Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mark Foley and Dirty Tricks Thursday

GOP Congressman Mark Foley resigned over innapropriate emails and IM messages to teen boys. Read about it here. Be advised of a very strong parental advisory concerning the IM messages.

Mr. Bingley of the Coalition of the Swilling wonders why the St. Petersburg Times sat on a story they knew of last November:
And what is the deal with the St. Petersburg Times, which seemed to know all this a year ago and has sat on it until...4 weeks before the election? Aren't they an accessory to any crime by not reporting it to the police?
The reason why a media outlet would sit on a story for nine months and risk getting scooped is the concept known as Dirty Tricks Thursday (n.): the Thursday before an election when candidates often accuse opponents of scandalous behavior, knowing that the charges will bring headlines while also allowing the opponents little time to refute the charges.

In my humble opinion, I believe that these Mediunhueren wanted to spring this at the last minute and lost the story by doing so.

Friday, September 29, 2006

No pressure or anything

In about ten minutes the computer's going to join the printer and the television in the trunk of the Discount Chariot. I should be re-wired in the new digs sometime over the weekend. Thanks to our generous new contributor, the Hive can keep its shingle out while I'm knee-deep in box.

Sergeant, you have the conn.

Circa 1984

Check behind my head - apparently Rich just opened something I'd given him.
A Christmas photo of yours truly and my brother, inspired by all the hullaballo at Tracey's. Mom's got all the really good pics from Halloween and etc (such as you see here) but this for now.

Dig the hi-boy stereo and the stack of 8-tracks up top.

slight tweak - I realized that it looked like the second link was one of those pictures from my Mom, when it is in fact another of Tracey's commenters. The request was to see those obsessed little kids enjoying those obsessions. That's just an example. Thank you; carry on.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

There's nothing wrong with your computer - it's only a Barking Spider

The Nightfly has graciously gave me permission to post on his blog. He has a real life (which just got a lot realer) and both of us found it hard to post as much as we should. So I am the Hamburger Helper of the Hive.

I first met the Nightfly seventeen years ago in dorm at Rutgers University. I was a 30-year-old sophomore (I was in the Air Force before RU) and it was the day before the freshman Nightfly's 17th birthday. I was the dorm daddy shepherding about 30 young skulls full of mush. The Nightfly's Mom had a little separation anxiety, and was able to leave after I promised that I would watch over the young fly.

Quick aside: On the same weekend of Freshman Brainwash- - I mean Orientation, the Nightfly's roommate asked me where the local Catholic Church was. I had no idea. In dorm daddy school I learned what to do if someone was hooked on booze or drugs, or got pregnant or was suicidal or gay (or hooked on booze AND gay AND pregnant), but the leaders of dorm daddy school never thought that some new students would want to hook up with the Lord instead of each other. But I digress.

As you all know, the Nightfly is a pretty solid Catholic guy; sociologists would call him a John Paul II Catholic. I am probably best described as an evangelical Christian guy - I come from the spritual awakening that was going through the military in the '80's. I also found that Jesus of Nazareth was the only way I was keeping sober.

(I know what your thinking: "I was all messed up on booze till I found the Lord, now I'm all messed up on the Lord.")

But part of JPII's legacy was evident at RU back then. The Catholic guys and the evangelical guys hung out together - this is something that JPII encouraged. And that continues today.
I have lived in Tampa for the last ten years. Posts from me will be mostly, political, current events and religious items. This is probably the most I've wrote about myself in a post.


I write in italics so you know it's me and not the Nightfly posting.

More later.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I had one of these as a kid

No, not the top picture, though I agree with Mr. Lileks' narration on the subject. The bottom picture - the Space:1999 lander. Totally had one of those. Moonbase Alpha had floated serenely into the Galactic Republic, where it was regularly visited by the Millenium Falcon, Wedge in his X-Wing (I always dug Wedge - the man survived two Death Star runs, so he obviously rocked wicked hard), and whichever GI Joe guys wanted to tag along.

I think that the Star Wars guys secretly envied the Joes. Well, maybe not Vader: "Superior articulation is insignificant next to the power of the Force." But secretly, he had to wonder - I took the lava bath and got replacement limbs that don't bend? My saber comes out of my shockingly-rigid right arm? Can we blow up Planet Kenner next, my master?

But the last straw had to be when Buck Rogers showed up with bendable elbows. Oh, that is IT. We are throwing down, Smirky. You'll wish they had beaming in your stupid continuity.

I think that G-Force had to feel most left out, however. Even the Galactica toys could get by in a pinch. Sure, the Cylons couldn't get served in Mos Eisley, but I got the first edition fighters, the ones that still shot the little missiles out of the sides - before safety concerns made the manufacturer take that feature out. That was cool, so they made the cut. But G-Force were the wrong scale - a model, not a genuine toy, and with no actual figures, since each would only have been about a half-inch high relative to the Phoenix.

Sadly, this is almost actual size.
Their entire ship would have fit into the Falcon's cargo hold; the Star Wars guys were mean about it, too. "Hey, Luke - did you paint your landspeeder again?" Even the picture is tiny (only one I could find on short notice). Naturally I had to build an entire fleet of Lego craft to keep them company. And those Legos had it all working for them, too - at home dogfighting, hobnobbing with anyone, and nobody expecting them to be to scale everywhere. The minifigs basically looked like jawas, so it was all cool there. The smaller ships could be recon droids. They bridged the gap, they made it all work. It's no wonder that eventually there would be Star Wars Lego sets everywhere. (For a c-note I could get my own 800+ piece Falcon and come full circle, or, with patience, build my own. Some of these are actually quite awesome.)

There's one ship I wish I could show you, however: the Star Hawk, circa '81 or '82. It took batteries in the front compartment and played different FX, with two red LEDs in the nose for lasers. The back had two portable crappy fighters that popped off and reattached. I can't find even a trace of it.

