This morning I dropped Grover the Car off at the dealership to have some work done, and took the bus the rest of the way to the office. There's been a kinder, gentler anti-abortion campaign run on Metro of late, with the slogan "Women deserve better than abortion." On such a poster on this morning's bus, someone had scrawled, "Yeah! Birth Control, Education, Fair Wages." NICE.
Speaking of Metro, the awesome DC Metro blog map got a write-up in Slate yesterday. Still only two of us at National Airport, and the east branch of the green line is still woefully underrepresented.
Irresponsible Journalism 101, or another on-the-way-to-work item. Teaser on WTOP news: "A man who's been called a potential terrorist and a menace to the community has been released." My bullshit detector starts pinging. The story: one of the guys from the alleged "Virginia jihad network," which was supposedly dedicated to driving India out of Kashmir, was released pending trial, without bail, but with electronic monitoring. So first, WTOP's teaser made it sound like this guy was totally sprung, when in fact he's still going to trial. Secondly, the alarmist tone made it sound like the judge was a moron and released some crazy guy to inflict terror on northern Virginia. What the story fails to mention is that the prosecution's case is probably rather limited. If they had evidence that the guy was a clear and present danger, the judge would have had the suspect held without bail. But my guess is that they had just enough to indict and not much more, so he released him with electronic monitoring to his mother's custody. See, that's part of what we call "due process," one of those crazy freedoms that our men and women are dying in Iraq for (about one per day, "Mission Accomplished" or not). The insinuation of WTOP and the AP (it's their wire story) that this is a mistake is just one sympton of the greater disease that is modern American news media.
At least there's baseball. I have watched all or part of the last SEVEN Phillies games on TV, and considering that we don't get the Phils feed down here in Virginia, that's remarkable. The team has gone 6-1 in that stretch, so the Phils obviously need to set me up with a dish so I can watch all the time. Pitching is still good, Bell is still disapointing, and so is Burrell but at least he's getting a few hits and drawing some walks. Placido Polanco is a fine ballplayer. And Joe Table (Jose Mesa to most of the world) has maybe, just maybe, turned a corner. It's going to be a fun summer at Blue Acres.
Ask the Shank: For some time now I've been sporadically writing a question & answer column for the MobTown Shank, the Baltimore/Washington e-scene zine put out by mi amigo Benn Ray. People write in with their questions, and I answer them, usually with the help of on-line research. (It's not at all a rip-off of The Straight Dope.) In an effort to have more actual content here, I'm going to run the column here as well when the Shank comes out on Thursdays (though I'm quite sure there will be times when I post it Friday or Monday morning but call it Thursday). To subscribe to the MobTown Shank or for more information, go here. Someday when I'm really bored, I may put previous Ask the Shank questions & answers on bigfool.com, but for now you can access back issues of the Shank by joining Cafe Utne and going to the MobTown Shank archive. To send me your own questions, e-mail AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
This week's question: Linda Kaufman asks, "I see that they're launching a thing to Mars. That got me to a thinkin'.... If it is noon in New York, what time is it on Mars?"
This is an odd question, and I will answer it in a literal way and a more practical way.
The length of the day is determined by how long it takes your planet to make one complete rotation. Here on the Erf, that's 24 hours. Time and time zones are of course a human construct to quantify the time. How exactly do we apply that construct to Mars, then? First, you'd have to decide if you want to apply time zones to Mars, in which case we'd have to pin down a specific location on the planet. But for simplicity's sake, let's just say it's the same time on the whole planet. Next issue: the length of the Mars day is close to the Earth day, but not quite: 1 Mars day = 1.02 Earth days, meaning Mars spins around once in 24 and one-half of your Earth hours. So if we want to impose Earth time on Mars, what do we do with that extra half-hour? Have a 13:00 AM or something? Make every hour an extra 1 minute 15 seconds long? Furthermore, if we assume that it's 1 PM at the same time on Mars and Earth on July 1, on July 2 1PM on Earth would be 12:30 PM on Mars--they'd lose a half-hour compared to us every Earth day. It's all just too weird and makes no damn sense, and you'd need expensive high-powered calculators and software packages just to know what time it is on the other planet.
Here's the more practical solution: pick an Earth time zone and stick with it for all your Mars goings-on. The Mars Odyssey is orbiting the red planet right now; from the looks of things at their timeline they track its activities in Universal Time, aka Greenwich Mean Time. It's kept in 24-hour format, and during daylight savings time it's four hours ahead of the Eastern U.S. So if it's noon in New York, the Odyssey says it's 16:00 on Mars.
Ask the Shank: It's universally time to send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
Hope everyone had a fine holiday weekend. In case anyone was worried, Howie Kurtz is still a partisan hack. Ooh, Russert is so hard on candidates. Yeah, WHEN THEY'RE DEMOCRATS!! No mention of the fact that Russert got some of the data with which he harassed Howard Dean straight from the Bush administration, or how much softer Russert was on Bush in 1999, when he displayed less-than-perfect knowledge of military policy and other issues. Not to mention the softballs without follow-up Dean lobs at the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice when they come on.
All-Star selections came out yesterday, and everyone's got a beef. I won't bother linking to anything, because everyone's got the same points: they don't like the World Series home-field aspect, so-and-so didn't get in, why must every team have a representative, blah blah blah ad nauseum. I actually like the World Series home-field twist. Yeah, it's a gimmick, but so what? It's no more or less fair than the previous system of alternating years, and I somehow doubt that it will actually result in significant changes in strategy or effort on the part of the players. Furthermore, I like having a rep from every team. What does need to end is the effort to get every player on the roster into the game. Fine, a guy like Dmitri Young makes the team just because he's the Tigers' best player; that doesn't mean he has to get up off the bench. But when all is said and done, it's all just fodder for sportswriters who have to get a column in.
