Monday, November 28, 2005

This week's winner of the "Tom Ladka Burnt Fingers Award"

This takes me back to college days. And it will make someone very special to me giggle hysterically.

A U2 giggle

This will be on the next album.

Fox News funnies

Love or hate Fox News Channel, you have to admit they have a point of view. This page takes a look at how Fox might have covered major events in history.

The return of the CueCat

Remember the completely failed CueCat? This was a white plastic bar-code scanner shaped like a cat that was backed by some big media names (Wired, Belo, etc) back in the euphoric late 90s. You used the CueCat to read bar-codes that were printed in magazine ads, thus directing you to more info about the product on the Web. It also hooked your PC to your TV so that Channel 8 (or other media outlet) could point your browser at a selected Web page.

The CueCat was misguided on so many levels that it turned into a metaphor for the dot-com bust.

Well, don't look now, but the idea behind the CueCat is back. Coca-Cola in Germany is trying a similar technology, this time using a logo photographed by the consumer's camera phone.

Maybe the Germans know something we don't, but I doubt it.

Very disturbing Jon Daniels quote

Rangers' boy-wonder GM Jon Daniels was the subject of a nice article in Newsday last week. However, buried down in the love-fest is a quote that nearly knocked me out of my chair:
Nevertheless, Daniels stressed at the GMs' meetings, "We're not the
Yankees. We're not the Mets. We're not the Red Sox. We are a
mid-to-lower-third-tier-payroll team. For us to accomplish our goals, we're
going to need to continually be developing our own players.

Excuse me? "...mid-to-lower-third-tier-payroll team..."??? I don't know exactly where D/FW ranks in the nation's media markets, but I would venture to guess that it's top 10 and maybe top 5. There are 30 teams in MLB.

What is wrong with this picture?

Aung San Suu Kyi house arrest extended

The Burmese military junta has extended the latest house arrest of Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi again.

The story has been confirmed by the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi's political party, so it's gospel.

The Burmese generals are clearly making enough money in the drug trade to allow them to laugh at the world community's calls for reform and freedom. It's hard to see how this situation is going to change any time soon.

Time-lapse of traffic on the Panama Canal

This sounds like watching paint dry, I know, but it's actually fascinating. The 11-minute video here shows a week's worth of traffic through the Panama Canal's Miraflores Locks.

I can't seem to stop watching it.

Landmine arrows

A bit of genius from Raytheon. The fine folks at the defense contractor have applied for a patent for a device that can be used to quickly and safely clear a minefield.

The invention is an artillery shell that encloses a bunch of steel "arrows". The shell is fired at a minefield. Just before the it hits, the shell is exploded in air, freeing hundreds of small steel arrows, which are accelerated into the ground by the shell burst. The arrows hit mines buried in the field, detonating them.

GPS-enabled artillery can ensure complete coverage of a field.

This is potentially a huge boon to former battlefields like Cambodia, parts of Africa, and other global hotspots.

The Golden Bruce Lee of Bosnian Peace

That's the most confusing headline I've ever seen, but it does accurately describe this bit of Balkan nuttiness:

The Bosnian town of Mostar has unveiled a golden statue of completely dead martial arts star Bruce Lee as a symbol of peace and reconciliation among local Bosians, Serbs, and Croats.

"We will always be Muslims, Serbs or Croats," said Veselin Gatalo of the youth group Urban Movement Mostar. "But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."

Finally made it

I love business travel.

I've finally made it to my hotel in downtown Seattle. It's about 0200 local, and I don't even want to think about what time my addled brain thinks it is.

Time to get my head down. Reveille is at 0700. More tomorrow, or, uh, later today. Yech.

My wife, the creative genius

Robynne, my ultra-hot wife (picture here, along with the kids) of 14 years, is as big a success in her career as I’ve ever encountered.

She is an Occupational Therapist, specializing in infants with feeding problems. She has a great ability to establish rapport with parents, put infants at ease, and get even the most problematic babies to eat. Her ability to diagnose is nothing short of uncanny. She’s a great advocate for her patients and their families and has an absolute fan club among the pediatricians and pediatric specialists she deals with daily.

In addition to her clinical abilities, she’s also an inventor of some local reknown. With any luck, that semi-fame will spread to a national level in the not too distant future.

The invention of which I speak is an infant reflux wedge.

Your first question is, no doubt, “What the heck is an infant reflux wedge?” Allow me to explain, hopefully in brief and clear fashion.

Many adults suffer from a disorder called gastro-esophogeal reflux (GER), which those of us who are not in the medical field call “chronic heartburn”. This is a disorder in which acid from the stomach is involuntarily brought up into the esophagus and the back of the throat. We’ve all had this to some degree after a spicy Thai or Mexican meal, or a few shots of tequila. People who suffer from it chronicly know that it’s zero fun and can cause long-term damage to the upper GI. It’s now treated in adults with medications like Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium.

What’s less know is that infants suffer from GER as well. In fact, more infants suffer from GER than adults. GER in infants can be recognized by frequent spitting up, coughing, runny nose, sleeping problems, decreased appetite, and general irritability. Ever hear of an infant suffering from “colic”? Nine times out of ten, “colic” is really mis-diagnosed GER.

Infants with GER sleep badly, as lying horizontally causes more acid to come up into the esophagus. One of the treatments for this has been to elevate the baby on a foam rubber wedge at about 40 degrees of inclination. The baby is secured to the wedge on his/her stomach using a cloth sling.

The problem with the traditional wedge is that it’s a flat surface that pushes the baby’s shoulders back unnaturally. This can cause semi-permanent misformed postioning of the shoulders. This happened to our son – he was on the wedge for several months and now, nearly 5 years later, his shoulders are still pushed back.

My genius wife looked at our son, and looked at the wedge, and realized that there was a better way. She cut down the sides of the wedge to make a small hump in the middle. Now, when the baby is secured stomach down on the wedge, the baby’s shoulders fall forward slightly, into a much more natural position.










This sounds like a little thing, but it’s one of those things that, when viewed by pediatricians and pediatric specialists, elicits a response of, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Robynne has partnered with a local doctor to manufacture and sell the new, improved reflux wedge to local hospitals. It’s done reasonably well with little marketing or sales support, and we’re currently talking to a few medical product distributers about including the wedge in a national catalog with a sales and marketing staff to support it.

The wedge is sold under the trademark “RES-Q Infant Wedge” and will, hopefully, be available nationally sometime in 2006. In the interim, if you have any questions about the wedge, please send me an email at phelkin@gmail.com and I’ll pass it on to Robynne.

Airport blogging

I’m starting a new project in the Emerald City of Seattle this week. I’ll be commuting via American Airlines, trying to retain my Platinum status before the year is over.

Right now, I’m sitting at gate A20 at DFW, watching the post-Thanksgiving rush and wondering when my flight is actually going to leave. It was supposed to go at 8:25 p.m. We’re working on 9:10 right now. Maybe we’ll make it. I’m an optimist.

I’ve been home for some time lately – since before I started this blog, in fact. Two solid months at home is a luxury I haven’t had in some time; traveling is more the rule than the exception. The time at home has put some perspective on this constant business travel thing, though. It’s been fantastic to hang out with the kids on a regular basis. I’ve come to realize that I have two really great kids.

My daughter, Aly, is seven, almost eight. She’s the kindest kid I’ve ever seen. She’s so careful to make sure that the kids (and adults) around her are part of things and that no one is excluded. It’s wonderful to see that.

Drew, my son, is five, and he’s so much fun to be around. He’s been through a lot in his life to-date – lots of health problems caused by a metabolic disorder that will impact him for his whole life (a subject for another, longer post one of these days) – but you’d never know it. He has his ups and downs like any kid, but, most of the time, he’s a happy, funny kid who loves to make people laugh, loves music, loves to play, and loves to be around people.

I haven’t even got on the plane yet, and I miss them both fiercely.

