FoolBlog Archive: 2003 Q4

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Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Thursday, October 2, 2003

  • Wow, I wish I could have stayed up late enough to see the Ramon Hernandez 12th-inning bunt to beat the Red Sox. Brilliant, just brilliant. Shades of Jake Taylor in Major League. I think the sacrifice bunt is overrated, and the squeeze bunt is underrated. A couple of times this year, when the Phillies were in the 9th or extra innings and had guys on base, I thought "A suicide squeeze would be perfect here." But managers don't want to wear the goat horns if the play goes wrong, and major league hitters overall don't bunt that well these days. But props to Hernandez for pulling this one off.
  • Rush Limbaugh making quasi-racist comments on ESPN's football pre-game show? Nooooooooo. You're kidding. Why, this is almost as surprising as Michael Savage going on a homophobic tirade on his MSNBC show. How could anyone see this coming?!? And now there's the Rush-on-drugs story, which is surely making Scoobie Davis giggle uncontrollably. At least I can watch NFL Sunday Countdown again, as I had been absolutely boycotting it to this point. One wacky bit from the Rush-McNabb affair: Howard Dean apparently spoke out against Limbaugh's comments regarding "Philadelphia Jets quarterback Donovan McNabb." Uh, Howard...
  • Be sure to read Josh Marshall's interview with Wesley Clark. Smart guy. Unfortuantely, with our half-witted electorate, that's not necessarily a good thing--somehow in the last 10 years or so, being too smart became a bad thing. Better to be a low-grade moron who seems like a nice guy, rather than, you know, be intelligent and have an advanced education, like that dork Al Gore.
  • Ask the Shank: Why Mrs. Robinson Slept Around. Anthony asks, "Where did the expression 'faster than you can say Jack Robinson' come from... the baseball player Jackie Robinson? Something or someone from a very long time ago?"

    No, the phrase predates Jackie Robinson; the expression appears in literature as early as 1778. One 18th-century dictionary said Jack Robinson was "a very volatile gentleman" who would drop by someone's house, then leave before he was announced--i.e., he'd take off quicker than the servant could say "Jack Robinson." There are other possible explanations, but this one is the earliest; see here for more.

    Ask the Shank: Jackie Robinson was so fast, he could hit a line drive up the middle and get hit with the ball sliding into second. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank -at - bigfool.com.

Monday, October 6, 2003

  • I sure wish someone could explain to me how Clinton's consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky was worthy of impeachment, while Arnold's non-consensual grabbin', gropin', and all-around piggishness shouldn't concern us in the slightest. Also, I'd like someone to explain how Hillary was a dope or a liar for initially believing her husband didn't have an affair, while Maria Shriver is somehow to be commended for standing by her man.
  • Quality linkage on this lousy Monday: Kos on the Medieval Presidency, the drive towards governance by ignoring the facts. Sadly, No on the Chewbacca Defense of the Plame affair.
  • Do you think Fox sports programming executives are going to sacrifice chickens and do everything else in their power to try to bring about a Yanks-Cubs World Series? And do you think if late-60's Roger Daltrey could have seen what 2003 Roger Daltrey would be up to, he'd have killed himself?

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

  • Today, I fear, Californians are going to elect Arnold freakin' Schwarzenegger as their governor, proving once and for all how idiotic and uninformed Americans really are. The clincher, I think, is the fact that Arnold has some ties to Enron, and nobody seems to care. The energy crisis is Davis' downfall, yet the new guy is in bed with the same people who perpetrated that crisis. I read somewhere (can't find it now, dammit) that Arnold is likely to approve some sweetheart settlement with Enron and company, costing California billions of dollars. We'll see what people think of his "outsider" status then.
  • More unbelievable crap: Bush saying he sure would like to know who's responsible for the Plame affair, but he doesn't know, and it's going to be so hard to find out. Now, setting aside the fact that he probably already knows and is lying through his teeth... for someone who supposedly has such business acumen and is going to run the country efficiently, like a CEO, shouldn't he be able to ask some hard questions and get to the bottom of this pretty easily? Similarly, Arnold says he can't remember anything about the secret meeting. Can't remember an event of that magnitude that happened just two and a half years ago? And this is the guy with the big ideas, who's going to run California like a well-oiled machine, even though he apparently can't remember shit?
  • Argh. On a more entertaining note, check out some know-it-all music critic's list of Top 50 Used CDs. I own 13 of these titles, which is significantly more than anyone else I've polled on this. I don't know if that's good or bad.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