OH - of course. Star BIRD. Behold the goodness. And on an unrelated note, I have to spend the next four hours on eBay for no reason whatsoever.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Right on cue

Just got back from some schlepping of items to the new digs, turned on MNF. Saints are smooshing the Falcons. On the bottom crawl, the big news - the Madden Curse claims its next victim. "Seattle RB Shaun Alexander (cracked bone in foot) out indefinitely."

Sorry, Ladybug.

Musical Monday

Back in college, the Barking Spider would tease me with stuff like, "Hey! Mike just discovered a hot new band called SUPERTRAMP." There are certain exceptions such as the Anderson Council, but I'm old before my time.

This hasn't changed much, as you can tell from last week's installment. My first impulse is still the retro racks. There are three major sources of new stuff in my little musical world:
  1. Old bands with new records
  2. Soundtracks
  3. Video games
Is this reputable? Am I playing it too safe? I already know that I enjoy Steely Dan or U2, so it's not like it's a challenge to pick up their next album; I've already heard the soundtrack stuff when I saw the show; and the main draw of the game is the play, not whatever interesting stuff they've licensed.

For me, it's about enjoying what I listen to. I'm not much of one to go get a disc because it's an important release or an essential classic album. It's not such a bad deal, really. And the odd chances that get me to a new band are well worth it - I got to see the Anderson Council for the first time live from the bassist's backyard, thanks to an in from Dawn Eden. (The guys remembered the happy mouth, too. I'm touched.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Less shame, more stealing

Lisa stole this meme, and now I'm stealin' it back...

  1. First name? Mike
  2. Were you named after anyone? I was named after my sire (for lack of a better term). I was officially "Michael Dominick R----- II" until my mother's remarriage and my adoption. That's why my younger brother is "Jr." and I am not.
  3. Last cry? When doves cry. Who knows? It's been months at least.
  4. Do you like your handwriting? It's not the neatest, especially if I'm in a hurry; it's sort of a mishmosh, half-caps thing. It reminds me of my father's, except that he was neater. My Mom, on the other hand, looks like she's forging a cursive textbook.
  5. What is your favorite lunch meat? Probably turkey.
  6. Kids? Someday, I hope.
  7. If you were anohter person, would you be friends with you? Possibly. I'm told that I'm very friendly. I'm also told that I'm loud and hyper.
  8. Do you have a journal? You're looking at it. I've tried to diarize a few times, but it's not me.
  9. Do you use sarcasm a lot? I'm more of a hyperbole/metaphor guy.
  10. Do you still have your tonsils? Right now, I have about twice as much tonsil as usual.
  11. Would you bungee jump? I would enjoy it, but I would never do it, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
  12. What is your favorite cereal? Corn Pops.
  13. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No, I just untie them at random throughout the day. (Note to self - revise #9.)
  14. Do you think you are strong? No, but I'm stubborn. Physically I'm no Hercules, that's for sure.
  15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Dexter Freebish at Thomas Sweet in New Brunswick, NJ. I also enjoy anything in the mocha genre.
  16. Shoe size? 10½.
  17. What is the least favorite thing about yourself? My tendency to complain.
  18. Who do you miss the most? My dad. Every day.
  19. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Olive khakis, sneakers.
  20. What are you listening to right now? An eighties mix; currently playing is "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo.
  21. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? What is this, media week at Dumbass Community College? Fine - I choose Burnt Umber. I always imagined that this color smells like marshmallows roasted over a campfire.
  22. Favorite smell? Heh, you just got it. I love the smell of a wood fireplace, especially when there's snow outside and hot chocolate inside.
  23. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? My ladybug.
  24. The first thing you notice in a person you're attracted to. Their eyes, and how they smile.
  25. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Lisa, do I like you? Sure, why not!
  26. Favorite drink? I'm a coffee fiend, but I've been trying to cut back - successfully, so far. But I like to add a little something happy to the coffee for special occasions.
  27. Favorite sport? The Lord's Own hockey.
  28. Eye color? Dark brown.
  29. Hat size? Small (please hold your jokes until the end). On the rink, I actually wear the largest-sized junior helmet. I don't know what number that works to.
  30. Do you wear contacts? No, but I may need to start.
  31. Favorite food? I will eat nearly anything. I'm partial to Indian, as a special treat.
  32. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy ending, thank you.
  33. Last movie you watched at the theater? Cars. Well worth it.
  34. What color shirt are you wearing? I'm wearing my Leeroy Jenkins t-shirt.
  35. Summer or winter? Each has its charms. I love snow. I enjoy sunshine. But spring is best, I think.
  36. Hugs or kisses? Or?
  37. Favorite dessert? Flan. It's the Happy Dessert!
  38. What books are you reading? 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - I'd never actually read it, so it was time.
  39. What's on your mouse pad? The Dell logo.
  40. What did you watch last night on TV? Nil.
  41. What are your favorite sounds? Laughing kids, purring cats, my girlfriend on the other end of the phone, good music, a live hockey crowd.
  42. Rolling Stones or Beatles? The Beatles.
  43. The furthest you've been from home? Miami.
  44. Where were you born? Lindenhurst, Long Island

Your turn, pardners.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Keeping priorities straight

update and bump - and a tip of the wings to Brian at Memento Moron, for scooping the story and carrying it downfield.

Death threats; how pleasant. Guys, you need to quit acting like University of Hezbollah. You're in school to learn, so learn how to be adults and stop being so frickin' emo about a football game.

Tough losses cause crazy reactions - for example, last Saturday's tough Oregon/Oklahoma football game; in the last 75 seconds Oregon scored two touchdowns and blocked Oklahoma's potential winning field goal try. This involved a couple of controversial calls, and Oklahoma complained to the NCAA, as is their right. However, one's choice of phrase may require toning down:
To describe the lapses in accurate officiating at the Oklahoma-Oregon football game last Saturday as constituting an outrageous injustice is an understatement.

