Contador seizes Tour de France lead from Schleck

Stage 15 today and what a stage it was! Did Contador play dirty when he took advantage of Schleck’s mechanical problem? According to the BBC:

Cycling etiquette says that riders should not attack the yellow jersey wearer when he falls or suffers a mechanical problem.

Hm. Bruce Arthur of the Canadian National Post also argues that Contador played dirty and I have to agree. Regardless, I hope Andy Schleck comes back and eats Contador’s lunch in the next few days. Sadly, that doesn’t seem likely. There are only two more mountain stages where Schleck could theoretically make some time up on Contador. After that, it’s flat and a time trial, both of which will favor Contador.

Today was not a good advertisement for the SRAM Red drivetrain on Schleck’s bike. Of course, I guess that’s what Contador is riding, too.

(btw, the Versus Tour Tracker has been totally worth it. It’s letting me really watch this race for the first time ever and I’m loving it. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of cycling.)

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

We spent Friday evening and are going again today to Pitchfork here in Chicago. The reviews on the Time Out Blog pretty well capture my impression of what we saw on Friday, including: Modest Mouse, and Robyn, and Broken Social Scene. Missing is the note that the sound for BSS was terrible. There’s a difference between static and feedback, and this was definitely static. Still, great festival on Friday. We’re looking forward some great (if very hot and humid) performances this afternoon, too.


If you’re a fan of doomsday scenarios you’ll love Doomsday: How BP Gulf disaster may have triggered a world-killing event – by Terrence Aym. The conclusion:

Most experts in the know, however, agree that if the world-changing event does occur it will happen suddenly and within the next 6 months.

So, if events go against  Mankind and the bubble bursts in the coming months, Gregory Ryskin may become one of the most famous people in the world. Of course, he won’t have long to enjoy his new found fame because very shortly after the methane eruption civilization will collapse.

Perhaps if humanity is very, very lucky, some may find a way to avoid the mass extinction that follows and carry on the human race.


Dum, de-dum, dum, dum!

When the Cop Says Stop — you better stop!

Cycling lawyer” (um, can I have that job, please?) Bob Mionske relates the fascinating story of an out-of-control cop harassing two cyclists in Ohio. He appears to have tried to stop them for no reason, and when they wouldn’t stop he pulled his taser. One of the cyclists ended up getting tazed multiple times. Charges were eventually dismissed and the cyclists are filing a civil suit, but the story illustrates what can happen when men with guns and badges lose control.

Aside from the abuse of police authority, the story grabbed me because in the end, Mionske concludes that:

if the order is unlawful, the cyclist is not required to obey the order, and can’t be arrested for failure to comply. Now, this is the law in Ohio, but it is based on 4th Amendment jurisprudence, so the jurisprudence in other states should be similar. If somebody knows of contradictory 4th Amendment jurisprudence in another state, please let me know.

Um, well, my experience defending more than one obstructing charge is that, if the officer tells you to stop, you better stop. If you don’t, you could end up with an obstructing charge — or worse. Basically, if you disobey a police order — even where the order is unlawful — your ass is getting arrested. Sure, it might be sorted out later and the charges *may* be dismissed, but is it worth going to jail for the night or however long it takes to post bail? No. Just stop. The officer can be the biggest dumbass on the planet, but again, that’s something to sort out later. If the officer here had been our friendly neighborhood cop Johannes Mehserle who claims he confused his taser and his gun, these poor cyclists would be dead, not just dismayed.

As just one example of an illegal stop that escalates to legit criminal charges, see People v. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d 103; 759 N.E.2d 899 (2001). There, Mr. Thomas was riding his bicycle while carrying a police scanner. An officer tried to stop Mr. Thomas and Mr. Thomas fled. Eventually, officers caught up w/Mr. Thomas and arrested him. They found drugs and he was convicted of possession w/intent. On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court found that, although the officer’s initial order for Mr. Thomas to stop was not legal (b/c the officer lacked any reasonable suspicion that Mr. Thomas was engaged in illegal activity), the subsequent seizure of Mr. Thomas was legal because he fled and was seized after flight. The flight became a legitimate (legal, constitutional) reason for the seizure.

Following that logic, in the case of the Ohio cyclists, even though the officers initial orders for them to stop were ambiguous and clearly illegal, a court could have found that the subsequent actions amounted to resisting, obstructing, or some other criminal act. They’re lucky the prosecutor didn’t think of adding such charges or they might have been in a different position.

Police have far too much authority in our society, but that’s exactly why you better stop if an officer tells you to. Stop, cooperate, and figure out the legality of it all later.

Defending “The Man”

Congratulations to defense attorney Michael Rains and the defense team for Johannes Mehserle on getting a verdict of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting of Oscar Grant. I didn’t follow the case closely, but based on the headlines I’ve heard, the defense must have been amazing to get this result. Example:

The verdict followed a three-week trial in which prosecutors played videos by bystanders, and witnesses recounted hearing the frightening gunshot that killed Grant.
At least five bystanders videotaped the incident
Mehserle, 28, testified that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station. Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead.

It’s easy for criminal defense attorneys to see police as the enemy — it’s the cops who stop and arrest our clients, the cops who testilie and put our clients in jail and prison — so defending a police officer could be a moral challenge for some defense attorneys. Apparently not for Mr. Rains.