Ask the Shank: Tor asks, "My wife and I got got our baby a wall hanging that has the letters of the alphabet on it. Above each letter is a finger puppet of an animal corresponding to the letter, i.e. above the 'a' is an alligator. The question is, what is the animal above the 'x?' It appears to be some kind of ox type creature - in fact, except for the colors, it is identical to the 'y' which is a yak. It has brown fur and dark brown horns. I have some vague memory of a chinese water buffalo that begins with the letter 'x', but I dunno. The only animal I can find beginning with the letter x is axanthareel, which is an eel used for medicinal purposes."
Probably not a xanthareel. You were on the right track: I believe your X-Creature is a xebu, which is more commonly spelled zebu, but once in a while you see it spelled with an X. They're hoofed mammals, generally humped, and frequently domesticated in Asia and Africa. Most of them are gray, but there are also brown and white varieties. Here's a picture of one, spelled with an X no less. Check out this touching moment between a man and his favorite zebu. (NOT animal porn, I promise.) And if you'd like to try your hand at raising zebu, visit Cattle Today. Really.
Ask the Shank: X-pect this X-pert to answer your X-tremely veXing questions, and then it's time to X-scape. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
"Well, here's a shred of evidence: The Boston Globe reports that in the three years since Vermont extended near-marriage status to same-sex civil unions, nearly 5,700 gay and lesbian couples have registered their relationship. Of those couples, close to 40 percent, or more than 2,000, include at least one partner who used to be married.
Just a shred -- but a jarring one. Of course, it doesn't mean that Vermont's civil union law broke up 2,000 straight couples. It does mean that where there used to be 2,000 traditional marriages, there are now 2,000 ruptured ones -- and 2,000 gay or Lesbian unions in their place."
(Registration required for whole article at Star-Trib. Also available in the Boston Globe's archive, if you already pay for such things.) OK, question for Mr. Jacoby: how many of those 2,000 divorces occurred as a DIRECT RESULT of the Vermont civil union law? That is, when they passed the law, someone in a straight marriage actually decided that they'd divorce his/her hetero spouse, go off to Vermont, and marry his/her secret gay lover? He's applying cause & effect where I don't think any exists. Furthermore, even if that was the case for any of those, is he really suggesting it's better for a closeted gay person to continue in a straight marriage? Doesn't sound healthy to me. Overall, he's still basing his position on the idea that a same-sex union is somehow inherently worse than a straight one. Frickin' homophobe.
Then there's yesterday's Robert Samuelson column in the Post, where he calls the Nike false advertising case a "disaster." Samuelson doesn't bother to refute the claim that Nike made untrue statements, but spins them as "misleading" rather than out-and-out lies. No details on just what was misleading, and what makes this OK. Further,
What's occurring here is that trial lawyers are road-testing a new form of corporate shakedown. First, advocacy groups would attack a company or industry. Next, companies would face a dilemma: be silent and let the attacks stand, or respond and face an expensive and embarrassing suit. Finally, companies that ended up in court might face a daunting standard of proof -- not whether what they said was true, but whether it might be misleading.
Maybe this is too subtle for Samuelson, but here's some suggestions for such corporations:
Don't do things that prompt advocacy groups to attack you. Yes, there are groups that make unreasonable demands (read: PETA), but on the whole, if some social-interest group goes off on you, you're probably doing something evil, and should stop.
When you respond, be truthful. Not kind of truthful, not partially truthful but possibly misleading, but tell the damn truth. If you have to lie or mislead to exonerate yourself, you've done something wrong. Why is that so hard?
Samuelson is apparently all in favor of corporations having the benefits of "personhood" but none of the responsibilities, a state of affairs that has led to...well, a lot of bad stuff. I say, screw 'em. Hold them to a higher standard. You shouldn't be able to lie to argue your case, and get away with it by calling it free speech.
Mascots in the news: By now everyone has heard about the Pirates' Randall Simon bonking a racing sausage in Milwaukee with a bat. Follow the link, and you can watch video of the incident. While I think that hitting someone in the head with a baseball bat is not a good idea under any circumstances, watching the video it's obvious that Simon was trying to be funny and miscalculated. One of the Brewers' VPs called it "one of the most outrageous things I've ever seen inside a ballpark or outside a ballpark. It sickened me to see it," which is completely ridiculous. Anyway, the sausages are tough and are going right back into action. I wonder if Pittsburgh's own racing pierogies are going to live in fear of Simon now.
Yellowcakegate, Uraniumgate, whatever you want to call it, the flap over the SOTU speech claims is the number one issue at pretty much every political blog out there. I have very little to add, so just go on over to Atrios or Pandagon or whoever and read up. Maybe, just maybe, the American people are waking up to the fact that there are worse things to lie about than presidential blowjobs. Meanwhile, I'm going to write about food, if that's OK with everyone.
I really like Jamaican-style jerk chicken. Until this weekend, my only experience with making it at home consisted of using a pre-made sauce from a jar or bottle (my favorite being Uncle Billy's Voodoo Jerk Slather, which is made in Maine of all places). So when last month's Bon Appetit had a big article on Jamaican jerk, I was excited. The author wrote about beach shacks where they cook the food over an open fire, and the endless arguments over who makes the best spice mixture. The article went on to mention a couple of more formal Jamaican restaurants, where the jerk is a toned-down version of what you find on the beach. So of course, the recipes with the article are the gringo versions from the restaurants, not the true product from a beach shack. Maybe it was impossible to get one of those jerk cooks to part with a secret recipe, but nonetheless I am deeply disappointed in Bon Appetit's inability or unwillingness to give us the real stuff. That didn't stop me from making one of those recipes this weekend, on chicken rather than the suggested pork. It was pretty good, but not the best ever. If you like it hot, go ahead and use a whole habaņero.
My other great food revelation of the weekend involved sauces. Some years ago I was given The Great Big Book of Sauces as a gift. This vast tome is highly regarded in the cookbook industry as the ultimate guide to sauce making and its history, but by and large I haven't used it. It presents recipes in a more technical fashion than I'd like, and often describes a sauce with only general recommendations of what to put it on. Roasting a plain old chicken or hunk of meat, then applying a sauce to it, just isn't how I cook. Bechamel, hollandaise, and other white sauces aren't my thing either. So for some years, the only thing I'd ever made from this book was pesto. Last weekend, after pesto-izing another mountain of basil from our CSA, I decided it was high time I looked at this book further, and swore I would make something else from it.
