Recently in Two Things Category

Two Things: Lance / Missy
January 16, 2013 9:25 PM | Posted in: ,

Lance Armstrong: Self-inflicted irrelevance

I'm still trying to decide how I feel about Lance Armstrong now that he's [apparently] coming clean - more or less, and no pun intended - about his use of PEDs during his cycling career. I've been a fan since his early days in the sport, and felt an inordinate amount of pride - even patriotism - in his seven Tour de France victories.

Photo - Lance Armstrong

Even so, I never really liked the guy, if that makes any sense. I had tremendous respect for his skill on the bike, and his tenacity was awe-inspiring, but there was always a dark undercurrent to his personality. When rumors about his "externally enhanced" abilities began to circulate, I bought into the whole "he's the most tested athlete in history and has never tested positive" argument...and yet. When Bicycling Magazine publish an extensive article last year, written by an admitted fan who laid out a very well researched and detailed case against Armstrong, and took no joy in doing so, it just seemed to ring true to me. And it turns out that it was.

So, where I'm at today - and this could change, for better or worse - is wondering just what kind of sociopath could cultivate such a convincing fa├žade of lies, and aggressively - even pugnaciously - maintain it for years, leaving a wide swath of figurative bodies in the ditches, just as he often did his cycling competitors. How does a person build such a public persona, to the point where he is arguably the most recognized athlete on the planet based on his accomplishments on and off the bike, and go to bed every night knowing it's based on lies piled atop lies? Was there a point in his life where he reached a crossroads, where he could have fessed up with a minimal amount of backlash, and he made a conscious decision not to do so? Or was it out of hand before he realized it?

These are questions for others to contemplate. I don't expect he'll ever answer them, but for now, while I pose the questions, I'm really not interested in the answers. Instead, I'd much rather call attention to...

Missy Franklin: Glittering more than gold

You remember Missy, doncha? Sure, you do. She's the world-record-holding American swimmer who won four gold medals at the London Olympics last summer. She's also a 17-year-old high school student in Colorado who just turned down an estimated $3 million endorsement package in favor of staying in school in an attempt to live a normal teenager's life.

Photo - Missy Franklin

Not everyone is happy about that decision, by the way. The Wall Street Journal reports that many swimmers at neighboring high schools are dismayed at the prospect of having to compete against an Olympic gold medalist (although it sounds like the parents and coaches may have more invested in the issue than the kids themselves, like that's any great revelation). By the way, the WSJ poll accompanying the preceding story shows that almost 90% of respondents agree with her decision to continue to compete in high school meets.

Despite the sour grapes attitudes by some, most of us would agree that it's refreshing to hear about a gifted athlete who is so well-grounded. Setting aside the obvious question of "how rich ARE her parents, anyway?" it's hard to imagine that Missy will ever fall into the same self-constructed trap that Lance succumbed to. And as long as we have enough Missys to counterbalance the Lances, there's reason for optimism, at least in the wonderful world of sports.

Two Things: Venom / Dogma
December 2, 2012 8:50 PM | Posted in: ,

We're deep into the Christmas shopping season and some of you have been asking for gift hints. This post is for you. And by "you," I mean, of course, Warren Buffet or The Sultan of Brunei.

Hennessey Venom GT

Venom GT

Forget 0-60. That's soooo 1960s. Forget 0-100. That's for wannabes. The new gold standard for vehicular excessiveness is 0-200, and the Venom GT - billed by its manufacturer as the world's fastest roadster - will bridge that gap in 15.3 seconds. By contrast, the zillion-dollar Bugatti Veyron, the previous King of the Over the Top Hill is, well, several seconds slower (depending on whether you believe Hennessey's website, or Bugatti's). Of course, one could make a good argument that for normal people (aka, women), a few seconds slower getting to 200 mph is a triviality not worth considering, but for the rest of us, it's major.

The Venom (what is it with the letter "V," by the way, that attracts nasty cars: Venom, Viper, Veyron, Visigoth? OK, I made that last one up, but I would totally be in the market for a pickup called the Visigoth.) has an engine system that allows you to choose your sentencing guidelines: Misdemeanor - 800 hp; Felony - 1,000 hp; Death Row - 1,244 hp. The latter setting works out to about 1 horsepower per 2.2 pounds of weight, which is truly insane for a four-wheeled vehicle.

Hennessey is reportedly making only five Venoms in 2013, so get your order in early. You'll still be behind Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, who requested a Venom in convertible form, and was willing to pay $1.1 million for the privilege of being the only person in the world to have one.