Robynne, my wife of almost 14 years, can be a handful, like any intelligent and independent woman can be. However, on the whole, I think we have a healthier relationship than most of the married couples I’ve encountered. Putting up with me is no day at the beach, but she does that and a lot more. It took me a long time to fully appreciate how great we are together. I try to never take for granted how fortunate I am to have her for my wife.

It’s only a week, and there are so many people getting shipped off to Iraq and Afghanistan for much much longer, so I’m not feeling sorry for myself. It’s just a little more difficult than it has been in the past, since I’ve been with them so much recently.

Just got the double whammy of another delay (now 9:20) and a gate change, so I’d better get going. The next post will be more upbeat, I promise.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Worst job ever

This is a giggle: The other side of something we've all seen and never wondered about.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mr. Miyagi is dead

Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi of the Karate Kid franchise, and innumberable appearances as "Generic Japanese Soldier" in dozens of WWII movies) died yesterday at 73.

He will be missed.

One final time, all together now, "Wax on, wax off."

Big football weekend

After going 2 for 2 yesterday, let's take a look at the rest of the big weekend of college and pro football.

Colleges

Texas @ A&M - As long as the 'Horns aren't looking ahead to the Rose Bowl, this should be no problem. A&M will be all fired up, but it's not going to do them any good. The Longhorns are 27.5 point favorites, which is an awful lot. I might take some of that, but Texas will win the game handily.

Oklahoma St @ Oklahoma - The Sooners should be good and pissed (and rightly so) over the giant shaft they got in Lubbock last week. OK St is always competitive in this game, but OU should win and cover the 19.5.

Florida St @ Florida - What is up w/ Florida St? They are going backwards just when it really counts. Urban and Co may very well win this one.

Georgia @ Georgia Tech - My vote for Redneck Game of the Week, just because I'm such a non-fan of the entire state. Chan Gailey looks like Knute Friggin' Rockne now that he's whupped up on Miami. I got some news for y'all - he's not that great. Georgia rolls.

North Carolina @ VA Tech - The Hokies can still go to the ACC title game, and quite possibly a BCS bowl. They have plenty of motivation and showed a little something in their bounce-back last week. Go Hokies!

Boston University vs the ghost of Billy Brooks - The biggest success ever to come out of the Fightin' Terriers program, I hope Billy is doing well in his post-NFL career. I am sure he's doing just fine.

Pros

Chicago @ Tampa Bay - Huh? Both of these teams are 7-3? How did that happen? The Bears can play defense, and Chris Simms is still the Bucs QB. I foresee bad things for Tampa Bay.

Pats @ KC - A big test for the Pats - we'll see if the newly reattached wheels stay on. I think so, but I wouldn't have picked the Pats for a 6-4 record at this point, so proceed to the sports book with caution.

Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis - The Colts are for-effing-real. Their offense is scary, and their defense is much improved. Big Ben is back for this one, but I don't think it matters. The Colts have a better shot at 16-0 than any team I can remember.

Giants @ Seattle - Is Eli ready for this? The biggest test for him yet. Much as I'd like to say otherwise (Holy crap, I'm turning into a Giants fan), I don't think the Giants have enough to beat Seattle at home.

Green Bay @ Philadelphia - Neither team is far removed from their period of greatness, but both are circling the drain this year. I think the Eagles are done. Combine that with the fact that I think Favre still cares, and it looks to me like a Packers victory.

Comedic Value Game of the Week - There's a bumper crop of bad games this week - Cleveland-Minnesota, SF-Tennessee, Miami-Oakland, Rams-Texans, and others. So many to choose from. However, to me, the silliest game of the week is New Orleans @ NYJ. The Saints are favored by 1 for two reasons: The Jets starting QB will be a Frankensteinian mash-up of the upper half of Pat Ryan and the legs of Boomer Esiason, and the Vegas computers will die a Y2K-like death if a spread were entered as a negative number.

Go (your team here)!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving football preview

I'll do a longer post with all the Friday-Monday action covered. However, we've got two pro games today, so let's get to it.

Falcons @ Detroit - Why does Detroit rate a Thanksgiving game every year? The Cowboys have some national appeal, but the Lions? Come on. Regardless, both of these teams put me into a coma. The Falcons are so erratic, but they've got the talent edge. The Lions are one sorry organization. They came into Texas Stadium expecting to lose last week. The Falcons should win this with no problem. This game makes for good beer-drinking background noise, as far as I'm concerned.

Denver @ Dallas - The Massive Tuna is stating the obvious when he calls the Broncos, "the best team we've played this year." Shanahan's system makes heroes out of anyone (see Jake "The Fake" Plummer as Exhibit A, Your Honor). The Cowboys have to win the battles up front - it's just that simple. If Plummer has time and the Denver running game has holes to exploit, it's going to be a long day for the Cowboys' D. Bledsoe is one of the best QBs in the league WHEN HE HAS TIME. If he's running for his life, he's the Bledsoe from the Buffalo days, and it's a bad day for the Cowboys' offense.

I want to pick Dallas, and I will be cheering for them like crazy, but I'm not hopeful. I said that before the Eagles pasting, and I'm fine with being wrong. I just think Denver is too good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Colored bubbles

Here's a cool new toy that will definitely find a place in my home (well, in the backyard, at least): Colored soap bubbles. And the color disappears when the bubble pops.

This is science you can use!

The wit and wisdom of Mike Tyson

Lifted from Sturm today: Here are some truly profound quotes from the great thinker of the late 20th Century, Mike Tyson.

My favorites:

“[He] called me a ‘rapist’ and a ‘recluse.’ I’m not a recluse.”

"He was screaming like my wife."

"All praise is to Allah, I'll fight any man, any animal, if Jesus were here I'd fight him too."

First Mavs post of the season

It looks like the Doug Christie era is over in Dallas. What a failed bit that turned into.

Jerry Stackhouse is STILL unable to practice. Is he the next one headed for the golf course on a permanent basis? Time will tell, but it doesn't look promising.

The Mavs have done well without these guys, so it's hardly time to panic. I think they're going to need Stackhouse before it's all said and done, but this just means an opportunity for some guys to step up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Xbox 360 sells out, whining starts

In news that must be shocking to exactly no one in the Western world, the Xbox 360 sold out in no time today.

Hmm, people were lined up outside electronics stores all day yesterday, waiting for their chance to buy the console. And there weren't enough in the stores for everyone. Wow. Who saw that coming?

And in news that shouldn't be a surprise, but somehow still is, would-be Xbox owners coast to coast are honking because they can't find one. One genius wrote to MSNBC, "If the company could not make much more beyond the preorder of units why keep hyping it?”

Um, to sell it?

This happens every holiday season - there's something that everyone has to have, and there just isn't any way there's going to be enough production to make everyone happy. Tickle Me Elmo, Cabbage Patch Kids, flu vaccine - we've seen it over and over.

Stop with the conspiracy theories and get over it. You'll get your friggin game console next week, or next month, or in early January.

The greatest living writer of thrillers

With all due respect to Tom Clancy, who was my favorite thriller writer for years before he fell prey to the boredom of success, I would like to introduce you all to the greatest writer of thrillers alive on Earth today: Britain's own Andy McNab.

McNab (a pseudonym) was a highly decorated, long-time soldier/operator in the Brits' Special Air Service. The SAS is one of the grand-daddies of Special Forces and is still, I gather, highly regarded in the special operations world.

McNab combines obvious real-life know-how, an ability to devise and hold together an interesting plot, a great ear for realistic dialog employing a lot of Brit slang, and the ability to clearly write outstanding action sequences. His books are full of tradecraft and techniques that are realistic as hell, his characters are real people with real motivations, and his action fairly leaps off the page.

Most of McNab's work is fiction, starring an ex-SAS operator named Nick Stone. Very little goes right for Nick, but he reacts to the situation as it unfolds and comes through, almost always worse, and sometimes a lot worse, for the wear. Nick narrates the action in the first person and, while we never get a clue what he looks like, he's a keen observer of the people and places around him. He is lethally skilled, but suffers from no direction in life and has, at times, battled out-and-out depression. With good reason - his life is crap. He's very good at a whole slew of things that most people can't even imagine, but has no real-world skills. Everyone he's ever cared about has been killed, usually very messily and right in front of him.

