Wednesday, May 31, 2006

CIT asks, again: WHY do we need to rebuild New Orleans?

The latest from the Big Easy: Parts of New Orleans are sinking, and not slowly.

This, in part, explains the chaos which followed Katrina (elected incompetence and "Why doesn't the federal govt save us" mentality helped a bunch, but we've already covered that).

With the city sinking rapidly - some parts are sinking up to an inch a year - it's difficult to imagine a flood control system which will work for any length of time. Wouldn't ANY system need to be overhauled regularly to remain effective?

And who's going to pay for this? Oh, right. You and me. I forgot.

Hey, here's an idea: Let's save a few billion dollars and rebuild the city in a spot that won't turn into the world's dirtiest sea-quarium in a few decades.

Mavs-Suns Game 4 - The triumphant return of Raja Bell (huh?)

The Mavericks got destroyed by Phoenix last night, 106-86. It was really worse than that; you don't see garbage time in Conf Finals very often, but we did last night.

The Mavs played their worst playoff game in years, with almost nothing going right. No one shot worth a flip, esp the usually deadly Dirk. No one could handle the ball - the Mavs committed 14 turnovers. No one rebounded, no one drove the lane, no one seemed to hustle, etc.

Phoenix, on the other hand, could seemingly do no wrong. All kinds of crazy shots were falling for them (which is not that unusual - those guys can shoot the basketball), Raja Bell (yes, the same Raja Bell who spared everyone to death during his years as a Maverick) made a triumphant comeback from his calf injury. Everything Leandro Barbosa threw up went in. The Suns played some effective defense (the earth stopped revolving on its axis for a moment, as well). And on and on and on.

I don't want to sound like sour grapes here, but I'm not sure I'm real impressed with a team who can be inspired to greatness by the return of Raja friggin' Bell.

The only positives I can see from last night's game for the Mavs:

1. Josh Howard did not aggravate the ankle injury in that very awkward fall late in the 4th quarter.

2. Avery Johnson did not pull an Antonio Daniels/Terry O'Reilley by charging into the stands to defend his wife from a couple of obnoxious Suns' fans. Time will tell how this plays out, but Cassandra Johnson was at the game with her kids, so I have a tough time believing she started things with Jose Martinez and Rebecca Kettle. Regardless, Avery kept his cool and didn't do anything dumb.

The Mavs had gone 14 games into this years' playoffs without a clunker, so perhaps it was inevitable. Dirk and Co have established enough of a track record that I'm not going to worry too much about this one. I fully expect Avery to make a few changes and the team to come out blazing in Game 5 at the AAC on Thursday night.

It sure wasn't much fun to watch, however.

Concern over possible World Cup terrorism

It almost goes without saying these days, but there's apparently some significant concern over the possibility of terrorist attacks on this month's World Cup games in Germany.

Germany has a large immigrant Muslim population, and there are concerns that a significant minority of this population represents the extreme end of the Islamic spectrum. German Muslims have some of the same complaints about their host society as French Muslims, and there have been a few events recently which have agitated the community.

I have been expecting (and predicting) attacks at many high-profile gatherings since 2001 - the Olympics, the Democratic and Republican Conventions, elections in the US and elsewhere, etc. I've been wrong every time (thankfully), but it still seems like the radical Islamists would have struck somewhere if they had the capability. The fact they have not says to me they can not.

We'll see. No doubt the counter-terrorism folks are not getting much sleep right about now.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mavs-Suns - Mavs take charge

The Mavs beat Phoenix 95-88 tonight, in a game where the Mavs finally imposed their will on the Suns for a long stretch.

The 2nd half was all Dallas, as Dirk and Josh Howard took over. Diop, Terry, and Stackhouse all pitched in, as did the only remaining white stiff on this team, Mr. Van Horn.

I've been saying it all along: Trust in Avery. The guy has the magic touch right now, seemingly unable to make a serious mistake.

The Suns are faced with a double-must-win on Tues night. They should come out JACKED up. It will be fun to watch how (if) the Mavs can withstand what should be a hyper-speed assault from Phoenix early.

Set your TiVos now!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Burma - Aung San Suu Kyi house arrest extended AGAIN

Finally, some encouraging news from the Golden Land: Aung San Suu Kyi's current term of house arrest expires on Saturday, and there are some signs the junta may actually free her this time.

In the past, the expiration of a house arrest term just meant an extension. This time, however, police have visited her and have been spotted removing barbed wire barriers in front of her lakeside villa outside Rangoon. In addition, a UN official was allowed to meet with her for the first time since 2004.

It's WAY premature to start planning a release party, or to order one of those "fly the coop" cakes like Uncle Joey was supposed to get in Back to the Future. It's even more premature to think this signals any sort of significant change in Rangoon (or Pyinmana, or wherever the junta is at the moment). Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed before, only to be locked right back up the instant the generals feel threatened.

UPDATE: Well, so much for that. The junta has extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest again. No explanation as to why, nor any indication of how long the extension is.

Hey Newsweek, still stand by your "Groovy Rangoon" story from a few weeks ago?

The simple fact is the generals are never going to ease up until someone makes them. And who will do that? Not the US or the West, that's for sure. How dreadfully sad.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Talk about a Hot Sports Opinion

Lunatic Brit MP George Galloway has said it would be "morally justified" for an assassin to target PM Tony Blair. He went to to add that he was not advocating such an act, as if that would make it OK to spout off this insane opinion.

Galloway was already booted from Labour for urging Brit soldiers not to fight in Iraq. This time, he may find himself in a bit more trouble.

What good can possibly come from a statement like this?

Russia still sucking up to Tehran

The Russians have announced they're going to sell $700 million worth of surface-to-air missiles to Iran. The deal was signed last year, before most of the current nuclear brouhaha flared up.

I think there are two factors affecting the Russians' thinking:

1. The Russians can use the cash. They're generating dough from oil and gas, but they've got some big bills as well.

2. The Russians are trying to pacify the Muslim fundamentalists in their southern provinces and neighboring countries, as well as the hard-liners in Tehran.