That's university president David Boren in an open letter urging the Big 12 Conference to protest to the Pac-10. (If you publish it on your university web site, it's rather open, no?) As it happens, they had a point about the officiating being substandard. The Pac-10's press release on this is rather well-mannered considering the hyperbole in Boren's missive.

I note, in passing, that a lapse in officiating would render it inaccurate by definition, but passing over that for the moment... "outrageous injustice" is an understatement? It may cost the university some money if they go to a second-tier bowl game or miss their conference championship, but nobody was injured by it, unless you count that one guy who got so mad that he punched his refrigerator, but he was kinda sloshed anyway, and really, he was just mad that the bean dip spilled and played it off later when he came back into the room and heard what happened.

There, see how silly that sounds? Being a former governor and senator, perhaps Mr. Boren is just used to reaching for the stars when contemplating justice. When this is in the news, then I think that outrage over a sports contest is somehow misplaced.

It's entirely possible that young Sam Ashaolu will die. That is an outrage. A lost football game shrinks in the mind after that. Sure, I've shouted ridiculous things in the heat of the game; I've written blog posts fisking columns and critiquing umpires, being one who enjoys a good sport-themed argument. The difference knowing that it's ridiculous, that I can be passionate and still be friends with the other side of the debate at the end. It's much like sport itself in that way. If we invested it with too much meaning, then we'd enjoy it less and all the arguments would have to turn into grudges and genuine enmity.

God bless France

She has lost one of her finest daughters:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Helene Deschamps Adams, a daring World War II spy and French Resistance fighter who saved American fliers from capture and Jews from execution by the Nazis and played a role in secret preparations for Allied invasions of France, has died.

She passed away on Saturday, but this is just hitting the public now, as far as I can see from the web. Deschamps Adams had a heck of a story, all the more compelling for being true. She left studies at a convent to join the Resistance: "She was fond of saying, 'I didn't like the idea of Nazis taking over my country,' her daughter said."

Her daughter's name is Karyn Anick Monget - "Anick" was her mother's code name in the OSS. It must mean "frickin' awesome" in some language.

She rescued downed US fliers before the Nazis could find them and guided groups of Jews to safety across the Spanish border... brazenly posed as a secretary at the Vichy headquarters of the ... French equivalent of the Gestapo... Another time, faced with the choice of being blown up or having her cover blown, she walked into a building where she knew a bomb had been planted. She barely escaped, bleeding and partially deafened, when it exploded.

That's my poor emphasis. Holy shamoly, is that ever amazing. And we thank you.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Short-term memory loss

Every Tuesday part of my lunchtime reading is Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN.com. About a page and a half down today, there's this throwaway nugget from Easterbrook:

And in other news, why isn't Kenneth Starr investigating Reggie Bush? Who paid for that room-service cheeseburger? Come on, don't tell me you've already forgotten who Kenneth Starr is.

I haven't. Don't tell me you've already forgotten who Patrick Fitzgerald is.

update, 6:10 pm - he hits Starr again on the bottom of page five regarding the Reggie thing. Thing is, he makes some good points about Bush's possible benefits while in college, so OK, one official pass on that. However, right above he also says of the Segway person-mover: "Being hit by 105 pounds of metal moving 12 mph is equivalent to being popped by an NFL linebacker."

Only if said linebacker picked it up and clobbered you with it. The last time any NFL linebacker weighed 105 pounds was in grammar school, and at a 4.5 second time in the 40 meter run, a sprinting linebacker will approach 20 mph over the very short term. Being hit with a Segway is more like being popped by a high-school cross-country runner, which is still unpleasant.

That being said, I agree that the Segway is not really a good pedestrian equivalent, especially on crowded city streets. They're heavy, take up a lot of space, and don't even move as quickly as a bicycle.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Twenty years and a day

update - 9:40 pm - done deal; Willingham flies to Floyd in left. So far, only ballplayers on the field. The Bravos and their '95-'05 division run are officially cooked like Christmas ham. Oh, and "Takin' Care of Business" has been played out for what, twenty-five years? What, you couldn't find a cut of "Celebration"? Geez, Kool and the Gang probably would have done it live for you guys.

On September 17th, the Mets beat the Cubs and won the NL East, back when there were only two divisions per league, and winning one was the only ticket to the playoffs.

On that occasion the fans stormed the field afterward and tore it to shreds, leaving the Mets with a nearly unplayable field for the next game. This year, there's three outs left (it's currently Beltran leading off the home eighth), and I think it will be better; the Mets have made the playoffs a few times in the past eight years (albeit as a wild card) so the only mayhem should be in the plastic-shrouded lockers down in the clubhouse.

The Mets' starter 20 years ago was Dwight Gooden. This year, it was Steve Traschel. Amazingly, Trax held the Marlins to three hits in 6 and 1/3 innings. But things really got loud when the Mets turned a sweet 3-6-3 DP in the top half of this inning, and even louder when Aaron Heilman struck out the third guy on a 96-mph heater.

Otherwise, it's interesting that the Mets, both then and now, sort of backed into this - the '86ers were swept in Philly before clinching at home, and the '06ers took the mickey three times in Pittsburgh before tonight's game.

I'm afraid to call the Barking Spider, what with this and the Gints/Iggles last night.

Thanks to all of the visitors following Sheila's link - there's plenty below so help yourself and join the commenting!

Musical Martin

This is all Sheila's fault.

Ten bucks at Target - what are you waiting for?
How could I have passed this up?

Other artists usually have serious cover shots for a hits album, or splashy graphics and fancy packaging. Not Dino. All Dino needs is a casual picture (probably staged, but still catching him at ease) on a clean silver background. Add his name, and there you go. Of course I bought it. Thirty songs, smooth and creamy, bite-sized nuggets of perfect cool.

No wonder my happy heart sings!
This shot is from the interior, and it's Dean all over. Someone off-camera probably cracked a joke. I like to think, instead, that it's the exact moment that his daughter Deana mentions in the liner notes - "He saw Mom and I and, before he gave the signal to start the session, he stepped from the riser and gave each of us a kiss and a hug."

