Sensys’09 Program

As Matt has announced, the Sensys 2009 preliminary program has been released. I’m proud to say that it includes a contribution from our group on Mercury, a wearable sensor network for high-fidelity motion analysis. This is largely Konrad’s work (in fact, his thesis work), but I was peripherally involved and the Mercury download manager architecture borrows heavily from Lance. It’s a solid engineering effort and I’m pleased that it was accepted &mdash particularly as its good exposure for both Konrad and Bor-rong, both of whom are graduating next month.

I am disappointed, however, that our Draft paper didn’t make the cut. I blogged recently about the paper submission and my feelings about it pre-decision. After the decision came down I think I went through the usual post-rejection phases: anger, depression, careful consideration[1. Facilitated by reviews.], acceptance, imagination, reinvigoration. While the reviews weren’t quite as helpful as I would have liked, Jason and I are up and spinning together an NSDI’10 submission and are exploring some exciting new directions for the work. Given that this is the last piece of real research I imagine I’m going to get a chance to do before pulling together my thesis this winter and then (hopefully) interviewing next spring, I plan on enjoying one more trip out. As Suzanna put it, despite the inevitable feelings of failure that accompany a paper rejection, I had wanted to write an NSDI’10 paper, and that would have actually been quite hard had I had to spend August tightening up a Sensys’09 submission. That said, I would have loved to be able to get up at a fall conference and give a talk, particularly with the job market looming, but I guess I’ll have to hope people remember best talk award at Sensys’08.

Personal mutterings aside, this post was supposed to be a preliminary look at the Sensys’09 program, particularly in light of the comments Matt has made about the process on his blog. At first glance, most of the papers seem to break down into some well-defined categories[2. Note that I'm breaking these down by their titles, which can be misleading.]:

  • No MAC Papers (!): perhaps this is a function of Matt and Jie as program chairs, or maybe the community is finally just really tired of the (IMO) largely useless proliferation of MAC protocols, almost all of which were never compared against other research MAC protocols or ever canonicized in the standard TinyOS distribution. I remember during a question Matt asked at either Sensys’08 or Sensys’06 he argued that really what we needed was a MAC sMACdown, i.e. a paper that would actually compare a number of contributed MAC protocols using a consistent set of experiments, methodologies and benchmarks. Don’t see that paper, but it seems like the MAC sMACdown just ended up taking a slightly different form this year. No complaints here.
  • Multiple Link/Routing Protocol Papers: maybe these are what replaces MAC protocol papers for the next few years. Just based on the titles I see “ADB: An Efficient Multihop Broadcast Protocol based on Asynchronous Duty-Cycling in Wireless Sensor Networks”, “Collection Tree Protocol”, “M&M: Multilevel Markov Model for Wireless Link Simulation in Sensor Networks”, “Explicit and precise rate control for wireless sensor networks” and “Bursty Traffic over Bursty Links”; “The Case For A Network Protocol Isolation Layer” may be making an architectural contribution or may fall into this category. So it seems like we have at least one dedicated routing session, with a number of papers focusing on link-level dynamics and/or simulation.
  • Time Synchronization: several years after the FTSP and Firefly Sensys papers — which I mention here due to my familiarity, not due to any seminality — another batch of papers addressing time synchronization are here. “Optimal Clock Synchronization in Networks”, “Low-power clock synchronization using electromagnetic energy radiating from AC power lines”, and “A Tale of Two Synchronizing Clocks” look like they compromise a dedicated time synchronization session.
  • Applications: Sensys has a strong history of application papers, and this year is no exception, with “Canopy Closure Estimates with GreenOrbs: Long-Term Large-Scale Sensing in the Forest”, “DCNet: A High-Fidelity Data Center Sensing Network”, “Suelo: Human-assisted Sensing for Exploratory Soil Monitoring Studies”, “Mercury: A Wearable Sensor Network Platform for High-Fidelity Motion Analysis”, “Experiences with A High-Fidelity Wireless Building Energy Auditing Network” and “VTrack: Accurate, Energy-Aware Traffic Delay Estimation Using Mobile Phones” all seeming to present application case studies or present experiences deploying real systems. I probably have a more mixed view of application papers than my CV would suggest. Some I find extremely interesting and edifying. Others seem to have impressed reviewers with a complete, well-engineering system, but really don’t contribute many or any new ideas. That said, based on the titles alone I see a number of projects represented here that I’ve known about and am excited to hear and read more about.
  • Programming/Debugging: this category includes “FIND: Faulty Node Detection for Wireless Sensor Networks”, “TOSThreads: Safe and Non-Invasive Preemption in TinyOS”, “Darjeeling, A Feature-Rich VM for the Resource Poor”, “Macrodebugging: Providing Abstract Views of System State”, and “Evaluating A BASIC Approach To Sensor Network Node Programming”.