Pinarello Dogma 2

Dogma2

Shifting gears while remaining in the gear-shifting realm, the two-wheeled equivalent of the Venom might be Pinarello's Dogma 2, a $20,000 bike (when equipped with high-end components like Campy's Super Record electronic shifting package). Depending on what pedals you put on it, the bike weighs just a whisper over 15 pounds (yielding a HP/lbs ratio of...well, it depends on whether you're Bradley Wiggins or, um...yourself), which is flirting with the minimum allowable weight to compete in the Tour de France (~14.99 pounds). And, speaking of the TdF and Bradley Wiggins, he won it last year on this bike.

It does share a few traits with the Venom. Its primary frame material is carbon fiber, and its styling is guaranteed to distinguish it from your neighbor's Huffy/Pontiac Aztec. And it also represents an investment that's proportionately outrageous for those who can just barely afford one.

Also, both would fit in my garage. *hint, hint*

Two Things: HaloRig / Flyboard
October 7, 2012 9:39 PM | Posted in: ,

Our Two Things spotlight today focuses on a couple of "add-on" products, things that make other things work better, or at least differently.

HaloRig: Video Stabilizer


Anyone who's tried to shoot video with a small digital camcorder, point-and-shoot camera, or phone knows how hard it is to keep the dang thang steady. The form factor is just too small and light and the slightest irregular motion translates into a noticeably jerky video. That's the problem that the HaloRig is designed to mitigate.

It's basically an inexpensive (less than $200; price varies with options) metal ring onto which you can affix multiple cameras, lights, microphones, and other accessories. The ring is large enough to provide a greater chance of smooth motion (I haven't tried one, so I'm hard-pressed to say that it would completely eliminate jerky movement).

Here's a short video explaining the device in somewhat more detail.



Flyboard: Your next James Bondian Sporting Device


The following video is making the rounds on the interwebz. If you haven't yet seen it, it's worth spending six minutes to watch, and another six seconds to decide how crazy one needs to be to try it.



This is the Flyboard in action. I think the video explains everything you need to know about why the only question about product placement in an upcoming movie is whether the first director to use it will be Michael Bay or Luc Besson.

This review by GizMag touches on a lot of the salient points of the Flyboard, including cost (~$7K, excluding insurance premiums). But, seriously, aren't our public waterways dangerous enough now without giving inebriated jet skiers yet another injury vector? What happens to the poor soul who tries out that dolphin dive and hits headfirst an actual dolphin (or worse)?

Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want one.

Tip o'the ski helmet to my beautiful Aunt Margaret for the video link!

Two Things
September 29, 2012 7:15 AM | Posted in: ,

This is the first in what I hope will be a periodic - if not regular - series in which I share, well, two things. Each pair may or may not have some relationship to each other; it's possible that the only thing they have in common is that they happened to catch my eye at approximately the same time. If that seems lame, you won't get any argument from me. I'm still gonna do it.

Thing The First: The FLIZ

The website is in German, and Google's literal translation feature is occasionally lacking in clarity, but the photos tell the story: you hang from a crotch-chocking harness and try to run/glide, for reasons that are inexplicable no matter what language is used to describe them.

The FLIZ in action

I will readily admit to being attracted to unusual forms of human-powered transportation, but this crosses the line between unusual and creepy/painful. Still, I can admire the quality of the build of this prototype, and the use of dual disc brakes on an apparatus that likely will never go more than 15 mph has a certain irrational appeal. And Schwalbe makes great tires, so it has that going for it. But even the sporty Tour de France-yellow paint job won't save it from being an eternal solution in search of a problem.

Tip o'the cycling cap to My Life In Recline

Thing The Second: The Kel-Tec KSG 12-Gauge Shotgun

Kel-Tec is known throughout the shooting community as a manufacturer of inexpensive-but-competent handguns. Its palm-sized P3-AT .380 Auto is extremely popular as a concealed carry weapon. I've owned one for years, but I only recently learned that Kel-Tec makes rifles, and is a new entrant into the market for tactical shotguns. And their first offering in that category is a fascinating piece of firearmory:

The Kel-Tec KSR shotgun


The KSG (Kel-Tec Shot Gun...they apparently don't spend a lot on branding research) is one bad-looking piece of equipment with its dual-tube magazine tubes (holding 12 rounds) and industrial grade Picatinny upper sight rail. This is not your father's quail hunting boomer, and you wouldn't be allowed through the gate at any trap-shooting establishment. But if you're a shotgun enthusiast, the KSR is almost too cool to ignore.



Got a suggestion for something that's Two Thing-worthy? Email it to fireant@ericsiegmund.com and you might extend your 15 minutes of fame by a nanosecond or two!

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