Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Just because they found a bag of blood with Jan's name on it doesn't mean it's his

Shit, shit, shit. The Tour de France hasn’t even started yet and the whole race is imploding because of a massive blood-doping scandal.

It's bad enough that Alexandre Vinokourov, one of the race favourites, could be kicked out of the Tour because of his team's starring role in the doping allegations. But it's even worse now that my big German boyfriend has been linked to the whole sorted mess.

A Spanish newspaper story said investigators found a bag of blood with the name “Jan” on it. Ullrich denied the allegations. He’s been cleared to race because there was no hard evidence, only newspaper speculation. But the damage has been done. My man’s good name has been dragged through the mud.

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks he’s been framed. The cynic in me thinks he’s guilty. The protective girlfriend in me thinks NO ONE MESSES WITH MY SWEET BABY AND GETS AWAY WITH IT!!!

This could seriously shake up the race. When I said the 2006 Tour de France was going to be exciting, this wasn’t what I meant.

Heat wave? What heat wave?

Apparently, Vancouver has been suffering through a “stifling heat wave” for the past few days. It’s all over the news. They make it sound like we’re frying in the Libyan Desert out here.

Let me put this so-called heat wave into perspective. Right now, it is 24 degrees and sunny outside. There is a cool breeze blowing in off the ocean. It has been like this for days. The weather has been lovely. But hot? Heat wave hot? Hardly! This is sweater season in other parts of Canada.

This city has no idea what hot really is. A real heat wave feels like a blast from a furnace when you step outside. A real heat wave means you’re covered in sweat 30 seconds after stepping out of the shower. A real heat wave drains your energy, leaving you unable to do more than sit on the couch and pant.

It doesn’t cool down at night during a real heat wave. I’m still sleeping under a down duvet! And I don’t even have air conditioning! This ain't no heat wave.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Why the Tour de France is the best sporting event in the world

Forget the World Cup. Forget the Stanley Cup. Forget the Olympics. There is no sporting event on earth that has as much action, excitement and drama as the Tour de France.

Never mind the superhuman strength and endurance needed to race a bike almost 4,000 kilometres around France. Ignore the mountain stages that require riders to grind up treacherously steep roads in oppressive heat. The Tour is so much more than that.

It’s not just physically grueling, it’s mentally demanding. The riders are always thinking two moves ahead of their opponents. It’s like a giant game of chess played on bicycles at warp speed. And it all gets underway in less than a week!

I am predicting right now, right here, that the 2006 Tour will go down in history as one of the most exciting races on record. Why? Because Lance Armstrong isn’t competing this year and it’s anyone’s race. Well, maybe not anyone’s race. I have a feeling my boyfriend Jan Ullrich is going to be the one standing on top of the podium wearing the yellow jersey when it’s all over.

This is Ullrich’s year. And I’m not just saying that because I think he’s hot. The man is on fire. He won the Tour of Switzerland last week. In May, he won a critical time trial at the Giro d’Italia. He has won the Tour de France once before (in 1997) and would have won it four more times if Lance Armstrong hadn’t gotten in his way.

There are so many reasons why I love this race. It’s not just about who gets from Point A to Point B the fastest. It’s also about everything that happens in between.

The race is unpredictable and its riders are at the mercy of the elements. There could be a torrential downpour one day and a heat wave the next. There could be strong winds in the morning and hail in the afternoon. One slip by a single cyclist on a wet cobblestone road could cause a massive crash as riders behind him fall like dominoes. Someone breaks a bone and his race is over.

There is something different every day. Some of the stages are short. Some are long. There are flat stages. There are team time trials. There are individual time trials.

And then there are mountain stages, which are the most thrilling stages of all. There is nothing like watching the riders grind up the side of a mountain, their faces twisted in pain, sweat dripping off their chins. It is the purest manifestation of agony and determination you will ever see.