Interesting that only one paper — “Achieving Range-Free Localization Beyond Connectivity” — out of the 21 accepted escapes this categorization. I haven’t tried a similar title-based categorization for other preliminary programs at other conferences, but part of me wonders if this is a function of the topically-based decision making process that Matt seems to imply went on at the PC meeting. I don’t have enough experience with program committees to know whether or not this is standard operating procedure, but I wonder how you combat the danger of category-driven selection, namely that you don’t get the strongest 21 papers but rather the strongest three routing protocol papers, the strongest three programming/debugging papers, the strongest six application case studies, and so on. The other danger of early categorization is that papers that span multiple areas or don’t fit cleanly into boxes end up being left out.

Specifically, I’m disappointed this year to see a program bereft of architectural approaches to reducing power consumption. I’m willing to presume that some of the programming papers may address this more directly, but one of the more exciting things (for me) about the past few years of Sensys was the emergence of papers like Levels (Sensys’07), Eon (Sensys’07), Pixie (Sensys’08) and of course Lance[3. This list is obviously too tilted towards our own work at Harvard, and plenty of other good papers in this area exist.] which took large-scale, top-down approaches to controlling network-wide power consumption. (Or were getting there, slowly.) I’m hoping that as I learn more about the papers that were accepted a broader focus on energy will emerge from papers where it is not evident in the title, but as of now I’m disappointed that this area seems poorly represented.

Trafficing in Distraction

I’ve been following with great interest the driven to distraction series of articles over at the New Yorke Times. Personally I’m pleased to see them getting prominent placement on the paper’s web site, since this seems like a serious issue.

Not driving a great deal myself, I typically avoid using my BlackBerry on the rare occasion that I get a ZipCar to do some shopping or run an errand. Since I drive rarely — which means both that I enjoy it more but also am aware that I’m less practiced than many other drivers — I find it less of a hassle to focus on the road while doing so.

I have spent several stints out in the Seattle area working at either Microsoft or Microsoft Research. Both times I lived in Capitol Hill, a nice neighborhood on what Seattle natives call “the west side.” Commuting to “the east side” — where the Microsoft campus is located — is a nightmare, with a 15-minute trip sans traffic ballooning to several hours. The situation is largely the result of a paucity of bridges crossing Lake Washington, the long, narrow, deep lake that divides the east and west sides. In particular, the Evergreen Point floating bridge most convenient for getting to Microsoft collapses an eight-lane freeway into four, with no breakdown lane. Accidents on the bridge snarl traffic for hours.

Personally, I hate traffic. Hate it hate it hate it. This is partially, I’ll admit, a function of never having to get used to it, but I hope I never will. That said, an important point that I haven’t seen made[1. To be fair, I haven't perused the article comment threads yet.] about the prevalence of mobile device use in traffic is that a lot of people spend a lot of time on the road moving very, very slowly. Is texting while driving safe? I don’t believe so. But it’s probably safer when you’re stuck on the 520 bridge, creeping across the lake at 2 mph. It’s possible that people are spending more time in traffic these days, but it would be interesting to look at the amount of time they spend in various speed zones, since behavior that might be safe in bumper-to-bumper traffic might not be safe in heavy, yet swiftly-moving traffic.

