Friday, August 30, 2002

There's not going to be a baseball strike. Well, whoop de freakin' doo. In the last few days I was actually rooting for a strike, just to see how upset fans could get at the players and how the game might suffer. I guess that's a bit of schadenfreude for you. Anyway, now that the two sides have reached a deal, and the game will go on, I realize something: it doesn't change anything for me. I'm still not going to pay any more attention to baseball than I do now. Which, unfortunately, is a lot more attention than I thought. You see, I went into the 2002 season pledging not to follow the Pirates too closely, or the pennant races, or the labor talks especially. What happened? I've read every article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the team, and I've followed the labor situation with a magnifying glass lately. But the fact is that no matter what kind of labor deal came out of this mess, it wouldn't make me care more or less about the game. I've never been able to play baseball on any level, I don't know the rules or the history well enough to talk about it, and I don't care to learn about any of that. I like going to the occasional big league game. Otherwise, I'm always going to be a football fan, and no matter what happens in that game, on or off the field, I'm always going to watch the Steelers on Sundays. Even if they never win the Super Bowl again in my lifetime and run off ten straight losing seasons. I should have known this all along. When I was a kid, I never fantasized about being in the Pirates lineup and hitting a home run to win the World Series, but I always wanted to be Terry Bradshaw and throw the winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

I'm a casual baseball fan, even where my team is concerned, but I will always be a fanatic about football. And that's not a bad thing at all.
Pictures from the Jamaica trip have been uploaded to my Yahoo! photos page. If you see anything you like and you want a copy in large, printable size, e-mail me and I'll send you the full-size picture(s).

Thursday, August 29, 2002

As promised, here is the full recap of our trip to Jamaica. Pictures to follow.

The Jamaica Trip

We left the apartment at 4:30 AM Monday morning, too early for civilized people to be awake. Liz had gone to bed around 11 PM the night before, but I, as usual, stayed up late playing computer games, so I only had about three hours sleep. But that’s what sleeping on the plane is for.

Airport security and check-in at JFK was easier than I thought it would be. I was astounded at the number of bags some people were bringing onto the flight. It seemed like most of the passengers were moving back to Jamaica by way of our flight. The flight itself was uneventful and almost enjoyable: we sat in the exit row so we got plenty of leg room, and ate decent food. We watched most of The Time Machine but they had to stop the movie with a few minutes left since we were about to land. So now I have to rent it to see how it ends. (Jeremy Irons needs to get a new agent. First he chews the scenery in the wretched Dungeons and Dragons movie a few years ago, and now he’s overacting again as a subterranean ruler in an inferior film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. It’s just sad to see a great actor in bad films like these.)

The Montego Bay airport in Jamaica was not what I’d describe as a modern airport; it strongly reminded me of the old terminal at Shannon, Ireland. It looks like it was built about 50 years ago and they’ve spent the intervening years fixing things and doing spot repairs. But we were through customs and immigration in a few minutes and by noon, we were on the shuttle bus to our resort, Grand Lido Negril. There were two other couples on the bus with us: one married the previous weekend, and one celebrating their 16th anniversary. Nearly everyone we met were newlyweds on their honeymoon; there were only a few couples there just for a vacation.

The bus driver stopped about 15 minutes into the ride at a convenience store and we bought a few bottles of Red Stripe to drink on the way. We made a bathroom stop an hour later (you don’t buy beer, you rent it) and the driver pulled over a few more times to get out and chat with people operating roadside shacks. Around 2 PM we pulled into the resort. Check-in took place in the piano bar (more Red Stripe) and they sent us to the buffet for lunch while our rooms were prepped. Another hour, another beer and some great food later, we were in our suite.

Putting off sleep for later, we finally got out onto the beach at 4 PM. There was a long strip of beach right outside our room that served as the main beach, and a smaller, rockier section of beach on the other side of the main resort building that was the “clothing-optional” beach. We did visit that side on two occasions, but what we opted to do about our clothing is none of your business. Suffice it to say that for the most part, the people you want to see on the nude side of the resort don’t go there (or go there and keep their clothes on); instead, the people who you’d rather leave their clothes on decide to bare all. We went for a swim in the main pool, or, rather, Liz went for a swim. I tried to swim a little, misjudged how deep the pool was, and found myself in deeper water than I liked, forcing me to struggle to the surface. After that embarrassment, I stayed in the shallow end or on a raft anytime I was in the pool. I definitely have forgotten anything I knew about swimming. Several times that afternoon we were approached by locals trying to ascertain if we were interested in buying marijuana. I guess they got the right message, though, and after Monday they didn’t bother us again.