Fortunately for me, there's a whole chapter on Asian sauces. And yet again, I learned that ready-made, store-bought cooking solutions are often not that helpful at all (we have sworn off buying bottled salad dressing in our house, because we can make our own easily, and it's better than out of a bottle). I was drawn to the teriyaki recipe, ignoring the bottle of Kikkoman teriyaki sauce in the cupboard. Just as great songs so often come down to just three chords, great dishes often turn out to be absurdly simple. You know what real teriyaki sauce is? Soy sauce, sake, and mirin in equal parts (tip: at the store, you will find mirin near the soy sauce, not in the booze section). Sear your chicken or firm-fleshed fish in a bit of oil, but take it out before it's totally cooked. Ditch the remaining oil, throw in the sauce ingredients, bring them to a boil, put the main ingredient back in, and give it about a minute and a half on each side--the sauce should all but boil off before it's done. I did this with tuna steaks last night, and it was so good, I wanted to scrape the leftover sauce out of the pan after dinner and lick it off the spoon. So thanks to Mr. Peterson and his sauce bible for this one, and I look forward to yakitori next weekend.
Pretty good All-Star game last night. As during the World Series, I took the step of muting Fox on the TV and turning on the radio, so as to be spared listening to Tim McCarver drone on like an idiot. Instead I heard Dave Campbell say about twenty times that Seattle has the most to gain or lose from the home-field thing. Still, I'll take that over McCarver any day. I watched the Home Run Derby Monday night and had no such alternative. I used to like Chris Berman, but like a lot of ESPN personalities, lately he seems to believe people are tuning in for him rather than the event he's covering. His penchant for shouting about every home run like it was a 500-foot moon shot was especially annoying. "BACK BACK BACK BACK... THAT ONE'S TO GARY, INDIANA!"...and the ball lands in the fifth row of the bleachers.
When the 8 o'clock hour rolled around, Fox put up a big American flag background, showed some shots of American servicemen on a tank, and on an aircraft carrier as a plane took off, and then "This is a presentation of Fox Sports." Honestly, I can no longer tell the difference between a heartfelt "tribute to our troops," and a cynical gambit to look more patriotic than anyone else. I mean, what the hell was that? Does having some soldiers on the screen for five seconds before putting up the Fox Sports logo really make a bit of difference? I continue to believe that "Support Our Troops" is just an empty platitude to a lot of screeching parrots who pass themselves off as patriotic.
Anthem singer Vanessa Carlton is apparently a three-time Grammy nominee. I never heard of her. But if I don't listen to the kind of stuff the Grammies put their stamp of approval on, I think that's a fine thing. Mostly I felt bad for her, as they made her run out to home plate before she sang, and she almost fell out of her top. As always I am annoyed with Fox and ESPN Radio for going to commercial during "O Canada." And while I won't begrudge the singing of "God Bless America" in the 7th inning stretch too much, I bemoan the apparent loss of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame." Maybe instead of having Amy Grant sing a long, slow, cheesy rendition of "God Bless America," they could do that song a little quicker and still have time to sing "Ballgame."
Another All-Star thought: I've seen a couple of articles suggesting that Mike Scioscia out-managed Dusty Baker. I find this talk inane. Sure, props to Scoscia for pinch-hitting the left-handed Blalock up to hit against the right-handed Gagne. But then, what of Giambi's homer off Wagner in a lefty-lefty matchup? Did Scioscia know that would happen? At the start of the 7th inning, who would have argued with Baker's plan to use Wagner, Gagne, and Smoltz in succession? As for Scioscia leaving his starters in longer than Baker, well, zippity doo-dah. Yeah, maybe Baker could have had a home run-hitting goon available to hit for Furcal in the 9th, but Furcal almost tied the game anyway. These writers are giving much more credit and blame to Scoscia and Baker than they deserve. I find it much more appropriate to give credit to the AL hitters for getting the job done, and blame to Gagne for not having his best stuff, and to a lesser extent to Wagner for not pitching more carefully to Giambi.
Flippery Fish unite! On the Truth Laid Bear's blog ecosystem, I have moved up in the food chain to Flippery Fish. From looking through blogs in this bracket, there are plenty like mine--been around a while, have some readers and links, but not quite big time. So in the interest of helping out fellow Fish, and providing my bored readers with something else to go look at, here are five blogs from that list I found amusing in some capacity: Grammar police, preparing to move to NoVa and happy to hear of Anita's. Use the Forks, representin' U Street. Move the Crowd, with sports and hip hop and other good stuff. Batter's Box, primarily a Toronto Blue Jays blog. And Side Salad, which shows up in Google as linking the Mascot Photos, though I can't actually find the link on his site.
Ask the Shank: Meet Queer Duck. Doug Parsons asks, "What's Jm J. Bullock up to these days?"
Providing the voice of an animated gay duck. No, really. He's the voice of the lead character on QUEER DUCK, which runs Tuesday nights on Showtime after QUEER AS FOLK. Queer Duck's friends include Oscar Wildecat, Openly Gator, and Bi Polar Bear (who sounds a hell of a lot like the late Paul Lynde). Aside from that, JM isapparently doing some occasional theater, but mostly just taking it easy. Read more in this TV Guide interview.
Ask the Shank: giving you the scoop on animated homosexual waterfowl and other perplexing mysteries. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
Linking Fool Friday: Fanatical Apathy on the difference between our present exalted leader and some others; despite talk of "honor and dignity" and personal responsibility, it's incredible how unwilling our leaders are to take responsibility for much of anything. The Prospect's Michael Tomasky on ESPN's unfortunate decision to bring Rush Limbaugh on as a football pre-game commentator. Via Skippy and TMW, a student is questioned by the FBI for reading an article critical of Fox News. For ongoing stuff about Bush's lies about the Iraq war, and interesting revelations from the Cheney Energy Task Force, go see Atrios, TMW, etc.