Both her and her sister Gina give great remembrances of Dean. Steve Van Zandt somehow gets into these liner notes too, and gives us this: "He would always be a part of my personality, just as the Rolling Stones would be. I would combine the two in the E Street Band playing Dino to Bruce Springsteen's Sinatra. And this is what David Chase would pick up on when he cast me in the Sopranos twenty years later."

OK, so, Steve? All those shots of you in the bandana crouching next to Bruce like a puppy while he's trying to play? Not cool like Dino. The Sopranos? Totally not about your "resemblance" to Dino. These liner notes? NOT ABOUT YOU AT ALL, YOU WANKER.

Luckily, all his self-delusion is on one convenient page, back-to-back, and easily removable with a pair of scissors without losing a single picture of Dino or a word of his daughters' memories. I think I owe it to Dino to trim it away. Steve's liner notes NEVER HAPPENED. On with the music.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why bother?

If you had something to say in the dark days before the World-Wide Web, you had few choices:
  1. an overturned, empty soap box on a street corner
  2. a visit to a bar to get good and oiled before holding forth
  3. self-published pamphlets with oddly-place Captial letters decrying Tyranny of the Publick
Now, of course, all you have to do is stay in your little Hive, tippity-type away, and click a few times. Ta-da! Now your words are in the public forum for the nations of earth to see. You can even skip the drunk part, though it may help some.

The thing is, once you got up on that box, or that barstool, you had to pay a small price - people got to talk back. They could shout you down, or leave, or disagree, or what have you. The web (WORLD-WIDE, lest we forget) is the same thing. Sure, you can close the comments and put up screeching hissy fits about not liking the replies, but that doesn't stop anything. Anyone can say what they like on their own space, and they can link back to you to show the original, just as a person's words can be quoted from a pamphlet. Heck, if you litter the park with your little missives, someone could even take it home and write a reply. You can tell them not to, I suppose, but if you didn't want people to have them, why did you print them?

This post from the ISB demonstrates a fine example of this silliness, WWW style, in the form of a comic blogger named James Meeley. He was quoted from time to time, in various places, for things he'd written on his brand-new blog. Five posts, total, it was, and he was getting links, which is a nice little intro. Many bloggers work a lot longer for little or no notice. But he didn't like that people linked him without his permission and went about complaining about it everywhere.

Here's the thing - on his front page, he had a Technorati link labelled "Links to This Blog." If you really don't want them, why advertise them?

I'd show you, but, well - see for yourself. The gentleman in question took his blog and went home - sort of funny, since that's where a blog usually comes from in the first place. I couldn't even find a cache image for you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kids wear the darndest things

It's not too hard to find products marketed for children that make the parents' stomachs clench.

Abercrombie and Fitch have had their well-known travails in this area; one could make a case that a lot of their clothes were at least marketed to teenagers with their own income, although marketing clothes with unclothed models is not a strategy that readily occurs to an average shopper.

Still, they're hardly the only ones, and any trip to a mall or a tourist souvenir shop will furnish one with anecdotes to last until crotchety old age. Yes, yes, then of course I don't have to dress my kids like that, who am I to judge, etc. etc. [/lileksvoice]

This happens to be good advice - so good, in fact, that I don't feel in the least uncomfortable about offering it back - you don't have to dress your kids like that either. Should I have a child I plan to keep this excellent advice. I'll not see her wearing such things as "bitch," "sexy," "naughty," or "hot stuff" across her pre-teen rumpus. And if he's a boy, neither will he be sporting t-shirts such as I saw on a recent trip to Sears:

1. "Now Hiring - Person to do my homework and house chores. Must also sit in detention for me. Dial 555-LAZY."
2. "Do you mind? I'm trying to ignore you."
3. "Warning - Kid Has Attitude. Stay back 50 feet."

Yup, all wholesome ideals any kid should aspire to.

No one has to dress a kid in this stuff, but we have to put up with that kid seeing them on his peers and wondering why he isn't enough of a delinquent to be cool like them. Those pressures are great enough without the implied approval of sloth and incivility. Kids have always had attitude - but it's a lot harder to grow out of it when the parents are buying shirts that support staying the way they are. Warning? We shouldn't have to be warned about them - they need to be warned to knock it off. (Then again, one of the other slogans was: "Go ahead and send me to my room, I've got pizza and video games!")

So, young fogey that I am, I'm pretty sure that dressing kids like this is a bad idea. Clothes like this undercut a parent's authority - it's like a note to disregard whatever they say about manners, hard work, or discipline. Will it turn them into degenerate junkies or Klan bikers or something? No, and I'm not staking out that kind of territory. The changes are subtle. You don't get a long time at all to establish sound habits of mind and body in a child. Letting that foundation crack early robs a child of strength that he will need later. A t-shirt is a laughing matter; a kid who blows off unpleasant tasks is more serious. The kid may do it anyway, but he ought to at least know better while he's doing it - he shouldn't feel proud of it, nor scoff at anyone who's trying to help him become an adult someday.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Appreciating Dean Martin Appreciation Day

Click here and start scrolling. When Sheila gets a hold of a topic, it takes off - I confess that I couldn't take time to read it all, but I bookmarked the hell out of everything and tonight I will have reading material for a solid two hours, at least. This is all great, great work.

Besides, if there's anyone we can appreciate, it's Dean Martin.

Didn't want to have to do it

I didn't want to touch this story, in any way. But I can't get away from it - much the same way the Isles can't get away from Rick DiPietro now. Ever.

Charles Wang's idea was simple - keep the #1 goalie happy and fix costs at the same time. So, every year until he turns forty, DiPietro will collect an identical $4.5 million from the Islanders. It sounds so good, and so deceptively simple, and it's all just wrong.

