Friday, April 28, 2006

Atlantic tropical weather starting early

Ah yes, it's that time of year again.

According to StormTrack, the first tropical depression of the Atlantic "season" has formed near Cuba. It's not big or well organized, but it is more than a month before the true "tropical weather season" officially starts on June 1.

Just in case you were wondering, here's the list of hurricane names for this year:


No party for Bonds

Commish Bud Selig announced yesterday there will be no official commemoration when Barry Bonds ties and passes Babe Ruth for #2 on the all-time home run list.

"Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record," Selig said. "We don't celebrate anybody the second or third time in."

Explained that way, it certainly sounds logical, right?

However, I firmly believe Bonds' current public image has everything to do with Selig's announcement. If Bonds still weighed 180 pounds and had not been splashed across the front page for the past 4 years in connection w/ illegal performance-enhancing drugs, I think there would be one heck of a fiesta for dinger 715.

It also strikes me that Selig would actually announce something like this. Perhaps he was asked about it, but you do have to consider just how embarrassed MLB is by this entire situation.

The homer record is the most hallowed in sports. Bonds' pursuit SHOULD be a cause for huge anticipation and celebration. I am really pissed and disappointed that both Bonds and baseball have forced us into this predicament, and have robbed us of what should have been the biggest sports story of the summer.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In Flight Aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress

Drop what you're doing right now and go check out this Flickr photoset. It is a series posted by a dude who recently took a ride in a fully restored B-17G Flying Fortress, one of only 17 still flying in the US.

If you're a semi-reformed WWII junkie like me, this is must-view stuff.

Potty humor

Blog-jacked from Brad Feld - Bathroom art!

This one is enough to set my 5-year-old's potty training back four and a half years.

Iran - I LOVE those guys!

I've spent way too much time bashing Iran. It occurred to me this morning that I really need to change my tune and express my heartfelt thanks to my Persian pals.

Between the religious zealots trying to turn back the clock to the mid-12th century and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spouting off insane anti-Semitic rhetoric every time I turn around, the Iranians have made my job as a blogger so much easier. Really, since these nut-jobs started spinning off the planet last fall, I've been able to spend much more time with my family and pursuing other activities, rather than combing the Internet for material.

So, big thanks to all our friends in the Islamic Republic. You guys are great. Please keep up the truly outstanding work. I appreciate all of your efforts.

Blog you soon!

What is wrong w/ Francisco Cordero?

The Rangers pulled another one out in the bottom of the 9th last night, beating the Swingin' As 6-5 on some late heroics by the heart of the batting order. Closer Francisco "Coco" Cordero made these heroics necessary by coughing up a 2-run lead in the top of the 9th.

Cordero has been AWFUL lately, blowing four of his last seven save opportunities. Two years ago, Cordero was one of the best closers in the game. However, since then, what was once an automatic win is now anything but.

Some have been suggesting for a while that he's hurt, and one hopes that's it. The alternative (he's washed up) is not a good one.

Ranger fans have been spoiled over the past 7 years or so. Ever since John Wetteland was lured away from the Yankees to tame the out-of-control closer situation (remember his predecessor: Mike "Thank You Sir, May I Have Another" Henneman?), the 9th inning has been minimal drama. Both Wetteland and Cordero had a history of making things a little more exciting than they should be, but both came through far more often than not.

No more. It's no longer drama, it's a friggin' Greek tragedy. Every night.

Too many other things are going right for this team (shocking, but true) for them to get dragged down by a had-it closer. The obvious solution seems to be moving setup man Akinori Otsuka to closer, but that's not the sort of move one makes lightly. Besides, this bullpen is clearly constructed to facilitate Otsuka mowin' 'em down in the eighth, then handing the ball to Cordero for a quick ninth.

It's not working as planned.

Buck is going to stick w/ Cordero for a while. That's his history, and, frankly, I don't disagree with it. Yet. However, the situation clearly has to change in some way. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Mark Cuban Show

The Mavericks' own Mark Cuban, he of the Frakensteinian haircut, questionable rhythm, and billions of dollars, will be hosting his own weekly talk show on Sirius satellite radio.

Cuban has an opinion on everything, and is one of the best-informed guys around regarding digital copyrights and rights management, so it's a good bet that his show will be an excellent source of info. He's also nuts, which means it will be either really entertaining or really uncomfortable (which is the same thing as far as I'm concerned).

Hamas making friends throughout the region

This counts as an "oops" - Jordan has arrested Hamas members and charged them with plotting terrorist attacks within the country.

Unless I'm missing something important, this would appear to be an act of war by the elected government of an entity (the Palestinian Authority) against a neighboring nation-state.

Careful, boys. Your benefactor (Iran) may be the big kid on the block, but Jordan is right next door.

Things looking grim for Your Dallas Stars

Since Sturm has bailed on his obligation (Dentist? Whatever, Bob!), I will attempt to fill the void regarding Avs 5 Stars 4.

Oh, this is very bad news indeed.

I must be honest - I didn't tune in to Ralphie and Razor until the first intermission. It's difficult to describe the shock and dismay I felt when I saw the 3-0 score after the first period.

The second period was awesome. The Stars took it to Colorado from the drop of the puck and pummeled them. Four goals later, it's Stars in the lead and all is right in the universe.

Then here comes the third period and overtime. Arnott (the most consistent guy in green thru the first two games) NEARLY won the damn thing. If his heart-stopping shot had gone in rather than hit the post, we'd be talking about a close, but needed, win.

Instead, defensive lapses, questionable goaltending, lack of energy, and a general appearance of disinterest cost the Stars another game. They now head off to Colorado, down 2 games to none, and in complete disarray.