Norwegian goat cheese, or brunost, is made by boiling whey (the watery stuff left behind when you've curdled milk to make cheese). It's boiled to the point that pretty much all the water evaporates, and the remaining sugars get carmelized; hence the brown color. I haven't tasted the stuff, but it sounds kind of vile. More than you ever wanted to know about whey and Norwegian cheese from Ask Grandpa (which is, in fact, not at all a long-winded rip-off of either "Ask the Shank" or "The Straight Dope").
Ask the Shank: From the the title, you thought this was going to be a toilet question, didn't you? Send your non-toilet questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
It's been a busy week, and I have pretty much no original thoughts. So here's your Linking Fool Friday: American Suckers is kind of mean and will surely offend some, but I like it. Everyone's seen the purple polar bear by now, right? Hunter S. Thompson returns and kicks ASS! And if you don't already own the first two albums by Big Audio Dynamite, perhaps you should go get them. Have a nice weekend.
Tales of the Pathetisad: In the midst of renewed concern over possible terrorist hijackings of airplanes, the TSA is cutting back on air marshall activity in order to cut costs. But hey, good thing we have big tax cuts for the wealthy! If the Democrats want to point out how the Bushies talk a big game when it comes to homeland security but don't back it up with action, this here is Exhibit A. But instead, the DLC wants to concede national security to the Republicans, and try to convince the electorate that Democrats are actually Republicans Plus. Digby has the best scathing response to that defeatist school of thought that I've read so far.
Great post at Smart Remarks on creeping fascism and our apparent collective inability to deal with complexity. Case in point: the popular misconception that we could balance the budget just by eliminating "frivolous programs," when in fact such programs usually represent a drop in the resevoir of debt service, defense spending, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Reality is that we have to make hard choices. PLA has more.
Finally, Rob Neyer kind of blows his stack about frequent accusations of "bias" against this team and that. Can't say as I blame him. Particularly in the sports world, "you're biased" actually means "You wrote something less than complimentary about my favorite team, but I'm either too lazy, too stupid, or simply unable to address your actual points. So I'm just going to complain that you hate my favorite team and therefore you tell lies about them, so I can feel better."
Friends and frequent readers of this blog know that I am maniacal about ballparks (lifetime, 21 major league parks in 18 cities, plus 21 minor league or independent), and as such I've been enjoying the ongoing "ballpark tour" on ESPN.com. So it is with particular amusement that I read the review of the Yard, the major league ballpark I've attended more than any other. Merron gives it an appropriately high rating (second-highest so far, one point behind Pac Bell), but there's one area I have a major beef with: access, for which he gives the Yard 4 points out of a possible 5. If you're already in Baltimore, I'd say this is correct. But for all of Angelos' talk of DC being part of the O's market, I'd like to have Merron start in northern Virginia on a weeknight and head to a game. See how he rates access then. He also neglects to mention the ballpark crab cakes, but I also think of Boog's as the "signature concession item." I am looking forward to the reviews of the simultaneously loved and loathed Blue Acres, as well as Pittsburgh's PNC Park, which I think is the best of the modern ballparks I've attended.
Ask the Shank: Exploding Waterfowl. Dave Hooks asks, "Can I really explode a seagull by feeding it Alka-Seltzer?"
Nope. This old chestnut is based on the idea that birds can't burp or otherwise expel the gas that Alka-Seltzer creates. But birds can in fact burp in their way, and are likely to barf Alka-Seltzer back up. Supporting links from a non-Snopes urban legend site that claims to have a reply from the makers of Alka-Seltzer, and from the Environmental Literacy Council which sounds pretty damn authoritative on the physiology of seagulls.
Ask the Shank: I can't believe I answered the whole thing. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
Even more on scaling back the air marshal plan: Billmon thinks it may just be a plot by the TSA to avoid having their funding cut at all.
I'm trying to read the new Harry Potter, but haven't made much progress. Parenting doesn't help, but overall I haven't been anywhere near as drawn into this one as the previous books. Several complaints come to mind: first of all, Rowling seems to be making the books longer for the sake of making them longer, not because of plot demands. I'm about five chapters into it, and I feel like the exposition provided so far could easily have been handled in one chapter. Second, a related point, I'm really tired of the constant "Harry, this is a secret, you don't need to know" crap. The vast majority of whatever is finally revealed is not all that shocking or truly worthy of need-to-know basis. I just read the initial exposition of the summer activities of Voldemort and the Order of the Phoenix, and none of it is surprising; nor can I fathom any reason for keeping Harry in the dark about it all. I'm also tired of the Durselys; I can't understand why the wizard community makes him go back to this family that flat-out abuses him every summer. And finally, the number of characters is really starting to get out of control. I'll keep plugging away now and then, but so far it's just not the page-turner I was hoping for.
I attended my 15-year high school reunion this past weekend, and in general it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It also marked the first time in years I went to my hometown and spent significant time outside my mom's house. So it brought back to mind David Brooks' "One Nation, Slightly Divisible" article, mentioned in this space long ago, that contrasts "Blue" Montgomery County, Maryland (a DC suburb) with "Red" Franklin County, Pennsylvania (where I grew up). (In fact, the article came up in conversation with the daughter of the Reverend Bill Harter, who is quoted in the article.) On re-reading, this bit following discussion of the loss of local jobs jumps out at me:
And yet when they are asked about the broader theory, whether there is class conflict between the educated affluents and the stagnant middles, they stare blankly as if suddenly the interview were being conducted in Aramaic. I kept asking, Do you feel that the highly educated people around, say, New York and Washington are getting all the goodies? Do you think there is resentment toward all the latte sippers who shop at Nieman Marcus? Do you see a gulf between high-income people in the big cities and middle-income people here? I got only polite, fumbling answers as people tried to figure out what the hell I was talking about.