Part of this, of course, is that the Isles are already crippled by Alexei Yashin's $7.6 million per year - a number which may be justifiable if Yashin were the best forward in the entire league, instead of maybe the fourth best on his own mediocre team. It's Yashin's contract that is really killing the Isles. That $7.6 million means that they couldn't even consider a run for Patrik Elias, or a trade-and-re-sign of Marian Gaborik. It's why they couldn't retain Roman Hamrlik or Adrian Aucoin, their two best defensemen from 2003-04. It's why they will be hard-pressed to keep Trent Hunter, Denis Grebeshkov, or Jeff Tambellini if they develop into top-flight talent.

But back to DiPietro. I'm not quite of the Scott Burnside opinion (or the Allan Muir opinion) that this is a hugely stupid move; it's more that the Isles outsmarted themselves. DiPietro is currently not worth $4.5 million, and especially not when that number is about 10% of the NHL salary cap. He may be later, but that's where the true anti-genius of this bad contract comes into play. The contract is too long, and thus too inflexible. If DiPietro regresses this season (as he did following the long lockout) he'll be overpaid and untradeable. If he suddenly emerges as a Vezina candidate, then he becomes underpaid, and wondering whether or not it may be in his best interests to hold out for more, or force a renegotiation. Somebody is going to be unhappy about this, no matter what.

Of course, as a fan I hope that DiPietro outperforms the contract, and I have more confidence than Burnside that it can happen. (Burnside even refuses to acknowledge his one lonely playoff win, against Tampa Bay in the first-round washout in 2004.) DiPietro improved as the year went on, behind a worse team defensively - a team that, in the end, had only one of their top six defenders from the previous season still in the lineup (Radek Martinek, not exactly the second coming of Denis Potvin). Check the numbers - he faced only 24.7 shots per game in '03-'04, but 28.5 per game last year. His team scored slightly fewer goals per game in front of him as well (2.9 to 2.8), and with the increased emphasis on offense producing higher scores league-wide, any decline was likely to be a disaster even if DiPietro had played better.

But still - between this, and Yashin, and the GM circus, the franchise is turning into a Ringling Brothers sideshow, and that's not the way to attract top talent on or off the ice. It's no way to keep a fan base. It's almost like a Slapshot/Major League scheme to move the team someplace.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Ten Best Animated Movies

...as written in semi-English by a Disney intern. (w/t to Cullen)

So – OK, thanks for playing, but no.

I’m going to give this a shot. My guidelines are: any animated film, including stop-animation such as Wallace and Gromit, but limited to what I’ve seen. I’m sure they’re wonderful, but I can’t list stuff like “Akira” and “Ghost in the Shell” based strictly on their reputation. Live action movies with animated sequences are ineligible – no Mary Poppins (which I love, btw), no Mr. Limpet, no Roger Rabbit (thank Heaven).* These are listed in no particular order:

The Incredibles – impeccably voiced, wonderful characters, and a terrific balance between drama, action, and humor. You really invest in the characters and care about what happens to them. It doesn’t hurt that Metroville is utterly gorgeous. The topper is the soundtrack, which is a perfect match to the movie.

The Iron Giant – this one flies under the radar a little bit. Hogarth’s joy in finding his very own six-story robot is infectious. You see him grow as a person as he begins to teach the Giant and works to outwit Agent Manley. Bonus points for a strong supporting cast and one of the finest moments in any movie I’ve ever seen. (You know the one. It’s getting misty in here.)

Spirited Away – if you’re not greedy, you will go far. This lovingly-rendered tale of generosity and compassion is my favorite of Miyazaki’s movies.*

The Adventures of Mark Twain – a bit of an unusual choice, as this marked a dark time for full-length stop-motion. The Claymation process was time-consuming and quite expensive for a feature film, so Will Vinton eventually returned to shorts and ads (the California Raisins are probably his most famous creation); he also branched out into different animation styles and formats, creating (among other things) the spokescandies for M&Ms. This is such a great-looking movie, and the set pieces of Twain’s works are wonderful, albeit oddly plotted.

(I picked this over “Chicken Run” for three reasons: this came first (1985), I’m a huge Twain fan, and despite enjoying “Chicken Run” I can’t for the life of me remember more than a couple of scenes. I realize that this goes against the 31 Movies lists I did. If I had to do it over, I’d go this way.)

The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton may hate to hear something like this, but for all the dark goth trappings, he’s really a sentimental guy at heart, and in a good way. This movie is a great example of the interior sentiment showing through the exterior.

Animalympics – really nothing more than an elaborate excuse for riffs on big-time sports and famous celebrity impersonations, but it’s done very well. (In one segment, Billy Crystal, as Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, essentially interviews himself – only Ali is a kangaroo.) They hit the nordic events, fencing, track and field, hockey, and basketball along the way. One of my absolute favorites when I was a boy.

Monsters, Inc. – I love all the Pixar films; at this point they could animate the want ads and I’d pay ten bucks to see it. If anyone wants to pick their other films, you get no argument here. I went with this one because of the Chuck Jones homage, the amazing animating work (especially on Sully), the cast, and because the last scene always hits me right where I live.

An American Tail – this movie has such heart it has to go over "The Secret of NIMH," even if that is technically the “better” picture. It also does a wonderful job of showing both the great promise of the American Dream and the great struggles immigrants actually have – it’s a more balanced look at the topic than most documentaries.

Dumbo – only 65 minutes long, and yet it gave us classic sequences: “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “When I See an Elephant Fly,” the disaster under the big top, and Dumbo’s visit to his mom; and such wonderful, vivid characters. When Dumbo finally takes off at the finish I'm so happy for him I always feel like I'm zooming around the big top with him. Lots of early Disney is great, but this stands out for me.

