November 30, 2005

Dude, remember when you stole the cow?

A meme! A meme! Stealing this one from Starlight.

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we donít speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you wantógood or badóBUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When youíre finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DONíT ACTUALLY remember about you.

Posted by Carl at 10:10 AM | Comments (8)

November 28, 2005

Book Dump

I've just done a review of the bookshelves, and I have a few books that I no longer feel the need to keep. Before I sell them off to a used bookstore for 50 cents each, I thought I'd give regular FoolBlog readers a shot at them. ("Regular" = "I recognize you from comments or your own blog.") E-mail me if you're interested; you can either send me a title in return, or reimburse me for shipping at your convenience.

Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings, Hugh Kenner
10th Grade, Joseph Weisberg
Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
News of a Kidnapping, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Neuromancer, William Gibson
A Literary Tour Guide to the United States: Northeast, Emile C. Harting
No Sense of Place, Joshua Meyrowitz
Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson, Paul Perry (going to Jeff, big surprise there)
Generation Eats (cookbook), Amy Rosen

Depending on my mood, I may slap a Book Crossing plate in your book, which will obligate you to then further pass it along after you're done with it.

Posted by Carl at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

To hell with trackbacks

I've gone ahead and disabled trackbacks on the whole blog. In the almost two years since I cut over to Movable Type, I've had something like 14 legitimate trackback pings. This long weekend alone, I deleted something like 200 porn spam pings. And that's with the previous policy of disabling pings on anything older than a month.

Trackback is great for your A-list blogs, I suppose, but for us down here in the minors it's just a waste of time. I am generally aware of those occasional outside links that pop up due to referrals, anyway, so if anyone links anything of import to this blog I'll note it in comments or in an update to the post in question.

Posted by Carl at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

Book review: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy

Last week I wrote, "Abide by the modest goal of a chapter a night, and before you know it, you've read a whole book." The corollary to this rule is that if the book is sufficiently good, you'll find yourself reading five or six chapters a night, and it'll get read that much faster.

So it was with W.P. Kinsella's The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. Everyone knows Shoeless Joe, having seen the movie 30-odd times, but I don't think people are quite as aware of this work. And that's a shame, because it's a damn fine book. The protagonist has knowledge of a semi-pro league that played in Iowa after the turn of the century, but following a game between the Iowa all-stars and the Chicago Cubs, the league was wiped from the world's collective memory. This book shares Field of Dreams' use of time-travel and magical events, so it's no surprise that the hero learns what really happens. The IBC is a good bit darker, though, so it's no wonder no one's made a movie of it. (That, plus just about the whole thing would have to be shot in the rain.)

The ending left me a bit confused, but otherwise I loved this book. The passage on not watching the ball during a game could be printed out and posted on my bulletin board next to the "Baseball, Ray" speech.

Posted by Carl at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

November 23, 2005

Book review: Foul Ball

For some time I have lamented the loss of recreational reading from my life. But in taking the Little Fool to the library, I have rediscovered reading for myself, and am starting to cross things off my titanic list of books I need to read. See, if you check out a book from the library, you have three weeks to read it. So you'd best get to it. Abide by the modest goal of a chapter a night, and before you know it, you've read a whole book.

Thus far, I am sticking to baseball books, and I just finished Jim Bouton's Foul Ball. Bouton is best known for the renowned Ball Four, which is mandatory reading for any baseball fan. Foul Ball details a more recent development in baseball: new stadium mania. It chronicles the effort of Bouton and his associates to keep baseball in Pittsfield, Mass's Wahconah Park, to the objections of civic leaders and their business cronies who want to all make scratch on a new stadium.

It's a good read, for me especially because I've been to Wahconah, and I agree it would be stupid to get rid of it. Courtesy of FoolBlog reader Snark, we had seats right behind home plate in ye olde wooden grandstand. The crack of the bat is (was?) louder at Wahconah than anyplace I've ever watched baseball. Like Wrigley or Fenway, the ballpark itself should be the draw. But hey, no luxury suites.