On the other hand, the reason the state wins so often is because judges and juries tend to believe cops over everyone else no matter what the other evidence suggests. With that in mind, I’m sure people will argue that the defense work here was just a matter of showing up and not screwing anything up too badly. (Imagine, for example, that the facts were reversed and Mehserle was the civilian who shot a police officer — getting involuntary manslaughter on that would really be amazing.) But even a serious jury bias in favor of the police cannot explain this verdict. The defense team convinced a jury that Mehserle confused his gun with his taser. That’s completely unbelievable, not only because the gun definitely weighs far more than the taser, but because an officer carries these two weapons in different places. It’s not like they are identical and sit side-by-side on his hip. Finally, Mehserle didn’t come up with this defense at the scene, nor was there any evidence that he was claiming this mistake until after he’d talked to his attorney. The fact that the jury came in with an involuntary verdict on those facts is nothing short of amazing.

The San Francisco Chronicle is trying to dampen public unrest by arguing that this was the appropriate verdict. Perhaps it was, but even if so, that doesn’t make it easier to accept that a cop gets a slap on the wrist for shooting a man in the back for no reason.

Anyway, great job, Mr. Rains, great job.

Front wheel a weapon in Tour fracas

Excitement at the tour:

Video replays show Spaniard Carlos Barredo (QuickStep) taking off his front wheel and passing his bike to a team aid. Barredo then charges three metres at the startled Portuguese rider Rui Alberto Costa (Caisse d’Epargne), wielding the wheel over his head.

Video available here. I haven’t been following the tour closely; it’s hard to do because the stages all take place at about 8 a.m. my time and that’s not a good time to sit in front of a live video stream for a few hours. It sounds like there’s a lot of excitement this year, though. Lance Armstrong is sitting at 18th 14th overall, if you care about that.

UPDATE: If you don’t understand why people get excited about cycling, watch this video of the Stage 6 finish. Amazing strength, athleticism, and teamwork put Mark Cavendish across the line first. It’s fun to watch.

“Faithful Place”: Tana French turns the detective story inside out

Laura Miller

Detective fiction’s legions of brooding sleuths have paid lip service to Nietzsche’s observation that if you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss starts looking back. In French’s novels, the person looking becomes the abyss.

I absolutely loved French’s first two novels, In the Woods and The Likeness, so I’m looking forward to her latest. In the Woods was especially good; it reminded me a lot of The Secret History, which is high praise, indeed. If you’re looking for a summer read, you won’t go wrong with either of those.

iPhones don’t like coffee with cream

contigo-mug.jpg I killed my iPhone this week. Have you heard of Contigo Autoseal Mugs? They claim to be “Impossible to spill, and 100-percent leak-proof,” and for the most part, that’s true. I’ve carried one full of coffee to work in my bag every day since I received it last Christmas. They don’t leak because you have to push a spring-loaded, recessed button in order for anything to come out. You push it when you drink and it seals back up when you’ve finished taking a sip. Works like a charm. Mine was awesome . . . until Tuesday.

Tuesday I filled my awesome mug with coffee (with cream, b/c that’s just how I roll) and packed it in my bag as usual, along with my lunch and various other items. Those items included my iPhone. I picked up the bag and was about to head out the door when I felt something wet on my foot. Looking down, I saw my bag was wet and dripping. I didn’t think this was a big deal. Obviously the items in my bag had jostled just right for something to push the button on the mug. When I opened the bag, I saw that’s exactly what had happened. And then I saw that it was a big deal: my iPhone was submerged in a pool of creamy coffee!

The iPhone does not like coffee. It especially does not like coffee with cream.

Of course I pulled it out immediately and toweled it dry. I pushed the home button. Nothing. I pushed the power button. Nothing. I held the power button down. Nothing. Dead. My iPhone, my ereader, my calendar, my address book, my game console, my weatherman, my phone, my text and email appliance, my twitter toy, my facebook facilitator, my so many, many things, was dead.

I was distraught. What would I do? Even if I had a couple hundred dollars (which I don’t) I couldn’t buy a new iPhone — they are sold out and people are waiting weeks to get one. I couldn’t go to an AT&T store to find a cheap replacement because that was the first day AT&T started selling the iPhone 4 at its stores so they were ridiculously busy — lines around the block in Chicago. And, just for good measure, it was also the same day Bloomberg reported that Verizon is getting the iPhone in January. In other words, now would be an awful time to get a new phone and re-commit to AT&T for another two years.

Taking some internet advice, I stuck my iPhone in a bowl of rice and just tried not to think about it. Two days later, on Wednesday night, I was thrilled to pull it out, push the power button, and see it come back to life asking for a charge. I charged it up and just like that it was back. Everything seemed to work just like it always had. Hooray!

So Thursday I had an iPhone again and I was happy. All was well with the world. I even got a little crazy and updated all the apps on my phone — 42 of them said they were ready for an update, so I just updated all of them. All those updates didn’t seem to change everything; the phone worked just like always, no problems. I stuck it in my pocket and went to work.

Sadly, a few hours later when I pulled the iPhone from my pocket, it was a brick again. Dead dead dead. Why!? Woe is me.

It’s still a brick. I stuck it back in the bowl of rice but why? What good is it going to do? Sadness reigns…..