Marty Turco is now one of the highest-paid goaltenders in the NHL, and he plays like it pretty much every regular season. However, this is a guy who has yet to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Talk was (here and elsewhere) this is the year. It may still be, but we've seen no signs of it yet. Turco's already got the tag of "Big-Game Choker". If he doesn't stage an immediate and complete turnaround, he may as well sew that onto the back of his sweater.

Bill Guerin is turning out to be the biggest bust in recent Stars history. Here's a guy who came in with all kinds of hype and an enormous contract. What, exactly, has he done since then? He's one of the most likeable guys on the team, but let's face it: He's got a BAG.

Modano summoned some energy during period two, and looked like the Mikey Mo of old. It didn't last long. What's his story? He had a great comeback season, shut up a lot of his critics, but he's choking as badly as anyone on the team.

Tippett, the most consistent coach in the NHL, apparently panicked after the no-show his team pulled in Game 1 and completely shuffled his offensive lines. Is this the reason the Stars got KILLED in the first period? I'll give him this: He didn't back off, and the team turned in an All-World performance in period 2. But it's hard to argue with the hole dug in the first.

I'll give props to the Finns (with the exception of Janne Niinimaa - why was HE playing?) and Jason Arnott. These guys showed some jump and some want-to throughout. Arnott took NO crap off anyone last night and I loved it.

Well, Game 3 is an absolute MUST-win. Tippett will start Turco, but I wonder if this is the right way to go. Does the team have faith in Turco anymore? Does a change to Hedberg shake up the team enough to force some change? I have no idea, and I doubt Tippett would make the switch regardless. However, I have to believe Turco is on the shortest of short leashes.

This is NOT what we had in mind while the regular season crawled to an end.

The ultimate wheelchair

Lifted from The Bag: This is NOT a fake!

Unexplained "booms" in the skies over US

Boing Boing had this yesterday, and I almost blogged it. A few updates to the original post made it show up in RSS this morning, which I'm taking as a sign of...something.

Anyway, there have been reports from across the South, as well as SoCal, of window-rattling booms of unknown origin. Thunder and supersonic aircraft have been ruled out, as have explosives. Its not caused by earthquakes or meteors. In short, no one knows what the hell is going on.

Someone will come up with an explanation, and it will probably wind up being something really boring. But, for the moment, this is a pretty good mystery.

Iranian money is scared of Mahmoud too

With all the insane actions and even more insane rhetoric from Iran lately, it's easy to forget that the country is subject to the same principles of economics as everyone else. Once you remember, it's not such a surprise to find there is some very shaky economic news coming out of the friendly Islamic Republic.

What does this really mean? I have no idea. Iran has plenty of dough from oil, and more support from the international community than one would hope, so the news reflected here probably doesn't mean much, if anything, in the short term. However, at some point, you would think that Iran will need some political and economic stability.

Unless, of course, God really is on their side. In which case He will provide.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ahmadinejad keeps up the comedy

Today's episode of The Mahmoud Hour: Israel is a "fake regime" that cannot continue to exist.

Hey, at least he seemed to acknowledge the Holocaust:
"Some 60 years have passed since the end of World War II. Why should the people of Germany and Palestine pay now for a war in which the current generation was not involved?" Ahmadinejad said at a news conference.

Dallas sports - mostly up, some down

The news on the Dallas sports scene is better than expected in some ways, and concerning in others. A quick rundown:

Mavs dominate

The little Mavericks got off to a dominating start against the Memphis Grizzlies (when was the last time anyone saw a grizzly bear in Memphis, or anywhere in Tennessee for that matter?) last night.

Erick Dampier showed what a difference he can make when he’s interested.

In reality, this was not the Mavericks’ best game, but they fought for it all the way through. To me, this is more encouraging than a standout Dirk or Stackhouse performance would have been.

It’s only Game 1 of the first round, and it’s only Memphis, but it was a great start.

Has any coach ever gotten more out of his team in his first full year than Avery Johnson?

Stars wet the bed

On the other side of the coin, we have Your Dallas Stars, who looked to be asleep on Saturday night against Colorado. Poor play, way too many penalties, and way way too many turnovers led to a drubbing in every sense of the word.

Turco played well enough to win, but got nothing from his teammates, with the exception of Jason Arnott and whoever he was on the ice with. Until the rest of the offense realizes the playoffs have started, I vote for double-shifting Arnott and leaving wakeup calls for Modano and Guerin (esp Guerin, who’s been hitting the snooze button since Oct).

Rangers are above .500

The whole fam got to spend a wonderful Sunday at the Temple in Arlington yesterday, in a luxury box right behind home plate no less, thanks to our friends E and J. The kids had a great time running around with their friends and eating themselves silly, Robynne got to catch up with some of the girls, and I got to see John Koronka pitch a beauty.

Koronka has turned out to be the biggest pleasant Ranger surprise in a long time. The last-minute acquisition, whom I though was bound for Frisco or OK City, has, instead, turned in three very good to outstanding performances, crowned by yesterday’s eight-inning effort. A soft-tossing lefty, Koronka read thru Kenny Rogers’ pamphlet Successful Left-Handed Pitching at the Launching Pad in Arlington and clearly took good notes. He changed speeds, kept the ball down, and worked the corners. The Devil Rays (and what a crap team they have, btw) scattered a few hits and some runs, but never mounted any sort of charge.

Ranger bats, on the other hand, were plenty busy. The kids are huge fireworks fans, and they got to see lots of them as the Rangers belted homer after homer. The bottom of the third was particularly exciting, as Tex, Nevin, and Mench all clobbered long balls. Devil Rays’ manager Joe Maddon (who?) left poor Casey Fossum (who?) out there throughout the onslaught, determined to get four innings out of him, come hell or high water. He got both.

