). Our piece-of-shit Sears refrigerator is on the blink and out of warranty, leaking water from its icemaker for a second time. And the Forester has a coolant leak, maybe even more than one, and while Heuberger says it's covered by warranty I'll believe it when I drive the sonofabitch away from the service department without that fabled burning, itching feeling.

  Meanwhile, my buddy Hal has beaten me to the punch on a retail purchase for the first time in recent memory, scoring a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3/B digital camera. He used it to snap this shot of the Sangre de Cristos mountains from a piece of property just east of Weirdcliffe. Somebody has to keep the retail juggernaut lumbering along.

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  Turkish — a.k.a. Mighty Whitey the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg, Turkenstein, The Turkinator, Baby Huey, et al — rests up for his next championship bout with Mia Sopaipilla, who can be seen at lower right, training with her sparring partner Mister Piggy (photos courtesy the Ansel Addams Family).

  Meanwhile, the Busheviks just keep moving those goalposts down the field, according to The New York Times. Instead of moving toward unifying Iraq, steps that include passage of a long-delayed plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections, the neoconmen's new goals include "passage of a $48 billion Iraqi budget, something the Iraqis say they are on their way to doing anyway; renewing the United Nations mandate that authorizes an American presence in the country, which the Iraqis have done repeatedly before; and passing legislation to allow thousands of Baath Party members from Saddam Hussein's era to rejoin the government. A senior Bush administration official described that goal as largely symbolic since rehirings have been quietly taking place already."

  The Afghanistan thing isn't working out all that well, either, according to The Washington Post. A National Security Council evaluation finds that while individual battles against Taliban fighters are going well, the Taliban is expanding into new territory, opium-poppy cultivation is on the rise and Hamid Karzai remains little more than the mayor of Kabul. Notes The Post:

This judgment reflects sharp differences between U.S. military and intelligence officials on where the Afghan war is headed. Intelligence analysts acknowledge the battlefield victories, but they highlight the Taliban's unchallenged expansion into new territory, an increase in opium poppy cultivation and the weakness of the government of President Hamid Karzai as signs that the war effort is deteriorating.

The contrasting views echo repeated internal disagreements over the Iraq war: While the military finds success in a virtually unbroken line of tactical achievements, intelligence officials worry about a looming strategic failure.

  Kevin Drum notes that the situation recalls the American misunderstanding of the Vietnam war, as laid bare in 1975 by North Vietnamese Col. Tu's famous aphorism when U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers went to Hanoi for talks following the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. "You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield," Summers said, to which Tu replied, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."

  Heckuva job, Bushie.

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Huckabee's nuts

  Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi says GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is both extraordinarily likeable and batshit crazy. Notes Taibbi:

In the world of GOP politics, he represents something entirely new — a cross between John Edwards and Jerry Falwell, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher who actually seems to give a shit about the working poor.

But Huckabee is also something else: full-blown nuts, a Christian goofball of the highest order. He believes the Earth may be only 6,000 years old, angrily rejects the evidence that human beings evolved from "primates" and thinks America wouldn't need so much Mexican labor if we allowed every aborted fetus to grow up and enter the workforce. To top it off, Huckabee also left behind a record of ethical missteps in the swamp of Arkansas politics that make Whitewater seem like a jaywalking ticket.
  Elsewhere, in keeping with our continuing holiday-shopping coverage, Danny Schechter discusses the annual shopocalypse in terms of "affluenza", an ailment whose symptoms include a willful ignorance of what many fear is a looming economic collapse.

  On the other side of the world, meanwhile, the Aussies show America the way, shitcanning staunch Bush ally and renowned fucktard John Howard, who defied the electorate to support Numbnuts in his War on Terra. The final indignity: Howard may lose his his own seat in the Sydney suburb of Bennelong, which he has held for 33 years, to a former television anchor and rookie politician. He would be the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat since 1929, says The New York Times. Good riddance.

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Black Friday

  It should be rechristened "Dummy Day." Who the hell queues up at 4 a.m. on a frosty November morning for a shot at a Disney snow globe, an MP3 player or digital picture frames? If you believe the National Retail Federation, 133 million of us. Good Lord. Don't you wish we could generate the same fervor for a presidential election? Citizens in parkas and sleeping bags, lined up outside their polling places in the dark, just champing at the bit for their chance at throwing the rascals out?

  I had planned to observe Buy Nothing Day, but we were short of grub and grog, so I toddled off to the King Soopers and Coaltrain around elevenish to fetch the fixings of a massive cauldron of beef vegetable soup and a few low-end bottles of Frog tonsil polish. No camping required, no bargains realized; but a cheap Zune won't keep you warm when the wind chill slashes the temps to single digits.

  Don't tell that to 36-year-old Cindy Chavez or 19-year-old Sawmon Jahagiri, though. Chavez leapt onto a palette stacked with digital picture frames at a Wal-Mart in Nashville, coming away with six of the stupid fucking things.

  "I just didn't think I could reach down and bend over and get it," she told The New York Times. And having seen the clientele at more than one Wal-Mart over the years before I started boycotting the outfit, I'll bet she was right. Frankly, I'm amazed that she could get airborne without a JATO pack and maybe a catapult.

  Jahagiri, meanwhile, paid $40 to cut in line at a Los Angeles Circuit City and still had to battle the crowds to score his father's Christmas present, a $900 50-inch Samsung plasma TV, a prize he had secured by 5:30 a.m.

  "I really can't afford this TV. I'll be making monthly payments on my credit card until this time next year," the Saddleback College student told The Los Angeles Times, adding that he plans to take a winter job to help pay off the debt.

  "But it's the holidays," he said. "You do what you have to do."

  I'm sorry, Sawmon old sport, but if that constitutes "doing what you have to do," it's time for a brain scan to see what's making you act like a feeb. What you have to do is not bury your young ass under a mountain of consumer debt so your pop can watch "Project Runway" on a screen the size of the wide end of the Circuit City you bought the goddamn thing from.

  This solstice, I'm giving Herself some clothes that she's already bought, she's giving me a $430 digital camera that I can write off as a business expense, and we're paying off the loan on her Subaru. It won't leave a lot of crumpled paper under the tree, but hey — we're not buying a tree, either.

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Turkey day, indeed

  The U.S. Olympic Committee wants free office space if it's to keep its headquarters here in Bibleburg, according to the Gazette. "We're fully prepared to be responsible for ongoing operations costs in our building, but we're not capable of funding a lease, or any acquisition cost in a purchase," said USOC consultant James Didion in a note written to a city staffer.

  Well, shit. I can dig it. Myself, I'm prepared to handle ongoing operations costs in our house, but I could certainly do without the mortgage. How about you? Cutting that little corner would free up a lot of cha-ching for, well, whatever.

  The crust of these bozos. They're nearly as shameless as the Christian soldiers who want to be able to run the country without paying taxes. The Olympic "movement" is a giant ATM for everyone involved, barring the taxpayers who do the actual heavy lifting — just ask the Brits, who are already taking some stiff kicks to the wallet pocket for the 2012 Games. Or the Aussies and Greeks, who saw their respective tabs for hosting the Games double and quadruple.

  In short, fuck these people. The Olympics haven't been about sport since the Games began admitting pros. It's strictly business, and the swine should be paying their own bills like the rest of us.

  Meanwhile, Turkish and Mia wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving, and urge you to join them in an O'Grady family tradition — listening to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant."

  Late update: What am I thankful for today? That Herself and I weren't involved in one of the several pileups we saw en route to Fort Fun for turkey with my sis and bro'-in-law. We saw one single-car wreck, two two-cars, a triple and the piéce de la resistance, a seven-car clusterfuck that shut down the southbound lane of I-25 just south of Johnson Corners. Mind you, this is mostly straight interstate we're talking about here, sans ice, snow or other forms of precipitation, and in broad daylight. Next year I think we'll just phone the fucker in. "Hey, sis, how's that turkey? Good, huh? Ours too. Gotta go, best to Howard."

  Even later update: Just an even dozen days remain until the commencement of the Festival of Zappadan. As the High Priests of Zappadan proclaim:

"Zappadan, unlike some of the other festivals, does not start the day Wal-Mart puts out the decorations. It starts on December 4, in honor of the sad day in 1993 when the modern-day composer, Frank Zappa, refused to die for the last time. It ends on December 21, in honor of the day he was born. There is no messy Advent, no Lent, no Passover, or any of those complicated events that entangle the Christian calendar for the whole fucking year. Its end is closer to the Winter Solstice than Christmas and you can forget about it after that. No ashes on your forehead, speaking in tongues, or silly rituals involving not enough wine to get you ripped and silly dry wafers that stick to the roof of your mouth."

  That is all ye need to know, until Uncle Meat blows hot poop at you through the Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny at the Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue.


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The proper place for ice is in a drink

  Our endless summer just ended. Bibleburg shot from 78 degrees and sunny on Monday to 21 and snow on Wednesday. That's Colorado for you; never a dull moment. Lots of dull hours, but never a dull moment.

  Big Turk finds the chilly white stuff irksome. He went out for a brief scamper and then decided to view with alarm through a sunny living-room window, stretched out on the back of the couch. Just as well, I thought as a largish fox trotted past, hunting breakfast. Haven't seen one of those for a while, but just because you don't see 'em doesn't mean they aren't there.

  Meanwhile, Men's Health says Bibleburg is the third drunkest city in America, much to the dismay of the local MADD chapter, which wonders how the magazine arrived at its conclusions. Maybe they're tracking my credit card.

  Late update: Ah, the impenetrable maze of contradictions that is Bibleburg. Seen on the road this afternoon — a beater Subaru Legacy wagon with a "Don't Partially Hydrogenate Me" bumper sticker, a Domino's Pizza rooftop fin, a Marine Corps sticker and a KRCC-FM sticker, all topped off with a bike rack. All it lacked was a fish symbol of some kind and a COEXIST sticker.

  Even later update: Thanks to everyone who kicked a digital-camera recommendation my way. The response was heavy on Canons, with a couple shills for Nikon and one Konica/Minolta. I'm starting to lean away from the digital SLR and toward the Canon PowerShot G9, which seems like a lot of bang for the bucks in a still-portable package.

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Lock and load

  Oh, joy: The Supremes will be taking up the question of whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. This is a job more suited to a copy editor, as the Second Amendment is the fuzziest bit of obfuscation in that venerable document: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Jesus. Tortured writing like that would get you a dire glance and a bad grade in any newswriting class I ever took.

  The New York Times notes that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said during his Senate confirmation hearing that the court's most recent Second Amendment decision, in 1939, left "very open" the question of whether the amendment protected an individual or a collective right to bear arms. Could this mean we gun nuts will have to join "well-regulated Militias" and start drilling on weekends? Could we find ourselves pulling 15-month hitches in Iraq? Stay tuned — the case is likely to come up for argument come spring.

  While we're discussing fine machinery, anyone have a recommendation for a digital SLR camera? I want to get something with a few more bells and whistles than my leetle Canon PowerShot SD600 point-and-shoot, but nothing so advanced as to be incomprehensible to my lizard brain. I've looked at and handled the Canon Digital Rebel XT and XTi, the Nikon D40 and D40X, and the Pentax K100D Super, and like 'em all; they also get stellar ratings from Macworld, but I take consumer-magazine recommendations with a grain of salt, plus lime and tequila.

  Over the years, I've owned a number of Canon cameras, from a bulletproof A1 with a 200mm lens and motor drive (a gift from a sports editor who wanted shots of bike races) to a series of Digital Elph point-and-shoots, and they've all been stellar. Never owned a Nikon, but I know a lot of pro shooters who swear by 'em. And the only Pentax I've ever owned I got in a swap with a person of dubious reputation involving items that are probably better left undiscussed (I definitely came off second best in that bargain with the devil, though the camera proved acceptable).

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Different (pedal) strokes

  Bored with all my usual haunts, I threw the Soma Double Cross atop the Forester and drove south for my first visit to Cheyenne Mountain State Park today, which the weather wizards say will be our last day of decent weather before a cold front whisks in. Talk about your big fun — there was hardly a soul on the trails (a few hikers, no cyclists), so I basically had the entire joint to myself.

  This is a perfect park for a cyclo-cross bike (here's a map in .pdf format). Moderate climbs, swooping, sinuous descents and a few rock gardens to keep you on your toes. Only one of the trails I tackled, Medicine Wheel, was what I'd call heavily mountain-bikey; I did quite a bit of walking on that bad boy. For everything else, suspension and burly knobbies would've been the velo-equivalent of tits on a boar hog (though I'll confess I'd have liked a low end of 34x30 instead of 34x28 for a couple short hills and a set of Michelin Jets instead of an old pair of Vredestein Campos). The best part? No dogs, no horses and no smoking permitted. We get an iPod ban here and I'll declare it heaven on earth.

  I rode Blackmer Loop, Talon, Sundance, Zook Loop and portions of Medicine Wheel (hey, I'm not entirely retarded). And now I wish I'd spent some time there this summer instead of doggedly plying the usual routes. Ah, well — wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up faster.

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  This just in from the Ministry of Truth: The Green Car of the Year 2008, named at the Los Angeles Auto Show, is the Chevy Tahoe hybrid, which gets an astounding 21 mpg, or about 2 mpg less than my 1983 Toyota pickup. Of course, my rice-grinder doesn't have a 6.0-liter V-8 engine, seat as many as eight, carry as much as 1,400 pounds of cargo or tow 6,200 pounds, all of which are must-haves for the suburban soccer mom or links-bound golf addict. Jesus wept.

  Meanwhile, as Jim Hightower warns of Gen. George Armstrong Bush's plans to attack Iran, Fred Kagen and Michael O'Hanlon say it's time to start considering "our feasible military options" in Pakistan. Maybe, given the nature of the tinhorn Napoleons running foreign policy these days, it would be easier to start cataloguing the countries we don't need to knock over.

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The countdown begins

  Over at The San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford notes that it is officially less than a year until the next presidential election sweeps BushCo into the dustbin of history. Notes Morford:

It is now safe to imagine. It is now becoming increasingly easy to actually dare to think that, in less than one year's time, Dubya will begin packing his bags, jamming into his Spongebob duffel his map of the world coloring book, English-to-English translation dictionaries, mangled pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, Bibleman action figure set and a "Mission Accomplished!" sweatshirt, and heading off to face his destiny as one of the bleakest, most morally repellent chapters in all of American history.

  This is assuming, of course, that Gen. Pervez Busharraf decides to step down in '09 instead of declaring a state of emergency, sacking the judiciary, installing a caretaker government, and in general just keepin' on keepin on'.

  Keepin' on keepin' on is what The Turkinator is all about. Here he uses his repulsor beams to keep an attacking Mia Sopaipilla at bay.

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Busy, busy, busy

  Stop the VeloNews.com website, I wanna get off. Jesus. Whoever called this "the off-season" should be beaten to death with a Park Tools chain whip. Ten-hour days are not my idea of a casual free-lance gig, is what I'm saying. Good thing I boiled up a giant cauldron of chicken soup while in the grip of the Red Death, as cooking was the last thing on my mind come wine-thirty.

  Seasonal temperatures have returned to bedevil me and Turkish, a.k.a. Mighty Whitey, the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg. Like Daniel Boone Davis's cat Pete in Robert Heinlein's "The Door Into Summer," he can't understand why every open door leads to the deep freeze. Mia, of course, is too young, too under-immunized and too-unspayed to be allowed outdoors, although she queues up at the door with Big Turk just the same.

  The other day, Herself bought me a DVD of "Tim Allen: Live On Stage," which includes the fabled standup, "Men Are Pigs." If you know Allen only as the fatuous turd floating in various Disney bowls, you've missed out. "Men Are Pigs" is a solid 47 minutes of comedy, as is the companion piece, "Tim Allen Rewires America" (there is some overlap, but not annoyingly so). They provided the underpinnings for his TV show, "Home Improvement," the upshot of a gaggle of network execs and hack writers pissing in his comedy until they decided they liked the taste.

  The worst part of the DVD is an interview with modern-day Allen, who comes off as a cross between Ahab and William Shatner. The twin ravages of time and money have not been kind to the man, who has the startled look of a chicken-stealing weasel in a flashlight beam. I made a ton of money, so what if I'm a self-obsessed, bloated gasbag and about as funny as a rectal polyp, fuck you, he seems to say. Dude definitely sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

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Gay Bay ganja

  What the fuck is Nancy Pelosi smoking? Whatever it is, I want some, 'cause it apparently gives reality the old heave-ho. The bug-eyed ol' bat actually thinks she can find "common ground" with The Kompassionate Keystone Kommando on legislation to provide billions in funding for education, health care, job training and other domestic programs when all he cares about is sacrificing other people's children on the altar of his own obsession in hopes of bringing the baby JeezWhiz back, preferably at the helm of a supertanker. That's what I call some good shit. And frankly, the wine just isn't getting the job done anymore.

  Elsewhere, Dubya's Mini-Me is also deep into the herb, blaming Condi Rice for laying some "negative vibes" on him and totally harshing his mellow. Kinda makes a guy nostalgic for the good old days, when players on the global stage didn't inhale.

  Meanwhile, what's that tagline from the "Clerks" flicks? "I'm not even supposed to be here!" I spent the day toiling in the VeloNews.com salt mines while head honcho Charles Pelkey jets off to Madrid for a "doping conference." Yeah, right. Drinking rioja with Euro' correspondent Andrew Hood is more like it. I told Hoody to fix the big krauthead up with a lanky Czech shemale and to take plenty pix. If we catch him pole-dancing you'll be the first to know.

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Talking to Ralph

  A spicy marinara over farfalle with a side of salad and a few glasses of Columbia Valley red looks a lot better on the table than in the toilet, especially if you happen to have that toilet in a frantic embrace come midnight. That's what I was up to early Sunday, and while I left occasionally to toss and turn on the basement futon, I returned frequently to the big white phone to place an urgent call to Jesus. He never picked up.

  Today I feel vaguely human, which is a good thing, as I have a ton of work to do for VeloNews.com and Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. A pot of chicken soup is bubbling on the range, and I have otherwise eaten lightly and cautiously. But I think it's going to be a while before I can look at a tomato-based sauce again. It doesn't taste nearly as nice coming up as it does going down.

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Mailer goes west

  Norman Mailer is dead at 84. Oddly, his favorite book is mine, too — "Tough Guys Don't Dance," a trifle he tossed off in two months to pay the taxman.

  I have a couple more of Mailer's books lying around here; "Armies of the Night," "The Executioner's Song." But I always found him a tough slog, because Mailer himself was always in the way. Gore Vidal may have said it best: "Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements."

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Oil's well that ends well?

  Gas prices continue to rise, topping three smacks per gallon here in Bibleburg and elsewhere in Colorado. And this latest "energy shock," quoth The New York Times, has less to do with scarcity than it does with the rising demand for gasoline in China, India and other developing economies. "This is the world¹s first demand-led energy shock," said Lawrence Goldstein, an economist at the Energy Policy Research Foundation of Washington. Oh, goody. Here's a fun bit from that piece:

India and China are home to about a third of humanity. People there are demanding access to electricity, cars, and consumer goods and can increasingly afford to compete with the West for access to resources. In doing so, the two Asian giants are profoundly transforming the world's energy balance.

Today, China consumes only a third as much oil as the United States, which burns a quarter of the world's oil each day. By 2030, India and China together will import as much oil as the United States and Japan do today.

While demand is growing fastest abroad, Americans' appetite for big cars and large houses has pushed up oil demand steadily in this country, too. Europe has managed to rein in oil consumption through a combination of high gasoline taxes, small cars and efficient public transportation, but Americans have not. Oil consumption in the United States, where gasoline is far cheaper than in Europe, has jumped to 21 million barrels a day this year, from about 17 million barrels in the early 1990s.

  Lube up those bicycle chains, ladies and gentlemen. Your Hummers are headed for the tar pits.

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Taking it to the streets

  What's the difference between the United States and Pakistan? Well, in Pakistan, when a tinpot dictator wipes his fat ass with the constitution, packs the judiciary with his henchmen and sets the cops to thumping the citizenry, the citizenry fights back. Bloody wogs; no respect for the King, wot? Are the shops all closed? Is there nothing on television? That is all. You may now return to the reality-avoidance mechanism of your choice.

  Speaking of the judiciary, not all jurists are Torquemadas in waiting — unlike Michael Mukasey, who is on his way to becoming the next attorney general thanks in part to the craven Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer. Take, for example, former National Guard JAG Evan Wallach, who reminds us in The Washington Post that waterboarding used to be a crime. Of course, that was back when other less democracy-minded people did it. Thanks and a snap of the soggy dog towel goes out to Khal S.

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Are you ready for some ... re-runs?

  The Writers Guild of America is taking it to the streets, and those of you who live for the retarded gaze of the One Big Eye are shit out of luck for the time being. The Los Angeles Times is all over it here and here, and The New York Times has a bit here.

  Funnymen who do their work day to day, like Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien and David Letterman, are particularly deep in the doo as the folks who write the laugh lines walk picket lines instead. Says Jay Leno: "I don't know what we're going to do."

  Well, I know what we're going to do. Keep not watching television, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on the barricades. Power to the people!


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  I don't drive that much, so you probably noticed this before I did, but gas prices are on the rise again. The other day I took note of a 7-Eleven sign hawking go-juice at a dime per gallon more than I paid during my last fillup a couple weeks ago, and the Lundberg Survey says the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular was $2.96 on Friday, up 16 cents from the previous survey two weeks earlier — and up 78 cents from this same time last year.

  All in all, it's an excellent argument for spending more time in the saddle and less behind the steering wheel, especially on a day like today, when the high topped out at around 74 degrees. O'Schenk and I went for a 'cross-bike ride in Palmer Park, and since I had added a fat set of 700x38 WTB Allterrainasauruses to the old Soma Double Cross, I did not fall down, although somebody else did (I will name no names). The Allterrainasaurus is a pretty good tire for soft sand and navigating rocks, ravines and other wheel-grabbers, but I'm thinking of switching to the Interwolf, which seems better suited to Palmer Park's degraded trails and is considerably lighter to boot.

  Post-ride, I pretended to rake leaves and water the lawn as Herself was on a Mission from God, housecleaning-wise, even cranking up the self-cleaning aspect of our newish range for the first time. This was not unlike lifting the lid on Hell and taking a great big whiff. Damn near stunk us right out of the house, and hours later every fan in the joint is still pegged at Warp Factor Five. I'd rather get in there and chase the burnt bits with a hammer and chisel than go through that again.

  While we're in the kitchen, let me lodge a complaint about Religious Experience enchilada sauce. Lazy swine that I am, I've been using this bottled stuff for my buffalo enchiladas for a while now instead of making my own red chile sauce, but the wild swings in quality are sending me back to sweating over a hot stove. Religious Experience started out strongly, resembling a decent northern New Mexican red sauce, certainly standing head and shoulders above the canned Hatch stuff. Then, recently, it mutated into a thick, brick-red goo that didn't so much simmer as solidify, and I took to thinning it with some Hatch red to make it easier to work with. Well, someone else must've pitched a bitch about the trend toward burnt-umber sludge, 'cause this last jar I brought home has the consistency and color of the Hatch sauce, but with an overly sweet, tomatoey taste. Frankly, I wouldn't feed it to a New Yorker. Better you should try one of the red-chile recipes in The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook.

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Let's play Risk!

  This bloody board game that the Chickenhawk-in-Chief has gotten us into is starting to run short of meat for the grinder. According to Blue Girl by way of Kevin Drum, the Army started off its recruiting year with the fewest recruits signed up for basic training since the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force in 1973. And it's only going to get worse — according to BG, Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Pentagon reporters on Wednesday that the diminished number of delayed-enlistment recruits in the pipeline "will make it extremely difficult to reach the goals for 2008."

  But wait, there's more! In order to barely meet its goals of 80,000 new recruits per year, the Army has been admitting a staggering percentage of them on waivers. Again, BG: "In FY 2006, fully 17 percent of all recruits were admitted under waivers for psychological, criminal and health problems. Nearly one in five who were actively recruited would not have gotten five minutes of a recruiter's time five years ago."

  And finally, captains, majors and mid-level NCO's are becoming increasingly vocal, and many of them are not re-upping. Whether it's the repeated deployments, disillusionment with the futile war in Iraq, or having to babysit unfit soldiers who never should have been signed on the dotted line, the backbone of the armed services is collapsing under all the heavy lifting brought on by a needless, pointless war.

  Meanwhile, Mia, a.k.a. Mighty Meows, continues to Fight the Power that is Turkish, a.k.a. Turkenstein, The Turkinator, The Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg, et al. They enjoy a few rounds every morning before settling down to breakfast and then a long nap — Mia upstairs under a couchside lamp, and Turk downstairs on a carpeted basement window shelf. Between naps, Mia works out on the speed bag, as shown at right.

  In other news, a ratbag fascist nutcase who already has the bomb has declared a state of emergency in Pakistan, sacking the chief justice of the supreme court, suspending the constitution and flooding the streets with police. Sayeth The New York Times: "In a rambling, 45-minute speech broadcast on state-run television after midnight, General Musharraf said he had declared the emergency 'in order to preserve the democratic transition that I initiated eight years back." In other words, he had to destroy democracy in order to save it. Gee, I wonder whom he was using for a role model? There's probably no truth to the rumor that Condi has ordered a squadron of flying monkeys to take up station over Islamabad.

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Demublican, Republicrat, what's the difference?

  Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have caved, which means that Michael Mukasey — a guy who won't call waterboarding torture — is almost certain to be the next attorney general of these Benighted States. Anyone surprised? The Donks somehow manage to talk tougher than Russell Crowe while simultaneously backing up faster than a French tank.

  Meanwhile, for those of you who can't understand why a professional athlete might break the rules to achieve fame and fortune, check this out: USA Track & Field has banned the use of headphones and portable audio players in its official races, but at last weekend's Marine Corps Marathon "nothing, no magical stories of crowd noise or strict rules that threatened disqualification, deterred some iPod users ... from bringing their music along on the 26.2-mile journey through scenic Washington and Virginia. They tucked them into their shorts, taped them to the inside of their bras, shoved them into tiny belts. They hid their headphones under headbands and ball caps."

  One guy you'd think might have a vested interest in following the letter of the law, Long Island police officer Richie Sais, told The New York Times: "I dare them to find the iPod on me." He had clipped his iPod Shuffle under his shirt.

  Nothing was at stake here, beyond a few dipshits' perceived "right" to be oblivious in traffic. And the testing was simple beyond belief — anyone with earbuds in was guilty as charged. It all boils down to this: "Fuck you, the rules don't apply to me." End of story.

  Frankly, I don't get it. Why would you wish to be absent from your own achievement? I'd want to take it all in, every bit of it, and the exterior soundscape — not some pre-programmed playlist — is part of the experience. You want a soundtrack, stay at home and watch TV. Whoops, there isn't gonna be any for a while. Whatever will America do? Read the newspaper?

  And finally, in feline news, Mia was very disappointed that Satan didn't pop by on Halloween. She had a jack-o'-lantern for him and everything.

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Happy Halloween

The IWW sabot-cat with its back up is aptly chosen this All Hallows Eve, as Turk and Mia have spent some time stalking thusly around each other, hissing riffs on the ever-popular "Yo' mama" theme. Turk has the reach and the weight, but Mia has the speed and the moves, and tonight they settled down to see who will wear the championship belt in these parts.

  Mia, of course, simply wanted to play. But Turk, having totally spaced his relentless pursuit of the late Chairman Meow all of five months earlier, couldn't remember what this whole kitten deal was about and spent the early rounds dancing around the ring, trying to figure out why the hell this furry midget was chasing him like he was wearing a liverwurst suit and a fish-head medallion. But after a few brisk laps he seemed to recall that he was a feline Wladimir Klitschko matched against a 5-year-old kid who just got over the flu. So he finally stepped up and gave the Kid a couple of cuffs that changed the name of the game from track to boxing.

  I don't know anything about how cats settle their dominance issues, so I kept well back in my role as referee and let 'em work. It didn't look like either was using claws, but the Big Turk had a pretty good right jab, and I had to give the Kid a couple standing eight-counts. Mia landed a couple of good ones herself, though, and nearly suckered the big guy once — she sank into what looked like a submissive pose, but as Turkenstein stalked over, she suddenly leapt at him and nearly startled the cat chow out of him. He went backward faster than Tom Boonen on Ventoux with a jersey full of bidons.

  But size and strength will tell, and once Mia was backed up under the futon I called it for the winnah, and still champeen, Turkish, a.k.a., Mighty Whitey the Wonder Weasel, the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg. I've scheduled a rematch for tomorrow, and with any luck at all, by week's end these two will be sparring partners instead of champ and contender.

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Well, dog my cats

  Round three of the Verge MAC series, the Beacon Cyclocross on Nov. 10 iin Bridgeton, N.J., will donate proceeds from food and drink sales during the race to Beacon Animal Rescue.

  Volunteers from the shelter will be slinging grub for meat eaters and vegans alike atop the course¹s signature obstacle, the "Amphitheatre of Pain" run-up. The shelter is also asking for donations of money, cat food (preferably 9 Lives or Friskies), dog food (preferably Pedigree) and anything else normally needed to care for a cat or dog.

  The non-profit shelter, located in Ocean View, N.J., rescues domestic animals facing euthanasia in shelters. Before making the animals available for adoption, Beacon spays and neuters, vaccinates, de-worms, tests dogs for heartworms, and tests cats for feline leukemia and feline AIDS.

  Helping pets in need is a good fit for cyclocross, says promoter Wade Hess.

  "Maybe it'll rain cats and dogs," he said. "That would be perfect."

  Meanwhile, here in Bibleburg, The Kitten Formerly Known As Garbo (henceforth to be called Mia) is due to be released from solitary when Herself returns from work this evening. Introducing her to Turkish should be amusing, and frankly I can't wait to get my crapper back. My reading is suffering.

  Meanwhile, I find myself in complete agreement with President Alfred E. "Worry!" Bush when he says, "Congress is not getting its work done." Those preening, posturing pimpleheads should get down to the serious business of impeaching his ass, and the much fatter ass of Darth Cheney; ending the war in Iraq; and preventing a war with Iran. The sense I get from DeeCee is that both sides are letting the clock run out on this cynical game they're playing, but I'm not entirely certain that co-captains Daffy and Fudd are going to take their team off the field when the whistle blows. They don't respect any other aspect of the Constitution — what makes you think they give a shit about Amendment 22?

  Late update: The kitten has landed — and she and Turk the Jerk got off to something of a rocky start. You can see their inaugural interaction here.

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Where there's smoke . . .

  I was wondering what that high cloudiness was as I rolled north through the Air Force Academy. I thought maybe it was the prescribed burn at Fort Carson, but turns out it was smoke from the Southern California wildfires. Back in Weirdcliffe we got used to sniffing smoke whenever Arizona caught fire, but damn.

  Still, it was a beautiful day for a ride, with Blue Zoomies jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, gliders being towed aloft and released, and Tom Tancredo declining to further embarrass Colorado in Congress (he'd rather do it from the White House). Some stud on a 'cross bike passed me so fast I instinctively looked down to check for flat tires or rubbing brakes, and when I looked back up he was long gone. Put 30 seconds on me in less time than it took to type this sentence. Probably on dope. But I couldn't catch him to piss-test him, so we'll just have to go with the standard hearsay, rumor and innuendo on this one.

  Meanwhile, how 'bout them Rockies and Broncos? You know the difference between a Denver ball club and Linda Lovelace? Linda never choked on a big one.

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All hat, no cattle: The sequel

  Ladies and gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, we bring you Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani. One's a bozo, the other's a bully, and both are bullshitters. Thompson says he spent his three years as an assistant U.S. attorney "prosecuting most of the major federal crimes in middle Tennessee — most of the major ones." But mostly he went after moonshiners, and he couldn't even win a case against a sheriff who sold an illegal still to an undercover federal agent. As for Giuliani, well, if you like the Cowboy-in-Chief, you're gonna love his urban counterpart. As Josh Marshall notes in pointing out this Washington Post piece by David Greenberg, "Rudy's reputation for liberalism is based on three factors — abortion rights, gay rights and serial adultery. In which order, I'm not certain. But those basically cover it. On most other key issues Rudy is fundamentally an authoritarian, and thus a right-winger on the key issues of the day. And that's a product Republicans are buying."

  Here on the home front, The Kitten Previously Known as Garbo is bouncing back from her bout with feline upper-respiratory infection. Poor little bugger was sick as a dog (you should pardon the expression) on Wednesday — lost her voice, her purr and a whole bunch of rambunctiousness — but the past couple of days she's been bouncing off the walls in the upstairs bathroom, where we've been keeping her to avoid giving the bug to The Turkinator. The big lug has been vaccinated, but apparently this is no guarantee of anything other than the depletion of one's bank account.