When I rephrased the question in more-general terms, as Do you believe the country is divided between the haves and the have-nots?, everyone responded decisively: yes. But as the conversation continued, it became clear that the people saying yes did not consider themselves to be among the have-nots. Even people with incomes well below the median thought of themselves as haves.
Now, there's a bit of something admirable in this, which is "Be thankful for what you got." We may not be the richest people in the country, but we're doing OK, so why get up in arms about it? In the end, though, I think voters like these are being flim-flammed, at least on the national level. By picking whichever national candidate seems like the better Christian, or which seems more humble (ugh), criteria which Bush carried in 2000 on an altogether phony basis, they gave control to the neoconservatives who could give a rat's ass about them. They fail to see, either via deception or willful ignorance, that the pro-corporate policies that allowed the factory to move overseas come directly from the people they helped put in office. Given the hayseed local media, and the lack of higher education (I do think that more than 12% of area high school graduates go to college, but a great number of those, such as myself and the Reverend Harter's daughters, move away), things are going to get a lot worse before people wake up and smell the cat food.
First and foremost, everyone tell my mom "Happy Birthday" if you happen to run into her.
In today's Post, Joe Freakin' Lieberman follows the DLC's lead and says other candidates (read: Dean) have embraced "extreme left ideals." Perhaps this article will explain what exactly these crazed, radical leftist ideals are, yes?
Repealing all the Bush tax cuts, because that would hurt the middle class. Hmmmm. If the tax cuts are a far-right action, getting back to where we were doesn't strike me as far-left, it strikes me as sensible. Raising taxes further would be far-left.
Gephardt's near-universal health care plan, apparently because it would cost too much. I don't know the details, so I can't really argue, but any attempt at universal coverage is a start, and is far better than the status quo.
Raising "the walls of protectionism" on trade. I must have missed something; I don't know who's calling for this.
"Weakness on defense" and avoiding the use of force when our security or our values are at stake. Lieberman of course assumes that our security was at stake with regards to Iraq, and that point is highly debatable.
Look, Joe, this is all bullshit. You have a very different idea of what constitutes "far left" than most of us do. In my world, far left policies would be "Unilaterally dismantle all our nuclear weapons," "Give animals the same rights as citizens," "Tax incomes over $1M at 90%," stuff like that. What Dean, Gephardt et. al. talk about is just left of center. You've shifted so far to the right that you've forgotten what the left looks like. I'd vote for Lieberman in 2004 over Bush, but I'd hold my nose while doing so.
Amusing things: Canonical list of college sports nicknames. My alma mater fields the only Diplomats in the country, but it would have been more fun to be the Armadillos, the Dirtbags, the Keelhaulers, the Muleriders, or the Prairie Fire. If sports aren't your thing, perhaps you'd like to play with this kitty instead.
Ask the Shank: Don't Let Yer Meat Loaf! Which came first: The meatball or the meatloaf? (Asker's identity lost. Identify yourself if you're willing to suffer the humiliation of having asked such a silly thing.)
Mickey Mouse. I thought of this the other day--why are we supposed to love Mickey Mouse so much? Because we're told to do so when we go to Disney World. When's the last time you actually saw a Mickey Mouse cartoon? At least Bugs and Daffy can be spotted on Cartoon Network now and then.
Articles about baseball general managers. It's all the rage now. Billy Beane! Brian Sabean! Theo Epstein vs. Brian Cashman! OK, we're over it. Can we watch the game now?
The Atlanta Braves. But you knew that.
I am now the proud owner of the Big Book of Tomorrow. Didn't have the chance to get into it last night, but it looks entertaining. You should go over to This Modern World and click on one of the fifty or so links that says "Buy the book."
Following from a discussion at Apathy, Inc., here's an open challenge: people who don't like Hillary Clinton almost always say that she's a big liar. A lying liar who lies about EVERYTHING, liar liar liar. So, give me some lies. The only ones I've had suggested are her alleged Yankees fanhood, and whether she believed Bill and the timing of events regarding the Clenis (and one could debate as to whether those things are in fact lies or not). So, what else? Give me an attributable Hillary statement, and its unambiguous refutation. I think the Mighty Wurlitzer has convinced people that Hillary's a big liar, but upon inspection of what she actually lied about (you have to tell lies in order to be a liar, after all) it doesn't hold up. But I'm willing to hear suggestions.
I'm about halfway through Harry Potter Five now, and while it's improved I still think it's weaker than the previous books. Every time Draco Malfoy appears, I find myself thinking "Why don't they just kill him?" I have similar thoughts about another character, too. When Rowling wants to make a given character annoying, she does that very well.
Done some shuffling and adding to the ol' blogroll. Go, read, waste some time. And remember, Friday is
Fair and Balanced Day. Fox News is stupid.
Ask the Shank: Takes 4 B-Size Batteries (not included). Joseph Grey asks, "Why is it that batteries come in AAA, AA, C, and D sizes but not B? What the hell happened to B?"
It never caught on (though apparently if you own a European bicycle lamp, you need B batteries). The American National Standards Institute, responsible for settling on things like light bulb threading so we don't have a dozen kinds of incompatible light bulbs and lamps, standardized battery sizes in 1919. They did in fact specify a size B, as well as size A, AAAA, F and G. But our free market being what it is, standardization took over -- we really only needed so many sizes. Thus, some sizes (the AAA, AA, C and D we're all familiar with) caught on in consumer applications, and the others pretty much faded away.
Ask the Shank: Not at all a rip-off of The Straight Dope! Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
Saturday night was Farewell to Blue Acres, as we journeyed to Philadelphia for one last game at the big bowl of Veterans Stadium. This was also our first major sporting event with the baby, which complicated things a little. She doesn't seem to handle crowd noise real well--I spent the 6th inning walking her around the concourse to settle her down, while the Phils were busy scoring four runs. The lower bowl was actually sold out, so we ended up in section 501, the upper deck near the right-field foul pole (near the Stargell star, and in the general vicinity of where Thome's Sunday night home run landed). I am looking forward to the new ballpark, hopefully with a more open feel, and better food. I also hope the upper deck fan groups carry over; the best from Saturday was "Generic Fan Group" (bested on Sunday night by "Scottie-Poos Boos," who dressed up as ghosts every time Rolen came up to bat, and "Mesa's Only Fans"). As we drove away, I said "So long, Vet! Thanks for the memories! You still suck!" I will probably put some pictures up later in the week.