Monday night’s dinner was at the reggae beach party, which featured a calypso steel drum band, dancers, and a fire-breather. The band was amazing to watch: legs and hands constantly in motion, some drummers playing more than one drum at a time, covering reggae tunes and pop songs. After the band finished their set, the staff held a reggae dance contest, in which Liz and I were somehow drafted to participate. Liz made a valiant effort, but against tough competition, didn’t make it out of the first round. The women’s contest went on entirely too long, with multiple rounds, while the men had to stand around and wait. Finally, it was the guys’ turn to collectively “shake it.” I busted a few of the moves in my arsenal, but held off on my signature leg grab, figuring I needed to save something for the second round. Unfortunately, I wasn’t picked to move on, so I’ll forever wonder if I could have won the contest and the prize (a bottle of rum) with my leg grab and other “Solid White Dancer” material.

Tuesday through Friday followed the same pattern for the most part. We would go to the beach in the morning and spend a few hours reading, floating in the ocean waters (clearer and warmer than any beach water I’ve ever seen, but no waves to body surf -- my only complaint), and try not to get sunburned. We would have lunch either at the buffet or from one of the outdoor bars where they served jerk chicken and beef patties. The late afternoon would find us in the pool or in the room, waiting out the rain. It rained almost every afternoon, sometimes a heavy thunderstorm, other times just a brief, cool shower. Usually we were able to go back out after the rain, at least to the pool, but sometimes it would rain so much that we’d just call an end to the beach part of our day and stay in. We had a private, outdoor Jacuzzi in our suite, so we were able to stay in the water even in a heavy rain.

On Tuesday night we had a tasty seafood dinner at one of the restaurants: I had marlin and Liz had red snapper. The food was great but the portions were entirely too small, even by our standards of fancy Manhattan dining. After dinner we went to the piano bar, where “laser karaoke” kept everyone entertained for a few hours. I was tempted, but I didn’t sing anything. Maybe on Wednesday night, I told myself.

A thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon nearly ruined our scheduled “couples” massage, which took place outdoors in a gazebo by the water. Luckily, the rain held off, so we had relaxing aromatherapy massages side by side with thunder as accompaniment. That night we had dinner at the resort’s showcase French restaurant, where we enjoyed a meal that rivals anything we’ve eaten here in New York. Liz had a chicken breast with Gruyere cheese risotto, and I had roasted stuffed quail. The signature dessert, a white chocolate piano with chocolate mousse filling, was so amazing to behold that I had to take a picture of it before we defiled it by eating it. After dinner, we went back to the karaoke/piano bar again. There wasn’t much in the song list that I knew and could sing, but they had one song I could manage. So I got up and rocked the house with my imitation of Jim Morrison by performing “LA Woman.” One guy was so impressed that he kept complimenting me on my performance whenever he saw me the rest of the time we were there. I think Liz was embarrassed, but entertained. She did get a few pictures of it, but unfortunately, we don’t have any recordings of the event.

Thursday was another relaxing day, except for both of us getting sunburned. We had dinner at the pasta restaurant (Liz ate goat cheese ravioli, I had jerk sausage in tomato sauce over penne) then went to the piano bar, where we had just missed the resident pianist’s show for the evening. Two women were there, enjoying a few drinks before they had to leave the next day, and the pianist was kind enough to play a few songs for the four of us past his usual quitting time.

We spent almost all day Friday in the pool, cooling our sunburns. It was the only day that we didn’t have any significant rain in the afternoon, so we could have gone on an afternoon cruise, but I guessed wrong on the weather (who knew?) and we just stayed in the water. That night’s dinner was a massive buffet with raw bar, and the entertainment was a four girl group from Kingston. After dinner we were back at the piano bar for a sing-along that lasted a few hours and featured many songs we’d been singing all week at karaoke, like “Mac the Knife” and “Piano Man.” (I think that “Piano Man” is required material if you’re going to work the cocktail pianist circuit anymore; they probably don’t let you in the cocktail pianists’ union if you can’t play it.)