  Until we're sure she's no longer contagious, we keep the two furballs separated, popping in every hour or so to play with the kitten and make sure she's eating and drinking. Early reports are that the bathtub and sink are big fun, as are wire strainers, yellow plastic balls with bells in them (as shown at left), blue plastic balls with yellow feathers attached, fake mice, litter scoops, shower curtains and people's shoulders. Also, human ears are apparently quite tasty, presenting a refreshing departure from kitten chow.

  The big downside of this quarantine is that we have only a bath and a half here at Dog Central, which means I've been forced to use the downstairs toilet more than I care to, and it cost me this morning. The finished basement apparently required lower ceilings to accommodate overhead ducting, pipes and wiring, and as a consequence greatly shortened doors (sure, 'tis the Land of the Little People so). And while this is no problem for Herself, who stands 5 feet and one-half inch tall, this morning her 6-foot-tall husband bashed a great bloody hole in the top of his freshly shaven head on the bathroom-door lintel while exiting sans spectacles. I look like I've been blackjacked, and wearing a helmet for today's ride is going to be an interesting experience in pain management. Maybe I'll go all Euro' and do without. What's left to damage?

  And now, a word from the editor: Say, kids, if you're putting on a race and want to see the results in print or online somewhere pronto, how 'bout skipping the PDF/Excel cryptography and sticking with HTML, plain text or good ol' Microsoft Word? And pix? Telling your friendly neighborhood editor who's in 'em sure makes the night go more smoothly. All these skinny honkies in Lycra look alike, even to us bicycle people, so one can only imagine what the stick-and-ball mouth-breathers at the local daily think. "Aw, piss on it, it's either Georgia Gould or Chris Horner. Pick one and let's go get drunk. Say, what's the difference between any Denver pro ball club and Linda Lovelace? Give up? Linda never choked on the big one."

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Vaya con Dios, Señora Atencio

  Frances Atencio, who with husband Luis founded the excellent restaurant El Paragua 43 years ago in Española, New Mexico, died Thursday. She was 83. My former employer, The New Mexican, has a short obituary here. When I applied for a job at The New Mexican back in 1987, I rode down to Santa Fe with my friends Hal and Mary, and on a whim we stopped at El Paragua for lunch. On the way back, we stopped in once more for dinner, and when I got the job, I decided to live in Española — La Puebla, to be specific — because I wanted to be as close to that restaurant as I could get without actually marrying into the family and taking a job waiting tables.

  After the Tour de Los Alamos one year I nearly ate my way through the entire left side of the menu. But normally I'd pop in once or twice weekly for the combination plate, which was a meal and a half — carne adovada, posole, refritos, arroz and a taco, tamale and enchilada, all smothered in their delicious green chile. A giant basket of chips and a cup of killer salsa went along with it, and a couple of Pacificos later I'd generally be ready for a long nap. Riding a couple hundred miles a week and racing every weekend kept me from swelling into the sort of blimp one might see overhead at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

  Herself and I had our first date and our pre-wedding dinner there, and after we moved into a small house on Romero Street in Santa Fe we'd still drive out to Española now and then to savor Señora Atencio's cooking. Once we left New Mexico for Colorado Springs, I missed those meals, and taught myself how to cook some simple New Mexican dishes, though I've never even come close to her excellence.

  Damn. If only Española were a couple hours closer. I'm hungry all of a sudden, for some reason.

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Cyclocross in the Gazette?

  Believe it or not, the local cage-liner has a brief article on cyclocross, my favorite thing to do while clothed and sober. Naturally, they had to go all the way to Sacramento and McClatchy Newspapers to get it, and the only local angle was a mention of the next local race, coming up Nov. 18 at Bear Creek Regional Park, and a brief nod to a blog by local 'cross aficionado Rob Lucas, but what the hell? No such thing as bad press, right? Besides, the sports staff was probably busy weeping over the second thumping handed to the Colorado Christians by the Boston Barbarians. We feel your pain, guys.*

* No, we don't.

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Hail, hail Pacifica

  Over at The Smirking Chimp, Stephen Pizzo calls for a Manhattan Project-style "skunkworks" to reboot the wildly oscillating U.S. government. Says Pizzo:

The magic of a skunkworks is that it breaks great minds free from calcified, rule-bound, special-interest-afflicted, group-think-crippled organizations. And if ever there was an organization that fits that description today, it's the USA itself.

  Pizzo proposes giving three states — California, Oregon and Washington — a quarter-century "time out" to come up with " fresh solutions to the most serious, potentially deadly and intractable problems facing the nation and the world today," saying that the trio has "all the resources — financial, agricultural, industrial, political, industrial and intellectual — required to survive and thrive on their own."

  Maybe so. But I'd still like to see a little East Coast brash in the mix, along with some Midwestern caution, a hint of Southern flair, a dollop of New England town meeting and some vigorous Mountain West athleticism, with a dash of Southwest for flavor. How about enlisting one brainy, compassionate person from each definitive region of the United States — including Pizzo's Pacifica — and dropping them into a publicly funded think tank for a decade?

  Meanwhile, in sporting news, the Boston Barbarians sacked New Rome last night, flogging the Colorado Christians 13-1. God must have been away on business.

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From bad to worse?

  The Washington Monthly's November issue contains a piece by Rachel Morris on what Rudy Giuliani might be like as president, and Kevin Drum provides a couple telling excerpts (think bad; really, really bad). Kevin then opines thusly:

Choosing the best presidential candidate among the 2008 contenders is a tough job. Picking the worst is easy. Rudy Giuliani is the guy you'd get if you put George Bush and Dick Cheney into a wine press and squeezed out their pure combined essence: unbounded arrogance and self-righteousness, a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood, a studied contempt for anybody's opinion but his own, a vindictive streak a mile wide, and a devotion to secrecy and executive power unmatched in presidential history. He is a disaster waiting to happen.

  Meanwhile, the current occupant of the Oval Office is a bigger spender of the taxpayers' dollars than any president since LBJ, according to McClatchy Newspapers. Suck on that, you faux-conservative pinheads, then go scrape the Bush-Cheney 2004 stickers off your bumpers and flush the bullshit out of your headgear.

  In other news, Fareed Zakaria says Iran isn't quite the boogeyman the Daffy-Fudd duo would like it to be:

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

  Welcome to Bizarro World, Fareed old scout. And forget about flying anywhere anytime soon, unless it's to Gitmo, stuffed into a Marine Corps footlocker with a few air holes punched in it with an M-16. Thanks and a tip of the Che beret to The Aristocrats.

  And while we're discussing the news, here's an interesting opinion piece from Jack Lessenberry on the state of journalism today.

  Late update: Yes, Tom Tancredo is insane. On behalf of the state of Colorado, I'd like to apologize for sending this ham actor out to chew scenery on the national stage. But he's in good company with Capt. George W. Queeg, who seems hellbent to go to war — pardon me, send other less-well-connected Americans to war — with everyone from Iran to Cuba. What a shame this White House is more rigidly choreographed than a May Day parade in the old Soviet Union. It would be something to see the mother of a dead soldier slap the smirk right off this REMF during one of his fabled photo-op medal ceremonies. Sharing a grip-and-grin with this all-hat, no-cattle sonofabitch would be like buying a tank of gas and a bottle of Scotch for the drunken driver who ran over your puppy.

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Of cats and (Mad) dogs

  OK, we're back to the land of the living here after a very long and trying weekend that brought the first hint of winter, a piddly little snowfall that nevertheless kept us mostly indoors on Sunday. Thanks once again to everyone who dropped us a note expressing condolences at Ike's passing; health, happiness and long lives to you and your furry friends.

  Hoping to lift the gloom a bit, we dropped by the Humane Society to look over the inmates, all those frantic furry faces staring out at us from behind the glass walls ("I didn't no nothin', I tell ya! It's a frame-up! Y'gotta get me outa here!"). In our emotionally weakened state, we were no match for the wide-eyed kitten the staff had dubbed "Garbo," and as a consequence we are once again a two-cat family. Two-kitten family is more like it, since Turkish is all of 8 months old.

  It'll be interesting to see how the big galoot likes having a kitten chasing him around the way he did Ike. But that will have to wait for a bit, as the youngster has a touch of feline upper-respiratory disorder; we're keeping the two apart until she completes a course of medication, which should be early next week. Then, the fun starts. Garbo is a frisky little nipper with an oversized purrbox, even with a cold. She should give Mighty Whitey the Wonder Weasel (seen here watching the snow fly from a kitchen window) a run for his money.

  Elsewhere, a half-million people are facing the loss of more than a beloved cat as wind-driven wildfires that are visible from space engulf Southern California. We, and you, probably, have friends there; here's hoping everyone's OK (including their pets). Pray that the fire spares the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, because if a flame ever hits all those comic books, lame movie scripts and nudie pix of Oliver North the whole state is a goner.

  Back home in Bibleburg, the snow that so enthralled Turkenstein the other day is long since gone, and I spent today raking up a few bags of soggy leaves from the maple in the front yard and letting him supervise between bouts of running amok in the neighborhood. Herself insists that he needs massive quantities of outside time to cool his overheated circuitry, but I confess I get twitchy if he's gone too long. This ain't Weirdcliffe, but we do have predators — foxes, coyotes, feral cats, automobiles and the biggest killer of all, the Neoconservative Born-Again Faux Republican in Dire Need of a Plexiglas Bellybutton So (S)he Can See Where (S)he's Sending the Troops.

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Ike 'Chairman Meow' O'Grady, R.I.P.

  With the Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse trampling the planet daily, it seems self-indulgent to grieve for a scrawny cat with the coat of a soggy Norway rat and the disposition of a right-wing talk-radio host.

  But damn it, I miss Ike.

  We collected Ike and her sister Tina eight or nine years ago as kittens after they turned up as foundlings at a friend's house in Wetmore. He was all catted out, but figured we could do with a couple of mousers during what was an epic rodent season in the Wet Mountain Valley, and we agreed.

  Both kittens were female, so the nomenclature takes a little explaining. Their idea of a really good time early on was fishing turds out of the litterbox and playing kitchen hockey with them, so we called them "turd herders." As one blossomed into a lushly beautiful, affectionate black cat while the other remained a scraggly gray runt with an attitude problem, I christened them Ike and Tina Turdherder. It's just the way my mind works, or doesn't; take your pick.

  Tina proved a merciless hunter, conducting a pogrom on not only mice, but lizards, birds, baby bunnies and the occasional Jehovah's Witness. She piled up a substantial karmic debt, and it came due when some even more efficient predator did her in, leaving us with Ike. Go figure, we mused — the big, beautiful cat with the perpetual purr gets snuffed and the greasy malcontent walks the earth.

  Indeed, Ike had already had her own "Wild Kingdom" moment and survived it. Custer County was lousy with predators — mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, feral dogs, owls, eagles, Realtors, you name it — and one got hold of her, leaving her with several nasty bites and a fractured skull, right down the centerline of her face. When I found her hiding in the woodpile, she was covered in blood and shit, one eye was swollen shut and a bubble of fur in her forehead pulsed with her respiration.

  Then we had one of those Western moments. Ike was in a real bad way, the nearest veterinarian was a long ways off and the .22 pistol was right there, with a full magazine. Long pause for thought.

  Nope, can't do it. A cat that walks out of the ring under her own power after 12 rounds with Death deserves better.

  Forty-five minutes later, a Cañon City vet was shaking his head at the extent of the damage. He couldn't do much beyond providing steroids, antibiotics and an overnight stay for observation. Ike would either live or die, and which one it would be was mostly up to her.

  Next morning, when I called the vet, he said in a tone of wonderment that Ike was up and about, looking like she'd been shot at and hit, and then shit at and hit once again, but prowling about and meowing for food. The only lasting effect was a weepy eye, a souvenir of her shattered sinus cavity.

  Never a cuddly cat, and deeply suspicious of everyone and everything (she would've made a fine investigative reporter if only she'd had opposable thumbs, a more ingratiating manner and a familiarity with the QWERTY keyboard), Ike nevertheless blossomed somewhat once the dominant Tina was gone and she was the only cat in the house. She tried hunting deer once (bad idea; a small buck chased her up onto the deck) and developed a fondness for playing Door (me on one side with a magazine or newspaper, Ike on the other batting at it from underneath).

  For some reason, perhaps because she could not read and thus had no idea what an opinionated asshole I am, she was fond of me, following me around like a dog, coming when I called, and curling up on the footstool to my office rocker for a snooze while I tapped away at the keyboard or scribbled a cartoon. If I whistled "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth, she would leap into my lap and head-bump me, burbling. Now and then she'd grant a brief snuggle come bedtime, but she never stayed long, preferring to sleep on a cavelike basement shelf stuffed with sleeping bags, comforters and a zafu and zabuton from when I fancied myself a Zen student.

  She liked being up high, where she could keep a watchful eye on things. In Westcliffe, she preferred the beam that bisected the living room from back to front. In Colorado Springs, it was the wooden pergola over our back deck, which we cover with a fabric sunshade in summer. Ike would sharpen her claws at the base of one of the nearby black walnut trees, then rocket up the trunk to a skinny limb that provided a springboard to the pergola. She'd stalk about up there for a while as we sipped wine beneath, then announce that she wished to come down, now, at once, thank you very much. She could get down by herself, of course, but she preferred that I rescue her. Dogs have owners; cats have staff.

  When the black walnuts fell victim to drought and had to come down, Ike's rooftop saunters were over. She could reach the deck's railings, but you could tell it just wasn't the same; too easy. Occasionally she'd perch on a rock that sat where the trees had been, looking thoughtful, as if wondering whatever happened to the stairway to heaven.

  One of her greatest challenges came late in life — adapting to a new roommate. We had discussed getting a kitten, reasoning that Ike might enjoy the company, but when Herself brought one home it was immediately clear that we had been mistaken, especially as the newcomer, dubbed Turkish — part Turkish Van, see the Guy Ritchie movie "Snatch," yeah, we're weird — began to swell up as though he were inflatable and attached to a gas-station air hose. At seven months he was twice her size. The big galoot tried manfully to get Ike to play with him, but got nothing but hisses and bats to the snoot for his troubles. We joked that they would be cuddled up and sleeping together in two or three years, tops. Five at the outside.

  They didn't get a chance to grow comfortable with each other, though. On Wednesday evening Ike suddenly began panting heavily, then collapsed, briefly losing governance of her hindquarters. We took her to a veterinary emergency room where we learned she had an enlarged heart and fluid in the lungs — the feline equivalent of congestive heart failure — and probably had had a blood clot break loose on top of it. Heart disease in cats can be treatable, if caught early, but once symptoms manifest themselves, all bets are off.

  I visited Ike on Thursday afternoon, and the vet was cautiously optimistic. We discussed some treatment therapies, and I went home, reassured. Ike's tough, I thought. She kicked Death's ass once before, she can do it again.

  Well, no. Death won the rematch. We cried, drank too much wine — a bottle of Chateau Pesquie Terrasses 2004, from Ventoux, to honor Ike's love of heights — and listened to the Ninth.

  Then on Friday, we laid her to rest under the stone she used to perch atop, framing it with some small black-walnut logs, all that remain of her stairway to heaven. She was wrapped in one of my old shirts, with a vial of table cream and a couple of family photos to keep her company.

  Turkish, the great fool, failed to grasp the significance of what had occurred, leaping into and out of the grave as I dug it.

  Oh, to be a kitten again.


  • Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Daily Dog readers who were kind enough to express their condolences upon Ike's untimely passing. Table cream for all Ike's friends!

      And now, for something completely different: Having laid one cat to rest, it's only right that we should see how another cat wakes his person up:

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    General Hospital

      Yesterday was one of those days, apparently. Big Jonny of DrunkCyclist enjoyed a nuts-meet-stem moment thanks to a stormwater grate (don't click through to that one if you're in the cube farm, unless you want the boss to think you've gone all Larry Craig on him). And our eldest cat Ike — a.k.a. Chairman Meow, Ho Chi Meow, Mary Tyler Meow, et al — decided to develop a case of cardiomyopathy and a subsequent blood clot that briefly paralyzed her rear legs and sent us scurrying to the animal emergency care center at dark-thirty. After we picked up the tab for that action, I reminded Herself that she is to shoot me, not take me to the ER, if I should fall down while sober or act any weirder than usual. A box of .357 shells only costs $16, and she doesn't even need to buy one, 'cause the fucker's always loaded in case a literary critic decides to pay a call.

      Late update: Swung by the vet to visit the Chairman, bearing another wheelbarrow full of money. She had a rough morning, and is a touch unsteady on her pins yet, so the vet recommended she spend another evening under observation. Ike seems irked with me for getting her into this predicament, wherein spooky, speedy trips in the hated automobile deliver her into the hands of strangers in lab coats, who pop up without warning brandishing thermometers and hypos like satanic docs-in-the-box.

      And it must be my fault, somehow. Ike never asked to come live with us. We snatched her and sister Tina off the mean streets of Wetmore and that makes us responsible. As another Bibleburg resident, Robert Heinlein, once noted in "Time Enough for Love": ""Nevertheless, once you pick up a stray cat and feed it, you cannot abandon it. Self-love forbids it. The cat's welfare becomes essential to your own peace of mind — even when it's a bloody nuisance not to break faith with the cat." Or as George Carlin once said of acquiring pets, "It's going to end badly," and we're supposed to know that going in.

      Zen gag of the day: There are two muffins in an oven. One says, "Shit, is it hot in here." The other one says, "Fuck, a talking muffin." Thanks and a poot of the Mad Dog whoopie cushion to Politits.

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    Shorter Bush press conference

      "Lies, bullshit, more lies, more bullshit, War on Terra, Democrat Congress, hate our freedumb, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Thank you, and may God bless America."

      In other news, USA Cycling is contemplating trading morons for Mormons by shifting its HQ from Bibleburg to Ogden, Utah. The talks are just that at this point — the U.S. Olympic Committee is also shopping for property downtown — but damn, I'd sure want to get the hell out of that old pile they're in. That joint was ancient history when my dad was a bird colonel working for the previous tenant, Ent Air Force Base, back in the Sixties.

      Meanwhile, I stumbled across a couple of interesting blog entries discussing my own miserable trade, journalism. The first, on 10 Zen Monkeys, was headlined "Is the Net Good for Writers?; the other, from Ezra Klein, discussed whether journalists would willingly accept the same merit-pay system some of them advocate for teachers.

      As far as I'm concerned, the 'Net has been largely a blessing — it's let me work from home, which means I can play with my cats, experiment with cooking in a strictly amateurish way and ride my bike whenever the spirit moves. I haven't had to fax stories or FedEx cartoons for years; I e-mail them. There are drawbacks, of course, the biggest being the back-and-forth of a busy newsroom, the endless rubbing up against other people's notions, which can trigger ideas a guy won't generate on his own.

      As to Klein's merit-pay argument ("There's no merit pay in journalism, and no agreed-upon metrics measuring quality."), it's mostly bullshit. When the managing editor at my second newspaper told me in the late 1970s that I would be heading up an "education bureau" and overseeing the work of two other reporters, I immediately asked for a raise. He replied: "Why should I give you a raise? I don't know if you can handle the job yet." And I would've had the devil's own time squeezing occasional fiscal bumps out of editors and publishers were I unable to point to specific indicators — eyeballs on site, letters to the editor, and the occasional canceled advertising contract — as proof that people were paying attention to what I was doing, for good or ill.

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    Yesterday and today

      Here's Oscar Pereiro today, as he is presented with a yellow jersey as the "official" winner of the 2006 Tour de France: "I feel very sorry for him [Floyd Landis]. I can't celebrate what happened but in sports there are rules that must be respected."

      And here's Pereiro in May, when the rumor mill linked him to Operación Puerto: "It's unfair that cyclists have to prove our innocence. I am ready to do anything, but if I have to use DNA to demonstrate my innocence, I will leave cycling, because it's obvious that cycling like that isn't worth it."

      What a difference a day makes.

      Meanwhile, here in Bibleburg, The Gazette is calling for a public-private partnership to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee from relocating its headquarters to someplace that will throw money at them instead of Jehovah's Witnesses, Southern Baptists and John Birchers — such as Chicago. Quoth the editorial page: "We all have a stake in keeping the USOC and national governing bodies in Colorado Springs. We should use this as an opportunity to showcase our spirit of community, to demonstrate our cohesiveness and overlook our differences, to pull together to support a common goal." Bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. The only "common goals" Bibleburghers espouse are tax cuts, the 11th Commandment ("What's in it for me?") and exporting the feebleminded to Congress.

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    The cats of Baghdad

      Back in 2005, John Burns of The New York Times had his own metric for progress in Iraq — how many stray cats the NYT bureau was sheltering. Writes Burns: "As The Times's bureau chief, part of my routine was to ask, each night, how many cats we had seated for dinner. In a place where we could do little else to relieve the war's miseries, the tally became a measure of one small thing we could do to favor life over death." It's a touching read in troubling times; thanks and a tip of the MDM propeller beanie to fellow cat person Kevin Drum. At right, meanwhile, exactly half of our cats here in Bibleburg — Turkish, a.k.a. Mighty Whitey the Wonder Weasel, et al — enjoys a refreshing nap after spending a crisp fall morning communing with Satan.

      Also in today's Times is an rousing call to arms from Frank Rich, who chastises us for ignoring what the Cowboy-in-Chief and his henchmen have done and continue to do in our name. Notes Rich:

    Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It's up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country's good name.

      After reading it, I committed a gross violation of copyright law, cutting and pasting the entire column into e-mails to Sen. Ken Salazar and Sen. Wayne Allard. Thanks and a deep bow to Rich and Khal Spencer for reminding me that sounding off on a website with a readership you could stuff in a Toyota Yaris falls well short of practicing responsible citizenship. Sending a couple of e-mails isn't exactly the Second American Revolution, but it beats shouting down a well.

      And finally, also from The Times, comes the only funny thing I've ever read in Maureen Dowd's space — a column from Stephen Colbert, who apparently caught her attention with a bit of raving about how Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream "is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann's skull." It almost makes me want to get the cable TV plugged back in. Almost.

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    Crap shoot

      There's fresh rantage up over at VeloNews.com. I fear it will go overlooked by the Pulitzer committee, but what the hell? If I don't flush this crap out of my head on a semi-regular basis it just piles up in there and stinks to high heaven. Still, I sympathize with a letter-writer who moans, "No more, no more, no more." Like her I am so over this whole Floyd Landis thing.

      I said as much in an e-mail to another correspondent, who is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry with a background in carbon isotope detection and wrote to describe the analyses of Landis's samples as "beyond horrific." To which I replied:

    I agree, the system needs a radical overhaul to provide more transparency and accountability for laymen like myself, who barely escaped high-school chemistry and can't grasp the testing protocol.

    And understanding the legal maneuvering and civil-liberties issues is no easier. Fans screech about athletes' rights without knowing their own. One has no inherent right to work as a bicycle racer, or indeed at any other task. You can apply for the gig, maybe even get it, but absent a strong union you're likely to have to accept a number of anti-libertarian restrictions mandated by the employer, including drug testing.

    Here in Bibleburg, you can't even get hired to deliver the local paper, much less write for it, without taking a dope test that is (a) intended to detect drugs that are hardly performance-enhancing, and (b) subject to false positives, like mistaking over-the-counter nose-flushers for amphetamine. And the publisher can fire you because you don't care whether the Rockies win the Series, since Colorado is an "at-will" state.

    I think sport in general is afflicted by the kind of situational ethics a lot of us were warned against as kids ("But Mom, everyone's doing it!). The widespread cheating has spawned a ponderous penal system and the whole damn' Rube Goldberg/M.C. Escher clusterfuck seems self-perpetuating because there's money to be made.

    And that's the problem. I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that it ain't sport if you get paid to do it — it's business, and the entertainment business at that. I'm having the same sort of problem getting cranked up about athletes' rights that I have about supporting Britney's right to do belly shots off Madonna in an era when I have to take off my shoes to board a plane or have my IMs with Euro' correspondent Andrew Hood scanned by Homeland Security because Hood lives abroad.

    Eeek. Wandered off into a rant there, didn't I? Man, I miss the good old days, when a dumbass Irish-American could enjoy watching a bike race without analyzing the outcome in terms of pharmacology and international jurisprudence.

      Meanwhile, from the It Sucks To Be Him file comes this item about a hitchhiker who, denied a ride inside a big rig's cab, apparently climbed underneath the truck and hid in a space above the driveshaft. It ended, as you might expect, badly.

      Later that afternoon: Ho, ho. Clap your peepers on this gem from The Associated Press. Under the headline, "Rice worried by Putin's broad powers," we have the following:

    MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the power-grab may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

    "In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

    "I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.

      Now substitute "White House" for "Russian government" and "Kremlin," "George W. Bush" for "Vladimir Putin," "Washington" for "Moscow," "Americans" for "Russians" and "Congress" for "Duma." And to think they once said irony was dead.

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    No news is ... no news

      Here are some evil tidings for anyone who ever loved the daily newspaper: The Gazette here in Bibleburg and The Rocky Mountain News in Denver have not only struck a deal regarding newspaper delivery here, they also have agreed to begin sharing content after longtime local newshound Dick Foster, a colleague of mine at the G back in the Seventies, took a buyout and the Rocky closed his one-man Southern Colorado "bureau." Foster routinely beat the G and The Pueblo Chieftain like red-headed stepchildren, outcovering them in their own back yards, and his absence will be keenly felt. As Cara DeDette notes in The Colorado Springs Independent: "So instead of two stories in two newspapers about a topic with a kaleidoscope of potentially important angles, readers will see the same story, by the same person, in two papers."

      Meanwhile, another G alum', Rick Tosches, saw his "Rocky Mountain Ranger" column croaked by The Denver Post and has returned to writing a column for the Independent, now headed by still another veteran of the local cage-liner, former G sports editor Ralph Routon. Damn, this is one incestuous little business. Let's see, who can I go to work for next? Oh, yeah, right — nobody. The word has gotten around since I first started scribbling for money back in the fall of 1977. Looks like you're stuck with me.

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    Speak into the dragonfly, please

      Antiwar activists in Washington and New York think the Homeland Security propeller-heads are using robot insects to spy on them, according to The Washington Post. I am not making this up, though the Post may be. Here's a clip:

    No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

    The robobugs could follow suspects, guide missiles to targets or navigate the crannies of collapsed buildings to find survivors.

      This may explain the giant caterpillar with the satellite dish I saw in the back yard yesterday. And here I thought it was just another acid flashback.

      In cycling news, Floyd Landis has decided to take his case to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport. No surprise there, really. He's come this far — he might as well go the whole nine yards, run out the clock, bet the roll, see what happens. What the hell, he's already $2 million down. What's left to lose?

      Landis and his legal team have done a splendid job of muddying the waters, once he got over sputtering about beer, whisky, international communism and space aliens, to the point where the true believers will never accept his guilt, a few folks are permanently confused regarding the facts of the matter, and the rest of us no longer give a shit.

      Here's the thing: We all know that some people will do anything for money. Cut the course, have a competitor whacked in the knee with a police baton, or even take dope to win races, then get busy lyin' and denyin' until it's time to start cryin' because all those giant mutant chickens have suddenly come home to roost with a vengeance.

      So by all means, keep reading, watching and cheering, if only because it keeps me eating, drinking and lollygagging. But when you see the occasional inexplicable superhuman performance, remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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    'Marathon' is Greek for 'No fat bastards'

      Chicago Tribune columnist Philip Hersh opines that many of the thousands who struggled to put one foot in front of the other at the Chicago Marathon had no business being there because they were undertrained and poorly prepared. Lamenting that the $110 entry fee is too tempting for promoters to trim the field size — 45,000 were entered in this year's edition — Hersh argues: "A marathon is not for everybody. It is well past the time for race organizers and many would-be participants to realize that."

      I've been running casually for nearly 20 years, ever since I first took up cyclo-cross, and I wouldn't tackle that distance at gunpoint, not even if Elle Macpherson were waiting for me at the finish in a hot tub with a bottle of Herradura Añejo. The American capacity for self-delusion is apparently boundless. Shuffling thrice weekly through the park for 30 minutes at a crack does not a marathoner make.

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    So let it (not) be written (again)

      In a rare instance of academia free of crainal-rectal intrusion, an independent review board that oversees the Colorado State University student newspaper has ruled that editor in chief J. David McSwane can keep his job after writing a headline that read, "Taser this: Fuck Bush." Quoth The New York Times:

    After several hours of deliberations on Thursday, the board determined that Mr. McSwane had violated the newspaper's code of ethics (which states that "profane and vulgar words are not acceptable for opinion writing") but said that the editorial was an expression of opinion protected by the First Amendment. In a statement, the board called Mr. McSwane's decision to publish the editorial "unethical and unprofessional."

      What can I say? That's fuckin' awesome.

      Not so awesome is this from Kevin Drum, who takes note of a Washington Post story reporting that Iraqi leaders have given up all hope of political reconciliation, saying "that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government." Says Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd: "I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such. To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power." Lovely.

      Late update: Jesus H. Christ. The New York Times reports that the Donks appear willing to cave to the White House insistence on being able to place a bug in your crapper if your farts smell like hummus. Says The Old Gray Lady: "Although willing to oppose the White House on the Iraq war, they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence." Well, they're soft in the fuckin' head if they think this chickenshit is gonna win them any votes from people who've read the Constitution and think it still possesses some small value beyond the starting of fires for burning books or wiping patrician asses. Write your congresscreature, if the silly shit can read. If not, holler at him or her or it over the phone. Joe Galloway was right. And so was Joe Hill. "Don't waste any time mourning, organize!"

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    Your tax dollars at work

      Counterfeit electrical wiring that melts, sprinkler-system pipes that burst and a State Department inspector general who could give a fat rat's ass — it's all part of the woefully-behind-schedule, $592 million U.S. Embassy being built in Baghdad.

      Stateside, meanwhile, The New York Times calls bullshit on Grand Inquisitor Torquebusha's sophistry regarding torture, noting that "President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies."

      And here in Bibleburg, we're looking at 45 degrees and a frost warning, which signals an end to rolling about in shorts and short-sleeve jerseys for a spell. The good news is, we'll be back into the 70s before you can get arrested for saying, "Columbus was a slave-trading swine."

      In the meantime, it was long sleeves and knee warmers for an hour of cyclo-cross at a nearby school, which has been shuttered due to a dwindling student body. I've laid out a course that takes about seven minutes per lap at a moderate old-guy pace, with two back-to-back run-ups, a couple of off-camber descents, two short power climbs, some pavement, a log-hop, about nine-tenths of a trip around a pulverized-granite track and a whole shitload of grass, which grabs the wheels like a Bibleburg cop putting the cuffs on a peace activist. Makes for a long hour, is what it does. I usually poot around for a half hour, trying to remember what it's all about, then spend the second half hour proving that a drink-sodden memory is no substitute for actual training.

      But first, I went over to Palmer Park and took a couple of snaps along Cheyenne Trail. I saw some nice color there during a run the other day and wanted to get it digitized before the freeze and breeze dumps it all into the trash can of history.

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    Why they call it 'fall'

      The wind is howling and trees are down everywhere, great, big, trail-blocking sonsabitches. O'Schenk and I rode south on the creek trail into a massive headwind and saw leaves, limbs and shattered trunks in quantity. We tried to shift a couple of them, but no dice. A guy with a chainsaw and wheelbarrow could collect himself a ton of free firewood, were he so inclined. But since we heat with gas, like good cyclo-crossers we just hurdled the wreckage and kept riding.

      Elsewhere, Robert Parry says it's time for the Democrats to put impeachment back on the table. Joe Galloway agrees with him, adding: "Consider this a last-minute wakeup call. This is your country. Take it back before it's too late." And Jesus' General shows us how 911 changed Rudy's World.

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    Is it safe?

      "We do not torture!" barked The Decider. "Bullshit!" retorts The New York Times. Notes John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy's top lawyer from 1997 to 2000:

    "I know from the military that if you tell someone they can do a little of this for the country's good, some people will do a lot of it for the country's better. The problem is, once you've got a legal opinion that says such a technique is O.K., what happens when one of our people is captured and they do it to him? How do we protest then?"

      To keep my head from exploding, I went for a long ride. Well, long for me these days, anyway — up the New Santa Fe Trail through the Air Force Academy to just past Palmer Lake and back. That's 53 miles for a 53-year-old ne'er-do-well, which seemed appropriate, especially since it kept me away from the computer and all the evil news that pours into it like sewage from a really big pipe. There is some small elevation gain involved — Bibleburg sits at 6,035 feet, with Palmer Lake at 7,225 — and a fair amount of dirt, as the paved trail ends at Woodmen Road. Passers-by include red-tailed hawks, grazing cattle and inquisitive horses. It's kind of like the winding country lanes we don't have anymore, but without the auto traffic.