Nick's adventures start in Remote Control and carry on through eight books so far, the most current of which is called Aggressor. Some of the books are better than others. They do form a series; characters and situations carry from one to the next, so it probably helps to read them in order. The best of the lot are Remote Control, Firewall, and Dark Winter.

I encourage you to pick up Remote Control and enjoy Andy's fine work.

Good God! Delta?

A new system is developing in the Atlantic, which has a reasonable chance to turn into TS Delta, the 28th named storm of the season.

Uncle, already!

UPDATE: And there you go. As of 7:00 EST on Wed, it's now TS Delta. It's way out in the Atlantic, so no one need be too terribly concerned. It's just amazing that the season won't end!

Rangers non-trade aftermath

The Rangers have, once again, stepped on their dicks in trade talks. As noted here (and here) and just about everywhere else in the sports press, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell are headed to Boston, and Hank Blalock and John Danks are, for the moment, still property of the failed Texas Rangers.

Before I go off on a rant, a moment for objectivity: We don't know if the Marlins were just using the Rangers to up the ante w/ Boston. It's entirely possible that Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez were the Marlins' target all along. Objectively, I can see taking two top prospects from the Boston system as opposed to a starting position player and top pitching prospect from the Rangers' system. The Red Sox' top pitching prospects are better than anything the Rangers currently have, major league roster included.

Jon Daniels says that he didn't get the opportunity to counter Boston's proposal. In the interest of fairness, I think we have to believe him. Daniels should not be held responsible for the serious credibility problem the Rangers organization has with the ticket-buying public. At least, not yet. And, I'll give him this: He was on the phone w/ Norm Hitzges on The Ticket almost instantly with less double-speak than we're used to out of Arlington.

It's well within the realm of possibility that the Rangers never really had a chance in this sorry tale.

And, continuing to be fair, the sentiment in Red Sox Nation is not 100% euphoria, either. They think they gave up too much. There would be that same sort of sentiment expressed in some quarters here if the trade had gone through, even just for Blalock and Danks.

OK, objectivity time is over. Now, for how I really feel:

How often is a 25-year-old World Series MVP pitcher dangled in front of you? Answer: Never.

The Rangers hemmed and hawed all weekend about giving up a guy who's made a career out of disappearing after the All Star break (Blalock) and a guy who, though highly touted, has yet to dominate at Double A (Danks).

The Marlins had the hammer (sorry, Hank) in this deal. It was incumbent on the trading partner, the Rangers in this case, to put together an attractive-enough package. Blalock and Danks not doing it for you? How about we throw in Adrian Gonzales as well? No? What about Blalock, Danks, and Thomas Diamond? That's two of our three best pitching prospects, neither of whom has dominated above A ball, but still, two of our top three. That's still not doing it? OK, how about Blalock, Danks, and Soriano?

The point is, the Rangers have some chips. For God's sake, Beckett is a ground ball pitcher, which is CRUCIAL in the launching pad the Rangers call home field, and he won the World Series MVP at 21. Against the Yankees. This is your ACE for the next 10 years, assuming you can get him to stay here. Get a couple of other free-agent pitchers (Matt Morris, for example, or even fellow-former-Marlin Burnett) and why wouldn't he stay?

Maybe Danks and Diamond are Hudson and Mulder. But maybe they're Edwin Correa and Bobby Witt (big shout-out to former Rangers pitching prospects who didn't pan out). We don't know. Beckett has a track record, and it's an impressive one. I know, he's had blister problems and has never pitched a ton of innings, but he's 25 years old. It's a risk, but what isn't?

I'm so frustrated I could eat nails.

Because we like to drive ourselves crazy, we'll be watching Beckett's season as a Red Sock closely. Hell, we'll get to see him probably as the opening day starter.

Another nutty musical

In the vein of an opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer and a musical about Imelda Marcos, here's the latest entry in the (semi) serious subject musical file: Ozzy Osbourne has written a musical about Grigory Yefemovich Rasputin, the infamous "Mad Monk" of the Romanov dynasty.

Ozzy says that Rasputin lived the rock-star life before it existed: Wine, women, questionable personal hygiene, etc.

Go Ozzy!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Passenger tries to open airplane door for a smoke

A French tourist tried to open the door of a Cathay Pacific airliner, in flight, to smoke a cigarette.

She's on trial in Australia (where the flight was headed), and is using the "I'm scared to fly, so I got drunk" defense.

Look, I'm scared to fly, and a big part of the fear is falling out of the plane. I get nervous walking by the emergency exits. I would NEVER touch one, much less try to open the damn thing.

More brand name confusion ahead

SBC recently bought what's left of AT&T. The fine folks at SBC (the worst company in America for my money) think that the AT&T brand has more oomph than the SBC brand, so they're going to start selling all of their services using the AT&T brand.

So, once again, you'll be able to have AT&T phone service, long distance, Internet (DSL this time, not cable), and wireless.

Going bye-bye will be the SBC, SBC-Yahoo!, and Cingular brands, among others.

This stuff gives me a headache.

Wonder if this is going to piss anyone off?

Remember a few weeks ago when I was saying that the "Cult of iPod" had gone too far?

Well, it just got worse. A lot worse:



















































Hubble-dwarfing telescope under development

From Wired: Astronomers are working on a huge, new, Earth-based telescope that will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble space-based scope.

The new TMT (Thirty-Meter Telescope) will likely be placed at higher elevation in either Hawaii or Chile and will be able to peer into the origins of the universe.

This is COOL!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rangers-Marlins trade update

From Newberg, via Sturm: It sounds like we're getting clsoer on the Blalock & Danks for Beckett & Lowell deal.

Come on Jon! Let's get it done!

UPDATE: Nuts, I updated the wrong post. Boston stuck their big noses into the deal and screwed it up, Rangers-wise. No Beckett in the Rangers rotation. AJ Burnett, anyone?

al-Zarqawi dead?

Multiple sources are reporting that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, AQ top banana in Iraq, was killed by US and Iraqi forces in Mosul yesterday.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The White House says "probably not".

World's most useless USB gadget?

Here's a Christmas tree you can plug into your PC's USB port. It lights up, blows Styrofoam snow, and plays Christmas tunes.

And that's it.

Zimbabwe to "process" uranium

Um, this can't be good news.

According to the AP, Zimbabwe's President Mugabe is saying that Zimbabwe will begin "processing" recently discovered uranium deposits in the country.

Zimbabwe has ties to both Iran and North Korea, for those of you keeping score at home.

When it comes to a home, is bigger better?

An article in today's Washington Post got me thinking a bit, as it addresses a subject close to my heart: The trend towards larger homes.

We recently (July 2005) moved from the 2,000 sq ft, 3 BR 2.5 bath house that we'd lived in for 12+ years and into a 4,100 sq ft, 5BR 4B McMansion.

In comparison to the 6,000-9,000 sq ft monsters described in the WP article, ours is not so big. However, it is bigger than anything I ever figured on owning and is the biggest I've ever lived in.

Once you get past the "Can we afford it?" part (and, at 5.25% 30-year, fixed rate, we can afford it), the next question is, "Who needs this much space?"

The first answer to that is: No one "needs" this much space. That's obvious. Entire villages live in less space in other parts of the world. You'll never hear me say, "We needed a house this big." That's nonsense.

Beyond that, though, can we use this much space? And the answer is yes. There are three rooms that get very little use right now - the guest bedroom, which we will use, even if not regularly; the dining room, which probably will never get much use, but it is a decorative focal point of the house; and the media room, which will wind up being my favorite room in the house once I equip it. The other "new" rooms all get used: I use my home office daily, Robynne uses her hobby room every day, and the kids are in their play room whenever they're home.

A larger house is, in our experience, easier to keep clean. Our old house was constantly cluttered with toys, decorative items, clothing, etc. The new place is much less so.