Of course, what goes up must come down. The descents are ridiculously dangerous. The riders fly down the mountain at speeds of up to 80 kilometres an hour on tires barely an inch wide.

Even watching the spectators is entertaining. Sometimes the spectators are abusive towards the riders. Most of the time, they’re just crazy. They jump in front of the riders as they’re coming down the road and wave and scream at them until they’re almost mowed down. On the mountain stages, they’ll run on the road behind the riders, giving them a push. They are almost always just a few inches away from the riders, which can be harrowing. In 2003, Lance Armstrong crashed after his handlebars got hooked on a spectator’s bag strap.

Even though the fans may be unruly, cycling is a civilized sport. There’s an unwritten code of conduct. You don’t attack a leading rider when they have a mechanical breakdown. When the leading rider crashes, you wait for him to get back on the bike. You don’t hip-check and punch one another. You stop racing and jump off your bike to pee on the side of the road at the same time everyone else does. You’d never see that kind of gentlemanly behaviour in hockey.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the Tour de France without mentioning the doping scandals that plague the race. Yes, lots of riders are hopped up on EPO, growth hormones and amphetamines. And, yes, cheating is wrong. But if the majority of the riders are using performance-enhancing drugs, it creates a level playing field. (It would be preferable to have a level playing field where none of the riders were using steroids but that’s not going to happen until the International Cycling Union creates stronger anti-doping policies along with newer, better and more frequent testing.)

Doping scandals aside, the Tour is worth watching for the eye candy alone. Hundreds of young guys in top physical shape wearing spandex. The sheer beauty of watching the peloton snake its way through the French countryside. The machine-like efficiency of the team time trials. Watching the sprints and the breakaways, and then watching the field swallow them back up again.

I’m giddy just thinking about it. Go, Jan, go!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My dirty little secret

This is my freezer, my secret shame. I need to defrost it and I don't know how. I've never defrosted a freezer before. The ice buildup has gotten so bad I have room for only a few popsicles, half a bag of perogies and a box of frozen fish.

If I keep the freezer door open long enough, the ice will melt. I know that much. But here's where I'm stumped -- how do I get rid of the ice without flooding the kitchen?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A medical miracle?

It's been exactly three weeks since I crashed my bike and fractured my shoulder.

I still can't sleep on my left side and I can't lift my arm high enough to wash and style my hair but I'm making progress in lots of other ways.

I can write with my left hand again. I can type without pain. I can't swim, bike or run but I can go for long walks. I can even go for short hikes in the mountains.

Unfortunately, I can also cook for myself, do the dishes, take out the trash and clean the apartment (I tried to outsource these chores as long as possible but the offers of help dried up once people found out I was no longer a shut-in).

Apparently, the speed at which I am recovering is freakishly fast. I went back to the Vancouver Bone and Joint Clinic for a follow-up exam with an orthopedic surgeon this week. He moved my arm this way and that way and asked if this hurt or that hurt and every time I said no, he'd shake his head and say things like "incredible!" or "I can't believe it!" or "amazing!"

I was equally stunned. The last time I was in his office he told me it would take six to eight weeks for the broken bone to heal, followed by months of physiotherapy and rehab. He said it might take up to a year before I could swim again.

Now he says the bone should be completely healed by July 1st and that I should be able to get back on the bike and into the pool by then as long as my arm no longer hurts.

He said I wouldn't need any physio or rehab ("There's no point. It would be useless") because my shoulder muscles showed no signs of atrophy. He said he had never seen someone recover so quickly from this kind of injury.

I left the office feeling elated and skeptical. Part of me refuses to believe everything is as rosy as the doctor claims it is. But then I tend not to have wild expectations about anything. If I don't get my hopes up, I can't be disappointed.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I had the pleasure of being one of the National Post’s feuding film buffs this week. I was the token "lefty" in a lively panel discussion about Al Gore’s new film An Inconvenient Truth.