      Speaking of Bibleburg, prominent local fucktard James Dobson warns that his cretinoid cadre of Christo-fascists will support a third-party candidate in 2008 "if neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life." Y'know, like Gen. George Armstrong Bush, who expresses his Christian love for his fellow man by imprisoning, waterboarding and bombing the mortal shit out of them. I can't wait to see the author of "Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men" pulling a Ralph Nader on the Pachyderms, because the invertebrate Donks are gonna need every assist they can get if they are to slither their way back into the White House.

      And finally, Marion Jones — surprise surprise — has copped to using performance-enhancing drugs, according to The Associated Press, following a Washington Post scoop. She won five medals in the 2000 Olympics, three of them gold, and according to the AP "was one of track's first female millionaires, typically earning between $70,000 and $80,000 a race, plus at least another $1 million from race bonuses and endorsement deals." Gosh, and we wonder why our sporting heroes, and heroines, might be tempted to cut a corner or two en route to the finish line, which, oddly enough, always seems to be near a bank. "I'm shocked, shocked, to find out that doping is taking place here!" "Your customary jeroboam of Chateau du Chien Fou '69, Mr. O'Grady . . ." "Ah, merci, François. Please accept this footlocker full of euros with my compliments, and tell no one."

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    Brrr . . .

      Thirty-eight this morning. Yow. Herself just went running in long sleeves, tights, ear warmers, a cap and some skanky pink glove liners. Me, I went downtown to do some banking, snagging a loaf of six-grain bread and a couple ham-and-cheese croissants from La Baguette while I was in the neighborhood. Decadent, I know, but I don't have to spend eight of today's finest 24 hours confined in someone else's place of business. So I'll have a bite and a mug of tea, and wait an hour or so before I go out to stumble around in my Sauconys.

      The last Foaming Rant is still drawing letters like a dead dog draws flies, and a couple of 'em are real doozies. I didn't realize so many mental hospitals allowed their patients Internet access. If only we could get these keyboard kommandos so enraged over important stuff, like mercenaries gone wild on the taxpayers' dime, or the Compassionate-Conservative-in-Chief vetoing an expansion of children's health insurance as too costly while demanding another $190 billion for Little Big Surge. But I guess a bike race that will come off just as soon as monkeys fly out of Frank Arokiasamy's butt, bearing 30 million smacks, is somehow of greater significance to them. Go figure.

      Late update: Thirty-eight this morning; 85 this afternoon. What's not to like about Colorado? Besides the fascists, the closet Kluxers, the faux Christian whackjobs, the prevailing wage, the appalling lack of a decent daily newspaper, and . . .

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    October? Already?

      Yes, indeedy. Once again October has slipped up behind me with a blunt object, catching me unawares. In honor of this treachery, I went for far too long a run in Palmer Park, much of it on the Templeton Trail, to which I hadn't set foot or tire in months. It's a technical trail, even afoot, and I walked most of the descents, as some of the worst crashes I've suffered in this park have come while running. Nevertheless, I'm gonna be sore tomorrow.

      But when October shows up, man, you've got to get those last few long rides and runs in. Much of Palmer Park is off-limits come winter; some trails turn to adobe after the first snow, while others lie in patches of perma-shade and become strips of glassy ice. But right now, the foliage is turning and thinning, and the trails are as navigable as they're ever going to be, if you don't mind the occasional long stretch of soft sand.

      I love this time of year. The magazines I work for have gone back to monthly publication instead of every other week, and VeloNews.com dials itself down considerably, with nothing but team transfers, cyclo-cross and the never-ending parade of doping stories to report.

      Speaking of VN.com, if like me you weren't at CrossVegas last week, check out the video of the men's and women's races. Could've used another camera or two or three, plus an explanatory voiceover, but what the hell? T'aint bad a-tall. Beats the shit out of watching network TV.

    0 9 | 3 0 | 2 0 0 7

    McCain's insane

      Looks like Mister Straight Talk has been swimming in Lake Havasu, too: He thinks the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation. Search that crucial document, which the Pachyderms have been using as toilet paper, and see if you can find the words "God" or "Christian" in it anywhere. As Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo notes: "John McCain has been in Congress for several decades, and he's sworn to uphold the Constitution on more than a few occasions. One would like to think he's read it enough times to know this is nonsense."

      This is not nonsense. It's about drinking tequila. Gracias and a tip of the sombrero to Andy B.

      And Paolo Bettini defends his rainbow jersey in Stuttgart. He is a hard individual, so hard he has muscles in his shit.

    0 9 | 2 9 | 2 0 0 7

    Hinterbike, Day 3

      Ignored it. What can I tell you? I was busy tossing off a Foaming Rant about the proposed Tour of America for VeloNews.com. VeloNews.com was all over iBike, though, tossing up the latest in another series of photo galleries. Coverage this year seemed a tad mountain-bike heavy to me, to say nothing of short on words, but what do I know? I wasn't even there. And a good thing, too, judging by what I've read over at BicycleRetailer.com, where the daily quote has been heavy on recounting problems with the Riviera, surprise surprise. The Casino of the Living Dead, as I wrote last year.

      Big Jonny at DrunkCyclist, meanwhile, has plenty of amusing words for you regarding his visit to Sin City, where the hot items were Cougars and the Asshand. Would I lie to you?

      News of the Weird: A killer amoeba that lives in lakes can swim up your snoot and chew on your brain 'til you croak. The latest death, a 14-year-old kid in Phoenix, is blamed on a swim in Lake Havasu. Say, you think Rush Limbaugh's been playing Navy SEAL down there? It would explain a lot.

      Late update: I found myself with a little downtime today, so I did a little maintenance on the site. Gone is the Dog Doin's page, which hadn't been updated since, uh, forever, and in its place is a new page called "Mad Dog Unleashed," which at present is an archive of my 2007 columns for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. I've been writing filth and nonsense for the BRAINiacs for quite a while now, and I'm thinking about compiling some of the worst bits into a book that I feel certain would sell simply dozens of copies, if only to libel lawyers and Homeland Security agents. Your thoughts, Hobson?

    0 9 | 2 7 | 2 0 0 7

    Hinterbike, Day 2

      Chapeau to Ryan Trebon and Lyne Bessette for winning the inaugural CrossVegas in Sin City. Cyclocross Magazine has a brief report here. Across the pond, meanwhile, Fabian Cancellara slew all to defend his crown as world time-trial champ. Dave Zabriskie, alas, could manage no better than 12th.

      Here in Bibleburg, meanwhile, we're staring down the barrel of another gorgeous fall day. Sixty-something by 9 a.m. with the promise of 72 by the time I break the shackles binding me to VeloNews.com, where we're juggling Interbike in Vegas, cyclo-cross season worldwide, and the world championships in Stuttgart plus legal action over same, all at the same time. Lots of heavy balls in the air, and we're bound to drop one or two, probably on our heads. The world's in particular have a depressing Police Gazette air to them.

      But once all the various precincts report in, I'm off for another longish 'cross-bike ride , maybe south this time, now that the trail is finally open past Bijou. Super Tex famously said "it's not about the bike," but it's not about all this other extraneous bullshit, either.

    0 9 | 2 6 | 2 0 0 7

    Hinterbike, Day 1

      In an ordinary year, today I would be arising far earlier than is my wont, eating not much for breakfast, and humping a backpack full of electronica over to the Sands Expo & Convention Center for day one of the Interbike trade show. Instead, I got up around 7, enjoyed a couple cups of java and some cereal with fresh strawberries and almonds, and scanned the news online. Next up is a leisurely 'cross-bike ride through the Air Force Academy, followed by a massive lunch, grocery shopping, powerful beverages, and dinner. Fat city.

      Still, I'm not as frisky as I might be this morning. Turkish — a.k.a. Big Pussy, Turk the Jerk, Whitey the Wonder Weasel, the Turkinator, Turkenstein, et al — decided it would be fun to rocket around the house like a racquetball smacked by Barry Bonds just past midnight, more or less permanently interrupting my beauty sleep. The fun continued today, with the giant furry swine ambushing me from within an empty wine box when I stalked into the kitchen trying to figure out what the hell all the racket was about.

      In other sporting news, a North Carolina sports-management firm is allegedly planning a Tour of America, a monster of a stage race that would last a month and run from coast to coast. A press release says Aqu Inc. will provide further details during a press conference Thursday at Interbike. Such as, maybe, what kind of drugs these guys are taking (if we decide to dope-test them, let's not use the French lab, OK?). Noting the length of stages one and two as listed on a preliminary website that since has mysteriously disappeared — 220 miles and 244 miles, respectively — a colleague proposes changing the name to "The Tour de WTF." A monthlong, 27-stage, 22-state race in America, in September? Up against the Vuelta, Tour of Missouri, world roads and the start of the UCI cyclo-cross season, with more miles than a moon launch? I'll believe it when I see the first rider roll out of the start house and he's not Gregg Bagni, who has been known to pull some hilarious gags come showtime in Sin City.

      Late update: Harvest moon tonight, which may explain Turkenstein's monstrous behavior. Rode to Baptist Road (yeah, we have one, who'da thunk it?) and back and saw three snakes sunning themselves, which as Jim Harrison might say is a sign of nothing much other than three snakes finding themselves a tad chilly on a brisk fall morning. One was a good-sized bullsnake, which I might have run over had a mountain biker not seen him first and waved me to a stop. He was parked in a blind corner and taking up more than his fair share of trail. The bullsnake, not the mountain biker.

    0 9 | 2 5 | 2 0 0 7

    The Gipper redux

      Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi discusses Fred Thompson: "Thompson may act like a blank slate — a homespun version of 'Being There' hero Chauncey Gardiner running on a platform of 'Whatever you say' and 'I'll get back to you on that' — but he represents something else that no one, after seven years of George W. Bush, could possibly have expected: a new low." Swallow that with your morning java, if you can.

      Late update: The editor of Colorado State University's student newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, has apparently gotten his journalistic tit in a Young Republican wringer over a four-word editorial: "Taser this: Fuck Bush." The Coloradan, a miserable pile of Gannett cage-liner, has what it thinks is a story here; The Denver Post has one here. My sympathy is entirely with the editor on this one, as I got run out of a gig scribbling for the University of Northern Colorado Mirror by a ravening pack of Bible-beating brownshirts for drawing filthy cartoons, many of them describing the adventures of a stoner superhero named "Loadedman" (a lame combo of Gilbert Shelton's "Wonder Warthog" and "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers"). One particularly appalling full-pager was titled, "For Sure God Gets High." And yeah, it was as bad as you think.

      Neither J. David McSwane nor I showed particularly good judgment as college journalists, but freedom of speech means dealing with murderous lies from the Oval Office and insane bullshit from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad right alongside expletives directed at the Leader of the Free World or hamhanded attacks on organized religion. So fuck a bunch of Young Republicans, fuck Tasers, and fuck Bush, too.

    0 9 | 2 4 | 2 0 0 7

    Art imitates life

      "Las Vegas Under Siege by Zombies and a Mutant," read the headline. Is Lance Armstrong joining the the industry's best and brightest at Interbike again? No, it's just the latest installment of the "Resident Evil" series.

      In literary news, Richard Russo has a new book out, "Bridge of Sighs," which Janet Maslin of The New York Times calls "a novel of great warmth, charm and intimacy, but not one of earth-shattering revelations." I'll wait for the paperback, thanks. I much preferred "Nobody's Fool" to the overwrought, Pulitzer Prize-winning "Empire Falls," which I bought in hardback.

      The Denver Post, meanwhile, has condemned Floyd Landis as a cheat, scoundrel and all-round blight on the sport of cycling. Would that the editorial board were so eager to take on a slightly more prominent cyclist, one Alfred E. "Worry!" Bush, for his multiplicity of high crimes and misdemeanors. No doubt the Trust But Verify pootbutts are pissing their knickers in impotent rage.

      And while we're on the topic of cycling, check out what the big dogs were cyclo-crossing on this past weekend in Washington state. These boys got carbon on their carbon, cranksets that cost more than all three of my bikes, SRMs, the works. Somebody comes up with a carbon-fiber cyclist, now, we'll really have something.

    0 9 | 2 3 | 2 0 0 7

    Veni, vidi, bicicletti

      Behold, someone having more fun than us. Well, me, anyway. And I could be riding my bike in Italy just like that if you could get there by Subaru, or maybe teleportation.

      Meanwhile, turns out Karl Kiester did win the 45s at yesterday's cyclo-cross here in Bibleburg. The fields were a tad small throughout, according to the results, but field size hardly matters when the likes of Karl and Brook are kitted up and feeling hungry. Whether the turnout is 10 or 10 times 10, these guys go through a field like beer through an Irishman's kidneys.

      In other news, that photo I snapped of Landis Court, the one VeloNews.com turned into a visual "Foaming Rant," is still generating mail and blog comments, which gives me a near-fatal case of the tee-hees. Some readers obviously thought it was Photoshopped, suggesting that the cross street should've been 17th, for the 17th stage, but the bugger is exactly what I saw through the lens — no more, no less.

      Depending upon the reader's personal bias, the photo is either a cheap shot at Floyd, a brilliant attack on WADA/USADA, a jab at the lab, a fervent plea that all this drug nonsense stop, a clever way of avoiding taking an actual stand on the issue, a chickenshit way of avoiding taking an actual stand on the issue — you pays your money and you takes your choice. Me, I just thought it was amusing.

      Now I wonder whether minimalist artists hang around the gallery on opening night, snickering at the lofty interpretations of their work: "'Man's inhumanity to man?' No, what it is is a shitload of acrylic on canvas. I remember having a big tube of red, a bricklayer's trowel and a skull-crushing hangover that day. Fourteen hundred and it's yours."

    0 9 | 2 2 | 2 0 0 7

    Oboy, cyclo-cross!

      Pikes Peak Velo put on a cyclo-cross today over at Bear Creek Regional Park, so I dropped by to spectate, as carbon isotope testing was not required in order to determine the various winners and losers. Plus I like to hang around the technical bits and provide incisive commentary, like, "Hey, that looks just like cyclo-cross, only slower," or, "Say, how many of you guys are on dope?"

      I chatted with a number of old comrades, among them Lee Waldman, who won his second consecutive 55-plus 'cross this season; Karl Kiester (forgot to ask how he placed, but he won last week's Brecktobercross in the 45s); and Brook Watts, who finished second in today's 45s. Come Sunday, Brook will be Vegas-bound to help Chris Grealish put on the Excel Sports CrossVegas during Interbike, and don't I wish I was going (to CrossVegas, not to Interbike). But it's too late — I've already shipped the cartoons for BRAIN's Show Daily and promised to help push pixels over at VeloNews.com during the show. So if you're in Sin City, hit CrossVegas and have a pic or observation to share, drop me a line — maybe we'll cover the sumbitch from a distance.

      I was roundly criticized for spectating rather than racing, which is fair. And I met a couple junior racers, one of whom was sampling 'cross for the first time and digging it, and the other — well, he was a second-year 'crosser from Clovis, New Mexico, and planned to race twice to make the trip worthwhile. If that ain't good news, I don't know what is.

      And speaking of CrossVegas, word comes from the Grealish camp that BRAIN's Interbike issue has gotten the start times wrong — the women race at 7:30, with men hitting the course at 9. And there will be beer, courtesy of Sierra Nevada. So drink up, cab home and have more fun than me.

    0 9 | 2 1 | 2 0 0 7

    A cheap shot

      Seeing as how I haven't actually written one in months, we decided to slap the photo below up on VeloNews.com as this week's "Foaming Rant." The photo is drawing nearly as much comment as if I'd actually written something, which has caused me to revisit my overly generous opinion regarding my literary skills.

      Letters to VN.com in general are running heavily pro-Floyd, which is to say anti-reality. Fanboys give me a shooting pain in the tuchis. How much dope would you take to make $29 million a year if you knew your professional career was likely to be a short one — unlike Scott Moninger's, which lasted 17 years? Plenty of us would eat, drink, snort, shoot or cram up our tailpipes whatever it took, from salbutamol to freshly harvested human organs, then kick back and pay some hack to ghost-write our biographies before tearfully confessing, just after the statute of limitations expired, that we weren't exactly racing on mineral water. Maybe that's what it takes to win the Tour; I don't know. But I do know this: All it takes to write a witless letter to the editor is a computer and an Internet connection.

      Meanwhile, here's the column I would've liked to have written. It's by Sam Abt, who has more chops but also seems to be perilously close to running out of ways to say, "Doping sucks."

      And in other news, Joe Galloway takes a giant shit on Gen. George Armstrong Bush so I don't have to.

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    The picture that saved me a thousand words


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      Business name of the week: Morning Wood, seen stenciled on the back of a Dodge 2WD pickup riding ominously low on its springs. The outfit apparently delivers wood, perhaps to Bibleburg's multitudinous Repuglicant family-values sky pilots, maybe even the sort used in fireplaces and woodstoves. Who could know? Don't ask, don't tell, that's my motto.

      Meanwhile, in case you were wondering, yeah, John McCain is an insane asshole. He and DINO Joe Lieberman helped scuttle a straight up-or-down vote on Jim Webb's measure to require that troops spend as much time at home as they do overseas before being redeployed. Then he offered up another of what Josh Marshall correctly derides as a "please" resolution begging this administration to throttle back — an outfit that wants more war, not less (that got croaked, too). Fuck that noise. Here's Josh:

    If they're not ready to make a law they should just shut up. It's pathetic. Stick to the home renovations and sweetheart house deals.

      This obstructionist nonsense is not a recent development, of course. The Pachyderms complained vociferously about it when the Donks used it as a tactic. But the Elefinks are doing a better job of getting away with it, thanks to a slovenly press corps, as Kevin Drum points out here.

    0 9 | 1 8 | 2 0 0 7

    Pulp non-fiction

      Canceled the Gazette subscription today. Christ, what a horrible piece of bumwad, especially since the latest redesign. Another tree will grow in the wild woods. But what will I read in the crapper after the morning java? The MacBook is a tad hot on the thighs. The Nation? Too heavy before breakfast. The Victoria's Secret catalogue? Too, um, stimulating. Decisions, decisions.

      Meanwhile, a Nebraska state senator has filed suit against God. The Almighty declined comment.

      And in shiny-toy news, anyone out there own an iPhone? I dropped by an AT&T store to play with one for a while today, and the ooooh cool factor was off the charts. We're already AT&T customers (rollovers from Cingular), so swapping one of our Stone Age phones for an iPhone would only hike the monthly extortion payment another 20 smacks for data services (after shelling out three C's for the low-end, 4GB model, which both AT&T and Apple started blowing out after the Black Turtleneck-in-Chief croaked it and slashed the price of the 8GB edition to $399).

      I need one of these things like I need more hair on my back, but goddamn, it's a cute lil' booger. And Herself, who unlike me is disclined to fetch a laptop hither and yon, has expressed an interest in a CrackBerry or some such gadget. Any other suckers out there? Let's get those bouquets and brickbats flying.

      Late update: Just for purposes of comparison, I've been dicking around with my Samsung SGH-c417, trying to check mail, browse the web and take-slash-email photos, instead of using it as a phone. This is not unlike trying to build a Starfleet tricorder interface out of stone knives and bearskins. Is this what working on a PC is like? No wonder all you people are insane. I feel like a blind man on acid in a DMV office full of zombies.

      Oh, yeah. And George W. Bush doesn't worship at the altar of Cthulhu, no matter what that old dingbat Alan Greenspan says. Nevertheless, if you hear W muttering something like "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" * at his next press conference, run for it. I'm not kidding.

    * Google it, f'chrissakes. I'm sick and tired of doing all the work around here.

    0 9 | 1 7 | 2 0 0 7

    Fall back

      Yow. A brisk, damp day, with leaves already turning yellow and slipping off the trees. I made a giant pot of chile con carne against the chill, blending recipes from Mom and Dad while chucking in a couple twists of my own, including organic ground beef and hot Italian sausage, navy and black beans, and multiplying everything by two because I like leftovers. Dump a scoop of rice and crushed corn chips in the bottom of the bowl, top with chile and grated Black Diamond cheddar, and serve with a side of salad and a glass or two or three of rosé. Subsequent glasses of Spanish rioja may or may not be a good idea. I'll let you know tomorrow.

      Elsewhere, Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo) has decided that it might be a good idea to slam the congressional wallet shut on Gen. George Armstrong Bush and Little Big Surge. How much of this is principled stand and how much chin music aimed at the electorate, I have no idea. Salazar has voted with the administration on some mighty slimy issues, and I'm disinclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      And Mario Valdes, former honcho at KRCC-FM, has died of complications from lung cancer at age 54. I remember Mario from my days at the Gazette Telegraph. You could call the man up at any hour, no matter how drunk, and ask him to play something insane like "Broad Black Brimmer of the IRA" — a bit from the Wolfe Tones that could've been written by Merle O'Haggard if he were (a) an Irish Republican and (b) particularly hammered — and Mario would play it. We chatted a few times via phone or e-mail, especially when Herself and I lived in Weirdcliffe and signal strength was an issue, and he never failed to take care of business. As a consequence, we've been loyal KRCC supporters with ears and wallets for years, and our condolences go out to his friends, colleagues and family. There will never be another Mario, more's the pity.

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    Sunday catblogging

      Hey, if Kevin Drum can do it, so can I. Here's a shot of Turkish — a.k.a. Whitey the Wonder Weasel, Turk the Jerk, Big Pussy, et al — sharing a Kodak moment with his evil twin. At first I thought it was Ghost Kitty, a ratty white mirage of a cat that slinks around yowling at all hours like some evil spirit. A closer look revealed the same black widow's peak that Turkish sports and an astoundingly similar set of facial features (though Evil Twin's eyes are yellow while Turk's are blue, and Evil Twin doesn't have a freckle on the snoot). So since we got Turk' from someone Herself knows from work who lives here in the 'hood, we suspect that this is either one of Turkish's littermates or perhaps his mama, in no small measure because when Ike approached to check the stranger's credentials, Big Turk' went and got all medieval on her ass.

      Speaking of big pussies, I skipped the first race of the Colorado cyclo-cross season today. And I'll probably skip the rest of them, too, because I suck. I did an hour this morning on a grassy loop I've laid out at a nearby former middle school, and I looked like a brain-damaged crackhead who'd swiped someone's bike but couldn't remember how to ride one. And now I feel like a new fish after his first shower in prison.

    0 9 | 1 5 | 2 0 0 7

    From the You've Got to Be Shitting Me Department

      Southwest Airlines has gotten its corporate tit in a wringer for demanding that women whom its flight attendants deemed "unsuitably dressed" change their clothes or leave the plane. Reports The San Francisco Chronicle::

    While no airline admits to an official dress code, wardrobe issues do fall within the range of customer issues negotiated by flight attendants and crews on a daily basis. It is technically within the rights of an airline to deny service to people based on what they're wearing (or on the basis of body odor or inebriation).

    Patrick Smith, an airline pilot who writes a column for Salon magazine called "Ask a Pilot," said in an e-mail that a number of conditions help to create confusion about flight etiquette.

    "Rules about passenger dress are usually subjective, allowing employees to use judgment and common sense," he wrote. "You've got more and more people flying - and that includes many people who, in years past, would have driven or taken a Greyhound.

    "Granted, people rarely dress up to fly anymore, but there are certain standards and certain protocols, however casual."

      That patrician, elitist attitude is what has turned air travel into the prison-camp, cattle-car clusterfuck that it is today. Fuck you, Paddy me boyo. I'll let you Junior Birdmen tell me what to wear when you can move the flights in and out on time, stop overselling the aircraft and get me out of O'Hare in under 48 hours. Oh, yeah, and bring back the free booze. That, plus the occasional overstuffed halter top, are the only things that make air travel worth the hassle.

      Meanwhile, in other entertainment news, here's a snarky little bit from The Plank noting the similarities between fallen ingenues George W. Bush and Britney Spears.

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    Meet the new plan . . .

      . . . same as the old plan. I'd love to know how many Americans (not counting the working press) watched Gen. George Armstrong Bush's latest rewriting of the script for Little Big Surge (hunker down, never mind the Injuns, the cavalry is a-comin'). Alexander Belenky over at The Plank boils this stale, recycled bullshit down to a thin paste here.

     Meanwhile, you'll be pleased to learn that cycling isn't the only sport plagued by lying, cheating sacks of shit. From The New York Times comes word that McLaren Mercedes, the leading team in the Formula One championship, was fined $100 million on Thursday and excluded from the constructors' title in a spying scandal:

    The International Automobile Federation, the sport's governing body, found the McLaren team guilty of cheating by using data obtained from Ferrari, its main rival, to improve its own car, the federation said in a statement issued following a hearing in Paris.

    The team may continue to race, however, and its two drivers — Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, the top two in the points standings — will be allowed to keep their points and will be eligible for the driver's title.

    It was the harshest punishment given to a team in the 57-year history of the sport.

      And over at the NFL, the league has fined New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and ruled that the team will forfeit its first-round draft pick in 2008 if it makes the playoffs for violating league rules after a Patriots staff member was discovered videotaping signals by Jets coaches during Sunday's season opener at the Meadowlands:

    "This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field," Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to the Patriots.

      Well, at least they weren't on dope.

      In other news: My fellow scribe Chris Coursey is calling it quits after 27 years with The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California. We went to college together at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where we majored in mind-altering substances and minored in journalism, and worked together at what then was called the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph before going our separate ways in 1980. I bounced around like a bad check, driving a series of editors and publishers witless before settling down into the frenetic, pointless masturbation that is free-lance cycling journalism, while he settled down at the PD, doing real journalism, getting married a couple of times and helping to create and collect a houseful of kids.

      Come Monday, I will still be jerking off for fun and profit. But Chris will be flacking for the SMART rail district, "explaining to anyone who will listen why passenger trains are important to our future quality of life around here." We always knew he would wind up pulling trains somewhere in Northern California, but we thought it would be in the Castro down in Gay Bay. Happy trails, Bub. I'll hoist an IPA to you tonight.

      And in still other news: The second Bike-A-GoGo, a women's bicycle demo day and expo, is slated for October 20 at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center in Santa Fe.

      More than 30 companies, including major bike brands such as Specialized, Voodoo, Trek, and Kona, will display their wares, from road and mountain-bike products to nutritional goods and apparel.

      There will also be seminars on a variety of bike-related topics, including a presentation on bike maintenance by a female mechanic from a local bike shop, a tire-changing clinic by Betty Bike Gear, and a workshop on combining Pilates core strength with bike fit by Cycling Essentials.

      And last but not least, Bike-A-GoGo will include contests, prizes and an after-party at Second Street Brewing, one of my favorite dining and drinking establishments. Hell, I may attend the Bike-a-GoGo with Herself just to down a few frosty pints of Second Street IPA.

      The event is conducted by the Pedal Queens cycling club and sponsored by Women¹s Health Services. For more information, visit the Bike-a-GoGo website.

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    It's that time again

      With all respect to the victims of September 11 and the people who loved them, I'm not going to dwell on that 6-year-old attack today. There have been plenty of tragedies since that have gone largely unnoticed, not the least of which is the gradual dismantling of our Republic by a gang of neo-monarchists with dreams of empire. Crimes and casualties pile up unabated as a flabby electorate focuses not on what is done in its name, but rather on Britney's potbelly, Michael's faith-based dog-fighting, Craig's suspiciously light loafers. So bow your head for a moment, then move on. Look forward, not backward. Things need doing. Don't believe me? Put down the remote and read any newspaper's front page. Then take a stiff drink and think about walls and people up against same.

      In lighter news, the infamous Big Jonny of Drunkcyclist.com is in Bibleburg for a week, and he has already managed to slander my hometown in a vile post on his own site. "Graveyard with lights," indeed. The actual phrase, as employed in the late Seventies by Rusty Mitchell, former food editor for the Gazette, is "cemetery with lights," although she occasionally used the slightly less pejorative "suburb without a city."

      But things have changed since then, and today you can easily find a church or two on every corner, cheer a flak-jacketed cop thumping a peace activist, or casually discriminate against an ominously swelling population of various disgruntled minorities, including a handful of Democrats. Chain hog troughs ring Super Sprawl-Marts like portly courtiers surrounding a syphilitic king, and every city block sports a traffic signal, none of them timed. Instead, an emaciated speed freak controls each and every signal through banks of video cameras and toggle switches, and he will see to it that it takes you at least a half hour to back out of your driveway and a half day to make it downtown, even if you live there. This is why natives treat red lights as advisory only, and why tourists die in droves.

      Late update: Big Jonny and his henchmen descended upon Dog Manor this evening bearing powerful thirsts and tales of prowess in battle and bibulousness. Thank God I had a couple sixers, a half-dozen bottles of wine, a pair of pizzas the size of 29'er wheels and a little China White to take the edge off their ravenous appetites. Otherwise there could've been mayhem, and the neighbors are already grousing about how far property values have fallen since "the Irish" moved in. More as it develops. The Drunkcyclist mob has discovered that Bibleburg is home to a number of establishments whose menus expand upon the standard wafers-and-wine theme, and I am to be tour guide.

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    Harbinger of fall

      The days have been growing shorter and cooler, but it wasn't until yesterday that I saw the first definitive sign of fall — a sweatsuited jogger. Normally, you can't get these people to wear more than a wisp of butt-floss, an iPod and a pained expression.

      Me, I had to add a long-sleeved jersey and knee warmers to my kit for an all-too-brief ride into the Air Force Academy and back. The Vuelta is chugging along in Spain, and VeloNews.com is covering same. Plus there are 'toons to be drawn — many, many of them — for VeloNews and the Show Daily that Bicycle Retailer & Industry News assembles for Interbike, which comes up later this month.

      I mentioned a while back that I won't be attending Interbike this year, but never explained why. The long and short of it is that I just can't work up the requisite enthusiasm for wasting any part of another gorgeous Colorado fall in Las Vegas, that glittering monument to American greed, sloth and suppressed sexual urges. I don't care to schlep 50 pounds of electronica around the Sands Expo & Convention Center, pretending that I care deeply and personally about carbon-fiber this and 10-speed that when I ride steel and eight-speed Ultegra. I won't spend another night in a nicotine-stained cell at the Riviera.

      If I could attend the show as an observer rather than a participant, staying where I chose, coming and going as I pleased, I might take another crack at it — especially if Interbike were moved to a cycling-friendly location, like Portland. I'd like to play with the bikes at Outdoor Demo, watch a cyclo-cross and a crit, drink beer with my pals. But then I'd have to cover my own expenses, and we all know how I feel about that sort of thing.

      Here's an extended riff on the same topic, written for the October issue of Bicycle Retailer.

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    Not on drugs

      Herself takes a break from a bracing cyclo-cross outing aboard her Soma Double Cross, a bike so nice we bought it twice (one for her, one for me). Hers is green, mine is black to match my aura. The venue is Palmer Park, the background is Pikes Peak, and the jersey is Pedal Queens, long may they reign.

      The fit is not ideal — Herself's is a tad large, while mine is a tad small — but regardless, the Double Cross is a fine, inexpensive way to dip a toe into your local 'cross pond this fall, so if you have a few Dead President Trading Cards that lack previous commitments elsewhere, you could do worse than send them to San Francisco.

      Speaking of commitments in foreign lands, The Surge® will be a hot topic of conversation, dissimulation and propagandization next week as Bush's fall guy — excuse me, Gen. David Petraeus — explains to Congress how things in Iraq don't suck as badly as they appear to. Not even The New York Times is buying this, and neither should you. As Kevin Drum notes:

    I think it's worthwhile for proponents of withdrawal to be honest about the likely aftermath of pulling out: an intensified civil war that will take the lives of tens of thousands and end in the installation, at least in the short-term, of an Iran-friendly theocracy. This is obviously not a happy outcome, but neither is it the catastrophe the Chaos Hawks peddle. The alternative is to babysit the civil war with American troops, spilling blood and treasure along the way, without truly affecting the course of events in any substantial measure.

    Politically, this is the key battleground now. As long as the Chaos Hawks are able to panic the public into believing that withdrawal will result in a Middle East in flames and ten dollar gasoline at home, no Congress will have the backbone to defund the war and force a pullout. This means that it's time for more sensible regional professionals to screw up their courage and tell the truth: pulling out won't be pretty, but if it's done prudently neither will it be Armageddon. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can leave Iraq.

    Until then, though, our foreign policy will continue to be held hostage to a senseless war that does us no good. Al-Qaeda will continue to recruit and grow, Afghanistan will slowly slip away, a shooting war with Iran will become more likely, our military will continue being stretched and drained, and our country will become less and less safe. And all for nothing. It's way past time for us to start formulating a sane national security policy for an age of terror. Leaving Iraq is the first step.

