Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Miscellany - Some Odds, Ends and Personals

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From Daniel as regards last Funny Friday's cartoons:

Best Friday funny to date I had to pick myself off the floor. 

Thanks Daniel.

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From David as regards the post on Tour de France Information and Trivia:

Your piece on le Tour de France was very interesting. However one interesting fact that you overlooked is how le Tour was spawned by the Dreyfus Affair of 1894
Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish army captain, was sentenced to life imprisonment for selling military secrets to the Germans. In fact he was innocent, but evidence of that was suppressed by the army. Inevitably it leaked and the Dreyfus Affair became a major controversy. Le Velo, a leading daily newspaper, was pro-Dreyfus but many of its major advertisers were anti-Dreyfus. Matters came to a head with a brawl at Aiteuil race track in 1899 involving Pierre Giffard - editor of Le Velo - and Comte Jules-Albert de Dion - a leading industrialist and advertiser in Le Velo. 
Led by the Compte many of the industrialists pulled their advertisibg and forned their own newspaper, originally called L'Auto-Velo and changed to L'Auto in 1903. As sales were not good they decided to sponsor a new type of bicycle race, a multi day tour, and thus was born Le Tour de France. Both the Tour and L'Auto went from strength to strength, the paper now being called L'Equipe. 
But it is rather depressing to think that the world's greatest sporting event is a result of early twentieth century anti Semitism 

Thanks David.

Alfred Dreyfus

Maurice Garin enters Paris as the winner of the inaugural Tour de France

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The following item is by Luminita D Saviuc.  A more detailed version with extra commentary appears on her blog at:

Makes sense to me.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mattresses, Fishes and Offers

Kate and I watched The Godfather trilogy again in one sitting yesterday.

The Godfather is one of my Top Ten Plus Two list when I once posted about my top ten movies. I had to add the two because I couldn’t work out which two to delete.  Numbers 2 and 3 didn't make it to the list, my view is that TG 1 is good, 2 is less so, 3 is worst.

For those interested, the list, with comments about each film, is at:

Also for those interested, the list (not in any order) is:
1. The Godfather
2. Rat Race
3. Runaway Train
4. Blues Brothers
5. Chicago
6. 12 Angry Men
7. Zulu
8. Blade Runner
9. Groundhog Day
10. Full Metal Jacket
11. Pleasantville
12. Sin City

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That Sonny's runnin' wild. He's thinking of going to the mattresses already.

No, no, no! No more! Not this time, consiglieri. No more meetings, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks. You give 'em one message: I want Sollozzo. If not, it's all-out war: we go to the mattresses.

I was aware that “go to the mattresses” had also been quoted in another fav pic, You’ve Got Mail  –

My business is in trouble. My mother would have something wise to say.

I'm a brilliant businessman. It's what I do best. What's your business?

No specifics, remember?

Minus specifics, it's hard to help. Except to say, go to the mattresses.


It's from The Godfather. It means you have to go to war.

The Godfather? What is it with men and The Godfather?

The Godfather is the I Ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." What day of the week is it? "Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday." And the answer to your question is "Go to the mattresses."

You're at war. "It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal it's business." Recite that to yourself every time you feel you're losing your nerve. I know you worry about being brave, this is your chance. Fight. Fight to the death. 

That started me wondering as to the meaning and the origin. Although the meaning is clear – to prepare for war or battle – there is no definitive, verified origin. The Phrase Finder, an authoritative UK website, offers this commentary:

In 1530 the combined troops of Charles V and Medici Pope Clement VII lay siege to Florence. The bell tower of San Miniato al Monte was part of the defences. Michelangelo Buonarroti, as he was good at most things, was put in charge of defending the city. He used the ploy of hanging mattresses on the outside of the tower to minimise damage from cannon fire. 
In times of war or siege, Italian families would vacate their homes and rent apartments in safer areas. In order to protect themselves they would hire soldiers to sleep on the floor in shifts. 
Ordinarily we would want to verify such stories before publishing them here as part of a phrase derivation. In this case though it isn't really important. The meaning of the phrase turns on the association in Italian folk-memory of mattresses with safety in wartime. The phrase wasn't well known outside of the USA and Italy prior to the Godfather movies. It was used there, and later in The Sopranos television series, to mean 'preparing for battle'. Whether or not the stories that originated it are true doesn't alter the fact that the screenwriters of those films used them in that context.