Bouton starts out just trying to save an old ballpark, but ends up realizing how ineffective democracy actually is in this country. The people of Pittsfield were clearly against a new stadium, shooting it down in multiple referenda. That doesn't prevent "elected officials" from ignoring the will of the publc entirely and doing what's best for their friends. Bouton acts like this is terrifically shocking, and in fact it should be, but if you pay much attention to American politics on any level, you won't be surprised. Hell, Rudy Guiliani is on record saying he'd oppose a referendum on building a new stadium for the Yankees because it would get shot down. Any conclusions you could draw from that, Rudy? No? OK then.

Bouton's diary gets a little long--there's only so much you can read about bureaucratic shenanigans of a city parks commission. But if you're interested in the epidemic of stadium games played out across the country these days, you'll enjoy this one.

Posted by Carl at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

Linking Fool Friday (Wednesday Edition)

It's a short week, and a short LFF. Soon we will start hearing once again how Christmas is under attack. Steve Benen's post at Washington Monthly puts things in perspective, especially the last bit about events in China. Poor persecuted American radical Christians don't know from oppression.

Fellow Achehead Paul wins the prize for automative fire-related awesomeness. It was suggested that since he's got the car and the mustache, that he get a dog named Muttley and engage in a series of wacky races full of madcap hijinks.

That's, uh, all I got. So here's a picture of a baby. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Posted by Carl at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2005

FedEx Field drives us to drink

Article in the Post about alcohol consumption at Redskins games.

"People are hammered, the language is horrible and the ushers can't seem to do anything about it," Gourley said. "We're not beer drinkers -- we come to watch the game -- but the stadium caters to beer drinkers."

Certainly the rowdies and the boors are a fraction of the thousands of fans at FedEx Field -- a small city's worth -- and elsewhere, but they're enough to have changed the spectating culture into something resembling a World Wrestling Entertainment event. Bob Warren, a Redskins season ticket holder since the 1960s, has sold four of his six season passes. He says he has noticed a worsening in the past five years or so. "It's not the same friendly atmosphere it used to be," the 55-year-old Fairfax optometrist said. "The rowdiness and the language is definitely different."

While this is the sort of trend journalism that often blows things out of proportion, I'd say there's something to this. I went to Redskins-Eagles a few weeks ago, and it was clearly not a family-friendly atmosphere, from the parking lot to the stands. The Denver incident described in the article, in which three guys poured beer on a guy and his kid because he had the audacity to ask them not to curse so much, doesn't really surprise me at all. And NFL games are significantly worse in the drunken lout department than baseball, basketball, or hockey.

My sample size is admittedly limited, but a Redskins game seems much less family-friendly now than it did back at RFK. Of course, our seats there were in the mezzanine level, so we were not exposed to the riff-raff quite so much, but on the whole it seemed less belligerent (though no less loud and enjoyable). I attribute this change in no small part to the design of FedEx Field. I only go to one game a year, generally, and every year we fight traffic and curse whoever designed the place. If I was a full-season fanatic, I probably would arrive at 9 AM for a 1 PM game. And then what do you do? Eat and drink, and then drink some more after the game while you're waiting for the parking lot to clear out. And because you're drinking normally-priced beers you bought yourself rather than $7 stadium beers, you can afford to drink a lot more. The parking lot of the Big Jack felt like a frat party. RFK was so much more Metro-friendly that people didn't have to make the game an all-day endeavor.

And you gotta love how the Redskins' representative puts it all on the concessions company. Centerplate has little interest in maintaining a congenial atmosphere, so they're going to sell all the beers they can. Team management, who can afford to let drunken idiots run rampant because someone will step up to buy your cancelled season tickets after a jackass dumps beer on your 8-year-old and cusses him out, act like it's not their problem. May the spirit of Jack Kent Cooke continue to haunt this franchise for decades to come.

