Vaya Paliza!

With three cycling clubs in a small town like Marbella, you can imagine that its a fairly popular sport here. A friend of mine (Diego López Luque) and I even started a small website, MarbellaCycling.com dedicated to local scene. As you can see from the website, there’s a weekly calendar of rides.

Today, May 1st (a holiday here), was probably the hardest of the year –Peñas Blancas. This ride starts from Marbella and heads down the coast to Estepona. In Estepona, we turn right and began the monstrous 16km climb up to Peñas Blancas. When the professional tours come through this area (e.g. the Vuelta Espana), this is considered a “Category 1” climb, one of the hardest.

The first five kilometers of the climb are brutal, and that’s precisely where the attacks started. I’ve still got a long way to go in recovering my form from last year, so I didn’t even attempt to cover the attacks today. I arrived at the top in good condition, and was pleased not to have experienced any hip pain. (I think I’ve finally recovered.) Diego did very well, finishing 3rd. Palmi won the race (no big surprise), and Belga was extremely strong today, finishing 2nd.

This coming Sunday, it’s Estepona and then Istan, another climb, but not nearly as hard.

More Music Thoughts

Now that the Mac and the iPod support the AAC format, I’m re-encoding my CD library. The iTunes “auto-import-and-eject” feature makes this task much less daunting than it could be. Casually popping in CDs while I work, I should have the entire collection done in a few days. Since my original encodings were done at 192 bps (with variable rate enabled), the average filesize was about 7.5 megabytes. With AAC and 128 bps selected, it looks like that will be reduced to about 4.5.

Don’t know if the Music Service will be a big success, but it’ll likely be the bankruptcy of me. 🙂 I’ll be watching Version Tracker for some shareware controls to help restrict impulse buying. 🙂

As I talk to people about the Apple Music Service, the question of “Why pay $1 when I can have it for free?” keeps popping up. For me, it boils down to the following (apart from the question of ethics):

(1) It saves time. You can spend loads of time trying to find and successfully download a song encoded with sufficient quality. I consider 20 minutes of my time saved worth a bit more than $1.

(2) Identification of new music. Being able to browse the service, check out recommendations of others, and listen to 30-second clips of songs and artists I’d otherwise be unware of are definite advantagse of this mode of music shopping.

What I’m now looking for is a URL format to allow exchange of song/album recommendations. NSLog(); reports that work on this is underway.

By the way, the port to open in order to share your iTunes music is 3689 (use your firewall).

Pollo Andaluz!

Although the south coast of Spain is known for fresh fish, few things are tastier than a tender and juicy rotisserie chicken (or, Pollo Asado, in Spanish) with a plate of homemade french fries from Pollo Andaluz, a small chain of take-out rotisserie. Combine that with a chilled bottle of Rioja rosado, and you’ve got a meal to remember.

If you’re ever around the Marbella area, be sure to check it out!

Apple Music Service

I guess it was about a year ago, Apple Computer introduced the combination of an MP3 player (the iPod) and companion software (iTunes) for the Mac OS X. The tight integration of an innovative device like the iPod and easy-to-use software like iTunes made Apple (and its users) the envy of the music-loving Windows world. While users of other MP3 players could carry around a few CDs worth of MP3, iPod users could tote around thousands of songs in the ultracool device.

While others continue in their pursuit to copy the iPod and iTunes, Apple yesterday took a huge leap forward, through the introduction of iTunes version 4, and launching its own Music Service. iTunes users can now, within the same easy-to-use interface, access a library of more than 200,000 songs, purchasing albums for an average of $10 or, probably more importantly, individual songs for 0.99 cents. Every song in the service has a 30 second immediate preview, to allow listen-before-you-buy.

Purchasing couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve setup an account, just click the buy button on any song or album, confirm the purchase, and the song is immediately downloaded and stored in your songs library. To be honest, I’m personally quite worried about such convenience, being a music lover and an impulse buyer! Having tried the service out this morning, I’ve already purchased four songs, and can’t imagine an easier or more convenient way to shop for music.

Tyler Hamilton wins at Liége-Bastogne-Liége!

In the biggest win of his career, Tyler Hamilton becomes the first American to win the Liége-Bastogne-Liége, one of Europe’s most important cycling events! Although all eyes were on fellow American Lance Armstrong to win the famous World Cup race, it was Hamilton who lauched the key solo attack with 3 km remaining for the win.

Former Armstrong teammate, Tyler Hamilton is making quite a name for himself as the leader of the Danish CSC racing team, beginning with his 2nd place finish at the 2002 Giro de Italia. CSC won’t be defending that position this year, however, as all their efforts are focused on denying Armstrong his fifth Tour de Fance victory. With riders like Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer and Jan Ullrich showing strong form, the 2003 Tour de France is shaping up to quite a battle!