The cash thing is just business and it's hard to fault the Russians for it. The US is selling better stuff to the countries we like, which means the remaining market is in countries we don't like. The Russians have a product to sell, and they're going where the market is. We may not like it, but that's the way it goes.

The attempt to buy off the Islamic contingent is, to me, a lot riskier. The French tried to buy off Muslim and Arab terrorists for most of the 1960s and 1970s. Now they have Muslim and Arab youths burning down their major metropolitan areas. The Brits tried to buy off the Nazis in the mid and late 1930s and we all remember how well that worked out.

At the end of the day (if anyone still says that), the Russians; and the Chinese, who are trying the same stunt; are no friends of Islam. Trying to pretend otherwise may work in the short term, but the long term is much more difficult to foretell.

Cambodia bans 3G phones

Unfortunately, when the subjects of technology and Cambodia converge, it's rarely good news, and this is no exception.

Cambodia got third-generation wireless earlier this year, a major accomplishment in one of the poorest and most-deeply-scarred nations on Earth.

Then, somehow or other, the wife of Prime Minister for Life Hun Sen pulled up some porn on her phone and went bananas. As a result, Hun Sen knee-jerked 3G right into the rubbish bin, banning it from the country completely.

"We can wait 10 more years until we have managed to improve morality in society," he said. This, in a country where prostitution and sex tourism rank as leading industries.

Third generation wireless was not going to yank Cambodia into prosperity by itself, but this mindset from the only leader who matters in that sad little nation will certainly keep the Khmer people in poverty for a long time to come.

Top 25 Worst Tech Products Ever

Here's a fun one: PC World's Top 25 Worst Tech Products Ever. Filled with notable bombs like RealPlayer, Microsoft Bob, and the Cue Cat, this is a stroll thru the Hall of Not-Quite-Genius.

How many of these did you use? Me? More than a few. And I thought PointCast was kinda cool at the time. Maybe it was because they sent me the best travel mug of all time, which I still use.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Maybe the coolest piece of everyday tech ever

Go check out this site for the new Nike+ demo video.

Nike+, in case you haven't heard, is new technology that enables your running shoes to talk to your iPod Nano. Before you start giggling, let me explain briefly.

A sensor in your Nike+ shoes communicates wirelessly with an app running on your iPod. The sensor/app combo figures out pace, distance, elapsed time, etc and communicates this to you verbally thru the iPod, while your pre-programmed workout song list is playing. If you need an extra boost, you press a button on the iPod and go directly to your pre-selected "Power Song".

This is genius. I have been running since the beginning of the year, but have hesitated to run anywhere but on a treadmill. Yes, it's dreadfully boring, but I don't know how else to maintain a steady pace, figure out how far I've gone, or keep really accurate track of elapsed time.

And, let me tell you, certain songs on my Creative Muvo get me going a lot better than others. However, I have no way of choosing them on the fly, at least not without unclipping the Muvo and scrolling through a bunch of menus. This is NOT what I want to be doing in mile 3 at 6.5 mph. If I need a "Power Song", I need it NOW.

This may be the killer app for me, and may finally push me into the Cult of iPod. I'll let you know.

Oh puh-leeez: Lay and Skilling "shocked" at verdict

A minor miracle occurred in a Houston courtroom today, as former Enron Chief Executive Weasel Ken Lay and Chief Operating Weasel Jeff Skilling were found guilty of a boatload of charges each.

I say "minor miracle" simply because neither has actually set foot in a jail yet. Once that happens, I'll upgrade it to "junior miracle". This only gets "true miracle" status if one or both get Otto the Nazi Bonecrusher or Killa-Freak from the Crips as a cellmate.

Needless to say, Lay and Skilling both expressed "shock" and "disappointment" at the verdicts. I bet they were shocked. They both spent God-knows-how-much dough on the best legal team that would prostitute itself for them. I'm sure they expected to walk with a formal apology from the court.

Regardless, the "No Fraud Here" defense didn't work, which shocks the crap out of me. It sorta restores my faith in my fellow Americans and the system in general that the zillion-dollar lawyers were unable to confuse the jury into paralysis.

On the other hand, both of these guys are CROOKS. Of the highest order. Without parallel in the annals of Corporate America, really. And think about that statement for a moment. John D. Rockefeller. Richard Scrushy. Bernie Ebbers. Leland Stanford. Cornelius Vanderbilt. JP Morgan. I mean, this is heady competition. And I stand behind my statement. Lay and Skilling were more crooked than any of them.

We'll see how long the appeals take, and how long these two weasels end up in the clink. Regardless, a victory for truth, justice, and the American Way today.

Well, truth and justice, at least.

Wed night TV

A few points about last night's adventures in TV Land:

"Lost" season finale

Overall - HOLY CRAP! What a mind-blowing 2 hours of edge-of-your-seat TV! As expected, we've got some answers and a whole bunch of new questions. Let's take a look at a few developments from a character perspective:

Sayid - As I hoped, Sayid had a big part in doings. That guy has a huge set of balls - his recce of The Others' seaside village had me riveted. No surprise - the "village" was nothing but a ruse. Still, to just yank open the doors of the fake "hatch" would take some guts. What to make of the giant, four-toed statue base and the smoke signal coming from the wrong (or was it the right?) place? I have NO idea.

Michael and Walt - It CAN'T be so easy for them. Just follow a compass heading and everything will be fine? No way! I expected the boat to go boom at any second. Or will Michael find his decency and return to the island to right his many, most serious, wrongs? Perhaps he'll hook up with Sayid, Jin, and Sun on their sailboat?

Locke and Eko - Dead? Trapped in the wreckage of the hatch? Is there wreckage of the hatch? There was no explosion, at least not that we saw, when Desmond turned the key.