Posted by Carl at 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

Unintended consequences

Contrary to my expectations, I haven't been getting tons of search hits for Tina. I did, however, get a query for "Tiki Barber naked nude." Oy.

Posted by Carl at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Philly phorever

The Inqy's Bill Lyon retired this week. His last column is a lovely summary of Philly sports, and sports in general, for the last thirty years. Maybe someday Wilbon, Kornheiser and Boswell will be worthy of sharpening pencils for Lyon. But not yet.

Posted by Carl at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)

November 18, 2005

Linking Fool Friday

Torture is bad. And citing 24-esque "ticking time bomb" arguments to justify torture is a cop-out. When there's an actual ticking time bomb in the room, and Kiefer Sutherland, we'll talk then, but until that time, read Kleiman and Drum on the subject.

Good piece on college radio at Slate. True, there is much that hasn't changed, says the former music director who greatly enjoyed getting concert tickets and other loot, and loved college radio because it let him play music he loved.

Teh goofy: Mortal Kombat! And check out Sony's bouncing superballs commercial.

Posted by Carl at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Friday Random Ten: Home Edition

Last week's was done on my office computer. This week, I went on a binge of copying CDs to my home machine (I just wedged in an old 8 GB hard drive to serve as music storage), and combined with all the crazy old crap I already had stored there, this should be a much more accurate reflection of my musical taste.

Mojo Nixon "Shane's Dentist"
Harvey Danger "Save It For Later"
The Roots "Thought @ Work" (two weeks in a row!)
R.E.M. "Beachball" (Chef remix)
Broken Social Scene "Capture the Flag"
Groove Coverage "Moonlight Shadow" (fire up the wayback machine and look for October 23--pre-permalinks)
Afghan Whigs "Superfly"
The Tragically Hip "Fifty Mission Cap"
Travis "Why Does It Always Rain On Me"
Donovan "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"

Posted by Carl at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005


adopt your own virtual pet!

Posted by Carl at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

A tax on people who are bad at math

I've acquired a bad habit lately of picking up lottery tickets when the announced jackpot gets up above $100 million or so. Living in NoVA and occasionally working in DC, I have the luxury of buying both Mega Millions and PowerBall tickets. But the good gambler and stat-head in me knows this is foolish. So I sat down and did some math. It may not be perfect, but it's probably close enough.

The rate of return on a bet is the average amount of your bet you can expect to recoup on a single play. You have to think of it over the long term--on the lottery, your actual rate of return on one specific ticket is either 0% or some multiple of 100%. Over the long haul, though, you'll be somewhere in between. According to my math, if the announced jackpot is $25 million (remember, the all-cash option is significantly less than the announced annuity value), your rate of return for Mega Millions is 27%; for Powerball, it's 28%. These numbers should send any educated gambler running in terror (for comparison, well-played blackjack returns 99% plus, and even slot machines return over 90%). And that's not accounting for taxes.

To get a 100% rate of return--that is, if you bet every single combination of numbers you would break even--the announced jackpot for Mega Millions has to be about $245 million; for PowerBall, $243 million. So that jackpot has to get pretty high before you should even consider wasting your money on a lottery ticket.

Now, a few weeks ago when the Powerball jackpot hit the maximum value of $340 million, and the jackpot pool spilled over to the second prizes to move them from $200K to $854K, the pre-tax rate of return on that one was an amazing 151%. Obviously, the next time that happens, you should liquidate all your worldly posessions and buy Powerball tickets.

UPDATE: Good point raised in commets... these calculations assume that only one person wins the jackpot. If two or more people hit the big prize for the same drawing, they split the jackpot, so the rate of return would go down.

Posted by Carl at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)

Didn't she watch "Kill Bill?"

Woman to marry man who shot her.

Posted by Carl at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

Least surprising news ever

Oil executives all up ins Cheney's energy task force.
And then lied about it.
Is anyone shocked by this?