San Miniato al Monte

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Which raises some other phrases from the Godfather . . .

When a package is delivered that contains a dead fish wrapped in the bulletproof vest of one of Don Corleone’s most loyal lieutenants, someone asks what it means. Clemenza states “It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”

Is it a Sicilian message or was in invented by Mario Puzo for the book The Godfather?

From the Phrase Finder:
Cassell's Dictionary of Slang dates "sleep with the fishes" from the 1950s, but The Godfather was only published in 1969; so although it undoubtedly gained circulation from the book, it didn't originate there. There's also a closely related phrase, "feed the fishes" which has been in circulation since the 19th century.

From Wiktionary:

A similar reference can be found in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, wherein the second mate Stubb soliloquizes: "when Aquarius, or the Water-bearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind up with Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep. (Melville, Moby Dick, ch. 94).
Earliest known reference for this phrase can be found in the epic Greek poem, The Iliad, by Homer. During Book 21, Achilles slays Lykaon, a son of Priam, and throws him in a river. Achilles taunts him as he dies, saying "Lie there now among the fish..." (Lattimore translation) or, "Make your bed with the fishes now..." (Fagles translation). In other words, sleep with the fishes.

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Don Corleone:
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Again from Phrase Finder:

This is the best-known line from The Godfather book (1969) and film (1972), both written by Mario Puzo. In fact, it is one of the best-known lines in any film and ranks second only to 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn' as the most celebrated quotation from an American film. The 'offer he can't refuse' line is used in all three films of the Godfather trilogy but varies slightly throughout and isn't always easy to hear through all that cotton wool. 
The expression 'make an offer he can't refuse' does occur in literature and film prior to 1972, but not with the meaning that it has now taken on because of its use in The Godfather. For example, Jason Robards' character in the 1934 film Burn Em Up Barnes uses "I'll make her an offer she can't refuse". The meaning there is quite different. The character is suggesting making a large and tempting offer of cash - it is meant to be taken as generosity rather than as a threat. 
Puzo appears to have been making an reference to an existing phrase so that the Godfather character could ironically pretend that his 'offer' was benevolent. 
In the first occurrence in the first Godfather film, it is 'I'll make him an offer he can't refuse'. In one of the film's best-known scenes Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is visited by his godson, the famous singer Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) - a characterization that is widely believed to be based on Frank Sinatra, although many people associated with Sinatra and the film have denied this. Fontane asks for Vito's help to secure a film role that will boost his fading career. The head of the film studio, has previously refused to give Fontane the part, but Don Corleone tells Johnny "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."  The studio head later wakes to find the severed head of his expensive racehorse in his bed. Unsurprisingly, Fontane is subsequently given the part.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

More Tour de France Facts and Trivia

Some more Tour de France stuff as the 21 stage race nears its end. The Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana make up cycling's prestigious, three-week-long Grand Tours; the Tour is the oldest and generally considered the most prestigious of the three.

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While 2013 marks the 100th running of the Tour, the race is actually 110 years old. The race wasn’t run during the two World Wars. 

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Despite covering 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) over 21 days of riding, the time between first and second place has often been measured by mere seconds. Eight times, less than a minute separated first and second place. The closest was the 1989 Tour, when American Greg LeMond beat Frenchman Laurent Fignon by a mere 8 seconds. 

Laurent Fignon, wearing the yellow jersey, keeps just ahead of his American rival Greg LeMond (left) on the 1989 Tour de France.

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Each day of the race is called a stage and is a race unto itself. Typically, the Tour is made up of 21 stages. Only three riders – Belgian Eddy Merckx, Frenchman Charles Pélissier, and Belgian Freddy Maertens – have won eight stages during a single Tour. 

Between 1961 and 1978, Eddy "the Cannibal" Merckx won 525 races, including five Tours de France, four Giros d'Italia and three world championships.

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The 2005 Tour had the fastest average speed at 41.5 km per hour (25.8 mph), which is nearly double the slowest year, which was 1919 at 24.1 km per hour (15 mph). 