We're not on top of each other any longer. When we're all four home now, everyone's got a bit of space and the stress level is accordingly lower.

I think we're happier since we've moved. Part of it is the list above. Part of it is the good feeling I get coming home to a nice place that I enjoy being in and am proud to own.

Looking back over this post, I get the feeling that I'm coming across as justifying our decision. I'm not, because I don't know why I'd have to. I know there are lots of people out there who say "McMansion" with derision, but I don't really understand why that is. If the argument is, "You don't need that much," then I counter with, "What do you really NEED?" Beyond a studio apartment, two changes of clothes, and a bicycle, do you really NEED anything? If the rest is WANT, rather than NEED, why are my wants any less worthy than anyone else's?

I guess this point is really what got me going regarding the WP article. While the article itself makes no outward judgments, it's perspective is, to me, pretty much aimed at getting a response. It's not news so much as it's holding a perspective up for judgment.

Well, that's the Post for you, I guess. No doubt it will be picked up by the NYT as well.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Next gen DVDs - Netflix declares winner

As covered here some time ago, there's a battle underway to determine the format of the next generation of DVD. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are locked in a fight to the finish and, IMHO, it's too early to call a winner.

Well, not so, says Netflix. They've gone ahead and declared Blu-Ray the winner.

I hope they're right, as Blu-Ray is the superior format. However, I'm not going out to buy a Blu-Ray player quite yet.

Rangers & Marlins talking trade?

There are reports floating around that the Rangers and Marlins are talking trade. The Marlins are dangling RHP Josh Beckett and 3B Mike Lowell and asking for 3B Hank Blalock and pitching prospect John Danks or Thomas Diamond.

Interesting.

Beckett is a proven young major league pitcher who has had some injury problems. Lowell is a decent defensive third baseman who hits for power but not average.

On the Rangers side, Blalock is a decent defensive third baseman who is streaky good at the plate. His MO has been to start fast offenseively, but his production has fallen off as the season goes on each of the last 3 years. Danks and Diamond are two thirds (Edison Volquez is the third) of the DVD triumverate who have been dubbed "The Future of the Franchise". Both are top pitching prospects who appear headed for major league stardom, although neither have made it yet and neither are "guaranteed" to do so.

From a contract perspective, Blalock is cheap and both Danks and Diamond are still in Double A. Beckett is arbitration eligible and Lowell has a monster contract.

I say do it. Diamond is probably a little further from the bigs, so I guess he's the one who's best to go, but either way, I say pull the trigger.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ah, CRAP! Beckett and Lowell are headed to Boston for Hanley Ramirez, a minor league pitcher, and a player to be named later. I really thought this was going to happen for the Rangers. Oh well. NEXT!

Football preview - "Better-late-than-never" edition

Sorry gang. I was so excited about the opening of the new Harry Potter movie that I never got around to the weekly staple. Let's not waste any more time.

Colleges

Fresno St @ USC - A ranked opponent for the Trojans this late in the year. They've also got UCLA down the road. One might think this is a gutsy move on Pete Carroll's part. It may be, but it's also smart. His team should have little trouble with either opponent, and these games will keep the Trojans sharp. As long as there are no major injuries, this is a great strategy.

Alabama @ Auburn - The biggest thing in Alabama since the Emancipation Proclamation, this is always fun to watch. I think the rivalry has lost something since it left Birmingham and went home-and-home (are you listening, Dallas City Council - don't make the same mistake with Texas-OU). Alabama is a 7 point dog, which is rather surprising when you consider that they were undefeated and ranked #3 one week ago. Alabama can play defense, but can they play offense? I've been an Auburn fan since the Pat Dye-Bo Jackson days, so I'm going that way.

VA Tech @ Virginia - The last time the Hokies took the field, they showed their a** to the nation against Miami. Does Marcus Vick bounce back from the worst performance of his career, or does he spiral downhill? I think Beamer gets his team back together and they win out.

Penn St @ Michigan St - I hear that this used to be an important game. When was that? Two Midwest land-grant schools going at it. I like both teams' uniforms, so I guess there's that. I'm just ready for someone to tap Joe Paterno on the shoulder and say to him, "Dude, you're like a hundred years old. Do some ads for denture adhesive and give up the football."

Oklahoma @ Texas Tech - This is the Game of the Week for me. Oklahoma is getting seven and a half, but I'm thinking they win outright. I think Stoops has the wheels back on. Look out for the Sooners again next year. And look out, Red Raiders. The fury of Sooner Nation descends on Lubbock today.

Oklahoma St @ Baylor - This is worth mentioning just because Baylor is a two and a half point favorite against a Big 12 team. Anyone care to guess when that happened last? I don't know either. Maybe never. I like whats going on in Waco (never thought I'd say that). Go Baptists!

Boston University vs. the ghost of Paul Lewis - After his big flameout with the Patriots in 1987, I wonder what happened to the all-time leading Terrier rusher? Any news?

Pros

Colts @ Bengals - Here's your NFL Game of the Week. This is a good sign of how nutty the NFL is these days. Peyton showed a little something against the Pats. The Colts defense is pretty darn good. I'm pulling for Palmer, Johnson, and Co, despite their horrible uniforms (who's responsible for that, btw - they look like a junior college team), but I think the Colts go to 10-0.

Eagles @ Giants - How will the Eagles react to the last-minute loss to the Cowboys? We may look back on that game as a turning point for both teams. The Eagles have got to show something this week, or I think it's over for them. The deck is stacked against them with McNabb finally on the bench. Steve Sanderlin took offense at my description of Eagles fans as "the worst in the NFL" last week. Sorry Steve. It's going to be tough to get used to, but I think you'll have some time to practice. Giants by a bunch.

Oakland @ Washington - The two most schizophrenic teams in the league, this one is impossible for me to call. I think my father-in-law, the rabid Raiders fan (is there any other kind) has a rare happy weekend. But who the heck knows?

New Orleans @ New England - That's a long way to go to get your a** handed to you.

Vikings @ Packers - THIS is your MNF match-up? I bet ABC is wishing they had the freedom to mix up the schedule a bit. Talk about a tough ad sell. It will be nice to get to bed early on Monday night for a change.

Lions @ Cowboys - The only "easy" game left on the Cowboys schedule. The Pear-Shaped One has gone out of his way to prevent the team from taking Detroit lightly. The Cowboys should handle the not-quite-there Lions with no problem.

Comedic Value Game of the Week - Again, a bunch to choose from. I think I'll go with Phoenix @ St. Louis. For me, it's still the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Los Angeles Rams, but that's just me showing my age. Who do you think the broadcast team will be? I'd like to see Skip Bayless and Mushmouth from "Fat Albert" in the booth, but they might be too high profile for this one.

Go (your team here)!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Movie News: Heder and Ferrell as figure skaters

Ain't It Cool tells us that Jon Heder (of Napoleon Dynamite) and Will Ferrell (of Anchorman and many other classics) are signed to star in Ben Stiller's new comedy, Blades of Glory.

They will portray figure skaters banned from competition who come back to compete in pairs skating.

This has potential genius written all over it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who should own the Internet - Round 4

And so it ends, it seems. The agreement reached in Tunis on Tuesday and reported here (among many other places) has left the Internet root servers firmly in the control of the US.

The "Internet Governance Forum" outlined in the agreement will have no real power - it will simply be a place to discuss theory and issues in the abstract.

It's nice to see that sanity broke out in the international arena for a change. Multinational control of the Internet root service would have led to confusion at best, serious damage to the Internet at worst. And the UN has a great deal to sort out before it should be given responsibility for so vital a resource.

Another blog worth adding to your blogroll

Ray Ozzie, of Lotus Notes and Groove Networks fame, now with Microsoft, is blogging. His thoughts are worth reading.

Who should own the Internet - Round 3

According to The Washington Times, representatives at WSIS voted yesterday to leave oversight of the Internet in US hands. The group voted to create a new international forum to discuss Internet issues, but it will have no policy-making power.

ICANN and the Dept of Commerce currently control the Internet root servers and top-level domains. The proposed new forum would not change that arrangement at all.