Posted by Carl at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2005

Tina is the new Missy

Here's an experiment. How long until I get search hits for this?

Tina of Tampa, FL is hereby the new queen of Yahoo personals, replacing Missy of Watertown, NY.

Give the crawlers a day or so to get the update, and I give it about thirty seconds after that before the Google hits start rolling in. Just to make sure: Naked naked nude.

UPDATE: Finally. The day before Thanksgiving. I am stunned that it took that long.

Posted by Carl at 10:40 AM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2005

Channeling TMQ

I hereby predict Gregg Easterbrook will rightfully complain about the following in tomorrow's column. He may even lead off with it.

Yesterday I had on Giants-Vikings, and saw the Giants score late in the fourth quarter to pull within two. The Giants lined up for a two-pointer to tie it, and the Vikings called timeout, presumably to "ice" Tiki Barber and the offensive line. The announcer said, "For those of you with late games in your local markets, you'll be switching to those games shortly."

And just like that we cut to the Redskins-Bucs feed, which was on a commercial.

Do the people at Fox have no goddamned brains in their heads? I could live with making the cut at the start of overtime, because who knows how long OT will last. But is the kickoff of the Redskins game--not even the kickoff, the ads before kickoff--so important that we can't see one stinking play that could tie or end the early game?

Posted by Carl at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Some people do these every week. I rarely make the effort of loading up all my MP3s and shuffling them; I tend to pick and choose. But this week, on a whim, here you go:

Elliott Smith, "Twilight"
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, "Coma Girl"
Gerty, "Short Drive Home"
The Outlaws, "You Know What Time It Is"
The Roots, "Thought @ Work"
Death Cab for Cutie, "Hindsight"
The Prima Donnas, "Hong Kong Boogie"
Decemberists, "Grace Cathedral Hill"
Animal Collective & Vashti Bunyan, "Prospect Hummer"
DeVotchka, "How It Ends"

I have a habit of downloading freebies linked at Salon's Audiofile, Largehearted Boy, etc., then not getting to them for some time. Thus it should be noted that there are four of these ten songs I haven't even listened to yet, and thus my musical tastes may not be as way cool as they appear. I'll let you guess which four.

Posted by Carl at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

Linking Fool Friday

David at Orcinus brings up the suggestion of a constitutional amendment explicitly granting the right to privacy, so as to remove all doubt from the argument. I kind of like the idea, and it would indeed be entertaining to hear the wingnuts explain why we don't need it. But I also worry that if it was shot down, it would establish that there is no right to privacy, and all sorts of terrible things would come to pass. I dunno.

Bringin' the funny: a fine list of reasons gay marriage should be illegal.

Wonder what it would be like to stare down a WSOP champion and beat him? Here you go. Via Oddjack.

If you have nothing to do, just stare at this machine for an hour or so. Or you could download a nine-minute film of a crazy-ass drive through Paris.

Posted by Carl at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005

Kids TV is bad for you: That sneaky fox

In today's overanalysis, let us consider one of the most mentally distrubed individuals on children's TV, Swiper the Fox. For the uninitiated, Swiper is a regular character on Dora the Explorer. At least once an episode, Swiper's sinister music plays and we have the following exchange, pretty much word for word every time:

Dora: Oh no! That sounds like Swiper the fox!
Boots the Monkey: That sneaky fox is always trying to swipe our stuff.
Dora: He'll try to swipe the [key/boat/power drill/bong/whatever they're carrying]! If you see Swiper, yell "Swiper!"
[Swiper sneaks up behind them, maybe hiding behind a tree or bush]
Dora: Do you see Swiper? ... Where?... Right behind us?!?

Swiper is not a particularly adept thief, as he is generally thwarted by Dora, Boots, and the viewer shouting "Swiper no swiping!" at him. Dora and Boots don't seem to have the physical wherewithal to keep Swiper from taking what he wants, so I'm not sure why he's so easily deterred by chanting. (It should also be noted that Swiper wears a mask, even though Dora and Boots know who he is and where he lives.)