      Read the whole post. Kevin's nailed Bush's hide to the barn door.

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    Third time's a charm?

      The rumor mill is working overtime in DeeCee, whispering that the Busheviks are peeing their pants in eagerness for a war with Iran — you know, because the two we already have going are working out so nicely. Chris Hedges at Truthdig, envisioning a series of airstrikes aimed at 1,200 targets that could destroy Iran's military capability in three days, asks the obvious question: "And then what?" Ray McGovern notes that the usual media suspects are busy retailing the White House's bullshit (Talking Points Memo points the finger at, surprise, surprise, Darth Cheney), but thinks war can be averted if enough of us get off our asses and demand that the House instigate impeachment proceedings. And Counterpunch says the whole scheme could be furthered by naming Joe Lieberman to replace Fredo Gonzales at Justice, which would leave Connecticut's GOP governor free to appoint one of the red boys to replace Lieberman and thus return control of the Senate to the pudgy, manicured pinkies of the Repuglicants.

      Anyone feel like moving to Canada?

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    Labor daze

      The year is on the downhill side and carving the corners toward winter. How the hell did it get to be September so damn' fast? It feels like we shot from New Year's to Labor Day in less time than it takes a Republican legislator to cruise a one-stall restroom.

      Meanwhile, Gen. George Armstrong Bush is visiting Little Big Surge in advance of the much-anticipated report on same, which seems mostly to be giving the Shiites time to cleanse themselves of Sunni annoyances. Heckuva job, Davey.

      Here in Bibleburg the constabulary is all shook up over hip-hop, the same way their predecessors were over rock 'n' roll, the foxtrot and coming down out of the trees and walking upright. No racial profiling here, thank you just the same. Colorado Springs doesn't judge a man by the color of his skin, but rather by the volume of his bass.

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    Mr. Tight Jeans and Mr. Dropped Trou'

      There's no point in working at being funny anymore. The amateurs are covering all the bases of weirdo news nuggets that you just can't make up. And this Larry Craig deal is a self-operating, Bizarro World gold mine. From The New York Times comes this:

    If Senator Larry E. Craig yields to calls for his resignation amid allegations that he solicited sex in an airport bathroom, his successor would be chosen by a fellow Republican who once entered a tight-jeans contest — and won.

    Gov. C. L. Otter, known as Butch, was lieutenant governor when he won the "Mr. Tight Jeans" contest at the Rockin' Rodeo bar here in the state capital in July 1992. A few days later he was arrested, and eventually convicted, for driving under the influence of alcohol.

    Now, after having gone on to serve three terms in the House of Representatives before being elected governor last year, Mr. Otter knows better than most what voters in this deeply conservative state will tolerate when it comes to the private behavior of public officials.

    "As a public servant who has made mistakes in my private life, I am mindful that you don't really know who your friends are, until you stumble," he told reporters here this week.

      Top that? Are you kidding? I won't even try.

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    War is (c)heck

      Here's a fun story, if your idea of "fun" is watching tax dollars spiraling down the Mess O'Potamia toilet. And be sure to read this for extra credit. Anyone who calls himself a conservative and doesn't chisel off the Bush-Cheney 2004 sticker on his bumper immediately upon reading these appalling pieces should be immediately interned at Gitmo as a threat to the Republic. Whoops, too late — the Republic has already fallen. We return you now to the reality-avoidance mechanism of your choice.

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    Restroom Romeos

      Man, the tailors in DeeCee must be working overtime sewing kneepads into Repugnicant congresscreeps' slacks. Now, I don't care if these weenie-waggers like to spend their spare time dressing up like Carol Channing and Liza Minnelli and flogging each other into a frenzy with feather boas dusted with Viagra. Whatever floats your teensy weensy little boat, sez I. But please, spare us the family-values chatter during working hours on the public nickel. Now, if only we could catch the Cheerleader-in-Chief and/or Darth Cheney playing tonsil hockey with Mitt Romney, a couple of teen-age male pages and a black goat in a White House crapper. . . .

      Meanwhile, speaking of pricks, W has paid yet another visit to still-struggling New Orleans, where his minions say he will ask for the $5 billion in federal money needed to help strengthen the Big Easy's levees against the next 100-year storm. Guess how much he wants for Little Big Surge? That would be $50 billion. Keep those pirogues and slickers handy, y'all.

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    Fredo deep-sixed

      Ho, ho. The Chimp-in-Chief says Fredo's good name has been "dragged through the mud for political reasons." Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson, Al Gore, John Kerry, Max Cleland and the ghosts of Ann Richards and Molly Ivins all must be having a good snicker over that one. In a righteous world, Gonzales' entire sorry ass, not just his name, would've been dragged through the streets in a tumbril, bound for the guillotine. The man had the legal mind of a pimp and the integrity of a hyena in a gut pile, and he would've cheerfully sent his mama to a concentration camp if The Decider ordered it. He reminds me of Junior Leyba in John Nichols' "A Magic Journey" — the prototypical coconut (brown on the outside, white on the inside) first elevated and then unleashed by a honky power structure against his own working-class people:

    Like a man driving at night, hypnotized by bright headlights into veering toward an approaching vehicle, Junior joined all the lawyers, real estate dealers and hustlers effectuating the Betterment of Chamisaville.

      The difference being, of course, that Junior Leyba was both venal and competent.

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    Napoleon Bonehead

      Juan Cole draws an interesting parallel between Napoleon's occupation of Egypt and Gen. George Armstrong Bush's stand at Little Big Surge. Notes Cole:

    "Above all, the leaders of both occupations employed the same basic political vocabulary and rhetorical flimflammery, invoking the spirit of liberty, security, and democracy while largely ignoring the substance of these concepts."

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    Alms for an old ex-leper?

      Former New Life Church pastor Ted Haggard, who fled to Arizona in disgrace after a dubious relationship with a meth-dealing gay hooker, is at it again. This time, he's begging for money to keep him and the family in bacon and beans while he "ministers" to the downtrodden and attends college in Phoenix.

      According to the Gazette, Haggard has been paid $338,000 since the beginning of 2006 and owns a home here in Bibleburg valued at more than $700,000, but still finds himself a tad light in the wallet pocket (in addition to the loafers). In an e-mail posted on KRDO Channel 13's Web site, the grounded sky pilot wrote:

    "It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years. During that time we will continue as full-time students, and then, when I graduate, we won¹t need outside support any longer."

      Uh huh. Right. This two-bit Elmer Gantry will be proffering the old collection plate as long as he has the strength to lift it. The sad thing is, the simps will keep filling it. I'll give Ted a little something — the same advice my dad gave me. You want money? Get a fuckin' job.

      Meanwhile, we have a new entry in the ongoing Dumbest Town in America competition — New Haven, Connecticut, which managed to turn a Hash House Harriers duo's use of flour to mark a running route into a massive law-enforcement clusterfuck triggered by fear of bioterrorism. Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from New Haven ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who are due in court Sept. 14 on charges of first-degree breach of peace, a felony. ''You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know,'' she told The Associated Press. ''It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We're thankful it wasn't, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out.'' What, like a non-union janitor armed with a broom and dustpan? And what could be more serious in this day and age than stupidity? Expect a dramatic decline in hopscotch as a consequence.

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    The dog days of summer

      Come August, I invariably find myself sick of the sound of my own voice after seven months of screeching like a cheap set of maladjusted canti's at VeloNews.com, Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, and here. A road trip is indicated. As Jim Harrison has taught us, "Do not scorn day trips. You can use them to avoid nervous collapse." (See "Going Places" in his collection of essays, "Just Before Dark.")

      My bolt hole of choice is Santa Fe, a place that annoyed me greatly when I lived there but is oddly restful as a short-term getaway. Despite its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, it can be a cheap date if you know how to cut corners.

      For starters, I generally stay at the Hilton, which is a short walk or bike ride from nearly everyplace I want to go. Herself and I have Hilton Honors Visa cards, and purchases build points that can be used for free hotel stays. The downside of this is that, prime location and free lodging aside, the Hilton mostly sucks. It must be the last hotel in the universe that lacks premium cable and free wireless internet, and the money-grubbing sonsabitches charge $15 a day for parking. So in future I'm considering taking a whack at the reasonably priced El Rey Inn or the Santa Fe Motel. It's only money, after all.

      You can eat and drink cheaply and well at Second Street Brewery, Il Vicino, Tia Sophia and La Choza (its sister restaurant, The Shed, is niftier, pricier and generally besmirched by hipper-than-thou service due to its prime location just off the Plaza).

      Take your exercise on the Dale Ball Trails, where you can easily put together a two-hour mountain-bike ride. Well, not easily. The buggers are steeper than health-care costs. In a dry year you can ride the Dale Balls on a broadly geared 'cross bike, but it's been unusually wet this year and I had plenty of trouble navigating its steeps and switchbacks on the fat-tire flyer, in part because I've always been an incompetent mountain biker and as a consequence I've ridden the fucker about twice in the past two years.

      Soak out your aches and pains, whether acquired athletically or alcoholically, at Ten Thousand Waves. It's not cheap anymore — $20 for a soak in the public tub — but you can spend hours there, rotating among the hot tub, cold plunge and dry sauna, until you regain a flickering, half-hearted interest in continuing to live. Plus there are naked women to hold your attention (and naked men, too, if that's what floats your boat).

      If you have the time to drift north to Taos, Eske's Brew Pub and Restaurant is a pleasant place to wait for the Plaza's perpetual traffic jam to clear. On the north end of town, Orlando's is well worth a visit — great service and even better food. Try Los Colores, an enchilada platter with one cheese covered with chile caribe, one chicken in green, and one beef in red, plus beans and posole on the side.

      The idea of a getaway like this is to quit thinking about things you can't fix, like the state of the nation and/or professional bicycle racing. Flush out your smelly old headgear. Remember why the Buddha is often pictured as laughing his ass off. And don't forget to apologize to all the friends you didn't visit as you stumbled blindly along the path.

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    Laterally stiff yet vertically compliant

      For anyone who's read one too many cookie-cutter road-bike reviews (or written one too many), we hereby present the Bike Snob NYC 2008 Dream Bike Shootout. Keep a change of underwear and some baby wipes handy while you read it. Me, I develop an unseemly craving for carbon, I sharpen a pencil and snort the shavings.

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    And now, the good news

      Food prices are rising, some of them in double digits, thanks to the cost of gasoline, the crackdown on farm-working migraciones and the nation's sudden fascination with gasohol. Also on the upswing are health-care and other costs. And the White House — not Gen. David "Why the Hell Did I Take This Job?" Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan "Ditto" Crocker — will write next month's Petraeus-Crocker report on "progress" in Iraq. You may now proceed to the nearest reality-avoidance mechanism of your choice.

      Mine include strong drink and cyclo-cross, and you can get both at the Full Speed Ahead Star Crossed presented by Gerk's Alpine Hut on Sept. 22 at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington. The UCI race, first in the United States this year and the kickoff to a series of West Coast events, has a new sponsor this year — Deschutes Brewery, the official beer-garden sponsor and one of my favorite craft breweries.

      Four days later is the Excel Sports Cross Vegas, brought to Sin City by Colorado's very own Chris Grealish just in time for the Interbike trade show, which I will not be attending this year for a number of very fine reasons, none of which involve the police, restraining orders or a sudden come-to-Jesus moment shared by a pair of bike-mag publishers. But don't let that stop you from going. I have it on good authority that Elvis and Miss Nevada are gonna be there, and if there is not someone tugging on a tap there for fun and profit, well then, I'm a Republican presidential candidate.

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    More fat in the fire

      Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is out of there, too. As Hunter S. once said, it makes a man's eyes damp, for sure. Or not.

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    Fart Blossom wilts

      The so-called "Boy Genius," Karl Rove, is leaving the White House at month's end. One wonders why now, and what's he gonna be up to? Roadie for Van Halen?

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    Aorta know better

      Went for a spin through the hills of the Broadmoor with O'Schenk today, and since I was using a heart-rate monitor and he was not (the reverse of normal), we decided to see if we could cause my drink-swollen ticker to leap from my ribcage like a drunken salmon flailing upstream to spawn. I managed to top 182 beats per minute twice for brief periods on one steepish stretch of road, which was an educational experience, considering that I used to time-trial in the high 170s/low 180s back in the day when I was a man instead of whatever it is that I am now.

      I don't do that sort of thing much any more, for obvious reasons (for starters, it hurts). Still, it's interesting to test the depth of the old fight-or-flight reserves from time to time, especially if you write and/or draw things that piss people off. Mine appear to be those of a centenarian staring at the icy steps between him and the mailbox containing his Social Security check.

      Speaking of which, that centenarian is likely to find a set of bloodshot eyeballs staring at him from deep inside that mailbox should he survive the journey.

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    Better late than never

      I finally get around to squeezing out a post-Tour rant for the fine folks at VeloNews.com and poof goes another irate Refuglycan magazine subscriber. These fleawits are dumber than a sack full of ass hair. An infrequent opinion piece on a free website puts their panties in a twist, so they drop an Old Media mag full of useful and entertaining information. Small wonder the country's in such a pickle.

      The screed was actually my second on that topic in a week, as Bicycle Retailer & Industry News was on deadline, too. Look forward to seeing that little ditty lying crumpled next to a bike-shop toilet near you sometime in late September, when it will be as fresh as last year's ice-cold horseshit. It's a poorly executed, thinly veiled, misdemeanor ripoff of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal."

      It's getting harder to write these things because there is no solution to the doping issue, other than removing the gateway drug — money — from the mix. If history teaches us anything, it's that some people will do anything for a fat sack of filthy lucre. So as long as people are paid to perform, they'll cut any corner to get to the finish that little bit faster.

      I used to break out the occasional column defining sport via a series of rules (must have a finish line or points awarded impartially for specific actions, and so on and so forth). I haven't resurrected that one in a while because it no longer obtains. I see only one defining factor now: If you're paid to do it, it ain't sport. It's business.

      Meanwhile, the summer monsoons have done a Rolling Thunder number on all my favorite trails, first eroding them and then camouflaging their treacherous ruts and gullies with robust greenery. Every time I go for a little 'cross-bike ride these days I pick up a couple bucks' worth of inedible salad on both handlebars from trailside foliage. So today I decided to do my second cyclo-cross workout of the pre-season over at East Middle School, where the grass has been growing like that list of subpoenas the White House keeps ignoring. Oh, Lord. I felt like I had been recorded at 78 and played back at 33 1/3.

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    Shorter Hamid Karzai


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    Noah crashes block party

      Our annual neighborhood block party got flushed down the loo by a monster rainstorm last night. The band got a song or two in, maybe someone managed to gobble a hot dog or some potato salad, and then boom! The sky giants start bowling and the rain just comes a-pissin' down. We hid out at a neighbor's for a while, drinking a tasty Lirac and shooting the shit, but we finally had to cave when it became apparent that God had more water than we had wine. So we went home and snapped a pic of our alleged kitten, Turkish, who has assumed monstrous proportions (this one's for Tanya).

      More of the same is bucketing down as we speak, foiling my little scheme of grilling a couple of steaks on the back deck. So it's beef enchiladas prepared indoors, probably some spuds, a salad and some more of that French rosé that's been tasting so good lately.

      Meanwhile, if you feel sorry for the "working-class millionaires" of Silicon Valley after reading this, then please scoot on down to the Red Cross at once. You're a natural-born blood donor.

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    Elefinks in Donk duds

      Jesus H. Christ. Why do we bother sending Democrats to Congress if all they're going to do is act like Republicans? And Congress wonders why it has all the popularity of that fabled burning, itching sensation. We need to put the arm on this crowd. Chase the bastards out of their faux Roman enclaves in DeeCee and let them have their little Robot's Rules of Order clusterfucks in tin-roofed shacks in Appalachia, abandoned warehouses in Kansas, tents in Yuma, and pass out sacks of spoiled produce, dog turds and rotten eggs to the gallery. Give the swine some perspective, if such a thing is possible. Either that or bring back the Coliseum and toss the sonsabitches to the lions.

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    The parting glass

      Ah, Jaysis. Tommy Makem has gone west. I saw him and the Clancy Brothers, said to be the four most famous Irishmen in the world, once in Denver. The promoters, God love 'em, were selling Guinness in the lobby of whichever venue it happened to be (the memory for some strange reason eludes me), and the crowd was singing right along with the lads, if slightly less well. The Clancys and Makem led me to Planxty, the Dayhills, Clannad, the Battlefield Band and many another outfit, and so I raise the parting glass to Tommy. Asked recently if he had any plans to retire, he replied, "Yes, of course, I retire every night and in the morning when I awake I realize just how lucky and privileged I am to be able to continue doing the things I love to do." We should all be so fortunate.

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    It's beer-thirty

      The 2007 Tour de France is over, and just as I had predicted, it was won by someone riding a bicycle. You may now return to the secondary reality-avoidance mechanism of your choice. Mine, tonight, is beer — Mirror Pond Pale Ale, to be specific — and oh, how good it tastes on a warm summer night after three weeks in that big yellow barrel.

      Tomorrow I have to dash off some class of cartoon about this year's romp around Frogland, and then I have the rest of the week to catch up on my cycling, which went all sideways as the wheels came off for Alexandre Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni and Michael Rasmussen, and Astana and Cofidis found themselves shitcanned from the Tour. It will be a week filled with press conferences, charges and counter-charges, "silly season" team-swapping, sponsorship implosions, preening, posturing and lawyers, and I will pay it no mind whatsoever.

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    The accidental Tourist

      The 2007 Tour de France is over tomorrow, and it feels like school's letting out for summer. The sonofabitch has been running on a loop, like something from a script tag-teamed by Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison; you don't know what's lurking around the next corner, but you know it's gonna be large, ugly and full of jagged yellow teeth.

      We had technical issues today, with a VeloNews.com contractor and my own e-mail provider, which got swarmed by a spammer, and so covering the stage was extra fun. There was some discussion of suicide and/or day drinking, and we all agreed to settle for the latter until the Tour is finally over.

      Still, it's amazing how much shit a very thin herd can lay on a mighty big pasture. We got news, features, analyses and results from staffers and contractors both abroad and here at home; photos out the wazoo from Graham Watson, AFP and my homeboy Casey Gibson; plus podcasts and video. Lucky me, I only have to deal with text and pix. As you know, the Irish have few marketable skills beyond drinking, holding a grudge and writing short fiction.

      Whether anyone's consuming all this infotainment is another question altogether. I quit taking it even semi-seriously when Alexandre Vinokourov made the Dope-O-Meter go bong bong bong and Michael Rasmussen turned into the International Man of Mystery. I mean, does this marked yellow deck even have a top to deal off of, or any cards other than the Joker?

      Chapeau to anyone who raced the race clean and made it to Paris. Alberto Contador may even be one of them. But if you think he won this Tour, you haven't been paying attention. He's just going to be the guy with the nifty yellow shirt. It's not the same thing.

      Elsewhere, another Alberto — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — is in the mierda right up to his Old Glory lapel pin. Nobody loves him, everybody hates him, but the chances are slim of his eating worms anytime soon. Gonzales has been W's Tio Taco for far too long and thus knows too much (although it doesn't show in public), and W knows he'll never get another so pleasingly pliable peón from a marginally Democratic Senate. So unless the Senate miraculously grows a pair of huevos and impeaches this pendejo, Fredo will continue to roast like a chile on the Devil's grill. ¿Qué triste es la vida, no? And quién sabe? W may prefer that Fredo get roasted, peeled and chopped; the distraction might give him and Darth Cheney a chance to scuttle off to the DeathStar before the mierda hits the abanico.

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    Scrap irony

      Check out the estimated finishing time for tomorrow's stage of le Tour. That's right — it's 4:20. Once again, satire finishes a very poor second to reality, which subsequently tests positive for exogenous irony and is unceremoniously tossed from the Vuelta a la Vida Loca.

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    Man bites dog

      Nobody tested positive or got kicked out of the Tour today. Break open the champagne, and plenty of it. I'm beat. Long day in that big yellow barrel full of dope. We pushed a whole bunch of pixels over at VeloNews.com today, almost none of it the usual sweetness-and-light one expects of a sporting publication (the fraternity of sportswriters consisting largely of fanboys who get paychecks for obsessing over their sweaty activity of choice).

      I really should write something noisy and filthy about all this, but I just can't work up the requisite level of outrage. A colleague forwarded this link with the observation, "Hard to believe this was 10 years ago . . . might as well have been written yesterday." And he's right. I've been singing out on this particular topic since 1989, when I first started playing bad piano in this whorehouse, and my voice is giving out.

      Richard Pryor laid down the definitive riff on this state of mind in "Live on the Sunset Strip," talking about how difficult it was to get back to performing after nearly killing himself acting the fool: "Maybe I ain't funny no more, you know? Like, maybe I ain't angry at nothin', for real, in my heart. I'm just not mad about it. I don't get it. You motherfuckers want to kill yourselves, that's your business. Just don't do it on my porch."

      I haven't endured nearly what Rich' did, and as a consequence ain't nearly as funny. But I'm still alive, and I don't want these motherfuckers lying around dead on my porch, stinking up the neighborhood.

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    Fried Chicken

      Or maybe that headline should be "A not-so-great Dane." Whatever. VeloNews.com has the breaking story here.

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    In Vino', veritas?

      Aw, shit. These swine keep playing me like a drunken hillbilly's stolen fiddle, and I'm getting awfully sick of it. Rasmussen is even better at playing dodge-the-narcs than he is at climbing hills, Vino' apparently has too much blood in his blood, and we're still waiting for that third shoe in this annual Race of the Mutants — Floyd Landis — to drop. Jesus H. Christ.

      Naturally, I had a deadline to meet, and of course it fell before the news about Vino'. So I wrote a snarky column about Rasmussen when I should have been trying to unhorse a Kazakh. Here's a non-specific sample that could apply to both of them:

    Speaking of things that fail to pass the smell test, helping VeloNews.com cover the 2007 Tour de France has once again set me to thinking about finding some less shameful way of earning a living. Drug pusher? No, been there, done that. Male prostitute? Too old, too ugly. White House press secretary? Too much like being a male prostitute.

      I used to tape every stage of this race. This year, I didn't even bother to have the cable plugged in. Instead, I saw to it that I got up early and went for a run or a ride every morning before I clocked in and went to work, sans kneepads and health insurance, in the big yellow barrel.

      Go and do likewise, is my advice to you. The Tour de France has all the legitimacy of the 2000 U.S. presidential election without, happily, the horrific international consequences. In the final analysis, it's only a fucking bike race. There are plenty of them. Go find one, enter it and have yourself some good, clean fun.

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    Stop the presses!

      Well, the Gazette finally put Le Tour on the Sports cover today — and why? Because of the doping rumors swirling around Michael Rasmussen, of course. Keep up the good work, boys. This is why people interested in sports that don't involve sticks and balls read specialty publications, like VeloNews.

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    No light at the end of that tunnel

      I understand Gen. George Armstrong Bush is scheduled for a colonscopy on Saturday. Think they'll find his head up there somewhere?

      Speaking of chickens, The Chicken, otherwise known as Michael Rasmussen, presently leader of the Tour de France, has run afoul of the sporting press. My colleagues over at VeloNews.com are leading with a story about a former amateur mountain-bike racer who alleges that Le Poulet tried to sucker him into fetching a box full of "hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier" — that's cow blood to you and me — to Italy for him back in 2002. The story quickly grew monstrous feathery legs with big yellow feet on them, getting picked up by Sam Abt over at the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times and any number of other news organizations. The Chicken must be looking forward to tomorrow's time trial, when he will go backward faster than a Young Republican who has a few too many at a frat kegger and finds himself returning to consciousness at a Marine Corps recruiting office, with pen poised over the dotted line.

      Big props to the gang in Boulder. But don't expect any chatty getting-to-know-you rides in the Rabobank team car anytime soon.

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    Jeez, light a match, can't ya?

      So the temps inch up toward the century mark once again and I relocate the office to the basement, which is easily 10, maybe 15 degrees cooler than the upstairs. And what happens? Turkish lays a monstrous stink-bomb in the litter box and chases me right the hell back upstairs. I'm tellin' ya, my eyes were burning.

      Fun piece in The New York Times today about how you can be a great fat bastard and still ride a bicycle. I'm surprised nobody contacted me for my perspective, as I am the poster porker for that demographic and have a friend at The Old Gray Bitch (he rides a nifty carbon Ibis and is the furthest thing from a great fat bastard). No, they talk to Andy Hampsten, who carries not an extra ounce of adipose tissue of which I am aware. My right butt-cheek weighs more than his whole family.

      Across the pond, meanwhile, T-Mobile's travails continued as Marcus Burghardt T-boned some dipshit spectator's unleashed dog. The friggin' thing probably belongs to Jan Ullrich, who no doubt was sprawled half-conscious on a blanket at roadside with a keg of St. Pauli Girl, a bushel of pommes frites and a 55-gallon drum of mayo'. Neither dog nor cyclist sustained any serious injury, if you believe the sporting press.

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    Hot enough to boil a monkey's bum

      Ninety-freakin'-four degrees. Ay, Chihuahua. It's hotter than a buggerin' meeting of the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo. Makes a guy want to drink all his meals. Like an Irishman (or an Aussie philosophy professor) needs any encouragement to do that.

      I got out for a run this morning before the asphalt began to bubble like a licorice pizza, adding a few nodules to the old melanoma collection while sweating so much that trailside plants were dying from the salt. I should've gone for a ride, as I'm back in the big yellow barrel starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow for Stage 9 of Le Tour, but I rode so poorly on Sunday that I couldn't bear the thought of an encore. Plus my chain lube has evaporated, my tires have melted and my bikes' handlebars are drooping like a catfish's moustache.

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    T-Mobile hung up

      Jeez, we sure put the evil eye on T-Mobile with our extensive coverage yesterday — they lost three riders on today's stage, including team captain Michael Rogers, who ate it on a descent. They'll never talk to us again. Rum go for the Aussies, too. In addition to Rogers, m'boy Stuey O'Grady broke just about everything and Robbie McEwen got shelled by the time cut.

      Here in Bibleburg we're not falling off our bikes, but we're not eager to get on 'em either. Ninety-two it is right now, and the past couple days I've been working indoors with the shades drawn 'cause it's just too bloody hot. Plus the new neighbors have pulled down this ugly-ass old shed that used to form about half the fence dividing our yard from theirs, and their children and dog are a tad active for a guy who's frantically chasing a herd of typos across an LCD. The new fence starts going in tomorrow, but there's no relief from the heat in sight — looks like 90-something all week. Maybe I'll slip down to Dogtooth Coffee and enjoy their air conditioning.

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    Bastille Day

      The Froggies took another hiding from the Heinies on their national holiday as Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) took stage 7, the maillot jaune and the white jersey as best young rider. Me, I filled in as chief VeloNews.com web guy in Charles Pelkey's absence and took my own vicious beating. Good God, I don't know how the man does it, day in and day out. I edited 13 stories and wrote one; sized and posted 24 photos; and hand-coded a shitload of results that make our conversion tool go boy-yoy-yoinnnngggg. All before 2 p.m., mind you. Now I'm trying to jump-start my dead ass with a Clif Shot and a cup of Joe so I can go out for a ride before the afternoon thunder-boomers strike. Only two more weeks to go.

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    Friday the 13th

      It being Friday the 13th, I had to deal with Jason today — but happily it was Jason Sumner over at VeloNews.com, and he wasn't wearing a hockey mask and brandishing various razor-sharp implements, unless you count his wit.

      The big Belgian beefcake Tom Boonen finally got a stage win today, which was timely, as tomorrow Le Tour heads for the Alps and the big boys will yield center stage to the skinny runts. Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov and Andréas Klöden will have a rough day of it, as between them they sport more bandages than a platoon of Invisible Men with leprosy. Plus it's Bastille Day, and the Frogs will be a-hoppin'.

      Elsewhere, Gen. George Armstrong Bush is still staggering around at Little Big Surge with arrows sticking out of his ass and claiming the natives are friendly. Yes, and the sun sets in the East, there's a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and not every Republican elected official is a hypocritical troll. Just most of 'em.

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    And now, in health news . . .

      The good news is, all the self-absorbed yuppie swine who insist on wearing their iPods everywhere like cheap white plastic jewelry will soon be small heaps of smoking ash, courtesy of The Great Zot. The bad news is, if you go outside to exercise, even without your iPod, you should refrain from breathing. Expect an even more virulent infestation of the iPod People at the local health club as a consequence. Maybe we can chain these bliss-ninnies to their exercycles and treadmills, retrofitted with dynamo generators, hook the whole shebang up to giant storage batteries and generate a little electricity, which would allow us to shut down a few coal-burning power plants, take down the old carbon footprint a size or two. That's my happy thought for today. Thanks and a tip of the Mad Dog Media tinfoil beanie to Craig Maxwell for the iLectricity link.

      Meanwhile, back at Le Tour, seems that everybody was falling off his bike today. "Too much chablis in the water bottles," theorizes a colleague. Me, I'm into the rosé lately (a clink of the glass to Avery for nudging us off in that direction). Anyway, Astana was left sucking the wet end of the mop after Andreas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov both hit the deck; Klöden may have collected a busted tailbone and thus an early exit from this year's race.

      I did not fall off my bike today. Indeed, I set a new world record for the Sinton Trail individual time trial. Clipped 30 seconds off the old mark. Thousands cheer. Endorsement contracts await. Must be the rosé.

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    Is this a Congress or an oil painting?

      'Cause I think I've seen more life from an oil painting, even if it was of Elvis, on velvet, and being sold at roadside south of a suburban K-mart by a person of questionable immigration status. "Executive privilege" my large, Irish ass. If these yahoos can't remember diddley or won't talk about it, let's clap the sonsabitches in irons until their memories and mouths regain their functioning capacities. This isn't about who's gonna be the next congressman, senator or president — it's about the underpinnings of the Republic, which this administration has been chopping away at since day one. Bring impeachment proceeds against Fredo Gonzales, Darth Cheney and Gen. George Armstrong Bush, and do it now. Christ on a crutch. These bozos are jerking us off so regularly, none of us will have to get laid for the next 10 years.

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      Hey, lookit me, I'm, famous! Jef Mallett's velo-janitor Frazz is wearing a Mad Dog Media jersey in today's installment of the newspaper comic strip. I had the good fortune to meet Jef a while back, and I can report with authority that he is a better cartoonist, cyclist and person than I am, although none of those bars is exactly a high jump. Plus he likes to drink beer. If I have an edge on him anywhere, that's probably it, thanks to a giant spongelike Gaelic liver. Thanks and a tip of the MDM cycling cap to Michael O'Schenk of Eon Studios, who both tipped me to the 'toon and designed that stylish jersey.

      And now the bad news for those of us who love a good laugh: Editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette, creator of the comic strip "Kudzu," was killed in an auto accident this morning. Marlette won the Pulitzer in 1988 for his editorial cartooning at The Charlotte Observer and The Atlanta Constitution, which he had joined the year before, and credited his biting approach in part to "a grandmother bayoneted by a guardsman during a mill strike in the Carolinas. There are some rebellious genes floating around in me." He was all of 57 years old.

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    Ascent of Man

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    Sign of The Times

      The New York Times puts a belated arrow into Gen. George Armstrong Bush's 10-ring:

    President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans' demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.

    This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

      Meanwhile, that three-week race around Frogland is in full swing, albeit in Britain, and as a consequence I have reopened the fabled Mad Dog Media Communications Empire outdoor office (above), complete with patio umbrella, frosty beverage and venerable G3 PowerBook 500. If a guy's got to spend a lovely summer morning pushing pixels around someone else's web site for fun and profit, he might as well be outdoors.

      Europe being some eight hours ahead of us, I find myself clocking in around 9 a.m. like a guy with a real job instead of a ne'er-do-well exemplar of the permanent underclass. This, in a word, sucks. My usual M.O. is to arise at a civilized hour; inhale some java and a bite of breakfast; do a bit of work from around 8 to 10; slip out for a ride or a run; have a light lunch; do a skosh more work in the afternoon or run some errands; fry up some fellow Earth creature for dinner; and then start pulling corks until my head caves in. But the Tour flushes that leisurely schedule right down the loo.

      Today I clocked in around 8 and didn't get that ride in until after 1 p.m., when it was hotter than a two-dollar shotgun and a stiff wind was blowing what looked like a promising rainstorm out of town and all the pollen in my ZIP code right up my snout. So I dicked around in undistinguished fashion on a 'cross bike for 90 minutes or thereabouts and headed home to find out one of our incoming stories had fallen victim to gremlins en route from London to Colorado. Just seven or eight characters, which spelled no word with which I am familiar, survived the flight across the Atlantic. O, the pain.