Considering this for a bit I started to wonder if we’ll ever have audio interfaces that make conversations a bit more like email, i.e. more asynchronous. I can imagine that, when sitting at a stop-light or in a traffic jam, my car allowing me to participate in (potentially multiple) conversations and delivering delayed snippets of earlier dialogue to me now that it has determined that it is safe for me to hear them. Once my speed rises, conversations are muted and any responses by my conversants are cached for later delivery. Obviously this plays havoc on dialogue and flow between individuals, but maybe we adapt and develop new conversational modalities as the technology changes?

Or we could all keep texting and talking while driving and killing each other. Count me out. I’m walking or taking the metro[2. Assuming we can finally get our shit together and prevent subway operators from themselves texting and talking. How hard can this be? As a friend of mine put it yesterday on Facebook: c'mon guys, we're trying to have a civilization here.].

Facebook’s Walls

I’ll admit, I’m a bit OCD about contact information. For some time I’ve been using Google Sync to synchronize my Google contacts with my Blackberry[1. To illustrate my desperation about/interest in this sort of thing, before Google Sync I paid money for a service called GooSync which essentially did the same thing. I actually even got suckered into plunking down more pounds (British company I guess) for a lifetime subscription about a month before Google Sync was released. I guess I need to read more Google blogs.]. Recently I started a new campaign to reformat all of the phone numbers in my address book to use dot-delimiting[2. I.E., 123.456.7890 instead of the annoyingly-punctuation-full (123) 456-7890 or the sort-of simple-minded 123-456-7890. I mean, the dots just don't get in the way of the numbers, which are the significant pieces of information, whereas the parentheses split the information top-to-bottom and the dashes sit there right at eye-level just hanging out. Is anyone else with me here?], which given that I have ~1000[3. Albeit, some 200 of which are Harvard Summer School students which will get dropped at summer's end. These contacts were also properly entered the first time.] contacts is a fairly slow and torturous process. Doing some of the things that I do — such as resident tutoring — having contact information at my fingertips is really important.

Now, I’ll also admit that my obsession is not typical. My wife’s address book and email contact information is completely unsorted, unsynchronized and — even more frustrating to one with my affliction — even uses first names only! Blasphemy! As additional evidence of my lack-of-normality, a straw poll conducted during a meeting of CS261, Professor Margo Seltzer’s graduate-level course on computer operating systems, revealed that most people did not in fact back up the contact information in their phone in any way. That said, called out as abnormal, I am hoping that this is the direction that our increasingly-connected world is moving in, so one day I will be called prescient and not just anal-retentive.

Given the importance, to me at least, of contact information and more significantly contact information integration I’m increasingly frustrated by facebook.com’s irritating restrictions on moving contact details in and out of their pages. For those interesting, more after the jump.
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Community Service

On the train back from HotOS’09 Prabal Dutta and I entered into a discussion about “service to the community.” Of all the people I’ve met in the wireless sensor network community Prabal is one of the more interesting and thoughtful. I’ve always enjoyed discussing research and other things with him, and this was one of those conversations that stuck in my mind.

I think that we entered into this topic when I remarked that the research homepage of someone I had Googled listed serving on program committees under the heading “Service.” Growing up as a Boy Scout[1. Topping out as an Eagle Scout, in fact.], and having to accrue the service chits to apply to a selective east coast college, defining service on a program committee as “service” seemed a bit of a stretch to me. This is something that seems fairly clearly in the best interest of faculty members[2. And yes, by this definition some of the "service" on my college application wasn't really service either.] involved, and I’m guessing is also properly incentivized by tenure committees when the time comes.

So if program committee participation isn’t service to the community, what is? And if researchers don’t do it, is it important?