  • Everybody's got something to say about the California election, from the psychoanalytical to the plain old pissed off. This morning I found this Richard Cohen piece to be rather disturbing, as he points out that "likeability" is what got Arnold elected. And it had a lot to do with Bush's election in 2000, that whole "who would you rather sit next to on a plane?" schtick. I know it's hard for me to flog the stupidity of the citizenry any harder, but I have to: "likeability" isn't near the top of my list of characteristics I want in a leader. It's probably in the top ten, sure, but it's by no means the driving factor. If this is what we've come to, can we look forward to happy, glamorous, but empty-headed candidates with no platforms, while the unelected pull the strings and run the country?
  • Kevin Drum goes over the Texas GOP official platform. This is some scary crap, and it's not some fringe group; it's one of the two major parties in the nation's second-largest state, and it's the group that gave us Bush and DeLay. If this is their vision, I really wish they'd secede, and anyone who wants to live like that can move to Texas, and leave the rest of us alone.
  • For something almost but not quite as scary and offensive as the Texas GOP platform, pick up Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking, in which she perpetuates the myth that cooking is hard, and if you really want to be a good parent and spend time with your family, you need to feed them pre-processed crap. Amanda Hesser wrote a great take-down in the Times, but unfortunately it's behind their pay-to-read fence at this point. Suffice to say, any cookbook that suggests using Velveeta to make gnocchi isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Hey, why make mashed potatoes from real, actual potatoes, which would be cheap and easy, when you can buy pre-packaged mashed potatoes for twice the price? Oy. Cooking isn't that hard, people! It's only hard if you make it that way! It goes hand-in-hand with the ad for Chinet or whatever, where the poor beleaguered mom can't play games with her joyful family, because she has to wash the dishes, so they switch to paper plates. Gonna dump it all in the landfill, but at least she can play Parcheesi with her kids! Except that washing the dishes takes, what, 15 minutes? And those kids are old enough for her to say "Get your ass over here, wash these dishes, and earn your allowance for a change."
  • Ask the Shank: The Can Has Been Trashed. Where did the world's largest trash can go? I used to love looking at it as I drove into the city on 295/Russel street. -Martin Burke

    Alas, the world's largest trash can has been disposed of. Apparently it was rusting out, to the point of being structurally unsound and dangerous, so Resco took it down in July. And recycled it, of course.

    Ask the Shank: like a giant trash can full of useless information. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Friday, October 10, 2003

  • Why Is Ham Funny? There's a Baby Ruth commercial running now, in which, among other things, the meaty-voiced announcer says "Don't like Baby Ruth? Eat ham!" Silly and non-sequiterish, but when I was making a ham steak for dinner the other night, I kept saying "Eat ham!" in my best announcer voice. It made me wonder... why exactly is ham our funniest meat, if not the funniest food product overall? It's easy to make a joke about someone being overfond of ham. In an episode of "Johnny Bravo" where he joins a rap group, one of the MCs says "All the ladies love me, but I love ham." Wouldn't be funny if he loved venison, right? Letterman gives away canned hams before his show; giving away tins of sardines wouldn't be as amusing. I don't think it's the product itself so much as the word "ham"--short, punchy, and vaguely wacky. But I can't say for sure. I welcome your thoughts.
  • I succumbed to temptation and picked up the new OutKast double CD yesterday. I have listened to the Big Boi half already, and while it certainly has some moments, I think I agree with the assessment that OutKast should have made one great album instead of two OK ones. I started the Andre 3000 half on the way to work today, and I expect it to be a lot more interesting. I found it entertaining that Best Buy had about 70 copies of the explicit verison in stock, and while the sticker on it says something like "clean version available," none of those were to be found in their racks. Now more than ever, I'd love to be an extra in an OutKast video.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

  • Little to no blogging the rest of the week, as I will be out of town and mostly off-line. Go read TBogg, who seemingly gets better every day, or any of the other suspects on the blogroll. One piece to recommend before I go: this Salon article, titled "Americans are not going broke over lattes!", which discusses the causes of middle-class bankruptcy. It's not conspicuous consumption on worthless overpriced crap, it's the ridiculous housing market, health insurance, and college, among other things. After you read it, ask yourself: which of America's two major political parties is more likely to do anything to help middle-class Americans cope with these issues? And which is more likely to side with the credit card and mortgage companies who propagate the problems?

Thursday, October 16, 2003

  • Ask the Shank: Falling Elevators. If I was in an elevator by myself on the 20th floor and the cable snapped, could I avoid really serious injury by jumping in the air just as the car hit the basement floor, thus changing my speed relative to the cars speed? -Ron Lewis

    Sorry, that's not going to work. It's not your speed relative to the car's speed that's important; it's your speed relative to the basement floor. By my calculations, you're going to be doing about 67 MPH by the time you get all the way down; even if you jump, that's still going to bust up your legs pretty good.

    Ask the Shank: Helping you avoid serious injury, except when it's not possible. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

  • Hiiii, evry'buddy. Long time no type. Back from work travel and other nonsense that kept me off-line. Although I am a few days behind, and it will disappoint Albuquerque Rob, I'd like to talk about baseball, specifically that poor chump in Chicago who screwed up the foul ball. I don't blame the guy. Having a foul ball (or home run) hit at you during a game is, in all likelihood, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I figure I've been to upwards of 75 professional games in my lifetime, and I've had exactly one chance to catch a hit ball on the fly (when I was about 10, I let one clank off the front of my glove at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, and the guy in front of me picked it up). I've had balls thrown or handed to me by players, and scooped up a few during batting practice, but to actually catch one during a game would be something very special. So when that ball's arcing towards you, there's not a whole lot of time to think, "Say, I wonder if our left fielder could make a play on this ball." You're thinking "Holy crap it's coming right here gotta catch it gotta catch it gotta catch it." Real easy for drunk Cubs fans to curse the guy, hindsight being 20-20 and all. But I figure 99.9% of baseball fans, in the same seat without foreknowledge of what was going to happen, would have done the exact same thing. And if it was so obvious that Alou could catch the ball, why weren't other fans in the vicinity screaming at that poor bastard to let the ball go? From the looks of it, they wanted to catch it too. As for the Series, the second half of this Neyer column sums up how I feel about it.
  • The dumbest ad of the moment is the one for some SUV, I think the Nissan Pathfinder, in which two guys are out in manly rugged terrain, run out of food, and one of them eats a bug (when they wake up from sleeping on a bed of rocks). Then they are surprised to find another SUV, packed with kids eating Doritos, also tearing up the pristine wilderness. Some questions:
    • With all the cargo space in this gigantic vehicle, why did these two dumbasses fail to pack enough food for their trip?
    • And if they're so far removed from civilization that they can't go buy more food, how the hell are they keeping their 15 MPG vehicle fueled up? Perhaps they packed the back with gas cannisters, and thus had no room for food.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