I've previously ranted about how Amtrak gets no respect. Anyone who thinks we shouldn't fund Amtrak should be forced to drive up and down I-95 between Baltimore and Philly on a summer weekend. It was ridiculous. What should have been a three-hour trip was four hours each way, with slow traffic often for no other reason than too damn many cars on the road. Unfortunately, Amtrak to Philly for three costs way more than driving, so we were stuck in the car, but I would gladly shell out $100 to travel there by myself and not have to deal with the highway (and the rest stops).
Forgot to mention yesterday, I finally finished the Harry Potter book over the weekend. It was enjoyable, but I still find it not up to par with the rest of the series. Like Kieran Healy, I'm tired of Harry being stupid. To a degree, I appreciate the teen angst angle, and that he's not always going to be completely rational. But far too many times he just acts like a total idiot. Why didn't he use Sirius' mirror? Why does he get in a brawl with Malfoy after the Quidditch match--didn't they just learn the silencing spell, which would be pretty apt in that situation? Why in the WORLD does he have to ask what Grawp means by "Haggy?" Why does he continue to be bewildered by the magical world: "But why were they getting in an old phone booth?" Maybe because it's an entrance that's HIDDEN from muggles, like every other wizard building, you dumbass. I have one other really big complaint, which may constitute a spoiler, so I'll post it in a comment to this post.
Obnoxious-O-Gram of the Day: This morning I had an e-mail from someone whose name I don't recognize, a repeated forward that read:
I was asked to send this on if I agree or delete it if I don't. What do you think about this?
(picture of cute children praying in front of an American flag, with gold text above and below reading "One Nation Under God")
It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a mess about having "In God We Trust" on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the 14% to Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!
If you agree, pass this on, if not delete. . .
I resisted the urge to send an angry missive in reply, and I sent something more composed back to this person. It contained my usual argument about how the writer would freak out if his/her children had been given a crash course in Islamic prayer at school (I'm assuming the writer is Christian), and suggestions that the writer check up on the Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville, and the phrase "Tyranny of the Majority." Probably a waste of time, but you never know. More than anything, though, the last line makes me absolutely insane. "Agree with this? Great! Send it to everyone you know! Don't agree? Just ignore it. Don't say anything." Hey, SCREW you.
A note to the people of California: You can't have low taxes and high-quality public services at the same time. You just can't, OK? You either need to pay up, or don't complain when your kids are idiots because the schools suck, while garbage piles up at your curb for weeks at a time. I mean, what the HELL, people?!?
If you want more on why those who would force their religion on the rest of us are bad, read this great post at Shock & Awe (via Smart Remarks). As long as you're worked up, go read about Flood the Zone Friday at Not Geniuses (permalink isn't working; scroll down if necessary) and see just how easy it is to fire off a letter to your local media pointing out the administration's inane and dangerous economic policies.
Even as a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan, I'm not too much into booing our own players. I can't believe anyone ever booed Mike Schmidt. I thought the booing of Scott Rolen last week was inane. But if I could go to a Phillies game right now, I would boo them loud and long. Good teams do not get freakin' swept by the second-worst team in the league at any team, but especially not in late August. It was a whole series of missed opportunities, of loading the bases with nobody out and getting one run or less. Incredibly, the Fish got swept this week too, so the Phils still lead for the wild card by half a game. But this does not bode well. The Phils' had the Cardinals' number last weekend at the Vet; maybe somehow that mojo will carry over to this weekend.
Went to the Dean rally in Falls Church on Saturday, and it was quite enjoyable. We arrived just as the good doctor was taking the stage. He gives a good speech. Detailed enough to be above simple Bush-bashing; simple enough for everyone to get it. I quite enjoyed shouting "LIARS!" with the crowd every time he gave an administration reason for the war in Iraq and said "That turned out not to be true." If you're still not sure about the Dean campaign, you can download an MP3 from the event and hear it for yourself. Meanwhile, I am preparing for the forthcoming Bean rally (props to Fark member wldncrzy14).
I appreciate all the links that this infrequently-updated, too-often-about-sports blog gets. But I am particularly pleased to find I have a link at David Neiwert's Orcinus, and I'm wondering what I did to deserve it. If you haven't read his "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" series, get over there and check it out at your earliest convenience.
Ask the Shank: Yard Work. A baseball-related question [my favorite!--CDO]: Is there a rule against the grounds crew showing enthusiasm during games? thank you -- Pattie McCarthy
This question has hung around in my in-box for about two years, because previous attempts to e-mail the Orioles got bounced as "mailbox full." Lovely. I tried it again this week, though, and got a reply from Sales and Fan Services: "The grounds crew is permitted to cheer for the home team during games." There you go.
Ask the Shank: I greatly prefer baseball questions to toilet questions, so send them on in to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
I realize posts that just say "I'm sick of _______________" are kind of lame, but I can't help myself. So, so tired of the hype about the NFL's first game, Britney Spears on the Mall, President Bush first ball, blah blah blah. Shut up and play already. I'll probably still watch the game on Thursday, for lack of anything else going on, but you can be damn sure I'm avoiding the pre-game.