Desmond - Also as I hoped, we got a LOT more on my favorite Brit ex-soldier. Where does xgf Penelope fit into this? And his encounter with (and generous gift from) Libby also sets off a bunch of questions. If the crash of Oceanic 815 was as simple as and electromagnetic "system failure", how do all of the interactions between the Losties prior to the crash figure in? Again, it's not that easy.

Jack, Kate, and Sawyer - The biggest of many big cliffhangers. What happens to them now that they're in the friendly embrace of The Others?

The Others - Sure, we've got faces and some names, but they are more mysterious than they were when all we saw were legs and a bound teddy-bear.

It's going to be a LONG summer.

Mavs-Suns Game 1

I managed to switch over to TNT-HD in time for the last half of the 4th quarter. Everything I said yesterday seemed to come into play. The Suns EXPLODED for 16 in the final minutes, and Boris Diaw's great move on Stackhouse to win the game completely drained my life-force.

There's no reason to panic, yet. The Mavs did not play their best game, and, as the great David Moore said in this morning's DMN, an emotional letdown after Game 7 with the Spurs was to be expected. I'm still optimistic, but this is not going to be the cakewalk some in town seemed to expect.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The joys of pop culture #2 - Mavs-Suns preview

While we won't be tuning in to Game 1 until after "Lost" tonight, you can bet the rest of the series will be must see TV here at the CIT Compound. This series is, to me, every bit as compelling as Mavs-Spurs was, and should provide enormous entertainment.

There appears to be a feeling of no-big-deal-ness around the old D/FW Metroplex regarding this series. I get the impression that Mavs fans think the title is already won. The Spurs are conquered, and everyone left is an also-ran. This is unsettling.

While it's certainly true the Spurs have been the arch-nemesis around here for some time, and they were the Champs, and the series was one of the all-time greats, it's important to remember the Mavs have won nothing yet. They are merely half-way to the Promised Land. Much work remains.

It starts with Phoenix. Oh sure, the Suns have a bunch of strikes against them going in: No Amare, Nash looked beaten down in Game 6 against LAC, they only play 7 guys, they've barely survived two consecutive seven game series, they don't play defense, etc, etc, etc.

Don't fall prey to these thoughts, Mavs fans!

The Suns are THE most explosive team in the NBA. They have an offense that can kill you in multiple ways - they can shoot from outside, they can take it into the paint, they can kick it out, they can kick it in, and they can run your ass off. No one, including the Spurs and the Mavs, has been able to consistently slow them down all year. This is a team that can score 20 points in the blink of an eye and, if you give them the chance, they'll blow your doors right off.

I firmly believe this is a very different Mavs team than the one that got knocked out in six by Phoenix last year. I think the Mavs can, and will, impose their will on the Suns, can slow them down, and can score any way they want to against the nearly non-existent Phoenix defense.

I think the Mavs will win.

But I sure don't think it's going to be quick, or easy.

The joys of pop culture #1 - "Lost" season finale

We find ourselves in a bit of a pop-culture quandary tonight: Do we tune in for the 2-hour blockbuster season finale of "Lost", or do we continue our basketball fever with Mavs-Suns Game 1?

I thought DVRs were supposed to solve this problem. Oh, wait, DUAL-CHANNEL DVRs do solve this. So why can't I get one from Comcast?

I hate Comcast. I have a draft post called "Comcast - Worst. Company. Ever." which I will finish and publish one of these days.

But I digress.

The choice here at the CIT Compound will be "Lost". I have WAY too much invested in that show to bail for Game 1 of anything. If it were Game 7, this might be tougher, but since it's not, decision made.

There are two great articles on MSNBC today regarding "Lost" - Top 10 things we need to have answered (or at least moved forward) in tonight's episode, and Best and Worst of "Lost". Both are great reading for addicts like me.

Some of the things I definitely want to see tonight:

A return to prominence for Sayid. The haunted Iraqi is my hands-down favorite character. He's got one heck of a dark side, but I firmly believe him to be one of the sure-fire good guys (Jack, Jin, and Hurley are the others, Michael was on the list until very recently). And, to paraphrase Sawyer, if there's going to be some violence (and it sure looks like it), Sayid is the one guy who's got some hands-on experience in that department. I'd sure want him on my side.

Some resolution of the Locke-Eko relationship. If Locke returns to his spiritual self, he and the giant fake priest would make one heck of a team. Or one heck of a set of adversaries. I'd be happy either way. Let's get on with it.

Let's see Desmond again. The guy started as a cipher and only got more mysterious during his brief run at the start of Season 2. Word is tonight's episode features him prominently, so we should know more very soon. If nothing else, I love the dude's accent.

And, finally, something needs to happen with Kate. She was a major player up until about a third of the way thru this season, but lately hasn't contributed anything. She should either step up and do something, or get killed off.

Don't bother calling between 8:00 and 10:00 Central tonight. I won't be answering the phone, the door, or the call of nature for the duration.

Monday, May 22, 2006


There is deep joy in Dallas tonight. There will be much rejoicing tomorrow.

Some immediate quick hits:

Hero of the Game: Dirk (duh)
Unsung Hero of the Game: Diop
Genius: Avery

The ONLY thing I regret about the series with the Spurs is that it happened in the second friggin' round. How stupid are the NBA Playoffs? Even with this excessive dumbness, the series was an ALL-TIMER.

Now we await the winner of Suns-Clips. I hope it's Phoenix, my home away from home for most of Q1 2006. Also, I can name about 5 times as many guys on the Suns roster as I can on LAC's.

Kim Jong Il - pop star

Team America was apparently a documentary, at least as far as Kim Jong Il's vocal talent goes.

If the NKs ever let us back into the site, you'll be able to sing along with kindly Uncle Kim and the Starvation-ettes as they rock out to some of the hottest hits from north of the 38th Parallel.

Big Soviet-era architecture

Those nutty Russian Communists knew how to think big. Big factories, big collective farms, big tank battles, and big failure all figured, well, big in the Soviet Union.

Nowhere was Commie bigness more exemplified than in architecture. Here's a site dedicated to proposed Moscow-area building projects which never got off the ground.