After a TERRIBLE start, the Rangers are righting the ship. Sweeping Tampa Bay in April is not anything to get overly excited about any more than getting drilled in the first week of the season was, but it a step in the right direction.

Chernobyl: 20 years ago this month.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. In case you didn't know (or had forgotten, which I had), "disaster" in no way describes the nightmare which resulted from this fiasco. The radiation released in the event (I don't know what else to call it) was over a 100 times more than that released by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are huge portions of the Ukraine and Belarus which will be unihabitable for hundreds of years.

Boing Boing provides some interesting links which address both the event itself and its long-term consequences. The picture on the Boing Boing page ("An aerial view of the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after its explosion.") is only terrifying when you consider just how much radiation continues to emanate from the wreckage 20 years later. Think Vladimir Repik of Reuters (the attribution on the photo) is still with us today?

My memory of Chernobyl is fuzzy at best, which is partly due to 1986 being my third year of college, but more due to the Soviet government's official policy of denying the obvious: "What shiny explosion and glowing forest are you talking about? Firemen cooked like microwave burritos? This is some sort of imperialist plot."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Zimbabwe invites white farmers to return

Can't let this slip by without making note: Zimbabwe has invited thousands of white farmers, all of whom were forced off their land by the government's "fast-track" land reform in 2000, to apply for leases on that same land.

Obviously, the land reform has been an abysmal failure, which has crippled the economy and caused massive food crises in Zimbabwe. You'll probably never hear President-for-Life Mugabe admit that it was a mistake, but what more proof do you want besides this completely unexpected U-turn?

Oil prices - Iran has it's big laugh now

My favorite nut-job, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is enjoying the current surge in crude oil prices.

"The increase in oil price and growth of oil income is very good and we hope that the oil prices reach their real levels," he says. No indication of what he thinks "real levels" are, but you get the gist.

These smug bastards. Laugh now, you clowns. You'll be back to farming dirt within 100 years and nobody will care what you have to say.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Too long without an "I-hate-the-Cowboys" post

I was strolling down memory lane and ran across this genius Sturm post (aren't they all?) from Nov 9, 2005. Just think back for a moment, and remember what we all thought of Terrell Owens when this was going on.

Now he's got a star on his helmet.

Have fun with that, Cowboys sheep (er, I mean "fans").

Personally, I'm looking forward to the inevitable implosion. Look for me afterwards. I'll be the guy in the back of the room saying, "I told you so."

Burma - Newsweek says, "C'mon. It's not so bad."

From Newsweek's International Edition this week: The other side of the story from Burma. Joe Cochrane spends a bit of time in Rangoon and tells us that all is not so grim in the Golden Land.

I haven't been there myself, so I can't argue the point on my own. However, there are enough really grim stories coming out of Burma, especially from the countryside, that I really wonder what Cochrane's agenda is.

Read the Newsweek article, then read about Doctors Without Borders' experience in Burma, what ASEAN has to say about their neighbor and member, Amnesty International's opinion of the junta's actions against it's own citizens, and comments from Canadian Friends of Burma which could be interpreted as a direct refutation of Cochrane's piece, and let me know what you think.

Hamas gives terrorists the keys to the castle

More fantastic news from the humanitarians from Hamas: They want terrorists to work with, not against, the Palestinian police. Just to show how well-meaning they are, they've put a character named Jamal Abu Samhadana in charge of Palestinian police and security forces. Samhadana has been on the receiving end of a few targeted assassination attempts by the Israelis.

Just for the record, I have no problem w/ Israel's targeted killings. Shin Bet and the Mossad seem to have a pretty good handle on who the baddies are and where they can be found. While there has been too much "collateral damage" from these strikes, it certainly appears that the Israelis are going after the right people.

Regardless, this latest move from Hamas is akin to turning over the US Drug Enforcement Agency to John Belushi or giving the secret handshake from the New York Stock Exchange to Jeff Skilling. In all cases, the result is a near-guarantee that the abuses will only get worse.

How I long for the days leading up to the Yom Kippur War, when Israel's biggest threats came from other countries, instead of a bunch of lunatics who already have a free pass to the entire country, and the sickness of mind to think blowing themselves and a bunch of civilians up will actually help furthur their goals.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fond memories of Shawn Bradley

Just in case you missed The Mantis (aka Shawn Bradley), here's a compilation of about 50 different guys taking it to the rack right over Big Goofy Shawn.

Note how many of them are significantly shorter than he is. Bradley has a foot or more on most of these guys.

What was Mark Cuban thinking in those days?

SF Big Wheel race

Easter Sunday saw the annual BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel) race (caution: annoying song starts as soon as you hit the page - turn down your speakers if you don't want to bother the dude in the next cubicle) down Lombard St. in SF.

In case you didn't know, Lombard St is the famous "World's Crookedest Street", so incredibly steep it's one of the very few places on Earth where you'll find switchbacks on an urban street.

So, if you're in SF next Easter and your medical insurance is paid up, get one of the old-fashioned plastic-wheel Big Wheels (no rubber wheels allowed) and go try to break some bones with the big boys.

Traffic rules in India

Here's another YouTube classic - strangely mesmerizing video of a complex, unregulated (no stop signs or traffic signals) intersection somewhere in India.

There are two things I find amazing here:

1. No one dies. Not even a fender bender.
2. Traffic continues to move.

An intersection like this in the US would result in a daily toll of 200 accidents of all descriptions, 15 vehicular fatalities of various sorts, 50 road-rage-induced firearms violations, and a traffic jam requiring at least an hour and a half to negotiate.