My definition of service to the (research) community would be activities or actions performed that both a) benefit other researchers directly and b) are not directly compensated or undertaken with no clear expectation of eventual reward. Of the top of my head, I can come up with a few[3. Not as many as I would like to be able to bring to mind quickly...] examples in the WSN community:

  • FTSP @ Vanderbilt: After the original FTSP Sensys’04 paper, the researchers at ISIS along with (I believe) others came through in a big way by closing the loop. FTSP is now part of the standard TinyOS 2.x distribution, and receives all of the testing attention and hardening one would expect of something canonicized in this way.
    Did the FTSP team have to do this? No, of course not. They had already had their paper published! Usually the next step is to drop the code on the floor, or dump it into contrib where you don’t need to support it and nobody can complain about it. But they took the time to close the loop, which I applaud them for.
  • The Sensor Network Museum @ ETH: I first got wind of this a few years ago when I received (and completed) the deployment survey that Jan Beutel had distributed. The museum seems to have links to a great deal of relevant WSN material, and while I’m not sure who’s maintaining it they’re definitely doing a great service for the community[4. At some point though, I am hoping that Jan uses the survey results I sent him for something useful...].
  • MoteLab @ Harvard: I can’t finish this list, unfortunately a bit short, without tooting my own horn as well as the horns of my advisor and a lot of other people at Harvard[5. In no particular order: Bor-rong Chen, Konrad Lorincz, Geoff Mainland, Pat Swieskowski, Glenn Holloway and all the EECS support staff deserve mention. I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.] and elsewhere[6. Kyle Jamieson (now at University College London) and Brett Hull, both at MIT CSAIL at the time, did a significant re-factoring of one of the uglier pieces of MoteLab code I had written.]. MoteLab is a wireless sensor network testbed that currently supports over 500 researchers from around the globe[7. A few days ago I got a very nice email from Muhammad Hamad Alizai in the Distributed Systems Group at RWTH Aachen University (which I had never heard of). Their Sensys'09 paper used MoteLab extensively and he was writing to say thanks.].

I’m sure there are many additional examples — and I hope a few people will enlighten me through comments or email — but in general these sort of contributions seem a bit problematic. Speaking for myself, my own work on MoteLab started before I began the Ph.D. program, during the year I worked as a research assistant for Matt. This meant I had fewer ambitions in terms of paper submissions, and less of a research agenda (to the degree that any first- or second-year student typically has much of a coherent research agenda).

As time has passed I’ve had to moderate periodic urges to improve the MoteLab codebase against the realities against which those efforts will be measured. We had our one MoteLab paper in the SPOTS track of IPSN’05. It’s extremely unlikely we’d be able to publish anything else on MoteLab. And yet, improving the testbed — either increasing the stability, improving job scheduling and workflow, or creating a more interesting heterogeneous environment — would greatly benefit a lot of other researchers who make use of it. Just not me so much.

A great part of me hates to have to make that calculation, but those are the realities. The optimist in me wants to believe that these sort of contributions and community spirit are measured and weighed on the academic job market I’ll be venturing into next year. The cynic is less sure. My conversation with Prabal? Ammunition for the latter. When I asked him whether, during his job interview process, anyone had ever asked him “Tell me about a contribution you have made to the community that I wouldn’t know about from examining your CV, something that has benefited a great deal of other researchers and facilitated their work?” his answer: no.

Forward References

One of the many interesting things about IJ, at least to me, was its use of forward references in the endnotes. E.g., endnote #45, which reads “See Note 304 sub.” Actually I think there are a few like this. When I came across endnote #45 I actually didn’t skip forward to the forward-referenced note, since I thought, wait, 304 > 45, so WTF? Is this a trick? Why not just reverse the ordering and make 45 the long essay on Québécois separatism? It wasn’t until I read this note on Infinite Zombies which references that essay that I thought it was OK to go ahead and move forward and read it. Which I did.