Freud would have loved these guys.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hamas tries to smuggle $800K into Gaza

Here's a weird one: A senior Hamas official was caught trying to smuggle over $800,000 in cash into the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Hamas is, of course, broke. This is due to pretty much the entire world cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas' election victory. One solution to the situation would be for Hamas to moderate a bit. The other solution is, apparently, to break the laws that Hamas itself is supposed to be enforcing, and risk further damaging the already-crippled Palestinian economy, by bringing boatloads of cash in via smuggling.

While I'm not especially sympathetic to the Palestinian Cause (big surprise to longtime CIT readers, I know), the Palestinian people deserve a hell of a lot better leadership than they've received since 1948. Whether they're elected like Hamas or defacto like Fatah, Palestinian leaders have done absolutely zero to improve their peoples' lives.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code - um, maybe not a must-see

Cogs' review of The Da Vinci Code is in (longtime CIT readers will know that The Great Gary Cogill of WFAA-TV is the best movie critic on the planet, at least for my money), and it's not good.

He calls it "addicted to mediocrity", "terribly talky", and "cinematically flat and not very interesting". Oh dear.

Of course, I thought the book was tremendously underwhelming, as did most critics. And yet, Dan Brown has sold nearly 50 million copies and cashed in on a huge movie deal. All of which probably means the movie will gross $300 million in domestic box office and another $500 million overseas.

And no one will care that it sucks.

Spurs-Mavs - Oh so close

The Spurs held on to win Game 5 last night, 98-97. Like three of the first four games of this series, it could easily have gone either way, with Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki both missing game-winning shots in the last two and half seconds.

These two teams are so evenly matched no it's just ridiculous. I sincerely hope (and firmly believe) this is the beginning of a tremendous rivalry, one that really has never existed in pro sports within Texas. Both teams are still pretty young (the Mavs moreso than the Spurs) and should be at the top of the league for at least the next two or three years. We should have more of these titanic battles in the future. One hopes that next time it's in the Western Conf Finals, rather than the second round, but we shall see.

Neither team has much of anything to regret from last night. What is truly remarkable is how hot the Spurs, and especially Tim Duncan, were and how, despite that, the Mavs hung in throughout. A look at the halftime stats (the Spurs shot over 60% and Duncan didn't miss a shot) would have one believing the Spurs were dominating. Obviously, not so.

The thing which will spell doom for the Spurs in Game Six (big CIT prediction to follow) is the total lack of contribution offensively from anyone other than Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Finley. Bruce Bowen didn't score a point, although he made the play of the game with that block of Dirk's shot in the waning moments, and no one else contributed much. The Mavs, on the other hand, have guys stepping up all over the place.

The Mavs are, according to Avery, treating Game Six as if it were Game Seven. They better, because no Mavs fan in their right mind wants to see Game Seven in San Antonio. I think the Mavs do close the deal at the AAC on Friday night, but it should be another war. There's no way the Spurs roll over.

We will be by the channel here at the CIT compound, along with just about everyone in Dallas and San Antonio. Bring it on!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

ExxonMobil supports hybrid cars

In what can only be interpreted as a shameless attempt at some very rare positive press, ExxonMobil subsidiary ExxonMobil Chemical is releasing some info on new battery technology for hybrid cars.

It's worth noting ExxonMobil has publicly scoffed at alternative fuels in the past, so an announcement like this is certainly newsworthy. However, how much pressure do you think ExxonMobil is under to develop this new technology? I would think the weekly status meeting on this project would include a lot of comments like this: "Don't you need to take a little more time to get that right?" or "There's really no hurry on that deliverable."

God, I hate the oil companies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sir Alan animatronic head

Oh, heck. One more.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving - here's an animatronic head with the visage of Sir Alan Sugar on it. He points and spouts all sorts of abusive phrases at you.

Sir Alan Sugar, btw, is the Brit Donald Trump, star of their version of "The Apprentice" and all-around annoying sod. Just like our guy, except with better hair.

Talk about public service

What a bloggy morning it's been.

Answering the prayers of homeowners everywhere, Jockey has used tech to wipe out the scourge of "builder's bum" (that's "plumber's crack" on this side of the pond).

Cook and eat without leaving your seat

For the Japanese steakhouse performance chef in all of us: Presenting the "Cook-N-Dine" table. The center heats to 430 degrees, while the outside remains room temp.

I may wait for my kids to get just a bit older before I spring for one of these babies.

Robot pool waiter

To go along with your motorized pool lounger, you must get the remote control drink float.

The history of booing

Too late for Michael Finley, but perhaps in time for Steve Nash, here's everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the sports "boo".

Early Holiday shopping

For the Star Wars geek on your list, here are Han Solo/Greedo bookends.

And, for the record, I had to look up the green guy's name.

Beslan school hostage tragedy to be a movie

This makes me more than a bit queasy: Brian Grazer (Ron Howard's partner and the producing force behind Apollo 13 and a ton of other great movies) has optioned an Esquire magazine story called "The School", about the Beslan school hostage tragedy.

You remember this one: 30+ Chechan terrorists took over 1,100 hostages - young children and their parents - on the first day of school in the Caucus town of Beslan. Russian troops stormed the school (before or after the terrorists started setting off bombs - no one is sure on the timing) and over 300 hostages and most of the terrorists were killed.

This makes for an important book (or article), but I don't think we need to see this on the big screen. It's hard to imagine how it's going to be done "tastefully".

Mavs making a believer out of me

I have questioned the heart of the Dallas Mavericks, and in particular that of Dirk Nowitizki, in this space before. While the Mavs still have a long way to go to the ultimate goal, and haven't won anything yet, I do need to give some props to the team and the dude.

Last night's Game 4 against the Spurs represented the second game in a row where San Antonio threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Mavs. Both teams are full-tilt and it's resulting in exceptionally entertaining basketball. There have been so many stand-out performances and big moments on both sides that trying to list them all would be useless. I'd wind up rehashing the entire series.