Lost - How the DHARMA Initiative Works

All hail Geeding and his never-ending fountain of "Lost" tidbits. Here's an exhaustive "How Stuff Works" article on the DHARMA Initiative.

No "Lost" this week, dammit. Instead, ABC is showing two hours of "Alias". I'm all for watching Jennifer Garner do just about anything, but I'd still rather have my weekly visit to Mystery Island.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Always like to see Glenn Reynolds agreeing with me

From Instapundit the other day (sorry, I'm way behind): Glenn has some links related to the Alberta oil shale fields as well as an interesting about-face on nuclear power by a founder of Greenpeace.

Sounds familiar. And absolutely right, for many reasons.

It's playoff time in Big D

Dallas, the ultimate winner's town (the only way to sell season tickets around here is to win a championship - just ask the Stars), is about to get a double-sports-treat. Both the Stars and the Mavs are playoff bound and both, rather incredibly, have legit shots at their respective league championships. There are not many towns in America where this happens - my college home of Boston won championships in the two biggest American sports not so long ago, but I really can't think of another time when it's happened. I'm sure it has, but it's rare enough to be noteworthy.

And note it, we shall.

First, the little Mavericks: I've said several times before, and I'll say it again. San Antonio and Detroit are clearly the class of their respective conferences. But the gap between them and their competition is not what it has been in years past. The Mavs in particular match up very well with both, and far better than they ever have before.

The Mavs are a team with a legitimate MVP candidate in Dirk, two superstars-in-training (Josh Howard and Devin Harris), guys who are deadly from the perimeter (Jason Terry), guys with an inside game (Stackhouse), and a center rotation that actually works (Diop and Dampier). Their bench is long, their coaching staff is solid, and no young head coach has seized his team's attention and made a fundamental improvement in it's approach to the game like Avery Johnson.

For those of us who suffered through the 1990s, when the Mavs were the worst joke in professional sports, it's still difficult to believe that our little Mavericks are really and truly contenders for the title. Sports observers much smarter than me have been saying it for a while, and I'll add my feeble voice to the din: They are.

The pressure this year sits squarely on the Teutonic shoulders of Herr Nowitzki. Dirk got thrown off his game during the playoffs last year. Both Houston and Phoenix beat him up and frustrated him, and he disappeared just when the Mavs needed him most. If he pulls a similar stunt this year, it will be a short run. However, it's important to remember that Dirk was in the midst of a pretty good playoff stretch two years ago in the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs when he got hurt. In addition, and maybe more importantly, Dirk has done just about everything right all year. The only remaining challenge for him is his post-season performance. I've seen enough out of him this season to be very optimistic. If Dirk continues his All-World play from the regular season, the Mavs will be playing well into June.

Now, the Stars: In a hockey season when no one has made a whole bunch of noise, the Stars have emerged as one of the top three teams in the league. Steady play from a whole slew of guys has been the recipe, with no one, with the possible exception of shoot-out whiz Jussi Jokinen, having a truly break-out year. Newly-very-rich Marty Turco has been very good throughout, and, at time, dominating. The pieces are in place, and there's no reason why the Stars should not contend for the Western Conference title and the Stanley Cup.

As with the Mavs, all of the pressure is on one guy. In this case, it's Turco. Similar to Dirk, Turco has, fairly or unfairly, earned a reputation as a great regular-season player who can't turn it up in the playoffs. Physically, he's proven himself to be, beyond a doubt, one of the most talented goaltenders in the NHL. Mentally, there's some question about his make-up. That may not be fair, but it is what it is.

Regardless, Turco has a solid team in front of him, a tournament full of other teams who have not proven themselves to be any better than the Stars, and holds his own, and his team's, fate in his hands.

Playoff hockey and playoff basketball, with a legitimate chance for our local teams to go far: I'd be more jacked up if the Rangers were in the baseball post-season, but this is as good as it gets otherwise. The TV and the TiVo will be busy for the next few weeks.

Plagiarizing a baseball blog???

In one of the stranger events I've run across in my adventures in the blogosphere, Beth from Cursed to First has busted a plagiarist who was lifting entire posts from Beth's blog, along with some other Red Sox-oriented blogs.

All I have to say on the subject is "WTF?" All of the fun of having a blog is, to me, wrapped up in having a forum to drop my own Hot Sports Opinions on an unsuspecting world (or, at least, the 7 people who actually read this thing). Why on Earth would someone want to impersonate a blogger? That's like pretending you're a human.

Well, justice has prevailed, and Beth (who has been known to drop her own Hot Sports Opinions, which we've quoted here before) has outed her would-be evil twin. Bravo, Beth!

I just wish someone thought enough of my work to rip me off.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Now THIS is a funny blog

Just ask yourself: How glad am I that blogs didn't exist when I went to college?

My answer: Pretty damn glad.

Finally, math I can understand

From the Sydney Sunday Times, via Boing Boing:

Here's a mathematical equation that I will be committing to memory:

(S+C) x (B+F)/T = V

It is the formula that describes the perfect female posterior. A quick definition of terms:

S is the overall shape or droopiness of the bottom,
C represents how spherical the buttocks are,
B measures muscular wobble or bounce,
F records the firmness,
T measures the skin texture and presence of cellulite, and
V is the hip to waist ratio, or symmetry of the bottom.

This is pure genius. And, yes, it does describe my wife - I have the measurements to prove it.

I love practical uses of math. I just wish my algebra classes had concentrated on this sort of thing. It would have made the subject much more relevant to me.

Zimbabwe on the verge of big trouble?

From Reuters today: An analysis piece on the current situation in Zimbabwe. The news ain't good.