Taking that as loose inspiration I want to toss in a few forward references of my own, since I find that my ability to come up with good subjects for blog posts outpaces my ability to write them. So here are things that I have been mulling about and hope will come out in these pages soon:

  • I’d like to do a series of posts based on a long conversation I had with Christoph Freytag while he was visiting us at SEAS. It was several days after I had presented some ongoing work at our weekly group meeting and we had a great, wide-ranging chat that touched on a large number of things: life, research, mentoring, etc. The parts I’d like to cover here — assuming I can get his permission to do so — were a series of observation he made of the sensor network field at large as a sage, external reviewer. I’ll get in touch with him and see what he thinks about me stealing some of his thunder here.
  • After HotOS’09 I’ve had a few posts bouncing around, including one on anonymity in reviewing[1. Which was re-invigorated by a strange path of link-clinking which lead me, IIRC, from something about IJ to this post on Planned Obsolescence, which deals with anonymous reviewing and quotes this piece from InsideHigherEd.com. Anyway, these thoughts lined up very well with my own and this post is actually already in the draft stage.], another on the aesthetics of computer systems design, and a third — already covered here — on an idea to increase the sustainability of computer science conferences.
  • Along those lines, I have another idea on improving the related work section of peer-reviewed papers, similar but not identical to the “novelty timeout” I proposed here.
  • I wanted to offer another perspective on the Vanity Fair article on Harvard that Professor Mitzenmacher[2. Clicker beware: Professor Mitzenmacher's homepage at present contains a massive unscaled image that caused my browser to lock up for ~60 seconds.] has already discussed in this post on his blog. I actually found the article and it’s tone extremely frustrating and wanted to assess it even before Professor Mitzenmacher beat me to it.
  • I have a bit of musing to do about my own approach to computer science research, motivated by the realization that I don’t enjoy writing computer code as much as colleagues and how that changes my approach to building systems. It’s also an excuse to connect with a great quote from a wonderful poem called “Top Story” by Mark Yakich[3. Who's married, in fact, to the sister of a friend of mine from college, which is how I learned of and acquired the excellent volume Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross. To confess fully, I actually (accidentally) lifted my copy from my friend's parents' home several years ago. I'm considering sending them one but I'm guessing they've acquired another already.]:
    …They say, you must not force sex
    to do the work of love or love to do
    the work of sex, but I’m not completely convinced.
    I mean, something has got to work somewhere,

    even if in reverse…

    Have I given the whole post away already? Probably not.

  • I wanted to review the movie (500) Days of Summer, which Suzanna and I saw yesterday on our six-month anniversary (!).
  • I obviously need to write the second half of this post, which really should be the next order of business, but which is frustrating and sad and head-of-the-line-blocking and preventing all the other wonderfulness above from getting done.
  • Finally, I wanted to write a Google fanboy post now that they’ve activated my Google Voice subscription. I’ve also been thinking a lot recently about facebook.com and their sequestering of information, but I need to make sure I have all the details before I wade into something like this.[4. Unusual for me, I know.]

So now that I’ve forward-referenced these topics I have the incentive to follow through, to make sure that the references aren’t broken, forever dangling sadly in space, pointing at nothing…

IJ Notes

Couple of things worth mentioning:

  1. Apparently my blog, specifically this section, was mentioned in this post over at the mothership. Count me as proud, my first external pingback[1. For whatever reason, for a long period of time internal references, such as one post linking to another, triggered the Wordpress pingback notifications. Which was weird, since I don't really need to know when I link to other posts on my blog since, um, I did it? But this time that feature came through for me, which was good because I was almost at the point of completely ignoring the notifications.]! However, that said, maybe I need to come up with a better name for this blog than “Geoffrey Werner Challen”?
  2. This post and its “deductive reasoning” confused me. At the time I’ll admit I didn’t attempt to perform the B.S. -> A.S. (?) mapping, but at the same time if I had I would have probably taken the Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile (sic) as a clue. To repeat, with some of the cruft collapsed: Y.O.T.Y.2007.M.R.C.V.M.E.T.I.U.F.I/I.T.S.F.H.O.O.M.(s). Which, as it turns out, was actually 2007. Slight snark aside, it was nice to see someone point that out, and the deductive reasoning ends up confirming the (somewhat) obvious.
  3. I have to say that I’ve noticed some goalpost moving when it comes to the “get to this page because it gets good after that” claim. “How to Read Infinite Jest” says “persevere to page 200.” I’m pretty sure I saw some who moved the it-gets-good point to page 250, but this Amazon.com review is I guess the best I can do. It claims that IJ is really 17 short stories until page 250. Finally, this point over at A Supposedly Fun Blog morphs this advice into “get to page 300, etc.” Hopefully this won’t continue all summer, with posts in late-August reading “just get to page 750[2. Or whatever page we'll be at that point.].” I’m actually enjoying the book, even the apparently not-so-good first 200/250/300 pages.
  4. Speaking of which, I actually enjoyed (to the degree you can enjoy something so dark) the much-maligned (1, 2[3. Not a complete maligning, but more of a "I understand if you have already maligned it" sort of thing.], 3) “yrstruly” sections, particularly the “2bdenied” compaction which I found a bit funny every time I came across it. That said, I remember hating these sections on my first attempt at IJ, so I get it. No clue why I enjoyed them so much this time. Maybe it’s the four seasons of The Wire separating now from then…

Might climb into bed with IJ in a minute. Or not. The All-Star game is (at least at this point) surprisingly interesting.

Pinned and Needled

Today is the Sensys’09 programming committee meeting, going on just down the street in our spaceship home, Maxwell-Dworin. So fairly soon we’ll hear about the fate of two papers our group sent in, one on system called Mercury — a paper I was peripherally involved with — and another on a system called Draft, which I lead authored along with my advisor and the fantastic Jason Waterman.

The review process is always fraught with tension, particularly around decision time, but I’m finding myself struggling a bit harder that usual to wait quietly by the internets for a verdict. I think a combination of various factors has led me to feel more invested that usual. Enumeration follows the break…
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Anticonfluentialism

Or, an update on my infinite summer progress to date. After a belated beginning I’m back on track, at pp. 223/endnote 77. This is a fairly exciting milestone in the book, for me, since it’s a) past where I believe I stopped the first time, b) at the point where we finally unearth some fairly important information, and, c) also along the guidelines laid out here, past page 200, at which point things apparently start to flow more together[1. Unless, of course, DFW is, himself, a disciple of anticonfluentialism.]. However, what I’ve been telling people is simply this: even as a collection of semi-related short stories the first 200 pages is a pleasure. Once it starts all coming together it’s going to be exciting.[2. I have to say that I appreciate that Wallace has started to reward our attention to the endnotes, obviously such a unique and potentially-frustrating property of IJ. The first big catch that I made was on the page facing the one that I'm currently stopped at, pp. 222, where a reference is made to "Jim's own Cage III: Free Show"." Anyone who really slogged through the sudden speed bump that was endnote 24 was rewarded (for the first time, at least).]

I’ve mentioned that I’m reading IJ to a few people, with reactions ranging from “That book?” to “What book?”. Among my computer-scientist set there’s the common complaint that the sheer amount of technical reading that we have to do — in researching related work, reviewing papers and just general keeping up with our own fields — precludes pleasure reading, either because it leaves the scientist with no time to read or with no inclination.

I can’t say that much about the time issue[3. Although my own foray into IJ led my wife and I to postpone Season 5 of The Wire. Well, that and the toll that that show takes on you if you watch it day after day.], but at least for me technical reading[4. Which I actually tend to enjoy, from a research perspective if not a aesthetic one.] tends to whet my appetite for literature, or at least well-written prose in the form of excellent magazines like The New Yorker. Usually the latter are more manageable within the confines of my schedule, with bits pre-broken up for easy mental digestion, and so I have to say that merging IJ and my research activities is a bit of an experiment.