  • Yeah, I'm late to the party, but Homestar Runner is quite entertaining. Everybody loves Strong Bad, but the character that cracks me up every single time is Homsar. And I cannot stop singing "Come on fhqwhgads."
  • Music that has somewhat more replay value: I recently picked up My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves, and I quite recommend it. A good chunk of rock, a dash of country, some Dead-type influence. You can check out some tracks on the site by clicking "Music" and then the album cover (yucky RealPlayer required, however). I recommend "Golden." I also filled out my back catalog by finally getting Big Audio Dynamite's first and second albums, which I still find brilliant.
  • Quick review of the issues of the day: Gen. Boykin is scary and should be removed from any position in which he talks to people, Diebold is evil and must be destroyed, and Republicans who claim they're more civil than Democrats are full of it. Any questions?
  • Ask the Shank: Pig vs. Turkey, a Duel to the Death. I was in my local Subway Sub Shop today and noticed that turkey is more expensive than ham. Do you know why? Is a turkey harder to hunt than a pig? I asked my sandwich artist, as she was prepairing my foot long ham and swiss, why turkey was more expensive than ham and she said "hell if I know... what do you want on this?" -John Marsh

    Good question. Short answer: supply and demand, plus the relative productivity of pig and turkey farms. Americans eat a lot more ham than turkey. Per capita consumption of pork products in 2001 was about 52 pounds per person (see this article at the beautifully named "thepigsite.com"), while turkey was about 17.5 pounds per person. Thus a great pig-processing empire has risen up to meet the demand. By weight, the US produces approximately four times as much pork as turkey (almost 20 billion pounds of pork, to 5.7 billion pounds of turkey). So competition among ham producers is pretty fierce, while turkey producers can charge a bit more for those who really want their lower-fat product.

    Ask the Shank: Food questions are good! Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

  • I heard a rumor, but can't find it even corroborated or substantiated on-line, that some of the fires in California were started by two guys in a gray van driving around throwing lit matches out the window. That sounds like an urban myth, but if it were true, those guys are surely from the timber industry, or otherwise connected to Bush's Healthy Forest Initiative. Our government and various interest groups have a rich history of creating laws and organizations that do the exact opposite of their titles, but calling a logging program "Healthy Forests" really takes the cake. It's like an ax murderer calling his victims "healthy people," since after all they aren't taking sick days, or taking up space in the hospital.
  • Meanwhile, there's the notion that yesterday's hideous, coordinated attacks in Iraq are indications of how "despearte" our enemies our. This is the exact kind of doublespeak a lot of petty tyrants under siege come out with. Look, I don't doubt that there are improvements in the lives of some Iraqis, but this line of thought is just idiotic. What would constitute bad news, then?
  • Oh yeah, the Marlins won the World Series. Well, whatever. Two teams I really dislike; it was hard to get too riled up. Props to Beckett, though, for a truly clutch performance. Have I mentioned lately that I loathe Fox Sports? Jeannie Zelasko introduced Bud Selig for the trophy presentation by saying "And here's the commissioner with a lovely parting gift for you." Yes, Clich Woman actually called the World Series trophy a "lovely parting gift." Ay carramba.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

  • Luskin the Stalker: This isn't exactly news by now (even though it just happened yesterday), but it clearly needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Donald Luskin, who is absolutely obsessed with Paul Krugman, has threatened legal action against head honcho blogger Atrios, regarding a post which said Luskin was "stalking" Krugman. Despite the fact that Luskin himself once said he was stalking Krugman. One has to think Luskin and his lawyer didn't really think this through, as much of the blogosphere, including the right wing, has come out to say how idiotic this is. Luskin went off the deep end long ago; his blog claims to document the "bad people" who do bad things as detailed in his book "The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid," but as of this writing 12 of the 13 items on the front page involve Krugman. There's even a "No Krugmans" Ghostbusters-type logo. Most of his revelations are of the sort, "In his most recent column, Krugman said last year's Christmas was a Tuesday, but in fact it was a Wednesday! This proves that Krugman is a malevolent liar and everything he ever says is a lie." So, he can say any nasty thing he chooses about Krugman, but someone calls him a stalker and it's libelous? Episode #30,342 of "Conservatives can dish it out, but they can't take it." How the National Review, or anyone, can continue to employ this guy as a writer is beyond me.
  • Goin' down to Olde Blogg Towne: SKB sums up Iraq quite nicely. Bush flat-out lies about the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the Lincoln; Wesley Clark has the best reply, with a little extra provided by Digby. And in the Blog Ecosystem, yours truly has the top-ranked blog with the word "Fool" in its title. Yee haw!
  • Ask the Shank: Drunks and Whores. Why does the Thai dish Drunken Noodles have that name? Is there booze involved in the preparation? --Doug Campbell

    Normally, no. The Thai name for the dish is "pad kee mao"; "kee mao" means a person who drinks a lot. The dish is meant to be intensely spicy, so you're inclined to keep drinking beer or rice whiskey during the meal. The better the noodles, the drunker you'll be by the time you're done.