Growing up Jewish in Dallas, I had lots of friends from southern Africa - for whatever reason (similar climate, growing city w/ lots of opportunity, an even sillier local accent than their own?), many South African and Rhodesian Jews relocated to Dallas in the late 70s and through the 80s. Today, quite a few of my kids' schoolmates are 2nd or 3rd generation southern African immigrants, and many of their parents (our contemporaries) retain the distinctive accent and drive for success that characterized the first wave.

So, with that background, I do keep an eye out for news from southern Africa, and have written about the region several times here. While South Africa has had it's share of problems since majority-rule, the overall trend has been mostly positive. Not so in Zimbabwe.

Back when it was called Rhodesia and it was ruled by minority whites, this south-eastern African country was the breadbasket of the continent. Easily able to feed itself and it's neighbors, it was one of the leading exporters of food in the world. Further blessed by abundant natural resources (nothing like the treasure-house next door in South Africa, but better than most countries), Rhodesia was among the most prosperous countries in Africa and, indeed, the entire world.

The news seemed good in 1980 when, in a largely bloodless transition, the country moved to majority rule and changed it's name to Zimbabwe. The business and agricultural environment remained robust and prosperous, and it seemed like the success story would continue.

The wheels have been slow, but steady, in coming off since then. Robert Mugabe, President since 1980, has become more and more radical as time has gone by, foisting ever-more destructive economic and agricultural policies on the country. His disastrous land-reform methods (revocation of whites' right to own land and making most farmland available to any black who could grab it and hold it) were the most visible, but only average in terms of damage caused to the economy.

So, now here we are, in April of 2006 and the economic news from Zimbabwe is beyond bad - it's nearly incomprehensible. The inflation rate has topped 900%, unemployment is over 70%, an entire generation has never held a job, and the country is on the brink of... what?

Well, we'll find out in the next few weeks. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has proposed mass demonstrations in the next few weeks (no dates have been announced yet, just the intent). While the government is outwardly blowing this off, internal, unnamed sources are saying they're worried.

They should be.

Robert Mugabe deserves the Nicolae Ceausescu treatment more than any world leader not in Burma. And he appears likely to get it.

Stay tuned to this one.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thank God, a decent game for the Rangers

Vicente Padilla got win #2 for both himself and the team yesterday, as the Rangers FINALLY beat the mighty Tigers (huh?) 5-3 in the final game of the season's first homestand.

Brad Wilkerson, who has been swinging (and missing) at everything, delivered one of the VERY few clutch hits produced so far by this team, a two-run double in the sixth. Kenny Rogers (jerk) hung a curve ball and Wilkerson, who's shoulder is still a BIG question mark, smote it but good.

And as for Big Dumb Kenny Rogers, he had nothing to say to the Texas media, shooing them away from his locker but speaking at length to the Tigers' beat reporters. I don't miss that miserable SOB one bit. Even if Kevin Milwood turns out to be the second coming of Chan Ho Park (God forbid), I still won't miss Kenny friggin' Rogers.

It's been as bad a start as one could imagine for the Rangers, but at least the homestand ends on a positive. The Rangers now hit the road, making their first swing through the AL West. Let's see if they can make any hay on this trip, or at least get a few clutch base hits.

Indonesian Playboy - all publicity is good publicity

Playboy magazine has started publishing a new Indonesian version. This is only surprising when you stop to consider that Indonesia is the world's most-populous Muslim nation.

Tame by Western standards, the magazine is causing the expected furor throughout Indonesia. Since principles like "freedom of the press" and "let the market decide" are completely alien to many in the Muslim world, the Jakarta streets are full of threats, calls for the banning of the magazine, and, no doubt, cries of "Death to America".

And, as for the folk at Playboy - even if the Indonesian edition turns into a failed bit, they've got a few mentions on the news services and a bit of blog-pub (the best kind to have), so they're happy.

Big surprise: France caves

Staying entirely in-character, the French government has caved in to trade union and student protestors regarding the controversial CPE Employment Contract Law.

Is anyone really surprised by this? The French sense of entitlement is truly a force of nature.

Where does it end for this once-proud, now-third-tier-and-sliding-fast country? A mild attempt to spark the economy and get the nation's youth on payrolls and off the streets has been blocked so completely and so violently that nothing like it will ever be proposed again. What can the government possibly do now, besides continuing to grow the welfare state?

If I were a planner for AQ or any other radical movement that thrives among a disaffected, already-conditioned-to-street-protest-and-violence, near-hopeless population, I'd be pulling up stakes from tired dumps like Somalia and heading for the jihad-ready streets of Paris, baby. Get ready for terms like "Marseilles mullahs", "Liberation Army of Lorraine", "Flanders Fedayeen", and other catchy team names, not to mention a whole new definition of "French Roast". Go git 'em, boys.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

First swim through the rotation - initial reaction is "Uh-oh"

While it's far too early to draw any real conclusions about your 2006 Texas Rangers, the first five games of the season have left me feeling decidedly queasy. While there were a few encouraging signs, the negatives far outweighed the positives and I'm beginning to wonder (again) why this team full of sluggers can't buy a hit with runners in scoring position.

Pitching has been about what we figured. While Milwood got clobbered in his first game as the Rangers' ace, it's not too difficult to remain optimistic about him. Vicente Padilla looked great in his first Rangers' start, and Kam Lowe looked even better. RA Dickey has already been sent down after getting his ass handed to him the other day (a major-league-record-tying SIX home runs allowed), but many of us thought he should have started the season there anyway. Koronka looked OK in his first start, but one suspects the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation will be in flux most of the year, or at least until Eaton gets back.

Defense has been good enough through five games. No glaring problems, nor should there be. Ian Kinsler (Jewish?) got his first error to go along with his first hit and home run, but he should be an upgrade over Soriano. Everyone else is an average or better defensive player. We should expect solid, if unspectacular, defense from this team and, so far, that's what's been delivered.