Instead, let's talk about Dirky Dirk for a moment. Let's face it, he's been a soft European player for his entire career up until now. Sure, he's got TREMENDOUS talent, has put up huge numbers, and has been generally a great regular season player. However, he's not been tough enough for NBA Playoff basketball.

He's still got to sustain it before I'm ready to send him to the Hall of Fame, but, man, has he gutted up this year. He dominated Memphis, doing everything you could ask of a superstar and team leader. And he's taken it up several levels against San Antonio. The Spurs D (Finley last night) is still all over him, and it's not totally without effect, but Dirk has fought through it more often than not. He's making strong moves, grabbing the toughest of tough rebounds, passing, getting to the free-throw line, running the court, in short, everything. His badly rolled ankle seemed to be paining him - he was limping pretty badly during time outs - but he fought through that as well.

This is the sort of performance that separates the great regular season guys from the Hall of Famers.

The departures of Nash and Finley, though painful in both cases, have served to make the Mavericks better in many ways. The money saved on those guys has been turned into Jason Terry and Erick Dampier (and Diop and probably a couple of others). The holes left in the lineup have provided increased opportunities for Devin Harris and Marquis Daniels. All good, all paying off now.

However, I think the biggest plus of Nash and Finley moving on is the unquestioned role of Dirk as this team's go-to guy. There's no doubt who is The Man now. The really great news is that Dirk has embraced this role, and is adding to his legitimacy in it every game.

BTW, I predicted a split in Dallas and a tied series at this point. I'm really happy to be wrong. Can the Mavs close it out on Wed? Don't bet against it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spurs-Mavs quick hit

Major Mavs-Spurs post coming tomorrow, but I have to mention one thing right now: Has Tim Duncan ever actually COMMITTED a foul? God, I am sick of the wide-eyed, hands-up, whiny protest.

More later.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Oh no, another "I don't understand Muslims" rant

Uh-oh. Pull up a chair. It's another diatribe.

There was an article this morning in the DMN (their site has gone kablooey tonight - I'll link the article when I can get to it) regarding the economic Armageddon facing the Palestinian State upon completion of Israel's security wall. The same stuff is found elsewhere, even in the Arab press.

The Palestinian economy is almost completely dependent on Israel. Israelis employ a ton of Palestinian labor and buy huge quantities of Palestinian goods, but it goes further than that. Israel also controls the Palestinians water and energy supplies, most of their banking, and most of their foreign trade.

If we look back to those heady days of the early and mid 1990s, when Rabin and Arafat were winning Nobel Prizes and peace seemed to be almost within reach, the Palestinian economy experienced rebirth. Investment poured in from around the world, Israelis fell all over themselves to create broader and deeper economic ties, and the Palestinians found themselves employed, their goods selling, and their standard of living rising. Anything and everything seemed possible.

Now, a decade later, with the Intifada, the failure of Barak's olive leaf and Sharon's iron fist, the political disasters at Wye River and Camp David behind us, the Israelis have gone the unilateral route. They have built most of their wall (completion will occur in early 2007), they have brought in immigrants and guest workers to replace the Palestinians' labor, and are apparently prepared to live their lives behind their ramparts, separate from the Palestinians in every way.

This, to me, illustrates the entire East-West encounter in microcosm. Allow me to explain:

The Israelis have willed their country into existence and have thrived in a sea of enemies. The Palestinians have floundered under poor, corrupt leadership, surrounded by countries that profess to be allies and supporters.

The average Israeli is educated, has a say in how he/she is governed, serves the nation in the military for most of adulthood, and contributes to the economy. The average Palestinian has little education beyond rote memorization of the Quran, has only recently been able to vote and most recently voted out the crooks and voted in the murderers, is employed by the government in most cases, and produces very little.

Is this a fair and balanced view of the Israelis and Palestinians? No. If you've read anything on this blog, you know where my allegiance lies. But, even with that, how far from the truth is it?

In his recent letter to President Bush, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went on and on about the "failure of democracy". I keep hearing this from the East (heck, we used to hear it from the Commies) and I don't understand it at all. Islam, at least the radical element, seems to believe in the benevolent dictator. Is this how they describe Arafat? How do radical Muslims reconcile Israel's successes on the battlefield, in industry, the arts, medicine, education, agriculture, etc against the Arab world's abject failures in these same areas? How do they defend their "education" system when it produces no peace, no wealth, no advances, and leaves the vast majority of the population in abject poverty?

Most Muslim societies in the 21st century are places where basic human needs are repressed, the authorities are in everyone's business everywhere, all the time, and where a once-great civilization of merchants, scientists, artists, and thinkers has been sliding backwards for 800 years. How do the radical Muslims reconcile their societies with the West, where people are free to worship, raise their children in relative safety, make decisions based on experience and education, provide for their families, and live in relative peace?

Wow, I got WAY off topic here. Must be the lovely bottle of icy chardonnay I opened at dinner.

My new favorite band

Lazër - "We start off just three sexy children making metal. Now, Lazër is future of the future."

Mavs-Spurs Game 3 - HUGE opportunity for the Mavs

Our pal Bob makes an interesting point in today's Sturmination: For the first time ever, the Spurs are not so sure they can beat the little Mavericks. If Dallas can crush 'em again in Game 3 (Saturday night at AAC in Dallas), that doubt may turn into something more profound.

Both Avery Johnson and Gregg Popovich have already thought about this, so expect an absolute war on Saturday night. Talk about must-see TV!

Saudis say the problem ain't on the supply side

Saudi Ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, says in this USA Today interview there's an excess supply of oil in the world. He blames the skyrocketing price on political and security concerns, not on the old supply-and-demand thing.

No doubt, but I'd add one more to the list of culprits: Collusion. I'm no conspiracy-theorist, but Exxon and Shell are making WAY too much money right now for me to believe there isn't something unseemly going on.

Oil $80/barrel by day's end?

This can't be good news for the world oil market: Nigerian TV is reporting an oil pipeline exploded outside Lagos today, killing up to 200 people.