Again, so far so good. One noticeable change to my reading patterns brought on at least partially by the nature of IJ and partly by being, well, busy is that I tend to read in shorter sections — 15, 20 pages before bed, five pages snatched here and there in the morning or as a break from work, etc. This sort of “tempo reading”[5. To borrow an appropriate analogue from bike and foot racing.] is I think quite appropriate for IJ, given the heightened mental capacity needed to really appreciate it. (That it tends to break down into semi-bite-sized pieces is quite an assist.) It’s not that you can’t follow the plot after more than 20 pages, but the initial pleasure of sitting down with the book and really getting it — catching the references, getting the more obscure bits of humor, being willing to pause to run to the O.E.D.[6. I should just point out here, with respect to David Eggers in many ways quite excellent forward the edition I possess: the bit about DFW not sending you running to the dictionary several times per page is simply false. In the interest of preserving my own sanity I have tended to eschew many of the pharmacological references, but have been trying to be good about looking up words that seem significant in context like ephebic and the even more interesting murated.] — tends to wane (at least for me), a good signal that it’s time to put it down. And pick up a research paper perhaps?

Contador v Armstrong

Obviously my only possible qualification for saying anything about the Tour de France is that I’ve watched it for years — some of them Lance Armstrong years, but I watched through the intervening period until his comeback this year. I could myself losing a bit of my athletic innocence, as it were, by Floyd Landis’ monstrous (but chemically-induced) stage victory in 2007. So I guess that, despite all the controversy, Armstrong did do something for competitive cycling’s fan base: he snared me.

Well, anyway, with that pedigree, here I go:

Most of the reports I’ve read and the immediate commentary on Stage 7 yesterday seemed to think that Alberto Contador’s move late on the slopes of Arcalis was somehow designed to settle the lingering leadership controversy on Team Astana. Of course, both Armstrong and Contador’s statements contradict that. While Armstrong claimed “surprise” he also played the teammate card, claiming he stayed back as Contador surged to mark other contenders in the group — such as Sastre or Evans — in the last kilometer. Contador claimed that he went under fresh legs but also motivated by the spanish locale, feeling a bit of hometown pride.

But if you look at the move itself, it seems like an odd split-the-difference move between the two teammates/rivals. Let’s break it down both ways, in terms of Contador v Armstrong as team-leader/teammate:

  • Armstrong leader, Contador domestique: If Lance was truly in the driver’s seat I don’t think that Contador’s attack happens. It seems like the tactics du jour were to ride to the front and drive a consistent high pace designed to break down the peloton and make further attacks difficult. As it were, this was the strategy that Astana followed for most of the day, and it worked.
  • Contador leader, Armstrong domestique: With the roles reversed I think that Contador’s attack comes much, much earlier. He did look extremely strong going up, with the initial acceleration in particular coming suddenly and with incredible force. This scenario calls for Armstrong to lay back and mark further attacks, pretty much what happened in the last kilometer yesterday.

To me then the most significant thing about Contador’s attack was where it took place: between 1 and 2 kilometers from the finish on a 10 kilometer climb! I didn’t see this important fact brought out in any of the reports I read, so my attempt at a contribution to the discussion. Again, if Contador is really fresh and in charge, he goes way earlier and takes a lot more time. If Armstrong is in charge, no Contador attack. An attack so late and purposely designed to not take too much time seems like a strange compromise between strategies. Not a harmful one, really, but a weird one.

Anyway, more fun during the next week, particularly next weekend. Who am I in for? Not sure, really. I was hoping that Lance’s return would signal a move towards more of the dramatic attacks that seemed to mark his tenure, with some of these missing in past years (particularly last year, which to me seemed like an overly-strategic and fairly boring Tour iteration), but we’ll see.

Yelp-ing

I have joined yelp.com. God help us. So far my reviews have been confined to bitches (1, 2) and stars, but hey, maybe I’ll develop some range someday.