Finally, on Saturday, it was time to go. Though with the way the resort and the airline set up departures, we had about half the day at the resort to buy souvenirs, have a few more drinks, and one last meal at the buffet. The bus ride back was a little shorter this time, and more crowded. Security at the airport was much tighter than at JFK, if you can believe that. There was the initial metal detector check, which was nothing unusual, but then they searched all bags and checked all the men’s shoes at the gate. The flight had lots of small kids, and most of them seemed to be in our section near the back of the plane. Once again the food was good, but we didn’t get a movie this time, so I didn’t get to see the end of The Time Machine. Once again, customs and immigration weren’t a problem, but getting out of the terminal was. It must be a cultural thing. The flights coming into our terminal were from Jamaica (of course), Colombia, and Taiwan, and it seemed that everyone leaving the terminal had twenty family members waiting outside customs for them. There had to be at least three hundred people between customs and the exits, and they weren’t making it easy for anyone to get out. I couldn’t believe that on a Saturday night in New York, these people had nothing better to do than wait for Grandma to get off a plane. After a half-hour wait, we finally got into a taxi and we were back home by midnight. The cats were, as always, happy to see us again.
I've been sick with a cold for the past few days. It hasn't kept me from going to work, though it probably should have. I've always had a thing about missing work or school for illness, so unless I can't even get out of bed, I'm going to work. Especially this week, having just returned from vacation. If I hadn't been off all last week, I'd probably have skipped a day this week. Today might have been the best choice, since it's raining like crazy here in NYC and I got drenched coming home from the gym and again on my way to work. But I'm here in the office anyway.

I'm done with my Jamaica trip recap, but I've been busy with other things, so I haven't quite finished fine-tuning it. My home PC's hard drive was failing, so I got Dell to ship me a new one. I spent most of last evening reinstalling Windows and my applications, with surprisingly little difficulty. And the best part is that Dell sent me an 80 GB disk to replace a 60 GB disk, at no charge. Score one for me.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Liz and I have returned from Jamaica, slightly sunburned but otherwise completely and totally relaxed. This was by far the most relaxing vacation I've had since I was 14 and someone else did all the driving and paying. We didn't get out of the resort for any of the water sports, lobster pizza, or local attractions; we just stayed on the property and hung out on the beach, by the pool, or in the private jacuzzi attached to our room. And we ate well for six straight days. It's going to be difficult to go back to work and not have a drink at lunch, or have a waiter come by my desk and ask me if everything is "going great?" and then offer to get me another rum punch.

On the other hand, being out of electronic communication for six days has shown me that while it is possible for me to survive without e-mail and the web, it's like a drug when I come back. Oh, how I've missed my precious, precious DSL. I've been online for two straight hours so far, and I've got at least another hour's worth of surfing to catch up with all of last week's content on my favorite sites. I read entirely too much material online.

I took detailed notes of each day's significant events while we were away, and I'll be compiling a (hopefully) entertaining report in the next few days. It will, of course, be posted here for your perusal.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

"Did you read Kornheiser today?" Sorry, old joke. Anyway, he's got a great viewpoint on the prospect of an upcoming players' strike in baseball. I especially like the way he ends the piece. I won't spoil it for you.

At last, the players have set a strike date. If there's no deal on August 30, there won't be any games. Fine by me. If you can't live on $2 million plus a year, sure, go on strike, and see how many American workers support you. A week after that day, I'll be watching football, and I couldn't give a damn if baseball ever comes back.

Speaking of football, I'm in a fantasy football league for the first time this year. It's online, at Yahoo!, and most of the features are automated, like the draft, so I don't have to do any research or fool around with salary caps. At least, I don't think I do. It's with a bunch of my old college friends, all of whom should get the joke above. I'm sure I'll get spanked each and every week, just like I used to in Madden. One problem for me will be trades. I'm no good at suggesting them. When we used to play Monopoly, everyone else would always suggest trades and I'd react. Almost always, the deal worked out badly for me. I'm sure this thing will be more of the same, but at least it will be entertaining.

I'm getting ready to go on vacation, so I'm not sure how many more posts there will be before we leave Monday morning. Sunny Jamaica awaits us for six glorious days. We'll be back on Saturday, so I'll have plenty of material to post by then. I'm still debating about taking my laptop, not for blog updates or (God forbid) work, but for a repository for my digital photos. I think I'll just take my chances and leave the laptop at home. It's a lot of hardware to carry and risk just for the ability to save my pictures each day. Besides, how many pictures of Liz and I on the beach can I take?

Thursday, August 15, 2002

I love the New York Times Circuits section every Thursday. It's the only section of the Times that I read regularly. (I also like the Tuesday "Tunnel Vision" column about the NYC subway.) Anyway, today's story about incoming college freshmen corresponding with their new roommates over e-mail brought back some old memories, fond and not so fond.