This sounds like exactly what the US wanted. Rep. John Doolittle, R-CA, the House of Representatives' leader on this issue, remains skeptical, however. He thinks that the UN's goal is still, "...to wrest control of the Internet."

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The BBC has the story too. This seems to make the WSIS rather anti-climactic, but CIT will stay on it for you.

Big sellers for Xmas, NOT

Why would anyone want pee and poo plush toys? Those Euros are getting stranger all the time.

The sound effects are not too appealing either.

Clunky iPod docks

Um, doesn't this sorta defeat the whole purpose?

Who should own the Internet - Wired preview

Here's Wired's preview of the WSIS.

We should start to see some news coming out of Tunis today. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Who should own the Internet - Round 2

Continuing our CIT coverage of this important issue, this from CIT correspondent organization InternetNews.com:

The US House of Representatives will vote tonight on a resolution to maintain control over ICANN and the Internet root servers. While the resolution will not be binding, it will, if passed, send a very clear message to the UN and its supporters that the US will continue to manage the Internet very well without your help, thank you very much.

Go House!

More news as it is made. Stay tuned.

Kazakhs pissed over Borat

Apparently, Kazakhstan has no official sense of humor.

Kazakhstan is threatening to sue Sacha Baron Cohen, the genius creator of Da Ali G Show and, more infuriating to the Kazakhs, the greatest character in the history of TV, Borat.

If you've never seen this (where have you been hiding?), Borat is supposed to be the most successful television news personality in Kazakhstan. He is featured on Da Ali G Show venturing into the West and recording his adventures with Americans and Brits for Kazakh television. It's pure television gold.

It seems that Cohen hosted the MTV Europe Music Awards as Borat, and this was the straw that broke the Kazakh's back.

Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a press conference that Cohen/Borat is "...serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way."

I guess the lesson is: Never overestimate the Central Asian sense of humor.

Making the world safe for (from?) karoke

The greatest advancement in karoke technology in the history of ever: The sound-proof microphone.

I know one family that needs this invention desperately. If you were there on Halloween, you know what I'm talking about.

Religion is everywhere

Except here.

Note: I think it's supposed to be "region-free", but you never know...

A little perspective on Cowboys-Eagles

Now that I've had a bit of time to digest last night's game, I'd like to weigh in with a few additional HSOs (that's "Hot Sports Opinions" for those of you who didn't know):

1. "The Cowboys should not feel very good about this one"

This was my quote in last night's post. I think I need to temper that a bit. It was a win in Philadelphia, on Monday night. You have to feel good about that. The defense did not quit, and you have to feel good about that. They refused to let the Eagles put them away, and managed to stay in the game until late. All good. The Cowboys should feel good about this one for a moment. However, the moment is over.

2. Roy Williams

Roy Williams started the season about like he played last year - not well. He got torched on pass coverage regularly. His lack of speed was exploited successfully by Washington in their come-from-behind, MNF, on-the-road shocker of the Cowboys. He wasn't tackling well and just seemed lost. Well, no more. Williams has bounced back and has had about three excellent games in a row. He's making plays, tackling like a madman, just generally flying around. He's doing what the Cowboys drafted him to do, and it's fun to watch. Keep it up, Roy!

3. Bledsoe

He made another bone-headed play by throwing an interception while being sacked, and he looked a bit like the immobile geezer at times, but he came thru when he needed to. He puts so little visible effort into these bullets and bombs that its a bit deceptive. He looks like he's playing catch with a little kid, but then the ball flys 40 yards or at 120 mph. Unbelievable. It was great to see him complete passes to just about everyone last night, esp since the Eagles defense kept him in check for most of the game. He found it when he needed to.

4. Parcells

The team won in spite of him last night. I'll cut him slack since he planted his younger brother over the weekend. However, I wonder what the papers and radio shows would be saying if that 3-runs-and-out final offensive series had cost them the game.

5. Donovan McNabb

Is he taking the "tough-guy" bit too far? I think so. For most of the season, he's been playing through the kind of pain that would probably kill the average man. It clearly got the best of him late last night, but it was obvious (and has been obvious) that he's not right just by the number of over- and under-thrown balls. It seems hard to believe that Mike McMahon or Koy Detmer is a better choice for the Eagles, but it seems clear that McNabb can't go on as is.

6. Eagles fans

The worst fans in the US, and only marginally less obnoxious than English football hooligans, it's always a pleasure to see sports doom and misfortune hit the City of Brotherly Shove. A quick sampling of the Philly media this morning indicates the suicide hotlines will be busy today.

So now it's on to the only relatively easy game left on the schedule - Detroit on Sunday at noon. A playoff team should have no trouble with the Lions, so we'll see. After that, the road gets substantially harder.

Salmon soda

Jones Soda Co of Seattle is releasing salmon-flavored soda in time for Thanksgiving.

You can get the soda as part of a $13 "regional holiday pack" that also includes bottles of turkey and gravy soda, corn on the cob soda, broccoli soda, and pecan pie soda.

Lucky me - I'm going to be in Seattle next week, so I'll be able to pick up a "holiday pack" and make all of our Thanksgiving guests sick.

People actually BUY this stuff?

Bomb explodes outside KFC in Karachi

A powerful car bomb exploded outside a KFC restaurant in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, this morning, killing at least 3 people.

Two things leapt into my mind immediately upon reading this:

1. There's KFC in Karachi, Pakistan? Why is this the kind of crap we export to the Islamic world?
2. Apparently, AQ was not involved. Instead, a seperatist group from Baluchistan (one of the semi-autonomous Pakistani provinces along the border with Afghanistan) has claimed responsibility.

There's no shortage of groups who oppose Pakistani President Musharraf, which was probably the perspective of the Baluchistan National Army (the group claiming responsibility).

Who should own the Internet - Round 1

This week's UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society promises to be interesting in a high-geek-factor way. Regardless of how propeller-headish the subject is, the outcome of this conference could potentially have a dramatic impact on the Internet we know and love.

As previously mentioned here, most of the rest of the world is not too crazy about the amount of control the US has over the Internet. While I can see their point, there are two compelling factors that cause me to not share their opinion:

1. The US paid for and did the original R&D that led to the Internet.
2. The US has been a pretty decent steward of the Internet, far better (IMHO) than some enlightened regime like China, Iran, North Korea, etc.

Our massive news staff here at CIT (ooh, my own acronym) will be keeping an eye on the results of the summit. Stay tuned.

American League MVGP - Gay-Rod




















Cursed to First has a nice, to-the-point post regarding your AL Most Valuable Gay Player. Go check it out.

Can't you just feel the positive vibes emanating from the Hub of New England?

Monday, November 14, 2005

You gotta score points to win in the NFL

There will be all kinds of analysis of Dallas 21 Philadelphia 20 in coming days. I have two things to say right now, 30 seconds after Akers' 60 yard fg attempt fell short:

1. You gotta score points. The Eagles dominated the game, but the scoreboard didn't show it. You can't settle for field goals. You gotta put teams away when you get the opportunity. The Cowboys have learned this lesson the hard way several times this season. It was nice to see them on the other end of it for a change.

2. Getting conservative can kill you. Fortunately, the Pear-Shaped One didn't cost the Cowboys the game, but it was close. With just more than a minute left and the Eagles out of time-outs, a Cowboys' first down would have ended the game. The Cowboys were facing 3rd and 6 or 7, and His Massiveness decided to run the ball for the third straight play. They haven't run the ball worth a flip all night, but there goes Marion Barber up the middle for about 4 and the Cowboys have to punt. They got away with it, but it was a near thing.

A win is a win, and as has been pointed out here before, "how" does not matter. "How many" is the only question that's worth asking. Still, the Cowboys should not feel terribly good about this one.

Atlantic tropical weather season ain't over yet

Tropical depression #27 is firing up in the southeastern Caribbean. According to StormTrack, it's entirely possible that this storm has already achieved tropical storm intensity, but the NHC is waiting to see more organization before they call it TS Gamma.