Every so often, though, Swiper actually takes the item right out of their hands, and flings it into the distance, cackling "You'll never find it now!" and slinking off. Dora and Boots then have to find the stolen object. If the item is, say, a chocolate boat, they are presented with a landscape that is surprisingly chock-full of brown triangular objects, and they eventually pick the right one.

So in this regard, Swiper is truly psychotic: He doesn't keep anything he steals. He does not ferret shiny baubles off to his fox-hole. He doesn't steal items because he covets them, or because they're useful or valuable. He steals things solely to throw Dora and Boots off of their mission. He steals things just to be a dick.

In a sense, then, we can thank Nick Jr. for preparing kids for junior high.

Posted by Carl at 09:51 AM | Comments (1)

Bad week for Philly athletes

From the Inqy:

Police in Venezuela arrested pitcher Ugueth Urbina yesterday and plan to charge him with attempted murder. Last month, Urbina and a group of men allegedly attacked five workers on his family farm with machetes and poured gasoline on them in an attempt to set them on fire.
It might not matter in terms of his baseball career. Urbina pitched for the Phillies this year but is a free agent. The Phils said yesterday at the major-league general managers' meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., that Urbina's chances of returning to the team are remote.

Ya think? Urbina makes TO looks like a great teammate in comparison.

Posted by Carl at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2005

Sunday night football

What? Carl attended a professional sporting event, and didn't blog about it until three days later? What the hell is wrong with that guy?

Yeah, I went to Eagles-Redskins Sunday night. It was a good time, but in another sense, I really hate going to the Big Jack. I didn't get home until well after 2 AM (the game ended roughly 11:30, 11:45). Getting in and out of the parking lots is well nigh impossible. Not that I've been to many other NFL stadia to really compare, but I have to think that whoever designed the traffic flow of the Redskins' stadium should be shot.

Eagles fans were in abundance, but not quite as vocal as in years past. We're all dealing with the realization that the Eagles may well kind of suck this year. Redskins fans, on the other hand, were giddy over the TO situation. "Hey, where's TO? TO! Hey TO! Where's TO?" In the concourse, in the bathroom, from the guy behind me all freakin' game. Fine, you've made your point, give it a rest.

The Eagles' offense looks like a sixth-grade touch football game right now, passing on every down. As much as the Eagles could have used TO Sunday night, I think pretty much everyone in the Philly sports world has had enough of him. I was willing to deal with the off-season crap, but trashing your very popular QB mid-season when you've still got every opportunity to make the playoffs? I seriously don't care if TO ever plays another down for Philly. (Newly-added TO item: I am glad to see the open letter to TO has been appropriately updated.)

Chris Cooley had a pretty good night for Washington, as did Lavar Arrington. I still don't get his missing games earlier this season. Doesn't fit your defensive system?!? Excuse me, he's a guy you design your system around.

Iggles loss notwithstanding, going to an NFL game sure is fun. Also, I drank a lot of beer.

Posted by Carl at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

Thanks for restoring a modicum of faith in the system

For the first time in... well, too long, the candidate I voted for in a relatively major election won. Hooray for Virginia governor-elect Tim Kaine.

I am excited about this in no small part because voting yesterday felt weird. Virginia has these new touch-screen voting machines. Tap tap tap, please confirm, and that's it. Given all the concerns about voting irregularities in the past few years, I left our polling place with very little confidence that I had actually done anything. My vote may well have vanished into a black hole, or been converted into a vote for Potts or Kilgore. Who the hell knows.

But apparently not, as the all-important issue of how the candidates would handle Hitler turned out to not matter so much. Also, I got chocolate chip cookies at the inevitable bake sale.

Many of the blogs on the blogroll over there have a run-down of yesterday's events, and you probably know them by now. Lots of good news for us crazy-ass liberals, but my favorite: Dover, PA sweeps out the Intelligent Design-happy school board. Apparently the public at large isn't as stupid as everyone thought.