It was ten years ago this month that I first dealt with new roommate issues, as an incoming freshman at Georgetown University. (Man, ten years -- it really makes me feel old, even at 28.) The GU housing department sent me a letter with my new roommate's information on it, as well as where we'd be living (Darnall Hall, room 117. Some things you never forget.). I clearly remember the phone call I got one August afternoon from my new roommate, one Mark Reedy of Atlanta, GA. I stood in my kitchen as we talked briefly about who we were, then spent most of the call discussing what we'd be bringing. He had a TV and a stereo, I had a computer. He also planned to bring his five-foot-long pet python, with the cliched name of Monty. On the phone, he seemed like a decent guy. We were both messy and lazy, so we figured we'd get along well.

A few weeks later, we met in person on move-in day. Again, at first meeting, my initial impression was the same as before. Of course, those of you who know me well will recall that Mark and I did not get along well at all for most of the year. My idea of messy was not making my bed and leaving everything in a pile on my desk. His idea of messy was to leave his dirty laundry in the middle of the floor for weeks at a time. The 1993 Georgetown yearbook even has a picture of our room in it, showing in full, lurid color just how nasty we kept this room. I thought I was lazy, sleeping late and rushing to my morning classes. He would sleep all day and miss most of his classes. However, the mess and the hours were the least of the problems we had. I can't go into detail about the issues we went through all year, so suffice it to say we just didn't get along. I think matters were at their worst when on nights when he would be out late partying, I'd hope that he was dead somewhere so I could live in peace. Moving out wasn't really an option; by the time things deteriorated to the point where I considered moving, the year was almost over, so I just gutted it out. My living situation improved greatly the following year, when I shared a room and later an apartment with Jonathan. While I knew a few people who got along well with their initial roommates (and continued to live together after freshman year), most of my friends fared much better when they were able to choose their roommates. For a follow-up, I could discuss all the mishegoss of my junior year, when I chose to live with three friends in an off-campus house, but later had several new housemates chosen for me through external events, but I don't have the time now, and no one would believe me anyway.

Instead, here's a list of the places I lived when I was at Georgetown, just for the hell of it:

Freshman year (1992-93): Darnall Hall, room 117. Built in the 1960s, renovated two years after I lived there. Half the people who lived on my floor were cool guys, the rest were lacrosse players and business school students who partied all the time. I was happy to get out of there.

Fall semester sophomore year (1993): Copley Hall, room 401. Built in the 1930s (I think), renovated the year after I lived there. I had a great time there because of all the fantastic people on the floor, but the rooms were crappy. Over Christmas break the shower in my room exploded and turned the room into a sauna for three days. Because of this event, Jonathan and I moved to ...

Spring semester sophomore year (1994): Village A, Apartment A205 (I think that was the number). We moved into the only available spare room on campus and lived with a junior and an exchange student. I LOVED having an on-campus apartment as a sophomore; it was a big status thing to have an apartment at that age. And it had a roof deck with a view of the Potomac and Virginia.

Junior year (1994-95): 3720 R Street. Off-campus house. I lived with some of my best friends in one of the crappiest houses in Georgetown (actually Burleith). The stories from this house would take far too long to tell here.

Senior year (1995-96): Village A, Apartment E206. Three friends and I took another roof deck apartment with a river view. We didn't have a high enough "draft" pick to get a top-floor apartment, but we had the best time living here. Definitely the best living experience of my four years at Georgetown.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Today's post will be of a personal nature. Those looking for timely musings about the downfall of society should go elsewhere.

I'm currently in the market for a new watch. The current one needs a new battery, but as you will read below, I'm considering getting a new watch instead of just replacing the battery. Since 1988, I've worn a series of digital calculator watches, and since 1990, they've been of the Casio Data Bank model. I used to use the watch to store phone numbers and the occasional anniversary, but in the past few years I've acquired cell phones that store phone numbers and PDAs which store numbers and much more. So the Data Bank on my wrist has been rendered obsolete. I do still use the world time feature, which is convenient when I'm traveling outside the Eastern time zone. I don't ever remember needing the stopwatch, and the timer is useless as well since I have a cooking timer at home. (And I can't remember the last time I needed a timer outside of making dinner.) As for the calculator, I realized a few minutes ago that at any given time I have on my person at least one device that includes a calculator (other than the watch). The two PDAs that I carry (BlackBerry and Palm Vx), as well as my Nokia cell phone, have calculators. To add to the fun, all three of these devices also include clocks. So you could say that I don't even need the watch. But since I've worn a watch since I was about six years old (or about as long as I can remember), it's too much of a habit for me to chuck the watch entirely.