Part of our debate was published in yesterday's newspaper. Here’s some of what I said:

Everyone should see this film. Global warming is one of the most serious issues facing humanity in this century. That is not alarmist or extremist. It's scientific fact. Gore gets that point across very effectively in this film. (Who knew a PowerPoint presentation could be so captivating?) Before I saw the movie, I was worried his presence would have a polarizing effect on the audience and make it easy to dismiss global warming as a "liberal" issue. Fortunately, the film explains the dangers of global warming in a non-partisan way. My only complaint is that the overall tone of the film is so stark that it's easy to leave the theatre feeling overwhelmed and powerless, despite the list of "things you can do" spliced in with the credits. If the film's creators are hoping to jolt the public and our political leaders into action, I'm not sure they will succeed. Fear and shame are not positive motivators.

You can read the rest of my thoughts along with the entire debate in the National Post for free here.

Bonus material: Read the juicy bits that didn’t make it into the newspaper here (also free).

Friday, June 09, 2006

A real date!

After six months of outrageous flirting and innuendo, a certain someone finally asked me out on a real date. I suspect this is because I sent him an email that said "Be a man and ask me out already!"

So he invited me to dinner tonight. If things go well, I might invite him back to my place . . . to watch Laguna Beach. (What did you think I was going to say? Invite him back to my place and rip his clothes off? Hello? I have a fractured shoulder. Anything beyond hand-holding is going to be uncomfortable and awkward.)

Tonight, I will try my best to overlook the fact that:

a) He is five years younger than me.
b) He listens to Milli Vanilli unironically.
c) He is a rabid hockey fan. We’re talking face paint, clown wig, dancing in the aisles. I’ve seen the photographs and they’re horrifying.

And yet I find myself strangely attracted to him. Maybe my brain got rattled when I crashed my bike. Maybe it's the painkillers. Or maybe it’s just because I have fun with him. He makes me laugh. My straight friends like him. My gay friends really like him. He’s one of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met.

This could go somewhere. Or it could go nowhere. We’ll see.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Converted to the cult of Mac

Thank you to everyone who left a comment or emailed me with advice on what kind of laptop I should buy. I am pleased to announce the Mac fanatics won out.

I am now the proud new parent of this baby.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mac or PC? I can't decide

I’ve decided to buy a laptop. But I don’t know whether to buy a Mac or stick with a PC. Help!

I want a good quality laptop that I can use for emailing, surfing the web, storing music, organizing photos, burning CDs, blogging and writing.

Ideally, it would be fast, light and virtually indestructible. It must work in foreign countries. Reliability is a top priority.

I’ve been using a PC for the last 10 years and I’m generally pretty happy with Windows. But everyone I know who has a Mac swears by them (“once you go Mac you never go back”). My budget is $1,500. Any recommendations?

Sunday, June 04, 2006


I’ve always been a bit of a technophobe. I don’t have a cell phone. I’ve never owned a car. I held off on buying a DVD player until the video store stopped renting videos.

It’s not that I don’t like new technology, I just hate the way it’s forced upon us.

That's why I never wanted an iPod. I resented the way iPod ownership was a fact of life. The last thing I wanted was to become another iPerson walking around with white headphones stuck in my ears.

But I finally broke down this week and bought myself a sleek, black iPod nano. I’ve secretly wanted one for months. It’s so futuristic and shiny and exciting.

Unfortunately, it’s also a major pain in the ass. It turns out I don’t have a new enough version of Windows needed to run the thing. So my shiny new toy has been sitting on my coffee table for the past three days, tormenting me. Stupid technology!

I had planned my whole weekend around this thing. I was going to download all of my favourite CDs onto the nano and then go for a long walk. I was going to buy that one R. Kelly song I liked but never really liked enough to justify buying the whole album.


If I want to use my nano, I have to buy a new computer. See what I mean about technology being forced upon us? It's a vicious circle.

I guess I'll be kicking it old school with my CD Walkman for a little while longer.