      This doesn't sound like a lot of work to anyone shoveling poo in the cube farm, I know. But we're still talking about editing seven or eight stories and a dozen photos, which is a full shift on many a newspaper copy desk. At least I can serve my time on the back deck with KRCC-FM streaming on the laptop and a yard full of cats chasing butterflies.

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    Feeling lucky, punk?

      It's 7/7/7, said to be the luckiest day of the century, if you believe The San Francisco Chronicle, whose Julian Guthrie writes thusly:

    As numbers go, seven is a big one. There are seven days in a week, seven notes on a musical scale, seven colors of the rainbow, seven wonders of the world and seven deadly sins. Catholics celebrate seven sacraments and seven virtues. Buddha was said to have walked seven steps at birth. And in Islamic tradition, seven symbolizes infinity.

      The Tour de France will be hoping for a little luck as it gets rolling today in London. Last year's winner, Floyd Landis, is stateside, waiting to learn whether he'll be taking the next two years off, and a number of other big names thought to have taken that quick shortcut to fitness through the pharmacy will not be rolling out of the start house for the 7.9km prologue.

      But the day began with snake eyes for Levi Leipheimer — the French sports mag L'Equipe did not pick him as one of this year's contenders for the overall, according to VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood. And Agence France Presse reports that Le Tour itself was snubbed by the German daily Berliner Zeitung, which announced that it will not cover the race this year, preferring to focus instead on "the fundamental problems of the sport: the Tour, doping and organized crime." Ain't nothin' but a party.

      Late update: The numerology didn't work for m'boy Stuart O'Grady, who overcooked a corner and stacked it. But his teammate Fabian Cancellara kept the rubber side down and smoked it. The good news is, nobody's tested positive for dope yet.

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    French fried

      That little ol' race around France starts tomorrow, but I can't seem to work up any enthusiasm for it. I'll pay close attention, because I'm paid to, but it feels like the bad old days, when I earned my living editing stories about school boards, city councils and petty crime. I didn't even bother having cable installed so I could watch the Phil and Paul show on Versus. Frankly, I'd rather be riding my bike.

      The trick, I suppose, is to treat this gig like any other. You don't have to love garbage to be a garbageman. It's just a way to put food on the table and clothes on your back. But damn it, I did love this garbage once.

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    Forth on the Fourth

      Happy Fourth of July to you and yours. Take a minute between barbecues and bike rides to remember what a great country this used to be, and can be again, if we remember that we, the people, are supposed to be in charge, and start acting accordingly.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security. . . .

      Meanwhile, for your holiday reading pleasure, here's a Los Angeles Times piece on what the Busheviks thought about tough sentencing for obstruction pre-Scooter Libby (Hint: They were fer it afore they were agin it). There's more on this sordid topic here, courtesy of The Washington Monthly.

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    Reign of error

      Any lingering delusions you may have had about one person being as good as another in this country should have been swept away by yesterday's proclamation that Scooter Libby would do no jail time after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case. Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly gets it exactly right here:

    I don't doubt that conservatives will quickly argue that the nation, which strongly opposed Bush coming to Libby's rescue, just "get over it." And perhaps, in time, this will just be another bullet point on a long list of Bush's disgraces.

    But some offenses are impossible to forgive. Manipulating the rule of law and the U.S. system of justice to serve personal and political ends is one of them. Indeed, in a reasonable political world, it's an impeachable offense.

      Nothing is reasonable in BushWorld, though. And with the Donks focused on 2008, don't expect our invertebrate Congress to suddenly grow a backbone and start walking the walk.

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    Robert Pigeon, R.I.P.

      My father-in-law, Robert Pigeon, went west just past noon today in Knoxville, Tennessee, after some nine months struggling with cancer. Bob loved to travel, hike and garden — he puttered around on our properties in Westcliffe and Colorado Springs when he wasn't tinkering with his own in Arizona or Tennessee — and the disease robbed him of those joys in his final spring, which he spent in hospice. Condolences to his wife, Peggy, and her family, who spent so much time with him as he slipped away; to his ex-wife, Mary, and their daughters Beth, Heather and Shannon; to the grandchildren, J.C. and Katie; and to the rest of their extended family.

    To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch the renewal of life — this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do. — Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden

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    Bike Month is in the books

      And the numbers are as follows: I rode a total of 545.1 miles during the month, 134.15 of which were my version of "commuting" — rides to the grocery, the grog seller, the bakery and the bike shop. Of the commuting miles, 85.2 were logged on the Green Machine, the Bianchi Castro Valley, including a ponderous trip to the King Soopers and back for a hundred smacks worth of grub stuffed into two panniers and a rack trunk. The remainder were on the Soma Double Cross for light, messenger-bag duty, like fetching bottles of sidewalk-softener, loaves of bread and holy-shit-missing-ingredient trips to the neighborhood Safeway.

      As I mentioned earlier in this mini-saga, it was surprising how short most of my working trips were — not a single one of 'em topped 10 miles. Another stunner is how little gasoline I didn't consume — less than five gallons, worth about $15 at today's prices. The biggest blow was discovering what a wanker I've become. I quit keeping a training log some years back, even pulled the computers off all my bikes at one point 'cause I was sick of tracking mileage, average speed, heart rate, perceived exertion and so on. But I wanted data for this little experiment, and holy shit, are we talking about some teensy little numbers here or what? No wonder fat people shun mirrors like Dracula. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

      The good news is, I reclaimed a notch on my belt. That's something, right? Right?

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    iDon't have an iPhone and iDon't care

      Got your iPhone yet? Me, I'm waiting a while. My first-generation MacBook, just a matter of weeks out of warranty, has developed a buzz in the left side of the keyboard and a completely dead battery that caused me to spend an hour on the phone this morning, battling a phalanx of iTards who kept telling me that my machine and its battery were not covered by their little battery-replacement program.

      I finally prevailed on the battery issue after going into Horrible Asshole Mode with a supervisor (Apple customer since 1989, eight happily functioning computers of various ages in the house, including a G3 500 "Pismo" PowerBook circa 2000 still running on its original battery, and the only one of these geezers around here making any bad noise is me because I'm asked to eat a $130 battery after a year of using this computer as an occasional playtoy, et al, et cetera and so on and so forth). Nobody wants to listen to that shit for any longer than necessary and so I have a fresh battery en route as we speak, free of charge. But I ain't buyin' no damn' iPhone. No, sir. Not until a few other folks have hung out on hold for a few hours and shouted themselves hoarse and the iPhone 2.0 is on sale for $150 with your choice of service providers (don't get me started on AT&T).

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    Rest week

      Well, kind of. I got sick of the sound of my own voice, and with a couple of deadlines on the horizon I decided it was best to shut the fuck up, save the venom for the paying customers and ride the bike a lot while consulting with my advisers, otherwise known as the voices in my head.

      I got nearly 200 miles in since we last chatted so enjoyably, and that may explain why the legs feel a tad thick this evening, like tubes of traction sand left out in the rain. Two hunnerd miles ain't shit for the big boys, but it's a fur piece for a 53-year-old tosspot, even if a few of them were garbage miles spent cruising on the Green Machine, fetching grog, groceries and the long-awaited Jandd Economy Panniers (thanks to the guys and gals at Old Town Bike Shop). If this keeps up I may eventually shed that third butt cheek I grew over the past winter, eating far too much homemade Mexican food and whistling into empty wine bottles.

      Elsewhere, it seems The Farce is strong with Darth Cheney, Larry King has scored The Big Interview with Paris Hilton, and anybody who knows how to blow something up is suddenly al Qaeda. Put out an APB on Tweety Bird, suspected of making puddy tats faw down and go BOOM! I want that fuckin' canary singing in Gitmo by close of business tomorrow. You hear me, Fredo?

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    Bike Month redux

      Hot, hot, hot. As per usual, Colorado has leapt straight from winter into summer, just as I decided to start riding some hills to crank up the volume. Oh, mur-der, as Bugs Bunny would say. Lots of time spent reaching for gears that aren't there with sunglasses slotted into the old helmet vents and sweating all over the top tube. I've been enjoying the Peregrin-Mountain Shadows steeps (what we used to call the Monastery Loop before some developer wiped his ass with the scenery) and the fabled 26th Street/Gold Camp time-trial climb, with a side of Bear Creek Regional Park trails. And today I was pooting around on Cheyenne Mountain through the Broadmoor, which at least offers some shade once you get into Golf Country. Nevertheless, I have a fine farmer's tan going on.

      Rode the Green Machine to King Soopers for some vittles afterward, taking the scenic route to avoid the ugliest stretch of Uintah, between Cascade and Cooper. Your basic one-bag, $25 trip, as I still have no panniers, 17 days into my Noble Experiment. We're talking a six-pack of Stonyfield Farm yogurt and Bear Naked granola for breakfast plus La Baguette country-French bread and roasted turkey for lunch. Dinner was already squared away (some homemade pesto, pasta and a big-ass salad). Ran into a neighbor who cycles to work and also pilots a pink-seated neo-Vespa, preferring to leave the car parked come summer. She and her boyfriend are building her up a Jamis roadie, which should extend her range somewhat — mountain bikes are fun if you happen to be riding on a mountain, but drop bars and 700c wheels are more versatile for getting around town.

      Speaking of 700c wheels, I have a new set of R28 SL3 hoops courtesy of John Neugent at Neuvation Cycling (thanks, John). In the never-ending parade of parts swaps here in Dogpatch, the Shimano geek-wheels on my elderly DBR ti' road bike (that's it up there; click the image for a bigger pic) were transferred to the Steelman TT bike, and the Neuvations took their place on the DBR. Seeing as I'm sampling the high country these days, I took the opportunity to add a couple of teeth to the fat end of the cogset (the DBR now sports a 25 for the steeps), and with any luck I will not be weeping like a little girl the next time I tackle the Col du Peregrin.

      And yeah, that's a 73-degree Ritchey stem on that bad boy. It's a whole lot cheaper than buying a new carbon fork with a shitload more steerer tube.

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    Soma's fab

      OK, I've put three hours on my Soma Fabrications Double Cross in the past two days, and while it may be a bit early in our relationship, I feel comfortable about saying that I like the little bugger. Definitely stiffer in the rear than the Voodoo Wazoo (which had a Reynolds 853 main triangle and who knows what in the tail section), and a better climber. A very agile, fun ride, and insanely inexpensive to boot. It's been on pavement, gravel path, chip seal and single-track and enjoys them all equally. No wonder Herself has been riding so much lately.

      Elsewhere, the Basshole gets two years for "attempted doping," less the eight months he's spent on the sidelines smiling inscrutably like the Mona Lisa; Floyd is on a book tour (rumors to the contrary, the title is not "How I Didn't Do It: Give Me Some Money"); and the feebs in the New Jersey Assembly have approved a bill banning the sale of all bikes with quick-releases and "lawyer's tabs," which is basically every bicycle known to man. Read it and weep here.

      As I noted in a post over at DrunkCyclist, stupidity should be painful. If you're too simple to properly operate a quick-release, you have no business being astride a bicycle. Instead, seek election to the New Jersey Assembly, where nitwits, pinheads and other two-legged tube steaks are apparently welcomed with open arms.

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    It's alive!

      There's a new bike in the DogHaus — another Soma Fabrications Double Cross, this one for me (click the image for a larger view). Herself got one for Christmas and loves it.

      Like hers, mine is a Frankenbike, an amalgamation of parts brutally stripped from other machines: eight-speed Ultegra bar-cons, Shimano 600 brake levers and rear derailleur, Ultegra front derailleur, an old XT crank (46/34) and cogset (12-28), Shimano BR-550 cantis, Time ATAC pedals, Michelin Jet tires on Mavic Open Pro hoops laced to Dura-Ace hubs, Chris King headset, Ritchey stem, Deda 215 bars, Off the Front tape, Flite saddle. My Voodoo Wazoo was the primary organ donor, but I had to discard its too-short Control Tech seat post for a USE boingy-post that was gathering dust in the garage. The bronze color is wrong, though, so I'll have to scare up a 27.2 silver post somewhere for art's sake.

      I'm in between sizes as far as the Double Cross is concerned — the frames have long top tubes, especially when you take their slight slant into consideration, so while I ordinarily ride a 55cm Steelman and a 56cm Voodoo, I went with a 54cm Soma 'cause I thought the 58.2cm (effective) TT on the 56cm frame would be just too damn' long.

      That decision may come back to bite me in the ass — I went to slap my right hand on the top tube during a dismount this afternoon and it wasn't where I expected it to be. And I may have trouble jamming my (ahem) burly right arm and shoulder into that smallish main triangle for carrying purposes.

      But the Soma's top tube is the same length as the Voodoo's, and its wheelbase is the same as the Steelman's. Plus it feels both lively and comfy (Tange Prestige main triangle with a nice springy Tange steel fork, set up for low-rider racks and fenders). And it ain't like I'm gonna be racing 'cross world's anytime soon, so who cares if I fumble a dismount or two?

      In point of fact, this bike may wind up replacing the Green Machine as my around-town bike. It's a whole lot lighter, at 22.5 pounds; it'll take a rear rack and panniers; and it's black, just like my aura.

      Bad News Department: Mr. Wizard is conducting his final experiment.

      Good News Department: I don't have to go to Interbike this year. More on that topic later.

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    Bike Month revisited

      There's all kinds of monstrous crap going on in the nation and world, a foul cornucopia overflowing with carnage, criminality and creepiness, but to hell with it. Let's talk about bicycling for a change. I got something like 150 miles in last week, and 41 of those were logged doing business astride the Green Machine, my Bianchi Castro Valley, in honor of Colorado Bike Month.

      I'm surprised at how short most of my regular trips (generally made in a car) are. Downtown? Four-mile round trip. Coaltrain Wine & Liquor? Two and a half. The back-cracker? Seven (although there is a not-insubstantial hill involved). The longest trip I make on a semi-regular basis is out to the Whole Foods on North Academy, and I have blown that off until I can devise a route that will keep my vital organs and blood supply inside my body where they belong.

      With Whole Foods out of bounds, I've been shopping at our undistinguished neighborhood Safeway, which for a guy who likes to cook is not unlike being an angler restricted to fishing in a septic tank. The tomatoes I bought there a couple days ago have already devolved into some hellish red-orange goo. So yesterday, when I found myself in possession of a little spare time, I rode out to the Wild Oats on Powers to fetch some ingredients for a recipe out of Mario Batali's "Molto Italiano" (Linguine con Granchio). It was a 16-mile round trip, 40 minutes out, 30 minutes back, with a hair-raising moment in that goddamned roundabout some fucktard thought would help mitigate traffic issues, the same way Numbnuts thinks stuffing more grunts into the meat grinder will eventually have Iraqis singing, "Kumbaya." But I found everything I needed.

      Next it was back to the ranch to off-load the chow, then downtown to Vintage's Wines & Spirits, whose staff has recommended a few inexpensive table wines that I've enjoyed — Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir Central Coast 2005 from Cycles Winery, Soledad, California, Tarrica Pinot Noir 2005, and Rolling, a 2006 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from Australia. And finally, at long last, it was home again, home again, for a swiggity-swig.

      Finding decent grub and booze in the same ZIP code is one of the biggest hurdles I face in going car-free, the others being laziness and a lack of panniers to increase my payload capacity. My order for a set of Jandd Economy Panniers has gotten sideways somehow, forcing me to make do with an ancient Rhode Gear rack trunk and, occasionally, a Timbuk2 messenger bag.

      Meanwhile, today's "training ride" ground north and west into the Peregrine clusterplex, up West Woodmen Road and into the Mountain Shadows yuppie ghetto, and oh, ho, was it ever comical. I was going uphill about as well as a piano full of ball bearings pushed by Andy Dick on roller skates, grunting along at 8-10 mph at one point in the 39x23 and imploring the Dark Lord (Darth Cheney) to use The Force and transmute that 23 to a 25. No dice. I'm a pussy and a registered Democrat. Plus I've never shot a hunting buddy or ratted out a CIA agent to Bob Novak. Happily, I have a brand-new set of Neuvation wheels, plus a 12-25 cogset to slap on it, and tomorrow I will ascend like Our Lord en route to Heaven, or maybe a 53-year-old fat bastard with a pair of lighter road wheels and two more teeth en route to Blodgett Peak Open Space.

      Turkish Today: Our rapidly growing kitten — have I mentioned that "she" is actually a "he?" — has discovered the joys of climbing trees, as you can see above.

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    Irony, thought dead, returns to life as an Albanian Republican

      As a retired Communist, Fourth Class, I shouldn't laugh at shit like this, but I just can't help myself. From The New York Times:

      For One Visit, Bush Will Feel Pro-U.S. Glow
      TIRANA, Albania, June 8— The highlight of President Bush's European tour may well be his visit on Sunday to this tiny country, one of the few places left where he can bask in unabashed pro-American sentiment without a protester in sight.

      Americans here are greeted with a refreshing adoration that feels as though it comes from another time.

      "Albania is for sure the most pro-American country in Europe, maybe even in the world," said Edi Rama, Tirana's mayor and leader of the opposition Socialists. "Nowhere else can you find such respect and hospitality for the president of the United States. Even in Michigan, he wouldn't be as welcome."

      "President Bush is safer in Albania than in America," said Ermin Gjinishti, a Muslim leader in Albania.

      The Stalinists among you may recall the last guy the Albanians thought so hotsy-totsy. Assuming any of you are still alive, that is.

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    Cycling in the news

      Will wonders never cease? Another photo spread and copy block about cycling in this morning's Gazette, but this time on the Business front, 'cause it doesn't make any mention of doping. It was a squib on Bike to Work Day, which despite 50-mph winds brought out some 900 cyclists, including judges on mountain bikes and families on unicycles. No word on whether any Gazette sports editors were in attendance, but there was free food involved, so it's a possibility.

      Look for cycling to return to the Sports section tomorrow after today's news that the Belgian fuzz raided the homes of Quick Step-Innergetic staff and riders and seized doping products. A dozen people were arrested, according to Agence France Presse. That horrible sound you just heard was hundreds of sponsors worldwide tearing up checks.

      I didn't bike to work yesterday because my morning commute is from the bed to the coffeepot to the computer, a journey of some 25 steps. But I did run for a half hour, walk to the Safeway and cycle to Coaltrain for a couple jugs of tonsil polish. My friend and colleague Hal "The AssMaster" Walter is pushing Smoking Loon these days, but I'd forgotten his urgent recommendation and rolled home with an undistinguished Aussie sauv' blanc and a tasty bottle of Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red.

      Meanwhile, if you ever wondered whether the American justice system might just be queered in favor of the rich and powerful, or the simply rich, consider your worst fears confirmed — Paris Hilton got sprung for home detention after just three days in the celebrity hoosegow. She had a solo 12-by-8 cell in the "special needs" section of the Lynwood lockup, with meals delivered and a daily hour outside. Sounds like it beat the mortal shit out of the Denver drunk tank I spent part of the 1977 Labor Day weekend in for a much-lower-profile bout of acting the fool. But as Dorothy once said, "There's no place like home." Just ask Robert Jablon of The Associated Press, who notes that Ms. Hilton's new lockup "is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, Spanish-style home on 0.14 acre above the Sunset Strip." Oh, the humanity.

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    One for the road

      M'boy Big Jonny at DrunkCyclist is shifting gears, moving his act over to WordPress, where it can be updated more frequently (and more easily), and where it will lack a certain, shall we say, "me love you long time" quality. That's right, The Big Man is throttling back the porn and cranking up the literature, and I may be chucking a choice word or two into the stew from time to time, so stop in and say hello to the new DrunkCyclist.com.

      Speaking of cycling and tippling, this being Colorado Bike Month and all, we are tasting a couple of new wines here in Dog Country: Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir Central Coast 2005 from Cycles Winery, Soledad, California, owned by Hahn Estates, and Rolling, a 2006 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from Australia. Both are tasty, cheap and worthy of your attention. Plus they fit in an elderly Rhode Gear rack trunk and still leave room for your wallet, keys, cell phone, pistol and rain jacket (yeah, it's still doing that shit here).

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    Elephant dung

      I can't quite grasp the Gazette's editorial philosophy regarding cycling. Actual racing, local or otherwise, is generally ignored. Coverage of the activity itself is generally restricted to the Life section. Unless you're talking about doping, in which case cycling is suddenly worthy of inclusion in the Sports section.

      But every now and then the editors throw you a curve. In today's edition, the Gazette ran a front-page photo of Sunday's 20th Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, teasing a photo spread on page 6 of the Sports section. Out of character, you think? Not being an actual race, this would be better suited to the Life section, you say? Ah, but you haven't read the text accompanying the pics. Only the first graf dealt with the joys of this recreational ride through El Paso and Douglas counties. The remainder? You got it — doping. Or, rather, six recreational cyclists' opinions regarding doping at the elite level of the sport. Jesus wept. How come these feebs never visit a city-league softball game and grill the participants about Barry Bonds?

      The best part: Whoever wrote the copy block had Tyler Hamilton and Ivan Basso getting two-year bans from the Operación Puerto inquiry. Give us back to the Life section, guys, and go play with your sticks and balls.

      Meanwhile, June being Colorado Bike Month, I'm in my fourth consecutive day of carlessness (not carelessness, which is par for the course around here). Amazing how much your circle shrinks once you park the car. Wild Oats and Whole Foods are 20-minute drives on evil roads, and so are out of bounds until I score a larger pair of testicles and couple of panniers to augment the rack trunk. There's no point making either of those hairy, scary trips if you can only fetch home a couple of Clif Bars and a chamois full of poo. Happily, there's a marginal Safeway a 10-minute walk to the north, and the infinitely preferable Mountain Mama's and a recently remodeled King Soopers are a short ride to the west. When we get sick of eating my cooking, downtown and a surprising number of serviceable restaurants are all of 2.25 miles south.

      Grog is even easier to find. We're right next to Colorado College, and where there are college kids, there's booze. We've got more bottle shops than churches around here, which is just the way God likes it.

      The biggest issue right now is the daily rainstorm. It's been raining and/or hailing like a sumbitch every afternoon for the better part of quite some time, so a guy who does everything on two wheels or afoot had better take care of business early or fetch plenty of Gore-Tex along.

      Here's another project in honor of Bike Month: I rebuilt my old Steelman time-trial bike (above), which had been hanging forlornly in a dank corner of my garage, sans Profile cowhorns and Scott clip-ons, deep-section ZIPP wheels, eight-speed Ultegra bar-end shifters and rear derailleur, Dia-Compe back-assward brake levers, Avenir ti-rail saddle, Salsa stem, Control Tech seatpost and water-bottle-cage bolts. I thought I had everything I needed tucked away in one dusty box or another, but its old stem had vanished mysteriously, along with its weirdo seat post (a 26.8mm), and so I had to spend some money for an American Classic post and a Torelli high-rise stem to accommodate my deteriorating Democratic backbone. Then I put it all together and took it for a spin around the neighborhood using a pair of Mavic hoops lifted from Herself's road bike (she'll never know). I'd have ridden the Specialized Tri-Spokes in the pic, but the disc-wheel chuck for my Silca pump has also disappeared, leaving me with no way to inflate the rubber. I have a nifty pair of tubie wheels, too, a bladed-spoked front and an ancient seven-speed Mavic Comete disc. Maybe I'll try a duathlon this summer. What the hell? It's the sports car I'll never have, so I might as well drive it.

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    Did I jinx him?

      Looks like I spoke too soon the other day. Aketza Peña (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has bailed from the Giro d'Italia and been suspended by his team after a positive test for nandrolone. The good news is, the test wasn't from the Giro, but from stage one of the Giro de Trentino. And it's only the A sample. Maybe he just had a few shots and beers the night before. Or blew a bodybuilder in an Italian bathhouse. But I keed, I keed. . . .

      In honor of the maglia rosa here in Bibleburg we have been drinking Italian wines on the recommendation of the fine folks at Coaltrain Wine & Liquor. Two favorites have been a Tuscan red, a 2004 Rosso di Altesino, and a 2005 Zenato San Benedetto Lugana. Some unkind sorts would say that, like Steinbeck's Mack in "Sweet Thursday," we would drain the embalming fluid off our dead grandma, but to them we say, "Only if Coaltrain were closed." As they were on Sunday. Sorry, Gramma.

      Meanwhile, the monsoons continue. It's great — I get up, drink some coffee, earn my meager living and get out for a few fat-burning miles and then the rains come in, greatly reducing my water bill. The neighborhood looks like the Willamette Valley in Oregon, only with fewer hairy-legged women, banana slugs and ganja farms.

      And, oh, yeah, before I forget — that cute little kitty, Turkish, as pictured above, napping on my drawing board, next to the iBook? Turns out she is a he, with a pink thing like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Either that or she has a mighty big Guinea worm in her hoo-hoo. I'll spare you the digital imagery.

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    Watch your line!

      Kinda missed a few days there, didn't we? I kind of got hypnotized by the serial mea culpas that have supplanted the actual racing at the professional level. It's not unlike the old Tour of the Alpine Banks in Glenwood Springs, which had a hideous vertical crit whose downhill leg included an off-camber left-hander dubbed "Carnage Corner." I watched rider after rider lose it there, sliding across the street, slamming into the curb, somersaulting onto lawns, and by the time my race came up I had lost all interest in anything beyond living through the sonofabitch. And this was something I was doing for fun. Now I've made a living of it — well, of observing it, anyway — and I keep dreading whatever lies in wait around the next corner, even though I've taken more than one lap on this course and should know it reasonably well by now.

      There's what, a week left in the Giro d'Italia? I couldn't tell you the top 10 at gunpoint. Haven't followed it at all, and the few stories I've edited were just words in a row, with punctuation and paragraph marks. Frankly, I could give a shit. A guy doesn't have to have a deep, abiding love for crime to edit a burglary story.

      But you know what? I saw part of today's stage on TV (well, Internet video, anyway) and it was still gripping. This must be what keeps boxing fans coming back. They know their "sweet science" is rigged, fixed, queered in a half-dozen different ways, but they keep buying ringside tickets or springing for the pay-per-view. Hell, I got so caught up in today's stage, I almost forgot what I was watching. A fraud, a crime in progress. Or maybe not. I haven't heard of anyone testing positive. Yet.

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    Mission accomplished!

      The Iraqis are getting hosed at the gas pumps just like us, only more so. If gas in Aspen has topped four smacks per gallon, well, your average Iraqi is coughing up $1.22 for a gallon of watered-down go-juice — about 10 times what he paid before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Think about that next time you're topping off the Escalade for the two-block trip to the 7-Eleven for another pack of Luckies and a Diet Pepsi.

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    Why do you think they call it dope?

      There's fresh rantage up at VeloNews.com. This one's on the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing, which is not exactly an episode of "Law & Order." More like a chapter out of "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight." It's never been clearer that WADA and USADA should be testing for brains instead of drugs. There would be a lot fewer positives, believe you me.

      I don't know how much longer I can keep writing semi-fresh copy on that rancid heap of maggoty, dope-swollen turds in Lycra that calls itself the professional peloton. From the looks of things, most of these guys are so twisted that they need two soigneurs to help them screw their bib shorts on every morning for the ride down to the pharmacist's office. And writing about them, even in a satirical vein, is starting to feel like being a fisherman restricted to angling in septic tanks, porta-johns and water-treatment plants.

      I'm not even following the Giro d'Italia, in no small measure because I've been enjoying a little downtime, but also because I could give a shit. Instead, I've been out riding my own bikes, including the nifty Bianchi Castro Valley below. I may have to put an LX rear derailleur and an 11-32 cassette on the sonofabitch if I expect to be hauling grog and groceries around with it, though. All the good stores are uphill from here, and in both directions, too.

    0 5 | 1 5 | 2 0 0 7

    It's enough to give a guy gas

      We're looking at $3.25 per gallon here in Bibleburg, and it ain't done risin' yet, if you believe the Rocky Mountain News. I've done a few minor parts swaps on the Bianchi Castro Valley townie that Sky Yaeger was kind enough to cut me a deal on before she shifted over to Swobo, and plan to weather the summer from the saddle.

      It's largely pointless — I don't have to drive to work, so I gas up maybe every three weeks. But what the hell? It's not like I don't need the exercise. The last time I rode past a shopfront window in Lycra I thought maybe a giant red balloon animal had blown west from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

      Elsewhere, God has finally gotten around to recalling a defective product; John Ashcroft was a stronger advocate for civil liberties than Alberto Gonzales; and both Clinton and Obama will vote for the Feingold Amendment, whatever the fuck that means. Vancouver looks better every day.

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    What are they smoking in Hollywood?

      The depiction of smoking may soon determine whether a film merits a PG-13 or R rating, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Jesus wept. How'bout you people pay less attention to making movies in which characters suck smoke and concentrate on making movies that don't suck, period? I mean, shit, which one of you nitwits green-lighted "Delta Farce?" Here's the synopsis from the local rag, which declined to review it: "National Guardsmen deployed to Iraq (redneck comics Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall) are mistakenly dropped off in Mexico, where they try to liberate 'Iraqi' villagers from the Federales and their bandito leader Carlos Santana (no, not the singer)." Laugh, I thought I'd die.

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    Basso fishing

      Ivan Basso comes clean. Well, kinda, sorta. He says he never actually doped, but he thought about it, so much so that a few bags of his own blood wound up stashed, under his dog's name, at a Spanish gynecologist's offices. Nope, nothing fishy about that. Hence, fresh rantage up at VeloNews.com.

      Meanwhile, the sun is finally back out again, and I got to go for a run in shorts. Tomorrow I'm going for a ride, if I can remember how to make the pedals go around. Could be worse, though: My man Hal says they got 14 inches of snow up in Weirdcliffe out of this last storm. All we got was rain.

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      A friend forwards news of a most excellent book reviewed in The New York Times"The Joy of Drinking," by Barbara Holland.

      Writers who imbibe come in for some examination (although my own tippling apparently has gone overlooked). Dylan Thomas apparently defined an alcoholic as "someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do." I'll drink to that.

      On second thought, maybe I'd better cut down a bit. I could swear I just saw a kitten in a sack go tumbling past. Not quite as dire as pink elephants, but certainly not indicative of mental health.

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    Up the rebels

      A busy day in history today. Communist theoretician Karl Marx was born in 1818, and Irish Republican Army hunger striker Bobby Sands died in 1981 on his 66th day without food in the Maze Prison. I've long since lost my old "Sure I'm a Marxist!" T-shirt (Chico, Groucho, Harpo and Karl), but my Bobby Sands "Spirit of Irish Freedom" shirt is still around here somewhere. In their honor we will be drinking a bottle of Laurel Glen Reds ("A Wine for the People") this evening. Remember, kids, when you're smashing the State, keep a smile on your lips and a song on your heart. And don't forget to eat something now and then.

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    The Further Adventures of Commander Guy

      I gotta quit reading the news. Stuff like this is making me crazy. How much longer can it be before Captain George W. Queeg gets a pair of steel ball bearings to rattle in his palsied hand and starts jabbering about strawberries?

      Meanwhile, here in Colorado the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has topped $3 a gallon. Time to sell the Ford Erection and spend a couple G's on a Bruce Gordon BLT?

      Late update: While we're on the subject of cycling (a rare thing indeed on this site), the Graeme Obree biopic The Flying Scotsman hits selected screens worldwide this weekend. If you see it, drop me a note with your review. Maybe it'll wind up on VeloNews.com, and before you can say "UCI" you'll have as many enemies in the sport as I do.

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    Symphony for Butt-Flute, by Ronald Reagan

      The GOP candidates for president will "debate" tonight at the Ronald Reagan Comic Book & Movie Script Library. It should be amusing to watch 10 Pachyderms running in 10 different directions from the current occupant of the Oval Office, as if this were a cartoon and he were a mouse instead of a rat. Or not. I think I'll give this exercise in oral flatulence a miss, thanks all the same.

      On the Donk side of the beauty contest, Hillary Clinton and Robert Byrd apparently plan to introduce legislation to de-authorize the war in Iraq. Bravo, if a tad late. This, too, should be entertaining, on a par with watching a cat frantically trying to cover up a turd on a tile floor. Meanwhile, Ms. Clinton's main rival for the Big Gig, Barack Obama, will be getting Secret Service protection. As Jason Zengerle at The Plank notes, this is both good and bad news. I've long thought that if Obama ever looked like a sure thing, some redneck pinhead would try to pop a cap in his ass. But this will also have the effect of making him less approachable. And last time I looked, the Treasury Department — of which the SS is a part — was still in the hands of the Evil Empire. That's a big-ass fly on Obama's wall.

      Speaking of creepy giant bugs, the U.S. attorney scandal is rapidly morphing into something with legs — about a jillion of 'em, and big compound eyes and wings and slobbery venomous fangs and oh, Christ, it's coming this way! Happily, it only eats attorney generals.