The problem is deciding what watch to buy. Twelve years ago, the calculator/data bank watch was cutting-edge and extremely geeky, so of course I loved having it. Now with the proliferation of data devices (see above) it's not geeky any more, just dumb. Casio has a $200 watch that includes a compass, altimeter, and barometer, but unless I'm going to become a TV weatherman or a serious hiker, I don't need one. And not at that price, either. The new geeky watch from Casio seems to be the Wave Ceptor series, which gets its time by radio from an atomic clock in Colorado. But this model is so new that I've only seen it online, except for one style (the latest Data Bank, which I don't want anymore) at J&R downtown. I'm wary of buying a new watch online, since I won't be able to see it firsthand until after I've paid for it. I don't know much about any other manufacturers or models, excep that they can get really expensive and shiny. I'm still enamoured of digital watches, so a fashionable analog watch isn't really my thing. The more I think about this, the more likely it becomes that I'll just break down and get what I want online. After I looked at the web sites for some Manhattan department and/or watch stores, I found that most stores don't carry Casio, or a large selection of casual digital watches. Damn. Why do I always have to make things more difficult than they need to be?

Normally, I'd be up late on a Sunday night, but tonight I'm really tired. I went to bed around 4:30 AM this morning, after staying up late watching Star Trek II on DVD, then Superman on the Sci-fi Channel. Even after I went to bed, the cats kept me awake for a while longer, and then I was up again by 11. So now I feel about ready to collapse. But I did want to post the following review of the STII DVD. I e-mailed this to a bunch of friends, some of whom may not be aware of this blog. If you've already read this in an e-mail, you can go do something else, but please stop by again. There will be new, original content here soon.

I just finished watching the best ST movie on DVD, and let me tell you: you all must buy this set, even if you don't own a DVD player yet. Build one yourself, borrow a friend's, steal one from your neighbor, watch the movie, and enjoy. The greatest movie in the ST series looks fantastic on the screen, sounds outstanding (every utterance from Khan and Kirk is clear and ready for you to recite along with the actors, as I did many times), and there are several scenes restored to the original movie print that flesh out some plot details and enhance the story. (Scenes like the dialogue between Kirk and Scotty's nephew, the young engineer who dies after Khan's first attack on the Enterprise. Some of these scenes appeared when the movie aired on TV in the 1980s, and they're integrated here.) There's also audio commentary from the director (haven't listened to it yet) and a bunch of interviews and effects features on the 2nd disc. Some old interviews from 1982 (great pinstripe suit on Leonard Nimoy) and some new (lots of inside info on how the film came together), plus a 30-minute geek-fest interview with two ST authors that's uneven but entertaining.

But the best feature on the disc, and one that I want in all my DVDs, is the text commentary running at the bottom. Michael Okuda, author of the ST Encyclopedia, provides what is best described as "pop-up Star Trek." He discusses the set construction and dressing, the way footage from ST:The Motion Picture was reused to cut costs, tells you where the director's cut scenes are re-inserted, makes jokes about plot holes, and generally gives insight into how the movie was made and what makes it so good. It's cute at times but never annoying, and can be enjoyed without disrupting the movie too much. It helps that I've seen this movie so many times that I was able to read the comments without missing any action. But the best part is that since the comments are silent, you can still listen to the movie. To my annoyance, I noticed that this feature is also on my 2-disc DVD of ST:TMP, and I didn't use it when I watched that movie last winter. Now I've got a reason to kill 2+ hours watching that one again. Which leads me to end with ...


Friday, August 09, 2002

There's a great new billboard in Times Square for the University of Oregon football program, whose games will be airing on the YES network this fall. I had to wonder what it all meant, aside from the obvious indication that NYC-area Oregon fans won't have to order ESPN's college football package to watch their team this season. And I didn't have to wait long for someone in the press to
weigh in on the matter.