    Bonus item: the Italian dish pasta alla puttanesca (with "streetwalker's sauce") has several fun explanations for its trashy name. Some suggest hookers made it to entice clients, which I find ridiculous--if I want something to eat, I'm going to a restaurant, not to a whore. It's also suggested that chefs would throw it together for ladies of the evening who came to the restaurant late at night. I prefer the explanation given by James Peterson in his vast book on sauces: the ho's didn't get off work until late at night, so all the markets were closed; they had to cook using ingredients that kept well on the shelf, like dry pasta, olives, anchovies, and capers.

    Ask the Shank: Perhaps next week's question will be "What's the correct plural of 'ho?'" Meanwhile, send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

  • I voted this morning, though it was sort of anti-climactic. We only had one actual race at my polling place; in the other two elections, the incumbent ran unopposed. Republican Jay Test has swamped us with mailings in his campaign for state delegate. His platform has two main parts: First, taxes are bad, and the incumbent loves taxes. Second, northern Virginia pays more to the state than it gets back in benefits, and he's going to FIGHT! to get our fair share. Now, the "taxes are bad" thing has been stale for a while. I find it hard to picture Marian Van Landingham rubbing her hands together and cackling "Taxes! Mooooohahahahaha!" And while it is true that NoVa routinely gets screwed in the state legislature, that has a lot more to do with majority control by down-state, rural--and, yes, Republican--interests, than some ridiculous notion that Van Landingham isn't trying hard enough. In any event, I can't bring myself to vote for someone with an R next to their name under any circumastances these days. Evil, stupid, ill-informed, or in denial: which are you, Jay Test?
  • What was all that about civility in public discourse? These days you've got conservatives throwing around accusations of racism when one judicial nomination is opposed, ignoring any other nominees of color who were approved, since they don't support the argument. In my world, racism isn't something to be taken lightly, and therefore it isn't something you just randomly accuse people of to suit your political agenda. And then you have Wolfowitz telling a critic that "you dislike this country and its policies." Honestly, if I'd been that questioner at Georgetown, I'd have screamed at Wolfowitz to come down off the stage so I could punch his freakin' lights out. Again, "you hate your country" is not something you should say flippantly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

  • Too much is being made of Howard Dean's confederate flag tag line. As William Saletan points out, he's been using this line for a while, without controversy, but now that he's the clear front-runner, the rest of the candidates have taken the opportunity to slap him around for it. But as has been pointed out by many, such as the Angry Bear, nothing Dean said came remotely close to "The confederate flag is A-OK with me." What he's saying is the Democratic party needs to reach out to largely rural, white, southern voters, who have voted Republican for some time out of party loyalty, identity politics, or both, but whose actual circumstances should move them to vote Democratic. The only thing Dean is guilty of is poor choice of imagery--the confederate flag is offensive to a lot of people, and if he had said "White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with gun racks on the back," he could have conveyed the same idea and headed off any offensensitivity on the part of Sharpton and Edwards. I agree with Saletan--Dean's Democratic critics are deliberately misconstruing his point for purposes of taking a shot at him, and while appreciate that they all want to win the nomination, what they're doing will probably cost Dean votes in the general election should he be the nominee.
  • Van Landingham 63%, Test 37%. On the other hand... Virginia House, 61 R, 36 D. I haven't been able to find a red/blue map for this, but I'd be willing to bet that much of NoVa is Democratic, the rest of the state Republican. So much for the FIGHT! to get our fair share.
  • This Atrios post is a few days old, but it makes a good point: pointing out that kids are going to school and people are going to work doesn't, by itself, mean that everything in Iraq is great. Because people did all those things when Saddam was in power. Furthermore, saying things are bad in Iraq right now is not paramount to wishing Saddam was back in power. It's completely possible for an Iraqi to say, "Thanks for getting rid of Saddam. Now, go away."

Thursday, November 6, 2003

  • Ask the Shank: Soy El Bastardo Sabetodo. You wanted food questions? Well... I recently learned that soy beans got their name from soy sauce, not the other and perhaps more intuitive way around. If that is indeed the case, where did soy sauce get its name? -David M. von Behren

    Interesting question. We can trace the etymology from English through Dutch (soya, for both the bean and the sauce) to Japanese, in which soy sauce is generally shouyu, but the beans themselves are kuromame or edamame--seemingly unrelated. Shouyu in turn is derived from the Mandarin jingyu, jing being "soybean paste" and yu being "sauce." Evidently, the sauce itself was brought to Japan from China before the beans were.

