Tales from the Lardbutt Peloton, August 25, 2004

Team Lardbutt isn't the fastest team in the US, it isn't the best-equipped team, and we sometimes wonder if it exists at all outside the imaginings of Chief Lardbutt Greg Taylor. Here's some Lardbutt philosophy on a subject we've all pondered - life's contradictions and ...

Meeting The Ghost

By Greg Taylor

Click here. Don't think - just do it.

For those less impulsive souls unwilling to temporarily abandon the safe and comfortable surroundings of our host, the good ship Cyclingnews, let me explain. This particular hotlink leads to Googlism.com, a website developed by an Australian company that is, for good or evil, slightly more addictive than salted peanuts. Googlism.com (not affiliated with Google itself, we are told) is an internet search engine whose function it is to go out and scrutinize the cyber-mothership of all search engines, Google, to see what it "thinks" about a topic of your choosing. You type your search term into a little box, the computer magically scours Google for opinions on your selected topic, and out pops the answer in a series of simple declarative sentences. Anything that you can think of is fair game for Googlism.com - people, places, things, or dates. Sometimes the resulting "Googlisms" are spot-on. Sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the results are hysterically funny. And sometimes the results are downright poetic.

Go ahead, fool around with it a bit.

Cool, isn't it?

After spending some time mining for Googlisms about obvious stuff - me, my dog, my boss - I decided that it might be an educational exercise to get the measure of Google's opinions on a variety of cycling-related subjects.

First up was our kind and tolerant host, Cyclingnews. In they went, and out popped the following:

Well all right! Google is indeed remarkably well informed when it comes to recognizing the premier sources for cycling news and top web sites. I suspect that advertising rates may go up shortly.

Okay, what about riders then? Let's survey Google's opinion on some current bike racers. Picking a name at random, our first subject was Frank Hoj, who is riding for Bjarne Riis' Team CSC this year. An excellent rider, he'd be a good test for Google. So in he went and, after cogitating a while, the computer spat out a single, enigmatic line:

Well, obviously Frank Hoj is away. It's the middle of the afternoon in Europe, for goodness sake. He's probably out riding his bike. Let's try someone else.

How about Floyd Landis? He's one of my favorite riders and, with his exploits at the Tour this year, Landis has emerged as one of Lance Armstrong's key teammates. Surely Google will have a lot to say about Floyd.

I wasn't disappointed. We had a bit of a false start when the search term "Floyd Landis" came back blank. No hits. Undeterred, I shortened it up to simply "Landis", which produced a small avalanche of information. Google knows all about Floyd. Some of it wasn't terribly surprising:

landis is a talented climber and time trialist landis is still upbeat

Some of it was rather surprising:

And some of it was, well, strange:

landis is everything and nothing landis is a warped individual and it shows in some of the strange things he finds funny landis is the national soil data base for england and wales landis is also very good at recreating the texas of 1870

I don't remember reading any of that in the U.S. Postal press kit. Maybe Floyd Landis is a bit more of a Renaissance Man than we all thought.

Having garnered these stunning new insights into the life and career of Mr. Floyd Landis, it became obvious that my research would not be complete until I ran a search on his team leader at U.S. Postal. So in went "Lance"... and...

Wow. All I have to say is that, according to Google, there is a side to Lance that most fans and followers of the sport apparently don't know about.

For starters, I am very happy to report that Lance has successfully completed his obedience training:

lance is impeccably house trained but also crate trained; basic obedience and leash trained; shakes hands

His companion, Ms. Crow, is undoubtedly ecstatic with this development, and it will certainly ease things with his many sponsors during promotional appearances. ("No Lance! Heel! Awww... don't do that on the rug! Bad Lance... baaaaad Lance!")

Google has also checked in with single females between the ages 18 and 32, a demographic who clearly thinks that the big hunky Texan is... um... just swell:

Most importantly, Google has not forgotten that Lance is first and foremost a multiple Tour de France champion and an inspiration to millions as a result of his battle with cancer:

So it was a bit of a shock to learn about Lance's heretofore-unknown singing career with the boy-group NSYNC:

And I suspect that Google was just having some fun with me when it fingered Lance as the purveyor of those little cellophane-wrapped packets of cheese-flavored peanut butter crackers that you find in vending machines around the globe:

Oh never mind. I'll just rely on Cyclingnews for all of my Lance updates, thank you.

Before shutting the computer down I decided to pose one last parting question to the Great And All-Knowing Google. I'd thought about it a while and it was, if I must say so myself, a real humdinger. A philosophical question, a question for the ages: what is a bike?

I punched in my inquiry and waited. What came back exceeded my expectations. It was insightful. It was poignant. It was witty. It was brilliant. It was, after some minor trimming and pruning, some pretty damn fine poetry --


Good lord, a computer did this. Stunning. Brilliant. I guess that there are those who will say that the only possible explanation for why the search results are so lyrical and full of insight is that we've gotten a little glimpse of the latent bit of humanity that resides within the Internet, the imprint of the souls of all who have had a hand in creating and maintaining this electronic wonder. The ghost in the machine, deus ex machina for those who went to Catholic school. A ghost with the soul of a poet and the heart of a cyclist.

And before we get too carried away here, it's also ghost who tells people that Floyd Landis is a gay minister in Denver.

Man, you gotta love a ghost like that. It makes paying extra every month for that high-speed Internet connection worth every penny. Now if we could only get that ghost to do something about all that SPAM...

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