I have to agree that the billboard and the concept are ridiculous. Why would anyone in NYC not affiliated in any way with the state of Oregon be the least bit interested in this football team? I guess it's a confluence of a team needing media exposure and a network in need of late-night/early morning programming. At least it's better than "Old Yankees Storytime Hour" airing in the same time slot. But still, there's no reason for anyone on the East Coast to give a damn about this team. It's also about a university's athletic department having nothing better to do with their money than throw it away on marketing and media exposure, but please see the link above for more eloquent thoughts on the financial matters.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Where were all the geeks in Lower Manhattan yesterday? At J&R Music World, buying copies of any of the following on DVD: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, or The Simpsons second season. I picked up the latter two items, opting to hold off on LOTR until November, when the extended version is released. In the meantime I'll sate myself with William Shatner yelling "KHAN!!!" and Ricardo Montalban chewing the scenery. But he does it so well.

This afternoon at lunch I wandered down to Federal Hall to see the six design proposals for the WTC site. The exhibit is set up in a circle surrounding a large wooden model of Manhattan from 14th Street south. Even in three dimensions, none of the proposals are terribly interesting or exciting. I did enjoy the pictures of Lower Manhattan from 1949 to 1976, showing the development of modern skyscrapers and how they replaced the older, concrete towers of the past. I also found my apartment building on the model, and it sure does look puny compared to the buildings downtown.

Monday, August 05, 2002

We just got back from a weekend trip to Bowie, MD, to visit my parents. It was a brief visit, but it was great to see my family and get away from the city.

I don't have anything else at the moment. I'm watching Driven on HBO, and wondering why they screwed up some decent racing scenes with goofy computer-generated graphics and zooms. The racing looks like they modeled it on an EA Sports game instead of actual CART racing.

I've got some thoughts on Operation TIPS, the expansion of government powers, and possible infringements on our existing civil rights, but I haven't put them together coherently yet. Maybe tomorrow. My basic thesis is: the situation sucks, but what are you gonna do about it?

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Last night, while out with a group of friends, Jonathan (visiting NYC from Austin) pointed out that I had not written anything on Lance Armstrong's recent victory in the Tour de France. I didn't have much to add to the media coverage of his latest win, and I'm lazy. So there. Ron Borges had this nasty little opinion piece on him on earlier this week, arguing that Armstrong isn't an athlete because cycling isn't a sport. Too bad for him that he has the minority opinion on the subject. When last I checked, the poll in the sidebar, asking whether you agreed with Borges, was running 97% disagreed, or slightly less than 44,000 responses. The article is worth reading if only to see how tough it is for Borges to find reasons to bash cycling. He strains so hard to make his point that I wonder if he really believes what he's writing, or if his editor just wanted a opposing point of view for that day's paper.

As a cyclist, of course I'm going to argue that it's a sport, and that Armstrong is perhaps the greatest athlete competing today. The Tour is probably the most difficult sporting event on the planet. You do ride with a team, but you have to use your own legs all the time, and you can't take a day off except for the two rest days during the race. I'm planning to ride 100 miles in a day later this summer, and all my weekend rides and exercises are with this goal in mind. And that's only for one day! During the TdF, every day it's over 100 miles of rolling hills, steep climbs, and dizzying descents. And it's not like Armstrong only does this for a few months a year. This is his life. He lives in France most of the year so he can train on the same mountains he'll ride during the Tour. His training regimen sometimes includes riding up a steep mountainside, back down the way he came up, then (when most of us would say "enough already, I'm going home") he turns around and rides back up the mountain again. He does this every day. I love cycling, but I can't fathom what that must feel like. And he's survived cancer! I can't believe anyone would think that this man is not performing feats of athleticism far beyond those of everyday sports heroes like Shaquille O'Neal and Sammy Sosa.

When I was growing up, I idolized Terry Bradshaw, the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers during their 1970s heyday. He was a leader on the field, he won two Super Bowl MVP awards, had a great passing arm, and played for my favorite team. The things he could do on the field, even when the rest of the team was terrible, were unbelievable to my pre-teen eyes. On the few occasions I played football with my friends, I wanted to be the quarterback, so I could imagine myself as Bradshaw, throwing touchdown passes to Lynn Swann. I still get a kick out of him in his NFL on FOX gig, but I can't say that he's still my idol. Lance Armstrong has become my new ideal sports hero, and the person I think of when I'm riding my bike. When I climb a steep hill, I think about how he attacks the mountains and 'dances on his pedals' as he rides uphill faster than anyone else. (I saw that quote in an article about one of his Tour wins, and I've always wondered what that looks like.) I know I'll never ride in the Tour de France, but it inspires me to ride harder anytime I think of Armstrong, and I think inspiration is what heroes are all about. That sounds really sappy, but I can't think of any better way to put it.