1921 beer stop 

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Twenty-two teams participate in the race, and each team is made up of nine cyclists, meaning 198 riders (unless any pull out prior to the start). Rules mandate that each team member be dressed identically: the same team shorts, jersey, socks, shoes, gloves, and helmet. 

Chris Froome, 2013 winner Tour de France

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The only exceptions are the leader jerseys. Most people know that the overall leader – that is, the rider with the lowest cumulative time, wears the yellow jersey. But there are other competitive classifications. The leader in points (a complicated system is used to calculate a rider’s “points”) wears a green jersey. The “King of the Mountain” wears a white jersey with red polka dots; it’s determined by a point system based on performance on mountain climbs. The rider under age 26 who has the lowest cumulative time wears a white jersey. 

2012 Tour de France

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The King of the Mountain jersey is red polka dots because the original sponsor of the jersey, Chocolat Poulain, sold candy bars with polka dot wrapping. 

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There are two other “minor” competitive classifications that don’t get you a jersey, but a different colored number to pin to your jersey. First is the most combative rider of the day; the following day, he wears a number printed white on red, instead of the usual black on white. And the team classification goes to the team with the lowest cumulative time among their three best riders. The next day, that team would wear numbers printed black on yellow. 

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L'Auto announces the route of the first Tour de France

The Tour de France was created as a promotion for the French newspaper L’Auto-Velo. Because the pages of the paper were yellow, race organizers designated that the race leader’s jersey should be yellow, too. But originally, race leaders were indicated by green armbands. Race organizers thought the bands were too difficult to spot, hence the maillot jaune (French for yellow jersey) has become part of cycling lore. 

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Known as “The Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx of Belgium has won the most Tour stages at 34. 

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Tour de France riders have a gentlemen’s agreement that allows riders to take what’s called “pauses pipi” – or quick potty breaks – without trying to make up time on each other. And breaks are needed; a day’s race often lasts more than five hours. 

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During the early years of the Tour de France, gearing systems were banned. Cyclist would grind up steep hills on a single speed – or riders could stop, remove their chain and flip their rear wheel for another gear. 

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Records and times from the years Lance Armstrong dominated the race have been vacated. The Tour organisers don’t list winners or official finish times for 1999 to 2005. 

Lance Armstrong, left, and team-mate George Hincapie toast the Armstrong's 2005 Tour de France victory at the start of the final stage 

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Because of the spectacle that is the Tour de France, several groups have interrupted the race as a demonstration. A few examples: In 1982, striking steel workers halted the team time trial, and in 1990, farmers attempted to blockade the race. 

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Four cyclists have died during the Tour. Three were killed in on-course crashes, the fourth, French rider Adolphe Helière died swimming on a rest day between stages. 

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Since 1975, the Tour has always finished on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. 

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The day’s stage doesn’t usually pick up from where the previous day’s stage ended. Often there are long drives, boat rides, or airplane flights to get cyclists to the next starting line. 

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During the 1950 Tour de France, many riders took a break from the extremely hot weather by jumping into the Mediterranean for a swim. 

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Early Tour organisers designed routes to be as grueling as possible to make the race more of a spectacle. In fact, one of the race founders, Henri Desgrange (above, with bike), said: “The ideal Tour would be one in which only one rider survived the ordeal.” 

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Prior to big climbs of the Tour de France, riders in the 1920s shared cigarettes - thought to help respiration.

Health and modern fitness principles were not part of early Tours. Some riders smoked while participating in the race. And instead of energy drinks, riders would share bottles of wine while riding. 

1964: Racing cyclists getting fresh supplies of wine in the during the 11th stage of the Tour de France 

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The Tour de France has legions of dedicated and flamboyant fans lining the roads. One of the most well known is German resident Dieter “Didi” Senft, who dresses in a red and black devil costume and carries a pitchfork as he cheers (or goads) riders up some of the most difficult climbs. Senft has been the Tour’s devil since 1993, only missing 2012 because of health problem. 

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Before the riders take to the roads for each stage, the Tour de France Caravan rolls through. With about 250 vehicles, the Caravan is an hour-long, mobile show with music, dancers, and skits. Advertisers also pass out promotional items, such as hats, pens, and water bottles, to those lining the streets. 