This year has been one for the tropical weather books in every way imaginable.

UPDATE: TD 27 may or may not make it to TS status. We should know by the end of the day today (Wed).

UPDATE UPDATE: As of Wed afternoon, it looks like TD 27 is going bye-bye. Keep your fingers crossed, we may be done for this year.

TRIPLE UPDATE: Well, so much for that. TD 27 turned into TS Gamma, clobbered Centeral America (killing several), appeared to be heading towards Florida, and has now turned a bit further right and is headed out into the Caribbean. Maybe we're done now.

Maybe the VR gizmo we've been waiting for

Virtual reality has been an elusive technology for quite a while. We've all seen Hollywood's take on it - The Matrix is probably the best vision of the possibilities of virtual reality. Entire computer-driven cities, complete immersion into the scenario, real interaction with other avatars or components of the application, etc.

In reality (sorry), VR has been a disappointment so far. The very best VR systems consist of enormous helmets with an interactive glove or two. You're visually there, but there's no other sensation available - no movement, limited interaction, rudimentary sounds, etc.

From Wired's Gear Factor blog today, here's a "human hamster ball" that acts like a giant, stand-inside trackball. It allows the VR participant to navigate through the virtual world in a way that resembles reality. The VR images are projected on the inside of the ball, and the participant walks or runs through the scene. Those movements are input into the system via the "hamster ball" and the scene moves accordingly.

While its currently well out of reach at $100,000 a pop, this is an interesting development that offers all kinds of possibilities. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Al Qaeda getting blasted in Muslim world

This certainly seems like good news: An article in the online edition of a Scots newspaper talks about "Al Qaeda on defensive as bombs begin to backfire".

It seems pretty clear to me that AQ has found it increasingly difficult to operate in the US (I know that sounds like hubris, but it has been 4+ years - sure seems like they would if they could, right?), Western Europe, and the rest of the non-Islamic world. If it's going to run operations, recent history seems to indicate it's left to the Muslim world, where AQ still finds some support and freedom of movement. However, this strategy, implemented without the discipline of only targeting truly Western interests, can alienate the very population in who's name the organization claims to fight.

AQ seems to be nothing like the shadowy and outrageously successful force it was prior to September 11, 2001. Improved security, improved intelligence, an environment that more successfully harasses illegal activity, and attrition of members and leaders have all helped the West get a bit of a leg up.

That's not to say that the danger has passed - it has not. That's also not to say that AQ won't sort itself out and return to it's previous stature, because it may very well. It does, however, mean that it is not impossible to defeat.

They named a LEMUR after Cleese?

While I'm sure this was done with all the proper sense of tribute and whatnot, it certainly seems like John Cleese has contributed to the human experience enough to warrant something more than a lemur, doesn't it?

Perhaps a cheese shop, a mention in The Short History of World War II, a cabinet position, or, at the very least, a "Black Knight Toll Bridge" over some loch or firth or something?

Piracy in Somali waters

Is it just me, or does this sound like "the shores of Tripoli" all over again?

As mentioned here last week, and all over the media recently, piracy off the coast of Somalia is skyrocketing. The current theory is that there is one or more "mother ships" running around, launching small-boat attacks on merchant and cruise ships in the area and taking their prizes into Somali territorial waters. And, as we all know by now, Somalia has not had a working government or any type of law enforcement for about 15 years.

These guys in no way resemble Captain Blood or Jack Sparrow. There's no romanticizing of their exploits to be done. Instead, it will take an international effort led by the major maritime powers to put an end to this lunacy. Better yet, some form of order will be brought to Somalia and the Somalis can stomp it out themselves.

As long as I'm dreaming, I wish I had a 1969 GTO Judge.

Election results from Afghanistan published

The final vote totals and election victors have been announced in Afghanistan. It took a while to certify everything, due to vigorous checking for fraud. In fact, some fraud was found and several candidates had their "victories" stripped from them.

As usual, this sort of thing doesn't get a lot of ink, but we should stop for a moment and consider how far Afghanistan has come in 4 years. Back in 2001, the Taliban was well on its way to destroying the country and it's artifacts (Buddhas at Bamiyan, anyone?) while completely ignoring the outcry of almost the entire world. Today, the UN signs off on free elections.

This serves as a reminder that it's not all bad news.

"Sept 11 was an inside job" says BYU prof

See what tenure gets you? The ability to spout off all kinds of ridiculous crap and not get fired for it.

Prof Steven Jones, a physics professor at BYU, says that the hijacked planes were merely a diversion, Muslims likely were not involved, and it was pre-positioned explosives that brought down the Twin Towers and 7 World Trade Center.

The power of speech has left me. Please read the article from the Deseret News for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I have GOT to have one of these!

Forget the flying car. Cross off the food embossers. THIS is what I want for my next birthday! More photos here.

2008 Beijing Olympic mascots trigger acid flashbacks

The Beijing Olympic Committee unveiled the five mascots for the 2008 Summer Games today. They resemble Chinese Teletubbies and will be responsible for more stoner nightmares than Tammy Faye Bakker.

Another tech remember when?

Here's a 500 kb (yes, that's KILObyte) hard drive, circa 1975. It took "days" to format.

Compare that to the 20 GIGAbyte hard drive you have in your iPod.

Dang it! I really thought this would work!

According to a study done at MIT (where apparently ANYTHING can get funded), aluminum foil hats do not block mind-control rays.

Crap! Now I gotta come up with Plan B. How about meat helmets?

Microsoft news of the day

Microsoft has announced that Beta 1 of the new Office 12 suite will be available in 2 to 3 weeks.

Beta 1 is generally a very rough version of the product with many unfinished features and bugs to be expected. Beta 1 testers are a select group who have to apply for and be accepted to the program.

No official word yet on a more-widely available public Beta (which was Beta 2 for Office 2003), but one assumes that it will be available sometime in the spring.

More wildlife showing up in food products

A woman in Iowa found a turtle (deceased) in her bag of Folger's coffee. Refreshingly, she isn't going to sue.

Another football Friday

Another big, but not giant, football weekend awaits. On with the show:

Colleges

Kansas @ Texas - All the 'Horns need to do is keep winning. With the demise of Virginia Tech last week, I don't think blowouts are necessary for Texas to hang on to #2 in the BCS. Alabama and/or Miami would have to do something pretty spectacular to make up ground. So, Vince and Co should just take care of business, don't screw around, and don't get hurt.

USC @ Cal - Also not much to look forward to here. The Trojans should have no trouble with Cal. They also just want to take care of business and suffer no serious injuries.

A&M @ Oklahoma - Oh dear. Just when the Aggies REALLY need a win, they have to go on the road to face a resurgent Sooners team. Oklahoma seems to have hit bottom and is on the rebound. The Aggies are still not sure where bottom is. A long afternoon if your wardrobe contains a lot of maroon.

Florida @ South Carolina - In a slow weekend of Dixie football, this is probably the Redneck Game of the Week. Spurrier faces his old team, which makes for some interest. The number of pre-1985 American cars in the parking lot also holds some interest. At last check, the O/U on that was 10,000. I like the over. South Carolina is hot, but they're not a match for the Gators.

Colorado @ Iowa State - Texas will likely face the Buffalos in the Big 12 Championship, so it makes sense to start paying attention to them. Iowa State is cannon fodder, but Colorado is not exactly the 1995 Cornhuskers. I think Colorado wins, but not in a blowout.

Boston University vs. the immortal soul of Tom Ladka. I heard they turned Nickerson Field into a weekly craft fair. I hope I got that wrong.

Pros

Pats @ Miami - Oh my. When do things turn around for the Pats? Well, it could very well be this week. It needs to be, as the Pats have to win the division. The good news is that everyone else in the AFC East is a lot worse than New England.

Denver @ Oakland - Another great AFC West rivalry. The Raiders are far too inconsistent, but when they're on, they've got weapons. Still, Denver is one of the better running teams in the league, and Jake Plummer is having a career year (which is, I know, not saying much). Besides, the Raiders are an awfully tough team to like.