    Ask the Shank: Keep them food questions, and questions about anything and everything else, to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

  • So we've got Rumsfeld denying he ever said things he said just months ago (via Atrios et. al.). I hope someone takes the opportunity to actually show Rumsfeld video of himself saying these things, then asking him what the hell he's talking about. Even caught red-handed like that, he'd probably continue to swear up and down that he never said it. Apparently, for a conservative to have "said" something these days, they have to have used the verbatim words the critic is referring to. The concept of synonyms? Irrelevant. These people have no honor.
  • So last night I says to the missus, "If the Eagles win tonight (or lose by four points or less), and the total combined score is 38 points or less, I win the office football pool this week." She says, "That's a lot of 'ifs,' isn't it?" "Sure, but at least I have a shot, which most of the people in the pool don't." Iggles 17, Pack 14. Ka-ching! I actually watched the whole game, which by MNF standards was short. As such I was treated to the following announcer inanity: down by four and one timeout left, the Eagles get the ball with just under three minutes left, and drive down to the Green Bay 32, as the clock ticks down to a minute-twenty or so. After every play that isn't an incompletion, Michaels and Madden yammer that they need to take their timeout, or spike the ball on first down to stop the clock. "Idiots!" I say. 80 seconds is plenty of time in this situation, McNabb and company seem extraordinarily calm and collected going down the field, and they're doing a fine job of managing the clock--the Eagles did not want to score with too much time left for the Packers to come back and tie it. Ideally, you score the winning touchdown as time expires. Next they got a first down at the Green Bay 12 with just under a minute, they took the timeout, and now Michaels and Madden belittle them for taking it instead of spiking the ball. Again, 57 seconds is plenty of time, and going from the 12 yard line they're going to be shooting for the end zone, so the extra down is more important than the timeout, don't you think? Sure enough, McNabb runs it down to the six, and without freaking out, the Eagles line up and score the touchdown on the next play. After the ensuing kickoff, the Packers only have 21 seconds left, and obviously they didn't get the job done. Clock management is one of the most misunderstood parts of football; professional coaches with years of experience screw it up, and last night a couple of long-time announcers had no idea what they were talking about.
  • Go read WayLay today. Read Orcinus too. Oh, and have you heard that the White House isn't going to answer budget questions from congressional Democrats? When you've read all that, come back and explain to me why anybody still supports the administration. And on this Veterans' Day, remember those like Lori Piestewa, who served their country, but weren't mainstream-America enough to have a TV movie made about them.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

  • Ask the Shank: You Can Drink the Exhaust! Now this may seem like a silly question, but wouldn't the hydrogen cars Bush is pushing lead to, say, more lethal car bombs? I'm thinking hydrogen bombs and the Hindenburg here as historical precedence. -Stephen Ashby

    This question actually covers a lot of ground. First of all, a hydrogen fuel cell is not an internal combustion engine - it produces energy through an electrochemical reaction, so nothing is actually on fire inside your hydrogen car while it's running. Hydrogen is still hella combustible, but it dissipates quickly in air. BMW has done extensive crash testing on their fuel cell concept car, and reports no spontaneous explosions. The biggest risk would be if your hydrogen tank sprung a leak while your car was in an enclosed space (say, the garage), then you lit a smoke or set of a spark via the garage door opener. But on the whole, it's no more risky, probably less so, than our modern petrol-powered cars.

    The Hindenburg looked a lot worse than it really was. It didn't explode per se so much as catch fire and burn spectacularly, but the flames all traveled up into the atmosphere rather than down to the passenger car. Most of those who died leaped from the car to their deaths; those who stayed in the car and rode to the ground all survived. And H-bombs? They employ tritium, a rather unstable isotope of hydrogen, and require immense heat and pressure to go off - generally a fission reaction is set off first, then the fusion reaction. Totally different kettle of fish. Um, hydrogen. Hydrogen fish?

    Ask the Shank: we expect our hydrogen-powered car to fly as well. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Friday, November 14, 2003

  • Some Friday linkage: Explaining the Republican filibuster to your kids. Todd Pritsky on Lithuanian independence, and what it can teach us about bringing democracy to the Middle East. And note than in this article on a trend in giving babies corporate names, two unfortunate little boys have been named "ESPN." One can only assumed that their mothers died giving birth, allowing the father to apply such a ridiculous name unopposed. I like sports as much as the next guy, but come on, you can name the kid Donovan, Brett, Nomar, LeBron, whatever, rather than naming him after a freakin' cable channel.
  • I am now the proud owner of two seats from the Vet, which go quite nicely with my pair of seats from Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. If they ever take down RFK, I'll have to get one or two of those and have a whole row (the Memorial seats are marked numbers 1 and 2, the Vet's are 4 and 5, so obviously an RFK seat would have to be number 3). I took the opportunity to pillage Philly's Italian market as well, bringing home four kinds of cheese, two kinds of sausage, pancetta, ravioli, really good rolls, cannoli, and biscotti. And on the advice of a Phillies discussion list comrade, I found my way to John's Roast Pork, where I had an insanely great cheesesteak, and brought an enormous Italian sub home for the missus. We tried to figure out exactly what it is that makes a sub from Philly so fantastic, while everything here in DC is so bland; I think it's partly the roll (John's uses these huge sesame seed rolls, while most places locally use rolls that are just a step above Wonder bread), and partly the quality of the meat. The salami and cappicola at Claudio are the real thing; the mass-market stuff you get at a regular grocery store or Subway is produced so as to be inoffensive rather than good.
  • The search for directions to John's Roast Pork led me to HollyEats.com, a treasure trove of off-the-beaten-path good eating. He gives the Sterns a run for their money; I think his descriptions are less flowery, more to-the-point than Jane & Michael's, and that works to his advantage. Scope out either or both of these sites if you want restaurant recommendations before you hit the road.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