I watched the entire debacle at the Vet yesterday, and while you'd need both hands and a foot to count the ways that game was lost, one thing has really stuck out in my mind. Carlos Silva hadn't pitched since one inning on August 27. He started the fifth, got two outs and gave up a
single. Bowa then TOOK HIM OUT in favor of Plesac, who walked the two hitters he faced, then gave way to Williams who got the third out. Hellooooooo, Larry: just because your bullpen is well-rested for once doesn't mean you have to use every single pitcher today--we still have, what, 12 games to play in the next 12 games? Silva's your long reliever and he's well rested, so let him pitch two if not three innings, and use the rest of your pen as needed rather than forcing everyone to take a turn. If you really think you need to go to a situational lefty in the fifth inning, maybe the Phils should let Silva go and give him a chance somewhere else. Then Cormier absolutely labored through the 7th and 8th, giving up the go-ahead runs in the 8th (before Thome got them back again in the bottom half). No sign of taking him out until it was too late. Much hoopla about the players vs. Bowa these days, but I think his handling of the pitching staff leaves something to be desired.
Gregg Easterbrook repeats his inane assertion that Thanksgiving Day games in Dallas and Detroit every year give those two teams an unfair advantage. And just like I said last year: It's more appropriate to compare the teams' Thanksgiving records to their home records, not overall records, since they'd get that home game whether it was on Thursday or Sunday. And over the long haul, the Lions and Cowboys have done worse in Thanksgiving games than in home games overall. So much for that being a huge advantage. I really liked Easterbrook when his column ran on Slate, but since he moved to ESPN he seems to have dumbed it down considerably. His apparent Hillary-hatred (he harps on her having a ghostwriter work on "Living History," which is a ridiculous thing to be angry about) is really getting annoying.
To borrow from The Onion, isn't Paul Hill going to be surprised when he finds himself in HELL!? The guy is not an "anti-abortion activist," he's a terrorist, plain and simple. And anyone who says he should be rewarded rather than executed is objectively pro-terrorist. August breaks it down.
I found another writer agreeing with me on Easterbrook being full of hot air on the Thanksgiving game issue. "What TMQ has done here is discover home-field advantage, nothing more." Ha!
Ask the Shank: Where the Elite Meet to Beat the Heat. Turk Oliver asks, "How am I supposed to beat this heat?"
Drink lots of water and natural juices even if you don't feel very thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffe and cola. Avoid going out in the blazing sun or heat when possible.If you must go outside, stay in the shade as much as possible and plan to go out early in the morning or evening when it is cooler and smog levels may not be as high as in the afternoon. Wear a hat. Take advantage of air conditioned or cool places such as shopping malls, libraries, community centres or a friend's place. Try to spend some time near the lake or waterfront where it is cooler. If you don't have air conditioning, keep shades or drapes drawn and blinds closed onthe sunny side of your home, but keep windows slightly open. Keep electric lights off or turned down low. Take a cool bath or shower periodically or cool down with cool, wet towels. Wear loose fitting, light clothing. Avoid heavy meals and using your oven. Avoid intense or moderately intense physical activity. Try to take it easy, and rest as much as possible. Never leave a child in a parked car or sleeping outside in direct sunlight. If you sleep outside during the day, try to sleep in the shade. Remember the sun moves, so try to sleep in a spot that will be shady for a few hours. Fans alone may not provide enough cooling when the temperature is high. Consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding side effects of your medications. (Egregiously stolen from here.)
Ask the Shank: it's cool, baby. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
Been sitting around since Friday waiting for the Blog Fairy to come update the site for me. Look, that Easterbrook fellow has a blog of his own, and in this post he says the Alabama governor's Christian-based tax proposal hasn't gotten the national play of Judge Roy Moore, because Moore is an insane Christian and Riley is a good one--that is, that dang ol' liberal media doesn't want to show Christians in a good light. There may be a bit of something to this, but there are other contributing factors: Tax legislation is much more boring than people trying to chain themselves to the monument. Raising taxes BAD! and no one wants to give that coverage. But on the whole, I think the Alabama proposal is a sound one, and I'd like to see it get more favorable coverage.
Everybody flip off a Hummer! While I agree with the overall sentiment, I'm worried that, since a person driving a Hummer is already likely to be a colossal asshole, giving one the finger might result in the driver going road ragey and tailgating, cutting me off, ramming me, or following me home to try to kick my ass.
It is hard to put into words how awful the war in Iraq is on many fronts, and just how downright evil the administration has become. But Arthur Silber does a pretty good job of it. Also, this here graph on what $87 billion will buy shows just how woefully skewed our priorities are. Can't roll back those tax cuts, though!
Two years ago today, I drove by the Pentagon about 15 minutes before a plane hit it. Today, just about everyone in Olde Blog Towne has something to say about it. Strangely, I feel very little. The wretched memories of that day conflict with my impressions that our administration and its cronies are using 9/11 to do very, very bad things. Like others, I'm not keen on telling others what or how to mourn, but I also resent those who would tell me the same. You are welcome to wallow in it if you like, but you'll have to excuse me if I ignore you, and remember in my own way. Maybe instead of wailing and rending our garments, we could direct that anguish and rage towards getting some questions answered, both for our collective piece of mind and to help prevent something like it ever happening again. August's essay of one year ago, which still applies today, pretty much says it all.
Ask the Shank: Horsin' Around. What's the origin of the _expression "I have to pee like a race horse?" Do race horses somehow hold it until they have to go really, really bad? --Kristin
I haven't beheld it first-hand, but apparently, thoroughbred urination is impressive in its volume and velocity. This is compounded by the fact that some race horses are given a diuretic that prevents internal bleeding.
Ask the Shank: Sometimes when you gotta go, you can't. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
We survived the big bad hurricane without much problem. Our lights stayed on, and while we did have to boil our water for a couple days, in all there wasn't much to complain about. We were definitely lucky in that regard, however, having seen pictures of Old Town Alexandria and downtown Annapolis under a couple of feet of water. Tom captures my feelings on how mind-bogglingly stupid much of the hurricane news coverage was.
So how about that Wes Clark fellow? I am still a Howard Dean supporter--I don't think Clark effectively captures the outrage that the Democratic candidate should have. But Clark's positions are appealing (he's pro-gun control, solving my major beef with Dean), and if he's the most electable that may be hard to argue with. I'm not really concerned with who's the most anti-war; there were a lot of people who were in favor of the Iraq war some months ago who have changed their minds. Yeah, I'd rather support someone who was against it from the beginning, but ultimately, it's what we plan to do going forward that's important.