It's the hitting that has me a bit freaked out at the minute. No one is pounding it, and the team can't buy a clutch hit. I keep hearing, "This team has too much talent. The hitting will come." Haven't we heard this same thing for about 3 years now? WHY can't this team move runners? If they don't homer, they've got nothing. I have been mystified by this for some time and remain so. I am further mystified by the fact that no one really seems to call them out on it.

Like I said - it's way too early to draw long-term conclusions, and it's certainly not time to panic. But it sure is time to start asking some questions.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Atomic Age nostalgia

Billing itself as a repository of "All Things Atomic" from "The Golden Age of Homeland Security", Conelrad is wacky stroll down late-1940s through mid-1960s nuclear-threat Memory Lane.

The combination of scare tactics and false reassurance is a study in the duality of man, esp when under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Good times.

If you're old enough to remember those halcyon days of looming destruction, or if you're like me and have only read about them, this site is worth a check-out. It's a chilling, yet sort of comforting, contrast to the Homeland Security scare tactics and false reassurances of today.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

French students and unions are apparently now the government

In a truly unbelievable move, French labor unions and students have told PM Dominique de Villepin and President Jacques Chirac they must repeal the controversial First Job Contract law by April 15. They made no mention of consequences if the demand is not met.

I am stunned by this move. Who do these guys think they are? Surely they know they have forced a showdown with de Villepin. Apparently, the unions think they have enough momentum and support behind them to blatantly challenge the power of the elected government like this.

The really sad part is de Villepin (who's career is over, regardless) will probably cave. One hopes not, as the repercussions for democratically elected governments in general, and for France in particular, could be disastrous. An elected government must represent, and answer to, the people, but this is silly. This is nothing more than extortion. It is absolutely the antithesis of the way a democratic government is supposed to work and is, as the Founding Fathers would say, "tyranny of the majority" in the worst sense.

The equally sad part is this law, or something like it, is desperately needed in France. The French unemployment rate is the highest in Western Europe, and it won't get any better until hiring an employee no longer means the business has to keep paying that employee for life, regardless of his/her performance.

Finding your way around - getting easier, but still a ways to go

Ran across this on Boing Boing today (BTW - if you're not reading Boing Boing every day, what is wrong with you? It is simply the greatest blog in the history of ever.): Loki is a new, location-based Internet search and navigation service, currently in beta.

Loki uses within-range Wi-Fi networks and a database to figure out your current location for you. So, your directions start you out correctly, even if you have no idea where you are.

This is, of course, pure genius. The limitations are still fairly significant - you have to use your laptop (Windows XP only, at the moment) instead of a mobile device, there have to be some hotspots in the vicinity, and the database has to be ultra up-to-date - but this is a great idea.

Where it needs to go, of course, is onto a mobile device (my much-anticipated 30 gb, flash-memory, music-store-agnostic, 3G, Windows Mobile PDA/phone/mp3 player, natch), it needs to keep track of where I am, and it needs to be able to read directions to me out loud, so I don't have to squint at the screen while driving. I'm OK with it delivering location-based advertising, as long as I can mute the sound for that (while leaving the sound up for my directions).

This is in contrast to my current state of affairs: While touring my parents' new, under-construction house in Frisco the other day, I attempted to find directions to the local Romano's Macaroni Grill. It took me five minutes of drill-down on my silly little Cingular WAP phone, and the best I could do was a Yellow Pages lookup of the phone number for the restaurant. Not too impressive.

Ariel Sharon has another surgery

Ariel Sharon (he's still got the Prime Minister title, which sounds more like a cruel joke as time passes) had surgery today to replace part of his skull, which was removed following his massive stroke back in early Jan.

This is terribly sad, and I wonder how much longer it will continue. At this point, there's very little chance that Sharon will recover even a little bit. Why are they still carving him up?

I'm already working on my tribute to Sharon, to be published when he passes. A controversial figure for most of his adult life, he wound up being in the top 5 (arguably in the top 3) most influential Israelis ever. He is missed right now, and will be missed for years to come.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Real lawn furniture

I don't know if this is cool or stupid (the line so fine sometimes, isn't it?), but here, from Gizmodo, is the grass armchair.

It's a corrugated cardboard frame that you place on your lawn, pack with soil, and sprinkle grass seed on. Before you know it, you have an immovable chair that is part of your yard.

I do know this: You will drive the person responsible for cutting the grass completely insane with a few of these!

The hi-tech way to keep your coffee warm

From our pals at Gizmodo:

Probably not as effective as the little hotplate you've been using to keep your coffee cup warm for the past 10 years, but undoubtedly geekier (and, therefore, sexier), here's a USB cup warmer.

Just wrap the sleeve around your cup, plug it into the USB port on your laptop, and presto! You've got a forever-warm cup of coffee.

I sorta wonder about tethering a cup of scalding hot liquid to your $1,000 laptop via a 50 cm electrical cord, but you'll be the coolest kid in your cube farm.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The dangers of live TV

Funny. I especially like the horn.

Opening Day - Let's try to be realistic

The Rangers open the regular season against Boston today at 2:00 at The Temple. It's a PERFECT day in old DFW - not a cloud in the sky, temp around 70 or so, not much wind (but probably about Force 8 out from the plate), couldn't be better for the start of what MIGHT be a fun baseball season.

One must remember that last year's opening day (which I was lucky enough to attend, in a box no less) was equally glorious. And we all remember how last year worked out. I don't even remember who the Rangers played. I do, however, remember the flyover by the B-52. You don't forget a flyover by a B-52. How does something that huge fly? But I digress...