  • Did you see Wesley Clark smack down this Fox News chump? Didja didja didja? Good stuff. Clark explains his position, the interviewer continues to ask why he's disrespecting the troops, and Clark gives him the business in no uncertain terms. I have longed for this sort of attitude from a Democrat since Michael Dukakis stood there dumbfounded and let Bush the Elder call him a liberal like it was akin to being a child molester. I'd still vote for Dean in a primary at this point, but I sure do like Wes Clark, too.
  • Via Molly Ivins comes this great quote from Texas state senator Gonzalo Barrientos on the modern Republican party: "They don't want to govern. They want to rule." Indeed, they're like Sideshow Bob running for mayor; just trust us, we'll run everything and it will all be fine. Right.
  • I am so sick of hearing about gay marriage already. I do not care if gay people get married, and frankly I don't want to waste time discussing it. I mean, come on people. To those opposed to it: it does not affect you. If gay marriage were legalized but nobody told you about it, it would not make one goddamned bit of difference in your daily life. Your arguments that it weakens society somehow are crap, all of them (SKB covers this well). And it's amazing how much conservatives are concerned for the fabric of society when it comes to gay marriage, but as for minimum wage, Head Start, welfare--screw those people! Not my concern! As for the claim that the Bible says it's wrong: the Bible says a lot of things are wrong; who are you exactly to say which ones must be followed and which ones we can safely ignore? To borrow a phrase from Bill O'Reilly, just shut up already. Go devote all that energy to something remotely productive. Y'all make me wanna PUKE.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

  • Ask the Shank: Go JMU Friskies! Why does Harrisonburg, Virginia smell like cat food? We were driving down I-81 and stopped in Harrisonbug for lunch, and walking around downtown, it smelled exactly like I had opened a bag of Friskies and stuck my nose in it. Not a horrifyingly bad smell, but definitely an unmistakeable one. Do they have a cat food factory there? -Doug Campbell

    This question has been sitting on my plate for a couple of years. I e-mailed the Harrisonburg Chamber of Commerce, and the Harrisonburg tourist board, but oddly enough I got no reply. But the other night, I was out at a bar and the subject came up--I was talking to a guy who went to James Madison University in Harrisonburg and asked him about it. He said there's a Tyson chicken processing plant there, and every once in a while they do... something that brings a cloud of cat food smell down on the town. Mr. Campbell obviously had the good fortune to be there on one of these days.

    Ask the Shank: stinky kitty treats for your brain. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Friday, November 21, 2003

  • Muslims are miffed at Johnny Hart for apparently dropping anti-Muslim sentiment into "B.C." The column also notes a recent strip where he calls an unemployed person, any unemployed person regardless of circumstances, a "bum." I thought about writing about that strip in this space, but decided it was too stupid to waste my time on. Anyway, newspapers should drop "B.C." either way: if in fact the strip wasn't a shot at Islam, it was so mind-bogglingly lame and unfunny that he should turn in his pens.
  • Yesterday I received the most noxious spam/credit card scam to date. It basically read, "We have charged your credit card and will be sending your 3-CD pack of child porn shortly. To cancel this order, send your name and all credit card info to something@somethingsomething.com." There are a number of surprisingly sophisticated scams going now where an e-mail that sure looks like it's from eBay or PayPal demands your credit card info, but adding "We're sending you child porn, OK?" to this one really takes the cake. I always wonder how people expect to get away with such things; if you can actually receive the credit card info that dopes e-mail to you, or have a web page set up for such a purpose, there's probably a way to actually trace the crime back to you as well.
  • In a fit of weirdness the other night, I made some mascot-themed AIM icons. Save them to your local machine and install as you will.
  • Good things around Olde Blog Towne: via Calpundit, Allen Brill has a good post on Survivor as a metaphor for the kind of society and economy the far right is building. Oh look, our piece-of-crap medical system actually costs more than the dreaded "socialized medicine." Via the Hamster, gay marriage has been legal in the Netherlands since 2001, and miraculously, their society has not fallen apart.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

  • Sad but true, infrequent posting doesn't help your hit count much. And it will be even more infrequent for a while between holiday shenanigans and a week's vacation. But I will return with a report of my time as a Las Vegas Babysitter (yes, we're taking our six-month-old). For now, go hear SKB and Orcinus preach it. (SKB's links are sketchy; search for "Bizarro World.") And read all about why roast turkey is frequently bland and dry.
  • I know I said I was sick of talking about gay marriage, but Dahlia Lithwick has a great column on things that are do more to destablize the institution of marriage than gay partnerships do, yet don't seem to draw the same level of conservative ire. Hell, what about those Nextel commercials where a couple gets married over their walkie-talkie cell phones (while standing next to each other) in ten seconds? Furthermore, why do people on those ads in general use their phones when they're always in the same room?

Thursday, November 27, 2003

  • Ask the Shank: What Thanksgiving Is All About. This is not a sent-in question, but just a Thanksgiving myth I'd like to clear up. Apologies to regular readers of the blog, who have heard this one before. Every year at this time, various sports columnists (notably Gregg Easterbrook, previously of Slate and ESPN.com, now at NFL.com) complain about how unfair it is that Detroit and Dallas get to play at home every year on Thanksgiving. Their opponents have to come in and play on three days' rest, be on the road for the holiday, blah blah blah. Easterbrook goes so far as to say it's an automatic half-game advantage in the standings for Dallas and Detroit.