Lady and the Tramp – it was a toss-up between this and “Pinocchio.” I couldn’t really say why I went this way instead of the other, but I had to pick one. None of this “10-a and 10-b” stuff. Maybe it’s the great songs, and the idea of seeing the world from the dogs’ point of view; maybe it’s Jock and Trusty (one of the great friendships of animation)*, or the sequence in the zoo. Most likely it’s the idea of Tramp’s redemption, and the way the other characters are noble without being the snobs he assumes they are, and come to his aid at the end.

*Strictly speaking, this also means no Fantasia, which breaks my heart. It has long been a favorite of mine; my father took me to see this in a theatrical re-release, in the dark days before VHS, on the expectation that it would be the only time we could see it for years. Others I enjoyed but which couldn’t break into the top ten – Beauty and the Beast, Shrek (1 & 2), Rock and Rule, and Starchaser: the Legend of Orin, which is such a shameless Star Wars ripoff that it should have a surgeon general’s warning.

*Sometimes, I get grief from people who think I’m not a real fan of anime because I haven’t gone out to learn Japanese or rent all sorts of hyper-obscure shows and movies. Believe me, I know there’s more out there. I’m a casual enthusiast, if you will, but I don’t have to own a damned giant robot to be a “real fan,” and I certainly don’t have to register a certain grade on whatever test someone else hands out. If you want to enjoy being harder-core than me, knock yourself out; I’d rather enjoy the actual show.


*Now there’s an idea for some follow-ups: Great Friends of Animation, Best Heroes, Best Villains, etc. This blog will turn into nothing but running items if I’m not careful.

Musical Monday

Again, not really Monday, but there was a little something else going on that day. My inspiration is every story told me by friends with rampaging nephews.

Your story's sad to tell
A preschool ne'er-do-well
Most juvenile delinquent in the school
You're barely turning four now
You should have learned before now
No babysitter wants to be your fool

Nursery school dropout
No more arts and crafts for you
Nursery school dropout
Broke all the crayons and ate the glue
Well you could at least take potty breaks
Without all that complaining
After all the trouble your folks had
To get you toilet training!

Better get moving
Why throw a tantrum on the floor
What are you proving?
You're not a toddler anymore!
You have to learn to take your turn, it's better to play fair
Clean out your cubby hole and go back to day care

Nursery school dropout
Wiping your nose on teacher's shirt
Nursery school dropout
Playing with food and eating dirt
Well they try to teach the alphabet
But you laugh and rip the pages
And you pick on all your classmates
But at least they act their ages!

We can forgive it
If you just get yourself in line
Better get with it
It's almost kindergarten time
Your lips are curled, your bangs are twirled
But still your teachers stare
Wipe off that angel face and go back to day care

Baby, don't blow it
This misbehavior is a shame
Baby, you know it
Even Doc Dobson would say the same!
Now I've called your dad, quit being bad, you'd better toe the line
Or you'll be going into Time Out 'til bedtime

Nursery school dropout...
Go back to day care!
Nursery school dropout...
Go back to day care!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A tribute to Angela Houtz

update and bump - everyone's tributes are up, as far as I can tell. Also, ESPN.com's Kieran Darcy wrote his column today for his father, Dwight Darcy, who was killed in the attack.



ALWAYS REMEMBER
This entry will remain on top for the next 36 hours. The regular Musical Monday will be pushed to Tuesday as a result.

This is the main page for the 2996 Project. Many of the Pantheon are also doing tributes. Please take the time to visit them; the link will take you to the direct post, or to the main page if the post isn't ready yet:

Michael J Pascuma at the Sheila Variations
Tom Burnett and Michael J Simon at It Comes In Pints?
Sylvia and John Resta at Coalition of the Swilling
Thomas W Kelly, FNDY at Trunk Full O Junk
Benito Valentine at Half a Pica
Jason Michael Cefalu at This Life
James M Roux at Grizzly Mama
Andrea Della Bella and others at A Wandering Confluence
And this general memorial from the Judge Report

On September 7, 2001, Angela Houtz joined her family in Ocean City, MD, to make holiday. She had turned 27 the previous day, but work had prevented her from arriving sooner. Angela worked as a senior analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence. On her birthday she had still been aboard the USS DeWert; the next day she made her way back north from Florida and arrived in time for the celebration.

Her uncle, Sheriff Frederick Davis, was taking office as President of the Maryland Sheriff's Association that weekend, so there was a lot to celebrate. The family spent the weekend; at her birthday, Angela, as was traditional, wore the family Birthday Hat while she opened her gifts.

Come Monday, she was back at work at the Pentagon. Intelligent and dedicated, in nine short years she had progressed from salutatorian of Maurice McDonough High School, to an English degree from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, to her civilian work in the Navy. Like thousands of others on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, she was at work when the word came through: first one, and then the other of the towers of the World Trade Center had been struck with airliners.

At the Pentagon, everything changed. Angela joined a meeting in the C-ring with several officials, other analysts, and military officers. They were still there when American Airlines flight 77 skimmed across the lawn and into their wing of the building. She joined many others - financiers, insurers, staff, the cooks and busboys of Windows on the World, the airline crews, firefighters and police and military - suddenly killed while simply about their business; but her business consisted of understanding the nature of the attack and helping to organize a response. Angela Houtz was among the very first to fall in defense of the United States in the current conflict.

She received full honors: a military funeral, the Distinguished Civilian Award of Merit, and a letter of condolence from President Bush; more importantly, an outpouring of the great respect and love from everyone who had known her. In an article for VOA News, Commander David Radi spoke about this respect:
“It’s a bond that approaches a brother or sister and although Angie was a civilian, she was a shipmate to us. I was proud to call her that. The way she shined. I put her eventually in a position where we had never had a civilian. It was because the trust I had in her; but more importantly, the more senior people in the Navy had in her. She would stand a watch in the off hours in particular. She would be the eyes and ears of the Navy in our command center. And there could be no better forerunner for that in the civilian world of Naval Intelligence than Angela Houtz.”

The service took six hours. If that had been all that there was to the affair, it would certainly be enough, but her father, Robert Houtz, speaking to the Boothbay Register, told of more: "Angie had had two full-time jobs, one for humanity and one for her country."