This is just the sort of news to cause a frenzy on the oil market. Oy vey.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

"Jewishness" and it's importance to Israel

This may be a long, dry post, so I apologize in advance. We'll get back to sports and silliness straight away, but I've got a few thoughts buzzing around in my little melon which I want to liberate. And what else are blogs for, right?

I just finished Ariel Sharon's autobiography, which is a good, not great, account of the life of a man who became great. I'm glad I read it and recommend it to anyone who wants to know a bit more about the major events in Israel's modern history as well as what makes a real difference-maker tick.

It's not the book I want to discuss so much as Sharon's epilogue. The summation of his story does not deal with any particular event or set of personalities. Instead, it focuses on Sharon's view of what makes Israel special and absolutely vital to the survival of Judaism as a race and religion.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify how I'm going to write the following. Sharon finished his book in the mid-1980s, before he rose to Prime Minister and, of course, long before his catastrophic stroke earlier this year. Since Sharon wrote his epilogue in first-person present tense, I'm going to write my thoughts about him in third-person present tense. This seems fitting to me, even though he's clearly not in the present tense now, nor will he be ever again.


Sharon thinks Israel has become a Western nation in almost every sense of the word. It's secular, successful, a place where industry, education, medicine, and technology thrive, and it's people have become interested in living their lives as individuals.

With this "Westernization", Sharon also sees a lessening of the fervor displayed by the early immigrants to Israel. The population has begun to question the legitimacy of Israel's borders. "Have we unjustly displaced others for our own gain?" has become a recurring question amongst young (and not so young) Israelis.

The idea of Israeli "Manifest Destiny", so apparent in the early history of the State of Israel, has faded a bit.

In addition, "Westernization" has brought about thoughts of "inclusion". Sharon, throughout his book, stresses his belief that Jews and Arabs can live side by side, and that Israeli Arabs should be citizens of Israel with all the rights and responsibilities thereby implied (they are not today - Israeli Arabs pay much lower taxes than Jews, and are exempt from military service, among other differences). However, Sharon expresses a strong belief that Israel must remain a "Jewish State", that, at its core, it must adhere to Jewish law, custom, and culture.

"Westernization", in other words, is not good news from Sharon's perspective.

What makes Israel unique, and critically important to the Jewish people, is it's foundation as a Jewish state.

No other nation-state on Earth, now or at any time in history, has existed as a small (very small) island in a sea of hundreds of millions of enemies. Israel was willed into existence despite the best efforts of just about every surrounding nation and survived (thrived) despite continued attempts to destroy it, both from outside (the Arab League) and within (Palestinian terrorism).

What has enabled this survival and success is the realization of it's people that it's this or nothing. Failure to succeed (for lack of a better term) will result in destruction and no second chances. If Israel were to falter, there would be no other possibility for a "Jewish Homeland". And destruction of Israel would quite possibly spell the end of Judaism around the world. Judaism survived the Diaspora in large part due to the incantation, repeated every year, for nearly 2,000 years, at the Passover Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem" - the hope/belief/expectation that Jews would return to their Home in the Holy Land. Without that hope, I suggest Judaism would wither and fade away.

When Sharon talks about "Israel's people", he's not only talking about those who reside within the borders of the state. He's referring to Jews everywhere. In this, I tend to agree. While not all Jews feel this way, I think most do feel a special connection to Israel. Jews in the West and elsewhere, both secular and religious, have supported Israel via political pressure, publicity, and cash since the early days of Zionism in the late 1800s. Israel would never have existed without this support.

So, when Sharon sees the "Jewishness" of Israel, the belief that Israel is the Promised Land, and the sense of obligation Jews everywhere feel towards its continued existence start to fade, he sees ominous things for the future of his/our State and Homeland.

There is quite a bit of irony to be found in Sharon's words, of course. Sharon will be remembered for his unilateral efforts to redraw Israel's borders and to cede control of Gaza and parts of the West Bank to the proposed Palestinian State. He will be further remembered as the guy who once said, "There is already a Palestinian State. It's called Jordan.", then proposing to create a new Palestinian State in parts of the West Bank. I think it shows what kind of a realist the guy is/was, and is very much to his credit. We'll see how history judges him, however.

As I've become older and (one hopes) a little wiser, my feelings of attachment and obligation to Israel have become stronger. I think it's for this reason that I admire Sharon so much, and why his words resonate so strongly with me.

Oh, whatEVER, dude

The latest from "The Mahmoud Comedy Hour" - Israel is a "tyrannical regime" which must be destroyed.

While we're on the subject, the full text of Ahmadinejad's "letter" to Bush was released yesterday. It's full of all sorts of ranting and raving about the "failure of democracy" and the West's "double standards", but strangely leaves out any substantive suggestions for resolving the current international imbroglio over Iran's "peaceful" nuclear program.

Talk about over-exposed. This knobber likes to see his mug on Page 1 more than Tom Cruise. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise is not actively pursuing nuclear weapons (at least not as far as we know), nor is he spouting off Hot Sports Opinions regarding Israel.

If you're feeling a bit, um, inferior

Here's the Cat Chopper, "the bike that only Caterpillar could inspire."

I guess it beats some of the cures I see in my email every day, but I still think you ought to be happy with what you've got.

Authoritative site on The Redneck

Dave's Redneck Photos Page includes everything you might ever want to know about rednecks.

JLG, are you listening?

A sample: The Dyslexic Redneck Camper. Enjoy!

NOT a scandal from the NSA

The news hit the front pages of America today like news of the sinking of the Maine.

"NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls" screams USA Today. "Congress Demands Phone Records Answers" according to AP.

It seems the National Security Agency has been monitoring patterns in domestic calling habits. Sounds dreadful, right? What an invasion of privacy, and all that sort of hoo-hah.

Well, not so fast.

The key passage in the USA Today story is the 2nd paragraph, quoted here:

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

This tells you all you need to know about what's going on.