Posted by Carl at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

Hummer hilarity

I've been walking around for a while now saying "I wish Hummer was its own company, so I could short it." Looks like that would have been a good move.

Posted by Carl at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

Baseball Fool Friday

Yes, there are actual Nats blogs out there, but I'm covering this stuff anyway (or stealing from those blogs, as the case may be).

  • Vinny to San Diego for pitcher Brian Lawrence. Off-hand, I like it. Vinny made a few contributions this season, but on the whole, he's on the downswing. Now the way is clear for Dutch Zimmerman. Lawrence is an OK pitcher, an innings-eater, and may benefit from RFK (assuming they don't move in the fences).

  • Look like the club and its mouthpieces are talking down Brad Wilkerson, possibly to make trading him away more palatable to the fan base. While now may well be the time to trade him, the knocks on his defense are idiotic, and while the Ks are annoying, he does then deserve credit for drawing walks.

  • Vote for the play of the year! For the Nats, from the plays listed, I picked Guillen's home run against the Angels. Their short description doesn't paint the whole picture--Frank getting Brendan Donnelly and his grimy glove ejected, Scioscia yelling at Frank, benches clearing, Guillen booed mercilessly by his former team's fans, and then hitting that rocket. Quite the intense moment. But for my money, MLB missed the Nats' play of the year altogether: Bennett's bases-clearing double to put the Nats back ahead of the Braves, after the Braves had scored four in the top of the 8th to go up 6-3. That was sweet.

  • Bobby Abreu wins a Gold Glove? What?! I've followed the guy for some time now, and I love him and all, but he's not a particularly good outfielder.

  • Finally, I picked up The Duke of Havana this week and am quite enjoying it. While it's mostly about big brother El Duque, there's also a chapter largely dedicated to our own °Livan! and his journey to the States. Overall, a fascinating view into Cuban life and baseball.

Posted by Carl at 01:24 PM | Comments (1)

Linking Fool Friday

I have a lot to do, so let's get to it. Big Dawg Clinton says what the Democratic leadership doesn't have the sack to. Bush and company manage to be even more offensive to black people. Tom the Dancing Bug wonders what else we might have done with $200 billion (Salon link, deal with it). And check out what one Republican has to say about their base.

How 'bout that crazy Alito guy? TBogg has a good question for him. Henry and Atrios explain that "judicial activism" really means "making decisions I don't like."

Teh wacky: It's Yo-Yo-Tacular! And in a link that was obviously sent by Tor, decorate your desktop with Meatscapes.

Posted by Carl at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2005

Your government at work

Guess which of the following you can do and still label your products "organic."

1. Add any of 500 synthetic food additives and "processing aids."
2. Feed young dairy cows antibiotics and genetically engineered feed.
3. Substitute non-organic ingredients for organic ingredients on an 'emergency' basis (which I'm guessing means "oops, we ran out of organic flour and forgot to order more. Back up the truck of the regular stuff!").

The answer: All of the above! Ha ha! Isn't that great! Via Bull Run Farm CSA's blog.

Posted by Carl at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2005


Just when you thought there was already a niche for everything on the Internet... a blog that tracks abuse of the word literally. Via this Slate article. I sympathize, as I hate it when people use "literally" incorrectly. A couple years ago I was watching a baseball game, and the color guy--Rick Sutcliffe, maybe?--said of a hard take-out slide at second on a double play, "He literally took his head off." No, Rick, he didn't, because if he had there would be a lot of blood around second base and a lot of people screaming in terror.

Posted by Carl at 10:11 AM | Comments (3)

Tricks and treats

"OK sweetie, what do you say when they come to the door?"
"No, you say 'Trick or treat!'"
"Trick or treat!"
"Well, not yet, you have to wait for them to actually come to the door."

Posted by Carl at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)