Many remember her now for her life for the country, but those who love her remember her other life: an active young woman, working with her own church and the Salvation Army for homeless relief; a lover of puns, a tutor of children; a joy to her family and friends. She was equally at home taking classes in dance or organizing food drives. And her finest tribute comes directly from Mrs. Julie Shontere, her mother:

“Most important in her life, above all else, was her faith in God. ... She gave so much to us all. She continues to teach me through her journals and spirit. ... I feel blessed beyond words to have had the honor to be her mom.”


Cmdr. Radi made a point to mention her faith in connection with the position of trust she had earned among the Naval staff; even people who had barely known her were dearly touched by Angela. Amy Moffitt of Washington DC met Angela only twice, and said: “She lived really vividly in everything. She was very present, she was very alive. ... There was not a person she met who didn’t go, ‘Wow,’ that was awakened by her presence, because she was so awake, so alive, so there.” All of the quotes about Angela in the sources below reveal the same compassion and the same vitality.

It is just and right to remember and to memorialize the loss that so many shared that day; but it is incomplete unless we can also celebrate the lives that were left behind. Angela Houtz gave joy and dedication that long outlive the events of one September afternoon. Her service to country did not end at the doors of the Pentagon. It is an honor to be recogized at your funeral by a president for your work; it is also honor to be recognized on a concert line by a passing homeless man for your generosity and mercy. Many hunger after the one sort of honor, but the other can only be given to those who pour themselves out in service, who give cheerfully of whatever they have, be it time, money, toil, or just a smile for a sad friend.

In celebrating Angela's life, we celebrate a woman who knew that joy only grows when you give it away. The lasting image to recall is of her happy family, laughing and snapping pictures of Angela in the Birthday Hat, unwrapping gifts - it is of they that she would be thinking of, and it is altogether fitting to respect her wishes and think of them as well. Today is but the anniversary of one moment; the full life of Angela Houtz endures beyond it, and defeats it. That life is real and lasting, and it abides through the many people she loved to the full.

Her friends and family have established a scholarship fund in Angela's name; more information is here. The comments section is open for anyone else who has a story or a memory of Angela, or a link to a tribute not mentioned above.

My deepest thanks to Mrs. Julie Shontere, who was kind enough to provide much of the above information first-hand; and also to the following sources:

The Chicago Tribune, for
this remembrance
The UMBC Alumni Newsletter, Summer 2002, for
this profile
The Boothbay Register, October 4, 2001, for
this article by Duey Graham
The VOA News, October 22, 2001, for
this article by Betty van Etten
The
Maryland State Archives
The
Defend America Network
The
September 11 Victim's Memorial

Friday, September 08, 2006

Virginia is for lovers

...not for spammers.

“Thus, the statute does not prevent anonymous speech, as appellant argues, but prohibits trespassing on private computer networks through intentional misrepresentation, an activity that merits no First Amendment protection,” [Judge James W] Haley wrote.
Hot diggity! Not that the appellant, Jeremy Jaynes (aka "Gavin Stubberfield"), isn't trying. His attorney argued that one needed to stay anonymous to "prevent retaliation" if sending mass e-mails:
“You purchase an e-mail address list, alter the transmission information in the header of your e-mail to avoid retaliation, and on Easter morning send out a three-word email to thousands of people: 'Christ is risen!' You have committed a felony in Virginia,” he said.
Clever trick, that, trying to equate penny stock adverts with evangelization - but you'll notice that, anonymous or not, nobody in fact spams people with "Christ is Risen!" messages. They know perfectly well that the rudeness of the method tends to undercut the wholesome message - even believers would be angry about it.

The amazing thing to me is that, for all its unpopularity, the spam thing was working for this guy. Prosecutors claimed that he was pulling in nine million bucks a year.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tribute to Greatness

Amen.

And to Mrs. Conroy, fourth grade, 1981, BOCES program back on Long Island - thanks for being the first teacher who believed.

Hiding in plain view

You've heard of breakout stars, right? In any walk of life, it's easy to define - a previous unknown who suddenly leaps from obscurity to stardom; or else an undervalued supporting talent suddenly turning in the work of a lifetime. For example, Ewan McGregor was a breakout star thanks to Trainspotting; Windows was even a breakout once upon a time, with version 3.x (leading to the unendurable release hype for '95, '98, etc.).

It would be dumb, however, to call Ewan McGregor a breakout star for The Island, or to say that Windows is a hot new product just because XP doesn't crash every seventeen minutes. So why, then, does SI.com's Jon Heyman have a bunch of 30-year old ballplayers on his breakout star lists?

I'd say it's because he started with 25 and worked to fill the number, but I can't, since his preposterous NL list has 28 names. (He pulled the 7 A-D bit, the way Peter King does to stretch his "Ten Things" lists out to thirty or so.) But let's start in the AL, where one of his names is Jermaine Dye.

Dye is 32. He is having a great year for the White Sox, true; it's probably his best ever, but it's not exactly a thunderbolt from the blue. From 1999-2001 he averaged .299, 39 doubles, 29 hr, 114 rbi, and 98 runs a year. This led the Sox to eventually acquire him, and he has repaid them:

2004 - .265, 23 hr, 80 bi
2005 - .274, 31 hr, 86 bi and the World Series MVP.

This is hardly an under-the-radar guy; neither can this be a surprise since Heyman says "It's not like the World Series MVP was obscure going into the season." And while I do note that he's well above his career marks, he's been well above them before, most notably as an All-Star with the Royals in 2000. (Yes, he hit that well in Kansas City.)

On to the NL, where his breakout list includes three guys who, as of this moment, average 33 years old and over 1230 games of Major League service.