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    Arise, ye prisoners of starvation

      The Great Helmscat wishes you a joyous May Day, free of the oppressor's boot, the profit motive and cute li'l kitties, which are without doubt running dogs in cats' clothing, counterrevolutionaries and enemies of the state.

      Alas, there was no rest for the working class in the People's Republic of Dogpatch today. The struggle continues — editing for VeloNews.com, cartoons for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, and various other propaganda-related chores. Plus it rained like a sumbitch, which explains Chairman Meow's scowl. There are no sunny spots on the sidewalk upon which to recline, thinking deep thoughts about establishing self-criticism sessions in re-education camps for all kittens.

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    Chairman Meow meets the Great Leap Forward

      What the hell do the Chinese know about anything? The ideogram for "trouble" is said to be "two women living under one roof." It should be "two cats living under one roof.

      Chairman Meow has been playing Darth Vader to Turkish's Luke Skywalker ever since we became a two-cat household, though so far the Dark Lord of the Hissth has yet to sever any of the Jedi kitten's limbs, claim to be her father or deliver her into the evil clutches of the Emperor, who is probably Mr. Tinkles from "Cats & Dogs."

      This may be because Turkish is too young and foolish to realize that Chairman Meow would like nothing better than to take her for a long wok, and thus remains unfazed by the Glare of Doom. In point of fact, this hyperactive fuzzball chased The Great Helmscat up the basement steps, through the kitchen and under the living-room table the other day, after which much incomprehensible and pointless Marxist hissing commenced. It sounded like a drunken Stalin pissing out a flaming copy of "Das Kapital" clutched in Trotsky's hand. Yet another reason why Communism can never succeed.

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    Vitamin D, stat!

      Two sunny, warm days in a row. Fat city. Went for a 'cross-bike ride with Herself out to the AFA and back on Saturday, then sprawled on the back deck and sipped a little wine. Today it was a road-bike outing with O'Schenk, a recovery ride to Falcon and back (he raced yesterday, and pretty much any ride with me is a recovery ride for someone who's racing).

      We swung by Big Bill McBeef's place on the way home and chided him for being a layabout, a sluggard and a blot on the Dogs' otherwise-spotless reputation. He failed to display the proper obeisance (belly up, tail between legs), and so I expect we will have to mail him a package of fish sticks wrapped in a Mad Dog jersey. After that comes the head of a stuffed dog. Then we get nasty.

      Much yard work commenced shortly thereafter and I fear I have become a tad pink as a consequence. Thank Dog I put on a hat after about a half hour or my head would look like a bearded tomato.

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    Rocky Mountain PBS sucks

      Judas Priest. We sit down last night to catch Bill Moyers' official return to public television — he was to speak with Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo and Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" — only to learn that the programming geniuses at Rocky Mountain PBS have bumped it in favor of their fund-raising auction, which runs an astounding 16 days. These bozos spend more time panhandling than an entire Hooverville full of winos. Moyers, meanwhile, has been shifted to 11 a.m. Sunday morning, when anyone with sense and/or TiVo will be out riding his bicycle. I have neither, but I'll be out riding anyway. Maybe I can catch Moyers' act online.

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    Car bombs? What car bombs?

      Another dispatch from the reality-based community: Seems that in order to declare a dramatic decline in sectarian violence in Iraq, the Busheviks have decided to quit counting casualties from car bombings. Notes James Denselow, an Iraq specialist at London-based Chatham House, a foreign policy think tank: "Since the administration keeps saying that failure is not an option, they are redefining success in a way that suits them." This new metric should be popular with schoolchildren eager to redefine poor report cards. "I'm really doing quite well, if you overlook all those F's."

      Meanwhile, give the latest from Joe Bageant a read.

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    The Farce is strong in this one

      Over at The Washington Post, Dana Milbank pens a snarky column about Dennis Kucinich introducing articles of impeachment against Darth Cheney. Hey, so he has the chances of an Ewok going up against an Imperial walker — at least give Dennis Skywalker his props for taking on the Dark Lord.

      Elsewhere, as if the political process hasn't plunged deeply enough into farce, the Rupert Murdoch-owned digital dogpile MySpace and some reality-TV dickweed are pitching a show called "Independent" that would, yes, pick a candidate for president and lay a cool million on him (or her) to either run a race or support another political-action committee or cause. And to think Milbank accuses Kucinich of jacking off in public.

      Turkish Today: More fun with technology. Herself was futzing around with some digital video of Turkish the kitten yesterday, going witless while trying to decipher iMovie HD, and I remembered I had some video of the little demon assaulting a shoelace affixed to my office door's doorknob. So here it is, in QuickTime via the much simpler iMovie.

      And while we're talking about must-see TV, don't forget about tonight's Bill Moyers journal, entitled "Buying the War." It's due up at 9 p.m. Eastern time. For more, see the BMJ blog.

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    What's up, Doc?

      Here we go again. Exogenous testosterone found in Floyd Landis's Tour samples. Ivan Basso suspended in doping inquiry. What are we doing here, recycling 2006? Like it wasn't bad enough the first time around?

      Here in Bibleburg we're recycling winter. It's snowing sideways, to no particular effect, though I guess the higher elevations are seeing something a lot like blizzard conditions. But that's Colorado for you. Yesterday I felt distinctly overdressed, wearing a long-sleeved jersey and leg warmers for a 90-minute ride; today I put on a hooded Gore-Tex jacket to fetch the paper.

      This has been one of those "fine soft days" that led my ancestors to invent whisky during a lull in clan warfare. Temps in the low 30s; rain, sleet and snow driven by the dire sort of wind one associates with a White House talking point or a mass fart at a feedlot; and grayer than Darth Cheney's complexion when he's between hourly feedings of fresh human blood.

      Speaking of which, despite a serious kink in one of his Freon tubes, the Dark Lord himself tottered out of his freezer to call Harry Reid a pussy for listening to the electorate instead of the voices in his head, then scuttled, hissing, under a large rock on the Capitol lawn.

      Over at the White House, meanwhile, Gen. George Armstrong Bush is continuing to use Alberto Gonzales as a human flak jacket for himself and Turd Blossom, in no small measure because that's all he's good for. In fact, when this numbnuts is standing next to him, grinning like a jackass eating yellowjackets, ol' Georgie looks about half-bright by comparison.

      Late update: Bill Moyers is back with a new edition of his PBS journal entitled, "Buying the War." Scope it out Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern time. For more, see the BMJ blog.

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    The obituaries

      David Halberstam is dead. So is Boris Yeltsin. As for President Alfred E. "Worry" Bush, well — he's only dead from the neck up.

      Closer to home, the Humane Society fuzzy-fuzz was patrolling the neighborhood this evening as we dined, and we couldn't quite figure out why, until we found the following note on our front stoop:

    pleese cum take thee kittie
    that is heer
    we dont need her
    wee hav plenty
    yoo can gass this one
    yrs sinseerely
    ike ogrady

      We can understand the thinking behind the note. What we're having trouble grasping is how Ike managed to get the State involved in a personal vendetta without opposable thumbs, a working familiarity with telecommunications and friends in the Republican Party.

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    Scrap irony

      A colleague forwards the following slightly doctored news item:

    In his weekly radio address today, President Bush said he was forming a multi-agency panel in response to this week's shooting in Virginia. "Our society continues to wrestle with the question of how to handle individuals whose mental-health problems can make them a danger to themselves and to others," the president said.

    The new panel quickly issued a recommendation: Impeachment.

      That's almost as funny as Rich Little headlining at tonight's White House Correspondents Association dinner. What an appalling shower of bastards. No wonder it's taken something like six years to get some semi-serious White House coverage out of this pack of wankers. Remember your H.L. Mencken: "The only way a reporter should look at a politician is down."

      Stumbled across Alison Dunlap in Palmer Park yesterday. She's busy running clinics and coaching, and looks like she could still kick plenty ass if she woke up grumpy some morning. Me, I look like I got plenty ass, and I'm grumpy every damn' morning. Thus, an extended cyclo-cross ride today is indicated.

      Turkish Today: Shoestrings tied to doorknobs are big, big fun. So is climbing into bookcases, walking on computer keyboards and climbing up people's legs while they're trying to work. Older cats suck, especially when they're puffed up to the size of giant poison toadstools and hissing like Satan's teakettle while the fiery red 666 stands out on their horned foreheads.

      Those of who who are sick unto death of pictures of cute li'l kitty-cats may enjoy photos of the backyard tulips. Or not.

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    Not-So-Speedy Gonzales

      The New York Times editorial board takes a giant shit on Alberto Gonzales. Among the highlights:

    Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch. At the end of the day, we were left wondering why the nation's chief law-enforcement officer would paint himself as a bumbling fool. Perhaps it's because the alternative is that he is not telling the truth. We don't yet know whether Mr. Gonzales is merely so incompetent that he should be fired immediately, or whether he is covering something up. But if we believe the testimony that neither he nor any other senior Justice Department official was calling the shots on the [attorneys] purge, then the public needs to know who was.

      Contrast that with the statement from President Alfred E. "Worry" Bush:

    The Attorney General has the full confidence of the President, and he appreciates the work he is doing at the Department of Justice to help keep our citizens safe from terrorists, our children safe from predators, our government safe from corruption, and our streets free from gang violence.

      How about keeping our citizens safe from the Republican Party? I guess that's just too much to ask.

      Elsewhere, Kevin Drum notes the same news item I did about the "evolving" White House strategy in Iraq — he just got around to writing about it quicker than I did. Seems as I was standing down, he was standing up. I hate it when that happens.

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    He just wasn't made for these times

      John McCain managed to channel both Ronald Reagan and Mike Love during a campaign appearance on Wednesday. A man in the audience asked, "How many times do we have to prove that these people are blowing up people now, never mind if they get a nuclear weapon, when do we send 'em an airmail message to Tehran?" McCain responded by singing a distinctly militarized version of the Beach Boys' classic "Barbara Ann":

    "That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, 'Bomb Iran,'" he said in jest Wednesday, chuckling with the crowd. Then, he softly sang to the melody: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..." The audience responded with more laughter.

      No word on whether he followed with the Willie Nelson ballad made famous by Patsy Cline — "Crazy."

      Speaking of crazy: I haven't ridden my mountain bike in about a million years, so I broke it out and went looking for the dry spots in Palmer Park. Ho, ho. I may not be the worst mountain biker in the world, but I can hold his spot at the end of the line for him until he shows up. The only talent I displayed was for riding through deep sand, and I suspect that had more to do with the knobby 2.1 Panaracers than with any skill of mine. Still, it was nice to have suspension for a change (an old RockShox Judy and a USE seatpost), given my advanced age and state of decrepitude. And it kept me from watching Alberto Gonzales make a sap out of himself. Doesn't matter how many Repugs piss on his wingtips, Spanky the Monkey ain't gonna jerk the Justice Department rug out from under him until impeachment jerks the Oval office rug out from under him. What a colossal waste of time and money.

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    Big Crack Attack

      CrackBerries down nationwide. Thousands weep. People forced to actually speak to one another. Oh, the humanity.

      Meanwhile, it's National Columnists' Day. According to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (yes, there is such a thing), National Columnists Day was established in 1995 as a way "to reflect on the way newspaper columnists connect, educate, comfort, encourage, celebrate, outrage and occasionally even amuse readers. . ." April 18 was selected to commemorate the death of legendary columnist Ernest Pyle, who never laid his hands on a BlackBerry, even a dysfunctional one.

      Late update: Alas, we hardly need an Ernie Pyle to bring the wars home for us these days. Even madmen have the foresight to send out press releases. Maybe this is one of the reasons our new kitten has proven so popular with the readership. She has no fratricidal issues, not even with Chairman Meow, who has been loudly yowling pertinent passages from The Little Red Book while she adjusts to a new junior comrade in our Politburo. So here's another shot of Turkish in the lap of luxury. OK, so it's the lap of a 53-year-old malcontent whose Elly Mae-like soft spot for critters was engaged in a tug-of-war with a series of deadlines. Turkish, bless her heart, tried to help, sporadically leaping out of the lap and onto the keyboard, and so any malapropisms you may unearth in either VeloNews or Bicycle Retailer & Industry News are hers and hers alone.

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    More horror, less terror, please

      A correspondent notes that the Cheerleader-in-Chief's horror at the slaughter in Virginia seems a little surprising, given the terror he's unleashed throughout the world. But President Alfred E. "Worry" Bush isn't the only Yank who can flick his horror detector on and off like a light switch. Consider the average American's ability to digest massacres elsewhere while bravely continuing to shop; the same person goes absolutely goggle-eyed when brutality visits us at home.

      For instance, I don't recall the 24-hour news cycle going "all massacre, all the time," when 20 Iraqis turned up bound and executed after Lucas McCain's little photo op at that Baghdad market. Hell, Don Imus's flapping yap got more press, and the only thing that loudmouth bonehead killed was his career. And Fort Carson here in Bibleburg has lost 197 soldiers since the invasion in 2003. But that must be different somehow, perhaps because the blood is spilled in tidy little puddles over a period of years instead of all at once.

      Meanwhile, how many of you found it educational that the Repugs went straight from gasps of shock to sucking up to their militant Second Amendment base of heavily armed knuckleheads? The first statement I heard from the White House involved an assistant press secretary mumbling some nonsense about the prez' supporting Americans' right to keep and bear arms, a bit of unintentional comedy that was quickly echoed and amplified by McCain, who seems fixated on trying to out-dummy the Shrub.

      All due respect to the dead and those who knew and loved them, but I've never understood our selective response to murderous criminality.

      Snubbed again: Once again I have failed to win the Pulitzer for Inflammatory Bullshit. Damn The Man!

      Kitten update: Turkish is gleefully kicking a rubber band's ass in my office while Ike sulks in a dark corner of the basement. This will give me a moment to Bactine my legs, which Turkish has been using as a ladder to the lap. A correspondent and cat fancier asks whether her name has anything to do with the lead character in the film "Snatch" — the answer is yes, it does. But it also has to do with her being part Turkish Van.

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    Meet Turkish

      There's nothing I can say about the nightmare in Virginia that could possibly help anyone make any sense of it, including me, so I've decided to skip the news and run with a photo of our new kitten, Turkish, a fluffy white witches' familiar shown here being prepared by Herself for the traditional ritual presentation to the Dark Lord, Darth Cheney. 'E's a useless shite, that boy. Punish 'im for me, 'Arold.

      Late update: In case you're wondering, the O.C. (Original Cat), Ike, a.k.a Chairman Meow, Ho Chi Meow, Mary Tyler Meow, et al, is not amused at sharing the house with Turkish. She has spent most of the past 12 hours crouched on the back of the couch, growling. In point of fact, she sounds very much like Cheney dissing the Donks on Fox News.

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    O'Grady wins Paris-Roubaix

      I always wanted to see that headline somewhere. And now I have. Stuey's not only a top-flight bike racer, he's smarter than John McCain, as this pre-Paris-Roubaix quote amply demonstrates: "We have to have a plan A, B and C. Obviously we have a plan A but you have to have backup plans in the case something else happens."

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    Sign of the apocalypse

      Bike racing in Colorado Springs — who'da thunk it? A hill climb up North Cheyenne Cañon got croaked by the weather, but today's Colorado College criterium came off as scheduled. Plenty of disgustingly young people clustered around to watch along with a smattering of velo-geezers, including Your Humble Narrator, Michael and Susan O'Schenk and John Crandall of Old Town Bike Shop, to name but a few. Tomorrow brings a race at the Air Force Academy.

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    Friday the 13th

      Unlucky you — there's a fresh Foaming Rant up at VeloNews.com. Happily, there's something more worthwhile going on out there — a rebroadcast of a "Fresh Air" interview with Kurt Vonnegut.

      Elsewhere, the day has proven unlucky for D. Kyle Sampson and his former boss, Alberto Gonzales, with the discovery of an e-mail demonstrating that despite all assurances to the contrary, the Justice Department had replacements in mind for the eight sacked U.S. attorneys long before they developed their so-called "performance issues." And four years' worth of Fart Blossom's e-mails have joined Saddam's WMD in Never-Neverland.

      Apple has its own Friday-the-13th horror tale to recount — OSX 10.5 will be delayed until October. Aiiiiieeeeee!!! God love all you Cupertino cowboys, and more power to your collective arm, but I could give a shit, as I make my money using OS 9.2.2 and 9.0.4, depending on which one of Mr. Jobs' plastic boxes I'm working on at any given time (a G4 450 AGP Graphics tower, a G3 500 "Pismo" PowerBook or a G3 800 iBook). I play with varieties of OSX (10.2.8, 10.3.9 and 10.4.8), if I feel like dicking around with video, audio and the growing number of websites that insist on 21st-century technology, but otherwise business is business and schnapps is schnapps. So I can wait for Leopard to pounce.

      The good news is, there is some actual bike racing in Bibleburg this weekend, a rarity on a par with honesty in Washington. Pay no attention to the baldheaded heckler haunting the chicane at Cache La Poudre and Cascade.

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    The ghost of Rose Mary Woods

      When the going gets tough, the tough get going — on covering their tracks. The Associated Press reports that the White House has "mishandled Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts used by nearly two dozen presidential aides, resulting in the loss of an undetermined number of e-mails concerning official White House business." Don't suppose it has anything to do with the congressional inquiry into the sacking of eight U.S. attorneys. "This sounds like the administration's version of 'the dog ate my homework,'" said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "I am deeply disturbed that just when this administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight, it cannot produce the necessary information."

      Elsewhere, the grunts take it in the neck again as SecDef Bob Gates extends their tours in Iraq to 15 months, to cover Gen. George Armstrong Custer's fabled "surge," and Baghdad is so safe that the bad guys can send suicide bombers into the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria. John "Lucas" McCain will probably be having lunch there tomorrow, on the taxpayers' dime, with a few hundred of his closest, most heavily armed friends.

      Here in scenic cosmopolitan Bibleburg, meanwhile, it's snowing. Again. The folks at the National Weather Service say this one could be a doozy typical of April in Colorado, from a half-foot here in midtown to a foot at the Palmer Divide. Thus, I've laid in various jugs of tasty antifreeze and a ton of fixin's for various Mexican meals, including a pork-heavy posole, chorizo enchiladas, chicken quesadillas, beans with chipotle, salsa verde, etc., and will spend the next couple of days eating, farting and visualizing riding my bike in the desert around Las Cruces.

      All's Fair In Love and War Dept.: Paul Wolfowitz, the ivory-tower apparatchik who famously expected Iraqis to welcome the United States as their liberator, and for Iraqi oil revenues to pay the costs of that country's reconstruction, just keeps on getting it wrong. The latest: He thought it was OK to arrange a new gig and a pair of fat raises for his love-pumpkin. Ooopsadaisy. Says Wolfy: "This was not in any way an attempt to protect personal interest." Uh huh. And this is one of the smart ones.

      Imus Unplugged: Aw, shucks. I guess if the I-man has something to say in future, he'll have to stand on street corners and mumble incoherently at passers-by, like the rest of the crazy bastards. Until he winds up on satellite radio with his buddy Howard Stern, that is. Or Fox.

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    The Decider, R.I.P.: Jan. 1, 2001-April 11, 2007

      So much for Gen. George Armstrong Bush's tenure as a self-described "war president." According to The Washington Post, the Cheerleader-in-Chief is frantically casting about for someone, anyone, to clean up his messes in Afghanistan and Iraq, but can't find a sucker eager to dive into a threesome with his twin tar babies. Imagine my surprise. I thought the C-in-C was supposed to be the dude with the authority "to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies." I guess we can chalk ol' Georgie up as a DNF in the Tour of Mesopotamia.

      Late update: As advertisers scatter like rats fleeing a blazing Dumpster, MSNBC announces that it will drop its simulcast of Don Imus's "Imus in the Morning" radio yap-fest. Will CBS, which through Westwood One and New York's WFAN-AM is responsible for the audio, drop the other shoe? Who cares? The planet is infested with assholes, and only a few of them have access to microphones and TV cameras. You don't even have to get off the couch to to change the channel on that crowd. The rest are jacking their jaws in the real world, where the clicker has little effect. Meanwhile, someone worth paying attention to — Kurt Vonnegut — has died. So it goes.

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    The I-man and the N-word

      Jeez, did Don Imus ever step in it this time. And in trying to scrape it off, he's just getting it all over the place. What a putz. He's practically dumb enough to be president.

      And we're no better. A cursory check of Google News finds 2,647 stories on a cranky old yammerhead tossing off an insanely stupid remark, as opposed to 1,675 on Iran claiming to have gone all Dr. Strangelove on us. Par for the course, in other words.

      Personally, I think anyone who listens to talk radio — right, left or center — should be required to apologize, publicly and profusely, to those of us who don't. I've never wasted a nanosecond of my time listening to Rush, Imus or Franken, but it seems that every other day some dung-bomb touched off by one or another of these flatulent foghorns spatters me via once-respectable news outlets that shouldn't be giving them a passing glance until it's time to print their obituaries.

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    Another week in the barrel

      Fresh rantage up at VeloNews.com, one of the masters I serve as what James Calhoun calls a "perma-lancer" in an NPR story about how contract workers like him (and me) get along without health insurance, paid vacations, paid sick leave and other benefits. Stupid word, interesting story. Some 10 million of us "are solidly middle-income and uninsured," says reporter Patricia Neighmond, and I believe it. At least four guys in my little circle are entrepreneurial, self-employed sorts who either do entirely without medical insurance or have catastrophic policies with astronomical deductibles (mine is five grand). One of them just paid $160 for a visit to his asthma doctor. That's about what my last sinus infection cost. As a consequence, I try very, very hard not to fall off my bicycle, and run a good deal less since spending $400 to correct a problem with Achilles tendinitis. And like James, I'm very interested in what the thousands of presidential candidates have to say about health insurance.

      Late note: I overlooked the death of cartoonist Johnny Hart this past weekend. I enjoyed his "B.C." strip as a sprout, but lost interest over the years as Hart grew to prefer theology to comedy (some people say I have a similar problem, but with politics). The family and syndicate intend to continue the strip a la the late Charles Schultz's "Peanuts," which is too bad, as there are no doubt dozens of fresh, suitable replacements drawn by the living waiting in the wings for their moment in the spotlight. But "Diesel Sweeties" isn't one of 'em. It makes "Mary Worth" look like "Calvin and Hobbes."

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    Praise Dog from whom all blessings flow

      Lovely bit of blasphemy, that. So sue me. We got snow, freezing fog and 24 degrees here and I'm bored witless. If the Easter bunny turns up, he's stew meat.

      Herself has returned from an extended visit to Deliverance, where her family operates a combination river-rafting outfit and banjo dealership. Ho, ho. Just kidding, y'all. Drop the blunderbuss and put the Gimp back in his cage. In her honor I spent most of yesterday cooking up a massive pot of pinto beans with chipotle chile and a green-chile stew that relied heavily on organic pork because the Easter bunny was nowhere to be found. He's shivering in some homeless shelter, no doubt, or maybe one of the no-tell motels down on South Nevada with a bullet wound in his cottontail.

      Elsewhere, John McCain seems to have pinned his 2008 hopes on that key bloc of voters that craves a president who's even dumber, crazier and more oblivious than the one we have now. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez saw their much-anticipated "Grindhouse" plunge into the shithouse. And even the pope thinks Iraq is fucked up. Maybe the Repugs should run him in 2008.

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    I'm freezing my Easter eggs off

      Anyone who's lived more than a couple years in Colorado knows that April and spring are only casually acquainted. Still, this doesn't mean we like to see the mercury plummet into the mid-20s and ice encasing everything from auto windshields to defenseless tulips, not when we've just gotten reacquainted with the pleasure of putting our winter-whitened legs on public display. Even the local Easter sunrise service has been canceled, which should tell you something, because the tinhorn Elmer Gantrys that infest this otherwise tolerable community like a bad case of the jabbering crabs will ordinarily seize on any public opportunity to loudly remind God that He is God.

      Samey same over in ol' Virginny, where the U.S. Open Cycling Championship nearly got croaked because of cold and snow. VeloNews senior scribe Neal Rogers snapped a few pix of the peloton improvising winter-weather gear out of everything from plastic trash bags to latex gloves. The race finally got started after a 90-minute delay, and Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) took the win. Glad to see someone's riding his bike.

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    Trouble at the primate house

      Spanky the Monkey has been screeching loudly of late about how the Congress is trying to run his war for him. I'd think he would be delighted, as this would give him more time to ride his mountain bike, or Condi, whichever. Although I wonder whether Condi is still interested. She must be watching the ascendancy of Barack Obama and thinking, "Goddamnit, that could be me, if I could just get a charisma transplant and maybe a soul." Too bad she sold the original equipment to Darth Cheney, who these days is not even welcome in Utah, which has been sending the microcephalic Orrin Hatch to DeeCee since 1976. Maybe they're just trying to keep the simple sonofabitch out of Utah.

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    The parting glass

      Raise a glass to F.L. Eickelman, an old family friend who went west this afternoon after years of struggling with ill health. We share the grief of his widow, Rosemary, and the rest of his family.

    Oh all the money that e'er I had, I spent it in good company
    And all the harm that e'er I've done, alas, it was to none but me
    And all I've done for want of wit to memory now I can't recall
    So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

    Oh all the comrades that e'er I've had, they are sorry for my going away
    And all the sweethearts that e'er I've had, they would wish me one more day to stay
    But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise and you should not
    I'll gently rise and I'll softly call good night and joy be with you all

    If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile
    There is a fair maid in this town, that sorely has my heart beguiled
    Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips I own, she has my heart enthralled
    So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

    My dearest dear, the time draws near when here no longer can I stay
    There's not a comrade I leave behind, but is grieving for my going away
    But since it has so ordered been what is once past can't be recalled
    Now fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

    If I had money for to spend, If I had time to waste away
    There is a fair maid in this town, I feign would while her heart away
    With her rosy cheeks and dimpled chin, my heart she has beguiled away
    So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

    If I had money for to spend, I would spend it in her company
    And all the harm that I have done, I hope it's pardoned I will be
    And all I've done for want of it to memory I can't recall
    So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

    A man may drink and not be drunk, a man may fight and not be slain
    A man may court a pretty girl and perhaps be welcomed back again
    But since it has so ordered been by a time to rise and a time to fall
    Come fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

      Now, back to business as usual: John McCain is an asshole. Read that, then read this, and if you still think McCain is a straight-talker, then please do the nation a service and kill yourself before the 2008 elections. Better yet, join the Army, ship out to Iraq and replace some smart person who wants to come home to friends and family to help strip the weak links from the chain of command.

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    A, O, way to go, Ohio

      Bibleburg, El Paso County and Colorado are frequently reviled for warehousing their feebs in the nation's capital at great public expense, and justifiably so (think Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave for starters), but Ohio is really trying to give us a run for our money. First Mean Jean Schmidt says the Walter Reed debacle was overblown by the media, those ubiquitous rascals. Now, in a New York Times story looking back at the last time Congress and a president found themselves at odds over a losing war founded on lies, GOPeabrain John Boehner (pronounced "bo-ner") trumpets that the United States lost in Vietnam thanks to Congress, which cut off funding for the war because it lacked "the will to win." And he should know, 'cause he served six weeks in the Navy in 1969 before being discharged with back problems (a lack of spine, perhaps?).

      Of course, the real dummy is at the top of the smelly heap, sitting on Darth Cheney's lap and channeling his bullshit. Now one of the guys who helped get George W. Snerd his comfy position finally concedes that making this wooden-headed sonofabitch the president of the United States was not such a hot idea. Notes 2004 campaign strategist Matthew Dowd: "Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election. If the American public says they're done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want. They're saying 'Get out of Iraq.'"

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    Pigasus gone bad

      When did The National Lampoon buy United Airlines? Every trip an O'Grady takes with these pootbutts winds up looking like one of the flicks in Lampoon's "Vacation" series, only without the funny bits.

      I dropped Herself off at the Bibleburg Intergalactic Airport this morning for a flight to Knoxville, Tennessee, but she might have been better served if I had slapped a stamp on her forehead and stuffed her in a mailbox. That way she'd have had a fighting chance of making Knoxville without incident (though the cancellation process would leave her looking something like David Clinger).

      Check it out. Herself's 11:13 a.m. flight was already delayed before we ever left the DogHaus for BIA. I get her there 90 minutes in advance of the revised departure time (noonish) and head for the barn. All is copacetic, yes? No. She calls me via cell phone about a quarter after 12 and tells me she's (a) sitting in the plane on the Bibleburg tarmac, and (b) been told that her connector from Chicago-O'Hare to Knoxville has been canceled. Fuck. Can I get her on the sole remaining flight from the City of Big Shoulders to the City of Sloping Foreheads, which departs at 6:40 Chicago time?

      Uh, no again. After spending the better part of quite some time either on hold or chatting with a robot, an efficient South Asian individual confessed in clipped tones that the 6:40 flight was packed to the gunwales, and, after some prodding, that yes, United would be springing for a hotel in Chi' and shipping Herself to Knoxville at dark-thirty sometime Thursday morning. Brilliant. Thank you so much. Just what a gal likes after spending all day in an aluminum tube full of pissed-off people — a shuttle ride to some shithole that rents rooms by the trick.

      But wait; there's more! Herself phones me again, this time from Rockford, Illinois, where her Bibleburg-Big Shoulders flight has apparently stopped because it was about to run out of gas. I guess you just can't slap one of United's flying greydogs into Irish overdrive (neutral to you Anglos) and coast. People would talk, and/or shit themselves.

      So, it's 5:18 p.m. here in Bibleburg and Herself has finally touched down in Chicago, which means that with wheels up at 12:38 p.m. she has been in transit for four-and-a-half hours for what should be a two-and-a-half-hour flight, if I recall correctly. Now she gets to decide whether she wants to stay in one of United's fleabags or try to soldier on with some other airline, all while fetching about 10 tons of chick-shit around. Last time we were in O'Hare I took note of the customer-service queue. Good fuckin' luck. It brought back memories of Richard Pryor talking about his dad dying in the saddle and which line would most men prefer to be in, given the choice of getting hit by a bus or dying flagrante delicto (FYI, Rich' was gonna be in that long motherfucker).

      Oh, yeah, before I forget: United CEO Glenn Tilton made $39.7 million running this FUBAR funhouse in 2006. The bankruptcy judge should have sentenced the sonofabitch to six years of flying around the country on his own airline.

      Late update: As we should have expected, United was lyin' about the free hotel room, so Herself is catching a shuttle to a shithole of her (well, my) choice. They'd better have a beaker of gin ready or there will be bloodshed.

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    Happy birthday to me

      I see I have once again failed to make The New York Times "On This Day" squib, though it cheerfully chronicles the so-called accomplishments of various losers like Ponce de Leon, George Washington and Milton Berle. Thank God my parents didn't live to witness my public humiliation; it would've killed them.

      What else happened today in history? In 1775, Thomas Jefferson was elected to the Continental Congress; in 1923, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louis Simpson was born in Jamaica, West Indies; in 1958, the shoe-banging Nikita Khrushchev became premier of the Soviet Union; and in 1998, Pfizer debuted its boner drug Viagra.

      I had planned to commemorate these and the many other accomplishments of humankind with a 53-mile bike ride, but it's foggy, windy and chilly out there, so maybe I'll just go for a 53-minute run instead. Or drink 53 bottles of beer and spray-paint "BUSH SUCKS" 53 times on 53 different overpasses.

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    Another victim of the iPod People

      Oh, Lord, I'm so ashamed. I've fallen victim to the consumer culture once again. I let Herself buy me an iPod for my birthday. Just what we need around the DogHaus, another one of Mr. Jobs' nifty plastic boxes, which suck money from the wallet like Dracula tapping an artery. The Count of Cupertino has bought a shitload of black turtlenecks on my nickel over the years, from that first Macintosh SE to this 30GB jukebox-cum-movieola, half the size of a Hershey bar, that's smarter than most of the people I know. Ay, Chihuahua.

      So we buy the thing, swing by The Blue Star for a top-notch meal and a bottle of Heitz Cellars Cabernet, then head home to give me a crash course in iPoddage 101. First iTunes purchase: Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home." Hey, it's a new toy, not a new me. Note to the kool kids at Apple HQ: When a guy buys a black iPod to match his black MacBook and his black aura, he don't want no sissified white earbud/USB cables, capische?

      Coming soon: Why it should be legal to assault people wearing iPods outdoors or while operating a vehicle.