I'm going to record some thoughts for posterity. We'll look back later in the season and see if any of this matters at all.

First, the opening day line-up, which looks like this:

LF - Brad Wilkerson
SS - Michael Young
1B - Mark Texeira
DH - Phil Nevin
3B - Hank Blalock
RF - Kevin Mench
CF - Laynce Nix
C - Rod Barajas
2B - Ian Kinsler

The addition of Wilkerson ought to be a plus - the guy can work pitchers and get on base.

Young and Tex are solid, with Tex finally starting to find the groove late in spring training, after a disappointing WBC.

Nevin is what, 85 years old? If he can drive his Lark out to the on-deck circle, he should be solid enough.

Blalock will start fast, as always. Check back in Aug for a true assessment of his season.

Mench and his giant melon will be good enough. I have no big hopes for him, but he'll deliver an adequate performance for a #6.

Nix should be in the minors, recovering from his two (!) shoulder surgeries. This is troubling. I have to believe the plan WAS for Dellucci to carry some of the load here, but the pitching problems (more in a moment) forced Jon Daniels' hand. We're going to have to hold our breath on Mr. Nix.

Barajas is what he is. Solid behind the plate and solid, if unspectacular, with the bat.

Kinsler has emerged as hoped. He'll be better in the field than Soriano was (faint praise if ever I've heard it), but there will be a drop-off in offense from 2B. There should be enough from elsewhere to make up for it, but it does bear watching. I still think the subtraction of Soriano's bat will be one of the biggest negatives from the off-season.

Now, the pitching, which is what it all comes down to. The rotation shapes up like this:

Kevin Millwood
Vicente Padilla
Kam Lowe
RA Dickey
John Koronka

Millwood should be the ace we've been looking for since the dawn of history. With some real run support, which he never got in Cleveland, he ought to produce. Anything short will be a surprise. This is an upgrade over Kenny Rogers without question, and cameramen on the Ranger beat are breathing a sigh of relief.

Padilla gave me a warm fuzzy as the #3. We will have to see how he does as #2. He's taking Chris Young's spot, and it's too early to tell if that's a step up.

Kam Lowe should be a #4.

RA Dickey should be in the minors working on the knuckler. If he can master it (and it looks like he will), he can be a solid rotation guy for the Rangers for years to come. The Launching Pad is a lousy place to work out the kinks, however. I hope the Rangers can afford to be patient with him.

Koronka should be in the minors as well.

The Adam Eaton injury has well and truly screwed the Rangers' plans for the rotation. I give Jon Daniels full marks for revamping his pitching staff not once, but twice this off season. Unfortunately, the Rangers are in the same division as the Angels and As, neither of whom have anything like the heartburn the Rangers do in their starting pitching.

The bullpen probably hangs on one guy: Joaquin Benoit. If he can be a competent middle guy, the bullpen sets up nicely with Otsuka handing off to Cordero.

All told, I think we are looking at an upgrade from last year's fiasco. Eaton (hopefully) coming back in July should be a boost just when the team needs it. But, the headline says "realistic", and when you look at the AL West realistically, it's hard to see how the Rangers finish higher than third.

Well, today is the one day of the season when everyone is tied and every team has a chance. So, let's play ball!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More "Lost" goodies

Geeding, the master of all things "Lost", has provided a couple of mind-blowers from the show. All avowed Losties should drop what they're doing and check these babies out:

1. From Entertainment Weekly, a vidcap and some analysis of the looney black-light map Locke saw on the inside of the blast door in the episode entitled "Lockdown".

2. From (a fan site, I think), a video which sure looks like another Dharma Initiative training video, ala the "Swan Station" film Desmond bequeathed to Locke early in Season 2. This one has not made it onto the air yet.

Have I mentioned recently that I LOVE THIS SHOW?

By the way, go check out the new and improved Bag of Nothing, and leave a little love for Geeding. The man gets up at a ridiculously early hour every morning, just to provide his public with top-notch entertainment. His stuff should be on your daily reading list. It sure is on mine.

Immigration imbroglio - time to weigh in

A representative from the Guacamole Party asked recently about the lack of comment from CIT regarding the immigration imbroglio currently causing more missed school than a bad mono breakout.

The Guacs are right, man. It's been nothing but sheer intellectual laziness that has prevented me from weighing in on this controversial subject. No more. Let's get to it. And fair warning - I'm a Republican, but I reserve the right to disagree.

So, as I understand it, the brouhaha was sparked by legislation currently doing it's rendition of "Today I Am Still Just A Bill" in DC. This legislation (the House version of it, anyway) labels illegal immigrants as felons, and criminalizes any activity that aids or abets illegal immigrants. The Senate is debating a somewhat less harsh version, which calls for a "guest worker" status. The Pres has called for this sort of approach.

So, first a few comments on the tenor of the protests:

1. If you're hollering "We're Americans too", why are you waving Mexican flags? Over the American flag? Which you have upside down? Folks, this is called "burying the lead".

2. Time for a quick civics lesson to the well-intentioned folks who state words to the effect of, "Illegal immigrants are not criminals." Um, sorry. They kind of totally are. Here's the big tipoff: "ILLEGAL immigrants". Get it?

3. My favorite pointy-headed liberal quoted in the news: Camella Pinkney-Price of the Hispanic Evangelical Churches. I'm sorry to typecast, by hyphen last names are like a red cape to a bull. Anyway, Camella is quoted as saying, "We want to say that we deserve to be legal. Why are people called illegal immigrants when they have shed blood, sweat and tears to work in this country?" Camella, babe, please see #2 above.

It's like shooting fish in a barrel, isn't it?

However, even with all this making sport, I still haven't got to my opinion.