The first questionable guy from Heyman's list is Jose Valentin - surprising, yes, but a 36 year old really can't have a breakout, can he? Resurgence is the better word, I think. The first surge is five consecutive years of 25 or more homers for the White Sox - all the way back at the beginning of this century, 2000-2004.* Huh, looks a lot more like 2005 was an aberration.

Second guy is another Met, Carlos Beltran. This is just bananas. Let's see, he's driven in 100+ runs in six of his nine seasons, was a highly-prized free agent two years ago, and in 1999 he was only the American League Rookie of the Year (.293 avg, 22 hr, 108 rbi, 27 sb in KC.**). Sure, really un-noticed fellow there.***

The third guy is a little-heard-of former Yankee who led the whole American League in extra-base hits, stolen bases, and runs scored in 2002; a guy toiling in anonymity in the past five seasons (average numbers: .282 avg, 32 hr, 92 rbi, 100 runs, 33 steals), some left-fielder named Alfonso Soriano.

Soriano and Beltran have combined for 8 All-Star games in 17 years, by the way. "Breakout" is apparently a term lost on the vast numbers of fans who vote for players. (You're supposed to be keeping these guys secret!) And Heyman isn't exactly hitting the non-player stuff hard, either -

In today's stadiums, which run from a half-billion dollars on up, why do they still use chain-link fences in some parks, like Philadelphia and Houston? Since the only apparent reason for the chain-link fences is to allow players in the bullpen to watch the game, they should use plexiglass. Until then, more outfielders are going to get hurt. Aaron Rowand and Carlos Beltran already have.
Follow that. In order to prevent injuries, ballparks ought to replace a relatively-soft surface with a thick, ungiving surface, commonly used to contain the heavy, frequent high-speed collisions of hockey players and wayward, 90+ mph pucks. Does anyone think that Rowand would have been happier to face-plant a plexiglass panel rather than chain-link? He may never have played again.

It seems to be catching, since the usually-reliable Frank Deford spent today's column complaining about hitters taking too many pitches. It's ruining the game, he says. You know, because all those batters waiting for a good pitch and putting it into play makes it slow and boring. Too many foul balls, he says.

Well, if you were constantly facing new pitchers, you'd be wise to take a few to see what kind of stuff he has, right? And there's no real solution, anyway, to patient batting. Throw more first strikes, force them to be aggressive earlier in the counts - in other words, force them to foul off more pitches. Nor is it merely a matter of blaming stronger hitters, since pitchers are stronger too. "Whippier bats," heh.

To leave you with something less negative, here's an article I found that investigates the drop in the complete game and apparent rise in pitches per game per team (difficult to quantify since pitch counts weren't compiled until recently). It's very interesting stuff.

* I'm aware the new century didn't start until 1/1/2001, but his string encompasses that date, so my statement is correct.
** KC had him, Dye, and Mike Sweeney all smacking the ball around at the same time, and still managed to screw it up. Yikes.
*** Odd trivia: Beltran and Valentin were both born in Manati, Puerto Rico. Nifty little confluence there.

Oh, OK

If Emily won't wait until Friday, then neither will I.

Yesterday at lunchtime, WCBS-NY spent four full minutes of their midday news broadcast on Katie Couric's impending first broadcast as the evening news anchor. Luckily I was still cooking my soup, or I would have hurled.

It's bad times when you mistake your news team for the actual news. Since the term for a better job is "promotion," that's what you should be doing - in ads, which is where such things belong. It's bush league to interview your own anchor and run excerpts on your news program. In a city of eight million people, you couldn't find any plucky animal rescues or community activists making a difference?

It's been a many a long, cold, lonely day since Ed Murrow and Walt Cronkite sat in that chair. Since then we got three new broadcast networks, several 24/7 news stations on cable, that Internet thing your boy Algore invented, and about 1.21 jigablogs. Nobody cares.

Thank you, and good night.

Muscial Wednes Mon day

...wherein I combine my need to post with my need to do some housekeeping.

Oh, the wash will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There'll be suds
Just washing my clothes tomorrow
Pouring laundry soap and fabric soft'ner
On my duds
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll launder tomorrow
'cause all of my whites are grey

...

It's a drip-dry life for us,
It's a drip-dry life for us
Only wear this in a pinch
'Cause the hems must be re-stitched
It's a drip-dry life!

...

Some gals are sleeping in satin,
Some gals are sleeping in silk -
Lucky me, lucky me, what am I sleeping in?
Flannel twill!

...

And while all that is going on, I should have a couple of more things to say - though the Katie Couric bit ought to wait until Friday...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A roundup

...First - my apologies to the Swillers. I bollixed a link to a Futurama quote, accidentally chaining directly to a sound file instead of the page in question. (Such things are usually frowned upon for good reason.) I put "warning, links to sound" because when you get to the page and THEN click, you hear what I was referring to.

Long story short, I should have previewed, because then I would have been able to test the link and correct my error, rather than get an angry "You're not allowed to do this, we're telling on you" message. I don't want to get anyone in trouble. PLEASE scrap the original link!

...in college, if you had a holiday your class schedule would be rearranged - Tuesday would turn into Thursday, for example - and so, I've decided to use that as flimsy cover to run Musical Monday tomorrow. Next week I'll get back on track.

...one side effect of a lot of physical activity is the sudden exposure of all one's shortcomings. My wind is OK, but I'm getting a little doughy, and criminy was I ever sore the next day. I'm open to a little advice on the topic. (Step one: no more hubcap-sized bagels.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Undistinguished weeked

Well, we went 0-3 in the Lancaster tournament. Got shutout in the last game. Quite depressing, especially since we've won twice out here. None of us seemed really in synch. We had a great second period in the first game, and a great first period in the last game, and that's just not enough. These teams were pretty stacked.

The funny thing is, one of the other teams from our house league sent a squad out here, and there were a couple of guys who used to live in Jersey who were also on other teams. I saw more people from Inman Ave than I do on a typical league night at Inman Ave.

Next tournament is November; league should start up in a couple of weeks, which is very good news. I need the practice.