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    Paging Frank Serpico

      Gee, here's a fun story. The NYT says the NYPD was playing CIA in the run-up to the 2004 RNC, peeking in windows from Maine to Spokane, and Montréal to Miami, even venturing overseas if the weather was nice, the Euro was down against the dollar and there was a chance of seeing some French titties on the Riviera. While one can understand the NYPD's legitimate security concerns, and conceding that a few subjects of the surveillance were worthy of the occasional hairy eyeball, it seems that the big-city Barney Fifes — just like their hick-town cousins — overstepped the bounds of common sense in their desire to "Serve and Protect." From The New York Times:

    At the other end of the threat spectrum was Joshua Kinberg, a graduate student at Parsons School of Design and the subject of four pages of intelligence reports. For his master's thesis project, Mr. Kinberg devised a "wireless bicycle" equipped with cellphone, laptop and spray tubes that could squirt messages received over the Internet onto the sidewalk or street.

    The messages were printed in water-soluble chalk, a tactic meant to avoid a criminal mischief charge for using paint, an intelligence report noted. Mr. Kinberg's bicycle was "capable of transferring activist-based messages on streets and sidewalks," according to a report on July 22, 2004.

    "This bicycle, having been built for the sole purpose of protesting during the R.N.C., is capable of spraying anti-R.N.C.-type messages on surrounding streets and sidewalks, also supplying the rider with a quick vehicle of escape," the report said. Mr. Kinberg, then 25, was arrested during a television interview with Ron Reagan for MSNBC's "Hardball" program during the convention. He was released a day later, but his equipment was held more than a year.

    Mr. Kinberg said Friday that after his arrest detectives with the terrorism task force asked if he knew of any plans for violence. "I'm an artist," he said. "I know other artists, who make T-shirts and signs."

    He added: "There's no reason I should have been placed on any kind of surveillance status. It affected me, my ability to exercise free speech, and the ability of thousands of people who were sending in messages for the bike to exercise their free speech."

      Other targets of the dragnet included street-theater companies like the satirical troupe Billionaires for Bush, "church groups and antiwar organizations . . . environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies." Three elected officials from the Big Apple made it into the files.

      Such extremism in the defense of liberty should not go unrewarded. Perhaps we can induct a few of these storm troopers into the armed forces of the United States, so they can rattle doorknobs outside the Green Zone in Baghdad.

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    Splish splash, I was takin' a bath

      Our string of excellent sunny days snapped this morning. It's been pissing down rain all day, and snowing up in Weirdcliffe, so I canceled plans to drive up there for a mutual birthday celebration honoring Herself, your humble narrator and our pal Hal — March babies all, with me as the senior (March 27, 1954).

      We'd planned a Mexican feast, and I made a giant pot of pinto beans with chile last night, along with a platter of green chile chicken enchiladas for immediate consumption, but Weirdcliffe is no place to be when a wet snow has turned what once was terra firma into terra squishy. Trust me. I lived there for seven years, and I can confirm that mud-surfing is one thing in a 4WD pickup with a six-pack of tube sand in the bed and something else entirely in a Subaru Forester. Better part of valor, don't you know. Plus it's supposed to be 60-something and sunny tomorrow, and if I stay here my fat ass and I can enjoy a nice long bike ride.

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    Paper chase

      Hee haw. Big fun approaches in the form of the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law approving subpoenas to compel Karl Rove and various other swine to leave the public trough and oink under oath. The Führerbunker is having none of this, of course, saying that The Leader's aides may be interviewed only via telepathy by a Pakistani medium who speaks no English, and thus we will be treated to a daily dump of legalese, bombast and full-throated constitutional jabberwocky reminscent of the Nixon-Ervin days, only with lesser men playing the two lead roles.

      Meanwhile, here in Bibleburg allergy season is upon us with a vengeance. My skull is awash in snot and I lose five pounds every time I sneeze. Yesterday's 'cross-bike ride through the piney woods of the Air Force Academy may not have been the smartest thing to do, as I awakened far too early this morning feeling as though a plasterer had spackled my sinuses. What we need here is drugs, and plenty of them, but without health insurance only over-the-counter remedies are available, which would be like sending a Cub Scout troop against a battalion of Navy SEALs.

      Late update: Here's a fun story about Dumpster-diving with Manhattan's "freegans." There's something admirable, grotesque and depressing about it, all at once. It reminds me of a night I spent with a hobo couple at Squirrel's Tavern in Corvallis, Oregon, back in the early 1980s. They approached me as I was gargling with Guinness and I'm thinking it's a touch, so I start to reach for the old wallet, and they say no, we'd like to buy you a beer, 'cause you look depressed (I was). We sat around for a while, drinking beers and shooting the shit, and they told me how they wintered in Tucson and summered in the Northwest, riding the rails from Point A to B, squatting in abandoned houses and eating out of Dumpsters. The beer money came from collecting and recycling discarded aluminum cans and bottles. They were proud that they were working for their money, and damn me if it didn't sound a whole lot more sensible than working for a newspaper, which I was doing at the time. But then pretty much anything does.

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    News you can't use

      I mentioned a while back that our local cage-liner, the Gazette, had laid off a bunch of folks, including 10 in the newsroom. Well, they must've pink-slipped the wrong crowd, judging by today's front page. Lede story: speedskater Apolo Ono on "Dancing With the Stars." Second lede: a USA Today poll indicating that Iraqis think everything pretty much sucks, which was on NPR yesterday. Below the fold: Another USA Today story, this one on the so-called "forever stamp," and an Associated Press piece on the development of a malaria-resistant mosquito (malaria being such a common affliction here in Bibleburg, along with ebolla, dengue fever and the yaws). Curious about Alberto "Want Fries With That?" Gonzales, a story that might actually have some effect on how you live your life in the Benighted States of Amnesia? The McClatchy story I flagged yesterday is buried on A-4. Jesus wept. They might as well just run the funny pages out front and be done with it.

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      Ho, ho. The McClatchy Washington bureau reports that the White House is casting around for a sucker to replace Alberto "Who, Me?" Gonzales. This should be amusing. Try the leather bars and S&M clubs, boys. You're gonna want someone who's seriously into pain.

      Meanwhile, in honor of the fourth anniversary of Alfred E. Bush's splendid little war, I wore my "Worry" T-shirt from The Nation to the chiropractor and the grog shop today, and it drew rave reviews. This guy is as popular as a reporter in Darth Cheney's office.

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    The wearin' o' the cuffs

      It wasn't all beer and blarney at the Bibleburg St. Paddy's Day parade yesterday. Organizers sicced the cops on a group of activists from the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission who tried to march wearing green T-shirts with peace symbols and carrying signs bearing messages like "Kids Not Bombs" and "Stop This War Now." One, a 65-year-old woman, got dragged across the street with cameras clicking. Lovely. That'll make a nice addition to the Chamber of Commerce website.

      So, taking my cue from the Bibleburg fuzz, when the neighborhood woodpecker started using my furnace vent as a snare drum again this morning, I stepped outside and shot the little sonofabitch right off it. Pow! Hasta la vista, bay-bee. Taste hot freedom, you feathered terrorist! Hey, would you rather fight them over there or over here? *

    * OK, so I used a squirt bottle full of water instead of a .357 full of hollowpoints. Rat me out to the NRA, see if I care. I got a wife here who would watch "Animal Planet" 24/7 if (a) she didn't have a job, and (b) we had cable. Plus she knows where the real weaponry is stashed, and I have to sleep sometime.

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    Up the rebels!

      OK, so I haven't been all that entertaining here this past week — reality has been kicking the mortal shit out of satire lately, and satire didn't see any point in getting up off the canvas until reality had its back turned — but there's no way an O'Grady lets St. Patrick's Day pass without mention, unless he overdid it a bit while tuning up on the 16th and slept all the way through the 17th, or is in jail, where "getting online" usually refers to a gang-bang in the showers. So here I am, enjoying a pint of Guinness Extra Stout and a dollop of Bushmills, rattling the neighbors' windows with Irish music, and enjoying the remnants of a distinctly springlike day.

      Big doin's in the nation's capital as protesters marked the fourth anniversary of Gen. George Armstrong Bush's charge into Little Bagdad Horn. The MSM's coverage was as per usual (dismissive and condescending). Still, an enterprising Times reporter managed to unearth a publisher from Indiana who carried a St. Paddy's-themed sign reading, "Help drive the snakes out of the White House." Slainte, boyo.

      One snake who may be getting the bum's rush here shortly is Alberto "Tio Taco" Gonzales, who has managed to step on his dick so often in the past week that it's starting to look more like a store-bought tortilla than a manly chorizo. You can learn more than you care to know about this whole sordid deal, which makes Nixon AG John Mitchell look like Oliver Wendell Holmes, over at Talking Points Memo, which has had this story by the nuts with a downhill pull from the get-go.

      Elsewhere, the Curse of the Rainbow Jersey has its claws fixed into Paolo Bettini, who has been falling over more often than the village drunkard in a Frank O'Connor short story. Today he T-boned a signpost in Tirreno-Adriatico.

      Here in Bibleburg, meanwhile, we are trying very hard not to hit any signposts, as we have no health insurance. Herself broke out her Soma Fabrications Double Cross for the first ride of the season and rode to the AFA and back without incident, as did I (though I rode a Steelman Eurocross and started a bit later in order to enjoy a brisk pursuit).

      Now, as soon as I get tired of drinking this delicious stout, I intend to cook up a mess of lamb and spuds for ballast and then get right back to the beer-drinking and the watching of "The Commitments, a fine flick about a bunch of Dublin soul brothers. It is, after all, St. Patrick's Day.

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    Don't go to any trouble on my account, boys

      Generalissmo El Busho paid a six-hour visit to Bogota, Colombia, today. And all his imperial presence demanded was a red-carpet greeting by a military honor guard when his plane landed, various equestrian antics and a military band in the palace courtyard, and the mobilization of 20,000 police and heavily armed troops, including sharpshooters positioned on rooftops, gun-toting cops every few feet along his motorcade route, and a fleet of white pickups stuffed with security officers. Oh, yeah, and El Busho required a couple black armored limos, two black Chevy Suburbans and the Marine 1 chopper, too, all flown in from the States. Jesus H. Christ. It's expensive enough keeping this yahoo in the White House. Can't we avoid pointless, pricey junkets to places where he's even less popular than he is at home?

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    Go do that voodoo that you do so well

      Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after a tour by President George W. Boogeyman, according to the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization who calls the visit "an offense for the Mayan people and their culture." Somebody get those priests' business cards. The White House is gonna need a good going-over once we get rid of this numbnuts.

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    The Friday Follies

      The FBI has used the so-called USA Patriot Act as a giant crowbar to break into Americans' telephone, financial and business records without the hint of a whiff of a breath of judicial oversight, according to The New York Times. Gosh, who'da thunk it? The ghost of J. Edgar Hoover must be laughing its crotchless-pantied ass off. Elsewhere, the UCI is getting closer to the Baccala Plan as outlined in Jimmy Breslin's "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" (keep the riders in cages). Newt Gingrich's pot was calling Bill Clinton's kettle black, back in the good old days. And here in Bibleburg, the Gazette's new food critic spells "dessert" with only the one "s," which would make it the place where Fort Carson's grunts are getting shot at instead of something nifty to tamp down dinner at the Marigold Cafe. In short, just another day in the barrel.

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      Today's Colorado Springs Independent reports that the Gazette's recent layoffs pissed away "some of the paper's most recognizable and productive writers," including 20-year veteran Deb Acord, Jim Bainbridge, J. Adrian Stanley and Sarah Colwell. Lovely. The unpaid contributors to the G's YourHub wank-fest are really gonna have to kick it up a notch to fill in the gaps. Today's 12-page YourHub Central insert treats us to a preview of community journalism, G-style, leading with a piece on an animal masseuse, followed by a story on a woman said to be the nation's oldest living Girl Scout, a sampling of YourHub bloggers' thoughts (new softball league, how to repay helpful neighbors, ain't Palmer Park something?), a calendar and four pages of classifieds. Is there a Pulitzer Prize for banality? Small wonder that, as the Indy notes, the G's weekday circulation has plummeted 29 percent, from 102,531 in 1990 to 72,428 as of September 2006, while the number of households in El Paso County has increased 45 percent, to 213,661. A puppy being housebroken would refuse to shit on this rag, instinctively recognizing the act as redundant.

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    That's just (im)peachy

      OK, so Bubba Clinton gets impeached for sticking it to an intern. Will Darth Cheney get impeached for trying to stick it to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame? Nah. He's been sticking it to the world for years. What's one guy and a spy?

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    Scooter Libby is full of shit

      You already know that, of course. But now a jury has confirmed it. The likelihood of his serving so much as a nanosecond in even a tennis prison is remote, however; if the appeals don't work, a presidential pardon sure as hell will.

      Meanwhile, Swobo bike goddess Sky Yaeger advises that the outfit's long-anticipated new bike line is available for purchase now and shipping in April. The Sanchez is a 700C fixed gear ($599); the Folsom is a 26-inch-wheel, coaster-brake-equipped one-speed ($499); and the Otis is a 26-inch-wheel three-speed with a rear coaster brake and front disc brake ($699). I've proposed a fourth model, the Libby Scooter, to be constructed entirely of organic materials (to wit, bullshit) and to be ridden only to jail, but I haven't gotten a contract faxed to me yet, so you may want to score one of the other models while they're all hot and poppin' fresh.

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    March madness

      The temps crept all the way up into the high 40s today, and everybody and his grandma was out and about, trying to suck up a little vitamin D before the next round of evil weather hits. Mikey O'Stank, Dennis the Menace and I broke out the 'cross bikes and sampled the mud between Chez Dog and the bridge linking the AFA's south gate to Parade Loop. It was delightful, especially the icy bits. Much laundry thereafter and an abbreviated bike wash.

      The one person who was not out and about, to my knowledge, is Big Bill McBeef, who was AWOL from the K-9 Korps once again and is risking harsh disciplinary measures. Last weekend we banged on his door and remarked loudly and at length upon his many shortcomings, especially those related to sexual potency and preference. But he declined to rise to the bait, perhaps because he wasn't home.

      Some folks who are home — and looking for work — are the 23 staffers laid off Friday by the Gazette. The G shitcanned them and eliminated the equivalent of 10 more full-time positions in the name of trying to "balance an evolving media landscape with the company's financial goals," which is the sort of Orwellian doublespeak a publisher is prone to handing out after a couple of martinis. The guy could've said something straight up like, "The paper mostly sucks and nobody wants to read it or buy ads in it, so we're trying to fix the fucker so we can start making money again." But noooo.

      Here's a glimpse into the Bizarro World of daily newspapering from Mother Jones, which has done solid work on media consolidation in the past. Much of what is discussed here is of relevance when considering the Gazette's problems, although since it's part of a privately owned, neolibertarian chain we'll probably never know exactly who at the home office is squeezing the G or why. More on this later. I'm contemplating a "Winners & Sinners"-style review of next week's Gazette, just for the hell of it. And I'm looking forward to see what Ralph Routon makes of all this in this week's Colorado Springs Independent. See, we're both alumni of the G. And if you think it sucks today, you should've seen it back in the Seventies, when Ralph was the sports editor and I was an education reporter. Hijo, madre.

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    In like a liar
    "We'll get on top of this situation. We're going to help those that need help." — President George W. Bush, speaking on Sept. 2, 2005, regarding the Hurricane Katrina disaster

    "The federal government stands by to help." — President George W. Bush speaking on March 1, 2007, regarding the tornadoes that hit Alabama, Georgia and Missouri

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    In like a lion

      Herself got off work early last night, courtesy of February's final snowstorm. Alas, she was not so fortunate this morning — her educational institution was apparently the only one in the Pikes Peak region that wasn't on a two-hour delay, and thus off she went, on roads better suited to skating than driving.

      The feebs were playing bumper tag with a vengeance last night, according to the local journos. Herself was wondering why I-25 was empty as she drove gingerly home last night — seems a dozen vehicles stuffed it in Fountain after an 18-wheeler spilled its load of pipes all over Interstate 25, shutting it down like Darth Cheney's cranial arteries. Samey same up north at Larkspur, where a 40-vehicle pileup shut the I in both directions. They're smiling at the body shops today, Bubba. New bass boats, hot tubs and second homes are being ordered up like Happy Meals at Mickey D's.

      Here at Dog Central, meanwhile, cabin fever has me by the chamois with a downhill pull. So I bought a cheap camcorder to play with, which means you can expect more Videocy as soon as I puzzle out all its bells and whistles. A short QuickTime test drive starring Ike the Cat (a.k.a. Chairman Meow, Ho Chi Meow, Mary Tyler Meow, et al.) can be found here.

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    February bids a frosty farewell

      It's snowing again, for fuck's sake. Judas Priest, will it never end? This is the Lord's judgment upon me for making shit out of Jan Ullrich to entertain feebs who who think unconditional love trumps critical reading skills. I did my penance, going out for a 40-minute run and coming home sheathed in ice. Later I have a fun wind-trainer ride scheduled in the cold, dark basement. Ain't nothin' but a party. Just ask Ho Chi Meow over there, who views with alarm as the white stuff stacks up outside the window.

      Elsewhere, the usual gang of eedjits have gotten themselves into a 20- or 30-car pileup near Larkspur, closing Interstate 25 in both directions. A word of advice to all you NASCAR wannabes with the "I'm Not Tailgating, I'm Drafting" bumper stickers on your Ford Probes: You are awarded extra stupidity points for gluing your grill to someone's bumper during a whiteout. These may not be exchanged for free brain surgery at the ER or a No. 3-shaped tombstone.

      In other news, Big Jonny of DrunkCyclist, apparently as bored shitless as I am, has posted a lengthy interview with me here. He recounts without rancor the time I accidentally crushed his hosting server via a cartoon I'd drawn for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News and generously makes no mention of the fact that the one time we went drinking together I cracked like a thousand-year-old rubber kept in a fat man's wallet. I blame Dick Cheney.

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    Der Kaiser has had the schnitz

      Jan Ullrich has hung up his corset, saying he never cheated despite persistent rumors to the contrary, most of them coming from the Keystone Kops-style Operación Puerto inquiry, apparently headed by a Spanish graduate of the Inspector Clouseau Close Cover Before Striking School of Earning Big Pay Through Crime Detection at Home in Your Spare Time.

      Ullrich is something of a tragic figure. One Tour victory and he spent the next decade unraveling like a cheap sweater — partying like a college kid; getting busted for amphetamines and serving a six-month suspension; crashing his Porsche (into a bike rack, of all things) and then fleeing the scene; and famously struggling to stay at fighting weight. All this would've been hard enough to overcome, even for a dedicated, focused athlete, had he not been up against one of the most hard-headed cyclists ever to grace the international stage — Lance Armstrong, who played Ullrich like a cheap fiddle, annually slapping the "greatest threat" label on him and then stomping him like a fat roach in a tenement kitchen.

      When Ullrich crashed into a ditch during Stage 13 of the 2001 Tour, Big Tex sat up to wait for him. Some thought it a sporting gesture, but I thought it was more along the lines of a boxer waiting for his opponent to get up off the canvas so he could slug him a few more times. And when Ullrich extended his hand to Armstrong at the end of the next stage, conceding the Tour, it was clear to me that Armstrong's Jedi mind tricks had worked — the German would always think of himself as second best.

      After the Spanish inquisition tarred him, without anything even approximating legal success, Ullrich couldn't find a ride, probably because he continued to insist on his ponderous entourage despite the fact that he was no longer a two-wheeled rock star, but the velo-equivalent of a Holiday Inn crooner with a cheap Yamaha keyboard and a second-hand drum machine.

      Now Ullrich will be a "consultant and representative" for the second-tier Austrian Volksbank team. Maybe he's finally found his niche, serving as a good example of a bad example: "Don't do as I did, lads; do as I say."

      Late update: Hee haw. I pounded a few of the dents out of this and shipped it to VeloNews.com as a long-overdue rant and flushed out a ton of Ullrich fanboys screeching about my dastardly conduct in kicking the man while he's down. But I ask you: What's the point in getting someone down in the first place if you can't put the boots to him? Frankly, I always liked Ullrich, which may be why I picked on him so unmercifully for squandering his potential. I know an underachiever when I see one, having spent nearly 53 years hanging around with myself. Ullrich always comported himself in a sportsmanlike fashion, as a gentleman, and that in the end may have been his real Achilles heel. The adage about nice guys finishing last seems truer every day, in a world run exclusively by and for assholes. And what's the real difference between being the first loser and the last?

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      George Hincapie stuffed it in the early going of today's Amgen Tour, picked himself up, and just kept on keeping on — despite a broken left arm. Owie. In case you're wondering, if I break a bone typing some bullshit here, don't expect to hear from me until I'm back from the ER, where I will give the sawbones a fake name on account of I don't have any health insurance. Surprisingly, there are no "journalism doctors" who follow working scribes around in case one should get a paper cut or the hiccups.

      A reader noted today that the 'Toons link above displayed a scribble that was "long past its 'sell-by' date," and thusly shamed I updated it with a 2007 "Shop Talk" cartoon from Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. Everything else is still older than the 9/11 line Alfred E. Bush ("Worry!") trots out every time someone asks him what the fuck he thinks he's doing.

      Speaking of cycling and journalism, the usually unreliable sources whisper that former VeloNews editor Kip Mikler may have gotten inexplicably lost en route to his new job at SportsTravel magazine and somehow wound up at Bike, in which capacity we know not. Our scouts have their ears to the ground, but so far it's just hoofprints and horseshit. More as it develops. Meanwhile, Your Humble Narrator was recently interviewed by the fabulous Big Jonny of DrunkCyclist.com, and if he's half as crazy as I think he is it should be up on the site shortly. So keep one eye on DrunkCyclist and both hands on the keyboard. It ain't all bikes 'n' beers over there, is what I'm sayin'.

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    Dog (not) at large

      Hm. Missed a few days, there, didn't we? Sorry 'bout that. I've been tugging on an oar over at the good ship VeloNews.com while the Amgen Tour of California gallops hither and yon, and it's taken up a sizable chunk of my free time, which is to say those hours not specifically designated for cycling and/or drinking. The goddamn tour has kept me up until midnight for three nights running, and the guys at Coaltrain Wine & Liquor are talking about adding a Patrick O'Grady Memorial Wing to the wine section.

      I've ridden the road the past couple days, on a 'cross bike with road rubber (the road bike is bolted to the Cateye trainer in the basement as insurance against any further incursions by winter). You ought to see the potholes we've got here in Bibleburg. Ted Haggard could have a dance party with a dozen gay hookers in some of these craters, had he not swiftly been "cured" of his unholy desire to be first-chair meat-whistle player in the Queen City of the Plains Meth Whorechestra.

      Elsewhere, you may have heard something about The Washington Post's investigation into how the Pentagon is supporting the troops by warehousing wounded grunts in a vermin-infested shitbag called Building 18 at Walter Reed, unless you were distracted by Britney's latest antics (shave head, get tattoos, enter/leave rehab, repeat). Here's Joe Galloway's take on it. To say that he's pissed is an epic understatement, on a par with calling Ms. Spears mildly confused.

      You think people might start paying some serious attention to the nation's real problems if George Armstrong Bush shaved his head, got a tattoo of Karl's lips on his ass and entered rehab? Nah. Me neither.

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    Levi vs. the Trashman

      Big drama at the kickoff to the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. First we learn that last year's peloton was never tested for EPO; then former garbage-truck driver Jason Donald (Slipstream-Chipotle) slams the stinky lid on all the big boys save one — Discovery's Levi Leipheimer — during the prologue. Ain't nothin' but a party.

      The gang at VeloNews.com had some technical difficulties yesterday while trying to crank up live coverage of the prologue, but I'm told they have procured a new hamster, which has been properly medicated and is trotting along at speed in its wheel for Stage 1, from Sausalito to Santa Rosa, where my pals Chris Coursey and Loretta Esparza will be among the spectators. Maybe Tom Waits will turn up, too.

      Late update: Judas Priest. Levi goes down with 9 km to go after a T-Mobile stuffs it on a Santa Rosa traffic feature, taking out a third of the peloton, and finishes more than a minute down on the guys who stayed up front and kept the rubber side down. Nevertheless, the Powers That Be decide Levi can keep the leader's jersey, it being his hometown and all. This is the velo-equivalent of the Supremes deciding Al Gore deserved to be president after all because he couldn't have known that if he wasn't cautious about bending over in places like Florida, why, Jim Baker would bone him up the ass. Bullshit calls like this are why most Americans think calling cycling a sport is like equating a Rainbow Family gathering with a Boy Scout Jamboree.

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    Blah, blah, blah

      The House has voted to pooh-pooh Gen. George Armstrong Bush's plans for Little Big Horn 2.0, but the Senate has once again declined to even discuss the topic. What a shameless gaggle of scabby-kneed whores we've chosen to conduct the nation's business. No, that's doing a grave disservice to whores, most of whom strive to give value for value received. The meanest two-bit flatbacker couldn't possibly be as mendacious, as calculating, as John McCain, who crunched the numbers and decided to skip the vote to campaign in Iowa, or Hillary Clinton, who refuses to confess that she fucked up when she voted to give Numbnuts the key to the gun safe. No, we're talking swine here, talking pigs straight out of Orwell who gobble endlessly at the public trough, grunting carefully scripted talking points and histrionically waving their manicured trotters at one another. Meanwhile, outside the sty, life continues to be nasty, brutish and short, especially if you're one of the suckers who ends his or her third tour of Iraq as a heap of bloody rags, meat and bone splinters. If we really cared about supporting the troops, we'd be running these feebs through the streets with pitchforks and cattle prods, or astride splintery rails in thick coats of tar and feathers.

      Speaking of Texas tinhorns and hogs at the trough, I had a taste for chile con carne the other day, bought the fixin's, and am cooking up a lazy man's organic weirdo variation on Mom's fabled San Antonio recipe as we speak. Here are the details for those of you who are staring down the barrel of another frosty day and in dire need of antifreeze:

    1 lb. ground buffalo
    1 lb. hot Italian sausage
    1 medium onion, chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tbsp. olive oil
    1 28-oz. can tomatoes, undrained and chopped coarsely
    2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
    2 4-oz. cans chopped hot Hatch chiles
    1 can black beans
    1 can navy beans
    2 cups beef broth
    2 cups water
    3-4 tbsp. medium Chimayo chile powder
    1 tsp. ancho chile powder
    1 tsp. cumin powder
    1 tsp. Mexican oregano
    salt and pepper to taste

    Heat the oil in a 6-quart pot, then brown the meats over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes or until tender, then add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Stir in all remaining ingredients, barring the beans, and simmer uncovered 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional water as necessary. Add drained beans and simmer another 20 minutes. Serve in a wide bowl over the rice of your choice (I usually go for white) and sprinkle liberally with grated Black Diamond cheddar. If you like a little crunch with your chile add some Garden of Eatin' corn chips. Drink liberally (we're into the Laurel Glen Reds tonight).

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      Mark Morford cleanses his perverse soul a la Ted Haggard; Matt Taibbi takes a good, strong whiff of Barack Obama's bullshit; and Max Blumenthal takes a ride on John McCain's Forked Tongue Express.

      Late update: OK, I've been out of the loop for a spell, but has anyone else seen this? The inaugural Tour of California, sponsored by Amgen, didn't test riders for EPO? This is according to The New York Times, which says the sponsor is pissed:

    A spokeswoman at Amgen, which had marketed its sponsorship as a way to educate people against improper use of its drug, expressed outrage at the failure to test for it, saying that the company had been repeatedly assured last year that EPO testing was done.

    The spokeswoman, Mary Klem, said that when Amgen executives were informed of the oversight, they were angry and surprised. "Our understanding going into the race was that the test would be included," Klem said. "And we were told afterward that no rider tested positive for EPO or for any banned substances."

    This year, the organizers of the race have agreed to test riders for EPO.


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    St. Valentine's Day

      Nice day for machine-gunning someone in a garage. The storm that was stalking me yesterday snowed all over Santa Fe this morning, then chased me partway home — but not before I got a heapin' helping of breakfast burrito with egg and sausage smothered in green at Tia Sophia and a long soak at Ten Thousand Waves, where I collected snow on my sunburnt dome while slowly poaching everything south of my Adam's apple.

      Met Nick, the owner of Tia Sophia, over breakfast. It's a family op' that he's taken over, and so successfully that I couldn't detect the slightest hitch in their gitalong. It's still a place that cares about good food and friendly service, the kind of joint where you get sucked into a conversation or three regardless of whether you feel chatty (I learned a little something about the naturalist, writer and photographer E.P. Haddon over a second and third cup of coffee), and they remember you regardless of how infrequently you pop by. Like home, only better. My favorite editorial cartoonist, Pat Oliphant, is a regular, and he's apparently as gracious to the Tia Sophia gang as he was to me back in the Seventies when I met him at the Fine Arts Center in Bibleburg.

      Tia Sophia recently scored some airtime on The Food Network. We don't have TV here in Dogpatch, but if you do, keep an eye peeled for Giada's Weekend Getaways. The page I found only lists three airings, but you might get lucky. And if you don't, get yourself on down there and visit in person. That way you can eat.

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    We return you now to this winter of our discontent

      This is what comes of taking the scenic route. After dicking around all yesterday in the motel and a java shop, laboring mightily to bring forth a mouse of a column for Bicycle Retailer, I wandered over toward Patagonia, where Jim Harrison winters, before finally driving to Las Cruces for a late night watching stupid shit on TV and rewriting that lame column with the assistance of a couple Mirror Pond Pale Ales. Today, after wasting a not-inconsiderable portion of the morning solving some e-mail issues, a storm entertained me nearly all the way to Santa Fe with heavy rain, snow and crosswinds. Glad I wasn't driving the VW Eurovan, the one I don't own yet. This Subaru flies low to the ground, but even it was taking a pretty good pummeling from the driver's side.

      Up north, Bibleburg is getting snow, too, and there could be a half-foot on the deck by the time I get home, assuming I get home. It's a five-hour drive on a good day, and I intend to decompress at Tia Sophia's and Ten Thousand Waves before I hit the road. So if you hear that I have died in some hideous auto accident and gone to Hell, you can blame hot green chile and even hotter water.

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    On the road again

      Tent City has come down and I've left McDowell Mountain Park for a $100-a-night corporate box with a lid on it at the outskirts of Tucson. There is journalism to be done, and I require power, phone, TV, radio, wireless Internet connectivity, Mexican food at El Minuto, beer and a bed.

      Got out of Dodge just in time, almost. After running the past two days, I had considered repeating Thursday's workout, but the skies seemed ominous while my legs did not, so after one lap of the Granite-Bluffs-Pemberton-Granite loop (1:08, a personal best this trip) I tore off a quick lap around the Granite-Bluffs shorty and all of a sudden droplets were pinging off the glasses. I roared back to camp and started ripping it apart, but too late. I found myself breaking camp in a light rain, and I fear there are many dampish articles infesting the Silver Bullet ... many, many of them.

      Couple more chats with Charlie and Bob today. Charlie and I are on the same page politically, agreeing that public trials on charges of treason and war crimes would suit Daffy Bush and Elmer Cheney much more than cushy retirements on the public sugar tit. He says his bus was the only one at the dealer to sport a Kerry-Edwards sticker during his last refit, and he's shopping for something even more hair-raising to slap on the bumper. I recommended Evolvefish.com, home of the fabled WTF sticker at right.

      As for Bob, he was having trouble resetting his new Trek cyclo-computer, which mystified me, too. I suggested employing a hammer. Hey, it worked on Herself's sports watch when the fucker declined to stop beeping at odd hours.

      I'm trying to avoid peeking at The New York Times site until I've had a beer. God only knows what's waiting for me over there after a week in the desert.

      Late update: OK, I went to the NYT, but I studiously avoided reading any of the headlines and went straight to the Books section, where you can find a laudatory review of Jim Harrison's latest.

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    Legends of the fallen

      Jim Harrison was interviewed on NPR's ""All Things Considered" last night. The man's agent must be blowing everyone of consequence on the East Coast. Harrison is hanging out at his casita in Patagonia, and I may just dash on down there for a peek once I'm tired of riding these trails, see what he likes so much about the place.

      Made two new best friends yesterday, Charlie and Bob, both of whom ride, albeit casually after enduring various and sundry medical complaints, which along with how much stuff costs seems to pass for conversation among the wealthy migraciones. Today's geezers don't wait for the tribe to push 'em out onto the ice floe — they buy a yacht and shove off all by themselves.

      Charlie, of Las Vegas, was a tri-geek before a multiple bypass; Bob, of Bend, Oregon, has a bum ticker and a bad back but took up cycling late in life anyway. Both are piloting mountain bikes around McDowell and found it odd that I'd tackle the trails on what amounts to a road bike with delusions of grandeur. I find it odd that a guy needs a personal Greydog to get around and about. Different strokes, as they say.