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While the race is primarily an individual race, teams support their lead riders. Team members allow the leader to draft to save energy, and some have even dismounted and given the team leader their bikes if needed. 

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 Early Tour riders were as much mechanics as they were cyclists. They were expected to make their own repairs. Riders would even strap spare tires over their shoulders. 

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Funny Friday

Caution: language may offend.

Today a collection of visual humour.

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Corn Corner:

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Tour de France pics

It is the wee hours of this morning as I sit at my laptop, posting pics of the Tour de France whilst at the same time watching the concluding kilometres of Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour.

I am amazed that so many people gather and wait for so long just to see the riders pass by. . . 

A little seen sight on the television coverage, one sometimes referred to as un besoin naturel ("a natural need")

Some information:

Question: Don't riders have to urinate during a six-hourrace? 
Answer: Yes, and they do. Shortly after the start, they often stop en masse --- in English, all together --- at the side of the road. In the heat of battle, riders often urinate while continuing to race, i.e. as they pedal along without stopping.. If they do this in a populated area and are seen by the many officials who monitor the race, they are fined.
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What happens when marathon cyclists need to urinate during a race? Multi-part question follows. 
Watching the men's marathon race in Beijing yesterday and knowing very little about the sport, I saw a bunch of male cyclists stop for a wizz on the side of the road at one point. Google also tells me that cyclists may also just wet themselves while riding, which is not fun for the people riding behind them. A friend told me that good riders know how to pee without getting their bike wet, which is apparently a bad thing to do (wetting the bike that is). My questions are:
1. Is it more common for riders to stop for a wee or just do it on the fly?
2. Where does weeing on the fly sit in the realm of okay-ness? What are the rules of etiquette in a marathon race situation?
3. If some riders stop but others wet themselves, how is this fair in the race?
4. When a bunch of riders do stop for it, how to they maintain their racing order? How do they all decide they're going to do it?
5. This is the most important question: what happens for female riders? How would they be able to stop and go on the roadside? How would they wet themselves while riding without getting the bike funky?
6. What sort of damage, if any, is done to a urine soaked bike?
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I'm not a world-class cyclist -- I race at the sub-pro level -- but I have done enough long races to be able to answer your questions with some firsthand experience. 
1. Both, depending on the situation. If the peloton is really going -- say, chasing down a breakaway or something -- you can roll up your shorts and hang on to a teammate and actually pee off to the side of the bike. More commonly, though, when the race is quiet and the pace not too high, a few riders will just pull briefly to the side of the road, do what they need to do, and then work together to get back into the bunch. In really big, long races, like stages of the Tour de France, sometimes the almost whole peloton will take a brief break to pee. 
2. Totally part of the sport. In the US, public urination is against the rules and can get you disqualified, but the officials are usually understanding if you exercise discretion and don't do this when spectators are around. Obviously, if you pee on the fly, you need to get to the side of the road so you don't pee on other riders, which is NOT ok. 
3. This doesn't generally happen and it's not really a matter of fairness. If you're in a position where stopping or not might cause you to lose the race, and you had to go badly enough, you'd just go and deal with it. But that's a pretty rare situation. 
4. In a long race, racing 'order' is not relevant. If you're in the bunch it really doesn't matter if you're number 10 or number 30, it's easy to move up or move back (if, say, you want to get out of the wind and therefore do less work, you'd go to the back, if you want to challenge for a sprint or drive the pace, you'd go to the front of the bunch). You just stop, pee, then work your way back into the group. 
5. This is a bigger problem for women than men, obviously. But women's races are generally much shorter than men's races, so the need to pee is less of an issue. 
6. None. But bikes do not become urine-soaked because you generally do not pee ON your bike, you pee FROM your bike.
One other thing to remember is that in many races peeing is even less of an issue because it's often hot enough that it's hard to stay hydrated, no matter how much you drink. So you just don't have to pee.

The Cofidis rider on the right goes on the fly while his team mates assist by keeping up the cycling momentum

This year's Tour also saw a light plane travel on the ground in green fields adjacent to the peloton for quite a distance and time.  It looked like it was speeding up the runaway to take off but it remained on the ground.

You also get the nasty spectators.


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