On one hand, of course, is it's absolutely silly to think that our borders should be wide open, and those who are protesting right now are incredibly naive if they think that's in the cards. In the post-Sept 11 world, we really do have to do a better job of figuring out who's coming into our country.

On the same hand, enormous waves of immigration, especially undocumented and/or illegal immigration, puts a great deal of strain on the social services network of our fair burg. Education, welfare, and other public services are stretched. I think the biggest negative impact of the current flow of immigration (legal and illegal) is the colossal, near-fatal strain being put on the healthcare system. My wife works in healthcare, and my son's condition ensures that we see a great deal from the patient's perspective, so I think I'm qualified to comment. It's a mess. It's worse than you can imagine. It's a wonder the system hasn't imploded yet. That the implosion is coming is, to me, a foregone conclusion. I literally lose sleep over this.

On the other hand, a few points:

- I love the big, comfy, brand new house I live in, esp at the price I paid.

- The woman who cleans our house and the gentleman who does our yard work (husband and wife, btw) are the most dependable, conscientious workers you could ask for.

- The Dallas North Tollway, which will make my life MUCH easier once complete, is being built at a pace that frankly amazes me. Something MAJOR gets done every week on that stretch of road.

- I love that the North Texas service economy is absolutely booming. As a consumer, I am the one who reaps most of the benefits.

I have no idea how many illegal immigrants are involved in the bullet points above. Maybe none. Maybe lots.

What I do know is immigrants are fueling the astounding economic activity you'll find throughout Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, and lots of other places. Turning off the tap of immigration, or even slowing it significantly, will have some impact on this economic growth. Maybe a big impact. Maybe a REALLY big impact. So be careful.

There you go. I think a lot of what's going on right now is pretty darn entertaining. But, at the heart of it, I think I'm on the side of the entertainers.

UPDATE: A few things occurred to me as I reread this (What's the point of having a blog if you don't revel in your own wisdom? At least, that's what Narcissus would say.) and I want to add a bit of color (ha!).

First, we (the right) are always hollering about "Family Values" and "Traditional Families". I don't go all the way with my conservative bretheren on this one - I think same-sex parents are swell, as long as they provide a stable and loving environment, and I'm pretty sure I don't want my or my kids' reading and TV list approved by the Baptist Church - but it's difficult to argue with the basic logic.

Ever been around a Hispanic family? I'm not going to tell you that I've spent loads of time around them myself, but I have spent some, plus I read a bit, and I think it's safe to say Hispanics are, by and large, as family-oriented as anyone. There is a tradtion of staying together as an extended family, taking care of elders, sharing domestic responsiblities, working hard to support dependants, and raising children that will rival anything you'll see in the Jewish, Asian, or any other community. And when you compare it to the average American "family", well, there's not much of a comparison.

Don't we want more of this in America? I think we do. I know I do.

Next, and unrelated, and on the other side of the coin completely: I happened to catch a bit of the new HBO drama "Walkout" last night. I didn't see enough to give a thorough review, but it appeared to be about Hispanic students protesting for something they felt strongly about by walking out of class. Sound familiar? I'm not going to throw too many stones here, because my generation copied much more inane crap from movies (I can't tell you how many pizzas were delivered to class, Spicoli-style, in my high school), but it just makes you wonder what would have happened if HBO had done a special on the Whiskey Rebellion this month instead.

They taught us in 10th-grade English to summarize, so: Something does need to change w/ regard to immigration. We have to do a better job of monitoring who's coming in. Social services, and esp healthcare, cannot, in their current forms, continue to support the growing demand. But, let's not get nuts about this. Immigration brings a lot of really valueable things to this country, including strong values, a source of inexpensive labor that fuels our economy, and people who are willing to work hard to provide a better life for following generations. That's pretty compelling to me.

France on self-destruct again, and I still don't get it

France is on the verge of implosion, again (or still, I can't tell) and I, for one, am ready to see that collection of arrogant twits beat each other senseless.

The latest upheaval has to do with legislation, which has been approved by the parliament, that would make it easier to hire and fire young workers. Trade unions and students are all a-twitter because workers in their early 20s will now have to (gasp) work to keep their jobs.

The French (and other Euros, the Froggies are only the most annoying example) are used to "employment for life" and other forms of socialized hand-holding. The result of this heart-in-the-right-place-but-brain-stuck-in-the-jacket-pocket sort of societal engineering is a youth unemployment rate of over 20%, a rate that doubles when you look at inner-city youth (yep, the same folks who did their best to burn down metropolitan France about six months ago).

Capitalism sure ain't perfect. Unfettered by oversight, it is as destructive as any other "-ism" out there. However, with good intentions, good oversight, and accountability, it's the best thing going.

Folks from Howard Dean and on over, please take note of what's happening in the land of wine, cheese, and a military tradition second only to Chad and Burkina Faso. Is this REALLY what you want to do to us?

UPDATE: The protests continue, although there are some signs that at least someone (Interior Minister Sarkozy and some of the more moderate unions) is willing to talk.

What am I missing here? Are the students and unions REALLY protesting because they think a status quo where 75% of young Frenchmen and -women have near-guaranteed jobs while 25% (50% of the inner-city and minority population) go without any job at all is better than this law which would mean a FAR higher percentage are employed at jobs they need to perform to keep?

How does this make ANY sense at all?

Hamas to Palestinians: Come on , you guys - it's us asking for calm!

Hamas says it wants to enlist clan elders, mosques, and local media to help calm tensions and enhance security in the Palestinian territories.

Good luck with all that.

You reap what you sow, boys. You were the guys who refused to listen to Fatah when they called for calm. Good luck getting anyone to listen to you, now that you have the responsibility for quieting things down.

The sooner the fence is built, the better.