    Except it's not. First, it's important to note that an indefinite schedule for next season is drawn up almost immediately after the Super Bowl. That is, each team knows who they're going to play next year, home and away, they just don't know the exact dates until a little later. So since about February, Miami knew they were going to play at Dallas in 2003, and the Packers knew they were going to play at Detroit. It wasn't until the final schedule came out that they knew they got the Thanksgiving game.

    So does that mean the Dolphins and Packers are worse off than if they played on any other Sunday in the season? The numbers don't bear it out. Both the Cowboys and Lions are tough at home, but over the long haul, they've actually done slightly worse in their Thanksgiving home games than in their other home games. Last year, a writer at Football Prospectus gathered the numbers: the Cowboys and Lions have all-time home winning percentages of .661 and .568, respectively, but on Thanksgiving Day their winning percentages drop to .632 and .532. So there is no big advantage for those two teams, and conversely no big disadvantage for their opponents. (Self-promoting note: I wrote Salon's King Kaufman about this, and he addressed it in a mailbag column.)

    Ask the Shank: We're taking the Dolphins and the points, but giving them up for the Packers. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

  • Ask the Shank: Dixie. Dixie Normous. What is the orgin of the term "Dixie" as it relates to the South? -Rob Sherwood

    The first recorded use of "Dixie" is from the song of the same name, but while the song popularized the term, Daniel Emmitt didn't make it up. The most popular theory is derived from Louisiana ten-dollar bills (back in the day every state made its own currency) which said "dix," French for "ten." "Give me two fives for a dixie," you'd say, and somehow that term stuck for all of Louisiana, and eventually the south in general. Another explanation is that it's derived from "Mason-Dixon Line," the Maryland-Pennsylvania de facto border between the north and south, though it should be noted that Mason and Dixon were the surveyors who made the line, and there's absolutely no reason to assume that Mason somehow represents the north and Dixon the south. Finally, there's the association with John Dixie, a slave owner in New York before the north outlawed such things. He was apparently a nice guy, as slave owners go, and after his slaves were shipped to the south, they missed the way things were back in "Dixie Land." Of course, that would make "Dixie Land" part of New York, but it would hardly be the only time white people took black people's slang and used it improperly.

    Ask the Shank: As always, this column is not at all a rip-off of the Straight Dope. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Monday, December 8, 2003

  • Greetings, all. Returned from Vegas I have, and a full trip report will hopefully be posted later in the week. Short version: everybody loves a cute baby; blackjack treated me very badly, but poker is extremely fun; the breakfast buffet at Paris rocks; US Airways can bite me. More updates and Ask the Shanks to come later today. My inbox was completely full of spam by Wednesday, so if you e-mailed me something last week, you may want to resend it.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

  • OK, I have caught up on Ask the Shanks, posting them retroactively. The Vegas report should go up later tonight. In other news, Gore has endorsed Dean which is all well and good, but this notion that it's somehow unfair and undemocratic for him to do so is just silly. Kieran puts that one to rest quite nicely at Crooked Timber.
  • There's also been quite a bit in the blogosphere about an idiotic Adam Yoshida post (I'm not going to taint my site by linking to it) in which he basically says "Go beat the hell out of an anti-war person for the good of the country," and suggests that supposedly right-thinking Americans will need to kill those tratorious Americans who are holding them back (kill about half the citizenry for their political beliefs? Whatever you say, Mr. Stalin). Orcinus expounds on this neo-fascism at length, as you might expect. I particularly enjoy the response from JR, who basically says "Just try it, jackass. I'll punch your lights out." In the days leading up to this war, some radio host suggested punching anti-war protestors unexpectedly, talking them out of hitting you back, and then punching them again. Um, yeah... look, some anti-war folks will say violence is always wrong, but the vast majority of us have no problem going to war with someone who attacked us first. Going into Afghanistan to find al Qaeda? Right thing to do. Thing is, Iraq didn't attack us first, and from what information has come out, it's doubtful that they were going to (and now it's argued that no one said Iraq was an "imminent threat" in the first place"). So, if Yoshida or some other wingnut wants to take a swing at me over my anti-war stance, they're in for an ass-kicking. But I'd prefer it not come to that, and David is right, anyway--it's all talk, and these types would much rather have someone else do their fighting for them. If Mr. Yoshida practiced what he preached, he'd be in jail already.
  • This one's a bit dated, but Ned sent this amusing item about a Mariners fan who found a sneaky way to apologize to the folks in Japan.
  • Ask the Shank: Don't Forget the Quotes Around 'Disco.' I have a sort of regional question: Who is/was Cool Disco Dan? I grew up in the D.C. suburbs and whenever I took the metro (red line) I noticed graffiti alongside the tracks attributed to Cool Disco Dan. I always wondered if he was really cool and if he really liked disco. It's one of the mysteries of my childhood! -Julie Hartman

    Aw yeah, a DC question! That will annoy Benn quite nicely. If you've ridden above-ground Metro trains, especially the red line north of Union Station, you've seen Cool 'Disco' Dan's handiwork. DC never had quite the graffiti scene that New York did, but a few taggers were omnipresent, CDD particularly so. In the early 90's, the 9:30 Club even put out T-shirts with a CDD tag that was on a building across the street. No new tags have shown up since about 1998, however, and there's even been speculation that he's dead (no real basis for that though). Apparently, CDD has little in common with, say, Disco Stu. Roger Gastman's FREE AGENTS: A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, DC GRAFFITI describes him as "a medium-sized 5'6" and wears dark clothes all the time. He hardly ever speaks, and when he does, his voice is quiet and subdued." One DC area blogger summarizes early 90's articles in the Post and DC City Paper as "basic no-account loser." Even so, his perserverance and daring made him a Washington pop culture icon. Go here and click the second picture to get a look at the guy.