No, the NSA is not listening to your phone calls.

No, the NSA is not making a detailed record of who you're calling or who calls you.

The NSA is looking for the normal pattern of domestic phone calls.

Folks, this is called "establishing a baseline".

The NSA will then look for significant deviations from this baseline and try to discern who amongst us is making credit card calls to a certain cave in Waziristan, asking to speak with Mr. Sama-Oay In-Ladin-Bay.

This is called, I believe, "signals intelligence" and it's been employed in one form or another since the first military telegram was sent in the 1800s.

There is nothing nefarious or Orwellian going on here.

The question for you, the average American, is this: Do you want your government to protect you from terrorism or not?

If this answer is "yes", then this is one of the ways they're going to do it.

If the answer is "no", well, that's fine too.

Just don't come bitching when something REALLY BAD happens on clear fall day in New York.

UPDATE: Nice to see the American public views this for what it is: A not-very-intrusive method of smoking out those who would use our infrastructure against us.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In defense of whining

Mark Cuban is a whiner. Even he admits it.

Little Mavericks play big

A few words must be said out our little Dallas Mavericks following their 113-91 thrashing of the Spurs last night.

Before we get to accolades, let's tap the brakes a bit. Its one game, and the Spurs are not going to roll over and play dead from here on. We're going to wake up after Game 4 and find this thing tied 2 games apiece, and a Game 7 is a distinct possibility here. Even if the Mavs manage to dispose of San Antonio, which I predict to happen btw, Phoenix looms in the Conf Finals, and that will be no picnic either.

With all that said, there are lots of things to be happy about from last night:

1. Devin Harris showed a tremendous amount. Good God, that guy is fast. With him and Jason Terry in the backcourt, the Mavs couldn't help but run. As has been pointed out everywhere, the tempo was right where it needs to be for the Mavs to beat the Spurs. Games in the 80s favor the Spurs and their superior defense and half-court game. If the Mavs can push it into the 90s or 100s, the Spurs just don't have enough offense to keep up.

2. Josh Howard put together a complete game. He's another HUGE talent, but has been known to fade down the stretch (see Game 1 for examples). Not last night. He started aggressive and stayed that way throughout. When he's as on as he was last night, the automatic double-team of Dirk suddenly seems like not such a great idea. He's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can do it, now he needs to do it consistently.

3. How great is it to have Jerry Stackhouse coming off the bench? He's a starter on 90% of the teams in the league, but has accepted his role here. I absolutely love that guy.

4. Avery Johnson seems unable to do anything wrong. He took the rap for just about everything in Game 1, and what a HUGE departure that is from the previous regime around here, where no one was responsible for anything. He made some bold moves in Game 2, most notably dropping Devin Harris into the starting five in place of Adrian Griffin, and everything worked.

I need to say something about this move in particular. Dave Tippett of Your Dallas Stars made a similar move in Game 2 of the dreadful series against Colorado, and was roundly criticized for it. In large part, this was the result of the basic rule of sports - moves that work are genius, moves that fail are brain-dead. But it was more than that. Tippett's move reeked of desperation. His team got killed in Game 1 and looked terrible doing it. Johnson's team was in Game 1 until the very last possession. Maybe more importantly, Johnson never came across as desperate. He appeared in control and talked like he had a plan from the final horn in Game 1 up until tip-off in Game 2.

The series now moves to Dallas, and there's every reason to believe the Spurs will shake off last night's game immediately. I expect a split in the two games in Dallas. But I really believe the Mavs will take this series. The prediction here is Mavs in six.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Big bucks

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has a page devoted to the largest of large bills - $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000.

These bills are no longer printed or issued, but they are still in circulation. So check the change you get at your next visit to Starbucks.

If you REALLY love your doggie

Oh, for God's sake. Here's the "Pet Umbrella" cause your doggie can't get wet, can he?

Adding insult to injury

I probably would have tried to walk it off, rather than let these two clowns carry me.

Iran's Leader Writes to President Bush

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter to President Bush offering "solutions" for solving the current standoff between Iran and most of the world over Iran's nuclear program.

The fact that it was written in purple crayon and illustrated with stick-figure drawings probably detracted from it's contents, however.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Next-gen DVD format - Still too early to call

From Microsoft Watch today: There's still no telling which format (Blu-Ray or HD-DVD) is going to win the hearts and minds of the general public.

Keep saying your prayers for Blu-Ray, clearly the superior format from a technical perspective. HD-DVD, while technically inferior, will be cheaper and generally available sooner.

Lost gets crazier

Just got thru this week's installment of "Lost" and my head is spinning.

This was the best episode I can remember. From Ana Lucia's semi-rape of Sawyer to Henry bsing Locke about "coming for him" to the story of how Ana Lucia wound up in Australia to Michael's most serious whack-out, I have NO IDEA what is going on. Every scene, every line of dialog built on the story, whatever it is.

It seems clear that Michael was captured by the Friendly Fisherman and his Otherly cohorts and somehow brainwashed. Where does this end up?

Oh, and don't forget the "ad" for the Hanso Foundation stuck in the middle of a commercial break. No doubt Keith will have something on that in the next couple of days.

Lost remains at the top of the must-TiVo list because of mind-blowing episodes like this. I can't wait for next Wed!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Reason #2,147 why the Internet needs editors

Here's a dude who has nothing better to do than build a huge shrine to the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Yep, the one from Ghostbusters.

I'm telling you, there should be some sort of licensing process before you're allowed to post something on the Internet.

Of course, I blogged it. So, what does that say about me? Yep. I thought so.

Vista delayed again?

According to Gartner, Microsoft will delay the next version of Windows from January 2007 to April-June 2007. Microsoft denies this.

I have no insight into this news. I can tell you that a great deal of emphasis is being applied by Microsoft to do Vista as right as possible. On the flip side, delays are always frowned upon by the Softies.

On the whole, my impression is Microsoft is more adverse to bad press due to bugs than they are to bad press due to delays, so this would not surprise me.