Washington @ Tampa Bay - I keep rooting for the Redskins to lose, and I think they would this week if anyone other than Chris Simms were playing QB for Tampa. Simms is one of those prototype QBs on paper, but lacks the intangibles to make him a legit NFL QB.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh - Boy, am I glad I don't live in either of these places. Another banner week for "Desperate Housewives".

Cowboys @ Eagles - Will the Eagles take off without the battleship anchor called Terrell Owens around their necks? I think the answer will be some time in coming. At this point, they still have zero running game, their receivers are certainly not as talented without Owens, and McNabb is still hobbled, even if he is better. I know it's Philadelphia on Monday night, but I like the Cowboys' chances. This is assuming that Parcells doesn't turn into RC "There's Only 3 Things That Can Happen When You Throw The Ball, And 2 of Them Are Bad" Slocum on us again.

Comedic Value Game of the Week: Again, there are a bunch to choose from. My pick is SF @ Chicago. You can practically feel the life-force being drained out of everyone associated with this game.

Go (your team here)!

Some Speilberg news

Ain't It Cool News has a bit of Speilberg news today. The high points for me:

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A toasty winter, no fire required

According to StormTrack, pretty much half the country can expect a warmer-than-normal winter, while the other half could go either way.













I'm never sure what to make of predictions like this. I just hope we get enough hard freezes to thin out the spring bug population.

PO'd commuters burn delayed trains

Commuters angry over service delays torched 26 railroad cars in South Africa.

Something tells me that this act did not improve service very much. However, it is a slightly stronger vote of dissatisfaction than your average customer survey.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Closer to alternative power...

Mazda has introduced a whole line of cars that run on alternative fuels or hybrid motors. We're getting closer, but it can't happen soon enough!

"Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World"

One of my all-time favorite comedians, Albert Brooks, has produced a documentary in which he goes to India and tries to figure out what makes Muslims laugh. There's no mention of God, the Qu'ran, or other religious subjects. He's just trying to find out what's funny to the average Muslim on the street.

This is genius.

Brooks has been responsible for some of the biggest laughs in my life. His bit on "Rewriting the National Anthem" on his first album has stayed with me since I first heard it late one night on Q102's "Comedy Hour" in 1975 or so. The Pavillion of Past Lives in Defending Your Life cracked me up so badly that my wife thought about leaving the theater.

Making a movie like this took some guts. According to the John Stossel article linked above, Brooks is having a hard time finding a distributor for the film. I hope he gets it out - Warner says they're going to do it and I hope that's right. I will be first in line to check it out if it ever hits the theaters.

China warns of possible terrorist attacks

The Chinese government has issued a warning that Islamic terrorists may be planning to attack luxury hotels in Beijing in the next week. This is interesting for a few reasons, among them:

1. Bush is scheduled to be in Beijing late next week.
2. China has announced "terrorist threats" in the past as a pretext for stomping on the minority Uighurs, who are Muslim.

So, as is the case with nearly everything that comes out of Beijing, it's hard to know what's really going on here.

This certainly MIGHT be credible, as the Chinese are no friends of Islamic extremists.

However, it could just as easily be made up to a) show the world that the Chinese are on board with the War on Terrorism, and/or b) excuse some additional human rights violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

UPDATE: Huh? Now the Chinese deny having issued the warning in the first place. Beijing is the most confusing place on Earth.

Brutal list of recent A&M floundering

Sturm has a list (emailed to him - scroll down to the bottom of the post) of rather dubious accomplishments by the A&M football team since Dennis Franchione arrived. Some highlights from said list:
  • 16-17 overall record
  • 11 losses of 20 or more points
  • Lost to every Big 12 team, except for KU/KSU, at least once
  • Lost to every Big 12 team, except for KU/KSU/Baylor, by at least 20 points
Um, wow. I really think Fran has something as a coach, but this list is hard to argue with.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rangers at least pursuing AJ Burnett

Encouraging news from Rangerland - new GM Jon Daniels was among the first to call AJ Burnett's agent. The Rangers seem to be serious players for Burnett's services.

Burnett should not be confused with Walter Johnson, but he's probably the best free agent pitcher out there this year. He's relatively young and has a career ERA under 4.00, which, these days, is about as good as it gets.

Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease...

Fitty Cent's movie - apparently better than I expected

In one of the bigger shocks of my life, Channel 8's movie critic, the great Gary Cogill, actually likes Get Rich or Die Tryin'. This movie, staring and about Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, was on my Bomb-of-the-Year Watch List, but Cogill says not so.

Based on Cogill's say-so, I will give this a try, but I'll probably wait until it hits Netflix or cable.

BTW - I've linked to Channel 8 and the Dallas Morning News sites a few times. Belo, which owns both of them, is one of the most egregious users of pop-ups and in-line ads that I've ever seen, and I suspect them of being the source for 50% of the spam email I receive. I encourage you to use BugMeNot to get into these sites, rather than registering yourself.

Ugueth Urbina arrested for attempted murder

Former Rangers' closer Uggie Urbina was arrested in his home country of Venezuela for going after a group of men with a machete. According to the BBC story, he and his cohorts also poured gasoline on the victims and tried to set them on fire.

Makes the Frankie Francisco chair-throwing incident seem rather pedestrian, doesn't it?

Cowboys rant - I'm tired of Bill Parcells

While looking for coverage of Quincy Carter's bizarre conversation with Rhyner and Williams yesterday on The Ticket (none found yet), I stumbled across a couple of columns from Richie Whitt (formerly of the Startlegram, now writing for the Observer). Richie is seriously PO'd at Bill Parcells and has pulled no punches in letting us all know it. Read the columns here and here.

I'm on Richie's side regarding the Monstrous Tuna. Parcells rules this team and the Dallas media, such as it is, with an iron fist. Everyone from the assistant coaches to the writers are scared to death of him. No one gets to question anything he says or does. It makes no sense to me at all.

Parcells has never done a one-on-one interview since he's been in Dallas. No one gets any access at all. He holds a daily press conference which is a sure cure for insomnia and constipation. As Richie says, they are "circle jerks", with practically no tough questions asked, and the few that do get asked are ignored by His Massiveness.

An intrepid reporter trying to work up a unique angle is left trying to get a 15-second answer by tagging along with The Gargantuan One (along with a slew of other reporters) during a "walk-along" from the briefing room to his office. No wonder no one writes anything interesting about this team.

The assistant coaches are not allowed to speak to the media. This may be the craziest part of the whole deal. The Gigantic Tuna is the only "official" voice of the team. Oh sure, Jerry still talks, but no one has ever listened to him about football matters. Business, stadium, league, and other off-the-field subjects, yes, but never about what happens on the field. The players talk also, but they're all scared to death of Parcells, so their quotes come right out of the "Crash Davis Book of Cliches".

This is being tolerated by the public for two reasons:

1. Parcells' reputation as a "genius" and
2. The team is winning a little this year.

To give The Pear-Shaped One some credit: The move with Bledsoe has worked better than anyone (Parcells included) could have hoped. The draft class of 2005 (Spears, Ware, Canty, Barber, Petitti, etc) is looking like an all-timer. A couple of free agents (Aaron Glenn, Anthony Henry, and, of course, Bledsoe) are panning out. It's obviously not all bad news.

But comparing the Enormous Tuna to the last control freak who coached here, the Great, Spectacular, Hero-of-My-Youth Jimmy Johnson, helps illuminate just how insane Parcells really is. Jimmy was certifiable when he was here, but he was a superior judge of talent, a superior motivator, a superior game-day coach, a superior handler of assistant coaches, FAR more accessible to the media and fans, and on and on.

The Parcells schtick is wearing thin. A return to mediocrity, either in the second half of this season or in coming years (assuming he hangs out that long) will expose this situation for what it is. The emperor has no clothes.

Methinks I detect the aroma of sour grapes

Listen, I'm a Pats fan, and I feel bad about last night's thrashing. But I think I detect a note of sore-loserness in this post on Cursed to First.