Ask the Shank: More Horse Urine! Georgiana Lee, who obviously has a lot more first-hand experience with horses than El Bastardo Sabetodo, chipped in the following on the origin of "I have to piss like a race horse."
Stallions and geldings keep their penises all nicely tucked up in something they have called a sheath. That's why when you see them they aren't hanging around making everyone say "holy shit, so that's what hung like a horse means!" In order to pee they have to "drop down" and they can't do that while moving, whether it's walk, trot, canter, or run like a race horse. Mares kind of spread their hind legs when they go so I don't think I've ever seen a mare pee while in motion either. Oh, sometimes when a stallion or gelding really likes you they'll drop down. It's a bit disconcerting the first time you see it. And since they can't clean themselves you have to clean your horse's sheath. If you're like me you con someone else into doing it as in "you want to take him on a four hour trail ride? Okay, but give him a bath when you get back and don't forget the sheath." Or you can do what a friend of mine does. Her theory is that when the oven needs cleaning it's time to move and when the sheath needs cleaning it's time for a new horse. Sometimes air gets up in there along with the penis and when the horse trots he makes an nice farting sound that makes all the little student riders giggle like maniacs.
Thanks, Georgiana. Good to know. I think.
Ask the Shank: please send questions about anything and everything, but preferably not about urination, defecation, or toilets, to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.
Between hurricanes, a crazy work schedule, and illness, there's been no time to blog. But it's Sunday and I am free of distractions, so it's time to catch up. Today we'll discuss baseball; tomorrow, everything else.
Hard not to be disappointed in the Phillies. I suppose having a chance in September and coming up short is better than being out of it at the All-Star break, and has been the case for most of the past ten years, but it's still nagging. I blame the following:
The team's tendency to play to the level of its competition. Legitimate contenders do not get swept by the Brewers, and drop two of three to the Reds and Pirates, coming down the stretch.
Stating the obvious: What the heck happened to Burrell? And Bell, for that matter?
Bowa's misuse of the bullpen, and the over-emphasis on Major League Experience. Why didn't Geoff Geary and Josh Hancock get the ball more often down the stretch? Apparently, because they're September call-ups. Instead, we got Mesa, Wendell and Williams out there almost every day, when they all clearly had NOTHING. Hey Larry, do the names "Brendan Donnelly" and "Francisco Rodriguez" mean anything to you? If not, watch the Angels' 2002 highlight video. Sometimes new guys like that have an advantage in that no one has seen them before. In any event, it couldn't have been any worse than what we got out of Turnpike Mike, crazy-ass Turk, and Joe Table. Bowa's exile of Tyler Houston didn't help either--how many times in the last two weeks would it have been nice to have the NL's leading pinch-hitter on the bench?
Here's my biggest peeve: at the trade deadline, the Marlins went out and got Urbina and Conine. The Phils got Mike Williams. That won it for the Fish, right there. Now, if we make the playoffs repeatedly in the latter half of the decade, led by the starting pitching of Hamels, Madson, and Floyd, I suppose I'll look back at this season and be glad we didn't make any moves. But right now, it gets on my nerves.
There were some good things, though. The Thome signing obviously was a good move; if he's not already the Phils' best free-agent acquisition ever, he will be with another year like this one. Byrd's play after being moved to the leadoff spot was great. Cormier was better than anyone could have expected, and the consistency of the starting pitchers was nice for a change (I'd have to research it, but I'd expect the Phillies used fewer different starting pitchers this year than any year since 1993). I expect Millwood to leave town, and he will be hard to replace. But still, reason for hope going into the new ballpark next season. If they could just trade for Schilling and convince him to be the closer...
So with the Phils and O's out, who do I root for in this post-season? Anyone but the Yankees. I'd even be happy if the Braves won, so maybe the "12 division titles in 12 years but only one World Series so the Braves are losers" meme would be put to rest for a few years. While I certainly have no love for the Braves, 12 division titles in 12 years is a whole lot more than any other team in that span, and one World Series title is exactly one more than most of those teams too. I suppose I'll be rooting for the Red Sox, both because I like their players, and to kill the similarly annoying "Red Sox Curse" meme. Like a lot of fans, I'd love to see a Red Sox-Cubs matchup, but that's probably too much to hope for.
Yea verily, join me in taking The Pledge. I may be a Dean supporter, but I will whole-heartedly support whoever gets the Democratic nomination (even Lieberman). I want to see the primary season based on the merits of each candidate, and not have it be a mud-slinging competition that plays into the Republicans' hands.
Random item that probably only interests me: the most popular mascot photos this month, in terms of how often the full-size image is requested, are the Taco, the Moose, and Youppi. The Taco picture gets linked in message board posts and the like, as if it's the only proof that a taco mascot actually exists. The Moose is just a funny picture. And Youppi's popularity probably has something to do with the presence of a cute blonde in that particular photo. Someday I will attend more sporting events and take more pictures with mascots... not quite sure when that will be, however.
I have long felt like a Canadian, trapped in an American's body. So Paul Lewis' column suggesting the blue states become provinces strikes a chord with me. Would this mean we could get poutine here? Instead of (BLLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHH!) Cheesebuger Fries, the most horrifying culinary development since Mac's Steak in the Rough?
Did I say I'd post this Monday? I meant Tuesday. Yeah. Anyway, around Olde Blog Towne: Whooo, the Plame affair is heating up. Check out what CalPundit says about it here and here; hell, just go to his front page and read it all. Also, check out Michael Moore's can o' whoop-ass for unfounded criticism of Bowling for Columbine.
Finally, I am pleased to report that my man C-Diddy pulled it off: he won the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland. I have shared many a drink and a few blackjack tables with this man, albeit never while he was wearing a Hello Kitty breastplate.
E-mail me to cheer or jeer any of my choices. Or go back to the front page to see the other goofy crap on this domain.