      Skipped riding today to give the nether quarters a chance to unclench (and the fore quarters a chance to meet a deadline). Instead, I did a short run up and down Scenic Trail, burning a piddly 597 calories in 55 minutes, or about what I ate for breakfast. I may take a hammer to this Polar before the week is over.

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    Rolling blunder

      While I was burning a steak last evening some dipshit fool flying a Rube Goldbergian amalgamation that looked like an unholy alliance among a lawn chair, a hammock and a ceiling fan buzzed the campground. I thought about taking a photo, then thought again, as Captain Marvel was only about 25 feet off the deck. Why encourage some less-skilled would-be aviator to acquire a nutsack full of saguaro thorns? Might I be liable? Lord knows I have suffered heavily for other people's stupidity over the years, and expect to keep doing so whenever not busy wrestling my own idiocies, like riding a cyclo-cross bike on mountain-bike trails. In any case, the camera stayed in the bag.

      Old boy shows me his trailer after dinner. The one attached to his private Greydog. The one that holds his Jeep, fishing boat and woodworking shop. Ay, Chihuahua. Dude uses it as a studio for making cowboy art whenever he's not judging a horse show. This gig clearly pays better than bicycle journalism, as I'm livin' large in a two-person Eureka Timberlite that is not attached to a Subaru Forester or anything else, unless you count the Earth, and that tenuously.

      No run today, as I woke up wearing someone else's legs. Instead, I did 30 miles on the Granite-Bluff-Pemberton circuit. Big, big fun, lots better than staggering around on the ice back home. My know-it-all Polar tells me I burned 1805 calories, but the Descente bibs are as snug a fit as ever. Perhaps it's the beer, which for the aficionados among you is Dale's Pale Ale, which comes in cans like the miserable green rat piss everyone else drinks (no glass permitted in the campground).

      No pigs tonight, and the coyotes were silent for a change, too. Maybe they feared an aerial assault and like Charlie took to the tunnels as Rolling Thunder passed overhead.

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    A visitation of swine

      Shot the pigs last night. Fearless little mothers, just like the coyotes. I named them George, Dick and Condi. They paid a courtesy call on every campsite on our side of the joint. This place is a petting zoo.

      Stayed up not too late, drinking beer and watching contrails from Sky Harbor-bound jets blend with the tangerine hydrocarbon glow of Phoenix and the lesser lights of Fountain Hills. The hairless ape has dragged his grubby fingers across God's blue ceiling. I listened to KJZZ on my little Sony radio, feeling stupidly superior to all the yahoos watching TV in their diesel shitboxes. They have generators and microwaves, I have a candle lantern and a two-burner propane stove. We all enjoyed the pigs. Go figure.

      Another dawn reveille followed by a 45-minute run up Granite, across Stoneman Wash and back. Finally figured out the new Polar HRM, kinda, sorta. I forgot to shut off the target-zone alarm before starting and the fucker drove me batshit with its incessant beep beep beep. Made in China now, like everything else, including many Chinese.   After a slightly massive breakfast I took another 90-minute recon', this time checking out the Granite-Bluff link to Pemberton and then riding Pemberton back to Granite, to Bluff, and then back to Granite for a downhill run to the barn. Haven't found anything I can't ride on a 'cross bike, never you mind how slowly. Tomorrow I plan to skip the run and go for a longer ride, a couple-three hours, now that I've rebooted my memory of the McDowell Mountain trail network.

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    Pigs, coyotes and a dog

      Dreamed I saw Jennifer Aniston without her makeup on and woke up screaming. This is what comes of soaring with the pigs, as Hunter S. Thompson once noted. I was a few drams into a fine desert evening when I heard some snuffling and grunting just outside the small circle of light cast by my lantern. It wasn't one of my other, less savory personalities — it was a six-pack of mini-pigs, javelinas, just like the bunch (herd? gaggle? pod?) I saw here last year. But there wasn't enough beer for all of us, so they moved on.

      It always amazes me how casually the critters that belong here — pigs, coyotes, buzzworms — handle this seasonal invasion of pasty peckerwoods from frigid climes, ramrodding everything from Subaru Foresters to what appear to be wheeled aircraft carriers. The coyotes couldn't have cared less about the couple who drove 200 yards from their fifth wheel to the crapper twice a day, or the diesel dickhead who cranked up his PowerStroke around bedtime and brought it back home about 2 a.m. But I did, so come morning I ripped the tent out of the ground and moved south to a quieter area full of bicycle people and other riff-raff. But first I inhaled a quart of java and a snack and went on a 45-minute run along Granite Trail.

      After a second snack and some water, I broke out the Steelman and went on a recon' of Pemberton Trail that took about an hour and a half on account of I haven't ridden a bike that wasn't attached to a wind trainer in the better part of quite some time. McDowell Mountain Regional Park has had some precip' this winter, and the trail was better in some spots, worse in others. The wildlife included one road runner, a trio of mountain bikers ("Hey, a cyclo-cross bike!", one horseman, a hiker, a few more scattered mountain bikers and a couple of the coyotes that serenaded me last night between flights with the pigs. Clearly nobody is shooting at these critters; seems likely some fleawit is feeding them. Very cute until the sneaky little fuckers carry off Pookie the peke-a-poo to shrieks of outrage from the wifey. No more checks to the World Wildlife Fund from the bereaved parents.

      There is substantial evidence here of people with more money than me, which violates O'Grady's Law of Economic Justice ("Anyone who makes more than me makes too fucking much."). Maybe I should put wheels on the house and tow it out here next year. The black, pop-top Sportsmobile I saw last year is back again, along with a few jillion dollars worth of private buses. Perhaps Jennifer Aniston is in one of them, putting on her face.

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    Lord, I'm southbound

      After enduring another sweaty ride to nowhere in the basement, with cadence dictated by "The Allman Brothers Band: A Decade of Hits, 1969-1979," I stuffed the Subaru full of electronica, sporting goods and strong drink and fled south, with an eye toward a few days of cyclo-crossing in the Arizona desert. Retarded? Yes, especially since the temps in Bibleburg hit the low 50s while I was loading up, the first time we've seen numbers that high in quite a while (ours have been well below even The Escalator's). But since warmer weather meant water and mud instead of ice and snow, I hopped in, twisted the key and hit the road, leaving Herself and Chairman Meow in charge and a slew of e-mails unanswered. There's a shot of a happy Dog to right, an homage to m'boy Masiguy, who does a Daily Drive shot on his blog. My commute's gonna be a little longer than his, though; about 13 hours' worth.

      Winter vanished at speed with my foot in the firewall, or so I thought until I got south of Pueblo. Between Colorado City and Walsenburg the wind had sent exploratory tendrils of ice and snow across the southbound lanes like slushy speed bumps, and my fellow motorists and I spent a few enjoyable miles slaloming from lane to lane at 75 per, trying to find the flat, dry spots. Saw a Lincoln sideways in the ditch, which failed to elevate my opinion of American vehicles and their operators. Good thing I had the bike inside the car instead of on the roof, even if things were a tad crowded. There was enough goo getting flung around for six snowball fights and a Johnny Wadd retrospective.

      By the far side of Raton Pass, the roads were dry again and I was catching "The Singing Wire" on KUNM out of Albuquerque. I always try to catch "the Wire" or "Native America Calling" when blazing through New Mexico; really makes you feel like you've crossed a border. By the way, in case you've screened "Dances with Wolves" a few times too often, most of the shout-out section involved hopes that the Bears would do well in the Stupor Bowl. A lot of disappointment in Indian country this morning. Jim Harrison, himself being big on bear medicine, must also be in mourning.

      The game was on at Second Street Brewery, which has undergone some renovation since I passed through last fall. The customers remain pretty much the same, though; nitwit hippies, white guys with dreadlocks and casual sports fans, all with a passion for the hops. When one chick got a little too enthusiastic about one of the Bears' rare displays of competence, a weirdo shouted, "Orgasm!" Hilarity ensued. More later.

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    Sick of winter? Crave some heat? Visit scenic Baghdad

      Tom Lasseter of McClatchy offers another enlightening piece about what the troops think of Gen. George Armstrong Bush's Little Big Horn 2.0:

    "What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there's somebody new waiting to kill us," said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. "Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that overnight."

    "Once more raids start happening, they'll (insurgents) melt away," said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. "And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they'll come back."

      Some of the troops Lasseter talked to were from right here in Bibleburg, grunts from Fort Carson. I bet a bitter Colorado winter is looking pretty damn' good to those poor bastards right about now.

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    Ice, ice, baby

      Two below zero. Another brisk half-hour of rearranging snow. Ain't nothin' but a party. A fellow sufferer at the chiropractor's office yesterday said he's lived here for 53 years and hasn't ever seen a winter like this one.

      It is a beaut'. Coloradans expect snow in Colorado come winter, but we're also accustomed to seeing it vanish like a federal budget surplus in the manicured hands of a Republican. It's just been too damn' cold to melt this year, and so every time I go out with broom and shovel, I'm adding to a pile that started accumulating back in December.

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    Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

      Aw, shit. Just heard NPR announce that Molly Ivins has died. Son of a bitch. If more people had read in 2000 what she and Lou Dubose had written about the fucktard presently wiping his privileged, incompetent ass with this once-great country, we might have been spared this latest and greatest in an apparently endless series of long national nightmares. It is unkind indeed of God to snatch Molly up and leave us stuck with the faux cowpoke she dubbed "Shrub." A fierce opponent of Mr. All Hat No Cattle's splendid little war in Mesopotamia, Molly used her final column to urge her readers to "raise hell."

    Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

      That would be the best possible memorial we could raise to her. Nevertheless, The Texas Observer insists on sending her off in a more literary style here. Adios, Molly. You will be missed. Give H.L. Mencken, Hunter S. Thompson and Ed Abbey my regards.

      Update: I'm up late, drinking tots of Bushmills to ward off stomach bugs, the cold and whatever evil spirit came to carry off Molly Ivins, and stumbled across this fond remembrance from John Nichols of The Nation, which like The Texas Observer will be paying its respects over the next few days. KRCC is playing The Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl," which I'd like to call pertinent to this discussion, but something from Kinky Friedman might've been more appropriate. Or not.

      Meanwhile, down here among the living, Bibleburg has been blessed with still more snow to camouflage the black ice lurking on street and sidewalk. I'd planned to drive to the People's Republic today to buy outgoing VeloNews editor Kip Mikler a drink or six in celebration of his final day in the barrel, but Odin apparently had other ideas. A bleak day indeed. Plus Herself has some class of stomach bug and requires periodic deliveries of ginger ale, chicken soup, sympathy and extra blankies.

      I believe I'm just about over the whole winter thing. It's no longer useful (not enough snow to ski on), downright dangerous (damn' near killed myself on black ice the last two times I went running), and fuckin' cold (13 degrees right now at 10:30 p.m. local time). I've ridden the Cateye wind trainer twice in the past two days, and you know how I feel about that. Ask W how much he liked Molly kicking him in his undersized nutsack with those size-11 dogs of hers. Samey-same.

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    Bicycling is an inherently dangerous sport

      Especially if a camera moto clips an unweighted plastic barricade and sends it spinning into your path at the cyclo-cross world championships. Jesus, no wonder Bart Wellens wants to sue everybody and his mama. He went down like a crack whore who smoked her last rock yesterday and took Sven Nys with him. The UCI, naturally, will blame Lance Armstrong.

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    The Monday Morning Movie

      And now, for something completely different: My video response to the response to my video response to the State of the Union address:

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    Silver for Compton, Page

      A tip of the Mad Dog Media tuque to local fave Katie Compton and Jonathan Page, who both won silver medals today at 'cross worlds in Belgium. Three silvers ain't too damn' shabby for the Yanks, who get little support from their national federation when they cross the pond to duke it out with the Belgians on their soggy turf. And it's a particularly powerful performance by Compton, who was racing only her second international event.

      Bart Wellens, meanwhile, comes off as something of a prick in the Cyclingnews.com recap. "Even though I had the best legs of the season I couldn't do much more than what I did. The jersey went to the wrong person, he shouldn't have won it even though he's a teammate. He deserves to be on the podium but the other guys don't," Wellens said. In his defense, it should be noted that he got taken down in what sounds like an epically stupid crash, but still, damn — save the venom for the nitwit driving the TV moto and spare the lucky guys who kept the rubber side down.


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    Silver for Summerhill

      Chapeau to Danny Summerhill, who just missed winning the juniors race at the UCI cyclo-cross world championships in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium. Summerhill stuffed it in a muddy bit with two laps to go, but fought back to take silver.

      Here in Bibleburg, the issue is not mud, but snow. Yes, it's snowing again, and the novelty has worn off. I want sunshine and 60 degrees, thank you. I'll take it now.

      One of my favorite authors, Jim Harrison, is enjoying some time in the sun, literally as well as figuratively. He's encamped in his winter hidey-hole in Patagonia, Arizona, and simultaneously splashed all over The New York Times. Here's an essay on poetry; here's an interview; and here's a short video. The occasion is the release of Harrison's latest novel, Returning to Earth, which my fellow literary critic Hal Walter describes as not exactly a page-turner but a must-have nonetheless.

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    Mud and blood

      Heavy duty coming up this weekend. We have the UCI cyclo-cross world championships in Belgium (see previews here and here) and a massive antiwar rally in DeeCee (see a preview here). Not much in the mainstream media about either, more's the pity. Wonder if The Escalator will order the Pentagon's new zap gun demo'd on the demo?

      Not much in the MSM about Molly Ivins' breast cancer, either. It's the third diagnosis for the author of "Shrub," according to Editor & Publisher, and she apparently has been hospitalized. Get well soon, Molly, we need you on the barricades.

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    Radio face

      My latest, timid, one-toe-at-a-time excursion into the scalding waters of multimedia, a video response to The Bipartisan (formerly The Decider) and his Snake of the Union address, drew a response that I considered better suited to The Bipartisan (formerly The Decider) and his Snake of the Union address — which is to say almost none at all, barring the gentle reviews that parents of retards give to their children (Hi, Mom! Hi, Mrs. Bush!).

      In my own defense, I will say only that I was working with substandard talent (Hi, Mom! Hi, Mrs. Bush!) and inferior equipment (a Canon PowerShot SD600 Digital Elph that will shoot short .avi video segments which are absolutely uneditable in iMovie or in any other hoary bit of software that's been lying doggo in the two or three thousand computers infesting this house like ghosts of technology past). Plus like Barbara's nitwit crotch-dropping, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But at least I didn't kill anybody, unless they died of boredom, which seems unlikely. The clip was only 24 seconds long, f'chrissakes. Some of us have been buying Junior's act a lot longer than that, and the payments jus' keep on a-comin'.

      Meanwhile, we had some meltdown here in Bibleburg, so I went out and squished around in my Sauconys for a while, because unlike my bicycles they fit into the washing machine. And the real news is that a fine local eatery, Sencha, will devolve into an Arby's. There is a certain symmetry in this — the place used to be a Jack in the Box, patronized by impoverished journos and stoners who used to talk to the clown as if it were a real person. Plus a couple friends of ours did the drive-through naked once. I won't mention any names (Hi, Mom! Hi, Mrs. Bush!).

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    More on the Snake of the Union

      AlterNet's Joshua Holland provides a quick, unsympathetic recap. McClatchy's Steven Thomma gives the hee-haw to the notion that The Decider has suddenly developed a bipartisan streak. The Nation's David Corn examines the opposing messages sent by Bush and Webb. Greg Palast notes that Big Oil and Big Brother stand to gain the most from the Cheerleader-in-Chief's plans to crack down on illegal immigration and double the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And finally, Randy Newman — yes, that Randy Newman — weighs in with a musical review.

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    Special Report: A Dog's-Eye View of The State of the Union 2007

      Meanwhile, a tip of the Mad Dog stingy-brim to Jim Webb, who said pretty much the same thing, albeit much more eloquently. He disassembled Alfred E. Bush ("Worry!") like a defective M-16.

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    The Brain Mutiny

      Capt. George W. Queeg will skulk onto the bridge at 9 p.m. tonight to deliver the latest in a series of mumbling monologues, fed by Teleprompter and periodically interrupted by metronomic applause from GOP robots, and the TV audience will consist almost entirely of the press, which gets paid to watch bad theater. Nearly everyone else with a brain unimpaired by tumor or trauma will find more valuable ways to waste his or her time. The Escalator's popular support has fallen to levels unseen since the glory days of Carter and Nixon, and hints dropped about the puny handful of proposals he plans to make have drawn howls of outrage from both sides of the aisle.

      Iraq will eat up about half of this 40-minute laundry list of non-accomplishments, and ain't that good news? Eighty-eight dead and 160 wounded in a market bombing yesterday. Can't wait to see how the Cheerleader-in-Chief spins that one. ("As of yesterday, we have 88 fewer Iraqis for our troops to keep track of.")

      Jim Webb will deliver the Donks' response this evening. And I'll have a little something to add, too. So don't touch that dial.

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    Getting shirty in Oz

      Since when is Australia a colony of the United States? Qantas kept a passenger from boarding a flight from Melbourne to London because he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of The Escalator (Formerly Known as The Decider) and the legend, "World's No. 1 Terrorist." Qantas should lose that cuddly koala and hire themselves a toad as their corporate critter.

      Meanwhile, is anyone besides me getting weary of the giddy jabber about who might be the next president? Seems to me we're still afflicted with the old one, like a wicked case of herpes with beady eyes and a B-movie Texas accent, and he will be soiling the public airwaves tomorrow with a thing called "The State of the Union," a bit of content-free oratory reminiscent of Principal Poop's pep-rally address to the students of Morse Science High on The Firesign Theatre's "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers." Only not as witty. I can't wait.

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    The mark of the Beast

      Dunno how I managed to overlook The Beast in all my years as a digital hobo, but I'm delighted to finally have made its acquaintance. These people are at least as vicious as I am, and maybe more so.

      And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to The Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America. Thanks and a tip of the Mad Dog propeller beanie to John Andrews.

      Chapeau, too, to Jonathan Page, Ryan Trebon and Katie Compton, all three of whom cracked the top 10 at today's World Cup race in the Netherlands. Page was sitting fifth until the wicked cold caused him to run down like a cheap battery, dropping him to ninth on the day, just ahead of Treefarm. Kudos as well to Sarah Hammer, who is killin' 'em at the LA track World Cup.

      Here's a little news guaranteed to send a few United customers from simmer to boil: The airline is screwing anyone who hasn't flown, redeemed frequent-flyer miles or used their Mileage Plus Visa credit cards during the past 18 months. Says travel analyst Henry Harteveldt: "There will be some people who are very angry. But those probably aren't core United fliers. . . . If the customer isn't into United, why should United be into the customer?" Um, because that was part of the bargain, asshole. Changing the rules in the middle of the game isn't cricket. Besides, United is into all its customers the way a giant serial killer is into his 135-pound cellmate. I'd rather get shot out of a fucking cannon than fly United again.

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    France is Crumby

      Ever wonder what happened to counterculture cartoonist R. Crumb after the Terry Zwigoff documentary that bears his name? He and wife Aline are doing comics in France. Crumb's latest project? Illustrating the biblical kickoff, the Book of Genesis. God must be so pleased. Writer Allen Salkin seems mildly shocked that two Sixties weirdos would have an open marriage, and I don't expect Crumb will find his take on their expat existence worth the pixels it's printed on. Still, it's a postcard of sorts from the edge. The New York Times also brings word of a revised edition of the "Letters of E.B. White," one of my favorite essayists, reviewed by another writer whose wordplay I admire, Roy Blount Jr.

      Elsewhere, presidential candidates are popping up like pimples on a powerlifter's shoulders. Hillary is "the front-runner," if you're an elitist media turd who never leaves Noo Yawk or DeeCee and thus haven't heard that your average heartland 'Murkin would rather see Spongebob Squarepants in the Oval Office. It's gonna be a long couple of years.

      And here in snow-shrouded Bibleburg, I've managed to share my Tennessee bug with Herself, who has spent the day on the couch taking nose dope, honking out booger-biscuits and watching "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." Another vat of chicken soup is indicated. Good thing I don't take drugs anymore. A 24-hour Claritin-D is enough to scramble my circuits these days. I feel like a flock of wild parrots has taken up residence in my skull. Skrawwwk awwwwk rawwwkkk.

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    Idle hands

      There's nothing like being sick, cold and bored to set a guy to dicking around with a perfectly good website. I found a font I didn't know I had over on the iBook, so I used it to build a new flag (above) and then croaked a little of the homepage's wasted space by dropping it into the left-hand column of my little table of testiness here. And I popped up a lukewarm rant over at VeloNews.com. Woo hoo, ain't nothin' but a party.

      I'll say one thing for this Tennessee bug: The sumbitch is tougher 'n' whang leather. I've sent everything from pseudoephedrine sulfate to chicken soup to tequila against it, and it's still dug in like the Nips on Iwo Jima with a full magazine of snot-rockets. I'm going through Kleenex the way Alberto "The Coconut" Gonzales does U.S. attorneys. I should pop by the El Paso County Republican Party headquarters and spit on all the doorknobs.

      Meanwhile, here's some good news from the front. Seems the Kurds don't want to fight for a fictional Iraqi democracy in the streets of Baghdad and are deserting in droves. Says one: "The fanatic Sunnis in Baghdad kill the Shiites, and vice versa. Both of them are outraged against the Kurds. They will not hesitate to kill us and accuse us of being collaborators with the occupiers. How can we face them alone?"

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      Writer Art Buchwald has typed his last. Chapeau to the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, humorist and political satirist who went to hospice expecting to die, then confounded the doctors by surviving, refusing dialysis for diabetes, returning home to Martha's Vineyard, and penning a final book. His son called it "a victory lap," and indeed it was.

      Elsewhere, among the less beloved, Alfred E. Bush ("Worry!") has reached a new low: He is less popular than Darth Cheney, if a Fox News poll is to be believed. And it's all downhill from here:

    Poll: Bush Less Popular Than the Clap

    Bush Loses Ground to Child Molesters, Necrophiliacs

    Survey Finds Bush Less Popular
    Than Satan's Leathery Ballsack

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    I know it's true 'cause I saw it on TV

      That old John Fogerty tune from "Centerfield" came to mind when I saw Kevin Drum's clip of Alfred E. Bush's NewsHour chat with Jim Lehrer:

    Lehrer: Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you've just said — and you've said it many times — as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it's that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something?....

    Numbnuts: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.

      Fogerty, of course, was singing about Nixon, Watergate and Vietnam when he wrote "I Saw it On TV," which includes the lines:

    The old man rocks among his dreams, a prisoner of the porch;
    The light, he says, at the end of the tunnel,
    Was nothin' but a burglar's torch.
    And them that was caught in the cover are all rich and free,
    But they chained my mind to an endless tomb
    When they took my only son from me.

      Sure am glad to see how things have changed since those good old days.

      Meanwhile, David Leonhardt of The New York Times gives us some idea of what we could be buying — improved national security, a doubling of cancer-research spending and universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old American kid — if we weren't pissing away the national treasury, past, present and future, in Mesopotamia.

      Elsewhere, from the Unfortunate Choice of Words Department comes this gem from White House mouthpiece Tony Snow: ''The president has obligations as a commander in chief,'' he said. ''And he will go ahead and execute them.''

      And finally, this tells you everything you need to know about how hip the White House press corps is. From Stephen Colbert to Rich Little? Puh-leeze. This is like asking Yanni to follow Metallica.

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    Southern discomfort

      OK, I'm back in the saddle again after a whirlwind tour of Tennessee with Herself, visiting kinfolk. We drank corn likker, played banjo, and followed these river rafters down deep into the woods, where . . . well, the less said about that, the better, eh? Especially since some of these people can read, and some of them read this site. Just kiddin', y'all. Puttin' on a show for the city folk, is what. Tell Mammy Yokum to unload that musket.

      Our little jaunt to the Volunteer State required air travel, which I loathe, and this trip only served to confirm my deepest, darkest suspicion — United only hires people who were sacked from animal shelters for being a little too eager to use the old needle. ("Another puppy? Fuck 'im, we got a thousand more where he came from. Stuff the little bastard in this sack fulla kittens and dump 'em in the creek while I twist the heads off these baby bunnies. I got a hot lunch date with a prison guard.")

      On the way out, we spent five or six hours inspecting Concourses F and E at Chicago-O'Hare as our departure time got pushed back 10 minutes here, a half hour there. On the way back, we sat on our hands for three hours in Knoxville and for three or four hours more in O'Hare, with three gate switches thrown in for good measure. In between we enjoyed in-flight accommodations based on seating devised by Torquemada during the Spanish Inquisition. Not exactly the fun that surpasseth the proverbial barrel of monkeys, especially when you consider what they were charging for strong drink at Chili's.

      The flight from O'Hare to Knoxville was the best part. Think about taking a long ride in the back of the Clampetts' truck with Granny, who's charging five bucks a crack for a pull from the jug. A gaggle of sneezing, hacking peckerwoods who were separated by a few rows kept waddling back and forth to hee-haw with each other and spread the wealth, virus-wise, and as a consequence I've been launching an endless magazine of snot-rockets for the past couple of days. Ain't nothin' but a party.

      Still, it wasn't all bad. We got a couple nice runs in along Emory Valley Road to Melton Lake and back while staying in Oak Ridge with Herself's mom. Other people unwisely picked up the checks for dinner and drinks, and if the latter drove them into Chapter 11, well, they'll know better next time. And I only had to cook once. The downside is, it apparently is a Tennessee tradition to make a Yankee wear a kitten whenever he surfs Al Gore's Internet. The documentation can be seen above, at right.

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    A new member of the family

      Well, extended family, anyway. The mom-in-law in Tennessee has a new cat — a kitten, really, name of Argent, who is much cuter than George W. Bush, as you clearly can see for yourself.

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    Regime change

      Regarding the Chickenhawk-in-Chief's speech last night: More meat for the Mesopotamian grinder is not a "strategy for victory." Write your local paper, call your congresspeople, fax the White House, tell these dithering yahoos that we've flushed enough men and money down this bloody crapper, thanks all the same. And that memo we sent back in November? Time to read it, y'all. We didn't send the thing as a party gag, y'follow me? Quit running for president and buckle down to the task at hand. And if impeachment is what it takes to bring some real change to this administration, well, bring it on, as the saying goes.

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    Here comes the sun

      JeezWhiz cranked up the thermostat today, perhaps to remind us all that it will get hotter yet for Bibleburg preachers who kiss pee-pees with a forked, meth-stained tongue. Three storms' worth of snow started vanishing faster than the Clinton budget surplus in the greasy mitts of the Busheviks, and as a consequence the neighborhood cross-country skiing we've enjoyed lately was right out. Herself and I took a last whack at it on Saturday afternoon and it was like running on felt with a pair of really long Velcro shoes. So today I ran in the usual way, wearing a much shorter pair of Sauconys, short sleeves and lightweight tights, because skiing was impossible and riding would've been like getting a power washer full of lapidary grit up the bum.

      This is not to say that our extended winter is over, mind you. Another storm is due in Thursday or Friday, which may or may not be some class of celestial punishment upon our very red county for Alfred W. Bush's anticipated announcement of an escalation of the war in Iraq, never mind the thinking behind the results of the recently concluded midterm elections.

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    Canned pussy

      Well, will you look at that? Someone has gone and thrown away a perfectly good cat. Not really. Jeez, you're so serious lately.

      Truth is, Herself — a lifelong cat person — occasionally takes pleasure in visiting little indignities on Chairman Meow, and today she put her in my office trash can, just 'cause, y'know, she can.

      This is a gratuitous exercise of power not unlike Capt. George W. Queeg's plan for Iraq, albeit on a much smaller scale, and involving only a single, perpetually disgruntled feline as opposed to 20,000 or so of our fellow citizens who made the potentially fatal mistake of being caught in uniform after family and friends hijacked the White House for this halfwit because he was bored with fucking up Texas and wanted to stretch himself a bit, try fucking up the whole country, maybe the world.

      And don't forget space. There's quite a bit of it, to be sure, but by jingo, if anyone can fuck it up, he's your man.

      The difference, of course, is that Herself really does love Chairman Meow, and Chairman Meow actually seems to enjoy being trifled with. It's a concept I have trouble wrapping my mind around. But then, I'm a dog person.

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    Third time's a charm

      Oh, yeah, the courts, body shops and funeral homes are gonna be doing some business after today. The third snowstorm in three weeks has just dumped another half-foot or so on the local roads, which have gone largely unplowed (Bibleburg only clears the major arterials, kinda, sorta), and some of my fellow residents seem to have decided that (a) after two previous storms they feel like they can handle just about anything, or (b) they no longer give a shit and wish to go to JeezWhiz at once, or perhaps to someplace a little warmer. No skiing the streets for me today, nosirree. I'm off to Bonforte Park to slide around in circles for an hour or so. It's unlikely the most indifferent of motorists can drill me in the middle of a park.

      Late update: The skiing was big fun. No cars to speak of, just one unleashed dog name of Joey. I know this because his owners kept hollering, "JOEY!" at him as he gleefully churned my track into mush. Who cares? Dogs love snow the way Darth Cheney loves the tasty brains of freshly killed brown people. I spent 20 minutes laying out a circuit and then skied it twice more for a total of one hour on the boards. Now I'm stiffer than W at a press conference.

      Speaking of which, Numbnuts has started the music again and everyone is running around in circles, looking for a new chair. Juan Cole is optimistic; Kevin Drum is not. I'm in Kevin's camp. The problem is at the top of the chain of command, and we had our last chance to correct that back in 2004, unless you believe in the Impeachment Fairy.

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    Countdown to 2008

      The conventional wisdom, as articulated by Robert Parry, Dan Froomkin and others, seems to be that the Chickenhawk-in-Chief plans to somehow stuff another 20,000 or so servicepeople into the Mesopotamian meat grinder in hopes of (a) "getting the job done," whatever the hell that means today, or (b) avoiding a final ignominious defeat until he's safely out of office and back in Crawford, leafing through his comic-book collection with an eye toward fleshing out his presidential library. Nobody wants this, barring W's handlers, but that's where we're headed, if you believe what you read.

      So what do We the People do? Sit back and watch something else on TV while we wait on a marginally Democratic Congress to use its power of the purse to cut off funding for the neocons' splendid little war, with a presidential election already well under way? That sounds like staying up way past midnight on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus as he clambers down the chimney. March on DeeCee with torches and pitchforks? Not much use against Abrams tanks, assuming any are still both Stateside and functional. Any ideas out there? Send 'em to Alfred E. Bush ("Worry!") at president@whitehouse.gov. Or just mail 'em to yourself, 'cause Numbnuts plans on opening your mail.

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    Gerald Ford still dead; film at 11

      Good God, old Jer' gets around better dead than I do alive. From California to DeeCee to Michigan — damn, it's all I can do to get from the house to the grog shop and back, and I'm still alive, kinda, sorta. 'Course, I do have to handle my own travel arrangements and buy the gas.

      While we're on the topic, Ford is not only a better traveler than me, he's a better president dead than W is alive. Jer' hasn't fucked a single thing up since he croaked on Dec. 26, which is more than I can say for The Waffler (Formerly Known as the Decider). In fact, I'd go so far as to bet that if we could have a do-over of the 2004 elections, with a choice among Bush-Cheney, Kerry-Edwards and Ford-Dole, the electorate would go solidly for the latter, if only to send Numbnuts off into one of his stuttering rages punctuated with obsolete talking points about "victory," "cut-'n'-run" and how "the enemy hates our freedom."

      W's latest fall guy looks to be Gen. George Casey, if you believe The New York Times. The accelerating disintegration of Iraq is apparently all Casey's fault now, though both Alfred E. Bush and Darth Cheney have repeatedly praised the general for his commitment to — wait for it — "victory." Ay, Chihuahua.

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    Happy New Year!
    My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love JesusJimmy Buffett

      Here we go again. Another year in the barrel. I take solace from an observation by one of Mr. Buffett's erstwhile drinking buddies, Thomas McGuane: "I am on top of the earth and I don't work for the government."

      This is not to say that I am spared disappointment, however. I awakened this morning to learn that Bill Gates has not seen fit to supply me, free of charge, with a brand-new Acer Ferrari laptop running Windows Vista, though he apparently has laid same on any number of nameless dickweeds who blog about technology, photography and parenting. O, the shame. I could actually use one, too, because a website I help maintain has an allergy to the current Mac OS but likes the so-called "Classic" OS and Windoze just fine.

      That Stone Age technology should constrain my talent for le mot juste is an insult not to be borne. Does Jeff Gordon drive a Yugo? C'mon, Bill, be a buddy. I'm not above taking a bribe. Whip a laptop on me and I'll write something snarky about Steve Jobs and his faggy black turtlenecks during the MacWorld Expo.

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