Thursday, July 21, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser

Nothing Serious
Even in the absence of a sustained run of hot weather, the Dog Days are here for real.

Monday night the SF Giants opened a new home stand against the LA Dodgers. The first thing I noticed on the telecast was the low layer of fog pouring over the San Francisco Hills and out onto the Bay...both dougouts had fully bundled-up players sporting long sleeves and hoodies. Unlike the past series in San Diego, there wasn't much skin showing in the stands either.

The Giants looked like World Champions and trounced the hapless Dodgers. Baseball when it's right is just plain awesome to see. Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong had full command of all his stuff, and put on a pitching clinic before the Giants' bats came to life for four runs in the 6th inning. No torture for Giants fans, just a nice comfortable win to watch and enjoy.

It's the second rest day in France. The Tour de France racers are girding their loins for a difficult third week in their saddles. Tuesday the race heads into the Alps, and they'll climb the Haute Alps until Saturday's final Individual Time Trial. After two weeks, there's no obvious strong man, but I suspect that all the favorites are keeping their cards close to their vests...there's four very tough days of mountain climbing ahead...the riders rested Monday, but they stayed focused.

Focused is something I can't claim to be this week...I thought I had a great idea for a fun, fluffy blog this weekend. I started writing during the ball game, and damn, if I couldn't recall the many punchlines I'd mused over on Sunday. I assume they'll come back the next time I go goofy Dog Days-Style...stay tuned...just don't hold your'll turn blue or something...

Now It's Serious
Formula One and IndyCar had the weekend off, and I'm part of the "Giant Sucking Sound" that is NASCAR racing 2011. This week's stock car race was a night race, and I heard on the Motorsports News Wrap-Up Show that the stands weren't full, and in fact they dimmed the lights over the empty stands so not to broadcast it on TV! My how the mighty have fallen...Hint to the Good Ol' Southern Boys...the new cars, the double row restarts,  the green/white/checker, and "The Chase" playoff format are boring, boring, boring, and boring...even at it's least, racing should be exciting, n'est-ce pas?

I did get to see the MotoGP from Germany's Saxony Region. It was the first "Dry Race" I've seen from Europe in a month! Dry Race means it didn't rain on raceday.

During the pre-race features, they looked at the tires. Saxony's Sachsenring is pretty tough on tires, it's an (as the Brits say) anti-clockwise course. Ten left hand turns with only three right handers, makes the tire engineer's job pretty tough.

They interviewed the Bridgestone engineer who said: "for the extreme conditions here at the Sachsenring, we designed a dual compound tyre" (he's British, hence the Queen's spelling) "Soft compound on the left shoulder of the tyre, and softer on the right shoulder"

"Because of the unusually cool, wet summer in Europe this year, we've stepped down to the next softer compound on both sides of the tyre"

Race tires operate in a fairly narrow temperature range. This summer the European weather is one compound lower than the past several summers apparently.

Did I mention there's 15 to 20 cm (6" to 8") of snow forecast for the Col du Galibier Tuesday?? The bulletin I saw said the sun should thaw things out by the time the Tour de France passes through Thursday and Friday...what the hell is going on?

Just over the Col du Galibier summit Tuesday. Mark Johnson Photo/VeloNews
VeloNews has a whole gallery full of Galibier in Tuesday's snow photos.

It's still months before I can make my prediction for the 2011/2012 Winter. Normally, the thought wouldn't even cross my mind until I saw the first autumnal light in mid-September at the Reno Air Races.

Clearly we have another abnormal summer on our hands this year, so I'm happy that I have a potential new tool to help get an idea about the severity of the coming North American Winter.

Regular readers may recall my June 25, 2011 blog "Foot Dragging" where I cited a study that claims: "It turns out that snow piling up over a band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe may have as much effect on the climate of the U.S. as the much-better-known El Niño and La Niña."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if it keeps snowing in Europe every month all summer long, the "band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe" will most likely have a good amount of snow already piled up come prediction time!

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