If US strikes Iran, Iran will strike... Israel

Not that this is any sort of surprise, but Iranian Revolutionary Guards Read Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani is quoted as saying, "We have announced that whenever America does something evil, the first place that we target will be Israel."

The war of words between Iran and Israel has been going full-bore for some time now, with Iran nut-job President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad throwing most of the rocks, but Israeli PM Ehud Olmert tossing a few himself.

Now the Iranians are promising a first strike on Israel in the event of some vaguely defined US action. Not that we didn't expect anything different.

The Israelis have lived with this sort of nonsense since 1949, but this is the first time the other guys have been so far along the road to nukes of their own. You get the feeling this is going to end very badly.

BTW, I have NO idea what the solution is. Any rational suggestions will be considered as we attempt to formulate this blog's official position.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sportsy Monday

What a sport-erific weekend it was: The Mavs continue to impress, Dirk most of all; the Stars provide as much counter-point as one could ever want; the annual crapshoot known as the NFL Draft provided hours (and hours and hours) of TV and radio fun, and the Rangers finish April in first place. It was the kind of weekend that lends itself to more than a bit of scattershooting:

Mavs withstand Memphis' best shot

The little Mavericks went up three games to none against Memphis on Saturday afternoon with an 94-89 OT win. You got the feeling that the Grizzlies (still giggling over that monniker) sort of shot their wad (yech) in this one, leading for most of the game. Dirk put an emphatic "I don't think so, buddy" to that with a cold-blooded 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, forcing overtime. The Mavs cleaned Memphis' clock in the OT period, leaving no doubt about who is the better team.

I have doubted Dirk's grit in this space before, and my foot is still hovering over the brake pedal - it's Memphis, not Phoenix or SA - but let's enjoy the journey here. You have to beat Memphis to get to the Spurs (or the Kings??), and Dirk has dominated this series. He's done everything you could ask from a superstar so far. Time will tell if he can do it against stiffer competition, but let's remember that Houston was no great shakes last year, and they made him look bad.

We have to give props to one Erick Dampier as well. Big Damp (yech again) is doing exactly what he was brought here to do: pulling down tough rebounds, keeping balls alive, and hustling his rather prodigious rear off. Again, it's Memphis, but, again, you have to go through Memphis to get further into this thing.

Tonight is Game 4, and Memphis has their backs to the wall. Anything is possible, and it's must-see TV tonight. All I'll say now is this: Three games in and you have to really look for things to complain about.

Your Dallas Stars - oy vey

As if to emphasize how well the Mavs are doing, we have Your Dallas Stars and their shocking flameout in 5 games. So much went wrong in this series that I'm struggling to boil it down.

You have to start between the ears of the guy between the pipes, don't you? Turco is now 0-3 in first round playoff series. While he didn't ever look really terrible, he never looked very good. There weren't any truly soft goals, but he didn't come up with the Big Save either. Jose Theodore, a guy who carries some party-sized question marks in his bag, was clearly the better goal tender. And this after Turco had a great regular season and came into the playoffs healthy and successful.

Dave Tippett clearly hit the panic button in Game 2, making wholesale changes in lines which had produced 112 points in the regular season. To me, the first period of Game 2, which saw the Stars go down 3-0, a deficit that even the most furious comeback I've ever seen could not overcome, is where the Stars lost the series.

Big names up and down the roster came up short, with Bill Guerin heading the list. Oh sure, he finally showed up in Games 4 and 5, but it was too little too late. I think we've probably seen the last of Guerin in a Stars uniform, which saddens me. His arrival a few years ago was the biggest thing to happen since Brett Hull signed. Guerin, unfortunately, ends his Stars career as a disappointment.

The options this off-season are not wonderful. We're married to Turco for several years to come. Tippett probably deserves to go just for his panic-attack in Game 2. Guerin is almost certainly gone, as is Jason Arnott (who has taken some real heat in the local and national press - were they watching the same games I was?). Changes clearly need to be made down on Warren Parkway.

NFL Draft - wait and see

This weekend's NFL Draft held many surprises, the biggest of which was the order in which Vince Young and Matt Leinart were taken.

If I haven't made it clear before now, let me state for the record that I am a HUGE Vince Young fan. I am wearing my National Championship T shirt as I write this, and my post on the Rose Bowl is one that I am very proud of. But, I have significant doubts about Vince's ability to excel at the next level. Those doubts are compounded by reports that the Titans may dump Steve McNair sooner rather than later. Vince is a TREMENDOUS athlete, but I don't know...

Leinart, on the other hand, was an absolute GIFT at #10 for Arizona. The Cardinals have a history of screwing up everything they touch, but Edgerrin James and Matt Leinart in the same off season, added to the two outstanding receivers they already have, should do wonders for season ticket sales in the new palace in Glendale.

There's really only two things I want to say about this past weekend:

1. I think Kevin Blackistone went a little overboard in his column on Sunday (which I can't find online) regarding the "rift" between Jerry and Parcells, but I do wonder where the heck the Pear-Shaped Football Genius was all weekend.

2. KTCK's draft coverage is the best on the planet. Let's face it, the draft is about as exciting as the Greater Greensboro Open. But Hitzges, Sturm, Rhyner, Spagnola, and co. made it as entertaining as humanly possible. My kids were into it while we were in the car on Saturday, and that says something.

Rangers do more than survive April

After everything that went wrong during the first month of the season (and, boy, just about everything did go wrong at one time or another), the Rangers wake up on May 1 in first place in the AL West.

This is partially due to the wheels reattaching themselves here in the past two weeks. It's also partially due to the fact that everyone in the AL West is off to a crap start.

Regardless, things are better than we ever could have imagined after that first, dreadful week of the season. The new closer seems (after one appearance) to be a lot better than the old closer, the starting pitching is a strength (huh?), and the offense has come around.

One assumes the Angels and As are not going to continue as they've started and they will get their respective acts together. However, Ranger fans can point to the scoreboard, for the moment, with some pride.