    Ask the Shank: Ask about the differences between Krylon and Rustoleum, or about anything and everything else, by e-mailing AsktheShank - at - bigfool.com.

Friday, December 12, 2003

  • My much too long and detailed Vegas trip report is up. If you're expecting a sordid tale involving hookers, tequila shots, and waking up in back of the Riviera's parking garage covered in vomit, you should probably skip it.
  • If you enjoyed the Worst Album Covers part one and two, you will likewise enjoy this collection of 70's-era Swedish band promotional photos. Here's a question: if you HAD to watch one of the Swedish bands perform, which one would it be? I'd take Yngve Forrssells, since they at least have a woman and black dude in the band. (Props to Marc Cenedella's Stone blog for hosting the Worst Album Covers and for the link to the Swedes.)

Monday, December 15, 2003

  • You may have heard the news yesterday that US forces captured Saddam Hussein. Of course, this is a good thing, on the whole. Will it actually reduce the ongoing violence in Iraq? I have my doubts, but it remains to be seen. I suspect that the perpetrators are more anti-US than pro-Saddam. Predictably, it's had idiotic effects in Olde Blog Towne, such as the suggestion that the left has nothing to say on the matter (curious, since I first read about it on Atrios early Sunday morning, and conveniently ignoring, oh, a lot of lefty blogs), and asking if anti-war lefties are going to demand that Saddam be restored to power (perpetuating the myth that if you oppose the war, you must support Saddam). Equally dopey is anyone who says this locks up the election for Bush. Folks, the election is eleven months away. The economy could fully recover, or tank further. Osama bin Laden could be captured, or he could send us taunting videos shot in Cuba. Howard Dean could get a fair debate with Bush and expose him for the chowderhead he is. There's just too much that could happen. Sure, it's good for Bush at this point in time, but Americans have awfully short memories.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

  • I remembered something from my Vegas trip that I didn't put in the trip report, but it will probably only interest Achewood fans. See, back when the Ray's Place advice column was part of the regular Achewood site, I wrote in and asked Ray what he liked to do in Vegas, and he replied in the column, mentioning a place called the Stage Door that had "a pretty good deal on hot dogs." I had forgotten this, but in the cab leaving the hotel to go back to the airport, what should we drive by but the Stage Door Casino, Deli & Convenience Store. Big marquee out front, Hot Dogs 2 for 99 Cents or the like. I almost wanted to stop. It definitely looks like a good spot to go slumming while drunk at 3 AM.
  • I'm late on this one, but: you know the recent Democratic debate, which opened with Ted Koppel asking "hands up, who thinks Dr. Dean here can beat Bush next year?" And Dean himself was the only one who raised his hand. It's a symptom of what's wrong with the Democratic party: EVERY ONE OF THEM should have had his or her hand up. Someone should have said, "ANY of us can beat George Bush," and everyone else nod enthusiastically in agreement. And Joe Lieberman can go cram it, BTW.
  • Around Olde Blogge Towne: Philosoraptor has a very well-written piece on why it's hard to get too excited about the capture of Saddam Hussein. SKB has an item about people who realize some taxes aren't that taxing and pay them even after the hysterical anti-tax forces defeat them. And Daniel Drezner has an unbelievable pile of crap in response to his Slate column on Bush's foreign policy. The e-mails he's posted show just what's wrong with too much of the American electorate--not smart enough or interested enough to address the substance of the article, just outrageously angry that anyone would criticize President Bush.
  • Ask the Shank: Teenage Dirtbags. Upon reading the big list of college team sports nicknames, I see that Cal State Long Beach's baseball team are called the Dirtbags. I found their web site, and it's true, they officially call themselves that (even though the school's other teams are the 49ers). How'd they come upon that name? --Anon.

    It ain't because they like that goofy Wheatus song. According to the school's media guide for baseball, an infield coach called the infielders "dirtbags" after a particularly intense practice that had left them all covered in dirt. It stuck, as it represented their style of play.

    Ask the Shank: a.k.a. the Mobtown Shank University Know-It-All Bastards. Send your questions about anything and everything to AsktheShank -at - bigfool.com.

Thursday, December 26, 2003

  • Hope everyone had a good holiday. I sure did. I am considering getting myself Moveable Type or another blogging platform for the new year, to possibly make posting easier and thus more frequent. I'd welcome any recommendations or comments to that end.
  • Interesting and amusing things: this interactive zip code map is more intriguing than it probably should be. Via Atrios, check out what Fark did to Sean Hannity (my favorites are "Here Comes the God Squad" and "Deliver Us From Weevil"). I stumbled on this here blog called WULAD, and it's mighty funny. So funny, in fact, that I'll blogroll it, along with Whiskey Bar, which isn't always funny but is always well-written.
  • I have a big problem with human irrationality. When people do or say things that just do not make sense, it drives me nuts. So this story about pro-lifers who have abortions--literally in the clinic for a procedure, out on the picket line the next--makes my freakin' head explode. (Via Ampersand.) "My abortion is necessary; the rest of you are going to hell." Arrrrrrgh.


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