On the other hand, it would be a good idea to remember that Peyton and Co haven't won anything yet.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Is this good news?

The EU is set to start training the Palestinian police force. For the sake of everyone in the area, I sincerely hope the French will have very little involvement.

I think Bush was trying to tell you this in 2001

According to the BBC, meeting the Kyoto Protocol will reduce the growth of the European economy.

Not surprisingly, there's no mention of "I told you so" coming from the White House. There should be.

They're not criminals, they're just "communicating"

From Michelle Malkin today:

Today's Washington Post runs an apologist piece telling us that the thugs who are doing their darndest to burn down Paris are simply misunderstood youth. According to this piece (of tripe):

One of Rezzoug's "kids" -- the countless youths who use the sports
facilities he oversees -- is a husky, French-born 18-year-old whose parents
moved here from Ivory Coast. At 3 p.m. on Saturday, he'd just awakened and
ventured back onto the streets after a night of setting cars ablaze.

"We want to change the government," he said, a black baseball cap pulled low over large, chocolate-brown eyes and an ebony face. "There's no way of getting their
attention. The only way to communicate is by burning."


Rrriiiiight.

I've been staying away from this topic, other than one post early on, because it's getting a ton of coverage from people who know a hell of a lot more than I do. However, every so often, I run across something like this, that chaps my ass (sorry) so badly that I can't help myself.

I'm sure the people manipulating these thugs have got them fully brainwashed - "Your cause is just. You are taking the only course of action open to you. You are making the French listen to you", that sort of nonsense.

Well, sorry. No one owes you anything, folks. Just because the socialist French have been training you differently since the 60's (which is a subject for another rant in the next few days), you are the only ones who can help yourselves. Burning the friggin city is going to get you nowhere.

Australians say they foiled terror attack

Police in Sydney and Melbourne made arrests on Tuesday which they say have derailed a planned terrorist attack.

Among the arrested is an Algerian-Australian (they've got hyphens down under too) named Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who advocates "violent jihad". Lovely.

Also of note: The men arrested supposedly underwent military-style training at a rural camp northeast of Melbourne. That's almost like saying police in Dallas arrested a bunch of terrorists who were trained outside Ardmore, OK. Scary.

First half - Pats vs. Colts

The Lexus Halftime Show doesn't hold much allure tonight - I'm sick to death of Terrell Owens' bipolar nuttiness, and Tim McGraw is a bullet to the brainpan.

Instead, I have to comment on the first half, esp the seeming inability of the Pats' secondary to cover the Colts' receivers. I haven't seen that many guys wide open since the Second Annual Drunk-Stoned Touch Football Super Bowl at Boston University in 1985. I know the Pats are down to about 5th string in the secondary, but this is nuts.

I suspect they are changing out Corey Dillon's gloves for the new suction-cup model as I type.

The Colts offense has struggled in weeks past, but seems to be hitting on all cylinders right now. When they've got all the parts going, that is some kind of machine. I thought Peyton was going to have a stroke after Vrabel's interception, but he calmed right down and drove the team like the master he's supposed to be.

The Pats are going to need to get a few hits on Manning, cover the receivers closer, and get a few turnovers to get back into this one. Belichick's the master of the halftime adjustment, and he's going to have to pull out the change of the century this time. I think the second half will be a different story.

Go Pats!

UPDATE: Um, well... So much for that. The Colts really put the pedal to the metal in the 2nd half and completed the blowout. This was a big win for Peyton on many levels, not the least of which is Indianapolis now controls the tie-breaker with the Pats, virtually assuring them of not having to return to Foxborough in the playoffs.

As for the Pats, the wheels have been off most of the season. The good news is the rest of the AFC East sucks a lot worse than New England.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Monday is another big day for Microsoft

On Monday, Microsoft will officially launch the three products that make up the application platform of the future. Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 will be the underpins for everything that's coming next year.

Sorry for geeking out, but this is a biggie!

Video from the Asian tsunami

Here's a collection of videos from the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Some of these are quite unbelievable.

Send yourself an email 20 years from now

I just sent myself an email that will be delivered 10 years from today. I could have chosen 20 years from now, but that is just too far away.

Forbes.com is providing a free email time-capsule service. You can write your future self a note through the end of November.

You can select the email address you want the message delivered to. I think it makes sense to use a Web-based email account from one of the big boys - Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc, to give yourself the best odds of the provider still being there.

Type your message, choose when it's to be delivered to you, go through a couple of verification steps, and you're done.

Forbes seems pretty serious about making it work. I just think it'll be a hoot - I made sure I described the current family situation, the current political climate, the type of hardware and connection I'm using, a bit about what I'm doing at this exact moment, etc.

We'll see, in 10 years or so.

Curse of "The Iceman"

A few days late for Halloween, but creepy nonetheless: People who have been in contact with the frozen remains of a Copper Age hunter are dying at a rapid clip.

Back in 1991, an amateur climber found the 5,200 year old remains of a Copper Age hunter frozen in glacier ice in the Austrian Alps. The remarkably well-preserved body, found with tools and weapons, was dubbed "Otzi the Iceman".

Since that time, many of the people who have come in contact with Otzi have died, including the guy who originally found him, the pathologist who examined the body prior to its removal from the glacier, the pathologists mountaineer guide, and several other team members.

Everyone in the scientific community is scoffing at the idea of a "Curse of The Iceman", but I'm not so sure...

Burmese government moves capital

I was shocked to see this one. I don't pretend to be "wired in" to events in Burma, but I do keep an eye out for news from there, and I hadn't heard a word.

The Burmese (Myanmar) government has apparently built a new capital on the road between Rangoon and Mandalay, at a little nothing place called Pyinmana. According to the BBC, the new capital has all the comforts of home in an easy-to-control little, out-of-the-way package. Golf courses, villas, airfields, all the important stuff. And no press, no international community, and no Aung San Suu Kyi.

It sure looks like the generals are settling in for the long haul. Not that anyone who follows this sad little country is surprised, but the "Roadmap to Democracy" seems to be on hold, no matter what Than Shwe says.

"Sonic blaster" foils Somali pirates

In one of the stranger stories I've run across lately:

A super-luxury cruise ship repelled boarding by Somali pirates (just a quick sanity check - this IS 2005, right? Not 1721?) by hammering them with a "sonic blaster". This device, which I am adding to my gift list, sends out high-powered air vibrations which knock the attackers off their feet. It's the size of a satellite dish and will probably fit on the front bumper of my wife's Expedition nicely.

The waters off Somalia, home of anarchy since 1991, are among the most dangerous in the world. Pirate attacks are common and the only sort of "law-enforcement" available is an international naval task force, currently under the command of the French (snicker).

Will this become the new "adventure tourism"? Head for Somalia in an armed yacht?

Here is yet another instance of "What happens when the West doesn't have any strategic interests in a region". Like I keep saying - if we can come up with some alternatives to petroleum, we can let the Arabs rip themselves to shreds the same way.

I can't help but throw this in as well: For those of you who protest US involvement in places like Iraq and the Middle East, please take a look at Somalia, Zimbabwe, Burma, etc for examples of what happens when the US DOESN'T get involved. Not a very pretty picture, is it?

"Munich" trailer is online

Speilberg's new movie, Munich, is getting the usual amount of Speilberg press.

It turns out Munich is not the movie I was expecting. I figured it was going to be a re-creation of those terrible days at the 1972 Summer Olympics, when the Palestinian Black September took the Israeli Olympic team hostage. The crisis ended, as you probably know, with all 11 Israeli hostages dead.

Speilberg instead focuses on the less known, but far from secret, Israeli response to Munich. Israel sent a Mossad special operations team out to kill the planners of the Munich attack. The team was remarkably successful, killing at least 8 of the leaders of Black September. They also killed an erroneously-identified Moroccan man who was not involved in the Munich attack.

Munich tells the story of that response from the perspective of the special operations team charged with carrying out the program.

The trailer is online and is worth checking out. The movie opens December 23 in the US.